Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

matter of humiliation to the aspiring mind, which would ever be searching out and demonstrating the causes of the mysterious operations of nature, when we refer to those gracious words: • I thank thee, Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.' We ought not, however, to infer from this, that outward qualifications are to be despised or debased below their intrinsic value; only, we should be seriously impressed with this truth,-that knowledge can only be estimated in proportion as it is subservient to truth. But this is a far greater work than is generally believed. From what has been expressed, as well as from our own ideas, we may safely infer, that, whether, in circumstances of life, we are placed above or below mediocrity; whether we are eminently conspicuous for the profoundness of our intellectual attainments, or designed to move in a more ordinary sphere; in every situation and condition, we have reason to consider Virtue, our highest interest.

,66 W. T.

| To N. H

6 October, 1812. * There is perhaps no art which admits less of being taught by a set of fornial rules than the art of polite letter-writing. The daily oceurrences of life are so various and complicated in their natures, that it would be impossible to demonstrate, by example, the exaet method to be pursued'in epistolary: correspondence. Any person of common understanding kuows, that a letter of business, and one expressive of love and friendship; a letter of resentment, and one of gratitude; a letter to an equal, and one to a superior, each requires its peculiar style of address and expression. And as we may bave occasion, in passing through the various incidents of life, to correspond upon these and many other subjects of equal importance, I do not know of a more infallible director to assist in conducting ourselves with propriety in these matters, than good sense. I would not be understood to speak of the sense or reason which we possess in common; it is something of a more refined nature, in which is included a courteous and affable behaviour; a lively and solid wit; a promptness of sagacity and apprehension; in short, the ingenuous letter-writer, and the man of good sense, are identified as one. Little more can be done, in giving this sort of instruction, than to point out the most usual and the most prominent errors. Our language is neither so deficient in words or expressions, as to necessitate us to make use of one form of address indiscriminately, and on all occasions. It is another most indefensible error, to use the vulgar idiomatical phrases of the language, when expressing matters of the very first importance. This clearly evinces the party concerned to be of mean education; a more extensive knowledge of the world mostly proves an effectual cure for this species of vulgarity; for we then find that the polished Englishman speaks or writes the same in all places, without being influenced by a provincial dialect, · "---- But I hasten to a more important consideration; I mean that sort of hauteur which some people have the vanity to display, by continually jumbling together a number of high sounding words, which though significative in themselves, yet, by the unskilful inanner in which they are

med, serve for no purpose hut clearly to evince the ignorance of the author. I would more particularly advise thee to guard against this species of error, as it, more than any other, lays us open to the just censure of mankind: we cannot expect, if we affect to express ourselves in a manner unbecoming our stations or abilities, but that the world will retort upon us with the keenest acrimony, and most pointed contempt. This rule will hold good throughout every transaction of life; we must entirely discard all self-applause before, we can expect that deference from others which is due to our superior qualifications. Excuse me if I make a digression here, in rendering a small tribute of praise to that dignified ornament of human nature, Modesty. This amiable quality, so adorns its possessors, as to be sure of engage ing every person in their favour. What can be more agreeable, what more fascinating, than to see a man eminently distinguished by the endowments of nature, or by the profoundness of his erudition, who yet appears, as it were, unconscious of his superiority; who is possessed of that humble diffidence, which, whilst it seems to hide his talents, only serves to render them , more conspicuous to public view ? :

“ Many are the illustrious precedents whiehwe find in the annals of history, who were no. less amiable for their modesty, than their other accomplishments; the delineation of whose characters ever excites a noble emulation in the generous soul. I might instance not a few of the characters of antiquity, who preferred india gence and obscurity, with virtue, to all the tinselled pomp of au imaginary grandeur. . " But can the testimony of an individual, nay

of multitudes, be held in equal reverence with that of the great Christian Lawgiver, the pattern and essence of every perfection; the purity of whose doctrine is unadulterated by the absurd traditions of heathen mythology. Unadorned by the flowers of rhetoric, divested of every · pretension to what is falsely termed eloquence, his words carry with them an irresistible evidence of their truth, and still continue to speak * as never man spake. Was there ever, in any age or kingdom, such a standing memorial of humility, patience, and simplicity exhibited, as in the life and sutferings of Jesus? And yet, what age ever produced a personage (how extraordinary soever) who could lay the smallest claim to that inherent greatness which be possessed ? He, before whom all the nations of the earth are but as • dust in the balance,' or, .as a drop in the bucket,' we see, performed the most menial offices of humility and love, and ineekly submitted his person to every indignity which the proud, intolerant spirit of the Pharisees could suggest. Let me repeat one of the many perpetually binding commands which he has delivered for our instruction : Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant It is our duty, as Christians, to attend, with Teverential awe, to these divine injunctions, and to endeavour continually to impress upon our minds the necessity of being clothed with a modest diffidence in our whole deportment; and this ought to extend its influence over the minutest concerns of life. By invariably pursuing this conduct, we shall ensure the esteem of the good, and even command the respect of the wicked; if we have arrived at eminence in any valuable acquirements, our acquaintance will be sought by such as are capable of appreciating their merits; and by thus patiently pursuing the path of industry and perseverance, we shall make slow, but sure advances to perfection and to fame.

6--. Though I do not suppose the letters of either Addison, Steele, Swift, Locke, Chesterfield, Lady Mary Montague, or the vivacious Sevigné, to be the exact standard of epistolary style; I would not dare however, so far to as-. sume the critic, as to decide upon the comparative merits of these celebrated authors. There is certainly something excellent and worthy of admiration to be found in all their works. I should not hesitate to give them my suffrage, were not my mind impressed with this truththat a studied elegance of expression, and purity of sentiment, are seldom concomitants with each other. We should remember, when we feel ourselves sensibly delighted by the easy negligence, yet symmetrical liarmony, which is to be found in some popular works, that, with a graceful elocution, and a splendid diction, a man may be possessed of the basest morals, and the most . corrupted principles. I would prefer an honest, undisguised sincerity of mind, though incoherently expressed in monosyllables, to the most ostentatious pomp of words, when used to cover dissimulation, or when sophistically employed in the perversion of truth, and the propagation of falsehood. Under the influence of such principles as these, we shall be extremely careful of lavishing forth extravagant encomiums upon such as have rendered themselves conspicuous, by their vast accumulation of literary knowledge; we shall clearly discern the folly of ascribing immortal honours to such as have

« AnteriorContinuar »