« PreviousContinue »
No. 3 was somewhat more confidential, and showed that matters had proceeded rather far. You were odious yesterday night, the letter said. Why did you not come to the stage-door? Papa could not escort me on account of his eye; he had an accident, and fell down over a loose carpet on the stair on Sunday night. I saw you looking at Miss Diggle all night; and you were so enchanted with Lydia Languish you scarcely once looked at Julia. I could have crushed Bingley, I was so angry. I play Ella Rosenberg on Friday : will you come then? Miss Diggle performs
These three letters Mr. Pen used to read at intervals, during the day and night, and embrace with that delight and fervor which such beautiful compositions surely warranted. A thousand times at least he had kissed fondly the musky satin paper, made sacred to him by the hand of Emily Fotheringay. This was all he had in return for his passion and flames, his vows and protests, his rhymes and similes, his wakeful nights and endless thoughts, his fondness, fears, and folly. The young wiseacre had pledged away his all for this : signed his name to endless promissory-notes, conferring his heart upon the bearer : bound himself for life, and got back twopence as an equivalent. For Miss Costigan was a young lady of such perfect good conduct and self-command, that she never would have thought of giving more, and reserved the treasures of her affection until she could transfer them lawfully at church.
Howbeit, Mr. Pen was content with what tokens of regard he had got, and mumbled over his three letters in a rapture of high spirits, and went to sleep delighted with his kind old uncle from London, who must evidently yield to his wishes in time; and, in a word, a preposterous state of contentment with himself and all the world. *
may be remarked that Mr. Pen did not marry Miss Fotheringay, and that Captain Costigan, her father, and Major Pendennis came near having a duel on the subject. For a full and interesting account of young Pendennis's trials and tribulations in this matter, and his happy issue therefrom, together with charmingly described record his life after this episode, you must read Pendennis, one of the best of Mr. Thackeray's stories.
1811 - 1874
CHARLES SUMNER, one of the most prominent actors in the public affairs of the United States for a quarter of a century, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in January, 1811. Graduating at Harvard College in 1830, he studied law under the direction of Judge Story, and began practice in 1834. In 1837 he went abroad and mingled in the most cultivated society in England and on the Continent. Returning to Boston, after an absence of three years, he resumed lis profession and his studies. In 1815, being invited by the city government to deliver a Fourth of July Oration, he spoke on The True Grandeur of Nations with such eloquence and force as at once gave him high rank az an orator. Made conspicuous by this success, he naturally entered into political associations, and became an active member of the Free Soil party. By its aid, five year's later, in 1850, he was elected to the seat in the United States Senate made vacant by Mr. Webster's appointment to be Secretary of State. On his entrance into that body Mr. Sumner declared himself the uncompromising enemy of slavery, and never ceased his assaults upon that institution until it ceased to exist. He was repeatedly re-elected to the Senate, and had completed his twenty-third year of honorable service, when he was suddenly stricken by angina pectoris, and died March 11, 1874. Mr. Sumner's efforts in literature were almost exclusively in the depart. ment of oratory, and the many volumes of his published works are mainly filled with speeches. Many of these have a place among the masterpieces of American cloquence. Unlike most · American public men, he was not a politician; he held himself aloof from the petty obligations and entanglements of party, and maintained a lofty and unswerving independence. His integrity and purity of purpose were never questioned even by those to whom his political doctrines were most abhorrent. By his profound intellectual ability, his thorough and elegant scholarship, and above all by his high-mindedness and unimpeachable probity, he commanded the respect of the whole country. His speeches were rather scholarly than statesmanlike. Though his mastery of whatever subjects he grappled with was thorough, and his presentation of them vigorous and effective, there is an excess of claboration, an ultra-classicism in all his writings that never, or very rarely, accompanies the lighest spontaneous oratory. As specimens of careful, finished composition, his speeches are hardly surpassed in the annals of American eloquence.
THE LAW OF HUMAN PROGRESS.
The way is now prepared to consider the character, conditions, and limitations of this law, the duties it enjoins, and the encouragements it affords.
Let me state the law as I understand it. Man as an individual is capable of indefinite improvement. Societies and nations, which are but aggregations of men, and, finally, the Human Family, or collectively Humanity, are capable of indefinite improvement. And this is the destiny of man, of societies, of nations, and of the Human Family.
Restricting the proposition to the capacity for indefinite improvement, I believe I commend it to the candor and intelligence of all who have meditated upon this subject. And this brings me to the remarkable words of Leibnitz. He boldly says, as we have already seen, that man seems able to arrive at perfection. Turgot and Con
dorcet also speak of his “perfectibility," -- a term adopted by recent . French writers. If by this is meant simply that man is capable of indefinite improvement, then it will not be questioned. But whatever the heights of virtue and intelligence to which he may attain in future ages, who can doubt that to his grander vision new summits will ever present themselves, provoking him to still grander aspirations? God only is perfect. Knowledge and goodness, his attributes, are infinite; nor can man hope, in any lapse of time, to comprehend this immensity. In the infinitude of the universe, he will seem, like Newton, with all his acquisitions, only to have gathered a few pebbles by the seaside. In a similar strain Leibnitz elsewhere says that the place which God assigns to man in space and time necessarily limits the perfections he is able to acquire. As in Geometry the asymptote constantly approaches its curve, so that the distance between them is constantly diminishing, and yet, though prolonged indefinitely, they never meet, so, according to him, are infinite souls the asymptotes of God.
There are revolutions in history seeming on a superficial view inconsistent with this law. From early childhood attention is directed to Greece and Rome ; and we are sometimes taught that these two powers reached heights which subsequent nations cannot hope to equal, much less to surpass. I would not disparage the triumphs of the ancient mind. The eloquence, the poetry, the art of Athens still survive, and bear no mean sway upon earth. Rome, too, yet lives in her jurisprudence, which, next after Christianity, has exerted a paramount influence over the laws of modern communities.
But exalted as these productions may be, it is impossible not to perceive that something of their present importance is derived from the early period when they appeared, something from the unquestioning and high-flown admiration of them transmitted through successive generations until it became a habit, and something also from the disposition, still prevalent, to elevate Antiquity at the expense of subsequent ages. Without undertaking to decide if the genius of Antiquity, as displayed by individuals, can justly claim supremacy, it would be easy to show that the ancient plane of civilization never reached our common level. The people were ignorant, vicious, and poor, or degraded to abject slavery, - itself the sum of all injustice and all vice. Even the most illustrious characters, whose names still shine from that distant night, were little more than splendid barbarians. Architecture, sculpture, painting, and vases of exquisite perfection attest an appreciation of beauty in form ; but our masters in these things were strangers to the useful arts, as to the comforts and virtues of home. - Abounding in what to us are luxuries, they had not what to us are necessaries.
Without knowledge there can be no sure Progress. Vice and barbarism are the inseparable companions of ignorance. Nor is it too much to say, that, except in rare instances, the highest virtue is attained only through intelligence. This is natural; for to do right we inust first understand what is right. But the people of Greece and Rome, even in the brilliant days of Pericles and Augustus, could not arrive at this knowledge. The sublime teachings of Plato and Socrates — calculated in many respects to promote the best interests of the race -- were limited in influence to a small company of listeners, or to the few who could obtain a copy of the costly manuscripts in which they were preserved. Thus the knowledge and virtue acquired by individuals were not diffused in their own age or secured to posterity.
Now, at last, through an agency all unknown to Antiquity, know). edge of every kind has become general and permanent. It can no longer be confined to a select circle. It cannot be crushed by tyranny, or lost by neglect. It is imınortal as the soul from which it proceeds. This alone renders all relapse into barbarism impossible, while it affords an unquestionable distinction between ancient and modern times. The Press, watchful with more than the hundred eyes of Argus, strong with more than the hundred arms of Briareus, not only guards all the conquests of civilization, but leads the way to future triumphs. Through its untiring energies, the meditation of the closet, or the utterance of the human voice, which else would die away within the precincts of a narrow room, is prolonged to the most distant nations and times, with winged words circling the globe. We admire the genius of Demosthenes, Sophocles, Plato, and Phidias ; but the printing-press is a higher gift to man than the eloquence, the drama, the philosophy, and the art of Greece.
THE LOVE OF GLORY.
The Love of Glory is a motive of human conduct. But the same Heavenly Father who endowed us with the love of approbation has placed in us other sentiments of a higher order, more kindred to his own divine nature. These are Justice and Benevolence, both of which, however imperfectly developed or ill-directed, are elements of every human soul. The desire of Justice, filling us with the love of Duty, is the sentiment which fits us to receive and comprehend the sublime injunction of doing unto others as we would have them do to us. In the predominance of this sentiment, enlightened by intelligence, injustice becomes impossible. The desire of Benevolence goes farther. . It leads all who are under its influence to those acts of kindness, disinterestedness, humanity, love to neighbor, which constitute the crown of Christian character. Such sentiments are celestial, godlike in their office.
In determining proper motives of conduct, it is easy to perceive that the higher are more commendable than the lower, and that even an act of Justice and Benevolence loses something of its charm when known to be inspired by the selfish desire of human applause. It was the gay poet of antiquity who said that concealed virtue differed little from sepulchered sluggishness : —
“Paulum sepultæ distat inertiæ
But this is a heathen sentiment, alien to reason and to truth.
It is hoped that men will be honest, but from a higher motive than because honesty is the best policy. It is hoped that they will be humane, but for a nobler cause than the fame of humanity.
The love of approbation may properly animate the young, whose minds have not yet ascended to the appreciation of that virtue which is its own exceeding great reward. It may justly strengthen those of maturer age who are not moved by the simple appeals of duty, unless the siniles of mankind attend them. It were churlish not to offer homage to those acts by which happiness is promoted, even though inspired by a sentiment of personal ambition, or by considerations of policy. But such motives must always detract from the perfect beauty even of good works. The Man of Ross, who was said to
Do good by stealth, and blush to find it Fame,” was a character of real life, and the example of his virtue may still be prized, like the diamond, for its surpassing rarity. It cannot be disguised, however, that much is gained where the desire of praise acts in conjunction with the higher sentiments. If ambition be our lure, it will be well for mankind if it unite with Justice and Benevolence.