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XIV. On the Power of Custom.-SPECTATOR.
THERE is not a common saying which has a better turn of sense in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that custom is second nature.It is, indeed, able to form the man anew, and give him inclinations and capacities altogether different from those he was born with. A person who is addicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at first, by degrees contracts so strong an inclination towards it, and gives himself up so entirely to it, that it seems the only end of his being. The love of a retired or busy life will grow upon a man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has been forsome time disused. Nay, a man may smoke, or drink, or take snuff, till he is unable to pass away his time without it; not to mention how our delight in any particular study, art, or science, rises and improves, in proportion to the application which we bestow upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise, becomes at length an entertainment. Our employments are changed into diversions. The mind grows fond of those actions it is accustomed to, and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which it has been used to walk.
If we consider, attentively, this property of human nature, it must instruct us in very fine moralities. In the first place, I would have no man discouraged with that kind of life, or series of action, in which the choice of others, or his own necessities may have engaged him. It may, perhaps, be disagreeable to him at first; but use and application will certainly render it not only less painful, but pleasing and satisfactory.
In the second place, I would recommend to every one the admirable precept which Pithagoras is said to have given to his disciples, and which that philosopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon; "Pitch upon that course of life which is the most cxcellent, and custom will render it the most delightful." Men, whose circumstances will permit them to choose their own way of life, are inexcusable, if they do not
pursue that which their judgment tells them is the most laudable. The voice of reason is more to be regarded than the bent of any present inclination, since, by the rule above mentioned, inclination will, at length, come over to reason, though we can never force reason to comply with inclination.
In the third place, this observation may teach the most sensual and irreligious man, to overlook those hardships and difficulties, which are apt to discourage him from the prosecution of a virtuous life. "The Gods," says Hesiod, "have placed labor before virtue; the way to her is at first rough and difficult, but grows more smooth and easy the farther you advance in it." The man who proceeds in it with steadiness and resolution, will in a little time find that "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace."
To enforce this consideration, we may further observe that the practice of religion will not only be attended with that pleasure, which naturally accompanies those actions to which we are habituated; but with those supernumerary joys of heart, that rise from the consciousness of such a pleasure, from the satisfaction of acting up to the dictates of reason, and from the prospect of an happy immortality.
in the fourth place, we may learn from this observation, which we have made on the mind of man, to take particular care, when we are once settled in a regular course of life, how we too frequently indulge ourselves in any the most innocent diversions and entertainments; since the mind may insensibly fall off from the relish of virtuous actions, and by degrees, exchange that pleasure which it takes in the performance of its duty, for delights of a much more inferior and unprofitable nature.
The last use which I shall make of this remarkable property in human nature, of being delighted with those actions to which it is accustomed, is, to show how absolutely necessary it is for us to gain habits of virtue in this life, if we would enjoy the pleasures of the next.The state of bliss we call Heaven, will not be capable of affecting those minds which are not thus qualified for it; we must in this world gain a relish of truth and
virtue, if we would be able to taste that knowledge and perfection which are to make us happy in the next.The seeds of those spiritual joys and raptures which are to rise up and flourish in the soul to all eternity, must be planted in it during this its present state of probation. In short, heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life.
PEDANTRY, in the common sense of the word, nieans an absurd ostentation of learning, and stiffness of phraseology, proceeding from a misguided knowledge of books and a total ignorance of men.
But I have often thought, that we might extend its signification a good deal farther; and in general, apply it to that failing, which disposes a person to obtrude upon others, subjects of conversation relating to his own business, studies or amusements.
In this sense of the phrase, we should find pedants in every character and condition of life. Instead of a black coat and a plain shirt, we should often see pedantry ap pear in an embroidered suit and Brussels lace; instead of being bedaubed with snuff, we should find it breathing perfumes; and, in place of a book worm, crawling through the gloomy cloisters of an university, we should mark it in the state of a gilded butterfly, buzzing through the gay region of the drawing room.
Robert Daisy, Esq. is a pedant of this last kind.When he tells you that his ruffles cost twenty guineas a pair; that his buttons were the first of the kind, made by one of the most eminent artists in Birmingham; that his buckles were procured by means of a friend at Paris, and are the exact pattern of those worn by the Compte d'Artois; that the loop of his hat was of his own contrivance, and has set the fashion to half a dozen of the finest fellows in town: When he descants on all these particulars, with that smile of self complacency which sits forever on his cheek, he is as much a pedant as his quondam tutor, who recites verses from Pindar, tells stories out of Herodotus, and talks for an hour on the energy of the Greck particles.
But Mr. Daisy is struck dumb by the approach of his brother, Sir Thomas, whose pedantry goes a pitch higher, and pours out all the intelligence of France and Italy, whence the young baronet is just returned, after a tour of fifteen months over all the kingdoms of the continent. Talk of music, he cuts you short with the history of the first singer in Naples; of painting, he runs you down with the description of the gallery atFlorence; of architecture, he overwhelms you with the dimensions of St. Peter's, or the great church at Antwerp, or, if you leave the province of art altogether, and introduce the name of a river or hill, he instantly deluges you with the Rhine, or makes you dizzy with the height of Ena, or Mont Blanc.
Miss will have no difficulty of owning her great aunt to be a pedant, when she talks all the time of dinner, on the composition of the pudding, or the seasoning of the mince pies; or enters into a disquisition on the figure of the damask tablecloth, with a word or two on the thrift of making one's own linen; but the young lady will be surprised when I inform her, that her own history of last Thursday's assembly, with the episode of Lady D's feather, and the digression to the qualities of Mr. Frize zle, the hairdresser, was also a piece of downright pedantry.
Mrs. Caudle is guilty of the same weakness, when she recounts the numberless witticisms of her daughter Emma, describes the droll figure her little Bill made yesterday at trying on his first pair of breeches, and informs us, that Bobby has got seven teeth, and is just cutting an eighth, though he will be but nine months old next Wednesday, at six o'clock in the evening. Nor is her pedantry less disgusting, when she proceeds to enumerate the virtues and good qualities of her husband :though this last species is so uncommon, that it may, perhaps, be admitted into conversation, for the sake of novelty.
There is a pedantry in every disquisition, however masterly it may be, that stops the general conversation of the company. When Silius delivers that sort of lecture he is apt to get into, though it is supported by the...
most extensive information and the clearest discernment, it is still pedantry; and while I admire the talents of Silius, I cannot help being uneasy at his exhibition of them. Last night, after supper, Silius began upon Protestantism,proceeded to the irish massacre,went through the Revolution, drew the character of King William, repeated anecdotes of Schomberg, and ended, at a quarter past twelve, by delineating the course of the Boyne, in half a bumper of port, upon my best table; which river, happening to overflow its banks, did infinite damage to my cousin Sephy's white satin petticoat.
In short, every thing, in this sense of the word is pedantry, which tends to destroy that equality of conversation, which is necessary to the perfect ease and good humor of the company. Every one would be struck with the unpoliteness of that person's behavior, whe should help himself to a whole plateful of peas or strawberries, which some friend had sent him for a rarity, in the beginning of the season. Now conversation is one of those good things, which our friends or companions are equally entitled to share, as of any other constituent part of the entertainment; and it is as essential a want of politeness to engross the one, as to monopolize the other.
XVI-The Journey of a Day.-A Picture of Human Life. RAMBLER.
OBIDAH, the son of Abensina, left the caravansera early in the morning, and pursued his journey through the plains of Indostan. He was fresh and vigorous with rest; he was animated with hope; he was incited by desire; be walked swiftly forward over the vallies, and saw the hills gradually rising before him. As he passed along, his ears were delighted with the morning song of the bird of paradise, he was fanned by the last flutters of the sinking breeze, and sprinkled with dew by groves. of spices; he sometimes contemplated the towering height of the oak, monarch of the hills; and sometimes caught the gentle fragrance of the primrose, eldest daughter of the spring; all his senses were gratified, and all care was banished from his heart.