Page images
PDF
EPUB

gerous thing to rely on than the opinion of others, nor more likely to mislead one; since there is much more falsehood and error among men than truth and knowledge; and if the opinions and persuasions of others, whom we know and think well of, be a ground of assent, men have reason to be heathens in Japan, Mahometans in Turkey, Papists in Spain, Protestants in England, and Lutherans in Sweden."*

Were a whole nation to start upon a new career of educar tion, with mature faculties, and minds free from prepossessions or prejudices, how much would be quickly abandoned that is now most stubbornly cherished! If we have many opinions, in our present state, that have once been proscribed, it is presumable that we cling to many more which future generations will discard. The world is yet in its boyhood perhaps in its infancy; and our fancied wisdom is but the babble of the nursery. However quickly we may take up an error, we abandon it slowly. As a man often feels a pain in the leg that has been long amputated, so does he frequently yearn towards an opinion after it has been cut off from his mind,—so true is it that

“He that's convinced against his will,

Is of the same opinion still."

So wedded are some people to their own notions, that they will not have any persons for friends, or even for servants, who do not entertain similar views. Lord - makes a point of strictly cross-questioning his domestics, as to their religious and political faith, before he engages them. While residing on his Irish estates, a groom presented himself to be hired, resolving, beforehand, not to compromise himself by any inconsiderate replies. “What are your opinions ?" was the peer's first demand. “Indeed, then, your lordship's honor! I have just none at all at all.” “Not any! nonsense ! -you must have some, and I insist upon knowing them." “Why, then, your honor's glory, they are for all the world just the same as your lordship’s.” “Then you can have no

* On the Human Understanding, l. iv. C. XV.

objection to state them, and to confess frankly what is your way of thinking.” “Och! and is it my way of thinking you mane by my opinions ?—Why, then, I am exactly the same way of thinking as Pat Sullivan, your honor's gamekeeper, for, says he to me, as I was coming up stairs, Murphy, says he, I'm thinking you'll never be paying me the two-andtwenty shillings I lent you, last Christmas was a twelvemonth. Faith! says I, Pat Sullivan! I'm quite of your way of thinking.”

OPTIMISM-A devout conviction that, under the government of a benevolent and all-powerful God, every thing conduces ultimately to the best in the world he has created, and that mankind, the constant objects of his paternal care, are in a perpetual state of improvement, and increased happiness. This is a great and consoling principle, the summary of all religion and all philosophy, the reconciler of all misgivings, the source of all comfort and consolation. To believe in it, is to realize its truth, so far as we are individually concerned; and indeed it will mainly depend upon ourselves, whether or not everything shall be for the best. Let us cling to the moral of Parnell's hermit, rather than suffer our confidence in the divine goodness to be staggered by the farcical exaggerations of Voltaire's Candide. If the theory of the former be a delusion, it is, at least, a delightful one; and, for my own part—" malim cum Platone errare, quam cum aliis recté sentire"-where the error is of so consolatory and elevating a description.

An optimist may be wrong, but presumption and religion are in his favor; nor can we directly pronounce any thing to be for final evil, until the end of all things has arrived, and the whole scheme of creation is revealed to us. “Does not every architect complain of the injustice of criticizing a building before it is half finished ?-Yet, who can tell what volume of the creation we are in at present, or what point the structure of our moral fabric has attained ?-Whilst we are all in a vessel that is sailing under sealed orders, we shall do well to confide implicitly in our government and captain.”

ORATORY—The power to talk people out of their sober and matured opinions. Oratory is a dangerous talent. Few men are fit to be trusted with it, for few are able to resist the temptations to use it for their own ends. True orators are more scarce than is generally imagined. Rank is oftener found than eloquence. The genuine orator is inspired, and does not need a prompter—as did that notorious “second-rate blunderer," Sir Frederick Flood. He had a droll habit, of which he could never break himself; whenever a person at his back whispered or suggested any thing to him while he was speaking in public, he without a moment's reflection involuntarily repeated the suggestion literatim. Sir Frederick was once making a long speech in the Irish parliament, lauding the transcendent merits of the Wexford magistracy. As he was closing his turgid oration, by declaring that “the said magistracy ought to receive some signal mark of the lord lieutenant's favor,” John Egan, who was rather mellow, and sitting behind him, jocularly whispered, “And be whipped at the cart's tail.”

_"And be whipped at the cart's tail !" repeated Sir Frederick unconsciously, amid uproarious laughter from the whole

house.

ORIGINALITY_Unconscious or undetected imitation. Even Seneca complains, that the ancients had compelled him to borrow from them what they would have taken from him, had he been lucky enough to have preceded them. “Every one of my writings,” says Goethe, in the same candid spirit, “has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons, a thousand different things: the learned and the ignorant, the wise and the foolish, infancy and age, have come in turn, generally without having the least suspicion of it, to bring me the offering of their thoughts, their faculties, their experience: often have they sowed the harvest I have reaped. My work is that of an aggregation of human beings, taken from the whole of nature; it bears the name of Goethe.”

It is in the power of any writer to be original, by deserting nature, and seeking the quaint and the fantastical ; but literary monsters, like all others, are generally short-lived. “When I

PICTORIAL HUMOR.—New READINGS FROM OLD AUTHORS.

[subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

R CRUMP, NELI

[graphic]

“How bravely thou becom'st thy bed, fresh lily!”

Cymbeline.

"You plead in vain. I have no room for pity left within me."- Tem pest.

« PreviousContinue »