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self, I could never turn my back upon such qualities as wit, gaiety, and the talent of conversation ; but a business-like explorer of countries would, perhaps, blame even these as tending to interrupt the principal pursuit. And I must confess (if I may, in conclusion, refer once more tomy own adventures) that the most unprofitable journey I ever made, in respect of mere instruction, was that in which my companions were the most agreeable and accomplished men.
We traversed Holland and a part of North Germany; our plans were always regulated by the prevailing inclination of the moment, and the general ease was held paramount to all other travelling considerations. We floated carelessly upon the canals, and rolled along the roads without any impatience to arrive ; indeed we were often stopped in the midst of some playful altercation or trifling literary argument, and found with surprise that our stage was already performed. In the towns we dwelt just so long as they afforded novelty and excitement; if our introductions promised well, we mixed in private society, if not, we hunted for eccentricities on the surface of public life; if both failed, we had always wherewithal to make the hour pass, among ourselves, in rallying, or speculating on fanciful topics, or reporting our separate adventures. To the tyranny of valets-de-place we never submitted ; but if occasion served, we allowed the cicerone to speak to us of a stadt-house, or a botanic garden, or a gallery of pictures, and even went with him to view these objects, unless, as it too frequently happened, some other momentary whim interfered to forbid the expedition. When we arrived in any place, we were, like the lyric poet, more disposed to enquire “ quo Chium pretio cadum mercemur ?" than to learn old municipal anecdotes, or stories of battle and siege ; indeed, if we had compiled a narrative of this excursion, it would have been about as scanty in the statistical details as Horace's account of the journey to Brundusium, and would, perhaps, have turned upon nearly the same topics. Our memorandum-books were a spacious blank; we had made no record of churches, palaces, or villas, nor even of books or pictures ; much less had we attempted to preserve estimates of population, commercial returns, or notices on the state of parties. We had not heard the organ of Haarlem; we had not enquired after the shop-board of John of Leyden; we were not sure that any of us had seen Peter the Great's cottage. Our recollections were, that in such a place we had dined with some formal military pedants, in another, kept vigils with a bon-vivant professor ; here we had resolved that no such thing existed as Dutch beauty, and there we had read our recantation; in such a house we had plotted hoaxes on the Hollanders with a lively Frenchwoman ; on such a canal we had fomented a mutiny in the treckschuyt; at Utrecht we had astonished a learned doctor by addressing him in the Latin of Ignoramus and Dulman; at Ryswick, while drinking claret under a bower of limetrees, we had made our imaginary partition of Europe among the living authors. It was plain we were in no condition to lay our remarks before the public; we had acquired little knowledge, but had enjoyed much pleasure, and secured much future happiness, for we had prosperously terminated one of those ventures in social life, which, when successful, tend in a peculiar manner to strengthen confidence, increase regard, and give the mellowness of ancient friendship to the fervid intercourse of youth.
VOL. X. NO. XXXVII.
TABLE TALK.-NO, XI.
On the Spirit of Obligations. The two rarest things to be met with are good sense and goodnature. For one man who judges right, there are twenty who can say good things; as there are numbers who will serve you or do friendly actions, for one who really wishes you well. It has been said, and often repeated, that “mere good-nature is a fool :" but I think that the dearth of sound sense, for the most part, proceeds from the want of a real, unaffected interest in things, except as they react upon ourselves"; or from a neglect of the maxim of that good old philanthropist, who said, " Nihil humani a me alienum puto.” The narrowness of the heart warps the understanding, and makes us weigh objects in the scales of our self-love, instead of those of truth and justice. We consider not the merits of the case, or what is due to others, but the manner in which our own credit or consequence will be affected; and adapt our opinions and conduct to the last of these rather than to the first. The judgment is seldom wrong where the feelings are right; and they generally are so, provided they are warm and sincere. He who intends others well, is likely to advise them for the best; he who has any cause at heart, seldom ruins it by his imprudence. Those who play the public or their friends slippery tricks, have in secret no objection to betray them.
One finds out the folly and malice of mankind by the impertinence of friends—by their professions of service and tenders of advice--by their fears for your reputation and anticipation of what the world may say of you ; by which means they suggest objections to your enemies, and at the same time absolve themselves from the task of justifying your errors, by having warned you of the consequences--by the care with which they tell you ill-news, and conceal from you any flattering circumstance—by their dread of your engaging in any creditable attempt, and mortification, if you succeed—by the difficulties and hindrances they throw in your way-by their satisfaction when you happen to make a slip or get into a scrape, and their determination to tie your hands behind
lest you should get out of it--by their panic-terrors at your entering into a vindication of yourself, lest in the coursc of it, you should call upon them for a certificate to your character-by their lukewarmness in defending, by their readiness in betraying you—by the high standard by which they try you, and to which you can hardly ever come up-by their forwardness to partake your triumphs, by their backwardness to share your disgrace--by their acknowledgment of your errors out of candour, and suppression of your good qualities out of envy-by their not contradicting, or by their joining in the cry against you, lest they too should become objects of the same abuse-by their playing the game into your adversaries' hands, by always letting their imaginations take part with their cowardice, their vanity, and selfishness against you; and thus realising or hastening all the ill consequences they affect to deplore, by spreading abroad that very spirit of distrust, obloquy, and hatred, which they predict will be excited against you!
In all these pretended demonstrations of an over-anxiety for our welfare, we may detect a great deal of spite and ill-nature lurking under the disguise of a friendly and officious zeal. It is wonderful how much love of mischief and rankling spleen lies at the bottom of the human heart, and how a constant supply of gall seems as necessary to the health and activity of the mind as of the body. Yet perhaps it ought not to excite much surprise that this gnawing, morbid, acrimonious temper should produce the effects it does, when, if it does not vent itself on others, it preys upon our own comforts, and makes us see the worst side of every thing, even as it regards our own prospects and tranquillity. It is the not being comfortable in ourselves, that makes us seek to render other people uncomfortable. A person of this character will advise you against a prosecution for a libel, and shake his head at your attempting to shield yourself from a shower of calumny-It is not that he is afraid you will be nonsuited, but that you will gain a verdict! They caution you against provoking hostility, in order that you may submit to indignity. They say that " if you publish a certain work, it will be your ruin"—hoping that it will, and by their tragical denunciations, bringing about this very event as lies in their power, or at any rate, enjoying a premature triumph over you in the mean time. What I would say to any friend who may be disposed to foretel a general outcry against any work of mine, would be to request him to judge and speak of it for himself, as he thinks it deserves-and not by bis overweening scruples and qualms of conscience on my account, to afford those very persons whose hostility be deprecates the cue they are to give to party-prejudice, and which they may justify by his authority.
Suppose you are about to give Lectures at a Public Institution, these friends and well-wishers hope “ you'll be turned out--if you preserve your principles, they are sure you will.” Is it that your consistency gives them any concern ? No, but they are uneasy at your gaining a chance of a little popularity--they do not like this new feather in your cap, they wish to see it struck out, for the sake of your character-and when this was once the case, it would be an additional relief to them to see your character following the same road the next day. The exercise of their bile seems to be the sole employment and gratification of such people. They deal in the miseries of human life. They are always either hearing or foreboding some new grievance. They cannot contain their satisfaction, if you tell them any mortification or crossaccident that has happened to yourself; and if you complain of their want of sympathy, they laugh in your face. This would be unaccountable, but for the spirit of perversity and contradiction implanted in human nature. If things go right, there is nothing to be done-these active-minded persons grow restless, dull, vapid-life is a sleep, a sort of euthanasia_Let them go wrong, and all is well again; they are once more on the alert, have something to pester themselves and other people about; may wrangle on, and make mouths at the invisible event !" Luckily, there is no want of materials for this disposition to work upon, there is plenty of grist for the mill. If you fall in love, they tell you (by way of consolation) it is a pity that you do not fall downstairs and fracture a limb-it would be a relief to your mind, and shew you your folly. So they would reform the world. The class of persons I speak of are almost uniform grumblers and croakers against governments; and it must be confessed, governments are of great service in fostering their humours. “ Born for their use, they live but to oblige them.” While kings are left free to exercise their proper functions, and poet-laureats make out their Mittimus to Heaven without a warrant, they will never stop the mouths of the censorious by changing their dispositions ; the juices of faction will ferment, and the secretions of the state be duly performed! I do not mind when a character of this sort meets a Minister of State like an east-wind round a corner, and gives him an ague-fit; but why should he meddle with me? Why should he tell me I write too much, and say that I should gain reputation if I could contrive to starve for a twelvemonth? Or if I apply to him for a loan of fifty pounds for present necessity, send me word back that he has too much regard for me, to comply with my request? It is unhandsome irony. It is not friendly, 'tis' not pardonable.
I like real good-nature and good-will, better than I do any offers of patronage, or plausible rules for my conduct in life. I may suspect the soundness of the last, and I may not be quite sure of the motives of the first. People complain of ingratitude for benefits, and of the neglect of wholesome advice. In the first place, we pay little attention to advice, because we are seldom thought of in it. The person
who gives it either contents himself to lay down (ex cathedra) certain vague, general maxims, and “ wise saws,” which we knew before ; or, instead of considering what we ought to do, recommends what he himself would do. He merely substitutes his own will, caprice, and prejudices for ours, and expects us to be guided by them. Instead of changing places with us (to see what is best to be done in the given circumstances), he insists on our looking at the question from his point of view, and acting in such a manner as to please him. This is not at all reasonable; for one man's meat, according to the old adage, is another man's poison. And it is not strange, that starting from such opposite premises, we should seldom jump in a conclusion, and that the art of giving and taking advice is little better than a game at cross-purposes. I have observed that those who are the most inclined to assist others are the least forward or peremptory with their advice ; for having our interest really at heart, they consider what can, rather than what cannot be done, and aid our views and endeavour to avert ill consequences by moderating our impatience and allaying irritations, instead of thwarting our main design, which only tends to make us more extravagant and violent than
In the second place, benefits are often conferred out of ostentation or pride, rather than from true regard; and the person obliged is too apt to perceive this. People who are fond of appearing in the light of patrons will perhaps go through fire and water to serve you, who yet would be sorry to find you no longer wanted their assistance, and whose friendship cools and their good-will slackens, as you are relieved by their active zeal from the necessity of being further beholden to it. Compassion and generosity are their favourite virtues ; and they countenance you, as you afford them opportunities for exercising them. The instant you can go alone, or can stand upon your own ground, you are discarded as untit for their
* This circumstance did not happen to me, but to an acquaintance.
This is something more than mere good-nature or humanity. A thoroughly good-natured man, a real friend, is one who is pleased at our good fortune, as well as prompt to seize every occasion of relieving our distress. We apportion our gratitude accordingly. We are thankful for good-will rather than for services, for the motive than the quuntum of favour received—a kind word or look is never forgotten, while we cancel prouder and weightier obligations; and those who esteem us or evince a partiality to us are those whom we still consider as our best friends. Nay, so strong is this feeling, that we extend it even to those counterfeits in friendship, flatterers and sycophants. Our selflove, rather than our self-interest, is the master-key to our affections.
I am not convinced that those are always the best-natured or the best-conditioned men, who busy themselves most with the distresses of their fellow-creatures. I do not know that those whose names stand at the head of all subscriptions to charitable institutions, and who are perpetual stewards of dinners and meetings to encourage and promote the establishment of asylums for the relief of the blind, the halt, and the orphan poor, are persons gifted with the best tempers or the kindliest feelings. I do not dispute their virtue, I doubt their sensibility. I am not here speaking of those who make a trade of the profession of humanity, or set their names down out of mere idle parade and vanity. I mean those who really enter into the details and drudgery of this sort of service, con amore, and who delight in surveying and in diminishing the amount of human misery. I conceive it possible, that a person who is going to pour oil and balm into the wounds of afflicted humanity, at a meeting of the Western Dispensary, by handsome speeches and by a handsome donation (not grudgingly given) may be thrown into a fit of rage that very morning, by having his toast too much buttered, may quarrel with the innocent prattle and amusements of his children, cry “ Pish!” at every observation his wife utters, and scarcely feel a moment's comfort at any period of his life, except when he hears or reads of some case of pressing distress that calls for his immediate interference, and draws off his attention from his own situation and feelings by the act of alleviating it. Those martyrs to the cause of humanity, in short, who run the gauntlet of the whole catalogue of unheard-of crimes and afflicting casualties, who ransack prisons, and plunge into lazar-houses and slave-ships as their daily amusement and highest luxury, must generally, I think (though not always), be prompted to the arduous task by uneasy feelings of their own, and supported through it by iron nerves. Their fortitude must be equal to their pity. I do not think Mr. Wilberforce a case in point in this argument. He is evidently a delicately-framed, nervous, sensitive man. I should suppose him to be a kind and affectionately disposed person in all the relations of life. His weakness is too quick a sense of reputation, a desire to have the good word of all men, a tendency to truckle to power and fawn on opinion. But there are some of these philanthropists that a physiognomist has hard work to believe in. They seem made of pasteboard, they look like mere machines : their benevolence may be said to go on rollers, and they are screwed to the sticking-place by the wheels and pulleys of humanity :
“ If to their share some splendid virtues fall,
Look in their face, and you forget them all.”