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to preserve it : for neglect, in either case, will draw a train of evils too complicated to describe, too many to enumerate. The fairest and best examples of liberal practice, and generous sentiments, will make an impression on the ungifted soul, and serve as nourishment to the germs of this lofty virtue in the endued one. Every person whose interested views, we cannot but suspect, or whose meanness of senti. ment we know and cannot but despise, should be banished the society of children, in whom we would plant, or cultivate, the love for all that is great and good. Where children are to give, they should be encouraged; not by word, but indirectly by example, to do so freely and nobly. A command would immediately produce opposition; besides which, the giving it would destroy the very principle of generosity, which consists in the voluntary impulse immediately producing the act. Jealousy and envy are unknown to the naturally generous child; we must so act as never to afford the smallest opportunity for their appearance in the disposition to which generosity is only a graft. We must be as tender of the quality, when we imagine it to be but slightly fixed in the soul, as we should be of a limb of the body which has been fractured, and is only beginning to knit together.
Liberality is seen, or not, in the opinions we form of others. Children, above all, are apt tq decide hastily, and to pronounce decidedly. In doing so, however, they often copy the parent, or those near them. They feel suspicious of one; displeased with another; mistrustful of a third; disposed to ridicule
a fourth. How ill do such manners or feelings accord with the simplicity, and unguarded natural confidence of tender years! If we find ill-nature, suspicion, satire, and illiberality in childhood, where, alas! must we look for the opposite and beautiful qualities of this early season of existence ? Let us, then, teach our children by example, to be cautious in determin. ing whether they like or dislike, approve or disapprove of any one. An ungenerous sentiment should never be uttered before them; nor should they know by example what an ungenerous act is. Infancy or childhood will not afford time to make uncertain experiment or run any risk. The minds and the bodies of children are hardening and forming daily; impressions, and sentiment, and opinion, and peculiarity, and inclinations, are all fixing into character. Not a moment is to be lost in making sure of all that we are convinced, upon reflection, it is of importance to secure; for if the opportunity for doing so be allowed to pass by, we may seek again for it, but in vain.
Disinterestedness, a fine attribute of generosity, is not however usually seen to belong to childhood : for children are said to be naturally selfish. How far this defect may be produced by their education, or rather by the want of attention and proper culture, cannot now be inquired into; but it is a subject worthy of inquiry. Certain it is, that children who are most pampered and indulged, and who hereby are taught to think most upon their own gratification, have the least disinterestedness; that the liberally disposed but spoiled child has always some portion of this quality, though it be uncertain in its appearance,
and capricious in its objects; but that the well-trained, generous child has a soul, a heart, and a hand, even in his tenderest years, for the most engaging practice of this virtue. If disinterestedness is the being superior to private interest, such a child may almost always be seen to act from such motives. If a cake, or apple, or other nicety is given him, he will hold it in his little hand, or run away to give it to his sister, or his friend, or his favourite maid. If he is desired to eat it, he says, “ One for sister, too,” or for the servant, mentioning her name. Should this child be taken to see any sight, or to walk in a pleasant garden, or meadow, he seems uneasy and unhappy unless his relative or friends share the same pleasure with him. He will go and fetch papa, or sister, or the maid, he says, and quickly runs away to gratify his noble nature. If he see one shiver with cold, his little fingers are ready to tear the fur tippet from his own generous breast for a covering.
Whatever kind act is proposed, this delightful, though rare character of infancy, is all anxiety, ardour, and wishfulness to assist in it. If a poor person is ordered food, he must carry the bread, or the cup; or if poverty is to be supplied with clothing, our little cherub must, forsooth, be indulged by having to carry the hat, or the coat, or the shoes ; his own from his feet, whilst he himself went barefoot, would be the same to him, if he could only accomplish his fine purpose. Oh, if there be a bewitching virtue, it is this. A greater there is, for truth stands supreme over every other ; but one more fascinating, more endearing to human nature, there is not.
And yet this, too, generosity, nobleness of mind, and disinterestedness, may wander into extremes, and enter within the pale of imprudence and error. Well, then, what remedy ? None; none in childhood; the tare may grow without spoiling the wheat ; at any rate, the rooting up of one might be the destruction of the other. When the virtue is strong, and the harvest is ripe, the world, the commerce of the selfish world we live in, will quickly burn up all redundancies and weedy crops. All extremes of this virtue must vanish, and leave nothing more than the lovely virtue itself in bounds of moderation behind.
And if the noble nature is great in generous deeds to others, how does it feel when these deeds are returned back again ? What throbbing of delight ; what smiles of joy ; what touching expressions of acknowledgment; and what eloquence of gratitude beam in the whole countenance and person of the generous soul, when retributive justice repays its own favours, its own delicate attentions, kind consideration, and disinterested acts! Those alone who know how greatly to give, understand how to receive nobly. The gratitude of a generous man is strong, sincere, imperishable, and profound. His words of acknowledgment are few. He wears the benefit conferred with dignity, and never for a moment does it enter his lofty conception that a mean servility, recantation of his principles, flattery, or a conduct which he could not justify to himself, would ever be considered an equivalent for a kindness done with liberality, or a benefit conferred with delicacy. If he should, by chance, attempt to put a value upon such a benefit,
he would only weigh it against actions similarly beautiful, and motives alike noble. And the bond of such a debt would be gratitude of the most enlarged and exalted kind; not traced in feeble characters, on fragile materials, but engraven by ardent feeling on his heart, and sealed with the impression of virtue, principle, and fidelity. The parchment bond is destroyed when the debt is discharged. The bond of gratitude, even when it is more than paid, remains in full force with the generous soul, and is uncancelled for ever.
Let our children, then, be shewn generosity, and their hearts opened to the excellent virtues in its train. Let them be taught how to be generous, and how to be grateful. Alas, alas ! what a spectacle is it to behold diminutive, helpless, ignorant creatures so ill-trained, as to be left to fancy all things theirs of right; all kindness, theirs by authority ; all favours, theirs by merit. That they have only to ask and to have; to desire, and to obtain ; to command, and be obeyed; who consider thanks unnecessary; a return of kind acts too condescending, and the feeling of obligation troublesome!.
Alas, we all know too many poor little deluded creatures, whose minds being thus narrowed and contracted in their early years, and their whole being, affections, thoughts, and desires meeting in one small focus, and uniting in one small centre, are found to have neither hope nor fear, enjoyment nor care, nor gratification beyond self; whose every action is for interest, and whose feelings, motives, and principles are the very reverse of those of generosity.