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longing to the various branches of productive industry, are, in like manner, at times, taxed greatly beyond their powers, and to the same end, the gratification of inordinate pride; liable, too, upon every varying caprice and change of fashion, to be thrown out of employment. If health or morals be injured, if those innocent and natural enjoyments of life to which all are equally entitled, be sacrificed, gold, however profusely poured forth, is inadequate compensation. It were better that we wore fewer silks and satins, and used homelier furniture, and that those who fabricate them played longer and oftener at cricket in the fields. They have their moral and spiritual wants too, with which our artificial ones ought not to be suffered to interfere.
“Man shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
FOLLY OF OSTENTATION. Having reviewed Ostentation in its more serious character of an offence against the commandments of God, and the source of much misery to mankind, I proceed to attack it on the score of its absurdity, and shall endeavour to shew how greatly it tends to defeat the intention of those who make pleasure the grand business of life. It were hardly going too far to assert that ostentation has become a marked feature in the English character: its growth, particularly in the middle ranks, having of late years been marvellously rapid.
FOLLY OF OSTENTATION.
highest circles, although somewhat varying in tone and colour with the altered manners of the age, it is now probably much what it has ever been, or, in fact, has become less glaringly prominent, owing to a greater degree of refinement and improved standard of taste.
My present and principal aim will be to prove to the rising generation how much both of real enjoyment and real dignity is lost by a departure from simplicity. Pleasure is converted into actual pain to all parties concerned, when vain pretensions, a strong spirit of competition, and a foolish ambition to entertain the great, are united with slender means. The spectator is reminded, malgré lui, of the unfortunate frog in the fable, and looks on in fear of a like fatal catastrophe.
To give one heavy entertainment, which of course turns out a failure, persons of limited income will now-a-days expend what ought to maintain a moderate family for a month: and oh, the labour, the anxiety, to the female members of the household, at least, of such ostentatious hospitality! crowned, too, in the end, with mortification. The result necessarily is, that social intercourse is becoming more and more infrequent. The meetings of friends and neighbours, once of almost every day occurrence, are now, like angels' visits, few and far between; but not like angels' visits gracious and edifying. The prudent abstain from entertainments, because they feel that they ought not to expend so unprofitably money for which they have
better uses; while persons who study their own comfort, and do only such things as are agreeable to themselves, avoid them as a nuisance.
It is a real misfortune, when a wealthy family, fond of style, as it is called, or, in other words, of ostentation, takes up its abode in a rural and primitive neighbourhood, and few there are throughout the land, that have not been so invaded. Thenceforward the peace and comfort of that little community are banished. Every thing is changed; innovation succeeds innovation; simplicity vacates her throne, and envyings, contentions, and, till then unheard of vexations, reign in her stead. It is strange that people should be so infatuated, so ready, nay, so eager, to part with the good sense with which God has gifted them.
We are eminently a pleasure-seeking, but not much of a pleasure-finding nation; and wherefore? solely and obviously because we want that simplicity, that spirit of contentment, that predisposition to be pleased, which distinguishes the people of the Continent; and, above all, it is owing to our ever restless pretensions. If we would renounce our pompous entertainments, our heavy dinners, and fatiguing routs, and adopt something resembling the soirée of the French, then might we reasonably expect to find that gratification in society which so many seek in vain.
There are, I imagine, few who have not felt, even in these ostentatious days, how much more delightful are those pleasures, which come upon
ADVANTAGES OF SIMPLICITY.
us unawares. How much more enjoyment, for example, in the unpremeditated dance, set on foot upon the spur of the moment, than the dress-ball, for which a week's preparation has been made, thus forestalling pleasure through anticipation. Yet with such reminiscences crowding upon us, we study how to make our entertainments as unlike as possible to those which so greatly delighted us.
That the charm of simplicity is not unappreciated by the great, witness the Petit Trianon, and other creations of the like description, in various lands. There, royalty gladly sought refuge from the fatiguing ceremonies of courts, and endeavoured to cheat itself into happiness by playing at being poor and humble. The pic-nics, and fêtes champêtre of fashionable pleasure-hunters, afford another token of the natural yearning of the rich and great towards simplicity. But here again ostentation creeps in to defeat the original intention.
The ostentation of English tourists on the Continent is notorious, and has, I regret to say, rendered the English character very unpopular. Doubtless, there are many acknowledged exceptions; but that we are proud, fond of display, deficient in courtesy, and generally unconciliating, is the prevaling impression. Of this, it must be confessed, the desire so obvious of Englishmen abroad to revolutionize manners and custoins according to their own notions, instead of wisely conforming to customs already established, is a strong indication,
Ostentation, itself, one of the thousand manifestations of the propensity to magnify the idea of self, branches into varieties almost as numerous, and all of them more or less reprehensible. In the vulgar, not content with displaying itself in luxury of dress, equipage, &c., it degenerates into boasting, and all sorts of arrogant and empty pretensions. It makes itself heard in places of public resort, in loud talking, consequential airs, coarse criticisms, in short, in assumption of every kind. If an individual infected with this species of the infirmity finds himself in a public vehicle, he delights to astonish the strangers amongst whom chance has thrown him for a short time, by hints of his importance, his possessions, his intimacies with the great. Probably the slighter the foundation upon which his pretensions are built, the more diligently will he labour to maintain them : like the “fastidious lady,” in the popular novel to which reference was made in a former chapter, who was continually charging coachman and guard, and all other persons who came near her, to be upon the look out for a certain green chariot, her chariot, which she expected to meet her upon the road, but which never made its appearance.
It would be curious to trace the progress of Ostentation in different ages and nations, and worthy the pencil of Cruikshank to illustrate the subject.