« PreviousContinue »
porridge as such people use to have, with which, but especially with the butter and cheese, he thought himself well feasted, and took the best care he could to be supplied with other, but little better, shoes and stockings, and after his feet were enough recovered that he could go, he was conducted from thence to another poor house, within such a distance as put him not to much trouble ; for having not yet in his thought which way or by what means to make his escape, all that was designed was only, by shifting from one house to another, to avoid discovery. And being now in that quarter which was more inhabited by the Roman Catholics than most other parts in England, he was led from one to another of that persuasion, and concealed with great fidelity. But he then observed that he was never carried to any gentleman's house, though that country was full of them, but only to poor houses of poor men, which only yielded him rest with very unpleasant sustenance ; whether there was more danger in those better houses in regard of the resort and the many servants, or whether the owners of great estates were the owners likewise of more fears and apprehensions.” At last the king, as is well known, was taken to the house of Mr. Lane, a Protestant gentleman of remarkably high character, and trusted by both persuasions. From thence he rode before Mrs. Lane to Bristol, in the disguise of a neighbour's son, and finally escaped to France, after having been recognized by many persons, and betrayed by none.
How superior is a poor man with a rich spirit, to a rich man with a poor spirit ! To borrow the expression of St. Paul, he is as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. While the other presents the melancholy reverse ; he is as possessing all things, and yet having nothing. The first hopes everything and fears nothing; the last hopes nothing and fears everything. There is no absolute poverty without poverty of spirit. The sunshine of the mind gives only the bright side. He who lives under its influence, is courted by all men, and may, if he will, enjoy their goods without their troubles. The world is, as it were, held in trust for him; and, in freedom from care, he is alone entitled to be called a gentleman. He is the most independent of all men, because fortune has the least power over him. He is the only man that is free and unfettered; he may do what he pleases, and nothing is expected from him. He escapes importunity and flattery, and feels a perpetual consciousness that he is not sought for but for himself. Suspicion of motives never chills his confidence, nor withers his enjoyment. He has an enriching power within himself, which makes his outward wants easily supplied with industry and prudence, without the necessity of anxious toil. A little is his enough, and beyond is an encumbrance. This is the Christian doctrine, and the doctrine of reason, which ever go together. The principle is the same, whether a man have a family, or not; good training is a better patrimony than wealth, as I have already expressed in a short article in my first number, entitled “ Life.” To promote richness of spirit as a national characteristic, it is necessary to have spirited governments both local and general, and in each community a large common purse the very reverse of the present tone, and of the wretched doctrines of the economists. The greatest quantity and the greatest diffusion of enjoyment, with the least care, are to be found under a system of private comfort and public magnificence. I shall enlarge upon this important and ill-understood topic on a future occasion. Illustrative of much of the above is the following speech of Hamlet to Horatio :
Hor: 0, my dear Lord,
As I do thee.” If you are not in the humour for doing anything, and necessity does not press, do not waste yourself in vain efforts, or fritter away time in inaction, but turn to something else, or think what is most likely to put you into the humour you wish, whether exercise, or refreshment, or society, and that try. By such a process you will often make what is difficult and irksome, easy and agreeable; you will generally save time in the end, and almost always do better what you have to do. Some people are continually flying off from their occupations, so as scarcely ever to reach the effective point of application, whilst others go on so long as to destroy their energy and render perseverance useless. There is a profitable and wholesome mean between inconstancy and weariness. When we know what we shall have to do, it is wise to make suitable preparation; as professed gamblers, by abstemiousness and repose, make themselves fresh and clear for their midnight practices.
There are three weaknesses in our habits, which are very common, and which have a very prejudicial influence on our welfare. The first is giving way to the ease or indulgence of the moment, instead of doing at once what ought to be done. This practice almost always diminishes the beneficial effects of our actions, and often leads us to abstain from action altogether; as for instance, if at this season of the year there is a gleam of sunshine, of which we feel we ought to take advantage, but have not the resolution to leave at the moment a comfortable seat or an attractive occupation, we miss the most favourable opportunity, and perhaps at last justify ourselves in remaining indoors on the ground that the time for exercise is past. One evil attendant upon this habit of procrastination is, that it produces a certain dissatisfaction of the mind, which impedes and deranges the animal functions, and tends to prevent the attainment of a high state of health. A perception of what is right, followed by a promptness of execution, would render the way of life perpetually smooth. Children should be told to do nothing but what is reasonable, but they should be taught to do what they are told at once. The habit will stand them in stead all their lives. The second weakness is, when we have made a good resolution, and have partially failed in executing it, we are very apt to abandon it altogether. For instance, if a person who has been accustomed to rise at ten, resolves to rise at six, and, after a few successful attempts, happens to sleep till seven, there is great danger that he will relapse into his former habit, or probably even go beyond it, and lie till noon. It is the same with resolutions as to economy, or temperance, or anything else; if we cannot do all we intended, or make one slip, we are apt to give up entirely. Now what we should aim at is, always to do the best we can under existing circumstances; and then our progress, with the exception of slight interruptions, would be continual. The third and last weakness to which I allude is, the practice of eating and drinking things, because they are on table, and especially when they are to be paid for. How seldom it happens that two men leave a few glasses of wine in a decanter at a coffee-house, though they have both
had enough! and the consequence of not doing so frequently is to order a fresh supply ; but, at any rate, even the first small excess is pernicious. Excess, however slight, either in solids or liquids, deranges the powers of digestion, and of course diminishes the full benefit of any meal. It often induces an indisposition to move, and so one excess leads to another. What is called a second appetite is generated, and the proper bounds being once passed, it is not easy to fix another limit. The importance in a man's life of stopping at enough is quite incalculable; and to be guilty of excess for the reason I have just mentioned, though very common, is the height of folly. A very small quantity will cause the difference between spending the remainder of the day profitably or agreeably, and in indolence and dissipation.
GIVING MONEY. I have received a letter signed with initials which are unknown to me, in which the writer desires me to state my opinion as to the best mode of giving away large sums of money. My correspondent puts the case of persons who, from taste, live very much within their incomes, and who dispose of the surplus, to the amount of two or three thousand pounds a year, in the way of donation. The question is asked, whether it is better to distribute such large sums in small portions to the usual objects of bounty, or to select persons in respectable stations, with straitened means, and to place them above their difficulties. It is said that if large benefactions were secretly made to such persons as were personally known to the benefactors, an immense mass of good would be done; and that such unasked donations cause no humiliation, but on the contrary a compliment. The writer adds that the rich distributor would at the end of a series of years have the pleasure of contemplating an accumulation of benefits conferred on worthy persons.