Volumes of morality are dull and spiritless compared to me.
Lord Clive is himself a treatise upon vanity, printed in a golden type. The most unlettered clown writes explanatory notes thereon, and reads them to his children. Yet I could bear these insults could I but bear myself. In company I seem no company at all. The joyous toast is like the sound of murder, and the loud laughs are groans of dying men. The scenes of India are all rehearsed, and no one sees the tragedy but myself. I discover things which are not, and hear unuttered sounds—. Whither art thou fled?
Here take my gold, and all the world calls mine, and come thou in exchange. Or thou, thou noisy sweep, who mix thy food with soot and relish it, who canst descend from lofty heights and walk the humble earth again, without repining at the change, come teach that mystery to me.
Or thou, thou ragged wandering beggar, who, when thou canst not beg successfully, will pilfer from the hound, and eat the dirty morsel sweetly; be thou Lord Clive, and I will beg, so I may laugh like thee. AS the little amorous deity was one day winging his way over a village in Arcadia, he was drawn by the sweet sound of the pipe and tabor, to descend and see what was the matter. The gods themselves are sometimes ravished with the simplicity of mortals.
The groves of Arcadia were once the country seats of the celestials, where they relaxed from the business of the skies, and partook of the diversions of the villagers. Cupid being descended, was charmed with the lovely appearance of the place. Every thing he saw had an air of pleasantness. Every shepherd was in his holyday dress, and every shepherdess was decorated with a profusion of flowers. The sound of labour was not heard among them.
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The little cottages had a peaceable look, and were almost hidden with arbours of jessamine and myrtle. The way to the temple was strewed with flowers, and enclosed with a number of garlands and green arches. Surely, quoth Cupid, here is a festival today. What is the matter, said Cupid to a swain who was sitting under a sycamore by the way-side, and humming a very melancholy tune, why are you not at the Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] feast, and why are you so sad? What is it, said Cupid, come tell me, for perhaps I can help you. I was once happier than a king, replied the swain, and was envied by all the shepherds of the place, but now everything is dark and gloomy, because—Because what?
A wedding, quoth Cupid, and I know nothing of it, you must be mistaken, shepherd, I keep a record of marriages, and no such thing has come to my knowledge. Cupid bade him not be rash, and left him. So saying, he repaired to the mansion. Everything there had an air of grandeur rather than of joy, sumptuous but not serene. The company were preparing to walk in procession to the temple. The Lord of the manor looked like the father of the village, and the business he was upon gave a foolish awkwardness to his age and dignity.
Ruralinda smiled, because she would smile, but in that smile was sorrow. Hymen with a torch faintly burning on one side only stood ready to accompany them. The gods when they please can converse in silence, and in that language Cupid began on Hymen. Know, Hymen, said he, that I am your master. Indulgent Jove gave you to me as a clerk, not as a rival, much less a superior. But of late you have treacherously assumed to set up for yourself.
You have not a grace but what is borrowed from me. As well may the moon attempt to enlighten the earth without the sun, as you to bestow happiness when I am absent. At best you are but a temporal and a temporary god, whom Jove has appointed not to bestow, but to secure happiness, and restrain the infidelity of mankind. This is very high indeed, replied Hymen, to be called to an account by such a boy of a god as you are.
You are not of such importance in the world as your vanity thinks; for my own part I have enlisted myself with another master, and can very well do without you.
As the quarrel was carried on in silence, the company were not interrupted by it. The procession began to set forward to the temple, where the ceremony was to be performed. The Lord of the manor led the beautiful Ruralinda like a lamb devoted to sacrifice. Cupid immediately despatched a petition for assistance to his mother on one of the sun-beams, and the same messenger returning in an instant, informed him that whatever he wished should be done. He immediately cast the old Lord and Ruralinda into one of the most extraordinary sleeps ever known.
They continued walking in the procession, talking to each other, and observing every ceremony with as much order as if they had been awake; their souls had in a manner crept from their bodies, as snakes creep from their skin, and leave the perfect appearance of themselves behind: And so rapidly does imagination change the landscape of life, that in the same space of time which passed over while they were walking to Edition: current; Page: [ 39 ] the temple, they both ran through, in a strange variety of dreams, seven years of wretched matrimony.
In which imaginary time, Gothic experienced all the mortification which age wedded to youth must expect; and she all the infelicity which such a sale and sacrifice of her person justly deserved. In this state of reciprocal discontent they arrived at the temple: Cupid still continued them in their slumber, and in order to expose the consequences of such marriages, he wrought so magically on the imaginations of them both, that he drove Gothic distracted at the supposed infidelity of his wife, and she mad with joy at the supposed death of her husband; and just as the ceremony was about to be performed each of them broke out into such passionate soliloquies, as threw the whole company into confusion.
He exclaiming, she rejoicing; he imploring death to relieve him, and she preparing to bury him; gold, quoth Ruralinda, may be bought too dear, but the grave has befriended me. The next day they awoke, and being grown wise without loss of time, or the pain of real experience, they mutually declined proceeding any farther. Gothic and absurd as the custom of duelling is generally allowed to be, there are advocates for it on principle; reasoners, who coolly argue for the necessity and even convenience, of this mode of accommodating certain kinds of personal differences, and of redressing certain species of injuries, for which the laws have not provided proper or adequate remedies: they conclude, therefore, that an appeal to the sword is a requisite supplement to the law, and that this sort of satisfaction for extra judicial offences, must take place, till some other mode shall be devised and established.
The learned Dr. Robertson has observed, in favour of this practice—even while he condemns it—that its influence on modern manners, has been found, in some respects, beneficial to mankind. These positions our sensible author undertakes to refute; and we shall give a specimen of his reasoning: but, first, it will not be improper to lay before our readers part of what he has said on the origin of the single combat, or duel.
The practice is in fact of later and more ignoble birth; the judicial combat, the parent of modern duels, springing from monkish superstition, grafted on feudal barbarism. But alas! Robertson, above quoted, denies the fashion as the writer of these reflections has observed of terminating private differences by the sword, or pistol, by the illustrious example of the challenge sent by Francis I.
This was not, indeed, the first instance Edition: current; Page: [ 42 ] of such challenges, among princes; but, as our author remarks, the dignity of the parties, in the present case, afforded a sufficient sanction for extending this mode of deciding differences; to which we may add, that the spirit of chivalry and romantic knighthood still prevailing in those fighting times, was continually exciting the heroes of the age to this mode of proving their personal prowess and valour.
What, from the injurious hand? Correct your ideas, and you will esteem life too valuable to be complimented away for a mistaken notion. The survivor becomes a refugee, like a felon; or if he should be cleared by the equivocal tenderness of a court of justice, must he not be a barbarian instead of a gentleman, who can feed upon this inhuman bloody satisfaction, without experiencing the pangs of self-reproach, for having sacrificed the life of a fellow creature to a Edition: current; Page: [ 43 ] mere punctilio; and perhaps involved the ruin of an innocent family by the brutal deed?
If, on the other hand, he is really a mistaken man of humanity, what has he obtained? The satisfaction of imbittering all the remainder of his life with the keenest sorrow; of having forfeited all his future peace of mind by a consciousness of guilt, from which his notions of honour can never release him, till the load drags him down to the grave!
Is not this a mortifying, a painful aggravation of a wrong already sustained? What consolation can honour afford for such a disgrace? Our author has some other very sensible animadversions on this first branch of the argument in defence of duelling; after which, he proceeds to the second plea, viz.
As this first part of his proposal relates rather to the mode of punishing, than the means of preventing duels, he proceeds:. Let a copy of this verdict be delivered to the gentleman whose conduct is condemned; and if he refuses to make the required concession or due satisfaction, let this opinion be published in such a manner as may be thought proper, and be understood to divest him of his character as a gentleman so long as he remains contumacious.
In the examination of subjects of importance we are often tempted to overlook the thing we want, on a supposition that it cannot be near at hand. This plan may perhaps admit of amendment, but it is feared the more complicated it is rendered, the more difficult it may prove to carry into execution: and it is hoped, as it is, it will not be the worse thought of, for coming from an unknown pen.
But the writer does not give this as a finished plan: he barely suggests the hint; leaving others to improve upon it, if thought worthy of farther consideration. As to the proposed act for punishing the survivor, where one of the parties has fallen in the conflict, it is, indeed, a melancholy truth, that our laws in being have been found inadequate to the purpose of preventing duels by the dread of legal consequences.
The great Gustavus Adolphus, finding that the custom of duelling was becoming alarmingly prevalent among the officers in his army, was determined to suppress, if possible, Edition: current; Page: [ 45 ] those false notions of honour. The King consented, and said he would be a spectator of the combat; he went, accordingly, to the place appointed, attended by a body of guards, and the public executioner. From the peculiar prevalence of this custom in countries where the religious system is established, which, of all others, most expressly prohibits the gratification of revenge, with every species of outrage and violence, we too plainly see, how little mankind are, in reality, influenced by the principles of the religion by which they profess to be guided, and in defence of which they will occasionally risk even their lives.
When I reflect on the pompous titles bestowed on unworthy men, I feel an indignity that instructs me to despise the absurdity.
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The Honourable plunderer of his country, or the Right Honourable murderer of mankind, create such a contrast of ideas as exhibit a monster rather than a man. Virtue is inflamed at the violation, and sober reason calls it nonsense. Dignities and high sounding names have different effects on different beholders. The lustre of the Star and the title of My Lord, over-awe the superstitious vulgar, and forbid them to inquire into the character of the possessor: Nay more, they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves.
This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon. But the reasonable freeman sees through the magic of a title, and examines the man before he approves him.
The possessors of undue honours are themselves sensible of this; for when their repeated guilt renders their persons unsafe, they disown their rank, Edition: current; Page: [ 47 ] and, like glow-worms, extinguish themselves into common reptiles, to avoid discovery. Thus Jeffries sunk into a fisherman, and his master escaped in the habit of a peasant. Modesty forbids men, separately or collectively, to assume titles.
But as all honours, even that of Kings, originated from the public, the public may justly be called the fountain of true honour. And it is with much pleasure I have heard the title of Honourable applied to a body of men, who nobly disregarding private ease and interest for public welfare, have justly merited the address of The Honourable Continental Congress. Parched with thirst and wearied with a fatiguing journey to Virginia, I turned out of the road to shelter myself among the shades; in a little time I had the good fortune to light on a spring, and the refreshing draught went sweetly down.
How little of luxury does nature want! The wildest fancies in that state of forgetfulness always appear regular and connected; nothing is wrong in a dream, be it ever so unnatural.