« ПретходнаНастави »
to fear from a jealous policy, or a bigoted priesthood.
To begin with that excercise which women appear almost universally fond of, but which scrupulous minds have usually thought exceptionable. For my own part, I must acknowledge, I can see no reason for a declamation against the moderate and discreet use of Dancing. “To every thing," says Solomon, " there is a season, and a time to every
purpose under the heaven:"-among the rest
a time to dance." Even those pursuits which all approve, and approve most highly, may be abused. Nothing is exempt from shares : but one of the worst is a disposition to be peevish, illiberal, and unsociable. In the Jewish institution, it is well known, the exercise in question was adopted into religious worship itself. It is yet more remarkable, that in the parable of the prodigal son our Saviour mentions dancing, as making a part of the friendly and honest festivity indulged on his return. The single instance recorded in the New Testament, wherein it was perverted to a pernicious purpose,
has been weakly urged against a practice that, used with temperance and prudence is certainly adapted to promote health and good humour, a social spirit, and kind affections between the sexes, with that easy graceful carriage, to which Nature has annexed very pleasing perceptions in the beholders.
With respect to this last, it seems to me, that there can be no impropriety in it, any more than in modulating the voice into the most agreeable tones in singing ; to which none, I think, will object. What is dancing, in the best sense, but the harmony of motion rendered more palpable ? Awkwardness, rusticity, ungraceful gestures, can never surely be meritorious. It is the observation
of a celebrated philosopher, who was deeply skilled in most subjects, that is the principal part of beauty " is in decent and gracious motion.” And here one cannot help regretting that this, which may be considered in some measure as the virtue of the body, is not oftener seen in our country, as if the sole design of dancing were to supply the amusement of the hour. A modest but animated mien, an air at once unaffected and noble, are doubtless circumstances of great attraction and delight.
I said a Modest mien ; for that must never be given up: And on this account, I own, I cannot much approve of a young lady's dancing often in public assemblies, which, without a singular guard, must gradually wear off that lovely bashfulness so largely inculcated in a former discourse. Private circles consisting chiefly of friends and relations, and where persons of more years than the younger performers are present, I should esteem in every respect the most eligible. Where such precautions are observed, and this diversion is not suffered to interfere with health, regularity, modest apparel, and prudent expense ; I freely confess, that I am one of those who can look on with a very sensible satisfaction, well pleased to see a company of young people joyful with innocence, and happy in each other. If an exercise so sociable, and so enlivening, were to occupy some part of that time which is lavished on cards, would the youth of either sex be losers by it? I think not.
Having mentioned Cards, I will use the freedom, unpleasing as it may prove, or ill bred as it may seem, to offer a few plain remarks on the passion for thein, which is now become so strangely predominant, as to take the lead of every thing clse in almost every company of every rank. With many
indeed it seems to be a calling, and, as a witty author has observed, “ a laborious one too, such as they “ toil night and day at, nay do not allow themselves " that remission which the laws both of God and
man have provided for the meanest mechanic. 66 The sabbath is to them no day of rest; but this " trade goes on when all shops are shut. I know “ not," continues he,“ how they satisfy them66 selves in such a habitual waste of their time; “ but I much doubt that plea, whatsoever it is, “ which passeth with them, will scarce hold weight « at his tribunal, who hath commanded us to redeem, not fling away our time.”
To the same occupation what numbers sacrifice their health and spirits, with every natural pleasure that depends on these, not excepting even the comforts of fresh air ; pursuing it in the country with the same unabating ardour as in town, and to all the beauty and sweetness of rural scenes, in the finest season, preferring the suffocating atmosphere of perhaps a small apartment, where they regularly, every day if possible, croud round the card-table for hours together! What neglect of business and study, what ruin of credit, of fortune, of families, of connexions, of all that is valuable in this world, often follows the frenzy I speak of, who can express ?'
I will suppose, my fair hearers, nay I do hope, that the demon of avarice has not yet taken possession of your hearts. But do ye know any thing so likely to introduce him, as the spirit of Gaming? Is not this last a kindred fiend; and does not he, like most other tempters, advance by slow steps, and with a smiling aspect? Tell me in sober sadness, what security can you have that VOL. I.
the love of play will not lead you to the love of gaming ?
Between these I know there is a distinction. But is it not a distinction, at best, resembling that between twilight and darkness; and does not one succeed the other almost as naturally? The former at first is cheerful and serene, retaining some rays of pleasantry and good humour ; but by little and little these disappear. A deepening shade takes place ; till at last, every emanation of mirth and good nature dying away, all is involved in the gloom of anxiety, suspicion, envy, disgust, and every dreadful passion that lowers in the train of Covet
I say not, that this always happens ; but I ask again, what security is there that it will not happen to you? Did not every gamester in the world, whether male or female, begin just where you do? And is it not probable, that many of that infamous tribe had once as little apprehension as you can have, of proceeding those lengths to which they have since rụn, through the natural progress of vice, no where more infatuating or more rapid than in this execrable one ?
But let us suppose the desire of winning should in you never rise to that rage, which agitates the breast of many a fine lady, discomposes those features, and inflames those eyes, where nothing should be seen but soft illumination. Are there not lower degrees in the thirst of gain, which a liberal mind would ever carefully avoid ? And pray consider ; when either by superior skill, or what is called better luck, you happen to strip of her money, of that money which it is very possible she can ill spare, an acquaintance, a companion, a friend, one whom you profess at least to love and honour, perhaps at the very moment to entertain
with all the sacred rites of hospitality—is there nothing unkind, nothing sordid, in giving way to that which draws after it such consequences ! Is this the spirit of friendship or humanity ? -Blessed God! how does the passion I condemn deprave the worthiest affections of nature; and how does that bewitching power, the Fashion of the times, pervert even the best understandings, when resigned to its impostures ?
Nor is it the laws of humanity and friendship only, that are transgressed by the lust of gaming. The sweet emotions of love and tenderness between the sexes are often swallowed up by this all-devouring appetite ; an appetite, which perhaps beyond any thing else tends to harden and contract the heart, at the same time that the immoderate indulgence of it excludes a thousand little reciprocations of sentiment and joy, which would serve to kindle and feed the flame of virtuous affection. How much conversation suffers from it, who does not perceive ? Here indeed
will tell me with an air of triumph, that it prevents a great deal of scandal. When, then, are your minds so unfurnished, so vacant, that without cards you must necessarily fly to that wretched resource Creation, providence, religion, books, observation, fancy; do these present so narrow a field of entertainment, as to force you on the alternative of preying either on the reputation or on the property of others ? I recollect, while you possess an art of such utility as this last, for filling up the blanks of discourse, as well as for repairing the wastes of extravagance, why should you give yourselves any trouble to read or think, to enlarge your ideas or improve your faculties, beyond the usual standard ? Surely the knowledge of the most fashionable games, of the