« VorigeDoorgaan »
I. The bad Reader. PERCIVAL'S TALES.
TULIUS had acquired great credit at Cambridge, by his compositions. They were elegant, animated and judicious; and several prizes, at different times, had been adjudged to him. An oration which he delivered the week before he left the university, had been honored with particular applause; and on his return home he was impatient to gratify his vanity, and to extend his reputation, by having it read to a number of his father's literary friends.
A party was therefore collected; and after dinner the manuscript was produced. Julius declined the office of reader, because he had contracted a hoarseness on his journey; and a conceited young man, with great forwardness, offered his services. Whilst he was settling himself on his seat, licking his lips and adjusting his mouth, hawking, hemming and making other ridiculous preparations for the performance which he had undertaken, a profound silence reigned through the company, the united effect of attention and expectation. The reader at length began; but his tone of voice was so shrill and dissonant, his utterance so vehement, his pronunciation so affected, his emphasis so injurious? and his accents were so improperly placed, that good manners alone restrained the laughter of the audience. Julius was all this while upon the rack, and his arm was more than once extended to snatch his composition from the coxcomb who delivered it. But he proceeded with full confidence in his own elocution; uniformly overstepping, as Shakespeare expresses it, the modesty of nature.
When the cration was concluded, the gentlemen returned their thanks to the author; but the compliments which they paid him were more expressive of politeness and civility, than the conviction of his merit. Indeed, the beauties of his composition had been converted, by
bad reading, into blemishes; and the sense of it rendered obscure, and even unintelligible. Julius and his father could not conceal their vexation and disappointment; and the guests, perceiving they laid them under a painful restraint, withdrew, as soon as decency permitted, to their respective habitations.
II.-Respect due to Old Age.-SPECTATOR.
IT happened at Athens, during a public representation of some play exhibited in honor of the commonwealth, that an old gentleman came too late for a place suitable to his age and quality. Many of the young gentlemen who observed the difficulty and confusion he was in, made signs to him that they would accommodate him, if he came where they sat. The good man bustled through the crowd accordingly; but when he came to the seat to which he was invited, the jest was to sit close and expose him, as he stood out of countenance, to the whole audience. The frelic went round all the Athenian benches. But on those occasions there were also particular places assigned for foreigners. When the good man skulked towards the boxes appointed for the Lacedemonians, that honest people, more virtuous than polite, rose up all to a man, and with the greatest respect, received him among them. The Athenians being suddenly touched with a sense of the Spartan virtue and their own degeneracy, gave a thunder of applause ; and the old man cried out, "the Athenians understand what is good, but the Lacedemonians practice it."
III.-Piety to God recommended to the Young.-Blair.
WHAT I shall first recommend, is piety to God. With this I begin, both as the foundation of good morals, and as a disposition particularly graceful and becoming in youth. To be void of it, argues a cold heart, destitute of some of the best affections which belong to that age. Youth is the season of warm and generous emotions. The heart should then spontaneously rise into the admiration of what is great; glow with the love of what is fair and excellent; and melt at the discovery of tenderness and goodness. Where can
any object be found so proper to kindle these affections, as the Father of the universe, and the Author of all felicity? Unmoved by veneration, can you contemplate that grandeur and majesty which his works every where display? Untouched by gratitude, can you view that profusion of good, which, in this pleasing season of life, his beneficent hand pours around you? Happy in the love and affection of those with whom you are connected, look up to the Supreme Being, as the inspirer of all the friendship which has ever been shewn you by others; himself your best and your first friend; formerly the supporter of your infancy and the guide of your childhood; now, the guardian of your youth, and the hope of your coming years. View religious homage as a natural expression of gratitude to him for all his goodness. Consider it as the service of the God of your fathers; of Him to whom your parents devoted you; of Him, whom in former ages, your ancestors honored; and by whom they are now rewarded and blessed in heaven. Connected with so many tender sensibilities of soul, let religion be with you, not the cold and barren offspring of speculation; but the warm and vigorous dictate of the heart.
IV.-Modesty and Docility.-IB.
TO piety, join modesty and docility, reverence to your parents, and submission to those who are your superiors in knowledge, in station and in years. Dependence and obedience belong to youth. Modesty is one of its chief ornaments; and has ever been esteemed a presage of rising merit. When entering on the career of life it is your part not to assume the reins as yet, into your hands; but to commit yourself to the guidance of the more experienced, and to become wise by the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Of all the follies incident to youth, there are none which either deform its present appearance, or blast the prospect of its future prosperity, more than self conceit, presump tion and obstinacy. By checking its natural progress in improvement, they fix it in long immaturity; and frequently produce mischiefs which can never be re
paired. Yet these are vices too commonly found a mong the young. Big with enterprise and elated by hope, they resolve to trust to success to none but themselves. Full of their own abilities, they deride the admonitions which are given them by their friends, as the timorous suggestions of age. Too wise to learn, too impatient to deliberate, too forward to be restrained, they plunge with precipitant indiscretion, into the midst of all the dangers with which life abounds.
IT is necessary to recommend to you sincerity and truth. These are the basis of every virtue. That darkness of character, where we can see no heart; those foldings of art, through which no native affection is al lowed to penetrate, present an object unaniable in every season of life, but particularly odious in youth. If, at an age when the heart is warm, when the emotions are strong, and when nature is expected to show herself free and open, you can already smile and deceive, what are we to look for when you shall be longer hackneyed in the ways of men; when interest shall have completed the obduration of your heart, and experience shall have improved you in all the arts of guile? Dissimulation in youth is the forerunner of perfidy in old age. Its first ap pearance is the fated omen of growing depravity and future shame. It degrades parts and learning, obscures the lustre of every accomplishment, and sinks you into contempt with God and man. As you value therefore, the approbation of heaven, or the esteem of the world, cultivate the love of truth. In all your proceedings, be direct and consistent. Ingenuity and candor possess the most powerful charm: They bespeak universal favor, and carry an apology for almost every failing. The path of truth is a plain and safe path; that of falsehood is a perplexing maze. After the first departure from sincerity, it is not in your power to stop. One artifice unavoidably leads on to another; till as the intricacy of the labyrinth increases, you are left entangled in your Own snare. Deceit discovers a little mind, which stops at temporary expedients, without rising to comprehen
sive views of conduct. It betrays, at the same time, a dastardly spirit. It is the resource of one who wants courage to avow his designs, or to rest upon himself. Whereas, openness of character displays that generous boldness which ought to distinguish youth. To set out in the world with no other principle than a crafty attention to interest, betokens one who is destined for creeping through the inferior walks of life; but to give an early preference to honor above gain, when they stand in competition; to despise every advantage which cannot be attained without dishonest arts; to brook no meanness, and to stoop to no dissimulation; are the indications of a great mind, the presages of future eminence and distinction in life. At the same time, this virtuous sincerity is perfectly consistent with the most prudent vigilance and caution. It is opposed to cunning, not to true wisdom. It is not the simplicity of a weak and improvident, but the candor of an enlarged and noble mind; of one who scorns deceit, because he accounts it both base and unprofitable; and who seeks no disguise, because he needs none to hide him.
VI.-Benevolence and Humanity.—IB.
YOUTH is the proper season for cultivating the benevolent and humane affections. As a great part of your happiness is to depend on the connexions which you form with others, it is of high importance that you acquire betimes, the temper and the manners which will render such connexions comfortable. Let a sense of justice be the foundation of all your social qualities. In your most early intercourse with the world, and even in your youthful amusements, let no unfairness be found. Engrave on your mind that sacred rule of " doing in all things to others according to your wish that they should do unto you." For this end impress yourselves with a deep sense of the original and natural equality of men. Whatever advantage of birth or fortune you pos sess, never display them with an ostentatious superiority. Leave the subordinations of rank to regulate the intercourse of more advanced years. At present it becomes you to act among your companions as man with man.