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\he bright side, insensibly meliorates his temper, and, in consequence of it, improves his own happiness, and the happiness of all about him.
Arachne and Melissa are two friends. They are, both of them, women in years, and alike in birth, fortune, education, and accomplishments. They ■were originally alike in temper too; but, by different management, are grown the reverse of each other. Arachne has accustomed herself to look only on the dark side of every object. If a new poem or play makes its appearance, with a thousand brilliancies, and but one or two blemishes, she slightly skims over the passages that should give her pleasure, and dwells upon those only that fill her with dislike. If you show her a very excellent portrait, she looks at some part of the drapery which has been neglected, or to a hand or finger which has been left unfinished. Her garden is a very beautiful one, and kept with great neatness and elegancy; but if you take a walk with her in it, she talks to you of nothing but blights and storms, of snails and caterpillars, and how impossible it is to keep it from the litter of falling leaves and worm-casts. If you sit down in one of her temples, to enjoy a delightful prospect, she observes to you, that there is too much wood, or too little water; that the day is too sunny, or too gloomy; that it is sultry, or windy; and finishes with a long harangue upon the wretchedness of our climate. When you return with her to the company, in hope of a little cheerful conversation, she casts a gloom over all, by giving you the history of her own bad health, or.of some melancholy accident that has befallen one of her daughter's children. Thus she insensibly sinks her own spirits, and the spirits of all around her; and, at last, discovers, she knows not why, that her friends are grave.
Melissa is the reverse of all this. By constantly hahituating herself to look only on the bright side of objects, she preserves a perpetual cheerfulness in herself, which, by a kind of happy contagion,she communicates to all about her. If any misfortune has befallen her, she considers it might have been worse, and is thankful to Providence for an escape. She rejoices in solitude, as it gives her an opportunity of knowing herself; and in society, because she can communicate the happiness she enjoys. She opposes every man's virtue to his failings, and can find out something to cherish and applaud in the very worst of her acquaintance. She opens every book with a desire to be entertained or instructed, and therefore seldom misses what she looks for. Walk with her, though it be en a heath or a common, and she will discover numberless beauties, unobserved before, in the hills, the dales, the brooms, brakes, and the variegated flowers of weeds and poppies. She enjoys every change of weather and of season, as bringing with it something of health or convenience. In conversation, it is a rule with her, never to start a subject that leads to any thing gloomy or disagreeable. You therefore never hear her repeating her own grievances or those of her neighbours; or (what is worst of all) their faults and imperfections. If any thing of the latter kind be mentioned in her hearing, she has the address to turn it into entertainment, by changing the most odious railing into a pleasant raillery. Thus Melissa, like the bee, gathers honey from every weed; while Arachne, like the spider, sacks poison from the fairest flowers. The consequence is, that, ef two tempers once very nearly allied, the one is ever sour and dissatisfied, the other always gay and cheerful; the one spreads an universal gloom, the other a continual sunshine.
There is nothing more worthy of our attention, than this art of happiness. In conversation, as well as life, happiness very often depends upon the slightest incidents. The taking notice of the badness of the weather, a north-east wind, the approach of winter, or any trifling circumstance of the disagreeable kind, shall insensibly rob a whole company of its good-humour, and fling every member of it into the vapours. If, therefore, we would be happy in ourselves, and are desirous of communicating that happiness to all about us, these minutiae of conversation ought carefully to be attended to. The brightness of the sky, the lengthening of the day, the increasing verdure of the spring, the arrival of any little piece of good news, or whatever carries with it the most distant glimpse of joy, shall frequently be the parent of a social and happy conversation. Good-manners exact from us this regard to our company. The clown may repine at the sunshine that ripens the harvest, because his turnips are burnt up by it; but the man of refinement will extract pleasure from the thunder-storm to which he is exposed, by remarking on the plenty and refreshment which may be expected from the succeeding shower.
Thus docs politeness, as well as good sense, direct us to look at every object on the bright side; and, by thus acting, we cherish and improve both. By this practice it is that Melissa is become the wisest and best-bred woman living; and by this practice, may every person arrive at that agreeableness of temper, of which the natural and never-failing fruit is happiness.
ON PERSONAL BEAUTY.
I Shall but slightly touch on our taste of personal beauty, because it requires no directions to be known. To ask what is beauty, says a philosopher, is the question of a blind man. I shall therefore only make a few reflections on this head, that lie out of the common track. But, prior to what I have to say, it is necessary to make some observations on physiognomy.
There is an obvious relation between the mind and the turn of the features, so well known by instinct, that every one is more or less expert at reading the countenance. We look as well as speak our minds; and, amongst people of little experience, the look is generally most sincere. This is so well understood, that it becomes a part of education to learn to disguise the countenance, which yet requires a habit from early youth, and the continual practice of hypocrisy, to deceive an intelligent eye. The natural virtues and vices not only have their places in the aspect, even acquired habits, that much affect the mind, settle there ; contemplation, in length of time, gives a cast of thought on the countenance.
Now to come back to our subject. The assemblage called beauty, is the image of noble sentiments and amiable passions in the nice; but so blended and confused that we are not able to separate and distinguish them. The mind has a sensihility, and clear knowledge, in many instances without reflection, or even the power of reasoning upon its own perceptions. We can no more account for the relation between the passions of the mind and a set of features, than we can account for the relation between the sounds of music and the passions; the eye is judge of the one without principles or rules, as the ear is of the other. It is impossible you should not take notice of the remarkable difference of beauty in the same face, in a good and in an ill-humour: and if the gentle passions, in an indifferent face, do not change it to perfect beauty, it is because nature did not originally model the features to the just and familiar expression of those passions; and the genuine expressions of nature can never be wholly obliterated. But it is necessary to observe, that the engaging import that forms beauty, is often the symbol of passions that, although pleasing, are dangerous to virtue: and that a firmness of mind, whose cast of feature is much less pleasing, is more favourable to virtue. From the affinity between beauty and the passions,it must follow, that beauty is relative, that is, a sense of human beauty is confined to our species; and also, as far as we have power over the passions, we are able to improve the face, and transplant charms into it;