« AnteriorContinuar »
Our American, much against his inclination, was choseu among the three candidates. He was aware that his position in the society with which he was mingling, required of him care and ability to sustain himself. He was treated with distinguished attention by his host and hostess, and generally by the party, but this was a favour to the individual, and not one of the company understood the character of Republicans, or appreciated the Republic. The three worthies had arranged that their turn for him should fall in succession, and be the last. The first one, a perfect exquisite, and with an air of most ineffable condescension, put his question.
"If I understand rightly the government of your country, you acknowledge no distinction of rank, consequently you can have no court-standard for the manners of a gentleman; will you favour me with information where your best school of politeness is to be found?"
"For your benefit," replied the American, smiling calmly, "I would recommend the Falls of Niagara; a contemplation of that stupendous wonder teaches humility to the proudest, and human nothingness to the vainest. It rebukes the trifler, and arouses the most stupid; in short, it turns men from their idols, and when we acknowledge that God only is Lord, wo feel that men are our equals. A true Christian is always polite."
There was a murmur among the audience, but whether of applause or censure, the American could not determine, as he did not choose to betray any anxiety for the result by a scrutiny of the faces which he knew were bent on him.
The second now proposed his question. He affected to be a great politician, was moustached and be-whiskered like a diplomatist, which station he had been coveting. His voice was bland, but his emphasis was very significant.
"Should I visit the United States, what subject with which I am conversant would most interest your people, and give me an opportunity of enjoying their conversation?"
"You must maintain, as you do at present, that a monarchy is the wisest, the purest government which the skill of man ever devised, and that a democracy is utterly barbarous. My countrymen arc proverbially fond of argument, and will meet you on both these questions, and, if you choose, will argue with you to the end of your life."
The murmur was renewed, but still without any decided expression of the feelings with which his answer had been received.
The third then rose from his seat, and with an assured voice, which seemed to announce a certain triumph, said—
"I require your decision on a delicate question, but the rules of the pastime warrant it, and also a candid answer— —You have seen the American and English Indies; which are the fairest?"
The young rebublican glanced round the circle. It was bright with flashing eyes, and the sweet smiles which wreathed many a lovely lip, might have won a less determined patriot from his allegiance. He did not hesitate, though he bowed low to the ladies as he answered—
"The standard of female beauty is, I believe, allowed to be the power of exciting admiration and begetting love m our 6ex, and, consequently, those ladies who are most admired, and beloved and respected by the gentlemen, must be the fairest. Now I assert, confidently, that there »s not a nation on earth where woman is so truly beloved, so tenderly cherished, so respectfully treated, as in the republic of the United States; therefore the American ladies are the fairest. But," said he, again bowing low, " if the ladies before whom I have now the honour of expressing my opinion, were in my country, we should think them Americans."
The applause was enthusiastic, and after the mirth had subsided, so as to allow the judge to be heard, he directed Arc crown to be given to the Yankee. American.
"With holy awe I cull the opening flower,
Lady F. Hastings.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
MENTAL IMPROVEMENT BY READING.
After reading, we may be in possession of many new thoughts, yet not be certain that they are correct. If so, we feel something like a man who in venturing his body on a fragile bridge, knows not whether it will bear him. But the man who knows the relative worth of each thought and argument, advances with a firm step. The man whose entire time is taken up with reading, will never be able to lay claim to much originality. He may be able to state tLe opinions of authors, but not their relative merits.
Many opinions have nothing to rest upon. Thought goes in search of the foundation of things, and in many cases actually finds none. Get the habit of reasoning and generalizing. The mass of people seldom generalize. Neither do they reason correctly. The judgment they form is seldom on a proper basis. They do not take in the whole of a subject. Their minds are like the sand, receiving impressions to be soon obliterated. Perhaps never was there a time in which things were more thoroughly sifted than the present. If intent on mental improvement, you must not only read but think, and think deeply, and write also, for it is almost impossible to improve much without this. Writing is a great aid to thought, and a wonderful help in balancing opinions. As Lord Bacon observes, it makes a "correct" man.
As to books, "the value of a book is to be estimated by its use." Books are like flowers in a field, from which honey may be extracted. But some books, like an extensive tract of country, yield but little. Of this character is the great mass of novels, tales, and adventures. "To buy books as some do because they were published by an eminent printer," (as Pope observes,) "is much as if a man should buy clothes that will not fit him, only because they were made by some famous tailor." Books should be all good and necessary. They should be such as will bear reading again, and again. A good rule would be, neither to purchase nor have an indifferent book, while you might have a better. Consider what books are indispensable in your situation, and what you can do to improves your library. From time to time, judiciously exchange some books for more suitable and valuable ones: that the mind be not deteriorated, or thought become stagnant.
This is the age of newspaper reading. What is the influence of such reading on the mind ?—whether in a general way it is favourable or unfavourable to the strengthening and development of the mental powers—may be worth a little consideration? With the exception of the general information obtained of passing events, of which of course no one should be ignorant, very much newspaper reading occasions a great waste of time, and must be regarded to a great extent as unfavourable to the full and proper development of the mental powers. It is like feeding the body on sweetmeats. Newspapers are made up principally of articles of passing interest merely. Jhe mass of articles in a newspaper pass through the mind as through a sieve or riddle. They are not read to be remembered, hence the time devoted to them is all hut thrown away. What a little we remember of all our newspaper reading, and yet the time thus spent might have enabled us to have done something to profit. The works we read will greatly influence our minds. We are creatures of imitation, and can scarcely avoid it, hence the importance of constantly reading the beat authors. We ought certainly to know what is doing in the country and in the world, and a very small portion of newspaper reading will suffice for that. It has been said they do well to spend an idle hour. But ought we to have any idle hours? Certainly not, when we consider how much remains to be done, how little is known, and how much remains to be known.
Reviewing is a high style of modern writing, and with reviews it is advantageous to become familiar. There is a kind of match of mental strength between the reviewers and the reviewed. Books of discussion and reviews are of a similar stamp. They are works of extra effort, hence the advantage of reading them. Some stimulation seems necessary to bring out the powers of the mind. Dulness characterises works written without some powerful stimulation. If nothing (as Foster observes) is equal to reviewing for improving the mental powers, the second best thing in this respect must be reading reviews. They give us a condensed view of works without the trouble of wading through them. But we must not, as a matter of course, take all reviewers say for truth. This would be to submit our judgment to theirs, and to live as if God had not given us any. We must endeavour to possess an unfettered and independent judgment, but at the same time try to inform the mind and instruct the judgment from every possible source.
A SCENE IN JUDEA.
One part of the great plain, Esdraelon, divides Mount Tabor from a range of hills called Little Hermon. The valley, lively and luxuriant, watered by a meandering brook which discharges its current into the tumultuous Jordan. Mount Tabor stands isolated and graceful; a cone, clothed in living green, one of the earth's pillars; the theme of poets, the admiration of every traveller from Maundrell to Lamartine. The Hermon range not lofty—its ridge barren—gradually rising from the east, 'and terminating in a high craggy peak toward the west Halfway between the highest peak and the valley stands the small walled city of Nain—a clean rural, healthy place; the market, for produce grown in the valley, or for cattle grazing on the neighbouring hills. Not far from the city gate, a steep, bare rock, is seen facing the valley, on which is written, in hieroglyphic characters, "Here rest the dead." Sanctity surrounds the spot. Generation after generation sleep in this rocky bed. Ah! see a vault has just been opened.
Though Nain does not figure in history, no doubt it had its faithful chronicler who dotted down each theme of local interest. Just one fragment of its history has escaped tho general wreck of governments and men, of customs and cities. Luke, the physician and evangelist, tells us of such a