predictions. The first experiment I ever saw of applying steam to navigation was on the Duke of Bridgewater's canal, when eleven coal-barges were dragged along by an engine at the rate of two miles an hour, and with terrible destruction to the banks. This, I think, was before steam navigation was brought to anything like perfection in the United States, and I little thought then of being carried some fifteen miles an hour against the wind, as I was the other day on the Thames.

COMPOSITION. There is no exercise of the mind more delightful or more irksome, according to circumstances, than composition. With me the humour depends almost entirely upon my mode of living; and when I practise my doctrines respecting health, I think I may say I experience no difficulties. Attention to diet I find to be of much the most consequence; but when I am also careful as to quantity of sleep and exercise, my capabilities rise to their highest pitch; that is, temperance removes difficulties, and moderation in sleep and activity in exercise create facilities. There are accidental causes which have their influence, but in an inferior degree, and personal management at all times enables me to command my powers. It is far otherwise when the temptations of society induce irregularities or excess, and the digestive organs have lost their tone.

Ideas refuse to appear ; phrases, which at other times would have fallen into the ranks in order due, become, as it were, of the awkward squad, and seem utterly incapable of discipline, and despair is only driven away by necessity. I should think there can scarcely be a more piteous case than that of an author out of sorts, writing for bread against time. As far as the pencil can go, Hogarth has depicted such a person in his “Distrest Poet,' but there must be as that within which passeth show.” The difference between the best humour for composition and the worst is about the same as that between a salient fountain and a crazy pump in a deep well : the produce may be equally good in both cases, but the labour is beyond comparison different. It has happened to me more than once to receive particular commendation for those numbers in the composition of which I have been the most perplexed, and which I fully expected would have met with censure. However, I intend to avail myself of the comparative solitude of next month to pay special attention to my state, both for my own ease, and to see the result.


It is a great art in the education of youth to find out peculiar aptitudes, or, where none exist, to create inclinations, which may serve as substitutes. Different minds are like different soils; some are suited only to particular cultivation; others will mature almost anything; others, again, are best adapted to a round of ordinary products ; and a few are wasted, unless they are reserved for what is most choice. The common run of minds may be compared to arable land, and are suited indifferently to the drudgery of any business. There is a more rugged, and apparently sterile class, which yields no return to ordinary cultivation, but is like the mountain side, rearing, in a course of years,

the stately forest ; and there are the felicitous few, which resemble the spots calculated for the choicest vineyards. It is fortunate for the individuals and society, when each class is put to its proper use. To pursue the comparison, minds, like soils, are often deceitful in their early promise ; and as a young orchard will sometimes thrive vigorously for a time, and when its owner expects a fair return, will canker and die-so youth will promise success in a particular line, till some hidden defect begins to operate, and the fondest hopes are blasted. However, these are the exceptions, and not the rule, and sound judgment in the destination of children will, in the vast majority of cases, be amply repaid. The great error, I apprehend, that parents fall into, and often unconsciously, is, that they consult their own interests and inclinations rather than those of their children, and that vanity, ambition, and avarice, too often blind their understandings. There are difficulties even with the purest intentions, because apparent aptitudes are not, as I have already observed, always real ones, and because inclinations often arise from accidental causes, and change for the same reason. Where there is a great and undoubted aptitude it must be injudicious to thwart it; for though the indulgence may be attended with objections, it must in the nature of things be compensated by keen enjoyment, and it is better to be eminently successful in an inferior line than moderately so, with a great chance of failure in a superior one. Where it seems a matter of indifference to what a young person is destined, it is important, when the choice is made, to create a corresponding inclination, which will serve in some sort instead of an aptitude, and this may be easily accomplished in general by contriving some attraction to the calling, as by bringing about an intimacy with one already engaged in it, and turning the will of the parent into the choice of the child. Some such course is the most likely to ensure that willingness and steadiness which are the forerunners of success. There are certain useful branches of learning which it is expedient, or rather necessary, that every one should be instructed in according to situation in life, whatever may be the individual repugnance or unfitness. But it is otherwise with accomplishments and the higher parts of learning ; for they profit really nothing, where there is no turn for them, and the time and attention they are made to occupy might often be advantageously employed on plainer subjects. I will instance the routine of accomplishments that young ladies are constrained to acquire, whether they have any taste for them or not, the display of which, when unaccompanied by taste, is a great annoyance in society. A taste cultivated affords pleasure both to the possessor and to others; and if people would only addict themselves to that in which they excel, they might well afford to be ignorant of most other matters. What a quantity of dancing, singing, playing, and drawing there is, which has no other effect but to expose and bore !


GIVING SECURITY. SOCIETY is governed much more by false than by true principles; by expedients and substitutes rather than by sound rules. . When abuse has arisen from the neglect of a principle, it is a very common error to abandon the principle, and adopt some expedient with reference to the particular abuse which is the beginning of endless botchery. There are very numerous instances of this both in the practice of government and in legislation. A true principle, if adhered to, has a self-adjusting power; a false one requires constant bolstering, and every quack has his nostrum. There never was a period, probably, in the history of this country, when there was a greater tendency to wander from sound principles than at the present. The undoubted necessity for great changes has raised up a host of reformers, who think, because they can see abuses, that they can with equal facility see the proper remedies; but they appear to me, one and all, incapable, from the double disqualification of party blindness and want of elementary experience. It is not often that I trouble myself about the lengthy debates in the two houses of parliament; but on two or three questions, which have been the objects of my particular attention, I have read everything that has been said on both sides, and I can say, without exaggeration, that I have been perfectly astonished at the general

absence of accurate information and clear views, and I have 911 often had occasion to doubt whether those who took my side of the question, or those who took the opposite, were the most de ficient. The reason of this I believe to be twofold; first, the want of schooling in the art and practice of government, which can never be supplied by information at second hand; and, secondly, because even with the purest and highest minded, according to the present standard, I fear zeal for some party end constantly predominates over that for the establishment of truth.atib Nothing but the organization of local governments upon such principles as will induce the best qualified there to begin their feet training, will ever produce a race of sound legislators and practical statesmen. It is not in the nature of things that either minister or legislator should learn their business in office or in parliament; they are beginning where they ought to end. They should enter upon their career in a smaller field, and in closer contact with mankind. The minister should know from his own gradual experience, or he will ever be vague in his views, as well as in trammels to interested and narrow-minded underlings ; and the legislator should draw from nearer sources than the biassed and imperfect information to be obtained through committees and commissions, in which information, as far as I have seen, there is at least as much of falsehood as of truth. Our leading men are formed very much upon the plan of making a general, by giving at once the command of an army. To say that any man has great official and parliamentary experience

, is ordinarily to say little more than that he is a tactician in trick and intrigue, and, in proportion, removed from the straightforward path of patriotism. However, the fault lies principally in the want of opportunity for preparation, owing to a system of overgrown government-in-chief, instead of a duly organized ascending scale.

Having wandered into these remarks, I will bring myself back to the subject proposed, by repeating my first sentences. Society is governed much more by false than by true principles ; by expedients and substitutes rather than by sound rules. When abuse has arisen from the neglect of a principle, it is a very common error to abandon the principle and adopt some expedient with reference to the particular abuse. A sírong illustration of this seems to me to be found in the practice of taking security from persons in public trusts of a pecuniary character—a practice, the reasonableness of which I have never heard even doubted; but let us see how it is likely that it operates. In my article on Preferment to Place,' in my thirteenth number, I have observed, “ It is not enough to prefer those who are fit; the choice

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

should fall upon those who are most fit. It is not enough to choose from those who apply; the most meritorious should be sought out.” If this principle had been followed, the idea of requiring security would never have occurred. It would have been unnecessary, and would have been a degradation. But neglect of the principle induced a frequent violation of trusts, and the most prominent feature being a defalcation in accounts, the remedy applied had solely a reference to that, though it is not to be supposed that a public defaulter could originally have been very fit for his situation. The real remedy lay in an inquiry on each defalcation into the mode of appointment, and a demand on the part of the public of the enforcement of the principle I have above laid down. The expedient of taking security has a tendency to lower still farther the standard of qualification, because the principal abuse being professed to be guarded against, greater carelessness as to general fitness will be the consequence, and though the public may be saved from pecuniary loss in particular instances, the class of servants will be deteriorated. They have other duties to perform besides receiving money ; but, provided they can get security considered sufficient, those other duties will be comparatively little thought of by those who have to appoint. They will easily justify to themselves a bad appointment with a good security. But if character were the only security it would be otherwise, and the public would have the chance of being well served in every particular. Suppose a situation vacant where security is required, the most likely person to obtain it is some one with a large family, who, by improvidence or mismanagement has become an unceasing burden to his connexions. They exert all their influence, and most strenuously, to get rid of him, and are quite willing to run the risk of finding him security, in order to relieve themselves from the present pressure. What chance has an independent man, who is a burden to nobody, with such a competitor? and what chance has the public of being considered ? The meritorious are generally too backward in urging their claims, and it is not to be expected that their friends will be as zealous as the interested supporters of a hanger-on. As I can conceive nothing much more irksome to a man of honest intentions and high feeling than to have to ask his friends to become his sureties, I believe that very circumstance has often prevented the most fitting applications ; and, after all, the securities taken for the undeserving, when they have been recurred to, have often proved unavailing, or, on the other hand, have caused the ruin of innocent persons after a world of previous anxiety. There is also this evil in the system, that it frequently induces neglect in those whose place it is to see

« ElőzőTovább »