Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cpicure, for example, has scarcely any more enjoyment of the pleasures of the table, than one who confines himself to the plainest viands. Wherefore nothing is more plain and easy of comprehension than the true notion of mere worldly happiness :—the whole sum of it results from health, competence, the friendly society of neighbors and acquaintance, and the pure joys of domes. tic life. He that has these, though he have neither wealth nor rank, enjoys about all the world can bestow. But these real and unsophisticated enjoyments, which are bestowed in fully as large measure upon the peasant as upon the prince, are too vulgar for the fastidious taste of visionary speculatists; they must find a something that is quite above and beyond the common blessings of life, else they are determined not to enjoy themselves at all. Thus they lose the good, that lies fairly within their reach, by laying out their endeavors to grasp an abstract something, that is conceivable indeed, but not attainable ;-an ignis fatuus, which the eye plainly sees, but which evades the touch, and baffles all pursuit.

The last brood of artificial troubles, which I proposed to notice, are those that are generated by the influence of opinion : I mean not one's own opinion, but the opinion of others. We are such strange and unaccountable creatures, that we are more solicitous to appear happy than really to be so; and hence we willingly abridge our real enjoyments for the sake of seeming to possess enjoyments superior to those that are altogether common to mankind. Now the general opinion of society (a very erroneous one indeed) makes the pomp of show a prerequisite for being deemed happy, or, at least, for obtaining the credit of refined enjoyment; and this general opinion, how much soever we

may despise it in our judgments, has an astonishing influence upon our conduct and feelings; an influence that precipitates handreds and tens of hundreds from a condition of competence to that of poverty.

That apt Remarker, Dr. Franklin, observes; “The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture." -It is even so ;--and it is this supreme regard to the eyes of others, that leads multitudes into extravagant and ruinous expenses. Without adequate funds, they build them fine houses, and purchase them fine furniture, and array themselves with costly apparel, that others may gaze upon them as persons possessed of taste and of refined enjoyments; and by these means they are presently stripped of the very necessaries of life.

NUMBER IV.

OF GREEDY AMBITIOUSNESS AFTER WEALTH-OMINOUSLY TILE MASTER

PASSION OF TIIE TIMES.

AMBITION's thorny path is too narrow for two to go abreast. Each struggles hard to get forward of each; and the one that is foremost of all, must press onward with might and main, else some other will rush by him. He that stumbles is trampled over by the crowd behind him. It is all a scramble, in which the successful competitors are greeted with shouts of applause, and the unsuccessful assailed with the hisses of derision and scori.

In a former age, it was the ambition of the celebrated Cardinal de Retz to be first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens, the Parisians. His munificence exceeded all former example; his liberalities were unbounded. The courtesy of his manners, and the fascinating charms of his address, won him universal friendship and admiration. At home he was crowded with visitors : when he rode through the streets, he was accompanied with a splendid retinue of nobility and gentry, all proud to do him honor; and whenever he entered the parliament, marked respect and homage were paid him there. But there happened an incident that put this friendship to the test, and proved it light as air.

Upon a time the Cardinal was thought to be on the eve of ruin. In that situation he went to the parliament, to clear him self of heavy charges, which his enemies had raised against him. The account of his reception there is thus given in his memoirs, written with his own hand.

“We went to the parliament. The princes had there near a thousand gentlemen with them; and I may say, hardly one from the court was missing there. I was in my church habit, and went through the great hall, with my cap in my hand, saluting every body; but I met with but few that returned me that civility, so strongly was it believed that I was an undone man."

Neither is this a solitary example, nor one of rare occurrence. History abounds with examples that, in the falling fortunes of the great and noble of the earth, their friends fall off, like leaves from the trees in the first frosts of autumn. Sir Walter Raleigh, alike celebrated as a scholar, a gentleman, a statesman, a soldier, and a man of genius, in his last letter to his wife, after his most unjust condemnation to death, says: “To what friend to direct you I know not; for all mine have left me in the true time of need."

But not any longer to dwell on the scenes of high life, with which the generality of my readers have as little concern as my. self, I will turn now to the walks of the more common sort.

In countries where distinction of orders is established by

law, ambition runs in two different channels. With not a few its main object is rank, titles, stars, garters, and ribbons; these baubles being by them preferred greatly to mere wealth, which is eagerly pursued by those, chiefly, who can have little or no expectation of attaining to the high distinctions of civil, ecclesiastical, or military rank. Whereas, in this free country of ours, where there is no distinction of orders, and no established rank of one family above another, the undivided current of ambition is to. wards wealth. Avarice is the general and the ruling passion The pursuit of gain is the only secular pursuit that is much valued or thought of; because, in the common estimation the grand point of honor is to be rich. Mammon is the idol, to which every thing else is made to bend. Offices are sought after for their emol. uments chiefly. Nay, the august seats of legislation aro unhesitatingly deserted for public employments, barren of honor, but of greater profit. Men are appraised, and rated high or low, according to the magnitude of their property. The common question, What is he worth? is answered only in one way.

If his estate be small, he is worth little; if he have no estate left, he is worth nothing. It is but of small account, though he have an ample fund of moral and intellectual worth ;-the worth that is most eagerly sought, most highly prized, and most generally esteemed, is pecuniary worth.

In the scramble of such multitudes after riches, very many must needs be unsuccessful; for in no country whatever, can more than a comparative few arrive at wealth. By far the greater part of the candidates, falling short of their expectations, endure the pangs of disappointment, and pine under the corrodings of envy. With some avarice defeats its own aim.

« ZurückWeiter »