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Of vulgarity. There are but few words in our language that have a more grating sound in the ears of those who lay claim to good breeding, than the word Vulgarity, insomuch that many a one had rather be thought vicious than vulgar. And what is vulgarity? This is rather a puzzling question: for the word is no where clearly defined, nor is it capable of being exactly marked out by a definition. Grossness of language and clownishness of manners are only parts of vulgarity, which extends itself to almost innumerable particulars of human conduct, and not unfrequently into the fashionable ranks of society. But though it is in a manner undefinable, it is capable of being clearly explained ; and this may be the better done by contrasting it with a quality, which every body of any decency of mind and character, professes to hold in respect.
Vulgarity, then, is the direct opposite of Courteous- . ness. But here, again, arises a question, What is courteousness? Your dictionary will tell you it implies something elegant-something beyond the reach of plain men and women. But so it is not. When St. Paul, addressing himself to christians of all worldly grades and classes, even down to menial servants; when addressing himself to the lowest as well as to the highest, he bade them be courteous, assuredly he did not mean that they must all be of elegant manners. it is full likely that Paul himself did not excel greatly in that particular : it was not, surely, the elegance of his manner that made Felix tremble. Courteousness must mean, therefore, a something which is within the reach of all sorts of people; and in its primary and best sense, it may be understood to mean exactly such a behaviour as spontaneously springs from a heart warm with benevolence :-while on the contrary, vulgarity, as respects people of some rank in life, is the growth of cold selfishness always, and often of selfishness and narrowness of intellect combined. Vulgarity, in some
shape or other, betrays itself as clearly at the top, as at the bottom of the scale of life.
Cardinal de Retz, remarks of Cardinal Richlieu, a most puissant prime minister of France, that “ he loved to rally others, but could not bear to be rallied himself.” So, also, it is said of the Great Frederick of Prussia, that his manner was to harrow up the feelings of his courtiers and attendants by breaking his cutting jokes upon them without measure or mercy; well knowing that they durst not offer any retort. These two instances clearly show that vulgarity may be found in the palace, as well as in the cottage. The like may be frequently seen among the little great; many of whom take a delight in wounding the feelings of those below them, merely because they are below them : a detestable fault, which sudden wealth, or sudden consequence of any kind, is peculiarly apt to draw after it. I say, a detestable fault, because nothing scarcely betrays a more reprobate heart, than an unfeeling, brutal conduct toward inferiors; as it usually springs from the odious compound of arrogance, vanity, and cowardice.
We have no more right, wantonly or causelessly, to wound the mind than to wound the body of a fellow being; and, in many instances, the former is the more cruel of the two.
Some persons, even in the blessed deed of giving alms to the needy, poison the gift by an ungracious manner, accompanying it with a sour look, or peradventure, with a bitter taunt. One of the wisest of the ancients noticed this species of vulgarity, and reproved it with the sound words following : “My son, blemish not thy good deeds, neither use uncomfortable words when thou givest any thing.”
There are some again, both men and women, who value themselves highly upon a coarse bluntness, which they themselves call downright honesty and plain-dealing “ We can't flatter, not wewe must speak truthif they will take it-so—if not-we're plain."*
But hark'e! not so fast. Pause a moment, and examine your own hearts, and perchance you may find
that your manner partakes more of pride, or sourness, than of benevolence. If you wish to amend the faulty, surely this is not the way. Again, have you no faults of your own? Hardly will you pretend to absolute immunity in that respect. Well, then, ask your own hearts if you are willing to receive the same measure which you mete out to others. If you can bear, in all cases, to be told roundly of your own faults, even the minutest of them, then, and not otherwise, you may seem fairly entitled to the privilege of giving it off roundly to others. Then, and not otherwise, may you be at liberty to deal out your bitter pills, without any regard at all to gilding or sweetening them.
In short, (for many things must I leave unsaid,) any body that knows the world, might easily show that the family of the Vulgars is branched out into a great many divisions and subdivisions ; one or other of which, embraces not a few, who would be very loth to own themselves members of that ungraceful household.
One remark more: an awkward air and gait, a blushing countenance and hesitating speech, are sometimes the coarse coverings of the opening, but unexpanded germ of genius; though a youth of this description always passes for vulgør with superficial observers, and is often made the butt of their ridicule.
Of friendship and the choice of friends.
“Give me the man, whose liberal mind
In the choice of friends, considerable regard is to be had to the qualities of the head. but a much greater still to those of the heart; for if that be radically wanting in integrity and honor, the more alluring is every thing else in personal character, the more dangerous. Catiline, with the worst of hearts, was possest of personal accomplishments in a transcendent degree. He had the art of accommodating his manners and conversation to people of all tempers and ages. Cicero said of him, He lived with the sad severely, with the cheerful agreeably, with the old gravely, with the young pleasantly. All-accomplished as he was, the viciousness of his moral character was so much the more seductive, contagious, and pernicious to the community at large, and to the young especially. He easily insinuated himself into the friendship of the Roman youth, whom he corrupted and ruined."
Close intimacies, suddenly formed, often epd in disappointment and disgust, and to the injury of one or other of the parties. It is a dangerous imprudence to trust any one as a friend, without good evidence of his being trust-worthy; without good evidence that he has neither a treacherous heart, a fickle temper, nor a babbling tongue. Often, very often, have the young, of both sexes, smarted under the consequences of such imprudence.
Equality in point of external circumstances, is not always a necessary preliminary to intimate and permanent friendship. The friendship between David and Jonathan, for unshaken fidelity and sublime ardor, has scarcely a parallel in history; yet the one was a shepherd of mean rank, whilst the other was of the blood royal, and heir apparent to a throne. But though it is not always necessary, that two close friends should be about equal in their worldly conditions, it is necessary that their deeds and offices of kindness be reciprocal; else, one becomes a patron, and the other a dependant. If one be greatly outdone by his friends in acts of kindness, or receive benefits at their hands which he can never repay, they will regard him as their debtor on the score of friendship, and himself must be wounded with the mortifying consciousness of bankruptcy in that respect. Hence there have been instances of proud-hearted men becoming the enemies, and even the destroyers, of their greatest benefactors, in order to rid themselves of a burdensome debt of gratitude.
One should be careful to shew, as much fidelity, as much attention, as much kindness to his friend, as he would require of him in similar circumstances.
Between frail imperfect creatures, there cannot be perfect friendship; and when one discards a friend for some trifling negligence, for an ungracious expression, or for his not having added the hundredth to his ninetynine obliging acts; he is not worthy of having a friend, nor can he have one long.
It has been said that warm friends make warm enemies; but it is seldom so, except in cases of flagrant infidelity on the one side or the other. The truth is, very warm friendships, (unless in the domestic state,) are rarely lasting, by reason that they are above the ordinary tone of human nature; and therefore require much attention and a constant exchange of obliging offices, to keep them good. Whenever attention abates on one side or the other, such friendship experiences a chill, and gradually cools down at length to indifference; but no positive enmity necessarily follows. ,
The friendship between persons notoriously wicked, (if friendship it may be called, naturally turns to fear. As they know they cannot trust one another, so they constantly harbor a mutual jealousy, bordering upon, and often ending in, downright hatred.
There is too much truth, generally speaking, in the following lines of Goldsmith:
“ And what is friendship but a name,
But leaves the wretch to weep.” When a man is unfortunate, it often happens that some of those whom he had most befriended while in prosperity, are the first to forsake, and even to censure and reproach him. The reason is plain: they forsake him because they think him a pigeon no longer worth the plucking; and they aggravate and blaze abroad his failings, to cover their own perfidiousness in forsaking him.
The book in the world that best unfolds the human heart, is the Bible. There we find a man of vast substance; as liberal as he was rich, and-as-pious as liberal