« AnteriorContinuar »
lence, and to give force and energy to its principle of action.
Generosity branches into the virtues of liberality, disinterestedness and gratitude, and these are recognized in our feelings towards others, our opinion and judgment of others, and our actions; in other words, in mind, and language, and action.
It can scarcely be doubted, that a certain nobleness of soul, from which true generosity springs, is in some measure born with those who are most distinguished for this great quality. But it is not the intention of this work to confine itself to the consideration of how natural gifts may be improved, so much as how all goodness may be, in some degree, given and secured to tender minds.
A man must be born a poet to become one, it is said : perhaps true generosity of soul must also be a natural gift. But how many pleasing poems are written by persons who yet have not what is called a genius, but in whom assiduity, emulation, zeal, and great industry, have produced these respectable offerings to their country! How many plants are made to grow in an indigenous soil, and do at length become naturalized to it! And how many virtues, from good example and good precept, may be introduced and grow into a principle of the soul, when such were not inherent in that of the individual !
During infancy, no mother, perhaps, can tell whether this fine quality or its opposite, in mean, contracted, narrow-minded dispositions, will belong to her child ; but in very early childhood the first young shoots of the future character as propensities will appear. The
generous child will give where he is not even required; or, if he should be asked for part of what he has, will offer probably the whole. If another should have finer or better things than he has, he will not repine, but will either boldly seek out some of the same kind for himself, or rest satisfied in the want of them.
The feeling of envy is one to which a generous breast is an utter stranger ; as it is to that paltry littleness of mind, which urges one person to boast of and triumph' in the advantages he has over another. A generous child will not be ever caught pretending to sleep, or using other pretexts, that he may listen to what is said in one place to repeat it again in another; his soul will disdain such mean artifice, as well as artifice of every kind. He will not understand or feel a jealousy of his little friends or equals, or suspicion towards the dependents who surround him. He will be confiding, unsuspecting, open, liberal, and high-minded ; above taking revenge for an injury, and yet preserving a strong sense of kindness in a lively gratitude. Indeed, generally speaking, those breasts which are most capable of generosity are such as are gifted with very strong natural affections, feeling hearts, keenly alive to favour, and susceptible of obligation. The cold-hearted man cannot possess this noble virtue ; his nature is selfish, his soul is low, mean, suspicious, and grovelling ; he calculates, and measures, and weighs before he opens his hand, and he boasts and exults, and yet half repents when he has done so.
The generous soul breaks forth with confidence to the lip, and shews, even to an imprudent extent, in after years, its plans, hopes, wishes, pros
pects; and in return, when a confidence is granted, it believes implicitly, and is roused to the highest sympathy and feelings of interest by the recital.
This virtue, however, is not unfrequently accompanied and alloyed by false pride; for the pre-eminence over other souls which a noble mind bestows, is too often found to impart a loftiness to manner, which in time communicates itself to the being. In fact, the generous, noble nature is so lifted
above those of ordinary stamp, that it is hardly to be wondered at, though it is always to be regretted, if the consciousness of superiority, or rather the scorn and contempt for the mean ways of the interested multitude, should betray itself, and assume the garb of supercilious haughtiness and unworthy pride.
But it is not the individual against whom this scora is manifested ; 'to hin the generous heart is liberal and kind in feeling, making allowances and framing excuses ; the hand munificently spread to relieve, to succour, and to save. The wants of another are forea seen, and his woes mitigated, if liberality or largesses may cancel them. The generous spirit makes no calculation
upon the peculiar circumstances which would weigh against the individual in the minds of ordinary men. A nation, country, town, tribe, sect, trade, to which a popular prejudice or odium might be attached, would be divested of it in the
of the liberal. An individual would stand before him with all the merit which he had in himself a right to, and without the stigma upon his profession, his birthplace, or his name, which nothing but vice should have a right to bestow. When, then, so noble a mind
may chance to look in upon itself, even with the modesty of a beautiful woman in her glass, can it help some slight feeling of superiority, in the consciousness of its enlarged views and noble practice ? It is no more possible for a great mind to be entirely ignorant of its excellence and advantages, by a comparison with a contracted, mean one, than it is for a beautiful maiden to look in a mirror and not perceive a delicacy of features or a symmetry of form which women in general have not. There never was perhaps a perfect beauty, after the taste of her country, who was not in some degree sensible of her charms, and who did not in some way or other presume upon their power: the presumption, however, being small, according as modesty and forbearance might predominate in her. With the noble and generous of mind a like consciousness must exist, and the exaltation of feeling consequent upon thiş apprehension rarely fails to grow into the reality, or to wear the appearance of haughtiness of spirit and demeanour.
The growth of this pride is the work of time; but it begins, as do all other vices and virtues, with early inclinations, and should be guarded against and checked by gentle lessons of practical forbearance. A generous high-minded child is more easily worked upon by mild reasoning and generous example than any other kind of disposition ; but, on the contrary, the injudicious treatment of such a lofty nature will produce more evils, more obstinacy, pride, and haughtiness in six months, than an ordinary child would have been roused to discover in several years,
Allow to a generous soul the merit which is its due, and place that confidence in it which it loves and feeds on, a confidence it never betrays, and there is no exertion which it will not attempt in return; no effort which it will not make to oblige, to gratify, or to serve. Its sense of injury is strong, its contempt for meanness is great; its perception of weakness and inconsistency acute; but its love and admiration, where both are due, are exalted, ardent, and lasting. Perhaps generosity of soul is the very leading feature in a character, and draws after it superiority of many kinds; and among these the powerful and extensive sources of natural affections. However this be, the most devoted to others have been least solicitous on the article of self, and this disposition is precisely that of a generous kind, and partaking of the quality termed disinterestedness: one of the attributes of the parent virtue Generosity.
56 IN THE MORNING SOW THY seed. IF THOU HAST GATHERED
NOTHING IN THY YOUTH, HOW CANST THOU FIND ANY THING IN THINE AGE?" TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO, AND WHEN HE IS OLD HE WILL NOT DEPART FROM IT."
WHETHER, then, a child be, or not, born with this noble inclination, woven as it were with his texture, let us treat him with equal care, so as to produce or