Page images
PDF
EPUB

wealth ?) confers, and the train of ennobling sentiment suggested by extended views of philanthropy and benevolence-for, in this respect it is perfectly possible the poor man has as amiable a thrill at his heart in sharing his potato with a wandering beggar, as the rich one has in contributing his thousand pounds' donation to some great national charity-let us turn rather to the consideration of those more tangible differences that leave their impress upon character, and mould men's minds into a fashion so perfectly and thoroughly distinct.

To our thinking, then, the great superiority wealth confers lies in the seclusion the rich man lives in from all the grosser agency of every-day life-its makeshifts, its contrivances, its continued warfare of petty provision and continual care, its unceasing effort to seem what it is not, and to appear to the world in a garb, and after a manner, to which it has no just pretension. The rich man knows nothing of all this: life, to him, rolls on in measured tread ; and the world, albeit the changes of season and politics may affect him, has nothing to call forth any unusual effort of his temper or his intellect; his life, like his drawing-room, is arranged for him; he never sees it otherwise than in trim order; with an internal consciousness that people must be engaged in providing for his comforts at seasons when he is in bed or asleep, or otherwise occupied, he gives himself no farther trouble about them; and, in the monotony of his pleasures, attains to a tranquillity of mind the most enviable and most happy.

Hence that perfect composure so conspicuous in the higher ranks, among whom wealth is so generally diffused-hence that delightful simplicity of manner, so captivating from its total absence of pretension and affectation-hence that unbroken serenity that no chances or disappointments would seem to interfere with; the knowledge that he is of far too much consequence to be neglected or forgotten, supports him on every occasion, and teaches that, when anything

he

may

happens to his inconvenience or discomfort, that it could not but be unavoidable.

Not so the poor man: his poverty is a shoe that pinches every hour of the twenty-four; he may bear up from habit, from philosophy, against his restricted means of enjoyment; he may accustom himself to limited and narrow bounds of pleasure;

teach himself that, when wetting his lips with the cup of happiness, that he is not to drink to his liking of it: but what he cannot acquire is that total absence of all forethought for the minor cares of life, its provisions for the future, its changes and contingencies—hence he does not possess that easy and tranquil temperament so captivating to all within its influence; he has none of the careless abandon of bappiness, because even when happy he feels how short-lived must be his pleasure, and what a price he must pay for it. The thought of the future poisons the present, just as the dark cloud that gathers round the mountain-top makes the sunlight upon the plain seem cold and sickly.

All the poor man's pleasures have taken such time and care in their preparation that they have lost their freshness ere they are tasted. The cook has sipped so frequently at the pottage, he will not eat of it when at table. The poor man sees life “ en papillotes" before he sees it “ dressed." The rich man sees it only in the resplendent blaze of its beauty, glowing with all the attraction that art can lend it, and wearing smiles put on for his own enjoyment. But if such be the case, and if the rich man, from the very circumstance of his position, imbibe habits and acquire a temperament possessing such charm and fascination, does he surrender nothing for all this? Alas! and alas ! how many of the charities of life lie buried in the still waters of his apathetic nature! How many of the warm feelings of his heart are chilled for ever, for want of ground for their exercise! How can he sympathize who has never suffered ? how can he console who has never grieved ? There is nothing healthy in the placid mirror of that glassy lake; uncurled by a breeze, unruffled by a breath of passion, it wants the wholesome agitation of the breaking wave—the health-giving, bracing power of the conflicting element that stirs the heart within, and nerves it for a noble effort.

All that he has of good within him is cramped by convenance and fashion ; for he who never feared the chance of fortune, trembles, with a coward's dread, before the sneer of the world. The poor man, however, only appeals to this test on a very different score. The “world” may prescribe to him the fashion of his hat, or the colour of his coat-it may dictate the locale of his residence, and the style of his household, and he may, so far as in him lies, comply with a tyranny so absurd; but with the free sentiments of his naturehis honest pride, his feeling sympathy-with the open current of his warm affection he suffers no interference: of this no man shall be the arbiter. If, then, the shoals and quicksands of the world deprive him of that tranquil guise and placid look—the enviable gift of richer men—he has, in requital, the unrestricted use of those greater gifts that God has given him, untrammelled by man's opinion, uncurbed by the control of "the world."

Each supports a tyranny after his own kind :

The rich man-above the dictates of fashion-subjects the thoughts of his mind and the meditations of his heart to the world's rule. The poor man—below it-keeps these for his

prerogative, and has no slavery save in form.

Happy the man who, amid all the seductions of wealth, and all the blandishments of fortune, can keep his heart and mind in the healthy exercise of its warm affections and its generous impulses. But still happier he, whose wealth, the native purity of his heart-can limit his desires to his means, and untrammelled by ambition, undeterred by fear of failure, treads the lowly but peaceful path in life, neither aspiring to be great, nor fearing to be humble.

(By permission of Messrs. Chapman and Hall.)

5

WOMAN'S CURIOSITY.

Mrs. HANNAH MORE.

A worthy Squire of sober life,
IIad a conceited boasting wife;
Of him she daily made complaint,
Herself she thought a very saint.
She lov'd to load mankind with blame,
And on their errors build her fame.
Her favourite subject of dispute
Was Eve and the forbidden fruit.
“Had I been Eve,” she often cried,
"Man had not fall'n, nor woman died.
I still had kept the orders given,
Nor for an apple lost my heaven;
To gratify my curious mind
I ne'er had ruin'd all mankind;
Nor from a vain desire to know,
Entail'd on all my race such woe."
The Squire replied “I fear 'tis true,
The same ill spirit lives in you;
Tempted alike, I dare believe,
You would have disobey'd like Eve.”
The lady storm'd and still denied
Both curiosity and pride.

The Squire some future day at dinner
Resolved to try this boastful sinner;
He griev'd such vanity possess'd her,
And thus in serious terms address'd her:
“Madam, the usual splendid feast
With which our wedding-day is grac'd
With

you I must not share to-day,
For business summons me away.
Of all the dainties I've prepared,
I beg not any may be spar'd:
Indulge in every costly dish;
Enjoy, 'tis what I really wish:

glassy lake; uncurled by a breeze, unruffled by a breath of passion, it wants the wholesome agitation of the breaking wave—the health-giving, bracing power of the conflicting element that stirs the heart within, and nerves it for a noble effort.

All that he has of good within him is cramped by convenance and fashion; for he who never feared the chance of fortune, trembles, with a coward's dread, before the sneer of the world. The poor man, however, only appeals to this test on a very different score. The “world” may prescribe to him the fashion of his hat, or the colour of his coat—it may dictate the locale of his residence, and the style of his household, and he may, so far as in him lies, comply with a tyranny so absurd; but with the free sentiments of his naturehis honest pride, his feeling sympathy-with the open current of his warm affection he suffers no interference: of this no man shall be the arbiter. If, then, the shoals and quicksands of the world deprive him of that tranquil guise and placid look—the enviable gift of richer men-he has, in requital, the unrestricted use of those greater gifts that God has given him, untrammelled by man's opinion, uncurbed by the control of “the world.”

Each supports a tyranny after his own kind :

The rich man-above the dictates of fashion-subjects the thoughts of his mind and the meditations of his heart to the world's rule.

The poor man-below it-keeps these for his prerogative, and has no slavery save in form.

Happy the man who, amid all the seductions of wealth, and all the blandishments of fortune, can keep his heart and mind in the healthy exercise of its warm affections and its generous impulses. But still happier he, whose wealth, the native purity of his heart-can limit his desires to his means, and untrammelled by ambition, undeterred by fear of failure, treads the lowly but peaceful path in life, neither aspiring to be great, nor fearing to be humble.

(By permission of Messrs. Chapman and Hall.)

« PreviousContinue »