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ILLUSTRATIONS OF AMERICAN SOCIETY.'
THE FASHIONABLE MOTHER:
OR THE ABUSE OF MATERNAL INFLUENCE. It was during a summer vacation, that a mother and her two sons were seen taking an afternoon walk, on the shaded side of one of our most fashionable promenades. She looked proud and happy, for her boys, after a year's separation from their home, had returned very much grown, and much improved, both in person and in manners. Though naturally different in their minds and dispositions, yet they were both at that period of existence when plastic emotions are indurating into principles, and when the impress of character is about becoming fixed for life.
It was enough to make a mother's heart throb with joy and pride to look on two such sons. They were springing into manhood in vigor and beauty, and the growing strength of their intellectual energies gave a token of future eminence and success, in any path of life to which their footsteps might be directed. The mind of Edward Vernon was thoughtful and deliberative. He was a student both of men and of books; and with him, opinions and actions were always tested by their results and their motives. The steady intellectual gaze of his dark gray eye showed that he could look beyond the surface of things, and that he never would be in danger of mistaking mere glitter for gold. His younger brother, Charles, was acute and ready-witted, and the knowledge he possessed seemed more the result of intuition than of reflection or acquirement. His quick and elastic step, and his flashing, restless eye, evinced a mind always on the qui vive, and an active spirit, that would make the best of every situation in which he might be placed. He was easily deceived by sophistry, or specious appearances, and his promptness of action as effectually precluded reflection, as his natural disposition was averse to it. Yet in him quickness of observation seemed to supply the want of cool judgment, or prudent foresight; and with the generality of persons he was considered as superior in intellect to his elder brother.
Mrs. Vernon's maternal feelings were gratified by the fine forms and manly appearance of her two poble boys, but of their minds and dawning characters she knew but little. They were comparatively strangers to her, having spent but a few weeks in each year with her, since they were old enough to be sent from home. Charles was her favorite, for she thought he possessed more spirit and activity than Edward. It was for him that she pictured the future with glowing scenes of magnificence and grandeur. It was he wlio was to be the princely merchant, whose returning ships were to be heavily freighted with the manufactures and productions of Europe and Asia; or the rich southern planter, living in regal dignity among his slaves, with an annual income far exceeding the accumulated gains of a life-time in less favored climes. She saw that Edward was a student, and she knew that it was to Charles alone she must look for that elevation in society to which her exertions and her hopes had so long been aspiring,
During the course of their afternoon ramble, they came to a recently erected dwelling, whose architectural beauty and splendid internal decorations had been an engrossing subject of conversation among the fashionable circles. It belonged to a man who had risen rapidly both in wealth and in standing, and whose family had become a reigning one, in the beau monde. Mrs. Vernon pointed out to her sons the novel attractions of the lofty mansion, and repeated, with admiration, the glowing description of its satin-damask hangings - its gold and ebony furniture - its costly chandeliers, and of the dinner and tea service of silver and of gold. She showed them the emblazoned carriage standing before the door, with its liveried driver and footman, and the four proud steeds that stood pawing the ground, and with curved necks, champing their bits, as if they were impatient to bound onward to the fashionable drive, that they might exhibit their glittering accoutrements among their gaily caparisoned fellows. After having tried to impress her boys with a deep sense of all this magnificence, and having spoken of it as a glorious elevation, worthy the exertion of every faculty and energy of mind and soul, she thus held out the hopes of its attainment.
* And yet, my sons, Mr. Delville was standing behind the counter of a petty grocery, when your father was an importer. Oh, if your father had possessed but half the enterprise and ambition of this man, how different would our situation in life have been!'
Charles' eye sparkled with the proud thought of living in the midst of such splendor as was then displayed before him, but Edward very calmly replied : But, mother, father is an honest man, and I have heard it said that Mr. Delville owes his present prosperity to means neither honorable por honest.'
Mrs. Vernon quickly replied: • That happened so many years ago, that no one thinks of it now. People in society do not trouble themselves about such things. He is more sought after, and stands higher, than your father, with all his honesty. And even 'on 'change,' he is one of the most popular and influential men; for as his note needs no endorser, merchants bow down to him too, in despite of all the old stories that are raked up against him. Your father is a good man, but he carries his notions of honesty to a ridiculous extent. He has no contrirance, or management, in bis business, and without these, no one can expect to make a fortune. He goes straight forward, but there are little turnings and twistings, that every body must learn to practise, or else they will never rise in the world.'
After their return home, they found Mr. Vernon seated in his favorite chair, abstractedly going over in his mind the various items of his cash-book and leger. Mr. Vernon was a merchant of the old school, now nearly extinct. He was for gains, slow but sure, and would as soon have staked one half his fortune at the faro-table, as to have risked a few hundreds in a modern speculation. He seemed to carry on his business not so much for the profit it brought
him, as for the interest he took in it. It was as delightful to him as a game of chess to a scientific player. He calculated his own moves and the moves of those with whom he was engaged, with so much deliberation and sagacity, that he could almost foretell the issue of every commercial transaction. He belonged to the obsolete class of Franklin economists, whose maxims were, that 'a penny saved is worth more than a penny earned ;' that the surest art of money-getting is money-saving; and he looked upon the present race of mercantile speculators with as much pity and contempt as he did upon a lottery-adventurer, who throws away three or four hundred dollars for the bare chance of winning one prize among a thousand blanks.
Mr. Vernon had always shown an invincible aversion to the encroachments of modern style, much to the annoyance and vexation of his wife. He obstinately adhered to Franklin stoves, high-backed mahogany chairs, and Turkey carpets. Mrs. Vernon, finding there was no immediate hope of introducing fashionable furniture into her parlors, endeavored to give them as modern an air as she could, by decorating ber oval card-table with all the bijouterie of the pier and centre-table — the wonderful creations of French confectionary, tiny candlesticks, with colored tapers, fanciful ink-stands, never io be desecrated by ink — little glass images of cupids and dogs – one or two china cups and saucers, etc., - those curious and beautiful specimens of the fine arts, which fashionable ladies are so fond of collecting. Mr. Vernon would overlook these for a while, but when any of his little nieces came to spend a few days in town, he would take them to the tables, and tell them there was a fine lot of toys, they might have, to furnish their baby-house, when they went home. Though Mr. Vernon thus often ridiculed his wife's folly, and restricted her extravagance within prescribed limits, yet he was a kind and indulgent husband, in gratifying her every reasonable wish, and in many respects permitted her to have too much of her own will. Like many men, devoted to business, he left the whole control and gui. dance of their children to her care and management. She selected their schools, directed them in the choice of their associates, and tried to mould their tastes and opinions to her own. Her husband thought he performed his part, if he gave them money to purchase their books, and paid their school-bills as soon as they were presented. Mrs. Vernon had all the fashionable predilection for boarding-schools, and as soon as her two sons and her only daughter had passed the tender years of infancy, they were successively exported to the academies patronized by the first circles. To her morning visitors she would sament their separation from her, and would add, with all the heroic self-sacrifice of a Spartan mother, that she was willing to give up her own feelings for their advantage. The Hindoo mother stifles her maternal emotions, and throws her babe into the waters of the Ganges, that she may gain the favor of her god, and secure the eternal happiness of her infant; but the fashionable mother casts her child from the sanctuary of home and its affections, to the cold and rigid government of strangers, that it may be prepared to 'strut its hour' upon the world's theatre.
Mr. Vernon, though naturally silent and reserved, was an affectionate father. The absence of his dear boys was painfully felt; but when his darling Alice was sent away from him, he thought it was too hard for him to bear. He remonstrated with his wife, but finally gave a forced submission to her arguments, and devoted himself more assiduously than ever to his business. He often sighed, when he returned to his silent and solitary dwelling, after his day's sojourn in his counting-room. The glad voices of his beautiful boys, the sweet tones of his loving Alice, as she uttered her delight at seeing him, and shaking back her sunny brown curls, came with bounding steps to meet him, those charms that made his home so attractive, were now all riven away, and there was nothing left to wean him from the life-wearing intensity of his devotion to business. The return of his children, at their periodical vacations, was to him a season of rare and highly-prized enjoyment. He was proud of his boys, and felt happy to see them around him; but when he folded his loved Alice to his heart, and held her little hand in his, he almost forgot that he was a merchant.
Mr. Vernon was very much gratified by the evident improvement of his sons, and by their manly appearance; and on their present visit, he took as much pleasure in introducing them to his mercantile friends, as his wife did in exhibiting them to her fashionable ones. When Edward and Charles returned from their walk, and entered the room with their mother, Mr. Vernon roused from his abstraction, and affectionately grasped the hand of each. Then turning to his wife, he said : My dear, your boarding-school system has, I acknowledge, been of service to our boys, for it is probable they would not have been as noble and manly-looking fellows as they now are, if they had been all this time tied to your apron-string, or had had a mother to run to in every difficulty. But I am afraid its effects will not be as favorable upon Alice ; for I fancied I saw two or three fashionable affectations about her, when she was last at home. God forbid, that my artless, warm-hearted Alice should ever be turned into a modern. fine lady! If I thought there was any probability of her becoming corrupted into that artificial, senseless automaton, I would immediately iake her from her boarding-school, and send her to rusticate among her cousins, that she might be herself again. It would almost break my heart to see her a fashionable woman.
• You must recollect, Mr, Vernon,' replied his wife, that Alice is no longer a mere child. It is time that her manners should begin to be formed. She is almost twelve years of age. Mrs. Davenant pays more attention to the manners of her pupils than to any thing else, and it was for that reason, that I gave her school the preference. The young ladies under her tuition are always admired for their finished elegance of demeanor. She is so successful in her training, that she can make all equally polished and graceful; and every one who has been her scholar, is remarked in society as having been one of Mrs. Davenant's pupils. An awkward, blushing school-girl is never found in her little band ; and even the youngest among them have as much ease as if they had been in company for years.
Very desirable, certainly! — to be known as a member of the Davenant corps. She must be a fine-drill-sergeant — and what a rare captain she would make! • Young ladies, attention! Heads