Sidor som bilder

poor, perhaps, to send the children to school, who is it, while the mother is occupied with her baby, that instructs the girls, and sometimes the younger boys, imparting to them her own little stock of information? The maiden aunt. Who makes and mends for them, and nurses them when they are sick? The maiden aunt. Who aids, with the counsel of her more impartial and dispassionate mind, and not seldom with the savings of her own private purse, the father of the family, upon any occasion of difficulty? His maiden sister. Who is it, that upon her death-bed, bequeaths to the dear ones, over whom she has watched, and for whom she has toiled, and who have engrossed all the affection of her disinterested heart, whatever worldly goods she can call her own; or, if she have nothing else to leave, bequeaths to them her fervent blessing? The maiden aunt. And what is her reward? Nine times out of ten to be neglected and despised by those she has benefited, and to be remembered as the poor old maiden aunt, to whom every body belonged in turn, but who, herself, belonged to no one.

If to such beings, rich in all the charities of human nature, intelligent, self-sacrificing, a high place in the social scale be not assigned, it must be, that in the present constitution of society, there is something radically defective.


Ambition-Its Effects upon the Character_Literary Ambition

Anecdote of a Village Schoolmaster-Misery of an unsuccessful Literary Career — When successful, far from satisfying - Involves, through its avidity, a loss of Self-respect.

Of all the forms in which the selfish principle disguises itself, AMBITION is that which we are most inclined to extenuate. It has neither the arrogance of pride nor the frivolity of vanity, therefore it cannot offend as they do, the self-love of others. Its intellectual character, its entire freedom from sensuality, also enlist our sympathies in its favour. It is called “the fever of noble minds:” without the impulse given by ambition, men tell us, nothing great would be achieved. This latter assumption is, however, a fallacy: the greatest and noblest results have ever proceeded from purer motives; and those incitements to which we are wrongly accustomed to apply the general term of ambition, would, if properly considered, bear a different designation.

Thus, for instance, that strong sense of justice, conjoined with disinterestedness and courage, which prompts men of a generous nature to consecrate their lives and fortunes to the service of their own or a foreign country groaning under oppression, is, in the one case, Patriotism in the other, a sentiment nearly allied to it; while that intense compassion for the woes of humanity, which, as in the example of Howard, leads individuals to devote every energy of mind and body to the succouring of the unfortunate, is Philanthropy-benevolence, in its widest signification: and if, in either of these noble aims, one shade of personal ambition mingle-one aspiration to live in the grateful remembrance of mankind-it is to be hoped that the Searcher of hearts will hold it guiltless, for the sake of the virtues with which it is associated.

The wish to render ourselves independent, by honest and honourable exertions, arises out of selfrespect, rather than ambition. That species of paltry ambition, which limits itself to excelling in worldly grandeur, deserves only to be classed under the head of ostentation, and the ambition to rise to those honours which are to be obtained by the common arts of political intrigue, and by caba) to win popular favour, or by address to conciliate the patronage of the great, although the ruling passion of too many men of real talent, is at once debasing and criminal.

It is indeed subject of regret, if not of surprise, that the ambition-I use the word in its general acceptation-of the present age should not have been elevated and purified in a degree commen

[blocks in formation]

surate with the progress of refinement and intellectual culture. It may be said to belong, rather, to an age of barbarism, being for the most part limited to objects which bound the ambition of the demi-civilized, viz., external pomp and circumstance, the accumulation of property, and the attainment of titular distinction. There is in it little that is worthy of man's intellectual and immortal nature; little that approaches the exalted place in the scale of creation which individual example proves he is formed to hold. Of such materials, the great, the time-honoured, the enduring names that have been handed down to us, assuredly were not made.

The ambition that sways the souls, prompts the actions, and rules the councils of princes, and often of great military chiefs—that insatiable thirst for power and dominion which hesitates at nothing, and suffers no impediment in its way-is necessarily, of all, the most widely disastrous. History abounds with instances of this kind of ambition; indeed, it is little else than a record of its progress. Seas of blood have been waded through for its gratification; countless myriads slain, to glut its altars; the whole earth desolated, from time to time, to facilitate its march. It has been dignified with the loftiest epithets--it has been deified-yet is it, in reality, the same selfish, covetous desire that would not let Ahab take rest, or eat bread, because of the vineyard which Naboth the Jezreelite would not give him for money.

In whatever manner ambition displays itself, it is the most tyrannical, the most absorbing of the passions, resembling those organic diseases which, demanding all the nutriment required for the body, to feed their monstrous growth, leave the rest of the frame shrunken and sapless. Or we might liken it to the fabulous Upas tree, under whose baneful canopy no flower springs up to perfume the air and beautify the soil. So do the affections wither beneath the fatal influence of ambition; and every other enjoyment of life, superseded by it, becomes insipid and valueless. He that has delivered himself up to its sway, be he warrior, statesman, man of letters, or votary of the arts, would, unhesitatingly, however little cruel by nature, sacrifice every natural tie in order to attain the end proposed to himself. This is done tacitly, indirectly, every day; not, perhaps, by any glaring outrage of the domestic duties, but by failing to perform them. What ought to be the nearest and dearest connexions are suffered to pine in neglect. The wife of an ambitious man has no husband; his children, no father; they may droop and perish, he takes but momentary note of the occurence, unless the loss of them should affect him in regard to the ruling passion of his soul. If such be the sentiments of the ambitious man towards those who interfere not, or but passively with his projects, what are they in regard to those who actively thwart and counteract them? Inveteratedeadly. Thus the career of ambition presents to

« FöregåendeFortsätt »