« PreviousContinue »
haps by some ; but even her enemies have granted that she deserves the preference over all the inventions of luxury, and all institutions of public amusement. But what she does here is more important than is generally believed. Human nature cannot bear to be constantly and eternally under the torture of business. The allurements of the senses die when they become satiated. Man, cloyed with animal pleasures, or fatigued by constant, active toil, thirsts for better and more selected pleasures, or casts himself without reserve into a vortex of wild dissipa. tion, which accelerates his ruin, and destroys the peace of society. Bacchanalian orgies, destructive gaming, a thousand follies which idle. ness invents, are inevitable, if the legislator knows not how to guide the inclination of a people. The statesman would be in danger of ending the life so generously devoted to the welfare of his country in philanthropic spleen ; the learned would sink into tiresome pedantry, and the common classes into brutality. The stage is an institution where pleasure is united with instruction, repose with activity of the mind, amusement with cultivation; where no power of the soul is overwrought to the danger of another; where no pleasure is enjoyed at the expense of the whole.
When suffering gnaws our hearts; when gloomy forebodings poison our solitary hours; when the world and its cares disgust us; when a thousand burdens oppress our souls, and we are stifled by the heavy weight which overhangs us, then the Stage receives us. In her artificial world we dream away the real one. We are regenerated ; our sentiments awaken salutary emotions, move our slumbering nature, and cause our pulses to beat quicker, and with gentler regularity. Here the unfortunate weeps over another's misery, and forgets his own; the self-sufficient becomes cooled, and the fancied secure more cautious; the faint-hearted one becomes a man, and the barbarian for the first time learns to feel. And then what a triumph for thee, O Nature! Thou, so often trodden to the earth, yet always rising, when men of all classes, all sects, and all nations freed from all artificial chains, from the pressure of fate, united by one all-stirring sympathy, forget themselves and the world, and approach nearer to their divine origin! Each single one enjoys the rapture which is reflected on him from a thousand eyes, and his breast has room but for one feel. ing — that of being A MAN.
It is the eve before the day of rest.
November 23, 1844.
Conflict is the principle of all greatness, whether it be muscular, mental, or moral. No physical strength is acquired without exertion, and the most powerful limb would soon be shorn of its vigor, if it remained unemployed. Uniform effort accomplishes wonders by means of the corporeal energies. The popular pedestrian achievements illustrate this maxim; which, as far as I can perceive, is their only use. By daily exercise in leaping, a child may eventually reach the ceiling of a lofty apartment.
The mind, no less than the body, becomes strenuous and alert by combatting its inert tendencies. Although no convert to Jocotot's theory of the Equality of Human Intelligences,' yet that continued effort and systematic cultivation are the chief causes of the remarkable inequali. ties, which are perceptible to all, cannot, I think, be doubted by any, who reflect at all upon the subject. The intellectual veteran may be great also in proportion to the number and depth of his scars. Defeat, in some minds, only stimulates determination; and probably no grand object has ever been accomplished, without many previous and signal failures. These excite to more arduous effort. They are epochs in the mental history, and elicit latent energies, and give renewed courage, and perhaps furnish a glimmering light to other and more auspicious
The eminent christian philosopher, Doctor Dick, has remarked, that it may be laid down as a kind of axiom, to which few exceptions will occur, that great discoveries in science, and improvements in art, are never to be expected but as the result of knowledge, combined with unwearied investigation. Those useful inventions even, which have
been imputed to chance, would have been unavailable and forgotten, had not the accidental discoveries been made known to minds that viewed them in all their bearings, and traced them to all their legitimate consequences.' And when men of science propose some object of utility or discovery, how long must that object be kept in view; how varied must be the conjectures and means; how hopeless often, yet how untiring, will be the pursuit, until the vision has become so keen, and the grasp so strong, that complete success is secured. What profound meditation, what research, what power of decision, what subjection of weariness, impatience, distrust, despondence, and what years of perseverance, did the discovery of the principle of gravitation cost! A prin. ciple no less wonderful for its simplicity, than for the magnificence of its effects. And how gloriously was the discoverer rewarded! And not only in the security of the object of his pursuit, but also in the vastly increased power of his intellectual capacity.
Moral greatness, although of an immensely higher order than the others, is attained in like manner. Only moral greatness is truly sublime. The gladiator may discipline his sinews, and compete almost in strength, even, with his maddened adversary. And there are modern as well as ancient names, which awaken pity, if not contempt, for their owners, on account of the fearful perversion of their splendid talents. But when we hear of the illustrious philanthropist, Howard, the soul, debased it may be, bends with instinctive homage, and feels as if a ray from his beatified spirit illumed and purified its purposes. While Napoleon, like the fabled eastern genii, traversed the affrighted earth, and marked his footsteps with human blood, our own WASHINGTON rose like another luminary upon the troubled scene of American politics, and with no marvellous intellectual ability, but with the tranquil might of moral majesty, he pursued the narrow path of duty, and blenched neither to the power of adversaries, nor to the influence of affection. He had no noon-day brightness, no declining splendor. His whole course was light and glory, and he left a perennial and heavenly brilliancy on our national horizon.
Ambition and necessity are the common stimulants to exertion. Ignorance and indolence often degrade the objects of the former; and their sphere and means are alike contemptible. A desire for precedence in fashion, in expensive entertainments, in furniture, equipage, dress, wealth, etc., is a certain indication of intellectual and moral meanness. It is impossible that rational beings, if mentally superior to the most ordinary of mortals, can have other feelings than self.contempt and selfabasement for their voluntary degradation, when they enter on the career of competition for these things with those who are incapable of higher attainments. This prostitution of nobler faculties mingles indignation with pity for such subjects of vulgar ambition. Rarely indeed do the sublunary objects of man comport with his intellectual elevation and moral responsibility. Genuine patriotism and disinterested benevolence, at long intervals, as the light-house to the nocturnal mariner, guide and cheer, and show how safe, and how pleasant were the troubled wanderer, if the whole dark wilderness were thus illuminated.
Necessity is the great lever of mental improvement; and a mighty
power to move it is found in the domestic affections. The stupid have become intelligent; the indolent, active; the timid, daring; and those whom only the softest winds of heaven were permitted to visit, have under this influence, unshrinkingly breasted adversity in all its fearful bearings, not only in its physical sufferings, but in the proud man's contumely,' and in the contempt of them, whose fathers they would have scorned to set with the dogs of their flock.' Perhaps many instances are known to all ; for, in the frequent and great fluctuations of property in our country, if some remain unscathed, they will find others in their own circle of relatives or acquaintances, far less fortunate. One whom I well knew, both in prosperity and adversity, was a remarkable instance of the unpromising materials which are sometimes called into the ser. vice of affliction, and of the untiring determination of maternal love. The whole of the subsequent sketch, except the names, is literally true.
Mrs. Stewart's father was a highly respectable lawyer. His practice was lar and lucrative. His moral standard was elevated ; and his character
was not only that of strict integrity, but was also highly hon. orable. This epithet I use in opposition to modern chivalry, which was once synonymous with honor, but now appears to designate a class of men who have no control over their passions, and whose absorbing prin. ciple is revenge. Mr. Lyman was manly, liberal and generous, in all his dealings, pecuniary and moral ; and incapable of meanness in any of its departments. He had strong sympathies and deep affections, which were concealed from ordinary observation by a reserved manner, that sometimes had the appearance of sternness. He had also what may probably have been thought a fastidious idea of female delicacy ; and his views of female education and intellectual culture were far in advance of his time.
All these paternal qualities had a powerful, constant, but imperceptible influence on the formation of his daughter's character. Mrs. Lyman was an intelligent woman, who lived but for her family. Both from a sense of duty and respect for her husband's opinions, she conformed to his wishes regarding their children, and without differing from him in any respect, save one, on which her judgment, had it prevailed, would have much diminished their daughter's subsequent trials. Mrs. Lyman knew the subject on which she dissented from Mr. Lyman, to have a momentous influence on domestic respectability as well as happiness. But
But when she perceived her remonstrances to be ineffectual, she quietly acquiesced in his decision. She was an admirable household manager; but as her husband believed that an ample property, and a suitable number of domestics, should exonerate the mistress from personal aid and anxious care, she so ordered her family concerns, that he was unconscious how much attention, and service also, she gave to his well-ordered establishment. And as property was not then so insecure and floating as it afterward became, he did not apprehend that his daugh. ter might ever need the means to furnish herself with every constituent of domestic comfort and respectability.
Miss Lyman was a warm-hearted, credulous, high-minded girl ; if utter scorn and abhorrence of every thing mean in thought and action merit that appellation. Her conduct and character were under the con.