Sidor som bilder

kind of knowledge.

Children are so imitative they will insensibly acquire the manners of those they live with. If, then, thrown amongst rude, uncultivated persons, the case is hopeless as far as regards an early acquisition of good manners, and they must trust to the chance of future opportunities; when, if they have tact and aptitude, unimpeded by a perverse intractable temper, they may, by self-education, place themselves upon a par with those who have enjoyed greater advantages in childhood.

The Edgeworth's justly observe, that "more power is wasted upon trifling defects in the manners of children, than would be required to bring about the most important moral results. "Children should never be introduced for the amusement of the circle, neither should they be condemned to sit stock still, holding up their heads and letting their feet dangle from chairs that are too high for them, merely that they may appear what is called well before visitors." Whenever young people are introduced into company, it is but fair to let them feel that they belong to and form a part of it. This will put them at their ease; they will be interested and happy, and in a condition to acquire ideas from any intelligent conversation that is going on. There should be no company manners: children should be early taught that it is equally incumbent on them to behave politely to their parents and one among another, as before strangers; in the nursery as in the drawing-room.

It is to the influence of manners, that interchange of small courtesies and daily sacrifices of little conveniences for the sake of others, that we owe, whenever presented to our view, the lovely spectacle of brethren dwelling together in unity, which the Psalmist, in a strain of the loftiest poetry, compared to "the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended from the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even of life for evermore."


I hinted, in a former chapter, at the want of deference and consideration, which, at the present day, marks the manners of young people towards their seniors. Now, as this defect arises, in my opinion, from an imperfect developement of the benevolent affections, the examination of it may be said to come within my province. Allowing that the aged themselves give some occasion for this want of reverence, by their own manners, which, as I attempted to shew, betray too often, an assumption of juvenility unbecoming their years, this is not enough to justify or to account for the fault laid to the charge of the young. There must be other causes; and I hold those causes to be either a want of natural, I had almost said national, good nature, or an imperfect cultivation of the benevolent affections, probably of both, combined.

It is towards elderly females that this disrespect

on the part of youth is the most glaringly conspicuous. Men advanced in years are, for various reasons, not subjected to so large a share of it. Man's dominion is more unquestionable, more extended than that of woman; age, instead of diminishing, often invests him with a greater degree of power, of possessions and authority, than he enjoyed in youth; and, I scarcely need observe, that where there are power, possessions, and authority, there will be no lack of deference and attention; but it will be the attention which flows from the most corrupt principle of our nature, not from benevolence: it will be sordid self-interest. Take from old men their wealth and authority, their power of investing others with riches and dignities, in a word, reduce them to a level with the majority of aged females, and then see how much deference and attention they will receive from the young.

If the fault lay entirely at the door of the elderly females, and was wholly attributable to dress and manner, the cause would operate in one country as well as in another; wherever undue juvenility of deportment exhibited itself. Now, elderly French ladies are quite as remarkable for this foible as their sisters of England, and yet how different is the treatment they receive from the young of both sexes? In England, it is notorious that young men evince, nay glory in expressing, both by word and deed, an open scorn of all females, destitute of the attractions of youth and beauty. Lady

Blessington, no incompetent judge in such matters, says, "In France, a woman may forget that she is neither young nor handsome; for the absence of these claims does not expose her to be neglected. In England, the elderly and the ugly 'could a tale unfold' of the naïvete with which men evince their sense of the importance of youth aud beauty, and their oblivion of those who have neither." Call it national or conventional gallantry, or what we will, assuredly it is an amiable trait of manners to endeavour to make those who are in the wane of life forget that they have lost all power of pleasing.

The gallantry of the Englishman seems to me sheer selfishness; he pays attention to the young and the beautiful, because it affords gratification to himself so to do. The gallantry of the Frenchman is the courtesy of benevolence, grown into habit perhaps, but not the less deriving its origin from a pure principle.

The contempt of Englishmen for the aged of the other sex is not confined to those moving in what is called society: it is evinced towards old women of every class. I verily believe that an old woman is regarded by many young men as a being hardly within the pale of humanity, infinitely lower in their estimation than their horses and dogs. The very term is one of opprobrium; and this brutal, this cowardly spirit, which wantonly outrages the feelings of the failing and the defenceless, is it not fostered and propagated by the


detestable writings of a class of authors who, instead of upholding the cause of virtue and benevolence, seem to take a pleasure in disseminating every kind of noxious fallacy, fanning with destructive vigour every hateful propensity of man's nature. Their pages teem with ridicule and misrepresentation of the aged of the weaker sex. Had these men never any mothers? One might be half inclined to doubt the fact.


Want of courtesy in our intercourse with the great is such an almost unheard-of offence, that, like the crime of parricide, for which the laws of Greece and Rome provided no punishment, conceiving it too monstrous ever to be perpetrated, we need not tax our ingenuity to suggest a remedy. Whenever instances of it do occur, the case is regarded rather as one for the strait-waistcoat than the moralist. But want of courtesy in our intercourse with the little, with persons much our inferior in station, is, on the other hand, a matter of such every day occurrence, that it creates no sensation whatever. Even in conferring favours upon them, we too often suffer the ungraciousness of our manners to mar the effect of our bounty, and convert that into an insult which would otherwise have been a benefit without alloy.

The rigid barrier which established custom has raised between English servants and their employers, presents a very distinctive feature in our

« FöregåendeFortsätt »