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THERE is a right and a wrong kind of contentment. We may be in a condition not quite agreeable to us; our food, clothing, and other necessaries, may be deficient; we may possess faculties of mind and body capable of improving our condition ; and it may be in no way imprudent to make the attempt to better ourselves. In such a case, it would be wrong to remain contented. It may also happen that we are in a situation where real evils press upon us. be hurting our health by living in a damp house; or we may have a hole in our clothes, which might be easily mended. In these circumstances, it is equally wrong to be contented. If all men from the beginning of the world had felt contented as they were, and had submitted patiently to evils easily remedied, the earth would have still been the residence only of savage people.
True contentment is to be patient and happy in the situation which is suited to our faculties and means, and under evils which no exertion or care can remedy. All admire this kind of contentment, and every good man endeavours to practise it.
One who does not easily content himself with which he may reach, is said to be ambitious. An useful end is served, in Providence, by ambitious men; but they themselves never can be truly happy, for they never are quite content. Give them one thing, they wish another ; whatever honours they may attain, they long for more. Alexander, when he had conquered a large part of the world known in his time, wept when he reflected that there were no more worlds to conquer. In high station, and in the possession of great wealth, there is always danger, and consequently uneasiness, while the man who is contented with a moderate share of the good things of life, lives in ease and safety. It is good, therefore, to be, upon the whole, of a contented frame of mind, though not to be too easily
THE UNHAPPINESS OF A GREAT STATESMAN.
contented, or to be contented under evils which we can
THE GOOSE WITH THE GOLDEN EGGS: A FABLE.
A certain man had the good fortune to possess a goose, which laid him a golden egg every day. But not contented with this, which rather increased than abated his avarice, he was resolved to kill the goose, and cut up her belly, that he might at once come to the inexhaustible treasure which he fancied she had within her, without being obliged to wait for the slow production of a single egg daily. He did so; and to his great sorrow and disappointment, found nothing.
THE UNHAPPINESS OF A GREAT STATESMAN.
Henry Dundas was a great statesman in the reign of George III. Much power was given to him, and he had the means of making many people happy. Yet he was not always happy himself. On the last day of the year 1795, Sir John Sinclair visited him at his seat of Wimbledon, and staid all night. Next morning early, the guest went into Mr Dundas's library, and found him reading a long paper on the importance of conquering the Cape of Good Hope, as a security to the British possessions in India. Sir John shook him by the hand, and said, “I come, my friend, according to the Scottish custom, to wish you a good new year, and many happy returns of the season. The statesman, after a short pause, replied, with some emotion, “ I hope this year will be happier than the last, for I scarcely recollect having spent one happy day in the whole of it.” This confession, coming from an individual whose whole life hitherto had been a series of triumphs, and who appeared to stand secure upon the summit of political ambition, was often dwelt upon by Sir John Sinclair, as exemplifying the vanity of human wishes.
THE COURT AND COUNTRY MOUSE: A FABLE.
her the best cheese and bacon the cottage afforded. If the repast was homely, the welcome was hearty: they chatted away the evening agreeably, and then retired to rest. The next morning, the city mouse, instead of taking leave, kindly pressed her country friend to accompany her; setting forth, in pompous terms, the elegance and plenty in which they lived at court. They set out together; and though it was late in the evening when they arrived at the palace, they found the remains of a sumptuous entertainmentplenty of cream, jellies, and sweetmeats: the cheese was Parmesan, and they soaked their whiskers in exquisite champagne. But they were not far advanced in their repast, when they were alarmed with the barking and scratching of a lap-dog. Beginning again, the mewing of a cat frighted them almost to death. This was scarce over, when a train of servants, bursting into the room, swept away all in an instant. « Ah, my dear friend,” said the country mouse, as soon as she had courage to speak, “ if your fine living be thus interrupted with fears and dangers, let me return to my plain food and my peaceful cottage; for what is elegance without ease, or plenty with an aching heart?"
CONTENTMENT IN AN ALMS-HOUSE. In a late visit to the alms-houses at we found a remarkable example of contentment and resignation in one of the inmates. Mrs Bett had been brought up in comfort by an uncle and aunt, who were in good circumstances, but lived in a moderate and rational style. This gentleman encouraged lively conversation amongst his children, but forbade all remarks about persons, families, dress, and engagements: he used to say, parents were not aware how such topics frittered away the minds of young persons, and what improper importance they learned to attach to them, when they heard them constantly talked about.
Reared under the care of this worthy man, the niece at length married. In the course of fifteen years, she lost her uncle, her aunt, and her husband. She was left destitute, but supported herself comfortably by her own exertions, and retained the esteem of her numerous friends. Thus she passed her life in cheerfulness for ten years. At the
THE FROGS WHO DESIRED A KING: A FABLE.
end of that time, her humble lodging took fire from an adjoining house in the night-time, and she escaped by jumping from the chamber-window. In consequence of the injury sustained from this jump, her right arm was amputated, and her right leg became entirely useless.
Her friends were very kind and attentive, and for a short time she consented to live on their bounty; but aware that the claims on private charity are very numerous, she, with the independence of a strong mind, resolved to avail herself of the public provision for the helpless poor. The name of going to the alms-house had nothing terrifying or disgraceful to her; for she had been taught that conduct is properly the only thing which makes a human being respectable, or the reverse. She is there, with a heart full of thankfulness to the Giver of all things: she is patient, pious, and uniformly cheerful. She instructs the young, sympathises with the old, and makes herself delightful to all, by her various knowledge and entertaining conversation. Her character lects dignity on her situation; and those who visit the establishment come away with sentiments of respect and admiration for this voluntary resident of the alms-house.
THE FROGS WHO DESIRED A KING : A FABLE.
The commonwealth of frogs, a discontented, variable race, weary of liberty, and fond of change, petitioned Jupiter to grant them a king.
The good-natured deity, in order to indulge their request with as little mischief to the petitioners as possible, threw them down a log. At first they regarded their new monarch with great reverence, and kept from him at the most respectful distance; but perceiving his tame and peaceful disposition, they by degrees ventured to approach him with more familiarity, till at length they conceived for him the utmost contempt. In this disposition they renewed their request to Jupiter, and entreated him to bestow
them another king. The thunderer, in his wrath, sent them a crane; who no sooner took possession of his new dominions, than he began to devour his subjects, one after another, in a most capricious and tyrannical manner.
They were now far more dissatisfied than before ; when, applying to Jupiter a third time, they were dismissed with this reproof: that the evil they complained of they had imprudently brought upon themselves; and that they had no other remedy now but to submit to it with patience.
SONG OF THE CONTENTED LABOURER.
Give me neither poverty nor riches ; feed me with food convenient for me ; lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.—Proverbs, xxx. 8, 9.
The honest country gentleman, and the thriving tradesman, or country farmer, have all the real benefits of nature, and the blessings of plenty, that the highest and richest grandees can pretend to; and (what is more) all these without the tormenting fears and jealousies of being rivalled in their prince's favour, or supplanted at court, or tumbled down from their high and beloved stations. All these storms fly over their heads, and break upon the towering mountains and lofty cedars; they have no ill-got places to lose ; they are neither libelled nor undermined, but, without invading any man's right, sit safe and warm in a moderate