« AnteriorContinuar »
make away with it, and the happiest appear to be those who succeed the best, in whatever way they find the pleasantest, either in frivolous pleasures, or in serious occupations, that can beguile them of their days and moments. Time, that precious deposit, which the Lord has confided to us, thus becomes a wearisome burden ; yet we fear being deprived of it, as the last evil that can happen to us.
It is a treasure that we would retain eternally, and yet can hardly endure it on our hands.
We should look upon a man as deranged, who in succeeding to an immense inheritance, dissipated it carelessly, making no other use of it, either to raise himself from obscurity to places and dignities, or to secure himself against the reverses of fortune. Time is this precious treasure we have inherited from our births, which the Lord, in his gracious mercy, has left in our hands, to make the best use of. It is not to raise us to frivolous honours and human greatness, alas! all this passes, and is too vile to be the price of time, which is itself the price of eternity! It is to place us by Jesus Christ, in the highest heavens. ...
There is not a day, an hour, a moment, which, put to profitable use, might not gain us heaven! We ought, therefore, to regret the loss of one day, a thousand times more acutely, than the loss of a great fortune ; nevertheless, time, that ought to be so precious, encumbers us; our life is but a continual contrivance to lose it, and in spite of all our attempts to get rid of it, there is always some left we know not what to do with ; we consider our time as of the least consequence upon earth. Our offices we reserve for our friends, our benefits, for our inferiors; our property, for our relations and children ; our credit and favour, for ourselves; our praises, for those who appear worthy of them ; but our time we give to all the
world! we expose it, I may say, a prey to every man! they even gratify in relieving us from an incumbrance, we are seeking incessantly to get rid of. Thus, the gift of God, the most valuable blessing of his clemency, and the price of eternity, becomes the embarrassment and heaviest oppression of our lives.
(A. D. 1667-1745.)
Says Mr. Gosse, in his “History of Eighteenth Century [English] Literature: ” “Jonathan Swift, the great Irish patriot,' had nothing Irish about him except the accident of being born in Dublin. His father was a Herefordshire man, and his mother was a Leicestershire woman.
The elder Jonathan Swift was made steward to the Society of the King's Inns, Dublin, in 1666, and there died about a year afterwards. Some months later his widow bore him a posthumous son, the 30th of November, 1667, and this was the famous writer.” Swift's mother was a relative of Sir William Temple, and found a patron for her son in that much esteemed gentleman. He entered the Church, but remained in Sir William's service and in his household during most of the time for ten years.
Swift's literary career may be said to have begun in 1696 or 1697, when the “Tale of a Tub, one of the most remarkable of his satires, and “The Battle of the Books,” scarcely inferior to it, were written. “Gulliver's Travels,” the most famous of his works, did not appear until 1726, though he had probably been engaged upon it for some years.
The great satirist was never distinguished for good manners; yet he wrote a treatise on that subject, in which the fundamental principles of politeness are pithily set forth. Some passages from it are subjoined.
DEAN SWIFT ON GOOD MANNERS.
Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse.
Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company.
As the best law is founded upon reason, so are the best manners. And as some lawyers have introduced unreasonable things into common law, so likewise many teachers have introduced absurd things into common good manners.
Pride, ill nature, and want of sense, are the three great sources of ill manners; without some one of these defects, no man will behave himself ill for want of experience, or of what, in the language of fools, is called knowing the world.
I defy any one to assign an incident wherein reason will not direct us what to say or do in company, if we are not misled by pride or ill nature.
Therefore I insist that good sense is the principal foundation of good manners; but because the former is a gift which very few among mankind are possessed of, therefore all the civilized nations of the world have agreed upon fixing some rules upon common behaviour, best suited to their general customs or fancies, as a kind of artificial good sense, to supply the defects of
As the common forms of good manners were intended for regulating the conduct of those who have weak understandings ; so they have been corrupted by the persons for whose use they were contrived. For these people have fallen into a needless and endless way of multiplying ceremonies, which have been extremely troublesome to those who practise them, and are insupportable to everybody else: insomuch that wise men are often more uneasy at the over-civility of these refiners, than they could possibly be in the conversation of peasants or mechanics.
There is a pedantry in manners, as in all arts and sciences: and sometimes in trades. Pedantry is properly the over-rating of any kind of knowledge we pretend to.
And if that kind of knowledge be a trifle in itself, the pedantry is the greater.
A necessary part of good manners, is a punctual observance of time at our own dwellings, or those of others, or at third places; whether upon matter of civility, business, or diversion. . . . If you duly observe time for the service of another, it doubles the obligation; if upon your own account, it would be manifest folly, as well as ingratitude, to neglect it; if both are concerned, to make your equal or inferior attend an you to his own disadvantage, is pride and injustice.
Ignorance of forms cannot properly be styled ill manners; because forms are subject to frequent changes; and consequently, being not founded upon reason, are beneath a wise man's regard. Besides, they vary in every country ; and after a short period of time, very frequently in the
Among the many impertinencies that superficial young men bring with them from abroad, this bigotry of forms is one of the principal, and more predominant than the rest; who look upon them not only as if they were matters capable of admitting of choice, but even as points of importance; and are therefore zealous on all occasions to introduce and propagate the new forms and fashions they have brought back with them ; so that, usually speaking, the worst bred person in company is a young traveller just returned from abroad.