« PreviousContinue »
and joy, and continuing to bloom and flourish even through the ages of eternity.
A full appreciation by the poorer and humbler classes (we of course use this latter term in no invidious sense) of their proper station in the social economy, their responsibilities and advantages, is what is needed. In them a spirit of contentment, not of ambition, should be fostered. The Creator has given to such, sources of enjoyment peculiar to their condition, which others, in their different spheres, know not of. But to realize these blessings, virtue must settle upon the hearth of him who receives but the frowns of fortune. In such case it is his to be free from the corroding cares of ambition and rivalry—the aching head and the feverish hand-his to press his pillow with a mind at ease, and to rise with thankfulness for a night's repose-to eat his scanty, it may be, but wholesome food, with a grateful heart, and a readiness to share his little portion with any commended by honesty and misfortune even to his limited charity.
Blessed with such feelings, and governed by such motives, even worldly advantages-if these should enter the mind of him we have described-would, in the end, be surely attained. Honest industry, strict integrity, and Christian charity, would not come short of their reward in our land; and the deserving father would see his children enjoying those means of extended usefulness which he was denied in his youth, and which they, fortified with religious principles, will know so well how to use.
To show, in the words of Scripture, that "there is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches;" and to inculcate the true principles by which the goods of this life are to be estimated, and our conduct regulated, is the aim of Miss Sedgwick in this little work, and she has most fully succeeded to the permanent increase of her own reputation, and, we trust, the good of her species. She has adopted, as the means for this excellent purpose, a very simple story, in which apposite reflections are naturally intermingled with the incidents; and the whole expressed in phraseology perfectly adapted to the sphere of those for whose benefit the book is intended. Two individuals are selected to illustrate her views, (who may be considered as the principals in her little tale, as they ultimately form the married couple,) educated in the country, of humble parentage, and blessed with early religious instruction. It is this last which carries them triumphantly through all their temptations. An interesting example of the success of equal virtue under trials of a different, probably of a severer, description, is offered in the person of another young girl whom accident had disabled in infancy, and
who was doomed to pass through a lengthened life, a cripple. The pair we have alluded to exemplify the success of honest industry, pious integrity, and unaffected benevolence: the poor invalid illustrates the triumph of Christianity in all its length and breadth—for in her it shone forth in all its beauty-over penury, disease, and depression—the blighting of almost every human feeling. The contrasts are equally well sketched. The vanity of mere riches in the hands of an unworthy possessor; the real poverty which is the lot of such an one in the midst of his gold; the want of refinement-of gratitude-of religion-of peace of mind-of contentment; the cares and disappointments which accompany the ambition of fashion, as well as that of power, the littleness of the seeming great : these are depicted in a familiar but striking manner, and with a simplicity and adherence to nature which apply them at once to the heart.
We think that the author has been rather indulgent to the father of the two heroines, “Uncle Phil," as he was familiarly called ; his careless good-nature amounting to culpable negligence, and having been productive of the most disastrous consequences. His heart, however, was so good as almost to disarm resentment, even at such results. We will introduce him to the notice of the reader in an extract which, at the same time, will make him acquainted with the two daughters who play the chief part in the little story.
"But, before they arrived at this stage in the journey of life, both good and evil had chanced to them. Their first-born, Ellen, ran into an open cistern, the surface of which was just on a level with the platform before the house: so it had remained a year after the active child began to run about; and, to its mother's reiterated requests and warnings, Philip always answered— Now that 's just what I am going about next week. When his only child was drowned in this seeming water-trap was certainly no time to reproach Philip, and he who never reproached any one could not be expected to make himself an exception. He merely said, 'It was a wonderful providence Ellen was drowned that day, for the very next he calculated to put a kerb to the cistern—but it was meant so to behe always felt Ellen was not long for this world! Their next child was our friend Charlotte; and she, like her drowned sister, was born with one of the best mortal gifts-a sound constitution, which, watched over by her wise and vigilant mother, promised a long life of physical comfort. But these prospects were sadly reversed when her father, having one day taken her oui in his wagon, left her holding the reins while he just stepped to speak to a neighbour. While he was speaking, the horse took fright, Charlotte was thrown out, and received an injury that embittered her whole life. Philip was really grieved by this accident. He said, 'It seemed somehow as if it was so to be, for he had no thought of taking Charlotte out that day till he met her in his way?
“His next mishap was the burning of his work-shop, in which, on one gusty day, he left a blazing fire. A consequence so natural seemed very strange to Uncle Phil, who said 'It was most onaccountable, for he had often left it just so, and it had never burned up before! This incident gave a new turn to Philip's life. He abandoned his trade, and really
loving, or, as he said, 'aiming' to suit every body, he was glad to be rid of
incessant complaints of want of punctuality, bad materials, and bad work, and became, what most imbeciles become sooner or later, a Jack at all trades. In a community like that at Essex, where labourers in every department are few, and work plenty, even the universal Jack need not starve ; and Uncle Phil, if unskilful and slack, was always good-natured, and seldom so much engrossed by one employment that he could not leave it for another. But, though rather an unprofitable labourer, Uncle Phil had no vices. He was temperate and frugal in his habits, and a striking illustration of how far these virtues alone will sustain a man, even in worldly matters. His small supplies were so well managed by his wife, that no want was felt by his family during her life. That valuable life was prematurely ended. Soon after the birth of her last baby, Uncle Phil was called up in the night by some cattle having entered his garden through his rickety fence. His bed-room door opened upon the yard; he left it open ; it was a damp, chilling night. Mrs. May, being her own nurse, had fallen asleep exhausted. She awoke in an ague that proved the prelude to a fatal illness; and Uncle Phil, being no curious tracer of effects to causes, took no note of the open door, and the damp night, and replied to the condolence of his friends, that 'Miss May was too good a wife for him—the only wonder was Providence had spared her so long. More gifted people than honest Uncle Phil deposit quietly at the door of Providence the natural consequences of their own carelessness.
“The baby soon followed its mother, and Philip May was left with but two children-Charlotte, at the time of her mother's death, thirteen, and Susan, nine. They had been so far admirably trained by their mother, and were imbued with her character, seeming only to resemble their father in hearts running over with the milk of human kindness, unless Susan's all-conquering cheerfulness was derived from her father's everacquiescing patience. His was a passive virtue-hers an active principle. If any one unacquainted with the condition of life in New England should imagine that the Mays had suffered the evils of real poverty, they must allow us to set them right. In all our wide-spread country there is very little necessary poverty. In New England none that is not the result of vice or disease. If the moral and physical laws of the Creator were obeyed, the first of these causes would be at an end, and the second would scarcely exist.' Industry and frugality are wonderful multipliers of small means. Philip May brought in but little, but that little was well administered. His house was clean-hiz garden productive, (the girls kept it weeded,)-his furniture carefully preserved-his family comfortably clad, and his girls schooled. No wonder Uncle Phil never dreamed he was a poor man!"
It was to endeavour to procure, if possible, some remedy for the injury sustained by Charlotte, alluded to in the above extract, that a journey was undertaken to New York in order to consult an eminent physician of that city. The difficulty of procuring money sufficient for this object was extreme; and this difficulty was the occasion for the display of unusual generosity on the part of a play-fellow, a fine boy, named Harry
?“We have heard a gentleman, who, in virtue of the office he holds as minister at large, is devoted to succouring the poor, state, that even in this city, (New York,) he had known very few cases of suffering from poverty that might not be traced directly or indirectly to vice."
Aikin, who afterwards married the younger sister, Susan. The journey is pleasantly described, and will exhibit the training through which the mind of the young sufferer had already passed. It is called the “poor man's journey."
“It was a lovely morning in June when Uncle Pbil set forth for New York with his invalid daughter. Ineffable happiness shone through his honest face, and there was a slight flush of hope and expectation on Charlotte's usually pale and tranquil countenance as she half rebuked Susan's last sanguine expression.
“You will come home as well as I am, I know you will, Lottie ! “Not well--oh, no, Susy, but better, I expect-I mean, I hope.
“Better, then, if you are, that is to say, a great deal better-I shall be satisfied, sha'n't you, Harry ?'
“I shall be satisfied that it was best for her to go, if she is any better.'
“I trust we shall all be satisfied with God's will, whatever it may be,' said Charlotte, turning her eye full of gratitude upon Harry. Harry arranged her cushions as nobody else could to support her weak back: Susan disposed her cloak so that Charlotte could draw it around her if the air proved too fresh; and then, taking her willow basket in her hand, the last words were spoken, and they set forth. Uncle Phil was in the happiest of his happy humours. He commended the wagon- it was just like sitting at home in a rocking chair-it is kind o' lucky that you are lame, Lottie, or may be Mrs. Sibley would not have offered to loan us her wagon. I was dreadful 'fraid we should have to go down the North river. I tell you, Lottie, when I crossed over it once, I was a’most scared to death-the water went swash, swash-there was nothing but a plank between me and etarnity; and í thought in my heart I should have gone down, and nobody would ever have heard of me again. I wonder folks can be so foolish as to go on water when they can travel on solid land-but I suppose some do!
6. It is pleasanter,' said Charlotte, 'to travel at this season where you can see the beautiful fruits of the earth, as we do now, on all sides of us.' Uncle Phil replied, and talked on without disturbing his daughter's quiet and meditation. They travelled slowly, but he was never impatient, and she never wearied, for she was an observer and lover of nature. The earth was clothed with its richest green-was all green, but of infinitely varied tints. The young corn was shooting forth—the winter wheat already waved over many a fertile hill-side-the gardens were newly made, and clean, and full of promise-flowers, in this month of their abundance, perfumed the woods, and decked the gardens and court-yards, and where nothing else grew, there were lilacs and pionies in plenty. The young lambs were frolicking in the fields—the chickens peeping about the barn-yards; and birds, thousands of them, singing at their work.
“Our travellers were descending a mountain where their view extended over an immense tract of country, for the most part richly cultivated.
“I declare,' exclaimed Uncle Phil, 'how much land there is in the world, and I don't own a foot on't, only our little half-acre lot-it don't seem hardly right.' Uncle Phil was no agrarian, and he immediately added, 'But, after all, I guess I am better off without it—it would be a dreadful care.'
“Contentment with godliness is great gain,' said Charlotte. "You've hit the nail on the head, Lottie; I don't know who should 664
be contented if I ain't-I always have enough, and every body is friendly to me-and you and Susan are worth a mint of money to me. For all what I said about the land, I really think I have got my full share.?
66. We can all have our share in the beauties of God's earth without owning, as you say, a foot of it,' rejoined Charlotte. "We must feel it is our Father's. I am sure the richest man in the world cannot take more pleasure in looking at a beautiful prospect than I do--or in breathing this sweet, sweet air. It seems to me, father, as if every thing I look upon was ready to burst forth in a hymn of praise--and there is enough in my heart to make verses of if I only knew how.'
"• That's the mystery, Lottie, how they do it-I can make one line, but I can never get a fellow to ií.'
“Well, father, as Susy would say, it's a comfort to have the feeling, though you can't express it.
“Charlotte was right. It is a great comfort and happiness to have the feeling, and happy would it be if those who live in the country were more sensible to the beauties of nature; if they could see something in the glorious forest besides 'good wood and timber lots'-something in the green valley besides a 'warm soil—something in a water-fall besides a'mill-privilege. There is a susceptibility in every human heart to the ever-present and abounding beauties of nature; and whose fault is it that this taste is not awakened and directed ? If the poet and the painter cannot bring down their arts to the level of the poor, are there none to be God's interpreters to them—to teach them to read the great book of nature?
“The labouring classes ought not to lose the pleasures that, in the country, are before them from dawn to twilight-pleasures that might counterbalance, and often do, the profits of the merchant, pent in his city counting-house, and all the honours the lawyer earns between the court-rooms and his office. We only wish that more was made of the privilege of country life ; that the farmer's wife would steal some moments from her cares to point out to her children the beauties of nature, whether amid the hills and valleys of our inland country, or on the sublime shores of the ocean. Over the city, too, hangs the vault of heaven-thick inlaid with the witnesses of God's power and goodness -his altars are every where.
“The rich man who lives at home at ease,' and goes irritated and fretting through the country because he misses at the taverns the luxuries of his own house—who finds the tea bad and coffee worse the food ill cooked and table ill served-no mattresses, no silver forks-who is obliged to endure the vulgarity of a common parlour—and, in spite of the inward chafing, give a civil answer to whatever questions may be put to him, cannot conceive of the luxuries our travellers enjoyed at the simplest inn.
“Uncle Phil found out the little histories of all the wayfarers he met, and frankly told his own. Charlotte's pale sweet face attracted general sympathy. Country people have time for little by-the-way kindnesses; and the landlady, and her daughters, and her domestics, enquired into Charlotte's malady, suggested remedies, and described similar cases.
“The open-hearted communicativeness of our people is often laughed at; but is it not a sign of a blameless life and social spirit ?" pp. 33–37.
a Her interviews with the physician are beautifully narrated, and we have little fear of asserting that no one can rise from the perusal of that portion of this simple story without feeling his heart softened, and inclined to become better. The doctor