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tian conviction that she is responsible for the application of knowledge as well as for the dedication of time.
This contagion is so deep, so wide, and fatal, that if I were called upon to assign the predominant cause of the greater part of the misfortunes and corruptions of the great and gay in our days, I should not look for it principally in any obviously great or striking circumstance; not in the practice of notorious vices, not originally in the dereliction of Christian principle ; but I should without hesita. tion ascribe it to a growing, regular, systematic series of amusements; to an incessant, boundless, and not very disreputable DISSIPATION. Other corruptions, though more formidable in appearance, are yet less fatal in some respects, because they leave us intervals to reflect on their turpitude, and spirit to lament their excesses; but dissipation is the more hopeless, as by engrossing almost the en. tire life, and enervating the whole moral and intellectual system, it leaves neither time for reflection, nor space for for self-examination, nor temper for the cherishing of right affections, nor leisure for the operation of sound principles, nor interval for regret, nor vigour to resist temptà. tion, nor energy to struggle for amendinent,
The great master of the science of pleasure among the ancients, who reduced it into a system, which he called the chief good of man, directed that there should be interval enough between the succession of delights to sharpen inclination; and accordingly instituted periodical days of abstinence; well knowing that gratification was best pro. moted by previous self-denial. But so little do our vota. ries of fashion understand the true nature of pleasure, that one amusement is allowed to overtake another without any interval, either for recollection of the past, or preparation for the fnture. Even on their own selfish princi. ple, therefore, nothing can be worse understood than this continuity of enjoyment: for to such a degree of labour is the pursuit carried, that the pleasures exhaust instead of exhilarating, and the recreations require to be rested from.
For, not to argue the question on the ground of relig. ion, but merely on that of present enjoyment; look abroad and see who are the people that complain of weariness, listlessness, and dejection. You will not find them among the class of such as are overdone with work, but with
pleasure. The natural and healthful fatigues of business may be recruited by simple and cheap gratifications ; but a spirit, worn down with the toils of amusement, requires pleasures of poignancy ; varied, multiplied, stimulating !
It has been observed by medical writers, that that sober excess in which many indulge, by eating and drinking a little too much at every day's dinner and every night's supper, more effectually undermines the health, than those more rare excesses by which others now and then break in upon a life of general sobriety. This illustration is not introduced with a design to recommend occasional deviations into gross vice, by way of a pious receipt for mending the morals; but merely to suggest, that there is a probability that those who are sometimes driven by un. resisted passion into irregularities which shock their cooler reason, are more liable to be roused to a sense of their danger, than persons whose perceptions of evil are blupted through a round of systematical, unceasing, and yet not scandalous dissipation. And when I affirm that this sys. tem of regular indulgence relaxes the soul, enslaves i he heart, bewitches the senses, and thus disqualifies for pious thought or useful action, without having any thing in it so gross as to shock the conscience; and when I hazard an opinion that this state is more formidable, because less alarming, than that which bears upon it a more determin. ed character of evil, I no more mean to speak of the latter in slight and palliating terms, than I would intimate, because the sick sometimes recover from a fever, but seldom from a palsy, that a fever is therefore a safe or a healthy state.
But there seems to be an error in the first concoction, out of which the subsequent errors successively grow. First then, as has been observed before, the showy edu« cation of women tends chiefly to qualify them for the glare of public assemblies : secondly, they seem in many instances to be so educated, with a view to the greater probability of their being splendidly married : thirdly, it is alleged, in vindication of those dissipated practices, that daughters can only be seen, and admirers procured, at balls, operas, and assemblies : and that therefore, by a nat. ural consequence, balls, operas, and assemblies must be fol. lowed up without intermission till the object be effected. For the accomplishment of this object it is, that all this
complicated machinery had been previously set a-going, and kept in motion with an activity not at all slackened by the disordered state of the system : for some machines, instead of being stopped, go faster because the true spring is out of order; the only difference being, that they go wrong, and so the increased rapidity adds only to the quantity of error.
It is also, as we have already remarked, an error to fan. cy that the love of pleasure exhausts itself by indulgence, and that the very young are chiefly addicted to it. The contrary appears to be true. The desire often grows with the pursuit in the same degree as motion is quickened by the continuance of the gravitating force.
First then, it cannot be thought unfair to trace back the excessive fondness for amusement to that mode of edu. cation we have elsewhere reprobated. Few of the ac. complishments, falsely so called, assist the development of the faculties ; they do not exercise the judgment, nor bring into action those powers which fit the heart and mind for the occupations of life; they do not prepare women to love home, to understand its occupations, to en. liven its uniformity, to fulfil its duties, to multiply its com. forts: they do not lead to that sort of experimental logic, if I may so speak, compounded of observation and reflection, which makes up the moral science of life and man. ners.
Talents which have display for their object, des pise the narrow stage of home : they demand mankind for their spectators, and the world for their theatre.
While one cannot help shrinking a little from the idea of a delicate young creature, lovely in person and engaging in mind and manners, sacrificing nightly at the public shrine of Fashion, at once the votary and the victim; one cannot help figuring one's self how much more interesting she would appear in the eyes of a man of feeling, did he behold her in the more endearing situations of domestic life. And who can forbear wishing, that the good sense, good taste, and delicacy of the men had rather led them to prefer seeking companions for life in the almost sacred quiet of a virtuous home? There they might have had the means of seeing and admiring those amiable beings in the best point of view : there they might have been en. abled to form a juster estimate of female worth, than is likely to be obtained in scenes, where such qualities and
talents as might be expected to add to the stock of do. mestic comfort must necessarily be kept in the back ground, and where such only can be brought into view as are not particularly calculated to insure the certainty of home delights.
0! did they keep their persons fresh and new,
And win by rareness ! But, by what unaccountable infatuation is it that men too, even men of sense, join in the confederacy against their own happiness, by looking for their home companions in the resorts of vanity? Why do not such men rise superior to the illusions of fashions? Why do they not uni. formly seek her who is to preside in their families, in the bosom of her own? in the practice of every domestic duty, in the exercise of every amiable virtue, in the exertion of every elegant accomplishment ? those accomplishments of which we have been reprobating, not the possession, but the application ? there they would find her exerting them to their true end, to enliven business, to animate retire. ment, to embellish the charming scene of family delights, to heighten the interesting pleasures of social intercourse, and, rising to their noblest object, to adorn the doctrine of God her Saviour.
If, indeed, woman were mere outside, form and face oniy, and if mind made up no part of her composition, it would follow that a ball-room was quite as appropriate a place for choosing a wife, as an exhibition room for choosing a picture. But, inasmuch as women are not mere portraits, their value not being determinable by a glance of the eye, it follows that a different mode of appreciating their value, and a different place for viewing them antecedent to their being individually selected, is desirable. The two cases differ also in this, that if a man select a picture for himself from
among all its exhibited competitors, and bring it to his own house, the picture being passive, he is able to fix it there : while the wife, picked up at a public place, and accustomed to incessant display, will not, it is probable, when brought home, stick so quietly to the spot where he fixes her; but will escape to the exhibition-room again, and continue to be displayed at every subsequent exhibition, just as if she were not become private property, and had never been definitively disposed of.
It is the novelty of a thing which astonishes us, and not its absurdity : objects may be so long kept before the eye that it begins no longer to observe them; or may be brought into such close contact with it, that it does not discern them. Long habit so reconciles us to almost any thing, that the grossest improprieties cease to strike us when they once make a part of the common course of action. This, by the way, is a strong reason for carefully sifting every opinion and every practice before we let them incorporate into the mass of our habits, after which they will be no more examined.- Would it not be accounted preposteruus for a young man to say he had fancied such a lady would dance a better minuet, because he had seen her behave devoutly at Church, and therefore had chosen her for his partner? and yet he is not thought at all absurd, when he intimates that he chose a partner for life because he was pleased with her at a ball. Surely the place of choosing and the motive of choice, would be just as appro. priate in one case as in the other, and the mistake, if the judgment failed, not quite so serious.
There is, among the more elevated classes of society, a certain set of persons who are pleased exclusively to call themselves, and whom others by a sort of compelled cour. tesy are pleased to call, the fine world. This small detach. ment consider their situation with respect to the rest of mankind, just as the ancient Grecians did theirs ; that is, as the Grecians thought there were but two sorts of beings, and that all who were not Grecians were barbarians; this certain set conceives of society as resolving itself into two distinct classes, the fine world and the people; to which last class they turn over all who do not belong to their little coterie, however high their rank, or fortune, or merit. Celebrity, in their estination, is not bestowed by birth or talents, but by being connected with them. They have laws, immunities, privileges, and almost a language of their own; they form a kind of distinct cast, and with a sort of esprit du corps detach themselves from others, even in gen. eral society, by an affectation of distance and coldness; and only whisper and smile in their own little groups of the initiated; their confines are jealously guarded, and their privileges are incommunicable.