Page images
PDF
EPUB

Her manners were unostentatious and unconstrained: and although she could not but be sensible that she was always, in all companies, a principal object of attention, this consciousness produced in her neither reserve nor effort. She had the art of saying and communicating much, without seeming to engross a larger share of the conversation than others; and as she could afford better than most to throw away her opportunities of excelling, it was one of the exercises of her skill in which she took most pleasure, to draw forth the capabilities of retiring merit, to give confidence to the timorous, ease to the embarrassed, and its full credit to common sense. It was the prerogative of her superiority to maintain the fundamental rights of social equality, by the equal distribution of her kind attentions.

Iler friends were often astonished at the candor and good humor with which she listened to criticisms on her works. What was accomplished with so little labor, was never so fondly cherished by her as to become a subject of fretful anxiety: those who pointed out defects, or repetitions, or redundances in her compositions, were always considered by her as giving proof of their kind feelings towards her. And as to those who treated her with severity, she was too conscious of the careless rapidity with which she generally worked, to be offended at that which she had taken so little pains to avert, or to be wounded by the sharp animadversions which her own salutary censures naturally provoked. It is true that the homage of the world attended her throughout her life, with little interruption, but then it is equally true that homage is not the nurse of contentedness, nor fame and success the usual preservatives of a patient spirit and a gentle temper.

No exemptions or immunities of genius were claimed by her. In her dress she was very neat and decorous, but very plain and frugal; a great enemy to singularity and artifice, but especially to the artifice of seeming to despise art, as far as it was called for by the infirmities of our condition and the duty of reciprocal respect. She was, however, so little taken with the tinsel of life and studious decoration, that what she often said of herself has been confirmed by the testimony of those who knew her best and longest, that she never wore a jewel, or trinket, or any adjunct to her dress, of the merely ornamental kind, in her whole life, though much of that life was spent in the society of the great and splendid.

A very distinguishing part of her character was her consideration," a word not yet perhaps of abstract and special force enough to designate a particular virtue, but to which Mrs. More had attached a sort of technical meaning, by declaring a half-intention of writing a treatise upon what she called "the law of consideration." Taking it, however, in her own sense, as expressing an anxiety to carry one's self in one's daily intercourse, especially with inferiors, and in the common matters of life, so as to be the author of as little unnecessary uneasiness, trouble, or inconvenience as possible, in any supposed case, she may be said to have practised it herself to perfection. She would suffer considerable privations, rather than allow her wants to harrass others, and would often express a dread of appearing to her servants to be regardless of the trouble she was giving them. She carried, indeed, this little morality to a remarkable extent. She never rang a bell without asking herself why, and when doubtful whether she had rung or not, would wait a considerable time, to avoid the suspicion of impatience.

Her thoughts were always on the business before her, nor was any thing too small for her attention, if it affected the feelings, or comfort, or interests of the meanest about her. She had no aberrations or fits of absence, to require the apology of wit, or to favor its effect on weak judgments. She despised all shapes of affectation; but the affectation of absence of mind, as indicating abstraction of thought, she considered as the lowest of those little cheats which we are hourly passing upon each other.

A cultivated relish for natural scenery was one of her distinctions, and so great was her delight in the disposition of her garden and grounds, that she would sometimes say that Providence had consulted her good by disabling her during the greatest part of the year from exposing herself to the air, as there was danger, had it been otherwise, of her allowing this strong propensity to absorb too large a portion of her time. Akin to this innocent relish, was the gayety with which she entered into the happiness of young children, who were seldom introduced to her without receiving some advice from her, conveyed in so pleasing a form as to engage their attention and impress their memories.

[ocr errors]

It was always, however, the foible of her mind to lean too much towards indulgence, the predominance of which propensity was sometimes productive of consequences injurious to her

quiet, and laid her open to much disappointment from ingratitude. Her laxity in this respect was not, however, accompanied by any disregard of order and regularity. When in health she was punctiliously exact in the economy of her household; in observing rules, and times, and seasons; and more especially in the dispensation of her charities, and the discharge of all her pecuniary obligations.

She composed with remarkable rapidity, seldom reforming or retouching her sentences; and the same ability and habi appeared in all her transactions, small or great; her promptitude in business being stimulated by her anxiety to save others from inconvenience or disappointment. Similar motives induced her to arrange her papers and accounts with minute exactness. Common sense and business-like habits prevented the balance of her mind from being ever disturbed by her exercise of thought, or excursions into the regions of taste or imagination.

The energy of her mind, in carrying into execution any purpose which had been adopted after sufficient consideration, was very remarkable. In conformity with this part of her character, her plan was, in any new resolution which involved the exercise of self-denial, to contend with the most difficult part of the undertaking first, after which she used to say she found the remaining sacrifices comparatively easy to be submitted to. On this principle, having resolved to desist from going to the theater, about the time her play of "Percy" was revived, she determined to make that the immediate occasion for carrying her new resolution into practice. Mrs. Siddons was then at the height of her glory, and was to act the part of the heroine of the tragedy, a character which she was said to exhibit with remarkable success; and Mrs. Hannah More was in the midst of a brilliant society of friends and admirers, who all attended the representation; but here she was determined to make her first stand against this particular temptation, and to break the spell of the enchantment while standing in the center of the magic circle.

Another anecdote will show the same principle brought into exercise on a very different occasion. As her limited income began to be sensibly diminished at one time, by her traveling expenses, she determined to perform her journeys in stagecoaches; and in order to overcome at once every obstacle that pride might interpose, she resolved to pay a visit to a nobleman, on which she was about to set out, in one of these vehicles; which, as there was a public road through the park, set her

down at the door of the mansion. She has more than once described her conflicting sensations when his lordship, proceeding through a line of servants in rich liveries, came to hand her out of her conveyance,- —a conveyance at that time much less used than at present by persons of high respectability. Thus it was the policy of this able tactician to commence her operations by a decisive blow, whereby the main strength of the opposing force was at once broken and dispersed, and her victory made easy and secure.

Those who lived most with her pronounced her to be a person most easy to be lived with. None of those little petty peevishnesses with which some are so fond of spicing their intercourse and their friendships, were played off in her commerce with her friends or dependants. As she was scrupulous of giving offense, so she suspected none of intending it towards herself. She lived in an immunity from quarrels, and above the need of explanation. Her passage through life was that of a vessel on the bosom of a lake, with its canvass spread to catch the breeze, that whispered benisons as it bore it along to its quiet haven.

TRUTH.-Sprague.

See to it that your intercourse with the world is never characterized by the spirit of exaggeration. It would seem that, in many minds, there is a constitutional tendency to this ;-a disposition to deal in the marvelous at the expense of sober verity. And it must be acknowledged that some professors of religion are unguarded in this respect, to a degree which subjects even their christian character to suspicion. They may not indeed utter things in which there is no semblance of reality; but their imagination throws around the sober fact so much imposing drapery, that the impression which is communicated is palpably false; and besides, there is always reason to fear, from the nature of habit, that the man who indulges a passion for exaggeration, will, from making a large story out of scanty materials, gradually acquire the power of conjuring up the materials themselves. Oh, how cutting it is to hear worldly men say of a professor of religion the moment his back is turned"that man's statements are to be received with caution. What he says may be true; but there is nothing in his character to convey any assurance of it."

[ocr errors]

Beware then of the very beginning of such a habit. Be sure that all your statements are conformed to the literal verity. Remember, that if you are professedly engaged in narrating facts, you cannot call imagination to your aid but at the expense of truth. If you speak on subjects concerning which you are in doubt, see that the impression you convey is exactly conformed to your honest views; and that you do not appear to be confident when you are really doubtful. In this way you will leave upon the world a delightful impression of that godly simplicity which the gospel enjoins; but, by a different course, you will certainly subject yourself to the imputation of being deficient in one of the cardinal moral virtues.

ELEGANT STYLE.

THE LANDING OF COLUMBUS.-IRVING.

The morning dawned-he saw before him a level and beautiful island, several leagues in extent, of great freshness and verdure, and covered with trees like a continual orchard. Though every thing appeared in the wild luxuriance of untamed nature, yet the island was evidently populous, for the inhabitants were seen issuing from the woods, and running from all parts to the shore, where they stood gazing at the ships. They were all perfectly naked, and from their attitudes and gestures appeared to be lost in astonishment. Columbus made signal for the ships to cast anchor, and the boats to be manned and armed. He entered his own boat, richly attired in scarlet, and bearing the royal standard; whilst Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez, his brother, put off in company in their boats, each bearing the banner of the enterprise emblazoned with a green cross, having on each side the letters F. and Y. surmounted by crowns, the initials of the Castilian monarchs, Fernando and Ysabel.

As they approached the shores, they were refreshed by the sight of the ample forests, which in those climates have extraordinary beauty of vegetation. They beheld fruits of tempting hue, but unknown kind, growing among the trees which overhung the shores. The purity and suavity of the atmosphere,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »