Page images

additional claim to happiness in the next. If it be self-inflicted, we may rather presume the contrary; and it is our interest to favour this impression, for however prone we may be to indulge in mental sufferings and despondency, there are very few of us who would attempt to compete in bodily anguish with the Hindoo fanatics who keep their hands clasped till the nails grow out at the back, hang before a slow fire with their faces downwards, or while they swing upon hooks suspended from elevated beams, shower down flowers upon their admirers, as if in the act of beatitude. Ille placet Deo cui placet Deus, says St. Augustine; Addison asserts that "Cheerfulness is the best hymn to the Divinity," and in fact it is impious to suppose that the Great Father of mankind, whose benignity and love so strikingly pervade universal Nature, could delight in the misery of his children, or have created them for other purposes than those of virtuous enjoyment.


Let us consider the fate of this unhappy creature in the abstract. We, whose lot is cast in the temperate regions of the earth, have at least no reason to complain of the habitation provided for us. might have been freezing under the pole, or scorched beneath the torrid zone: this forms at least one ground of gratitude.

Who can place limits to the gratifications which may be administered to us through the senses alone, inferior as they are to those of the mind? Nature has been prodigal in supplying delights, and the ingenuity of man has been unceasingly occupied in con

tributing to their increase or modification. A whole world of pleasure is perpetually streaming into us through the eye, to whose sensations the green livery of Nature has been rendered peculiarly grateful and refreshing. This little organ, like the vases of the Belides, is never filled, although perpetually replenished; and we pass from the contemplation of natural beauties to the study of artificial ones,-from the ever-changing landscape, heavens and sea, to the endless succession of buildings, statues and paintings, as if the day were too short for its enjoyments. When the bodily eye is shut the mental vision is opened, and the same sights are again presented to us, heightened to the exquisite of ideal perfection, or made attractive by every species of grotesque and fantastic combination. What a succession of pleasant tattoos are perpetually beating upon the tiny drum of the ear, from the siren mouth of Beauty, "warbling immortal verse and Tuscan air," or the rich harmonies of song and cymbal, cithern, harp and lute," "in many a bout of linked sweetness long drawn out," to the symphonious concert of the birds, the music of the winds, "the murmuring woodlands, the resounding shore," or that "deep and dreadful organ-pipe-the thunder!" Is there a fish, bird, or animal in any of the elements, or one of the corners of the world, however remote, which has not been rendered subservient to the indulgences of our palate; while earth spreads before us a never-ending banquet of inanimate productions, stretching up her branching hands from the ground, and pouring into our mouths corn, wine, and

[ocr errors]

honey, with a thousand varieties of fruit and vegetable luxury? And that they may not leave a single sense ungratified, do not the greater part of them emit delicious fragrance, while myriads of flowers impregnate the very winds with odours the most exquisite? Yet these ministerings to the sense, manifold and voluptuous as they are, were always meant to be kept in subjection to the enjoyments provided for the celestial part of this lord of the creation! Pleasures of bodily perception he shares with the beasts that perish; but what a new creation of unbounded beatitude is opened to him by the possession of the reasoning faculty, and the consciousness of an immortal soul! The consolations of religion-the delights of literature-the joys that emanate from the head and heart-books and intellectual society, friendship and domestic bliss,-every one of these is an inexhaustible source of joy, whose runnels and streamlets it would require a separate essay to specify; and yet the happy creature who combines them all with the keen though subordinate delights of sense-who is placed in the midst of this transitory paradise under a promise that if he walks in that path which imparts the most intense enjoyment to existence, he may exchange it for an eternal one,-dares, in the blindness of ingratitude, to murmur at his fate! It only depends upon himself to be a demi-god, and to convert the world into an elysium.

"Let us but strive

To love our fellow-men as heaven loves us,
(Which is true piety,) and earth will seem
Itself a heaven."-

That the quantity of human happiness actually enjoyed is less than might be fairly presumable from the above premises, and the circumstances in which man is placed, cannot be controverted; but it is the creature who has frustrated the benevolent intentions of the Creator. Artificial modes of existence, imaginary wants, luxury, excess, and all those sophistications which highly civilized life introduces, undoubtedly tend to destroy, or at least vitiate, our susceptibility to natural and simple pleasures. Of the laws which regulate the mysterious union of mind and matter we know little or nothing: experience teaches us, however, that the health of the sentient faculty is governed by that of our organisation; and as most of the upper classes of society dedicate their bodies to indolence, indulgence, and injurious habits foreign to the original purposes of Nature, we may fairly presume that their minds are in a morbid state of inaptitude to their fair portion of happiness. Tædium, spleen, vapours, blue-devils and megrims of the spirit, are consequently the ordinary characteristics of these ranks,-the taxes paid for their privileges; but they are by no means the inevitable concomitants of superior station. Exercise of the mind and body, temperance, virtue,-these are the ingredients of happiness; these are in the power of all who will submit to a little self-denial; and I believe it will be generally found that the wisest and best of men have been remarkable for possessing the best spirits, even to an occasional degree of playfulness and puerility. Minds capable of the greatest things can enjoy the

most trivial, as the elephant's trunk can knock down a lion or pick up a pin. Cheerfulness is the health of virtue, or man in his natural state: melancholy is a disease either of the body or mind-a derangement of Nature's plan.

There may be many real miseries in life; but the imaginary ones, or those created by self-love, are infinitely more numerous. Who does not reckon among his acquaintance a counterpart of Gozzi's friend Giulio?" He listens patiently to all my calamities, but it is that he may match every one with a greater of his own. Has the hail injured my crops this year, after two or three words of hasty condolence he informs me that five years ago his farm was devastated by the overflowing of a river. Have I a sick wife, he bewails the horrors of ill health, and tells me he has a servant lying dead in the house. Has my house fallen out of repair, he has lately been obliged to rebuild his own entirely. Have I been robbed, he curses all thieves, and exclaims that he has just found it necessary to put a new lock upon his escritoire. Whatever I say to Giulio only serves to awaken his self-love."-Very true, Signor Gozzi; but what prompted you to the recital of all these misfortunes but the very same feeling? There are thousands of people who delight in retailing or even magnifying these doldrums, merely that they may be talking about themselves. They find a pleasure in prating about their pains the ingenuity of their selfishness rivals the skill of the bee who extracts honey from nettles. They obtain a growth of fresh joys by manuring


« PreviousContinue »