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The sacred thorn, to memory dear, first sought
11. Wrapped in devotion, pleading with her (rod, She saw him not, heard not his foot approach/.
All holy images seemed too impure
12. Sweet was the thought!
But sweeter still the kind remembrance came,
That she was flesh and blood formed for himself,
The plighted partner of his future life.
And as they met, embraced, and sat embowered
In woody chambers of the starry night,
Spirits of love about them ministered,
And, God approving, blessed the holy joy 1
LESSON CXXIX. Public Weal consists of Individual Happiness. — Webster.
1. In ancient times in all governments, and under despotic governments in all times, the convenience or gratification of the monarch, the government, or the public, has been allowed too often to put aside considerations of personal and individual happiness.
2. With us, different ideas happily prevail. With us, it is not the public, or the government, in its corporate character, that is the only object of regard. The public happiness is to be the aggregate of the happiness of individuals.
3. Our system begins with the individual man. It begins with him when he leaves the cradle; and it proposes to instruct him in knowledge and in morals, to prepare him for his state of manhood: on his arrival at that state, to invest him with political rights, to protect him, in his property and pursuits, and in his family and social connections; and thus to enable him to enjoy as an individual, moral and rational being, what belongs to a moral and rational being.
4. For the same reason, the arts are to be promoted for
* A kneeled (or kneeling) seraph.
their general utility, as they affect the personal happiness and well-being of the individuals who compose the community. It would be adverse to the whole spirit of our system, that we should have gorgeous and expensive public buildings, if individuals were at the same time to live in houses of mud. Our public edifices are to be reared by the surplus of wealth and the savings of labor, after the necessities and comforts of individuals are provided for, and not, like the pyramids, by the unremitted toil of thousands of half-starved slaves.
5. Domestic architecture, therefore, as connected with individual comfort and happiness, is to hold a first place in the esteem of our artists. Let our citizens have houses cheap, but comfortable; not gaudy, but in good taste; not judged by the portion of earth which they cover, but by their symmetry, their fitness for use, and their durability.
6. Without further reference to particular arts with which the objects of this society have a close connection, it may yet be added, generally, that this is a period of great activity, of industry, of enterprise in the various walks of life. It is a period, too, of growing wealth, and increasing prosperity. It is a time when men are fast multiplying, but when means are increasing still faster than men.
7. An auspicious moment, then, it is, full of motive and encouragement for the vigorous prosecution of those inquiries, which have for their object the discovery of further and further means of uniting the results of scientific research to the arts and business of life.
LESSON CXXX. The Light Literature of the Present Age. — Chambers.
1. In prose fiction, the last forty years have been rich and prolific. It was natural that the genius and the success of the great masters of the modern English novel should have led to imitation. Mediocrity is seldom deterred, from attempting to rival excellence, especially in any department that is popular, and may be profitable; and there is, besides, in romance, as in the drama, a wide and legitimate field for native talent and exertion.
2. The highly-wrought tenderness and pathos of Richardson, and the models of real life, wit and humor, in Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, produeed a few excellent imitations. The fictions of Mackenzie, Dr. Moore, Miss Burney, and Cumberland, are all greatly superior to the ordinary run of novels, and stand at the head of the second class.
3. These writers, however, exercised but little influence on the national taste: they supported the dignity and respectability of the novel, but did not extend its dominion; and accordingly we find that there was a long dull period in which this delightful species of composition had sunk into general contempt.
4. There was no ' lack of novels, but they were of a very inferior and even debased description. In place of natural incident, character, and dialogue, we had affected and ridiculous sentimentalism, — plots utterly absurd or pernicious,— and stories of love and honor so maudlin * in conception and driveling in execution, that it is surprising they could ever have been tolerated even by the most defective moral sense or taste.
5. The circulating libraries, in town and country, swarmed with these worthless productions (known, from their place of publication, by the misnomer of the "Minerva Press " novels); but their perusal was in a great measure confined to young people of both sexes of imperfect education, or to half-idle, inquisitive persons, whose avidity for excitement was not restrained by delicacy or judgment.
6. In many cases, even in the humblest walks of life, this love of novel-reading amounted to a passion as strong and uncontrollable as that of dram-drinking: and, fed upon such garbage as we have described, it was scarcely less injurious; for it dwarfed the intellectual faculties, and unfitted its votaries equally for the study or relish of sound literature, and for the proper performance and enjoyment of the actual duties of the world.
7. The enthusiastic novel-reader got bewildered and entangled among lore-plots and high-flown adventures, iu which success was often awarded to profligacy, and, among scenes of pretended existence,- exhibited in the masquerade attire of a distempered fancy. Instead, therefore, of
Truth severe by fairy Fi«ion dressed,
we had Falsehood decked out in frippery and nonsense, and courting applause from its very extravagance.
* Maudlin is a corruption of Magdalen, who is drawn by painters wi;h eyes swelled and rod with weeping. It means stupid, intoxicated.
8. The first successful inroad on this accumulating mass of absurdity was made by Charlotte Smith, whose works may be said to hold a middle station between the true and the sentimental in fictitious composition. Shortly afterwards succeeded the political tales of Holcroft and Godwin, the latter animated by the fire of genius, and possessing great intellectual power and energy.
9. The romantic fables of Mrs. RadclifTe were also, as literary productions, a vast improvement on the old novels; and in their moral effects they were less mischievous, for the extraordinary machinery employed by the authoress was so far removed from the common course of human affairs and experience, that no one could think of drawing it into a precedent in ordinary circumstances.
10. At no distant interval, Miss Edgeworth came forward with her moral lessons and satirical portraits, daily advancing in her powers as in her desire to increase the virtues, prudence, and substantial happiness of life; Mrs. Opie told her pathetic and graceful domestic tales; and Miss Austen exhibited her exquisite delineations of every-day English society and character.
11. To crown all, Sir Walter Scott commenced, in 1814, his brilliant gallery of portraits of all classes, living and historical, which completely exterminated the monstrosities of
. the Minerva press, and inconceivably extended the circle of novel-readers. Fictitious composition was now again in the ascendant, and never, in its palmiest days of chivalrous romance or modern fashion, did it command more devoted admiration, or shine with greater luster.
12. The public taste underwent a rapid and important change; and as curiosity was stimulated and supplied in such unexampled profusion from this master source, the most exorbitant devourers of novels soon learned to look with aversion and disgust on the painted and unreal mockeries which had formerly deluded them.
The same subject, continued.
1. It appears to be a law of our nature, that recreation and amusement are as necessary to the mind as exercise is to the
body; and in this, light Sir Walter Scott must be viewed as one of the greatest benefactors of his species. He has supplied a copious and almost exhaustless source of amusement, as innocent as it is delightful.
2. He revived the glories of past ages; illustrated the landscape and the history of his native country: painted the triumphs of patriotism and virtue, and the meanness and misery of vice; awakened our best and kindliest feelings in favor of suffering and erring humanity — of the low-born and the persecuted, the peasant, the beggar, and the Jew; he has furnished an intellectual banquet, as rich as it is various and picturesque, from his curious learning, extensive observation, forgotten manners, and decaying superstitions — the whole embellished with the lights of a vivid imagination, and a correct and gracefully regulated taste.
3. In the number and variety of his conceptions and characters, Scott is entitled to take his seat beside the greatest masters of fiction, British or foreign. Some have excelled him in particular qualities of the novelist, but none in their harmonious and rich combination.
4. We had now a new race of imitators, aiming at a high standard of excellence, both as respects the design and the execution of their works. The peculiarities of Scottish manners in humble life, which Scott had illustrated in his early novels, were successfully developed by Gait, and in a more tender and imaginative light by Wilson.
5. Gait, indeed, has high merit as a minute painter: his delineations, like those of Allan Ramsay, bring home to his countrymen "traits of undefinable expression, which had escaped every eye but that of familiar affection." His pathos is the simple grief of nature.
6. In this painting of national manners, Scott's example was all potent. From Scotland it spread to Ireland. Miss Edgeworth, indeed, had previously portrayed the lights and shades of the Irish character, and in this respect was the preceptress of Scott. But with all her talent and penetration, this excellent authoress can scarcely be said to have reached the heart of her subject, and she stirred up no enthusiasm among her countrymen.
7. Miss Edgeworth pursued her high vocation as a moral teacher. Miss Owenson, who had, as early as 1807, published her "Wild Irish Girl," continued (as Lady Morgan) her striking and humorous pictures of Irish society, and they were afterwards greatly surpassed by Banim, Griffin, Lover,