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sexes, their own locomotive faculties of walking were more highly thought of, and much oftener put in requisition, than they are now.


Of the general propensity to petty scandal.


As if there were not prattle enough from human tongues, a great deal of care is taken to teach birds to talk. Some families of opulence and rank are said to have devoted a considerable portion of their time to the advancement of this species of education: would it be altogether time lost, if they would mind to teach their birds a few sound and pithy maxims for domestic use, and the benefit of their visitants.

The following anecdote I will cite as an example, for the purpose of showing to what good account the lingo of speaking birds might be turned, if their education were conducted either on moral principle, or upon principles of domestic economy. In the city of London, as Goldsmith informs us, two men, living directly opposite to one another, in the same street, had a quarrel on account of the one having informed against the other for not paying the duties on his liquors; and that the aggrieved party, aster teaching his parrot to repeat the ninth commandment, placed the cage at the front of his house; so that whenever the informer on the opposite side of the street stepped out of his own door, he heard from the parrot this admonition, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

This sacred precept is to be understood as possessing a very wide latitude of meaning; comprehending not only perjury and gross calumnny, which are both punishable by civil law, but also evil speaking, in all its multifarious shapes and degrees. It is obvious to remark, that although the prohibitory precepts in the eighth article, and the ninth, of the holy decalogue, are both levelled against evils that are alike prejudicial and pernicious to society, yet the laws of society take much more concern in the one than in the other. Every well regulated civil society arms itself against theft, and metes out punishment as well to petty pilferers as to the highway robber: and yet the violations of the next succeeding article of divine prohibition pass, for the most part, without punishment, and almost without notice. Not but that money is trash, in comparison with character; so that he who steals the one, does far less injury than he who wounds the other. But the fact is, civil law is quite incompetent to the task of taking cognizance of the violations of the ninth commandment, save in a few instances of flagrant enormity.

The trespasses of the tongue, in this way, are so innumerable, so diverse, and oftentimes so artful, that no legislator could classify them, and much less enact laws that would reach them wholly, without destroying the liberty of speech altogether. And besides, there is, in society, much less averseness to evil speaking than to theft. If one have his money or his goods stolen, he no sooner makes it known, than his neighbors join with him in searching for the thief, who, if found and convicted, is sure to be punished; because common zeal, as well as common consent, takes side against the culprit. But the pilferers from character fare less hard; or rather, they are tolerated, provided they manage with art and address, and mingle some wit with their malice or their levity.

And as petty violations of this part of the decalogue meet with impunity, so also they meet with encouragement. Few are altogether without envy, which ever takes delight in a backbiting or detracting tongue. Few are without some conscious and visible faults; and the faulty are naturally prone to take pleasure in the noticeable faults of others, as it tends to quiet them about their own. From these causes, and still oftener perhaps, from thoughtless levity, encouragement is given, almost every where, to the small dealers in detraction, who, all together, compose a pretty numerous body.

It requires no great stretch of charity to believe, that there are many persons who never have been guilty of any dishonest action, and much less of downright

theft. But it is to be apprehended, that there are very few indeed, who have never, in all their lives, borne false witness against a neighbor, in some degree or manner, either by unwarrantably spreading ill reports, or else by giving too willing an ear to slander and defamation. It is the evil which most easily besets us; of which we are least apt to be aware; and which many men and women practise, without compunction, and almost with out thought, although apparently of estimable characters in other respects.

SEMPRONIA, is such a very fury in the cause of virtue and decorum, that, first or last, nearly the whole sisterhood of her acquaintance has been lampooned by her tongue. So far from showing partiality to her own sex, nothing heats her temper and throws her into a fit of boiling rage, like the faults of women.

Not to mention the abhorrence with which she ever speaks of the wretched victims of seduction, she is of purer eyes than to behold, in a female especially, even the least aberration from the path of propriety, without emotions of indignation and expressions of reproach. Frugal of praise, and liberal of censure, she speaks but little of those whose characters furnish no topics for scandal; whilst all her eloquence is employed in expatiating on faults, frailties, and follies. The truth of it is, there are very few whose garments are so white that she can discover on them no spots; and it is on the spots, rather than the fair parts, that she fixes her attention and bestows her remarks.

Yet, after all, Sempronia is remarkably perpendicular in much of her conduct. Not for the world would she tell a downright, wilful, lie. She means to speak the truth and nothing else; but the truth she spices with a vengeance.

Sour in nature, elated with an extravagant opinion of herself, jealous of qualities that threaten to eclipse her, and thinking her own excellencies will show to best advantage by displaying them in contrast with the foibles of other women, she no sooner finds that a female acquaintance has said or acted a little awry, than her passions are let loose, and she talks herself into a sore throat. In the meanwhile she mistakes her fastidiousness of humor for delicacy of taste, and her censorious, irritable temper, for extreme sepsibility

Were one to admit the old absurd notion of our being born under some particular planet, or constellation, one could hardly help exclaiming, “What a pity that the birth of Sempronia, a woman of some very respectable qualities, instead of the constellation of the crab, had not been under the sweet influences of Pleiades !".

In an old Asiatic tradition it is storied, that while Adam and Eve were in the blissful bowers of Eden, there were sent down to them twelve baskets of chit chat, which was scattered about the garden: that Adam, being in a thoughtful mood and neglecting to exert himself in season, gathered up the contents of only three, while his fair partner nimbly collected, and carefully laid away for her use, the whole of the other nine; and that, by natural consequence, the stock of small talk belong

ing to women is, in proportion to that of men, as three ► to one.

This tradition, though apocryphal, is not unapt. Women have naturally a greater volubility of tongue than men; whether that their organs of speech are more flexile, or that their animal spirits are more volatile, they begin to speak at an earlier age, and are more generally fluent in conversation. They have besides, a more ample fund of small talk, which, so far from any defect or blemish, is a real boon, bequeathed to them for several valuable and obvious purposes. But though good in its kind, it has an aptness to the evil of petty scandal: an evil that cannot be too carefully guarded against in female education.

It would be passing no imposition upon a young iniss at school, to tell her, along with more solemn dehortations, that the feelings and dispositions from which spring calumny and backbiting would deform her face. For what is that beauty in the female face which pleases all beholders ? It consists chiefly in the aspect that indicates good affections. Every indication of candor, gentleness, and benignity, is a beauty: on the contrary, every feature, or aspect of countenance, that indicates pride, envy, or malignity, is a deformity: Nor does it need proof that, in frequent instances, the face

becomes at length the index of the passions which one babitually harbors, whether they be of the benevolent or the malignant kind.

One remark more, and no trifling one; there scarcely can be a more attractive feature in the character of a womán, than her veiling, or treating with a sisterly candor, those petty blemishes in her female acquaintance, from which she is happily exempt herself.


Of enjoying Independence without possessing wealth.

INDEPENDENCE, in regard to worldly condition, is an object

of worldly desire and laudable pursuit. But the word Independence must here be understood in a qualified and very limited sense. Strictly speaking, no man living is independent. For not to mention, that all depend alike on Him in whom we live and have our being; there is among mankind, a mutual dependence, from the lowest even up to the highest point in the scale of societý: so that the rich man needs his poor but industrious neighbors, as much as they need him. Should they refuse to sell him their labor, he would be fain to work for himself, notwithstanding the vastness of his wealth. This mutual dependence is a salutary restraint both upon the rich and the poor; it curbs the pride of the one and the envy of the other, and even tends to link them together in mutual amity.

That independence of circumstances which should be made the object of general desire and pursuit, does in no wise imply large possessions. So far otherwise, one possessed of but barely competent means of support, provided he lives within his means, is hardly less independent than if he were in the enjoyment of a fortune. Does the possessor of an ample fortune enjoy personal independence ? So also does the possessor of a small farm, which furnishes him with only the necessaries of life: and so also does the useful laborer, whose labor affords a supply to his real wants. But if the small

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