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Discretion - Indiscretion of the Female Tongue-Nonsensetalkers_Great Talkers Personal Talk-Anecdote of Fuseli Grievance-tellers_Economy-Economy degenerating into
Meanness-Avarice-Extravagance. DISCRETION is far from being the smallest of the virtues. It is also a quality very requisite to those destined to mingle much in the world; indeed, I know not of any society so limited as to admit of its being dispensed with; not even the domestic circle around the household hearth.
From the numerous instances occurring, of individuals of reputed education being exceedingly deficient, if not totally destitute of this very essential quality; also, of others, devoid of education, possessing it in an eminent degree; some persons infer that discretion is entirely a natural instinct. Doubtless, the natural constitution of the mind, possibly, also, the temperament of the body, have something to do with it; but I am inclined to think that education has more, unless, indeed, the individual be in point of intellect absolutely deficient. Discretion being nothing more than a correct and opportune exercise of the judgment, united to self-command, it must be admitted that these are precisely what an education properly conducted is capable of producing.
Had we the opportunity of full investigation, it is probable that in persons reputedly educated, who betray indiscretion, we should find those particular faculties of the mind to whose activity discretion owes its existence, instead of being fully exercised, have either never been roused into action at all, or but very imperfectly; while in the uneducated, possessed of discretion, circumstances had early directed the attention in the channel proper for its production, and thus circumstances may be said to have served the purposes of education.
INDISCRETION OF THE FEMALE TONGUE.
Women, from having a more delicate sense of perception, a readier appreciation of the feelings of others, than men, ought naturally to have more discretion: but is this the case? I believe notbecause there are other counteracting circumstances in their condition, some, also, in their mental and physical constitution, which neutralize these advantages; but chiefly it is their frivolous and superficial education which is the counteracting agency.
When I accuse my sex of want of discretion, I must be understood as restricting my censure to minor indiscretions of conduct, and more particularly to indiscreet speaking. In the great concerns of woman's life, in all that relates to the first
INDISCRETION OF THE FEMALE TONGUE. 237
of feminine virtues, chastity, it needs not for me to remark that indiscretion is fatal.
The indiscretion of women in speaking, arises, in some measure, from there being no sufficient check imposed upon it by the customs of society. Gallantry, or call it what you will, allows too much latitude in this respect to the weaker sex, the tongue being considered woman's only and legitimate weapon. Habits of business, and the necessity of circumspection, which these make plain to the minds of men, occasion them to think more before they speak; and, above all, their code of honour, corrupt as it is, and based upon principles any thing but Christian, has, at least, the beneficial effect of enforcing discretion. The man who is liable to be branded with disgrace, or called to account, at the sword's point, for every idle and unguarded expression relative to others, will, if not a ruffian at heart, or a bully by profession, acquire those habits of caution, which may, upon that one point, be termed a perfect education. Without this salutary check, we should, I doubt not, find men of frivolous character and pursuits, quite as indiscreet as the most frivolous and unreflecting of the other sex.
The writings of Oriental authors, whether Hebraic or not, ahound with maxims inculcating the necessity of governing the tongue. We cannot wonder that they should lay so much stress upon a virtue which, in despotic countries, involves such important consequences; not only the reputation and well-being of individuals in society, but life itself. Where a single unguarded expression, or an expression misinterpreted, is sufficient to bring heads to the block, and necks within the deadly embrace of the bowstring, where Rochefault's revolting counsel, “to deal with our friends as if they were one day to become our enemies," must be observed to the letter, silence seems to be the only safe course.
In the Proverbs, in Ecclesiastes, in Ecclesiasticus, injunctions regarding discretion and circumspection in life and converse are very numerous; and no where is the bridling of the tongue insisted on more strongly, than in the General Epistle of St. James, to which I refer my readers, the third chapter of that Epistle being entirely devoted to it.
NONSENSE-TALKERS. Some persons maintain that there is no harm in talking nonsense. * I confess I think otherwise; even had we not the express command of our Saviour to abstain from it, I should be inclined, judging of the practice, both by its effects and the cause in which it originates, to condemn it. The declaration of Christ in regard to it, is too clear and positive to admit of misconstruction, and it is such as ought to make triflers tremble. “Out of
Bishop Heber, in one of his letters, says, “Nonsense is the true and appropriate language of happiness.” We may, however, presume that Bishop Heber's nonsense would be any thing but that which the term generally implies. There are gifted individuals, few in number, doubtless, who, like the Princess in the Fairy Tale, never open their mouths, but they speak pearls and diamonds.
the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. I say unto you, that of every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment.” Of idle, there is but one interpretation, unprofitable, not tending to edification; consequently the nonsense-talkers bring themselves under our Lord's censure.
The self-evident fact, that while the thoughts are occupied in devising, and the lips in uttering nonsense, much time is wasted that might have been dedicated to improvement, through the interchange of rational ideas, ought alone to bring this bad habit into disrepute. Not only is it a waste of time while actually indulged in, its effects are still more pernicious; inasmuch as it unhinges and debases the mind, and often will be found to produce a corresponding levity and irrationality of action.
Nonsense-talking must proceed either from a willful perversion of the intellect, or from weakness and ignorance, betraying a lack of subjects worthy to be discussed. It is not cheerfulness, it is not the exuberance of happiness, since it is as impossible that the habitual nonsense-talker should enjoy the same high degree of gratification in his intercommunion with others, which is felt by the man of elevated thought and conversation, as that the purblind should perceive the full perfection of