Abbildungen der Seite

account. Viewing such events, however, with regard rather to public interest, than to private feeling, it is possible, that, in some cases, those who obtain promotion in consequence of the deaths of others, would never, but for such an event, have been able to emerge from the cloud of obscurity, or to exert their talents for the public good. So true it is, that, in the extensive dispensations of Providence, what individuals mourn as a misfortune, is productive of the general benefit; and that what short-sighted man is prone to regard as an evil, is frequently a blessing in disguise.

The dissolutions of partnerships may frequently be viewed as a record of human disagreements; though such arrangements, no doubt, sometimes take place from causes of a different nature. But, as human life certainly has its bitters as well as its sweets, we may not unfairly presume, that when the connections which individuals have deliberately formed, are broken asunder, there is generally some circumstance of an unpleasant nature, to which the separation may be attributed. From the number of dissolutions, which are continually advertised, we may perhaps be also warranted in making this observation, that, where there is a power of separation, there will always exist more causes of difference, than where separation is impossible; because, in the latter case, it is the obvious interest of the parties to agree; and that, for this very reason, those laws may be regarded as founded in wisdom, which have declared marriage to be indissoluble; for there can be little doubt, that, if marriages could be dissolved as easily as partnerships in trade, the dissolutions would be by far too numerous for any newspaper to copy from the Gazette, unless a daily supplement were published for the sole

purpose. In one point of view, at least, the bankrupt intelligence clearly shews the uncertainty of human life; for, as creditors are generally aware, when a man happens to fail, it is very uncertain what the dividend will be! But, looking at the matter seriously, the list of bankrupts, dividends, and certificates, is really a very instructive register. 'We here see many, who entered upon life with the finest prospects, plunged into the abyss of ruin, either through extravagance, imprudence, bad conneetions, misplaced confidence, or some similar cause. Others again may be observed, who have begun business without a shilling of their own, rising from their bankruptcy like a Phænix from the ashes, and flourishing upon the plunder of the credulous. Here we see the mischiefs. which arise from the devotion paid by this commercial nation to the idol Credit; and here we may also see the benevolence of the British heart, in the readiness with which creditors sign the certificates of their debtors before one farthing of their



debts has been discharged; a readiness which the Chancellor has actually found it necessary to check by an express restriction. But is it any wonder, that the transactions of human life should be attended with uncertainty, when their security depends on the success of individual speculation, or on the strength of individual integrity? Certainly not; for, while the heart of man is open to temptation,—while his judgment is liable to err,-and while, whatever may be either his honesty or his talent, his schemes are liable to failure from causes over which he has no control,—so long may we expect to see a list of bankrupts, and so long may that list serve to remind us of one kind of uncertainty in human life, as well as of the effects which result from it, and the causes by which it is produced.

There is another branch of Newspaper intelligence, which, in the daily journals, is usually scattered up and down in different parts, but which most of the weekly papers collect together, under the head of “ Accidents, Offences, &c.” This is a part of the paper, which is often called the Ladies' part; and certain it is, that it frequently attracts the attention of the fair sex more than any other. If one might be permitted to account for this, it would not be difficult to do so, upon principles extremely honourable to the better part of the creation : in the first place, much of the happiness of human life arises from that compassionate disposition of which the breast of woman is the native and peculiar seat; and under the influence of this feeling, whatever calamity may befal, or whatever infirmity may beset, the unfortunate of the human species, is sure to attract their attention, as it is to call forth their pity; in the next place, politics, law, the funds, and the markets, being topics by no means of a feminine description, are, from a delicate sense of propriety, not included among the ordinary objects of female pursuit; and, lastly, these records of “Accidents, Offences, &c." are peculiarly illustrative of the distinguishing characteristics of human life. From such accounts we plainly see, how uncertain is the tenure by which we hold the possessions that we prize most highly. By an infinite variety of means we may be deprived of our property, our limbs, our sight, our lives; in a thousand ways we are open to temptation ourselves, as well as exposed to the effect of crimes, into the commission of which others may be led.

But the ordinary compass of an essay is insufficient, even for the hints which are suggested by so extensive and diversified a subject. Suffice it, then, to glance briefly at a few remaining topics of the most prominent kind.

In the Foreign News, we see that nations are exposed to calamities similar to those which befal individuals, and are equally susceptible of prosperity and decay; that monarchs

are the sport of fortune, like men of inferior rank, and that a throne is no protection either against external danger, or individual failing; that a battle may be lost, as well as a debtor fail, and that, as the latter event may be the ruin of a man in trade, so may the former be the overthrow of a sovereign or a nation;

that peace may sometimes be as necessary for a state, as a composition-deed for an insolvent man; that in large communities and in public affairs, as well as with private individuals, there are the same disagreements, the same uncertainty, the same necessity for honourable principle, and the same evils attendant on its neglect. In short, we see, that, whether on a large or a small scale, human life is, at all times and in every place, substantially the same, though its modes may differ, or its form be changed.

The Parliamentary Debates present us with a new scene of things, but the actors are influenced by the same principles as prevail in the world at large. Here are the same objects in view pursued by different means. Self-love actuates the breast of the senator as well as that of the peasant, and we must not expect to find the one a purely disinterested being any more than the other. Even while the affairs of nations are undergoing investigation, friendship and interest, the desire of wealth and the love of fame, are not deprived of their ordinary sway. So much for the speakers: the matter of discussion is more important. The necessity of particular laws, the reasons for and against them, the enactments they contain, the applications often made to parliament on various occasions, the fate of such applications, and many other matters to which the attention of our legislative assemblies is called, exbibit human life in a new dress; but it is human life still, equally uncertain, and equally affected by the dispositions or the conduct of individuals.

The Stock Table may be regarded as the barometer of the political world, and is, at all events, in its incessant Auctuations, a striking picture of human life in general; and did we but know thoroughly the operations of those by whose manæuvres the table is affected, the picture would be more expressive still

The Legal Intelligence forms that part of a Newspaper in which much of human life is fully and accurately exhibited. There we see the actions and inclinations of men laid correct detail, their attempts and their failures, their hopes and their disappointments. There we find men ruined by success, and dissatisfied with victory. There we may observe, that, in legal disputes, no man is sure of any thing but loss, and that nothing is more uncertain than the attainment of justice. From this department of information, we learn the


open in


sufferings to which men are exposed, and the crimes which they are capable of committing; the inutility of laws when men are honest, and their inefficacy when they are otherwise. It is here that the character of man is proved to be that of an animal, in whom it is dangerous to place confidence, and yet from whom it is not possible, and if it were possible, would be miserable, to withhold it. If any one wish to see human life and human nature in their true light, let him examine the proceedings in Courts of Justice, let him trace the slow progress of “the law's delay,” the dishonesty of parties, the falsehood of witnesses, the obscurity of the laws, the prejudice and fallibility even of the wisest Judges; and, with all this, what can scarcely fail to follow, the utter uncertainty of the ultimate issue,—and a correct representation will be seen of what takes place in the world at large.

But notwithstanding all the uncertainty which attends human life, and all the calamities which belong to it, from the exhibition given of it in newspapers, it is clear, that amusements of some sort occupy a considerable class. On this head, we need only advert to the Sporting Intelligence, the Fashionable News, and the Theatres. One part of society, at any rate, seems to be as busily occupied in amusing themselves, as other parts are in assisting them. The aim of all is happiness : this is the object of general desire; human life is consumed in the pursuit; and infinitely various are the means employed to attain success. Some pursue business; some, pleasure ; some are desirous of active life; others, of ease and rest; some are seeking a subsistence, while others can scarcely tell what to do with their wealth; some are endeavouring to sell, and others wish to purchase. Such are the various, and often conflicting, pursuits of human life; and, after all, when the value of it is examined, to what does it amount? Taking away all but what is good, small is the remainder.

The record of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, is a compendium of human life, in which its shortness and uncertainty are equally conspicuous. Here many births are registered, at which the parents' hearts have leaped for joy. But a short time elapses, and their joy is turned to grief; the welcome present is snatched away by death. Take an instance in which this is not the case. Suppose the child to reach maturity, and swell the joyful list of nuptials. The parents, on this occasion, may again rejoice, and may perchance see themselves represented in a second generation. The bride and mother both gives and shares the bliss, and all are happy as the day is long. Butséman is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards," and, in the increase of her family, the hapless mother yields her valued life. Here are all plunged in affliction hy the un

[ocr errors]

certainty of the present state. Grant, however, that such sorrows have been never met, that life has been prosperous and happy, sooner or later it must have an end. The list of deaths, accordingly, presents us with the last remembrance of the great and good, of the wise and learned, of the highest rank, and the most conspicuous talent. Some we see cut off in the blossom of their days, while others continue to flourish till the winter of age brings their natural decay: but to all it comes at last, nor can rank, or talent, or wisdom, or virtue, defer the period when it has once arrived. The only object in human life, combining certainty with futurity, is its termination : all else is uncertain as the gamester's throw, with the exception merely of its brevity: but though the space between birth and death is generally short, it is not often filled as it should be. the language of the poet,

To be born and die

Of rich and poor makes all the history;" and it would, indeed, be well, if we could more frequently say with truth, in the words of the next couplet,

That virtue fill'd the space between,

Prov'd by the ends of being, to have been. The last partof a Newspaper to which allusion will be made, is that which is the last in all such publications, namely, the Printer's Address at the end. The announcement itself shews little ; the reason of it, much. From the course of human life, it was seen, that persons who wielded an engine of such immense power as the press, could not, with safety to society, repose under the protection of secrecy. Such are the infirmities of human nature, and such is the propensity to expose and ridicule them, that society would not be fit to live in, if irresponsible individuals had the power of publishing with impunity whatever their malice, their avarice, or their wantonness, might induce them to disseminate abroad. It may, indeed, here be asked, what must that life be, that would not bear exposure? and what must be the dispositions of those, whom nothing but punishment could restraint Let the question suffice for the present ; and let the heart of every individual furnish the requisite reply.

Human Life, then, as exhibited in the Contents of a Newspaper,—does, upon the whole, by no means appear in the most favourable light; yet its general accuracy can hardly be disputed. Let this reflection lessen the pride of those, who are fond of dilating on the dignity of human nature, and stimulate all to the pursuit of those virtues, by which human life may be rendered an object more worthy of admiration.

« ZurückWeiter »