Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

Joe. Why, papa, we are as different as can be. Rabbits have got long ears, and four legs, and are covered all over with soft hair.

Father. So far, then, the rabbit seems to have the advantage of you, for it can run faster with four legs than you can with only two; and its long ears enable it to hear more acutely; and it has a warm dress, ready made, without any trouble or expense: now can you think of any thing in which you are better off than the rabbit ?

Joe was such a very little boy that he could not think of any thing; but his brother, Edward, soon answered for him, saying, Why, we are better off than rabbits, almost in every thing : we can talk, and laugh, and read, and write, and learn Latin."

Father. It is true the rabbit cannot do these things; but then she is quite independent of them, for she answers all the purposes of her existence perfectly well without their assistance. Richard, can you give us a more accurate account of the difference between Man and Animals ? Richard. I suppose, papa,

the chief difference is our having reason, and they only instinct.

Father. But, in order to understand what we mean by the terms reason and instinct, I think three things may be mentioned, in which the difference very distinctly appears.

Richard. What are they, papa ?

Father. Let us first, to bring the parties as nearly on a level as possible, consider man in a savage state, wholly occupied like the beasts of the field, in providing for the wants of his animal nature; and here the first distinction, that appears between kim and the creatures around him, is, the use of implements.

Richard. Ah, I should never have thought of that.

Father. When the savage provides himself with a hut, or a crawl, or a wigwam, for shelter, or that he may store up his provision, he does no more than is done by the rabbit, the beaver, the bee, and birds of every species. But the man cannot make any progress in his work without something like tools, however rude and simple in their form: he must provide himself with an axe, even before he can lop down a tree for its timber; whereas these animals form their burrows, their cells, or their nests, with the most mathematical nicety, with no other tools than those with which nature has provided them. In cultivating the ground, also, man can do nothing without a spade or a plough ; nor can he reap what he has sown, till he has shaped an instrument, with which to cut down his harvests, But the

animals provide for themselves and their young

without

any

of these things.

Edward. Then, here again, the animals are the best off.

Father. That is not our present inquiry: now for the second distinction : Man, in all his operations, makes mistakes, animals make none.

Edward. Do animals never make mistakes ?

Father, Why Edward, did you ever see such a thing, or hear of such a thing, as a little bird sitting disconsolate on a twig, lamenting over her half finished nest, and puzzling her little poll to know how to complete it? Did you ever see the cells of a bee-hive in clumsy irregular shapes, or observe any thing like a discussion in the little community, as if there was a difference of opinion among the architects ?

The boys laughed, and owned they had never heard of such a thing.

Father. Animals are even better physicians than we are, for when they are ill, they will many of them, seek out some particular herb, which they do not use as food, and which possesses a medicinal quality exactly suited to the complaint. Whereas, the whole college of physicians will dispute for a century, and not at last agree upon the virtues of a single drug. Man undertakes nothing in which he is not more or less puzzled: he must try numberless experiments before he can bring his undertakings to any thing like perfection; and these experiments imply a succession of mistakes. Even the simplest operations of domestic life are not well performed without some experience ; and the term of man's life is half wasted, before he has done with his mistakes, and begins to profit by his lessons.

Edward. Then, papa, how is it? for after all we are better than animals.

Father. Observe, then, our third distinction, which is, that animals make no improvements : while the knowledge and the skill, and the success of man are perpetually on the increase. The inventions and discoveries of one generation, are, through the medium of literature, handed down to succeeding ones; so that the accumulated experience of all former ages and nations is ready for our use, before we begin to think and act for ourselves. The result of which is, that the most learned and ingenious among the ancient philosophers, Aristotle or Archimedes, might learn in an hour, from a modern school boy, more than the laborious study of their lives could enable them to discover.

Richard. Well I am glad we have thought of something at last, to prove that men are wiser than rabbits.

Father. Herein appears the difference between what we call instinct and reason. Animals, in all their operations, follow the first impulse of nature, or that invariable law which God has implanted in them. In all they do undertake, therefore, their works are more perfect and regular than those of men. But man, having been endowed with the faculty of thinking or reasoning about what he does, although, (being an imperfect and fallible creature,) this liberty exposes him to mistake, and is perpetually leading him into error ; yet by patience, perseverance, and industry, and by long experience, he at last achieves what angels may, perhaps, behold with admiration. A bird's nest, is indeed, a perfect and beautiful structure; yet the nest of a swallow of the nineteenth century, is not at all more commodious, or elegant, than those that were built amid the rafters of Noah's ark. But if we compare, (I will not say Adam's bower, for that was doubtless in the finest style of nature's own architecture, but if we compare the wigwam of the North American Indian, with the temples and palaces of ancient Greece and Rome, we then shall see to what man's mistakes, rectified and improved upon, conduct him. Animals can provide for their wants, and for those of their offspring, with the utmost adroitness; and just so much, and no more, did their antedilu. vian ancestry : while man, after having provided for his first necessities, emerging gradually from the savage state, begins to cultivate poetry and music, proceeds to the knowledge of arts and sciences, unknown and unthought of by his rude forefathers, till, (in humble imitation of the works of God himself,) he gives exquisite construction to the rudest materials which nature has left for his use; supplying those artificial wants and wishes, for which it was beneath her dignity to provide ; and while his hand thus executes all that is ingenious and beautiful, his thought glances at all that is magnificent and sublime.

Q. Q.

Pieces purely Narrative or Didactic, require simply a distinct articulation, correct emphasis, and proper inflections; or what may be called the basis of good reading.

THE SPECTATOR, No. 19. Observing one person behold another, who was an utter stranger to him, with a cast of his eye, which methought, ex

the con

[ocr errors]

pressed an emotion of heart very different from what could be
raised by an object so agreeable as the gentleman he looked at,
I began to consider, not without some secret sorrow,
dition of an envious man. Some have fancied that envy has a
certain magical force in it, and that the eyes of the envious have.
by their fascination, blasted the enjoyments of the happy. Sir
Francis Bacon says, some have been so curious as to remark
the times and seasons when the stroke of an envious eye is most
effectually pernicious, and have observed that it has been when
the person envied has been in any circumstance of glory and
triumph. At such a time the mind of the prosperous man goes,
as it were, abroad among things without him, and is more ex.
posed to the malignity. But I shall not dwell upon speculations
so abstracted as this, or repeat the many excellent things which
one might collect out of authors upon this miserable affection ;
but keeping the common road of life, consider the envious man
with relation to these three heads, his pains, his reliefs, and his
happiness.

The envious man is in pain upon all occasions which ought to give him pleasure. The relish of his life is inverted; and the objects which administer the highest satisfaction to those. who are exempt from this passion, give the quickest pangs to persons who are subject to it

. All the perfections of their fellow-creatures are odious. Youth, beauty, valour, and wisdom are provocations of their displeasure. What a wretched and apostate state is this ! to be offended with excellence, and to hate a man because we approve him? The condition of the envious man is the most emphatically miserable; he is not only incapable of rejoicing in another's merit or success, but lives in a world wherein all mankind are in a plot against his quiet, by studying their own happiness and advantage. Will Prosper is an honest tale-bearer, he makes it his business to join in conversation with envious men. He points to such a handsome young fellow, and whispers that he is secretly married to a great fortune. When they doubt, he adds circumstances to prove it; and never fails to aggravate their distress, by assuring them, that, to his knowledge, he has an uncle will leave him some thousands. Will has many arts of this kind to tor, fure this sort of temper, and delights in it. When he finds them change colour, and say faintly they wish such a piece of news is true, he has the malice to speak some good or other of every man of their acquaintance.

The reliefs of the envious man are those little blemishes and imperfections that discover themselves in an illustrious character. It is a matter of great consolation to an envious person,

1

when a man of known honour does a thing unworthy himself, or when an action which was well executed, upon better information appears so altered in its circumstances, that the fame of it is divided among many instead of being attributed to one.This is a secret satisfaction to these malignants ; for the person whom they before could not but admire, they fancy is nearer their own condition as soon as his merit is shared among others. I remember some years ago there came out an excellent poem without the name of the author. The little wits, who were incapable of writing it, began to pull in pieces the supposed writer. When that would not do, they took great pains to suppress the opinion that it was his. That again failed. The next refuge was to say it was overlooked by one man, and many pages wholly written by another. An honest fellow who sat amongst a cluster of them in debate on this subject, cried out, “ Gentlemen, if you are sure none of you yourselves had a hand in it, you are but where you were, whoever writ it.” But the most usual succour to the envious, in cases of nameless merit in this kind, is to keep the property, if possible, unfixed, and by that means to hinder the reputation of it from falling upon any particular person. You see an envious man clear

up

his countenance, if in the relation of any man's great happiness in one point, you mention his uneasiness in another. When he hears such a one is very rich he turns pale, but recovers when you

add that he has many children. In a word, the only sure way to an envious man's favour, is not to deserve it.

But if we consider the envious man in delight, it is like reading of the seat of a giant in a romance; the magnificence of his house consists in the many limbs of men whom he has slain. Sf

any who promised themselves success in any uncommon undertaking miscarry in the attempt, or he that aimed at what would have been useful and laudable, meets with contempt and derision, the envious man, under the colour of hating vain-glory, can smile with an inward wantonness of heart at the ill effect it may

upon an honest ambition for the future. Having thoroughly considered the nature of this passion, I have made it my study how to avoid the envy that may accrue to me from these my speculations; and if I am not mistaken in myself, I think I have a genius to escape it, Upon hearing in a coffee-house one of my papers commended, I immediately apprehended the envy that would spring from that applause; and therefore gave a description of my face the next day; being resolved, as I grow in reputation for wit, to resign my pretensions to beauty. This, I hope, may give some ease to those unhapPy gentlemen who do me the honour to torment themselves upon

have

« PředchozíPokračovat »