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Oh, then, cried I, if bootless all
My efforts to recover thee,
And bring back thy lost melody;
Thou broken heart, what idle care!
Amid the lonely ruins there.
The spirit of the lonely breast;
LIBERALITY. “ Ces services que nous leur rendons, sont, à proprement parler, un bien que dous faisons à nous mêmes, par avance.”—La RocheFOUCAULD.
I do not mean to enter upon the backneyed question concerning the selfish origin of our most generous affections : which, after all, is but a dispute on words ; for when all is said, the benevolent man and the knave alike do that which, every thing considered, they like best, and in this point all metaphysics must end. If there be any who imagine chat humanity gains by that self-worship, which would add a cubit to our moral stature, I shall not disturb them in the enjoyment of “the flattering error.” The illusion, if it be one, is an amiable illusion; and to say the worst of it, it cannot do much harm. But, however individuals may think of the matter as it concerns the species in general, the har. diest advocate for the divinity of human nature will admit, that in it all is not gold that glitters ; and that a great deal of the liberality which passes muster in the world, is at bottom no better than it should be. We English, in particular, set up large claims to liberality, both in opinion, and in money-matters ; but, if the truth may be spoken witbout offence, no small part of it is pretty much of the same quality as that of the French bishop, of whom it was said, that he would at any time rather give a crown-piece to a free-hearted girl, than a penny lo the poor. * There are few particulars in which the shop-keeping habits of the nation are more predominant, (not to speak of their gentle leaning towards bypocrisy,) than in this very liberality, concerning which most Englishmen are accustomed to speak so boastfully. There is a vulgar proverb, which characterises the cozening propounder of a good bargain, as a generous churchwarden, who keeps the silver and gold collected at the church-door himself, and gives the half-pence to the poor; and, Heaven knows, we have too many of these generous churchwardens in all ranks and conditions of English society! A commentary upon this text may be found in almost all our institutions, and in all our habits. What, indeed, are our poor-laws themselves, on which we pride ourselves, as a characteristic distinction of the country, but an organized system of vassalage, a cloak for oppression, and an instrument for obtaining the greatest possible security to the rich, with the
* “ Aussi liberal que notre evêque, qui donnera plutôt un écu à une garce, qu'un denier à un pauvre."
Aug. --VOL. XXVI. NO. CIV.
least possible remuneration for the services of the poor. Then; again, we have the liberality of the lawyers. Justice (which, in the very teeth of the nulli vendemus clause of our charter, is sold in England at a higher rate than in Turkey,) shows her liberality in the guise of a suit in formâ pauperis; and if there be any man possessed of a right to defend, who is so destitute as to come within the terms of the Court's generosity, every briefless barrister will thankfully accept the appointment to plead for the pauper client, which will enable him to show his zeal and his capability to—the attornies. Exactly with the same liberality, physicians and surgeons are eager candidates to do the very laborious duties of our great hospitals gratuitously, in order to make a connexion; and rising young apothecaries open domestic dispensaries, to try " their 'prentice hand” on the poor, and to get in with parish officers, and with the good ladies of the village, who sometimes-take physic themselves. I do not mean to say that the individuals so acting are to blame in this matter, or to aver that they do not perform their office with all the industry and humanity necessary to the establishment of their own professional reputation; but the arrangement which enforces this gratuitous duty on the profession, forms a part of the national pretension to charity; and, therefore, it must enter into the present catalogue of fudges and humbugs. The clergy, for their part, (all due allowances being made for honourable exceptions,) are not behind their lay brethren in this species of generosity. They support all the charitable institutions that are patronized by their bishop, or recommended by the minister of the day; and after having appropriated to themselves that portion of the tithe which their Catholic predecessors were bound to give to the distresses of their parishioners, they are doubt. less very generous with their “ farthings to the poor.” The members of Parliament are also a most liberal body; and, on the eve of an election, subscribe most handsomely to all the charitable establishments within the verge of the borough, or county, as the case may be. But to leave these somewhat invidious details, and to come to something more sweeping and conclusive ; is not the English the only nation on the face of the earth that publishes its almsgivings in the newspapers, and advertises, to all whom it may concern, the pound notes bestowed upon distressed widows of clergymen, and the victims of calamitous fires ! Just as if the founder of religion had not expressly enjoined them not to let their left hand know what their right doeth. « Oh! father Abraham, what these Christians are !”
Next to the pleasure of seeing one's name in the diurnal rubricks of opulence and piety, there is no self-seeking motive that simulates liberality more frequently than sheer gluttony. Whenever it suits a man's account to get up some new public charity, to manufacture some untried eleemosynary institution, he has nothing to do but to bait his trap with a dinner at the Crown and Anchor, and the good Samaritans will flock in crowds to pour oil and wine into their own stomachs; and if, when“ hot with the Tuscan grape," they bleed freely, their maudlin good-nature passes current for a charitable disposition, and they take free credit with Heaven for a pecuniary advance, the real motive of which was far less a sympathy for their fellow-creatures, than an affection for cold punch and calipash. This trap, however, embraces only one half of the creation : the fair sex cannot attend public dinners; and to draw in the ladies, charity balls, and benefit plays and concerts, are a more appropriate excuse for gratifying the love of pleasure. It is inconceivable the sums expended in this mock species of liberality, which are placed to the acount of charity, but by which charity benefits in a very small proportion. Fairly stated, the expenditure should be set down somewhat in this way :
£ . d.
(The ticket being 11. 1s.)
13 1 0 “Oh! monstrous, but one halfpenny worth of bread to all this intolerable deal of sack!"--It is not to be denied that such speculations are “ good for trade;" that they circulate a great deal of money, and extort charity from those who would not bestow a farthing on the distressed for their own sake ; but then let it not be placed to the account of national liberality, and blazoned to the eyes of Europe as a proof of the superior morality of the people. Such misprisions, however, of benevolence,-false and fictitious as they may be,-are milk and honey, when compared with another species of liberality, most especially English, and in which Proselytism “gives ere charity begins.” These only set forth as virtues, acts in themselves purely indifferent; but sectarian liberality is often a wolf in sheep's clothing, and under the semblance of benevolence conceals as much rancour and selfishness as can well enter into the heart of man. This malady in the moral constitution shows itself in the distribution of shillings and sermons, of tracts and trowsers, of foolishness and flannel ; it is marked by all the patelinage and prying curiosity of Jesuitism; by the Jesuit's love of domination, and by their wriggling, insinuating modes of influence and persuasion. · Under the notion of a regard for the spiritual welfare of the village, the Lady Bountifuls of this class become mistresses of all its secrets, and hold the strings of all its little intrigues. They thus gratify their love of scandal and their lust of power; they contrive to occupy a burthensome leisure, to banish the ennui of their splendid idleness; and they secure, in addition, an imaginary place for themselves in Paradise, all for a few pounds sterling per annum. Cobbett, in some one of his multitudinous writings, has touched this point with his coarse acuteness. “When persons," he says, " are glutted with riches; when they are surfeited of all earthly pursuits, they are very apt to begin to think of the next world ; "and the moment they begin to think of that, they begin to look over the account they shall have to present. Hence the far greater part of what are called 'charities.'” Where religious charity ends, political charity begins, which is a bird pretty much of the same feather, and the two embrace by far the greater portion of the public liberality of England. In its worst form, political liberality goes directly to subdue the lower orders, and to keep them in chains ; and, at best, it is but the movement of minds ashamed of the evils resulting from bad government, but without the honesty or the energy requisite for rectifying the abuses out of which bad government arises. To legislate wisely and largely is troublesome, and requires
knowledge as well as virtue ; but nothing is more amusing and more
- “Mere justice suits not with their zeal,
To justify, by his defects, their own.”+ * But I beg the reader's pardon. I am growing grave, and touch upon the criminal, when I meant merely to confine myself to the ridiculous. · Nearly related to the religious and political liberality, and directed generally to the same ends, is that active, meddling, fussy, much-adoabout-nothing-ness, which displays itself in the superintendence of bazaars, the manufacture of pasteboard and paper ornaments, the knit
* Place on Population.
+ Unpublished Poem.
ting of purses, and the fabric of baby-linen-to be sold for the benefit of some favourite school-house, or some fashionable vagary. There is the same massacre of time, the same conceit of importance, the same coming into evidence in an interesting and becoming attitude, and the same interference with matters beyond the sphere and above the comprehension of the actors. There is, moreover, a very pretty commodity of coquetry and flirtation, that, to ladies who have passed Lord Byron's "certain time of life,” is not without its interest. If pity be akin to love, charity cannot be very remotely related to it; and, right or wrong, a woman is never so winning, as when her sympathies are warmly engaged, no matter for what. Even to those with whom “ love's dream is o'er," there is no small triumph in a successful effort to wheedle large sums from the customer; and in making, by force of smiles and insinuation, a simpleton pay a guinea for a gewgaw not worth a shilling. The bazaar ladies in general (however high their birth and station) understand the tricks of trade as well as the merest higgler. God help the poor man or woman whose evil destiny leads him on a visit to any of these rich inutility brokers! It were cheaper to dine at Long's, or to sup at Crockford's. For rich people have no notions of the value of money, (especially ladies,) nor can they possibly enter into the wants of others, in which they do not themselves share. To say nothing of the bore of being hurried from the girls' school to the spinners and knitters, and from these to the lace-makers, and from the lace-makers to the basket-weayers, you are compelled, in common decency, to buy stockings you will never wear, to purchase baskets which you will never fill, and to give more for your lace than it would cost at Howell and James's. The vails to servants are hard enough, in all conscience, upon the humble friends of great families ; but when the mistress has her perquisites also, no moderate purse can stand it. I hate mean, dirty suspicions with all my heart, and always think the worse of myself when they cross my imagination ; but, if I were to die for it, I cannot help fancying that some of these lady-dealers in charity sometimes count like the hackney-coachman, “one shilling for master and two for myself.” This is all very ridiculous; but the matter becomes far worse when it is viewed in its direct influence on the poor, for whose supposed benefit these speculations are undertaken. How many helpless girls, whose industry is their only resource, not only against want, but against infamy, are thrown out of employment by bazaars, cheap repositories, working asylums, and the more dangerous rivalry of charitable sempstresses and embroiderers for the love of God! How many poor tradesmen who pay taxes and rent on the faith of public encouragement, find their counters deserted by the lovers of piety and good bargains, who flock in crowds to forward the conversions of Jews and Hindoos, to speed the missionary “from Indus to the Pole," and to buy a bonnet or a chemise at “ half the price of the shops.” This reflection may be below the consideration of those good people, who view the poor less as objects of sympathy than as the instruments for working out their own proper salvation ; but to such as can feel for others, and who would scarcely purchase Heaven itself at the price of human suffering, the consequence is important. That there is much genuine charity in England it would be madness to deny. A population só abounding in wealth must be