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THERE are many kinds of affectation, which it would be difficult to describe under one general head. Though all may be said, in the first instance, to arise out of a desire to obtain the good opinion of others, or the fear of losing it, an affected manner of acting or speaking often becomes so habitual as to be quite beyond a cure; and thus it is important that young people should be warned against acquiring such habits, before they have become too deeply rooted to be laid aside.
Among other kinds of affectation, there is that of appearing to know a great deal, which is easily detected by those who know more. There is that of appearing to be very refined and delicate, which no one need be solicitous about, because if they are really so, it will appear sufficiently in their general conversation and conduct. There is the affectation of being witty, which always makes young people forward and pert. There is the affectation of being sentimental, which makes them ridiculous and, worst of all, there is the affectation of being good, which makes them hypocrites.
Besides these kinds of affectation, there are others, too numerous to be named, and so extremely varied in the effects they produce, that a person who is remarkably affected in one particular way,
will often complain grievously of the affectation of another.
There is, however, one means of avoiding affectation, either of language, look, or manner, which is almost certain to produce the desired effect; it is to think little about what others are thinking of us, at least of our individual actions at the time, and to be always in earnest and sincere. Not that we need be always grave, that is quite a different thing; but even when we laugh most, it should be because of the extreme drollery of the joke which excites our merriment; not because we wish others to see how cheerful and lively we can be. Thus there may be, and there often is, a great deal of affectation in a laugh, though there are few cases in which it is more unpleasant, or more easily detected. Indeed, a single unnatural, constrained, or affected laugh, will sometimes put a sudden stop to the hilarity of a whole party; while a good-humored, hearty, and perfectly natural laugh, will sometimes so powerfully affect others with its own feeling, that they laugh involuntarily, without exactly knowing why.
Those persons who try very much to produce an agreeable or striking effect in company, are most addicted to affectation; and in this manner young people sometimes speak in what they think a dashing, off-hand manner, about what they do not understand; while those who are wiser than themselves sit by in silence, wondering at their folly.
In order to convey a clearer idea of what is meant, it may not be out of place to speak of an old gentleman, who had so decided a dislike
to affectation, that once when he was about to take a journey, he determined, if possible, to ascertain which of his nieces was most free from this fault, in order that he might select her as his companion; for as the gentleman was very rich, and very kind, and fond of seeing young people enjoy themselves in a rational manner, it was a great point with these young ladies to make a friend of Uncle Ellerton.
On the day he had appointed for them to meet at his house, they were all therefore highly delighted, not only because of the amusem at they found there, but because each had a secret hope that she might be chosen as the companion of his contemplated journey.
When the eventful day arrived, Uncle Ellerton determined to make particular observations upon the conduct of his nieces, in relation to subjects which would be sure to fall under the notice of travellers; for he thought, if they are perpetually annoying me with their folly and affectation, I had better be alone, or with my old housekeeper who knows nothing, and therefore pretends to nothing. I will try them, however, thought he, with some pictures of scenery, and other things, and if they babble and talk nonsense about these, they may stay at home, for any wish I shall entertain for their company.
Among the nieces assembled that day, was one who enjoyed the superior advantage of having been abroad, and to her in particular Uncle Ellerton looked for some indications of that expansion of mind, which travelling is generally thought to produce. She was a very fine lady too, and spoke
French with great fluency, which she was a little too fond of proving, by speaking in that language to those who did not understand it, forgetting that by doing so she was committing a great breach of good manners.
The experiment Uncle Ellerton tried upon his young visiters, was by the exhibition of a number of engravings; and the first of these was a view of the Castle of Chillon, which the young lady alluded to, whose name was Lucy, seized upon with great eagerness, telling every one in a moment that she had been there.
"Well?" said her uncle, in a tone of inquiry, and then he waited, in earnest expectation to hear
"Have you actually been there?" asked a younger niece. "How extremely interesting! How I do envy those who travel !"
"Did you see the rings attached to the pillars?" asked Fanny, a quiet girl who never went into raptures without knowing why. "Were there really three rings, or only one remaining?"
Rings?" said Lucy; "I don't know what you mean. Our guide told us something, but we did not pay much attention, he was such a tiresome old fellow; and we were so enchanted to be think ing of Byron, and his delightful poem. It was so interesting and beautiful!"
"How interesting?" asked Uncle Ellerton.
"Oh, so exquisite !" replied the young lady. "The evening was delicious, and we had such a charming party!"
"But what has that to do with Chillon?" asked her uncle. "You might have had a delicious
evening, and a charming party at home. I want to hear more about Chillon."
"At home!" exclaimed Lucy, with a haughty toss of the head. “What here, in this miserable climate? Delicious evenings here! Who ever heard of such a thing?"
"Oh!" said Fanny, 66 were you out last night about eight o'clock ? Did you see the sun set ?" "Not I, indeed," replied Lucy. "I never care to look at the sun here. And as to a sunset, there is no such thing worthy of the name."
"It satisfies me," said Fanny, very gently; and as no one else spoke, she could not refrain from again expressing the delight she felt in the calm evenings of her native land. "I suppose," she observed, "that in the climates of the South, where the sun sets in such brilliance and beauty, there is but little twilight, and I think I should find that a great want; for when I wish to think kindly of any one who has been harsh to me, I always go out in the twilight, and then it is that gentle thoughts are sure to come!"
Superb!" exclaimed Kitty, a young girl of the party who had not yet spoken out, though she had been whispering nonsense to her nearest companion all the time. "How I do wish I could be sentimental and good, like Fanny;" and she tried to mimic her tone and manner.
"I was not trying to be good, at any rate,” said Fanny, with heightened color, and tears starting to her eyes, "but I ought not to have talked so much about myself, when my uncle asked Lucy to tell him more about Chillon. Pray go on, Lucy, I will not be so foolish again."