Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of your religious duty; since nothing leads more directly to the breach of charity, and to the injury and molestation of our fellowcreatures, than the indulgence of an ill-temper. Do not, therefore, think lightly of the offences you may commit, for want of a due command over it, or suppose yourself responsible for them to your fellow-creatures only; but, be assured, you must give a strict account of them all to the Supreme Governor of the world, who has made this a great part of your appointed trial upon earth.

The principal virtues or vices of a woman must be of a private, and domestic kind. Within the circle of her own family and dependants lies her sphere of action—the scene of almost all those tasks and trials which must determine her character and her fate here and hereafter. Reflect, for a moment, how much the happiness of her husband, children, and servants must depend on her temper, and you will see that the greatest good, or evil, which she ever may have in her power to do, may arise from her correcting or indulging its infirmities.

Though I wish the principle of duty toward God to be your ruling motive in the exercise of every virtue, yet, as human nature stands in need of all possible helps, let us not forget how essential it is to present happiness, and to the enjoyment of this life, to cultivate such a temper as is likewise indispensably requisite to the attainment of higher felicity in the life to come.

The greatest outward blessings cannot afford enjoyment to a mind ruffled and uneasy within itself. A fit of ill-humour will spoil the finest entertainment, and is as real a torment as the most painful disease. Another unavoidable consequence of ill-temper is the dislike and aversion of all who are witnesses to it, and, perhaps, the deep and lasting resentment of those who suffer from its effects. We all, from social or self love, earnestly desire the esteem and affection of our fellow-creatures; and indeed our condition makes them so necessary to us, that the wretch who has forfeited them must feel desolate and undone, deprived of all the best enjoyments and comforts the world can afford, and given up to his inward misery, unpitied and scorned. But this can never be the fate of a goodnatured person : whatever faults he may have, they will be generally treated with lenity; he will find an advocate in every human heart; his errors will be lamented rather than abhorred; and his virtues will Perhaps you will say, “ All this is very true; but our tempers are not in our own power—we are made with different dispositions, and if mine is not amiable, it is rather my unhappiness than my

fault." This is commonly said by those who will not take the trouble to correct themselves. Yet, be assured, it is a delusion, and will not avail in our justification before Him “who knoweth whereof we are made,” and of what we are capable. It is true, we are not all equally happy in our dispositions; but human virtue consists in cherishing and cultivating every good inclination, and in checking and subduing every propensity to evil.

It is observed, that every temper is inclined in some degree, either to passion, peevishness, or obstinacy. With regard to the first, it is so injurious to society, and so odious in itself, especially in the female character, that one would think shame alone would be sufficient to preserve a young woman from giving way to it: for it is as unbecoming her character to be betrayed into ill-behavior by passion, as by intoxication, and she ought to be ashamed of the one as much as the other. Gentleness, meekness, and patience are her peculiar distinctions, and an enraged woman is one of the most disgusting sights in nature.

JAMES BEATTIE, 1735-1803.

JAMES BEATTIE, a much admired poet and a distinguished moral philosopher, was born in Lawrence Kirk, Kincardineshire, in the north-east part of Scotland, on the 20th of October, 1735. His father, who was poor, died when the poet was only ten years old; but his elder brother kept him at school till he obtained a “ bursary” (a kind of benefaction for poor scholars) at the Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he remained four years. Having received his degree of A. M. in 1753, he took a small school at Fordoun, near his native village. Here he employed his time chiefly in studying the classies, and in composing various small poetical pieces, which appeared from time to time in the “Scot's Magazine," and drew him more and more into notice, until, in 1758, he was appointed usher in the grammar-school at Aberdeen; and in two years after he was elected professor of mor:! philosophy and logic in the Marischal College. He immediately prebrated " Essay on Truth,” which appeared in 1770; and so much interest did it excite that, in less than four years, it went through five editions, and was translated into several foreign languages. Its chief aim was to refute the skeptical writings of Hume, or, in Dr. Beattie's own words, "to overthrow skepticism, and establish conviction in its place."! In 1771, he gave to the world the first book of his celebrated poem, "The Minstrel.” It was received with universal approbation. Honors flowed in upon him from every quarter. He visited London, and was admitted to all its brilliant and distinguished circles; and Goldsmith, Johnson, Garrick, and Reynolds were soon numbered among his friends. On a second visit, in 1773, he had an interview with the king and queen, which resulted in his receiving a pension of two hundred pounds per annum.

In 1774, Beattie published the second book of “The Minstrel,” the success of which quite equalled that of the former. A new edition of his “ Essay on Truth" appeared in 1776, together with three other essays-on Poetry and Music; on Laughter and Ludicrous Composition; and on the Utility of Classical Learning. In 1786, he published his “ Evidences of Christianity;" and in the year following, appeared his “Elements of Moral Science.” In 1790, he lost bis eldest son; and, in 1796, his only remaining one. These afflictions, together with the insanity of his wife, of which there were some indications even a few years after they were married, seriously affected his health. In April, 1799, he suffered a stroke of the palsy—a repetition of which, in 1802, deprived him of the use of his limbs; and death finally ended his sufferings, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, on the 18th of August, 1803. He was buried beside his two sons in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Aberdeen.

A very able article on this essay may be found in the Edinburgh Review, x. 171. 2 In the early training of his eldest and beloved son, Dr. Beattie adopted an expedient of a romantic and interesting description. His object was to give him the first idea of a Supremo Being; and his methol, as Dr. Porteus, Bishop of London, remarke, had all the imagination of Rousseau, without his folly and extravagance."

* He hail," says Beattie, “ reached his fifth (or sixth) year, knew the alphabet, and could read a little; but has received no particular information with respect to the Author of his leing, because I thought he could not yet understand such information, and because I bal learned from my own experience, that to be made to repeat words not understood is extremely detrimental to the faculties of a young mind. In the corner of a little garden, without informing any person of the circumstance, I wrote in the mould, with my finger, the three initial letters of his name, and sowing garden-eresses in the furrows, covered up the seed, an i smoothed the ground. Ten days after, he came running to me, and, with astonishment in his countenance, told me that his name was growing in the garden. I smiled at the report, and seemed inclined to disregard it: but he insisted on my going to see what had happened. "Yes,' sail I, carelessly, on coming to the place, 'I see it is so; but there is nothing in this Forth notice: it is mere chance,' and I went away. He followed me, and taking hold of my mat, wall, with some earnestness, 'It could not be mere chance, for that somebody must have entrivel matters so as to produce it.' I pretend not to give his worls or my own, for I have f protten both; but I give the substance of what pussed between us in such language as we brih understood. "So you think,' I said, “that what appears ro regular as the letters of your

The fame of Dr. Beattie rests chiefly upon “The Minstrel." It is a didactic poem, in the Spenserian stanza, designed to trace the progress of a poetical genius, born in a rude age, from the first dawning of fancy and reason, till that period at which he may be supposed capable of appearing in the world as a minstrel.” The character of Edwin, the Minstrel, (in which Beattie embodied bis own early feelings and poetical aspirations,) is very finely drawn, and a vein of pathetic moral reflection runs through the whole of the poem, which is of the purest kind, and highly elevating in its influence.

The character of Dr. Beattie is delineated in his writings, of which the most prominent features are purity of sentiment, and warın attachment to the principles of religion and morality. He was the friend of every good cause, and was ona of the earliest advocates for the suppression of the slave-trade, and for the abolition of slavery. All his different treatises, critical, philosophical, and moral, are very able as well as very instructive, and are writton in a style of great classic purity; and it may with truth be said, that no one can read his works with a candid mind, and rise from the perusal of them unimproved-which is the higbest praise an author can receive.?

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EDUCATION COMPARED.

Could mankind lead their lives in that solitude which is so favorable to many of our most virtuous affections, I should be clearly on the side of a private education. But most of us, when we go out into the world, find difficulties in our way,

which good principles and innocence alone will not qualify us to encounter; we must have some address and knowledge of the world different from what is to be learned in books, or we shall soon be puzzled, disheartened, or disgusted. The foundation of this knowledge is laid in the intercourse of schoolboys, or at least of young men of the same age. When a boy is always under the direction of a parent or tutor, he acquires such a habit of looking up to them for advice, that he never learns to think or act for himself; his memory is exercised, indeed, in retaining their advice, but his invention is suffered to languish, till at last it becomes totally inactive. He knows, perhaps, a great deal of history, or science; but he knows not how to conduct himself on those ever-changing emergencies which are too minute and too numerous to be comprehended in any system of advice. He is astonished at the most common appearances, and discouraged with the most trifling (because unexpected) obstacles; and he is often at his wits' end, where a boy of much less knowledge, but more experience, would instantly devise a thousand expedients.

Another inconvenience attending private education is the suppressing of the principle of emulation, without which it rarely happens that a boy prosecutes his studies with alacrity or success. I have heard private tutors complain that they were obliged to have recourse to flattery or bribery to engage the attention of their pupil; and I need not observe how improper it is to set the example of such practices before children. True emulation, especially in young and ingenuous minds, is a noble principle; I have known the happiest effects produced by it; I never knew it to be productive of any vice. In all public schools it is, or ought to be, carefully cherished. * I shall only observe further, that when boys pursue their studies at home, they are apt to contract either a habit of idleness, or too close an attachment to reading; the former breeds innumerable diseases, both in the body and soul; the latter, by filling young and tender minds with more knowledge than they can either retain or arrange properly, is apt to make them superficial and inattentive, or, what is worse, to strain, and consequently impair the faculties, by overstretching them. I have known several instances of both.

The great inconvenience of public education arises from its being dangerous to morals. And, indeed, every condition and period of human life is liable to temptation. Nor will I deny that our innocence, during the first part of life, is much more secure at home than anywhere else; yet even at home, when we reach a certain age, it is not perfectly secure. Let young men be kept at the greatest distance from bad company; it will not be easy to keep them from bad books, to which, in these days, all persons may have easy access at all times. Let us, however, suppose the best; that both bad books and bad company keep away, and that the young man never leaves his parents' or tutor's side till his mind be well furnished with good principles, and himself arrived at the age of reflection and caution : yet temptations must come at last; and when they come, will they have the less strength because they are new, unexpected, and surprising? I fear not.

The more the young man is surprised, the more apt will he be to lose his presence of mind, and consequently the less capable of self-government. Besides, if his passions are strong, he will be disposed to form comparisons between his past state of restraint and his present of liberty, very much to the disadvantage of the former. His new associates will laugh at him for his reserve and preciseness; and his unacquaintance with their manners, and with the world, as it will render him the more obnoxious to their ridicule, will also disqualify him the more both for supporting it with dignity, and also for defending himself against it. A young mm, kept by himself at home,

« AnteriorContinuar »