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XXI. DIFFICULTY OF PLEASING EVERY BODY.
Truths would you teach to save a sinking land,
I HAVE often felt a strong degree of sympathy for those unfortunate individuals who are obliged to delve in the mire of popularity for subsistence, or even for amusement. The task of pleasing every body is attended with a thousand circumstances of difficulty, of hazard, and of mortification, which, to a mind at all affected by outward events, are peculiarly painful and wearisome. If your attempts miscarry, you have your labour for your pains, and no thanks for your good will; should success crown one experiment, you are not insured against a failure of the next--and thus a succession of anxious hopes or trying fears, of humiliating discomfitures or doubtful rewards, is the certain portion of all those who have the temerity to aim at serving what is called the "public in general."
The class of public servants most exposed to these capricious casualties, is composed of authors and editors -of those who write, and those who publish works calculated for the immediate perusal of their masters, the community; and subject to be handled by characters of all descriptions-to be turned over and over-to be picked, garbled and smelled at by every pudding-witted oaf, as well as by that rare phenomenon, the candid critic.
A partial illustration of these facts was afforded me not long since. My niece, Miss Lavinia Laurelia Leatherlip, dropped in at my study the other afternoon, atfended by three top-knotted ladies in full convoy. Miss Lavinia is not yet an old maid, for she has been only twenty-nine these ten years-her companions are ditto, all having been brought out during the last century, and belonging to "the class of 1799."
After exchanging questions about each other's health, without waiting for answers, and informing each other that the weather was pleasant, but rather dry, the next topic in course related to the newspaper. Upon my
word, began Miss Terpsichore Touch-me-not, things have taken a pretty stand; here, I sent a piece to the printer about old bachelors, and he hasn't touched to print it-did you ever? Why, la, answered my niece aforesaid, I think there's enough of such stuff printed; there's something about old maids in almost every paper-not that it concerns me-I don't take any part to myself yet. Nor I, interrupted Miss Amanda Allspice; but there was something in a paper the other day, that I know was meant for me, and I know who wrote it, for it was signed with an O--and I think these personalities are shameful and shocking to the last degree. The other young lady, whose name I have forgotten, replied that she also had been considerably disturbed on account of the same piece, and had demanded of the printer's boy, the name of its author, when he pulled out of his pocket an old paper published away up among the Indians in the western country, containing the obnoxious article. But she said it was not fair even to republish it. In this manner the whole company continued to urge new complaints, and to state "sins of omission and commission," until they naturally instigated each other into sundry exhibitions of displeasure--yea, they waxed exceedingly warm; their talk became so furiously voluble and their feathers so violently agitated, that the scene resembled a whole commonwealth of hens, rumpled and flustered into a most garrulous and hysterical cackle.
The conclusion of the whole matter however, was, that they should unanimously withdraw their patronage from the paper; which, indeed, must be a serious loss to the printer; for they took a whole one between them. How the affair would have terminated had there been two dissentients, I am not able to divine. It is a question worthy of the most profound investigation; no judgement upon which could be considered decisive short of that of the supreme court.
But misfortunes seldom come alone-these are not all the mischiefs that befal those who attempt to please every body. A gentleman declared in my hearing, a few days since, that he should "drop the paper" if there was to be so much in it concerning religion.
Another, a merchant, expressed his dissatisfaction at the advertisements and ship-news. A third, avowed that he would take it no longer, because some amiable indiscre tions had been exposed, in which his conscience accused him of a participation. And one pious character actually ordered his paper to be discontinued, because he conceived himself to be aimed at in certain communications which he did not mean to trouble himself to refute, wisely concluding, that, if he did not read the paper, his mind would remain undisturbed by any farther pops at his favourite foible; though there can be no doubt of his determination to borrow every future number.
I could enumerate many similar instances of groundless dissatisfaction and disingenuous censure. What I have adduced, is sufficient to prove that he who aspires to please every body, is sure to please nobody-and in the belief of this axiom, I take leave of my readers.
XXI!. COMMENCEMENT AT YALE COLLEGE.
"SEPTEMBER," says one Mr. Peacham, "is drawn with a merry and cheerful countenance, in a purple robe." Such, indeed, is the general character of the month. But how shall we personify this present Tertius Idus of the Romans; this grand gala-day of the university; this holiday to the young; this jolly day to the old; this fair day of tradesmen, and this trading day of the fair; this time of merry-meetings and heart beatings; handshakings and heart-achings; greetings and sweet things -but we leave the question to be answered by minds more fanciful, and proceed to our proposed narration.
The dawn was ushered in, as usual, by chiming all the great bells of the city-an ambiguous but economic method, much in vogue, of arousing the attention of our drowsy citizens to these festive anniversaries, as well as the less joyful scenes of fires and funerals. This is generally continued until every possible change is rung out, and every sensation of somnolency is wrung out with them. Nothing uncommon intervened until the clock
tolled eight, when, like bees at the sound of bell-metal, myriads of fantastic creatures, in showy scarlet, orange, or azure array, burst forth from every portal. The time was peculiarly calculated for displaying the rare attractions of this city of groves. The enlivening beam was glancing gaily "on tower and tree" and gilded the bright tall tapering spire of the meeting-house, whither so many nimble feet were pressing. Oh! it was sweet to see the thousand sylph-like forms twinkling through the boughs of the venerable elms which stand between us and the brightest emerald spot of green-sward in the world. About nine o'clock, the procession began to move from the college-yard. The foremost leaders of the train, or, as Shakspeare calls them," the great toes of the assembly," were sundry skipping youth, with red or blue ribbands in their button-holes, whose ambling gait was amusingly contrasted with the decorous air of their seniors, or the still more dignified carriage of the faculty, who followed with a numerous retinue of alumni at their backs; all valiant trenchermen, and equally renowned at the lip-labour exercises of the boards and the board. After divers manœuvres, by dint of turning inside out, the extended line, like a wounded snake, "dragged its slow length along" through the crowd, into the meeting-house.
Then-and what then, sir? I can as well be hanged as tell-we were lost in the rabblement before the doors. Suddenly there was a rush-a squeeze-a clatter; in an instant we were raised from off our feet, and precipitately borne along by some powerful agency, until we were safely set down in the centre of the building. We barely had time to glance around on the glorious assemblage of beauty--the crowded aisles-the motley throng of the galleries, and the ranks of alabaster worthies, with reverence be it spoken, who adorn the stage, when our attention was diverted to securing a copy of the themes, which were scattered like Sybilline leaves in every direction. A solemn prayer succeeded; then melody like the sweet south, and finally, the set speeches of Yale's best prosemen; but, whose oration was most "coldly correct and classically dull," and who in the
dialogue wore their daggers with the braver grace," we will not hazard our pretensions to taste by asserting.
It was at the merry hour of noon, when the procession returned in state to the college banqueting room, where a gorgeous festival is spread by the steward, and where every graduate is a welcome guest. This classic revel is a busy time for the sewers. The mighty meal was soon carved; many a ruddy flask went, and there was quite as much quaffing and laughing as was creditable to the character of the institution. Indeed, the sight of so many chins in motion, some discussing small talk and some small beer-some immersed in a mealy waste of pudding, and some struggling with heartier viands, was a literal exemplification of the old English proverb,
"Tis merry in the hall,
The afternoon exercises, which are similar to those of the morning, being over, the degrees were conferred. "This ceremony," to use the words of a writer who knows well how to describe it, "is a very popular one, and to say the truth, it was no small amusement to see the different air of different men, as they marched up, (rank to rank) in alphabetical order. Some went sheepishly and some boldly; some calmly and some hurriedly; some were silly enough to look as if the exaltation and the display were above their merits. Some who had passed the hey-day of their life, and some who had absolutely dimmed themselves with study, marched quietly and coolly as if to something they well and truly deserved. Some walked gravely and demurely as a young priest in a procession; some tripping as men in a masque, and some, the most amusing of all, had a kind of consequential swagger, and made all kinds of comical faces, intended to express dignity. Some were of so astringent an aspect, that they seemed like men walking to their own execution-or, as a Limerick student observed, to their own funeral !
"The pomp is at an end--the crowds are gone." The day is over-and, thank heaven, so is our account of it. It will be full twelve months before we undertake another.