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From Blackwood's Magazine.
graphs headed "Matrimonial Sporting," admitted detailed accounts of the raciest WHEN Sainte-Beuve published his ro- crim. con. and abduction cases. This mance "Volupté," he showed some solici- gave the lover of legitimate sport a bad tude for the scruples of those who might start. A periodical conducted on such take alarm at such an equivocal title, ex- broad lines might well strengthen the plaining to them frankly in the preface opinion held by some serious persons that that his book, though written with a seri- all sport involves disreputable associa ous moral purpose, was not meant for tions, and helped, no doubt, to bring it those who were too strait-laced to have about that many people in this country feeling for human foibles. At the same still think and speak coyly of pleasure, as time, he dismissed rather contemptuously if it were in itself a hurtful or obnoxious those who might be lured to peruse it by the very same appearance of evil that scared the others, remarking that he did not concern himself though they would certainly be disappointed. Montaigne, on the other hand, anticipating Helvetius by three centuries in declaring that, even in virtue, the principal aim of man is pleasure, found a mischievous delight in scandalizing prudes. "Il me plaist de battre leurs aureilles de ce mot (la volupté) qui leur est si fort à contre-cœur:" "I delight in dinning into their ears this word which is so odious to them."
Nevertheless, rightly understood, pleasure is the chief object of all human gov. ernment - the art, namely, of making people pleased or happy; and it would not be less rational to condemn religion because of the cruelties that have been inflicted in its name, or art because some good pictures have an immoral tendency, as to inveigh against pleasure because some people pursue it selfishly or find in it unworthy objects. 'Optus xaipeiv, to enjoy rightly, is one of the surest precepts of human happiness; and it is difficult for a layman to put his finger on any denunciation of pleasure, as such, in either Old or New Testament. There is some. thing of insincerity, something unmanly,
Of the two examples, that of SainteBeuve is the safer for a writer in these days to follow, and to acknowledge that the word which stands at the head of this page is one of doubtful reputation. It in the conventional attitude assumed has been too often seen in bad company; noscitur a sociis - it is looked on askance by steady-going people, as if it were a synonym for revelry, debauchery, promiscuous junketings, horse-racing, card-playing, and suchlike.
Towards the close of last century there was started the Sporting Magazine, which ran a career neither inglorious nor unprofitable to the publishers, for upwards of seventy years. The title-page of the earlier numbers undertakes that "the Turf, the Chace, and every other Diversion interesting to the Man of Pleasure "will be fully dealt with. It must be confessed that some of the contents of the magazine were such as to favor the sinister significance of the term "Man of Pleasure;" for the editor took a catholic view of sport, and not only interlarded the records of the chase with annals of the cock-pit and the prize-ring, and realistic descriptions of public executions, but, in certain para
towards pleasure by professing Christians. We are constantly seeking it, yet we declare abhorrence of pleasure-seekers; we profess to despise it, yet the whole effort of the nations is to obtain it. Montaigne, distinguished for frankness rather than sternness of philosophy, makes no bones about this: "Toutes les opinions du monde en sont là, que le plaisir est notre but; quoyqu'elles en prennent divers moyens; aultrement on les chasseroit d'arrivée; car qui escouteroit celuy qui, pour sa fin, establiroit nostre peine et mesaise?"
This contradiction of profession and practice arises in part from sheer hypocrisy, in part from imperfectly understanding the true nature of pleasure, or, as it may please some to put it (though the phrase so arranged is neither so comprehensive nor so explicit), the nature of true pleasure. Christians, it is true, are told to rejoice when men shall speak evil of them and persecute them, and this
seems sometimes to be interpreted as an injunction to make themselves so ungenial and disagreeable as to bring upon themselves the natural consequences of being disliked; but it is certain there is nothing good or to be grateful for in evil speaking and persecution, and no merit in enduring or courting such treatment, except so far as it is a sign that those who incur it are taking a course opposed to the will and practice of worldly men. But even such martyrs are not called on to resign all idea of pleasure forevermore; the enjoyment is but postponed, "for great is their reward in heaven." Throughout Scripture pleasure is pronounced a good and right thing, and therefore to be desired. "I know that there is no good in them," says the preacher, "but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God."
Thorough though our persuasion may be that ours is no continuing city, and that we are on the way to a better world, there is no merit in making our journey thither uncomfortable.
What is the aim of all philanthropy but pleasure in the present? what is the promise of every religion but pleasure in the future? With what consistency can the honest believer undervalue pleasure, when the Psalmist declares that at the Lord's "right hand are pleasures forevermore?" Even Jeremiah, the eponymus of all that is doleful, is constrained to offer pleasure as the reward of righteousness: "Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together;" yet there lingers among certain sects a feeling, expressed in Petrarch's description of the dance, as quoted by Burton, as "a circle of which the devil himself is the centre; many women that use it have come dis honest home; most indifferent; none better." Burton himself, after citing the most furious denunciations of it as well as what has been written in its praise, was led to the following conclusion: "This is my censure in brief; dancing is a pleasant recreation of body and mind, if sober and modest (such as our Christian dances are), if tempestively used."
It is delicious to picture the prolix and erudite Anatomist of Melancholy being lured out of his den in Christ Church to join "tempestively" in the dance; was it moments like these that led the "ancients of Christ Church" to assure Anthony a-Wood "that his company was very merry, facete, and juvenile?"
If we may start with the assumption that pleasure is a good and right thing, one to be desired, and therefore one that it is worth taking some trouble to secure, then it will not be wasting time to consider its true nature and remark upon some of the more frequent and remediable hindrances to its attainment, as well as to point out the common neglect of some of its purest sources.
Pleasure, then, not in the limited, painfully technical sense in which Sainte-Beuve used the word, but in the full meaning of enjoyment and delight, is indeed one of the most difficult subjects that can possibly be submitted to analysis. Seek and ye shall not find it, unless your search is wisely directed. Often it eludes the most elaborate plans and costly preparation for its capture. Equally often it springs out unawares upon the wayfarer when he is least looking for it, meets him with frankest countenance where its presence would be least suspected. Thus the ordinary scheme of social entertainment is devised to encourage that most precious of all earthly joys-human intercourse. The stranger wandering through London on some night in June finds himself in a street crowded with glittering carriages, a constant stream of airily dressed, bejewelled, and beflowered men and women flows across the carpeted steps of a spacious mansion; strains of exquisite music float through open windows into the summer night; glimpses may be bad of staircases and shaded balconies bright with all the flowers of fairyland. To the poor wanderer it seems impossible to imagine enjoyment more complete than that prepared for those privileged to meet their friends in such a lovely scene; and turning away with an envious sigh, he betakes himself to his lonely lodging to dream of delights that are far beyond his reach. Beyond his reach only, does he think? He little
knows! Conversation has been described - neither inaptly nor irreverently—as the communion of saints, but, in some of its phases, it is pretty well disguised.
"Going to Lady Midas's to-night?" inquires a weary looking woman of one whom she meets dining at a friend's house, who, elderly and overfed, finds it a task almost beyond her powers to keep awake til the men come up from the dining-room.
"Yes," replies the second, ineffectually smothering a yawn; we must just show ourselves there, I suppose. But it's a bore; for there are two or three balls tonight, and it is such a bad place to get away from."
Or perhaps it is among the men that the popular aspect of Lady Midas's magnificent entertainment reveals itself.
"Not going yet, old fellow," says the host, "not going into society, eh? You surely know better than that at your age. Look here," sinking his voice, "just you wait till the women have gone, and we'll have a quiet rubber and a cigar."
"Ah, wouldn't I just like it!" replies the other ruefully; "but you see my wife insists on my going to a confounded squash at Lady Midas's won't go without me, you know."
Yet the hostess's object is most laudable. She throws open her house, fills it with flowers, music, and soft light, provides a supper fit for Lucullus all to enable people to meet their friends. Why is it all a failure (though every one agrees it was a great success)? why are nineteen out of every twenty people bored at having to go and in a hurry to come away? The thing aimed at pleasant intercourse - is far from unattainable; for that may turn up suddenly, without the slightest preparation, in a chance meeting on a railway journey or (this has actually happened) in a dentist's waiting-room. The fact is, elaborate preparations are more likely to scare than to secure pleasure. To quote some expressive words of Mr. Dallas: "Pleasure seldom gives note of her coming. She comes like an angel- unheard, unseen, unknown; and not till she is gone or parting from us are our eyes opened to what we have enjoyed."
The nature of the object sought after is not in itself of the essence of pleasure. There is, perhaps, no engine of ease more consummately designed for its purpose than a modern bed, with its liberal expanse of resilient mattress and alternate layers of snowy flax and creamy wool, by which temperature and weight of covering may be adjusted with the last degree of nicety. As a machine for repose it really leaves nothing to be desired; yet how completely, after all, does the enjoyment of it depend on circumstances beyond the occupant's control. There is no half-hour of physical enjoyment so unalloyed as that before getting up in the morning. The limbs revel in the delicate contact of fine linen and the amorous pressure of the mattress. Is one too warm? There are unexplored recesses under the sheets stored with refreshing coolness, into which feet and arms may be thrust. Is one chilly? There is the eider-down quilt, light as a lover's whisper and warm as his nymph's embrace, to draw over the top. Nor is it merely an hour of sensuous ease. There is none in the whole round of the clock when the intellect is so active, or when thought flows so quick and so clear. A thoughtful host remembers this, and makes bedside book-shelves as integral a part of bedroom furniture as a wash-hand-stand or a wardrobe. Yet, to the bedridden, what is this bed but Gehenna? The same sheets, the same springs, the same decorous luxury is there, but they confer no pleasure
Stone walls do not a prison make,
The sick man loathes the very same couch
Again to the student-the genuine helluo librorum - books are all in all; give him a generous supply of these and he is satisfied, he wants no more; he even grudges the time spent in taking food, rest, or necessary exercise; in extreme cases he becomes indifferent to living