« PreviousContinue »
seem to have observed that husbands, after a certain duration of ill-health in their wives, begin to manifest something of im patience, afterwards of indifference, and lastly of weariness, however much they may keep up their attentions, and try to disguise their feelings; and I am sure there are not a few, who begin to calculate and look out, before they are lawfully entitled so tu do. I would not for the world mention these horrid truths, but from a conviction that those who are ill all their lives, might be well all their lives, if they took due care, or put proper restraints upon themselves. Finding illness answer, in the first instance, they are too apt to neglect, or even encourage it, till it becomes a habit, and then the rest of their habits become conformable—to the metamorphosis of the unfortunate husband's home into an hospital. Perhaps the husband may in part thank himself for his state, for not having shown firmness soon enough ; and I would advise, that when things seem to be hastening on to this course, under the auspices of some silky medical attendant, he be as speedily as possible replaced by one of rougher mould, by way of experiment. When a course of treatment long tried produces no benefit, but rather the reverse, it is good to try a change, and therefore, if uninterrupted indulgence cannot effect a cure, if every request complied with, every wish anticipated, only aggravates the evil, probably a dose or two of privation might be of service. If business neglected and pleasure foregone have been in vain, why should not a round of engagements be called in aid ? A party of pleasure with a few agreeable female friends might produce a turn in a long-standing disorder, when nothing else could, and, being repeated at proper intervals, might effect a permanent cure. I admit this is a strong remedy, a sort of mineral poison, likely in the first instance to cause an access of malady; but anger is a strong stimulant, and tears often afford great relief, and a desire to witness what is going forward hath a wonderful efficacy in rousing to exertion. I have the more faith in such medicines, because I have often known a sick wife completely cured for a time by the serious illness of her husband, or her children, or by any exciting event, either of joy or grief.
This is a subject of great importance, for it concerns the well-being of so many homes, the comfort and morals of so many men, the good training of so many children, and the peaceable enjoyments of so many dependents. The instances of habitual illness, which could not have been prevented by care at first, or by prudence and resolution afterwards, must be too few to have much effect on domestic enjoyment, and when they do occur, they ought to meet with unceasing consideration, especially as they are almost ever borne with an instructive patience and resignation. But it is far otherwise with the ill health I mean, which has its origin and its continuance, one or both, in mismanagement; and those who suffer themselves to be the victims of it, ordinarily exact, under one guise or other, a very annoying degree of sacrifice from all about them. The sooner the evil is put out of fashion, the better.
Nature is the true guide in our application of ornament. She delights in it, but ever in subserviency to use. Men generally pursue an opposite course, and adorn only to encumber. With the refined few, simplicity is the feature of greatest merit in ornament. The trifling, the vulgar-minded, and the ignorant, prize only what is striking and costlysomething showy in contrast, and difficult to be obtained. Nothing can more severely, or more truly satirize this taste, than the fancy of the Negro chief in the interior of Africa, who received an Englishman's visit of ceremony in a drummer's jacket and a judge's wig. I always think of this personage, when I see a lady loaded with jewels; and if I had a wife, and she had such encumbrances, from the anxiety of which I saw no other chance of her being relieved, I should heartily rejoice in one of those mysterious disappearances, which have been so frequent of late, and which, it may be, have sometimes originated in a feeling on the part of husbands, similar to mine.
ECONOMY OF LABOUR.
One great superiority of the manufacturers of this country over the agriculturists, is attributable to their attention to the economy of labour. In my earliest remembrance, the farmers were too ignorant to think of it, afterwards they were too prosperous, and now they are too much bent on seeking relief from other sources than their own energies. What might be done in time by a combination of mechanical and chemical science, it is as impossible to calculate beforehand, as it would have been fifty years since to have foretold what would be the present state of spinning, weaving, bleaching, and transport. Human energy and human invention completely baffle calculation, as is proved, amongst many others, by this fact, that silk and cotton are sent from India here, and manufactured and sent back, so as to undersell the natives in their own markets, in spite of distance, and comparative difficulty of living from both natural and political causes. I think, with such examples of the triumph of skill, industry, and enterprize, the actual state of our agriculture utterly disgraceful. I was led into these remarks by a passage in one of my letters from the continent, from which I have given the series of extracts in former numbers. The passage is as follows ;-
“ I observed in Lorraine two ploughs in a field of light land, drawn one by five horses, and the other by four, both held by women, and driven by men.” This only proves that economy of labour is less practised in some parts of France than it is here; and such I believe to be generally the case on the continent compared with this country, not only in agriculture, but in every thing else. I have frequently seen in France four men shoeing a horse, having first put him in the stocks, and tying each foot in turn over a bar. The reason, probably, why the women were holding the ploughs I saw, might be that they were more skilful than the men,' as, during the war, females were more regularly employed in such labour. I will conclude with a remarkable instance of the triumph of ingenuity over calculation. The Abbé Raynal lays it down, without supposing a doubt, that North America could never become of much importance beyond a short distance from the coast, on account of the impossibility of ascending the great rivers. The application of steam to navigation has alone falsified that position, and railways and canals are adding their powerful aid. I cannot help thinking that those who affirm, that if a north-west passage were to be discovered, it would never be made available to any useful purpose, are a little presumptuous. The progress of improvement already witnessed, should teach us diffidence in hazarding such predictions. The first experiment I ever saw of applying steam to navigation, was on the Duke of Bridgewater's canal, when eleven coal barges were dragged along by an engine at the rate of two miles an hour, and with terrible destruction to the banks. This, I think, was before steam navigation was brought to anything like perfection in the United States, and I little thought then of being carried some fifteen miles an hour against the wind, as I was the other day on the Thames.
There is no exercise of the mind more delightful or more irksome, according to circumstances, than composition. With me the humour depends almost entirely upon my mode of living; and when I practise my doctrines respecting health, I think I may say I experience no difficulties. Attention to diet I find to be of much the most consequence; but when I am also careful as to quantity of sleep and exercise, my capabilities rise to their highest pitch; that is, temperance removes difficulties, and moderation in sleep and activity in exercise create facilities. There are accidental causes, which have their influence, but in an inferior degree, and personal management at all times enables me to command my powers. It is far otherwise when the temptations of society induce irregularities or excess, and the digestive organs have lost their tone. Ideas refuse to appear; phrases, which at other times would have fallen into the ranks in order due, become, as it were, of the awkward squad, and seem utterly incapable of discipline, and despair is only driven away by necessity. I should think there can scarcely be a more piteous case than that of an author out of sorts, writing for bread against time. As far as the pencil can go, Hogarth has depicted such a person in his Distrest Poet, but there must be " that within which passeth show.” The difference between the best humour for composition and the worst, is about the same as that between a salient fountain and a crazy pump in a deep well: the produce may be equally good in both cases, but the labour is beyond comparison different. It has happened to me more than once to receive particular commendation for those numbers in the composition of which I have been the most perplexed, and which I fully expected would have met with censure. However, I intend to avail myself of the comparative solitude of next month to pay special attention to my state, both for my own ease, and to see the result.