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THE LISTENER.- No. XXVI. A FRIEND requested me, a short time since, to write a paper on CONSISTENCY. I was well pleased with the suggestion, it is a pleasant thing to have a subject given, when every body writes so much, that subjects are growing scarce: I thought I would quickly set about it, and indite a paper describing the beauty, and loveliness, and excellence of CONSISTENCY. But when I would have gone to work to paint the portrait, I found myself in no small difficulty-fur where was the original ? Had I any acquaintance with it? Had I ever seen it? Imagination may make a drawing, but a portrait it cannot make --and what would it avail me to describe an imaginary being, whose features none would recognize, more especially when I profess to draw always from the life, and describe only what I hear and see around me. What was to be done? I could think of but one way of emerging from this great difficulty, without breaking the promise I had given to touch the subject. If there were such a thing as CONSISTENCY, and I had never heard it doubted, it must be somewhere to be found—why not look after it? I must of course have seen it often, and my ignorance of her exact features, and the contour of her countenance altogether, must be the result of inattention or forgetfulness. This might be repaired, as ignorance mostly may, by diligent research-and I resolved that it should be so. I resolved to listen every where, and look at every thing, and enquire of every body, till I should find my subject, and so have no more to do but to paint the resemblance of it. So I put my pencil in my pocket-and my Indian-rubber, lest I should sketch a feature wrong-and patiently resolved to delay the portrait till I had seen the individual, whom I did not doubt to meet in some of the ordinary walks of society, now that I had seriously set myself to watch for her. The progress of my researches is what I now wish to disclose to my readers.
It happened, a short time after, that I was staying in a house where, without that sort of profusion that intimates abundant wealth, there was an air of ease and liberality that bespake poverty at equal distance. As many servants were kept as could do the required service well; but not so many as very usually prevent its being done at all. As much ornament was about the house, as gave a tone of elegance and comfort to the apartments; but not so much that every thing must be bundled up
in saeks of brown Holland, till somebody is expected worthy to look upon it. The dress of the family was genteel, perhaps a little recherché ; but not so as to convey the idea that the great essential of their happiness, the cardinal virtue of their character, was to have their clothes becoming and well-made. In short, the whole air of the mansion seemed to say, we have not enough to squander, but we have enough to enjoy.
It befell on an occasion, that we that is, myself and the ladies of the family-sate pleasantly engaged in our morning occupations, about as important as such occupations usually are—that is, one was making a frill, and another was unpicking a frill that somebody else had mademone was making match-boxes for the chimney, and another was making matches to put into the matchboxes, and so on. A person was announced who came to solicit a contribution to some charitable efforts making in the neighbourhood for the relief of indigence, or suffering of some kind, I do not exactly remember what. The lady of the house listened with much civility to the application ; fully approved both of the object and the proposed means, wished all manner of success, and greatly lamented that her very limited income did not allow of her doing so much good as she desired. They had contributed already to so many things, the objects of private charity that presented themselves were so numerous, it was quite impossible to assist in any new efforts.
The applicant, who, as an intimate friend of the family, used the liberty of persuasion, again pointed out the necessity of the case, and the Christian duty of dispensing what we hold of providential bounty. The lady replied extremely well-spoke fairly of the beauty and the duty of charity--admitted that she did not give so much as she should feel to be right, and as she should be inclined to, but that she actually had no more to spareher income was no more than sufficient for the proprieties of her condition-she never expended any thing un. necessarily-she wished she had a few hundreds a year more, and she would give a guinea to this undertaking most willingly-there was nothing for which she so much desired wealth. Then turning to her daughters, she said, “I do not know how the girls' allowance stands they are always anxious to give, and I am sure this is a case in which they would feel deeply interested—but they, like myself, cannot do all they wish."
I really am sorry,” said the elder daughter, “but I have given away every farthing I can possibly spare-if I had a shilling left that I could do without, I should think it quite my duty to give it on such an occasion.”
“ I have no money,” said one of the younger girls, but I am thinking whether I can assist the charity in any other way-whether I can take any part in the trouble of providing-of visiting the
“I am sure, Julia, you cannot,” interrupted her sister, . “you know you have more to do already than you can get through. Our time is taken up with so many things—it is impossible you can undertake any thing more.”
“Well, I believe it is," answered Julia; “but this is so plainly a case of urgent necessity-a duty so obvious, that we certainly ought to aid it some way.'
“We ought, if we could, my dear,” said her Mama; “ but no one is required to do more than they can. has not pleased Providence to give us any superfluity of wealth, much is not required of us. It cannot be our duty to give more than we can spare with propriety, and
in justice to ourselves and our families--I am really sorry, because I think it a proper case.”
The contribution was declined, and the visitor departed. I had held my tongue, because I always hold my tongue; but I had been thinking all the time. I had thought it was a pity people so charitably disposed had so limited an income. I thought how painful it must be to them to feel that there was no way in which they could make their circumstances yield to the claims of their suffering fellowcreatures, without trespassing on the expenditure imperiously demanded of them by the proprieties of life. And as my secret reflections are apt to excurse very widely from the point where they begin, and no one spoke to interrupt me, I went on to think what is the real extent of charity that Christian principle may demand of any one. It is immediately perceptible that it cannot be to do away with the distinctions Providence has made, and throw from us the advantages and indulgences Providence has given, and disenable ourselves to support the expenditure required of our station, itself a means of dispersing wealth and averting poverty from the industrious--a limit, therefore, there must be to every one's liberality. But can that limit be within the point where a case of real want presents itself, and the possessor of wealth can command, without injustice or injury to any one, something to bestow? I was just entering in thought upon this wide field of rumination, when the servant announced the arrival of a vender of certain rare articles of dress and curious wares from abroad--things as pleasant to the eye of taste, as to that of vanity, The vender was willingly admitted. Every thing was examined, many things were wished for, a few things were purchased. Mamą bought some ornaments for the table the eldest girl bought some ivory winders for her thread, much prettier than the wooden ones she had in use before-Julia bought a gilded buckle to fasten her waistband. These things were all very pretty__not very extravagant in price-harmless indulgences of taste-the produce of some one's industry—the superfluity the Creator has provided means for, and therefore cannot disapprove. But they were all unnecessary. The one lady had added nothing to her influence or respectability by the ornaments for her table the second lady had added nothing to her comfort or happiness by exchanging wooden winders for ivory ones—the third lady bad added nothing to her gentility or beauty by a new buckle for her waistband. Therefore I said within myself, their words and their actions do not consist. They said there was nothing for which they so much valued wealth as to distribute it to the necessitous. That was not true they preferred to spend it on themselves. They said they had not any money to spare, though they felt strongly the claim that was made on them. That was not true-they could spare money the first moment they felt inclined. Had these people said they had given in charity as large a portion of their income as they thought it their duty to deprive themselves of, and wished to give no more, it had been well, and whether right or wrong, they had spoken honestly; but inasmuch as they said they wished to give and regretted that they could not, their words and their deeds were not consistent.
“Good morning, dear," said Mrs. White to her cousin Mrs. Grey, as I chanced to hear one morning on the parade at Brighton ; "I have a favour to ask of you-our girls are going to have a quadrille party next week--I wish you would let your young people come.”
You know I do not like my girls to enter into those things
“ Not when it takes them into publick and leads to habitual dissipation-but in private parties, and when you know what company they mix with, and when you are sure they will neither hear nor see any thing calcu. lated to pervert their principles or corrupt their minds, it is impossible you can imagine any harm in a party,