« ПретходнаНастави »
who even knows not that 2 and 2 make four, is regarded as fit for no sort of business above that of a menial
But besides the knowledge of figures, there is another branch of the art of computing, which is of superior importance : I mean an accurate knowledge of the value of things, considered in relation to our real comfort and happiness. This is a kind of knowledge, not in itself so very difficult to learn, but which, nevertheless, is hidden from multitudes of men and women of good natural parts, by reason that their manner is to view things through the medium as it were of magic spectacles, rather than with the naked and unprejudiced eye of reason.
Apart from considering the common and fatal illusion, through which immortal joys are sacrificed to transient pleasure; a great many, for want of skill in the art of computing, make wrong judgments about Pleasure, on the right choice of which their worldly welfare depends in no inconsiderable measure. Scorning, or overlooking, the simple and innocent pleasures of life, which are given in common to human beings, which no arts of refinement can considerably increase, and which excess never fails to embitter; they lose the good which they have, by their unfortunate longing after some unattainable state of earthly felicity. Pursuing pleasure with eagerness, and as an employment, they purchase pain ; and that, at the expense of fortune, health, character, and peace of mind. At this dear rate they purchase the most grievous pain, to wit, that of satiety, which consists in loathing life and its enjoyments. He that is not man enough to govern his
appetites, cannot make himself brute enough to indulge and pamper them without remorse ; and therefore, in the very circumstance in which he places his chief good, he is far less happy than some of the irrational animals about him. But to return to the fabulous spectacles : it may be taken for certain that, though invisible, they are actually worn by all persons, belonging to any of the following classes :
They certainly wear them, who fondly hope to find happiness in a life devoted to idleness and an unrestrained indulgence of passion and appetite. With respect to
their true good, as relates even to this life alone, they are under a deplorable mistake. For it is an axiom built upon irrefragable experience, that if mere corporeal gratification were intended to be the chief object of our pursuits, yet, even then, with regard to real enjoyment, industry would be preferable to sloth, and temperance
They wear them, who make slaves of themselves, and are hard and stingy, for the sake of hoarding up treasure for their children. Blind jufatuation! Often, very often, it happens, that such hoards are squandered in a much shorter time than it took to gather them.
They wear them, who, though possessing a competence, fret their hearts and embitter their lives with covetings after riches. Were they to view things in a true light, they would be thankful, rather than discontented and querulous; since their condition is precisely that which is best calculated to furnish the greatest amount of genuine earthly confort.
They wear them, who sacrifice realities to appearances, substantial comforts to glittering gew-gaws; who had rather feel misery than not seem happy, who impoverish and beggar themselves for the sake of appearing more prosperous and felicitious than those of the common sort. The folly of such people's calculations is seen by every one but themselves.
They wear them, who lay the scenes of their happiness abroad rather than at home. It is a certain truth, that one who lives on uneasy terms with himself, can find
very little enjoyment in extrinsic objects. So that the very first step in the road to solid happiness, is the acquirement of a contented mind; because, without a disposition to contentment, any change of place, or of outward condition, is only the exchange of one sort of disquietude for another. And as the spring of happiness is found in our own minds, or no where; so, “ wellordered Home” is the true centre of its enjoyment.Mothers, whose chief satisfaction lies in circles of fashion and scenes of amusement, have their visions wofully
means of the magic spectacles. Else they would clearly see that the occupation of instructing and guiding their families, is what furnishes the sweetest of
pleasures, at the same time that it is one of the first of duties.
Here incidentally, an observation falls in, which it is of no inconsiderable importance to remember. The qualities that excite admiration, seldom contribute to domestic happiness; few women being sedulous to please at home, who know themselves greatly admired abroad.
Of the Misuse, and the Proper Use, of Reading.
" Read not to contradict or confute, nor to believe and take for granted, but to weigh and consider."
The age we live in, has been remarkably a reading age. Books are more numerous and of more easy access, than at any former period; and the number of readers has increased astonishingly since the middle of the last century. In a general view, this is of good omen, for reading is one of the principal keys of knowledge: it unlocks as it were a mine of intellectual wealth, and contributes to its general diffusion. There is considerable reason to think, however, that the progress of real sound knowledge has not kept pace with the progress of reading : for the slow pace of the former, in comparison with that of the latter, there being the several causes which here follow.
By reason of the abundance and super-abundance of books, the best are commonly read but superficially, and, by many, not read at all; the attentions of the reading public being distracted with such a boundless variety. If there were only one book in the world, and its copies so multiplied that it were in every one's hands, almost every one would be familiarly and thoroughly acquainted with its contents. Or, if there were only a few books, and they accessible to all, those few would be pondered and studied till a considerable part of their contents were treasured up in the minds and memories of the generality of readers. But now that books are so numerous and innumerable, the readers skip from one to another without settling their attention upon any ; so that many who are fairly entitled to the credit of great reading, are very little improved in their intellectual faculties. They eagerly devour books, but properly digest and appropriate scarcely any thing therein, and their minds are plethoric, but destitute of vigor.
Besides this, with the bulk of the bookish tribe, reading has become an idle amusement, rather than a serious and laborious occupation. They read for pleasure, more than for profit. The acquirement of a fund of really useful knowledge scarcely comes within the scope of their object, which is chiefly to beguile the tedious hours by furnishing food for the imagination. And hence is it, that no books are so palatable, or so generally read, and with so much eagerness, as the lighter compositions, which are fraught with amusement, but barren of sound instruction. A novel even of the lowest cast, finds more readers than a serious work of great merit.
Moreover, the perpetual influx of new books has occasioned a raging appetite for novelty of some kind or other, no matter what; so that the attention of most readers is directed rather to what is new, than to what is valuable and excellent. This kind of curiosity is insatiable; for the more it is fed, the more it craves. Old authors are neglected, because they are old, and new ones engross the attention, because they are new. The standard compositions of former ages are cast aside as lumber; while a new pretender, with less than a fourth part of their abilities, is sure to find a momentary welcome at least.
From these causes it happens that a great deal of reading does by no means imply a great stock of valuable knowledge. On the contrary, it often leaves the mind empty of almost every thing but vanity; none being more vain, or more intolerable, than those who having learnt by rote a multitude of maxims and facts, deal them out by the gross, on all occasions, and in all companies. The food which they have derived from reading lies in their minds undigested, and while it occasions a preternatural tumor there, it gives neither growth nor strength. Their reading has scarcely brought into exercise any one
of the intellectuals besides the memory, which has been loaded and kept in perpetual action, whilst their understandings and judgments remain dormant. They are proud that they have read so much, but have reason rather to be ashamed that they know so little.
One who would really profit by reading, must take heed what he reads, and how.
The use of reading, is to render one more wise and virtuous, rather than more learned; and that point is to be gained not so much from the quantity, as the quality of the books which we peruse. No single individual has leisure enough, nor is any life long enough, for a thorough perusal of even the tenth part of the books now extant in the English language. A selection is therefore necessary, and much depends upon making it judiciously. An inconsiderable number of well chosen and well studied books, will enable one to make far greater advances in real knowledge, than lightly skimming over liundreds of volumes taken
up indiscriminately. In reading, attention is to be paid also to the How, as well as to the What. The proper object of reading is not merely to inform us of what others think, but also to furnish us with materials for thinking ourselves, or for the employinent and exercise of our judgments and understandings, and of the whole of our intellectual and moral faculties. It is not enough that it supplies us with a multitude of facts; for the knowledge of facts is valuable to us chiefly for the inferences that we ourselves may draw from them, or because they furnish us with the ineans of exercising and exerting our own powers in the way of comparing, reasoning, and judging, and of drawing sound conclusions of the future froin the past.
Knowledge cannot be bequeathed as a patrimony, or purchased with money; there is no other way to obtain it but by close attention and labor of the mind. Who. ever would get knowledge in any uncommon degree, must seek for it as for silver. If it be a toil, it is one that is sweetened with pleasures peculiarly its own. Indeed it is questionable whether it would be so well for us if we could get learning without labor; for one of the essential benefits of education is, that it inures the mind to apply itself steadily to any thing that re