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their thoughts, the latter took a piece of chalk, and drew the group against the wall as accurately as if he had it before his eyes; a silent panegyric, which no rhetoric could have surpassed.
“Our praise of beginners,” says Rochefoucauld, “ often proceeds from our envy of those who have already succeeded.” This is a secret well known to critics; but they do not seem to be aware that sincerely to praise merit is, in some degree, to share it.
“Prayer highest soars when she most prostrate lies,
PRECEPT—without example, is like a waterman who looks one way and rows another. What avails the knowledge of good and evil, if we do what we ought to avoid, and avoid what we ought to do? A direction post may point out the right road, without being obliged to follow it; but human finger posts, especially teachers and preachers, have not the same privilege. When a man's life gives the lie to his tongue, we naturally believe the former, rather than the latter. Pharisaical professions are but as a tinkling cymbal; we cannot listen patiently to the voice of the hypocrite, charm he never so wisely ; but there is a silent eloquence in the morality of a whole life, that is irresistible. Precept and example, like the blades of a pair of scissors, are admirably adapted to their end, when conjoined : separated they lose the greater portion of their utility. Tertullian says, that even our writings blush
when our actions do not correspond with them. Ought not this inconsistency rather to produce a contrary effect, and to prevent our writings from being read ?
He who teaches what he does not perform, may be compared to a sun-dial on the front of a house, which instructs the passenger, but not the tenant. “ Equidem beatos puto,” says Pliny, “ quibus Deorum munere datum est, aut facere scribenda, aut legenda scribere ; beatissimos verè quibus utrimque. Happy are they to whom the gods have given the power, either to perform actions worthy to be recorded, or to write things worthy to be read : happier still are they in whom both powers are united.”
PRECOCIOUS CHILDREN—whose early intellectual development is often the harbinger of a premature decay, may be compared to Pliny's Amygdala, or almond tree, of which the early buds and immature fruits were cut off by the frosts of spring.
PRESS—The steam-engine of moral power, which, directed by the spirit of the age, will eventually crush imposture, superstition, and tyranny. The liberty of the press is the true measure of all other liberty, for all freedom without this must be merely nominal. To stifle the nascent thought is a moral infanticide, a treason against human nature. What can a man call his own, if his thought does not belong to him? King Hezekias is the first recorded enemy to the liberty of the press: he suppressed a book which treated of the virtues of plants, for fear it should be abused, and engender maladies; a shrewd and notable reason, well worthy of a modern attorney-general.
PRIDE—“My brethren,” said Swift in a sermon, “there are three sorts of pride—of birth, of riches, and of talents. I shall not now speak of the latter, none of you being liable to that abominable vice.”
If we add to our pride, what we cut off fronı less favorite
faults, we are merely taking our errors out of one pocket to put them into another.
PRIMOGENITURE—Disinheriting a whole unoffending family, in order that the accident of an accident, viz., the eldest son of an eldest son, very possibly the last in merit, though the first in birth, may be endowed with the patrimony of his brothers and sisters, each of whom may exclaim
“Sum pauper, non culpa mea, sed culpa parentum,
Qui me fratre meo non genuero prius.”
Equally opposite to nature, reason, morality, and sound policy, this barbarous remnant of the doctrine which maintains the many to be made for the few, not the few for the many, has been a pregnant source of private as well as public corruption. The father whose estate is entailed has lost much of his moral influence over his children, being equally unable to reward the duty and affection of the juniors, or to control and punish the excesses of his heir, whose independence too often occasions him to be prematurely extravagant, profligate, and unfilial.
“I must live,” sorrowfully exclaimed a poor cadet, when soliciting a small loan from the heir of a rich family. “ Je n'en vois pas la nécessité," was the brother's reply.
It has been urged that the abolition of primogeniture and entail would rapidly pauperize the land, by its continual subdivision into small allotments. But it is already pauperized, where it is not fattened into disease ; for the few are as much too rich, as the many are too poor; and if that be the best system which confers the greatest happiness upon the greatest number, a more equal distribution of the general wealth would surely be an improvement for all. The fine arts might suffer, for want of wealthy patrons; but the useful arts would receive an impulse from the greater diffusion of competency; and what would be gained in the latter direction might well atone for the loss in the former. A nation may pay too dear for the arts. It is, doubtless, fine to talk of an Augustan era, and Augustus himself was said to boast that he had found Rome of brick, and left it of marble ; but if he had added, as in truth he might, that he had found Rome free, and had left it enslaved, what patriot would not have felt the city dishonored by its architectural honors ?
The constant reports in our papers, of lawsuits between relations, mostly originating in the unjust system of primogeniture, reminds one of Malherbe, when he was reproached for being always at law with his family. “ With whom, then,” he asked, “would you have me be at variance? The Turks and Muscovites will not quarrel with me."
It was well said, by one whose elder brother, a dissolute and unhappy man, had been vaunting the extent of the family estate—“I should envy you for what you have, did I not pity you for what you are.” The same, when once walking with his senior, suddenly seized his arms, hurried him on, and exclaimed, with a look of pretended alarm—"Away! away! your life is in danger-save me from the entailed estate !”—at the same time pointing to a board set up in an old gravel pit, with the following inscription " Any one may shoot rubbish here.” T. H. is made responsible for the truth of this anecdote, though it may possibly be as old as the venerable Josephus Molitor.
PROGRESS—Nothing is more common or more stupid, than to take the actual for the possible—to believe that all which is, is all which can be ; first, to laugh at every proposed deviation from practice as impossible—then, when it is carried into effect, to be astonished that it did not take place before.
The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.
PROVERBS—Brief fallacies. Thus, “Never put off till to-morrow what you cản do to-day,” which is one of “Poor Richard's” rascally and narrow-minded maxims, by which he inculcated the divine duty of making money, is notably contradicted by Aaron Burr who says, “Never do to-day what you can put off till to-morrow,” for something may occur to make you regret your premature action.
There is, however, one proverb worthy of all commendation: “Never judge a book by the cover.” It is to be hoped that the buyer of this book will form his judgment upon a perusal of the inside.
PRUDERY—The innocence of the vicious—external sanctimony, assumed as a cover for internal laxity. Whenever we smell musk or other pungent perfumes, we may fairly suspect that the wearer must have some strong effluvium to conquer; and where we observe a Pharisaical display of prudery and piety, we shall seldom err in pronouncing that it is the disguise of some wolf in sheep's clothing. A nice man, according to Swift, is a man of nasty ideas; and a pretender to superior purity will often be found much dirtier than his neighbors. Some of these Pharisees will occasionally betray themselves by over-acting their part. “I never saw such an indelicate gentleman as that at the opposite house ! ” exclaimed a young female saint; "he must have seen that I did not choose to pull down the blind, and yet he has been watching me the whole time I have been changing my dress.” Two damsels, of the same puritanical stamp, encountering Dr. Johnson, shortly after the publication of his Dictionary, complimented him on his having omitted all the gross and objectionable words. “What, my dears !” said the doctor, “have you been looking out for them already ?”
PUNS—The wit of words. They are exactly the same to words which wit is to ideas, and consist in the sudden discovery of relations in language. A pun, to be perfect in its kind, should contain two distinct meanings; the one common and obvious, the other more remote: and in the notice which the mind takes of the relation between these two sets of words, and in the surprise which that relation excites, the pleasure of a pun consists. Miss Hamilton, in her book on education, mentions the instance of a boy so very neglectful that he could never be brought to read the word patriarchs ;