to the West Indians, in the first instance, as an encouragement to them to settle in and improve the islands; but have they not, in the course of time, been amply repaid for their exertions in those respects? The circumstances of the late war were as favourable to the West India as to any other interest; and the efforts that interest made in accordance with the object of the bonus it received, were most beneficial to it, independent of the special privilege it experienced. No interest was more successful during the war than the one under our notice, and the bonus in question did much to prepare the way for that success, but it could never have been contemplated that it was always to last. It has performed its duty, and it ought now only to exist in consideration of an extended amelioration of the islands, and as a set-off against the sacrifices those connected with them may be called upon to make in the furtherance of that object. The West India proprietors suffered by the abandonment of the slave-trade, but that was no sufficient reason for its continuance. If it were commenced for their benefit, that did not justify an adherence to a system in direct violation of the great principles of justice and humanity; and, upon the same reasoning, the lesser evil of employing slaves ought, with all due care and caution, to be considered. But individuals connected with the West Indies, declare that any effort to relax slavery there would lead to the massacre of the white inhabitants, and at the same time ask for compensation. Now, if they are sincere in this belief, we do not see what compensation they can receive for such a calamity. But taking it hypothetically, that some injustice should be done upon this and other questions that have given rise to much angry discussion, does it follow that Great Britain is to continue an unsafe and narrow policy for the purpose of propitiating particular interests ? Is she to purchase manacles in perpetuity, that are to rivet her to a course that comes in collision with the progress of events? In a word, is she to suffer the foundation of her greatness to be sapped by attending to the complaints of those interests that would prevent her from cautiously and steadily liberalizing her whole system - We have been led into greater length than we intended, upon this part of our subject, when we commenced it; and we must consequently defer to our next number the remarks that we have to offer upon the present depression of West India property.


“ Can you make no use of your discontent 9"-Much Ado about Nothing. “ On n'est jamais si heureux, ni si malheureux qu'on se l'imagine.”

LA ROCHEFOUCAULD. It has been recommended to the dissatisfied, not to view their condition with reference to those above them, but to look down upon the thousands who are below them in the scale of enjoyment; and very good advice it is, for those who can take it. It would also not be amiss, under the pressure of any great affliction, to cast a look backwards on our past lives, and call to mind the reverses, disappointments, and losses which we have happily surmounted, -disasters which at the moment were so bitterly afflicting, but which now are remembered with scarcely a feeling of regret ; for such an appeal to the future from the past might do good service in alleviating present sorrow. There is, indeed, no lack of consolatory reflection in human affairs, if we may trust the voluminous records of philosophy ; but the difficulty is to persuade folks to listen to it. “Men can counsel and give comfort to that grief, which they themselves not feel; but tasting it, their counsel turns to passion." The giving advice is a gentle exercise of the mind, infinitely agreeable ; but the afflicted are in general so confoundedly obstinate, that there is no making them, participate in its advantages. Look at that widow so disconsolate at the loss of her husband. She will be married at the end of the twelvemonth, and will never think more of her first man, except as a point of mortifying comparison with her reigning lord; yer, if you should now“ refer her to the coming on of time," and her second spouse, “ my kingdom to a beggarly denier" for it, she would be in a furious passion. When the mind is thoroughly fanatized with sorrow, (and it is the same with joy,) it revolts from every thing that does not harmonize with itself; and the bare idea of a possible change in its own feelings, is an outrage more intolerable to the sufferer than the evil he deplores. There is a deep knowledge of human nature in Shakspeare's remark, “ You are as fond of grief as of your child." It is not till the fanaticism has passed away, until the present ceases to be all in all, and other motives begin to mingle with the paramount impulse of sorrow, that the consoler comes into play'; that is to say, the consolation has already arrived, before the inotives for being consoled are admitted and suffered to operate. This is a mere matter of physique, and belongs immediately to the organization. Vio. lent grief is not a natural condition of the sensitive system, and therefore must be temporary. If circumstances do not change, the individual does; and, out of romance, there are no more eternal griefs than eternal loves. The great art is to seize the proper moment for assisting the organic process; and not to attempt the “patching grief with pro-verbs," before the humours are prepared for concoction. .

This doctrine, I am aware, will appear very heterodox to the idolaters of their own nature, to those who delight to mount humanity upon stilts; and these are rather a numerous class. Man has the same " longing after immortality,” even in his disagreeable sensations, as in the rest ; and to tell him that his “ fine feelings" arise out of an orgasm of the nervous system, and that their duration depends on the condition of the capillaries of the brain, is not precisely the way to obtain a patient hearing. Voltaire, in referring to “ time the consoler," is regarded by the whole tribe of Rousseanish sentimentalists, as no better than an hard-hearted satirist. The anatomy of grief is a curious piece of business. It is not for every body to be unhappy, who will. There are as many modes of misery as there are temperaments and dispositions; and some of them are little better than counterfeits, of which let the reader beware, lest he bestow his sympathy mal-apropos. In some individuals, grief is the result of pride ; and misfortune excites in them quite as much indignation as sorrow. They feel as if calamity had no right to reach them, and as if an infliction were a degradation of their consequence. There are others, who are irritated, rather than grieved, because they are attacked more in their love of ease than in their affections ; and they repine because they are annoyed. There is a grief that depends on quick and susceptible feelings, on a warm and affectionate heart, and there is a grief that proceeds merely from an excitable imagination. With many persons, misfortune is an état. They derive consequence in their own eyes from the sympathy they extort; and they feel a sort of aristocratic satisfaction in the notice they obtain from society. Many people grieve because they think they ought to be afflicted. They are aware of the value which the world sets upon a feel. ing disposition; and they reject all consolation, because they are afraid of being consoled. There is a grief, likewise, which depends on deficient, reactive powers ; on an helpless prostration before misfortune ; and there is a grief arising from poverty of intellect, a want of mental resources, which delivers its victim to the full influence of a single impression. Discontent differs from grief, as a chronic malady differs from an acute. The“ pleased alacrity and cheer of mind” which sees every thing en beau, and makes for itself good out of evil, is a constitutional blessing, more likely to be obtained by a course of medicine than of morals. Discontent is mere disease; and it is a mistake to suppose that the prosperous are more subject to it than the unfortunate, except in as far as the affluent lead a less wholesome life than they who are obliged to labour for their subsistence. One seldom hears of a discontented fox-hunter : and when a man is unusually peevish, the first inquiry should be directed to his liver. There are few persons who have not experienced moments when hope died within them, when the future is covered with a cloud, and the present is wholly made up of undefinable uneasy sensations. At such a moment we are conscious of a hitch, as it were, in the intimate movements of the body, and we feel as if existence were the result of an intolerable effort. Such is the habitual constitution of the discontented man; and those who are cursed with this bodily conformation, are not to be worked upon by moral agency.

The stomach, as it is the first part of the economy to feel misfortune, is also the first to recover the shock. A sudden affliction deranges the functions of this organ, and produces a disgust at food ; while the æsophagus, sympathising with its friend and neighbour, refuses to act, and the morsel rises in the mouth at the attempt to swallow. But Nature, like the Premier, cannot go on without the supplies; and, be the sorrow as sincere as it may, she takes good care to provide for her own purposes. In our worsi distresses, after a few hours, we weep, and eat; and the animal sensations of comfort, which accompany a full stomach, gaining a temporary ascendency, put sorrow into abeyance. Johnson has called all assertion of political feeling cant, because a man never eats or sleeps the worse for a national misfortune. Probably the Doctor never did eat or sleep the worse for this cause ; for the Tories in his day were not, as now, subject to such severe mortifications. Had his temper been tried by a Catholic Bill, I fancy the influx of light and reason would have been too much even for his vigorous appetite. He was, however, wrong in arguing thus universally from his own affections; and allowing even that he was so far right in his premises, that Nature very rarely permits remote vexations—such as the ordinary events of politics-to disturb digestion; still a politician may be very sorry for his country, even though, like Pistol under the infliction of Fluellin's leek, be" eat and swear."

The basis of all compassion is experience. Man can only sympathise as far as he understands. We are therefore uniformly harsh and unjust to all griefs of which we are not ourselves susceptible. Whatever may be the constitutional form which sorrow may aszume, there can be no doubt that it is a great bore ; and it is an abominable outrage to be angry with a friend, and to refuse him our commiseration, because his affliction happens to differ in kind, degree, or duration, from what we

consider reasonable and proper. A jolly, Devil-may-care fellow tells you, in the midst of your grief, that it will be all the same a hundred years hence, and that grieving is a folly; and he refuses to bear with you, because you do not take things as lightly as he does ; while the sentimentalist sets you down as a brute if you do not deplore the loss of a sparrow or a pet cat, as you would the partner of your bosom, One man will tell you that life is so short that nothing human is worth a tear; and another will infer from the same fact the opposite conclu. sion, that every moment is of the greater importance: yet both expect you to feel and act as they desire ; which is very unreasonable. Another most irrational practice is that of estimating sorrow and vexation by the presumed validity of their causes, as if a grief were less afflicting because it is disproportionate to its occasion. There are some philosophers who will not allow that any calamity is weighty enough to render a wise man unhappy. Good and evil, they say, are but accidents ; but happiness and misery are in ourselves, and depend on our estimate of things. But it is precisely because they are in ourselves, and are part of ourselves, that we cannot wield them at discretion. We are not the masters to estimate events at our pleasure, and Providence has given us the mechanical power of changing the condition of externals in so many particulars, precisely because it has not conferred the moral power of accommodating our own disposition to the nature of things. Although most people are prepared to ridicule these lofty pretensions of a stoical philosophy where the greater calamities of life are concerned, and frankly admit that “ sighs and cries by nature grow on pain ;" there are few who are not disposed, on smaller occasions, to scrutinize somewhat closely our right to be afflicted, and to withhold their compassion from the very numerous class, of sufferers who make themselves miserable upon trifling and contemptible causes. Now, seriously, I think these amateurs of misfortune may “look upon themselves as very ill-treated gentlemen;" for I know no persons more deeply to be pitied than those who are born with a natural turn to be discontented, and who are perpetually either miserable or enraged at a succession of accidents, which to others more happily organized appear unworthy of notice, or, at least, as being very bearable. Is it a trilling evil to be cut off from so large a portion of the world's delight? or is life so tedious that we can afford to pass the greater part of it in a fever of disagreeable sensa. tions? I do not know, indeed, whether, all things considered, the greater afflictions are not more tolerable in their own nature, than the disappointment of those frivolous desires which make up so large a part of our ordinary existence. The heavier evils of life are rare, whereas the petty annoyances are of daily and hourly occurrence; besides, there is a dignity in great sorrows which materially assists in their proper sustentation. To judge from the average mass of mankind, the greatest calamities are not those which produce the greatest disturbance of equanimity. No one laments very heavily the greatest of all misfortunes-inevitable ignorance! The learned are not even conscious of it, though, in them, it is more mischievous and destructive than the abecedarian ignorance of the uncultivated. Few, even of the most destitute poor, are permanently unhappy at the terrible blank they have drawn in the lottery of life; and among the many individuals who daily encounter the more formidable evil of a sudden reverse of fortune, it would be difficult to cite a dozen remarkable suicides. The loss of friends is an event so much in the common course of nature, that the grief it occasions seldom outlasts the season which etiquette has marked out for the inky semblance of mourning. In some instances, the place of the deceased is supplied by new connexions; in others, more adequately still, by a good fat legacy. There is much virtue in your fat legacy. If, now and then, the death of a friend does leave a void in the heart, the regret seldom continues sufficiently poignant to embitter existence, except in the morbidly sensitive and the unoccupied. It is with friends as with mistresses ; " there was not any inan died in his own person, videlicet, in a love cause.” As for remorse, though conscience is said to be but little fertile in resources, and its wounds are considered by some moralists as leaving a painful cicatrix behind them-though La Bruyere affirms that "there are a thousand consolations for an honest man, but none to mitigate the agony of a villain ;" yet, in the face of these authorities, I affirm that remorse is a misery belonging almost exclusively to melodramas. No villain, out of black and scarlet, nowa-days, starts at any apprehension, save that of a Bow-street officer. In the present state of society, there are few great criminals who are not also great fools, and fools cannot feel. The countenances of murderers almost uniformly exbibit the most unequivocal traces of a deficient sensibility; and the same may be remarked, in a less degree, of the habitual rogues and vagabonds, who are brought into jeopardy by “ keeping bad company," and a life of idleness and debauchery. To talk, therefore, of remorse, is to talk of a nonentity.

It is clearly, then, a childish weakness to waste one's sympathies on those sufferers who have any thing serious to complain of. The griefs which arise from our capricious judgments of externals, from idle hopes and fears, from the futility of our pursuits, or the effeminacy of our feelings, are much more pregnant sources of misery, and merit our most tender compassion. A man loses his wife, and, if he be of a fond disposition, loses his senses along with her. Well, he cries for a week, sighs for a month, looks grave for a quarter, and there's an end of the matter. Such a misfortune cannot possibly happen to him above twice or three times in his life. · But the man who is made unhappy by a bad dinner lives in a perpetual fever. The Devil, who is entrusted by Providence with the especial fabric of bad cooks, is a most industrious workman; and if the voluptuary has the good luck to fall upon a real cordon bleu, still the soot will one day fall into the soup; the fish will, on another, get a bubble too much ; or the venison be either tough or downright putrid; or, if none of these accidents happen to disturb his tranquillity, a fit of indigestion or of satiety will as effectually do the busi: ness. Epictetus, and such other “writers of receipts,"* think that they have made out a good case against the discontented when they have established the vanity of their vexations ; but they entirely overlook that, if a sorrow be real, the cause which produces it must have been adequate to that effect. The scale turns as effectually with a grain as with an hundred weight. If the Sybarites were discomposed by “the crumpling of the roses" on which they reclined, the fact only proves that they had delicate skins; and the Spartan, who might have ridiculed their

* Love for Love.

« ElőzőTovább »