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Title: Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, Addressed to a Lady
Author: Chapone, Hester, 1727-1801
Language: English
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                     LETTERS
                      ON THE
             IMPROVEMENT OF THE MIND.

               ADDRESSED TO A LADY.

                 BY MRS. CHAPONE.


                       WITH
             _THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR._

       *       *       *       *       *

     I consider an human Soul, without Education, like marble in
     the Quarry, which shows none of its inherent Beauties till
     the Skill of the Polisher fetches out the colours, makes the
     surface shine, and discovers every ornamental Cloud, Spot,
     and Vein, that runs through the Body of it. Education, after
     the same manner, when it works upon a noble Mind, draws out
     to view every latent Virtue and Perfection, which, without
     such Helps, are never able to make their Appearance.

                               ADDISON.

       *       *       *       *       *

                  A New Edition.

                     _LONDON_:

     Printed by Weed and Rider, Little Britain,

     FOR SCATCHERD AND LETTERMAN, AVE-MARIA LANE; LONGMAN, HURST,
     REES, ORME, AND BROWN; CADELL AND DAVIES; F. C. AND J.
     RIVINGTON; SHERWOOD, NEELY, AND JONES; G. AND W. B.
     WHITTAKER; BALDWIN, CRADOCK, AND JOY; J. MAWMAN; J. HARRIS
     AND SONS; HARVEY AND DARTON; AND C. TAYLOR.

                       1820.



                    _CONTENTS._


    Letter                                        Page

          DEDICATION                                 v

          Life of Hester Chapone                   vii

       I. On the first Principles of Religion        1

      II. On the Study of the Holy Scriptures       15

     III. The same Subject continued                34

      IV. On the Regulation of the Heart
            and Affections                          51

       V. The same Subject continued                66

      VI. On the Government of the Temper           98

     VII. On Economy                               121

    VIII. On Politeness and Accomplishments        143

      IX. On Geography and Chronology              170

       X. On the Manner and Course of reading
            History                                186

          Conclusion                               209



TO

_MRS. MONTAGU_.


    MADAM,

I BELIEVE you are persuaded that I never entertained a thought of
appearing in public, when the desire of being useful to one dear child,
in whom I take the tenderest interest, induced me to write the following
Letters:--perhaps it was the partiality of friendship, which so far
biassed your judgment as to make you think them capable of being more
extensively useful, and warmly to recommend the publication of them.
Though this partiality could alone prevent your judgment from being
considered as decisive in favour of the work, it is more flattering to
the writer than any literary fame; if, however, you will allow me to
add, that some strokes of your elegant pen have corrected these Letters,
I may hope, they will be received with an attention, which will insure a
candid judgment from the reader, and perhaps will enable them to make
some useful impressions on those, to whom they are now particularly
offered.

They only, who know how your hours are employed, and of what important
value they are to the good and happiness of individuals, as well as to
the delight and improvement of the public, can justly estimate my
obligation to you for the time and consideration you have bestowed on
this little work. As _you_ have drawn it forth, I may claim a sort of
right to the ornament and protection of your name, and to the privilege
of publicly professing myself, with the highest esteem,

    MADAM,

    Your much obliged friend,
      and most obedient
        humble servant,

            HESTER CHAPONE.



          LIFE
           OF
    _HESTER CHAPONE_.


Among the illustrious women whose literary productions adorned and
improved the age in which they appeared, and are likely to be
transmitted with reputation to posterity, Mrs. Chapone is entitled to
distinguished consideration. However, incited by the persuasions and
encouraged by the applauses of Richardson, she had many prejudices to
encounter, many impediments to overcome. Female writers, always severely
scrutinized, and often condemned, had not then obtained the estimation
they have since commanded.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hester Mulso, better known as Chapone, was the daughter of Thomas Mulso,
Esq. of Twywell, in Northamptonshire; who, in the year 1719, married the
posthumous daughter of Colonel Thomas, of the Guards. She lived long
enough to see the last props of an ancient and towering family fall to
the dust.

Of the immediate connections of Mr. Mulso, his elder sister, Anne, was
married to the Rev. Dr. Donne, formerly Prebendary of Canterbury; and
the younger, Susanna, to the brother of his own wife, the Rev. Dr. John
Thomas, who was preceptor to his Majesty King George III., and who
successively held the bishoprics of Peterborough, Salisbury, and
Winchester. Mr. Mulso had himself several children; but of these only
five lived to grow up, and even of the five, Charles, his third son, who
was an officer in the navy, died, in the Mediterranean, at the age of
twenty-one.

Thomas, the eldest of Mr. Mulso's sons, was bred to the law; and, for
some years, he went the Oxford circuit. He declined legal practice on
coming to the possession of his paternal inheritance; but was afterwards
made Registrar of Peterborough, and a Commissioner of Bankrupts. He
published, in 1768, 'Calistus, or the Man of Fashion;' and 'Sophronius,
or the Country Gentleman.' Thomas was the elect brother of Mrs. Chapone.
He died early in February, 1799; and, as his death was not thought near,
she lost, in him, the tie that bound her to life.

John, the second of Mr. Mulso's sons, became Prebendary of the
cathedrals of Winchester and Salisbury, and held two valuable benefices
in Hampshire. It was at the houses of this brother that Mrs. Chapone
spent much of her time; and to one of his children, her beloved niece,
the world owes her best work. He died at the prebendal residence at
Winchester, in 1791, having survived his wife one year.

Edward, the youngest son, was in the Excise Office. He was skilled in
music, and for many years President of the Anacreonic Society. Of this
brother, the life of her youth, Mrs. Chapone was also fond; and, as his
death was sudden and quick, his loss seriously affected her. He died
during the April of 1782.

Hester Mulso, the main subject of this sketch, was born on the 27th of
October, 1727; and was the only daughter whom her father had the
pleasure of seeing arrive to mature years. How soon Miss Mulso
accustomed herself to investigate what she read, and how well, may be
inferred from a passage in her published 'Miscellanies;' where, she
says, that when fifteen years old, being charmed with many of the
doctrines of the mystics, she then began to canvass them deeply; and
that, as reason grew, she was able to detect and to reject the fanciful
theology with which they were fraught. Even at nine years of age she was
an author. Accustomed to read the old romance, which suited her then
childish taste, she wrote 'The Loves of Amorat and Melissa,' which,
however defective, gave promise of the genius that distinguished her
maturer compositions. Her mind could not, however, long dwell on such
works. 'I make no scruple,' declares Miss Mulso, writing to Miss Carter,
from Peterborough, July, 1750, 'to call romances the worst of all the
species of writing: unnatural representations of the passions, false
sentiments, false precepts, false wit, false honour, and false modesty,
with a strange heap of improbable unnatural incidents, mixed up with
true history, and fastened upon some of the great names of antiquity,
make up the composition of a romance--at least of such as I have read,
which have been mostly French ones. Then the prolixity and poverty of
the style is unsupportable. I have (and yet I am still alive) drudged
through Le Grand Cyrus in twelve large volumes, Cleopatra in eight or
ten, Polexander, Ibrahim, Clelie, and some others, whose names, as well
as all the rest of them, I have forgotten; but this was in the days when
I did not choose my own books, for there was no part of my life in which
I loved romances.' This censure of romances, ancient or modern, is not
more severe than it is just. With scarcely an exception, the business of
romances is to make good bad, and bad good; to misplace and misstate
events, falsify characters, and mislead readers. They are full of grave
lies, well told, to an ill end. These are the Will o' Wisps of the mind.

Something of importance is stated, where Miss Mulso says, that she read
romances, volume upon volume, in the days when she did not choose her
own books; and when, therefore, she could not avoid this infantile
course of reading. She was not then permitted to go in her own way.
Superadded to the disadvantages then attending female education, she
struggled under domestic discouragements. Maternal vanity set itself
against her advances in literature; and it was not till the death of her
mother took place, that Miss Mulso, liberated from all impediments, felt
herself free to pursue the cultivation of her own understanding. 'I
believe,' she writes, referring to her new situation, early in 1750,
'there are few people who are better pleased and contented with their
lot than I; for I am qualified to feel my present happiness; by having
early experienced very different sensations.'

Here then is one marked era in the life of Miss Mulso. Being now
mistress of herself, as to the disposal of her time, she rapidly
compassed the circle of intellectual improvement. Notwithstanding that
she was self-instructed, she soon became mistress of the French and
Italian languages, and made some proficiency even in the Latin. Attached
thus to literature, she was also careful to select her acquaintance from
among persons who were likely to improve her own taste. It was in this
way that she cultivated an intimacy with the celebrated Richardson; and
that, in 1750, when she was twenty-three years of age, she ventured to
controvert his opinions on 'Filial Obedience.'[1]

Richardson delighted to stimulate female talents to honourable and
persevering exertions. Perhaps his partiality for epistolary
intercourse, in which he successively engaged his fair friends,
eventually decided Mrs. Chapone as to the mode of communicating her
instructions to a beloved niece.

About this time, 1749 to 1752, she wrote some poems. Her 'Ode to Peace,'
and that to Miss Carter, prefixed to Epictetus, were the first fruits of
her muse. Her verse comes up to what she thought of verse, and this
seems as much as can with truth be said of it. 'As fond as I am of the
works of fancy,' says she, 'of the bold imagery of a Shakspeare, or a
Milton, and the delicate landscapes of Thomson, I receive much greater
and more solid pleasure from their poetry, as it is the dress and
ornament of wisdom and morality, than all the flowers of fancy, and the
charms of harmonious numbers, can give

    'When gay description holds the place of sense.'

Pursuing the satisfactions of literature, Miss Mulso now produced the
'Story of Fidelia.' Although this tale was written for the 'Adventurer,'
she is represented as hesitating to give it to the world; and as
publishing it only in compliance with the wishes of friendship. Little
is to be said in praise of this story. Designed, as it was, to expose
the miseries of freethinking in women, its reasoning tends rather to
stagger the unlettered moralist than to confute intellectual scepticism.
It is affected as to its style, and problematical as to its end.

While Miss Mulso was hesitating as to what should be Fidelia's fate, 'to
print or not to print,' Miss Carter, to whom she was now known, decided
her for the press. Miss Mulso idolized Miss Carter. Astonished at her
acquirements, humbled by her talents, she approaches to her as to one of
superior existence[2]. Miss Carter accepts the homage of Miss Mulso; and
seems, throughout her deportment, to view it as due to herself. Such
friends as they were, for their friendship was not mutual in kind, so
they lasted for more than fifty years. Letters were the chief cement of
their long friendship.

Nearly at the same time that Miss Mulso commenced acquaintance with Miss
Carter, it was her lot to meet with Mr. Chapone, to whom she was at last
married. This gentleman, who was practising the law, was introduced to
Richardson's friends, at North-End, near Hammersmith, and fully admitted
among them in the year 1750. 'Most heartily do I thank good Mrs. Dewes,'
writes Richardson, August 20, 1750, 'for her recommendation of Mr.
Chapone to my acquaintance and friendship. I am greatly taken with him.
A sensible, and ingenious, a modest young gentleman.' Miss Mulso's
friends own, that, from 'their first introduction, she entertained a
distinguished esteem for Mr. Chapone. It was, with her, love at first
sight; but, according to her relations, as their intimacy improved, and
her attachment became rooted, she had the gratification to perceive that
it was mutual.' She was certainly in love. 'Your opinion of the lordly
sex,' she says, writing to Miss Carter, in 1754, 'I know is not a very
high one, but yet I will one day or other make you confess that a man
may be capable of all the delicacy, purity, and tenderness, which
distinguish our sex, joined with all the best qualities that dignify his
own.' Whatever were her father's original objections to her marriage,
these were for some time found to be insuperable; for, having been made
acquainted with her passion, he, instead of immediately countenancing
her wishes, made her promise that she would not contract any matrimonial
engagement without his previous permission. Prudence forbad him to
approve, we are told, what kindness would not suffer him to prohibit.

Visiting the coterie of Richardson, during the summer of 1753, Miss
Mulso was gratified by an interview with Dr. Johnson, with whom she
before had no personal acquaintance. Her whole account of this interview
may be fitly told here. 'Mr. Johnson' (Miss Mulso is writing to Miss
Carter) 'was very communicative and entertaining, and did me the honour
to address most of his discourse to me. I had the assurance to dispute
with him on the subject of human malignity[3]; and wondered to hear a
man, who by his actions shows so much benevolence, maintain that the
human heart is naturally malevolent, and that all the benevolence we
see, in the few who are good, is acquired by reason and religion. You
may believe I entirely disagreed with him, being, as you know, fully
persuaded that benevolence, or the love of our fellow-creatures, is as
much a part of our nature as self-love; and that it cannot be
suppressed, or extinguished, without great violence from the force of
other passions. I told him I suspected him of these bad notions from
some of his Ramblers, and had accused him to you; but that you persuaded
me I had mistaken his sense. To which he answered, that if he had
betrayed such sentiments in his Ramblers, it was not with design; for
that he believed _the doctrine of human malevolence, though a true one,
is not an useful one_, and ought not to be published to the world. Is
there any truth,' subjoins Miss Mulso, 'that would not be useful, or
that should not be known?'

The misfortune is, that, on such topics as this, which must implicate
the character of man, generally as well as personally, each one writes
as each sees things, and not as things might or ought to be seen.
Establishing our individual experience as the criterion of universal
opinion, we are too apt to speak of the world as we find it; and to
conclude, that what happens to us must of necessity happen to others,
and that uniformity of experience will terminate in similarity of
decision. Perhaps truth is still clear of extremes. Man is not so bad as
some state him to be; nor is man so good as some think him to be.

Miss Mulso is now to be known as Mrs. Chapone. Perceiving that her
inclination to matrimony was decisive, Mr. Mulso, though he still
objected to the match, consented to such arrangements, towards the close
of 1760, as to admit of the union, in one day, of his eldest son,
Thomas, with Miss Prescott, and of his only daughter, Hester, with Mr.
Chapone. Living with her father, who was indulgently attached to her,
Miss Mulso had previously been permitted to enjoy, fairly and fully, the
society of Mr. Chapone.[4]

'Give me your congratulations,' writes the now Mrs. Chapone, to Miss
Carter, from town, December the 9th, 1760, 'my dear friend; but, as much
for my brother and friend (Mr. Thomas Mulso and Miss Prescott) as for
myself; for, in truth, I could not have enjoyed my own happiness in an
union with the man of my choice, had I been forced to leave them in the
same uncomfortable state of tedious and almost hopeless expectation in
which they have suffered so long. I shall rejoice to hear that you are
coming to town, and shall hope for many a comfortable tête-à-tête with
you in my lodgings in Carey Street; for there I must reside till Mr.
Chapone can get a house that suits him, which is no easy matter, as he
is so confined in point of situation,' &c. &c. Pleasing as might be the
prospect of her marriage pleasures, it will soon be seen that, as Mrs.
Barbauld wrote, 'her married life was short, and,' short as it was, 'not
very happy!'

Scarcely is Mrs. Chapone first settled, when _she seems to complain of
being in lodgings_; and, when her husband has taken a house, _still she
regrets living_ in Arundel Street, as this is '_very wide from_ Clarges
Street, where' she supposes that her friend _Miss Carter's_ '_residence_
is fixed.' Even now, dissatisfied with 'a life of hurry and
engagement,' she puts 'the drudgery of answering all the congratulatory
letters,' heaped on them as newly married, 'upon Mr. Chapone; who, _poor
man_,' says his wife, 'was _forced to humour_ me _a little at first_.'
Here is not the worst. '_I have more hours to myself_,' she adds, '_than
I wish for_; for business usually allows me _very little of my husband's
company_, except at meals.' Instead of 'many a comfortable tête-à-tête
with' Miss Carter, whom she assures of her 'most perfect dissent' from
the maxim of Johnson's school, 'that a married woman can have no
friendship but with her husband,' Chapone himself, pleased with Miss
Carter's old friendship, is represented as wondering why she never
visits his wife. 'Surely, my dear,' he would say to her, 'if Miss Carter
loved you, she would sometimes have spent a day with you; and then I
should have known her better. _If ever she loved you, I fancy she left
it off on your being married._' Mrs. Chapone's letters may explain the
absence of Miss Carter. What friend would be in haste to run to her, who
tells that she 'lived in dirt,' and in 'puddling lodgings;' and who
adds, 'at last,' that she reckons herself to be but 'tolerably settled?'

Lengthened courtships too seldom conclude with happy marriages. Six
years of the lives of one pair, 1754 to 1760, was by far too long to
make love. Our choice may prove to be our lot, just when our lot is no
more our choice.

Miss Mulso was also more than old enough for Mrs. Chapone. When women
are of disputatious dispositions[5], fixed in their notions, and do not
like learned husbands[6], because they may hope to rule simple ones,
they should marry before the age of thirty-three.

Poverty is inimical to felicity; but marriage penury, worst of woes, is
inevitably calamitous. Pecuniary difficulties long protracted the union
of Miss Mulso with Mr. Chapone, who at last died in embarrassing
circumstances. Much may be borne; but to court long, wait for wealth,
wed late, and fare ill, seem more than the griefs to which flesh is
heir.

In her advice to a beloved niece, and in the letter to a new-married
lady, there are passages perhaps referable to the fate of Mrs. Chapone.
'Young women,' she observes, '_know so little_ of the world, especially
_of the other sex_, and _such pains are usually taken to deceive them_,
that they are every way unqualified to choose for themselves, &c. Many a
heart-ache shall _I_ feel for _you_, my sweet girl, if I live a few
years longer[7]!' Equally impressive is her delineation of matrimonial
bickerings. 'Whatever may be said of the _quarrels of lovers_, (believe
_me_!) _those of married people have always dreadful consequences_,
especially if they are not very short and very slight. If _they_ are
suffered to _produce bitter or contemptuous expressions_, or betray
_habitual dislike_ in one party _of any thing in the person or mind_ of
the other, _such wounds can scarcely ever be thoroughly healed_: and
though regard to principle and character lays the married couple under a
necessity to make up the breach as well as they can, yet is their
affiance in each other's affection so rudely shaken in such conflicts,
that it can hardly ever be perfectly fixed again. _The painful
recollection of what is passed, will often intrude upon the tenderest
hours_; and every trifle will awaken and renew it. You must, _even now_,
(it is to a lady _newly married_ that Mrs. C. is addressing herself) be
particularly on your guard against _this_ source of misery.'

Within the short space of ten months after marriage, Mr. Chapone, whose
health could not have been good, was seized by a fever, which, in about
a week, terminated his mortal career. Though his illness was short, and
thought fatal at first, Mrs. Chapone was not with him for five days
before _his death_, 'as her presence was judged to be very hurtful to
him!' She then heard of his death 'with _her accustomed meekness_;' and,
continues Miss Burrows, writing to Miss Carter, September the 22d, 1761,
'you would hardly believe me were I to describe to you _her calmness and
composure_,' &c., or, 'half _the noble things she says and does_,' &c.
'_She suffered herself_,' again writes Miss Burrows, October 5, 1761,
'_to be the most consoled_, by the kindness of her friends, _I ever saw
any body in her situation_.' Mrs. Chapone was yet for some time ill, on
the death of Mr. Chapone; and she found some other difficulties[8]
against which to bear up. Circumstances shortly after induced her to
retire into lodgings upon a small but decent income, where, cultivating
her connections, she contrived to preserve her independence and
respectability. Her small property was soon augmented by the death of
her father, who did not survive her husband quite two years.

Mrs. Chapone now spent much of her time with friends. Dr. John Thomas,
her maternal uncle, being then Bishop of Winchester, she was always
welcome either at Farnham Castle, or at Winchester House. Of her various
letters from Farnham Castle, the following one, relating to royalty, is
sufficiently interesting to find its place here. It must be remembered,
that the Bishop had been preceptor to our late and venerable King.--'Mr.
Buller went to Windsor on Saturday,' writes Mrs. Chapone to Mr. Burrows,
August 20, 1778, 'saw the King, who enquired much about the Bishop; and
hearing that he would be eighty-two next Monday, "Then," said he, "I
will go and wish him joy." "And I," said the Queen, "will go too." Mr.
B. then dropped a hint of the additional pleasure it would give the
Bishop if he could see the Princes. "_That_," said the King, "requires
contrivance; but, if I can manage it, we will _all_ go".' ... Monday
morning, a little after eleven o'clock, 'came the King and Queen in
their phaeton, three coaches and six, and one coach and four, with a
large retinue of servants. They were all conducted into the great
drawing-room, by Mr. and Mrs. Buller, where, after paying their
compliments to the Bishop and Mrs. Thomas, those of the first column
remained there to breakfast; those of the second column left the room,
and were led by Mrs. T. to the dressing-room, where Mrs. T. and I were,
and where I made tea for them. After our breakfast was over, as well as
that of the upper house, the royal guests[9] came to visit me in the
dressing-room. The King sent the Princes in to pay their compliments to
_Mrs. Chapone_: himself, he said, was an old acquaintance. Whilst the
Princes were speaking to me, Mr. Arnold, sub-preceptor, said, "These
gentlemen are well acquainted with a certain Ode[10] prefixed to Mrs.
Carter's Epictetus, if you know any thing of it." Afterwards the King
came and spoke to us; and the Queen led the Princess Royal to me,
saying, "This is a young lady, who, I hope, has profited much by your
instructions[11]. She has read them more than once, and will read them
oftener;" and the Princess assented to the praise which followed, with a
very modest air. She has a sweet countenance, and simple unaffected
manners. I was pleased with all the Princes, but particularly with
Prince William, who is little of his age, but so sensible and engaging,
that he won the Bishop's heart; to whom he particularly attached
himself, and would stay with him while all the rest ran about the house.
His conversation was surprisingly manly and clever for his age: yet with
the young Bullers he was quite the boy; and said to John Buller, by way
of encouraging him to talk, "Come, we are both boys, you know." All of
them showed affectionate respect to the Bishop; the Prince of Wales
pressed his hand so hard that he hurt it. Mrs. B----'s two girls were
here, and the eldest son, and great notice was taken of them all. The
youngest girl, a comical natural little creature between eight and nine,
says she thinks it hard that Princes may not marry whom they please; and
seems not without hopes, that, if it were not for this restriction, the
Prince of Wales might prove a lover of hers.'

Dr. Thomas, to whom these royal honours were thus paid, died in May
1781, at the age of eighty-six years.

Several months of the year 1766 were passed by Mrs. Chapone at the
parsonage of her second brother, John, at Thornhill, near Wakefield, in
Yorkshire. It was then she conceived that partiality for her niece, his
eldest daughter, to which society is indebted for her 'Letters on the
Improvement of the Mind.'

Having become acquainted with Mrs. Montagu some time in 1762, she about
eight years after joined her in her tour into Scotland; a tour from
which she derived both information and amusement, and which her pen has
described with fidelity and interest. 'I am grown as bold as a lion with
Mrs. Montagu,' asserts Mrs. Chapone, two years before their tour, to
Mrs. Carter, 'and fly in her face whenever I have a mind: in short, I
enjoy her society with the most perfect _goût_; and find my love for her
takes off my fear and awe, though my respect for her character
continually increases.' Mrs. Montagu's great friendship was found
eminently conducive to the welfare of Mrs. Chapone. It added to her
sources of intellectual gratification, extended the old circle of her
acquaintance, and emboldened and encouraged her to submit her writings
to the world.

We are now to consider Mrs. Chapone's literary performances; which,
following the order of publication, consist of

  Letters on the Improvement of the Mind; 1773.

  Miscellanies, in Prose and Verse; 1775.

  Posthumous Works; two volumes, 1804.

These latter volumes contain Mrs. Chapone's Correspondence with Mr.
Richardson, on Filial Obedience; a Matrimonial Creed, sent by her to
him; Letters to her friends; some Fugitive Poetry; and 'An Account of
her _Life and Character_, drawn up _by her own Family_.' Dismissing the
consideration of its partiality, this account, justly so called, has no
claim to the character of biography.

Her 'Letters on the Improvement of the Mind' owed much of their early
success to the talents and kindness of Mrs. Montagu. 'The bookseller,'
writes their Author, July the 20th, 1773, 'is preparing the second
edition with all haste, the whole of the first being gone out of his
hands; which, considering that he printed off fifteen hundred at first,
is an extraordinary quick sale. _I attribute this success principally to
Mrs. Montagu's name, and patronage_,' &c. More of this is told in the
Dedication of the work to her. 'I believe you (Mrs. Montagu) are
persuaded that I (Mrs. Chapone) never entertained a thought of appearing
in public, when the desire of being useful to one dear child, in whom I
take the tenderest interest[12], induced me to write the following
letters: perhaps it was the partiality of friendship which so far
biassed your judgment as to make you think them capable of being more
extensively useful, and warmly to recommend the publication of them.
If,' proceeds the author, 'you will allow me to add that _some strokes
of your elegant pen_ have corrected these Letters, I may hope _they will
be received with an attention_ which will insure a candid judgment from
the reader; and, perhaps, will enable them to _make some useful
impressions_ on those to whom they are now particularly offered.'

Notwithstanding their intrinsic excellence, various circumstances
co-operated to give to her Letters immediate popularity. Besides the
beginning preference for books on education, epistolary composition, the
style of her work, was then in very general estimation. It was the style
to which the volumes of Richardson, the correspondence of Pope, the
letters of Chesterfield and of Orrery, had familiarized the public mind.
Nor could expectation have been indifferent to any production from the
pen of one who was the friendly pupil of Samuel Richardson; in favour of
whom the discerning part of readers were already prepossessed, by the
commendation he had bestowed on her talents, and the assiduity with
which he had cultivated her correspondence. What might not be hoped from
a lady, who, when not much above twenty years of age, was considered
qualified to controvert with him the subject of paternal authority and
filial obedience? But, if admiration had been excited, it was only in
order to be gratified. Mrs. Chapone did not disappoint the expectations
entertained concerning Miss Mulso.

It is the imperishable honour of Mrs. Chapone, that the foundation of
_her_ temple of education is on the rock, and not in the sands; that the
superstructure is therefore not only beautiful, but lasting. On the
being of a God, she fixes the tottering hopes of mere mortality: and by
his Revealed Will would direct its steps, to certainty, happiness, and
glory. Nor has she been unsuccessful in displaying the benevolent
attributes of Deity, and in exciting the gratitude of the heart towards
him. Without impeaching his justice, she has exalted his mercy; without
diminishing the awe, she has increased the fervency of pious adoration;
without depreciating prayer, she has insisted on a spirit of
thanksgiving. Devotion, in her view, becomes attractive as well as
important. We love, while we obey; while we tremble, we rejoice. Resting
the ground-work of all morality on religion, _assent_ is insisted upon
prior to _investigation_; not that the latter is excluded. Since,
however, we are compelled to _act_ before we become qualified to
_think_, it is of the utmost importance that some standard be
established in the mind, for the regulation of the conduct. Religion
supplies this deficiency. Its penalties and rewards are offered, at a
time when we are principally governed by our hopes or fears; and are,
indeed, incapable of being acted upon by abstracted considerations of
right and wrong.

Of the early _historical_ parts of the Old Testament, Mrs. Chapone
speaks with the commendation they will always obtain from discriminating
minds. Nothing in profane history is equal to their beautiful
simplicity, their affecting minuteness. They are not sufficiently
studied.

On the scope of the Gospel, as delivered in the New Testament, it is
justly affirmed--'The whole tenor of the Gospel is to offer us every
help, direction, and motive, that can enable us to attain that degree of
perfection, on which depends our eternal good.' Exception must
nevertheless be taken to a few epithets, by which she endeavours to
picture a future state of blessedness; as, 'the richest imagination can
paint:' for, what imagination shall paint that which 'it hath not
entered into the heart of man to conceive?'

Letters the Fourth and Fifth, _On the Regulation of the Heart and
Affections_, display considerable knowledge of human nature, exhibit
high reasoning powers on the part of the writer, and are fraught with
excellent moral distinctions. The fifth, however, owing to the subjects
it embraces, is particularly valuable to the sex to whom it is
addressed. This encomium will apply to her sentiments _On Household
Economy_, and _On Deportment towards Servants_. The course of _Studies_
and _Accomplishments_ recommended by her, perhaps, still includes all
that is essential.

Unornamental, but not ungraceful, Mrs. Chapone's style, though plain, is
deserving of commendation. If there be one main fault in it, one
reigning vice, it is that it abounds with parentheses, which tend to
obscure it.

The success of her Letters is stated by herself to have been the source
of much good to her: she who, only ten years before, declared that 'this
world had nothing for her but a few friends,' who owns that 'a certain
weariness of life, and a sense of insignificance and insipidity,' did
then 'deject' her, now feels that the success of her writings appeased
'that uneasy sense of helplessness and insignificancy which often
depressed and afflicted her.' Her work gave her some tie to the world.
Her intellectual existence, her new life, succeeded to her sympathetic
state.

Of her next work, the 'Miscellanies,' not much need be said.
Unqualified in her admiration of the author's abilities, Mrs. Barbauld
seems to labour to explain the unpopularity of this publication. The
toil was not worth the pains. Excepting the _Letter to a New-married
Lady_, and _Three Essays_, the contents of this volume did not authorize
the distinction to which friendship conceived it to be entitled.

Her long epistolary controversy with Richardson, respecting 'Filial
Obedience' generally, evidences great superiority of thought. It extends
to three letters; of which the first is dated October 12, and the second
November 10, 1750; and the third, which is her last, bears date the 3d
of January, 1750-51. Perhaps Miss Carter was not far from the fact,
when, as now appears from one of Mrs. Chapone's Letters to her, she
called this controversy 'an unmerciful prolixity upon a plain simple
subject.' Still it is, in such hands, of much worth. Differing from
Richardson in some essential particulars, Mrs. Chapone, young as she
then was, magnanimously promulgated, and resolutely defended, her own
sentiments. Authority seems to have been here considered by Richardson
as synonymous with what most men think tyranny. Parents were to be
despots, and children to live as their bond-slaves. Obligation is
reciprocal. Subjection necessarily supposes protection; and paternal
authority has the best claim to filial obedience, where benevolence
endears dependance, and where conduct demands respect. Goldsmith told no
more than truth, when, as his Essays will show, he declared that there
were parents who got children for the gratification of tyrannising over
them.

Mrs. Chapone had the gift of letter-writing. When she writes to her few
friends, it is with ease, with sense, and with life. She does not then
write for the press. She read much, thought more, and wrote as she
thought. Many of her judgments, both of men and books, deserve to be
weighed.

The last years of life, it is painful to add, were not her best years.
Surviving those by whom life was to her rendered estimable, unshaken as
was her religion, her mind, it is acknowledged by friends, yielded to
its afflictions; 'her memory became visibly and materially impaired; and
her body was so much affected by the sufferings of her mind, that she
soon sank into a state of alarming debility.' She who bore with
'calmness and composure' the death of a husband, of him whom she calls
'the man of her choice,' felt that she lost on the death of a brother,
'her strongest tie to this world,' and 'sank into a state of alarming
debility!' Where the treasure is, there also will the heart still be
found. Sublunary happiness is at the best uncertain as unstable; and
those whose plans of good are made for this earth, will see, sooner or
later, that they have built on the sands instead of the rock.

Contracted in circumstances, and limited in the number of her friends,
Mrs. Chapone, with her youngest niece, retired to Hadley, in the autumn
of 1800; where her living near to Miss Amy Burrows[13], who had been
there for some years, opened new prospects of comfort for her rapidly
declining age.

It was now that Mrs. Chapone needed all that the most affectionate
assiduity could do for her. 'Mrs. and Miss Burrows,' continues the short
account by her family, 'were her constant visitors; and while they
surveyed, with compassion and humiliation, the awful lesson to nature
which the wreck of so bright an ornament to it presented, they omitted
no opportunity to administer every soothing means of relief she was then
capable of experiencing.' Mr. Cottrell, also, successor to the Rev. Mr.
Burrows, at Hadley, and his family, with their friends, sometimes
enlivened the solitary seclusion to which she was doomed; but her
infirmities augmented so much, at this time, that she was not able to go
down stairs more than three or four times.

Her life was near its close. October 1801, she completed her 74th year;
and on the Christmas-day following, without any direct illness, having
described herself as unusually well the day before, and after
experiencing less distemper during the last than any of the years of her
life, she fell into a doze, from which nothing could rouse her; and at
the eighth hour of the night, she drew her last breath, tranquilly and
imperceptibly, in the arms of her niece. Mrs. Burrows was also with her.

Mrs. Chapone is not represented as one who had pretensions to what men
term beauty. If, however, any credit is due to the opinion of
Richardson, who knew her in her best days, and who could judge of the
sex, there was in her something of physiognomical fascination, that
bright emanation of soul, illuminating the countenance, which, candid
and benign, gave to the face its best charm.

Music was one of her delights. Naturally possessing a voice both
mellifluous and powerful, with much true taste, and great accuracy of
ear, she, without the aid of science, would often surpass the efforts of
professional excellence. Aided by her brother[14] on the violin, her
singing frequently astonished those who were the highest judges of that
talent.[15]

Accomplished in deportment, intelligent in conversation, uniformly
agreeable to society generally, her company was coveted by all who knew
her, and sought for by numbers of persons with whom she never
associated.

Physical infirmities were to her the source of habitual misery. Cold and
wet seem to have been too much for her frame; and, by the medium of
that, for her mind.

With all her faults, for some there were in her, she was still great.
Her life may teach much that it will be well to learn; nor can too much
be said in praise of her best work.

Mrs. Chapone holds out one bright proof of what intelligence and
perseverance may in due time hope to accomplish. She cast her own lot.
Herself made herself; and to the honours of her name, great as they are,
those who tread in her steps may yet aspire.

Considering the high importance of her literary exertions, no task would
have been more pleasing than that of bestowing unqualified approbation
on her character. Her writings, already productive of good the most
extensively beneficial, will stand the imperishable monument of her
worth. While the sentiments which they inculcate are valued, and the
language in which they are conveyed is known, while virtue is loved, or
piety revered among us, the 'Letters on the Improvement of the Mind'
will suffer no diminution of that reputation in which they have been so
long held by the world.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] 'I am at present engaged with a most admirable young lady of little
more than twenty, Miss Mulso, on the subject of Filial Obedience and
Paternal Authority, &c. Miss Mulso is a charming writer, &c. Your
ladyship will be charmed with her part of the subject.' _Richardson to
Lady Bradshaigh, 1751._

'I have been engaged in a kind of amicable controversy with my honoured
friend Mr. Richardson, which has occasioned letters of so immoderate a
length between us, that I have been quite tired of pen and ink, and
inexcusably negligent of all my other correspondents. Does it not sound
strange, my dear Miss Carter, that a girl like me should have dared to
engage in a dispute with such a man? Indeed I have often wondered at my
own assurance; but the pleasure and improvement I expected from his
letters were motives too strong to be resisted, and the kind
encouragement he gave me got the better of my fear of exposing myself.'
_Miss Mulso to Miss Carter, March 1750._

This correspondence is dated from October 1750, to January 1751.

[2] 'I shall still find in her (Miss Mulso is writing _to_ and _of_ Miss
Carter) that amiable condescension, and unreserved benevolence, which
endears her conversation, and enhances the value of her understanding;
which teaches her how to improve her companions without appearing to
instruct them, to correct without seeming to reprove, and even to
reprove without offending.' _Miss Mulso to Miss Carter, September 11,
1749._

'It is impossible not to be better, as well as happier, for an intimate
acquaintance with _Miss Carter_; take her for all in all, I think, I may
venture to pronounce her _the first of women_!' _Miss Mulso to Mr.
Richardson, July 24, 1752._

[3] 'I think I read the 'Rambler' with great attention, yet I cannot
entirely acquit him of the charge of severity in his satires on mankind.
I believe him a worthy humane man; but I think I see a little of the
asperity of disappointment in his writings.' _Miss Mulso to Miss Carter,
October 1752._

'I am very unwilling to believe those that fright us with shocking
pictures of human nature, and could almost quarrel with my very great
favourite, 'The Rambler,' for his too-general censures on mankind; and
for speaking of envy and malice as universal passions.' _Ibid._

[4] 'I thank God, (Canterbury, August 29, 1757,) my best soul has now
the upper hand, by the assistance of medicine and cool weather, much
more than of reason; and perhaps by the hope of two or three days of
fancied good, in the presence of a _fancied essential_ (Mr. Chapone) to
my happiness, who has promised to come down and see me some time before
the middle of next month.'----'I shall now tell you something of myself,
who live here (Salisbury, John, the second brother to her, being then
its Prebendary) uncorrupted by grandeur, &c. &c. &c. who could prefer _a
little attorney_ (Chapone) even to my Lord Feversham; had he offered to
me, instead of the fair young lady he has so happily won.' _Miss Mulso
to Miss Carter._

[5] 'Nothing can ever make me amends for that luxurious ease and
security, in the kindness of all around me, which enables me to wrangle,
abuse, and dispute, till I am black in the face,' &c. &c. _Mrs. Chapone
to Mr. Burrows, 1773._

[6] 'It has always been one of my prayers, that I might never be the
wife of an overgrown scholar.' _Miss Mulso to Miss Carter, 1754._

[7] Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, edit. 1801, pages 93, 94.

[8] 'I have been very near death; and, at the time he threatened me
most, it was the most earnest wish of my heart to meet and embrace him.
But, I bless God, I am restored not only to life, but to a sense of the
great mercy indulged me in the grant of a longer tern of trial.'--'You
are so obligingly solicitous about my circumstances, that I would
willingly inform you of the state of them, if I had any certainty about
them. But my dear Mr. Chapone's affairs were left in great confusion and
perplexity by his sudden death; which happened just at the time of year
in which he should have settled his accounts, and made out his bills. As
these are very considerable, his estate must suffer a great loss from
this circumstance. At present, things are in a very melancholy state,
and my own prospects such as would probably have appeared very dreadful
to me at any other time.' _Mrs. Chapone to Miss Carter, December 6,
1761._

[9] King George III. and Queen Charlotte; his present Majesty, then
Prince of Wales, and sixteen years old; Prince Frederic, Duke of York,
then fifteen years old; Prince William, Duke of Clarence, then thirteen
years old; Princess Royal, now Queen of Wirtemberg, then about fourteen
years old, and Princess Augusta, then about ten years old.

[10] Addressed by Mrs. Chapone to her friend Mrs. Carter.

[11] 'Letters on the Improvement of the Mind.' They had been published
five years then.

[12] This young lady, of whom the reader must wish to know more, was the
eldest daughter of Mrs. Chapone's second brother, John, who was
Prebendary of the cathedrals of Winchester and Salisbury. She became
attached to this niece in 1766, while on a visit at her home; wrote the
Letters, to her, in 1772; and, stimulated by her literary friends,
published them in 1773.--'I had great satisfaction,' writes Mrs. Chapone
to Miss Carter, November 1797, 'in seeing my darling niece established
in the happiest manner, at Winchester, with husband (Rev. Benjamin
Jeffreys) who seems in every respect calculated to make her happy.' Mrs.
Chapone passed the autumns 1797 and 1798 at the Deanery at Winchester.
Here she awaited the approaching accouchement of her dearest niece,
which was destined to terminate one or her fondest hopes. This last joy
of her life, this child of her heart, was now torn from her, after the
birth of a dead infant, in March 1799.

[13] Of the family of the Burrows's, who were her tried friends, 'I am
glad,' writes Mrs. Chapone to Miss Carter, July 31, 1761, 'that you love
my Burrows's, who are, indeed, some of the most valuable persons I have
ever known.----Poor Miss Amy (who was her last prop!) is still
complaining, and consequently her sisters are anxious and unhappy.----I
wish you were to hear Mr. Burrows preach. There is a simplicity and an
earnestness in his manner more affecting than any thing I ever heard
from the pulpit.' Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Elizabeth Burrows, two of the
sisters mentioned in this place, together with Mr. and Mrs. Burrows,
died before Mrs. Chapone's final retreat to Hadley; so that 'out of that
amiable and happy circle with whom she delighted to associate, and on
whom she relied as the sources of the most refined enjoyments, only one
sister, the present Mrs. Amy Burrows, remained to bestow on her that
heartfelt consolation which this inestimable friend never failed to
administer.' The houses of Mr. Burrows, with his wife and two younger
sisters, and of his eldest sister, wife of Sir Culling Smith, Bart. were
long her favourite asylums, and the hours spent by her in them were
among the most happy of her life.

[14] Edward Mulso. 'Since you went,' (Miss Carter had just left the then
Miss Mulso,) 'I have done nothing,' writes Mrs. C., 'but sing
Metastasio's song. I am distracted for a tune that will go to the
Translation, that I might sing that, from morning to night. I have made
_Neddy_ walk with me to the tree, by Sir _Edward_ Hale's park; and
intend often to reconnoitre the spot where you sat by me there.'--'Your
friend _Edward_ is with us; and we make a pretty little concert at home,
pretty often,' &c. &c.

[15] The following compliment to the vocal powers of Mrs. C., though
high, appears to be ingenuous. Dr. Kennicott, relating the University
Festival, at Oxford, in a letter to Richardson, dated Exeter College,
June 9, 1754, observes--"The first clap of applause was upon _Forasi's_
taking her place in the orchestra; _Signiora_ seemed a little too
sensible of the honour, &c. But I forgive her; for indeed _she_ sings--I
cannot say _most_ delightfully--for have I not heard Miss _Mulso_?"



LETTERS ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE MIND.



LETTER I.

ON THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF RELIGION.


    _MY DEAREST NIECE_,

THOUGH you are so happy as to have parents, who are both capable and
desirous of giving you all proper instruction, yet I, who love you so
tenderly, cannot help fondly wishing to contribute something, if
possible, to your improvement and welfare: and, as I am so far separated
from you, that it is only by pen and ink I can offer you my sentiments,
I will hope that your attention may be engaged, by seeing on paper, from
the hand of one of your warmest friends, Truths of the highest
importance, which, though you may not find new, can never be too deeply
engraven on your mind. Some of them perhaps may make no great
impression at present, and yet may so far gain a place in your memory as
readily to return to your thoughts when occasion recalls them. And, if
you pay me the compliment of preserving my letters, you may possibly
re-peruse them at some future period, when concurring circumstances may
give them additional weight:--and thus they may prove more effectual
than the same things spoken in conversation. But, however this may
prove, I cannot resist the desire of trying in some degree to be useful
to you on your setting out in a life of trial and difficulty; your
success in which must determine your fate for ever.

Hitherto you have "thought as a child, and understood as a child; but it
is time to put away childish things." You are now in your fifteenth
year, and must soon act for yourself; therefore it is high time to store
your mind with those principles, which must direct your conduct, and fix
your character. If you desire to live in peace and honour, in favour
with God and man, and to die in the glorious hope of rising from the
grave to a life of endless happiness--if these things appear worthy your
ambition, you must set out in earnest in the pursuit of them. Virtue
and happiness are not attained by chance, nor by a cold and languid
approbation: they must be sought with ardour, attended to with
diligence, and every assistance must be eagerly embraced that may enable
you to obtain them. Consider, that good and evil are now before you;
that, if you do not heartily choose and love the one, you must
undoubtedly be the wretched victim of the other. Your trial is now
begun; you must either become one of the glorious _children_ of _God_,
who are to rejoice in his love for ever, or a _child_ of
_destruction_--miserable in this life, and punished with eternal death
hereafter. Surely, you will be impressed by so awful a situation! you
will earnestly pray to be directed into that road of life, which leads
to excellence and happiness; and you will be thankful to every kind hand
that is held out, to set you forward in your journey.

The first step must be to awaken your mind to a sense of the importance
of the task before you, which is no less than to bring your frail nature
to that degree of Christian perfection, which is to qualify it for
immortality, and without which, it is necessarily incapable of
happiness; for it is a truth never to be forgotten, that God has annexed
happiness to virtue, and misery to vice, by the unchangeable nature of
things; and that a wicked being (while he continues such) is in a
natural incapacity of enjoying happiness, even with the concurrence of
all those outward circumstances, which in a virtuous mind would produce
it.

As there are degrees of virtue and vice, so are there of reward and
punishment, both here and hereafter: But, let not my dearest Niece aim
only at escaping the dreadful doom of the wicked--let your desires take
a nobler flight, and aspire after those transcendent honours, and that
brighter crown of glory, which await those who have excelled in virtue;
and, let the animating thought, that every secret effort to gain his
favour is noted by your all-seeing Judge, who will, with infinite
goodness, proportion your reward to your labours, excite every faculty
of your soul to please and serve him. To this end you must _inform your
understanding_ what you ought to _believe_ and to _do_.--You must
_correct_ and _purify_ your _heart_; cherish and improve all its good
affections, and continually mortify and subdue those that are evil.--You
must _form_ and _govern_ your _temper_ and _manners_, according to the
laws of benevolence and justice; and qualify yourself, by all means in
your power, for an _useful_ and _agreeable_ member of society. All this
you see is no light business, nor can it be performed without a sincere
and earnest application of the mind, as to its great and constant
object. When once you consider life, and the duties of life, in this
manner, you will listen eagerly to the voice of instruction and
admonition, and seize every opportunity of improvement; every useful
hint will be laid up in your heart, and your chief delight will be in
those persons, and those books, from which you can learn true wisdom.

The only sure foundation of human virtue is Religion, and the foundation
and first principle of religion is in the belief of the one only God,
and a just sense of his attributes. This you will think you have learned
long since, and possess in common with almost every human creature in
this enlightened age and nation; but, believe me, it is less common than
you imagine, to believe in the true God--that is, to form such a notion
of the Deity as is agreeable to truth, and consistent with those
infinite perfections, which all profess to ascribe to him. To form
worthy notions of the Supreme Being, as far as we are capable, is
essential to true religion and morality; for as it is our duty to
imitate those qualities of the Divinity, which are imitable by us, so is
it necessary we should know what they are, and fatal to mistake them.
Can those who think of God with servile dread and terror, as of a gloomy
tyrant, armed with almighty power to torment and destroy them, be said
to believe in the true God?--in that God, who, the scriptures say, is
love?--the kindest and best of Beings, who made all creatures in
bountiful goodness, that he might communicate to them some portion of
his own unalterable happiness!--who condescends to style himself our
Father; and who pitieth us, as a father pitieth his own children! Can
those, who expect to please God by cruelty to themselves or to their
fellow-creatures--by horrid punishments of their own bodies for the sin
of their souls--or, by more horrid persecution of others for difference
of opinion, be called true believers? Have they not set up another God
in their own minds, who rather resembles the worst of beings than the
best? Nor do those act on surer principles who think to gain the favour
of God by senseless enthusiasm and frantic raptures, more like the wild
excesses of the most depraved human love, than that reasonable
adoration, that holy reverential love, which is due to the pure and holy
Father of the universe. Those likewise, who murmur against his
providence, and repine under the restraint of his commands, cannot
firmly believe him infinitely wise and good. If we are not disposed to
trust him for future events, to banish fruitless anxiety, and to believe
that all things work together for good to those that love him, surely we
do not really believe in the God of mercy and truth. If we wish to avoid
all remembrance of him, all communion with him, as much as we dare,
surely we do not believe him to be the source of joy and comfort, the
dispenser of all good.

How lamentable it is, that so few hearts should feel the pleasures of
real piety; that prayer and thanksgiving should be performed, as they
too often are, not with joy, and love, and gratitude; but, with cold
indifference, melancholy dejection, or secret horror! It is true, we
are all such frail and sinful creatures, that we justly fear to have
offended our gracious Father: but let us remember the condition of his
forgiveness: If you have sinned, "sin no more." He is ready to receive
you whenever you sincerely turn to him--and he is ready to assist you,
when you do but desire to obey him. Let your devotion then be the
language of filial love and gratitude; confide to this kindest of
fathers every want and every wish of your heart; but submit them all
to his will, and freely offer him the disposal of yourself, and of all
your affairs. Thank him for his benefits, and even for his
punishments--convinced that these also are benefits, and mercifully
designed for your good. Implore his direction in all difficulties; his
assistance in all trials; his comfort and support in sickness or
affliction; his restraining grace in time of prosperity and joy. Do not
persist in desiring what his providence denies you; but be assured it
is not good for you. Refuse not any thing he allots you, but embrace it
as the best and properest for you. Can you do less to your heavenly
Father than what your duty to an earthly one requires? If you were to
ask permission of your father to do or to have any thing you desire,
and he should refuse it to you, would you obstinately persist in
setting your heart upon it notwithstanding his prohibition? Would you
not rather say, My father is wiser than I am; he loves me, and would
not deny my request, if it was fit to be granted; I will therefore
banish the thought, and cheerfully acquiesce in his will? How much
rather should this be said of our heavenly Father, whose wisdom cannot
be mistaken, and whose bountiful kindness is infinite! Love him,
therefore, in the same manner you love your earthly parents, but in a
much higher degree--in the highest your nature is capable of. Forget
not to dedicate yourself to his service every day; to implore his
forgiveness of your faults, and his protection from evil, every night:
and this not merely in formal words, unaccompanied by any act of the
mind, but "in spirit and in truth;" in grateful love and humble
adoration. Nor let these stated periods of worship be your only
communication with him; accustom yourself to think often of him, in all
your waking hours,--to contemplate his wisdom and power, in the works
of his hands,--to acknowledge his goodness in every object of use or of
pleasure,--to delight in giving him praise in your inmost heart in the
midst of every innocent gratification--in the liveliest hour of social
enjoyment. You cannot conceive, if you have not experienced, how much
such silent acts of gratitude and love will enhance every pleasure; nor
what sweet serenity and cheerfulness such reflections will diffuse over
your mind. On the other hand, when you are suffering pain or sorrow,
when you are confined to an unpleasant situation, or engaged in a
painful duty, how will it support and animate you, to refer yourself to
your Almighty Father!--to be assured that he knows your state and your
intentions; that no effort of virtue is lost in his sight, nor the
least of your actions or sufferings disregarded or forgotten!--that his
hand is ever over you, to ward off every real evil, which is not the
effect of your own ill-conduct, and to relieve every suffering that is
not useful to your future well-being.

You see, my dear, that true devotion is not a melancholy sentiment, that
depresses the spirits, and excludes the ideas of pleasure, which youth
is fond of: on the contrary, there is nothing so friendly to joy, so
productive of true pleasure, so peculiarly suited to the warmth and
innocence of a youthful heart. Do not therefore think it too soon to
turn your mind to God; but offer him the first fruits of your
understanding and affections: and be assured, that the more you increase
in love to him, and delight in his laws, the more you will increase in
happiness, in excellence, and honour:--that in proportion as you improve
in true piety, you will become dear and amiable to your
fellow-creatures; contented and peaceful in yourself; and qualified to
enjoy the best blessings of this life, as well as to inherit the
glorious promise of immortality.

Thus far I have spoken of the first principles of all religion; namely,
belief in God, worthy notions of his attributes, and suitable
affections towards him--which will naturally excite a sincere desire of
obedience. But before you can obey his will, you must know what that
will is; you must enquire in what manner he has declared it, and where
you may find those laws which must be the rule of your actions.

The great laws of morality are indeed written in our hearts, and may be
discovered by reason: but our reason is of slow growth, very unequally
dispensed to different persons, liable to error, and confined within
very narrow limits in all. If, therefore, God vouchsafed to grant a
particular revelation of his will--if he has been so unspeakably
gracious, as to send his Son into the world to reclaim mankind from
error and wickedness--to die for our sins--and to teach us the way to
eternal life--surely it becomes us to receive his precepts with the
deepest reverence; to love and prize them above all things; and to study
them constantly, with an earnest desire to conform our thoughts, our
words, and actions to them.

As you advance in years and understanding, I hope you will be able to
examine for yourself the evidences of the Christian religion, and be
convinced, on rational grounds, of its divine authority. At present,
such inquiries would demand more study, and greater powers of reasoning,
than your age admits of. It is your part, therefore, till you are
capable of understanding the proofs, to believe your parents and
teachers, that the holy scriptures are writings inspired by God,
containing a true history of facts, in which we are deeply concerned--a
true recital of the laws given by God to Moses, and of the precepts of
our blessed Lord and Saviour, delivered from his own mouth to his
disciples, and repeated and enlarged upon in the edifying epistles of
his apostles--who were men chosen from amongst those who had the
advantage of conversing with our Lord, to bear witness of his miracles
and resurrection--and who, after his ascension, were assisted and
inspired by the Holy Ghost. This sacred volume must be the rule of your
life. In it you will find all truths necessary to be believed; and plain
and easy directions for the practice of every duty. Your Bible then must
be your chief study and delight: but as it contains many various kinds
of writing--some parts obscure and difficult of interpretation, others
plain and intelligible to the meanest capacity--I would chiefly
recommend to your frequent perusal such parts of the sacred writings as
are most adapted to your understanding, and most necessary for your
instruction. Our Saviour's precepts were spoken to the common people
amongst the Jews; and were therefore given in a manner easy to be
understood, and equally striking and instructive to the learned and
unlearned; for the most ignorant may comprehend them, whilst the wisest
must be charmed and awed, by the beautiful and majestic simplicity with
which they are expressed. Of the same kind are the Ten Commandments,
delivered by God to Moses; which, as they were designed for universal
laws, are worded in the most concise and simple manner, yet with a
majesty which commands our utmost reverence.

I think you will receive great pleasure, as well as improvement, from
the Historical Books of the Old Testament--provided you read them as an
history, in a regular course, and keep the thread of it in your mind, as
you go on. I know of none, true or fictitious, that is equally
wonderful, interesting, and affecting; or that is told in so short and
simple a manner as this, which is, of all histories, the most authentic.

In my next letter, I will give you some brief directions, concerning the
method and course I wish you to pursue, in reading the Holy Scriptures.
May you be enabled to make the best use of this most precious gift of
God--this sacred treasury of knowledge! May you read the Bible, not as a
task, nor as the dull employment of that day only in which you are
forbidden more lively entertainments--but with a sincere and ardent
desire of instruction; with that love and delight in God's word which
the holy psalmist so pathetically felt, and described, and which is the
natural consequence of loving God and virtue! Though I speak this of the
Bible in general, I would not be understood to mean that every part of
the volume is equally interesting. I have already said, that it consists
of various matter, and various kinds of books, which must be read with
different views and sentiments. The having some general notion of what
you are to expect from each book may possibly help you to understand
them, and heighten your relish of them. I shall treat you as if you were
perfectly new to the whole; for so I wish you to consider yourself;
because the time and manner, in which children usually read the Bible,
are very ill-calculated to make them really acquainted with it; and too
many people who have read it thus, without understanding it in their
youth, satisfy themselves that they know enough of it, and never
afterwards study it with attention, when they come to a maturer age.

Adieu, my beloved Niece! If the feelings of your heart, whilst you read
my letters, correspond with those of mine, whilst I write them, I shall
not be without the advantage of your partial affection, to give weight
to my advice; for, believe me, my own dear girl, my heart and eyes
overflow with tenderness while I tell you, with how warm and earnest
prayers for your happiness here, and hereafter, I subscribe myself

    Your faithful friend

      and most affectionate AUNT.



LETTER II.

ON THE STUDY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.


I NOW proceed to give my dear Niece some short sketches of the matter
contained in the different books of the Bible, and of the course in
which they ought to be read.

The first Book, GENESIS, contains the most grand, and, to us, the most
interesting, events that ever happened in the universe: The creation of
the world, and of man:--The deplorable fall of man, from his first state
of excellence and bliss, to the distressed condition in which we see all
his descendants continue:--The sentence of death pronounced on Adam, and
on all his race, with the reviving promise of that deliverance which has
since been wrought for us by our blessed Saviour:--The account of the
early state of the world:--Of the universal deluge:--The division of
mankind into different nations and languages:--The story of Abraham, the
founder of the Jewish people, whose unshaken faith and obedience, under
the severest trial human nature could sustain, obtained such favour in
the sight of God, that he vouchsafed to style him his friend, and
promised to make his posterity a great nation; and that in his
seed--that is, in one of his descendants--all the kingdoms of the earth
should be blessed: this, you will easily see, refers to the Messiah, who
was to be the blessing and deliverance of all nations. It is amazing
that the Jews, possessing this prophecy among many others, should have
been so blinded by prejudice, as to have expected from this great
personage only a temporal deliverance of their own nation from the
subjection to which they were reduced under the Romans: it is equally
amazing, that some Christians should, even now, confine the blessed
effects of his appearance upon earth to this or that particular sect or
profession, when he is so clearly and emphatically described as the
Saviour of the whole world! The story of Abraham's proceeding to
sacrifice his only son at the command of God, is affecting in the
highest degree, and sets forth a pattern of unlimited resignation, that
every one ought to imitate, in those trials of obedience under
temptation, or of acquiescence under afflicting dispensations, which
fall to their lot: of this we may be assured, that our trials will be
always proportioned to the powers afforded us: if we have not Abraham's
strength of mind, neither shall we be called upon to lift the bloody
knife against the bosom of an only child: but, if the almighty arm
should be lifted up against him, we must be ready to resign him, and all
we hold dear, to the Divine will. This action of Abraham has been
censured by some, who do not attend to the distinction between obedience
to a special command, and the detestably cruel sacrifices of the
heathens, who sometimes voluntarily, and without any Divine injunctions,
offered up their own children, under the notion of appeasing the anger
of their gods. An absolute command from God himself--as in the case of
Abraham--entirely alters the moral nature of the action; since he, and
he only, has a perfect right over the lives of his creatures, and may
appoint whom he will, either angel or man, to be his instrument of
destruction. That it was really the voice of God which pronounced the
command, and not a delusion, might be made certain to Abraham's mind, by
means we do not comprehend, but which we know to be within the power of
_him_ who made our souls as well as bodies, and who can control and
direct every faculty of the human mind: and we may be assured, that, if
he was pleased to reveal himself so miraculously, he would not leave a
possibility of doubting whether it was a real or an imaginary
revelation: thus the sacrifice of Abraham appears to be clear of all
superstition, and remains the noblest instance of religious faith and
submission that was ever given by a mere man: we cannot wonder that the
blessings bestowed on him for it should have been extended to his
posterity. This book proceeds with the history of Isaac, which becomes
very interesting to us, from the touching scene I have mentioned; and
still more so, if we consider him as the type of our Saviour: it
recounts his marriage with Rebecca--the birth and history of his two
sons, Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes, and Esau, the father of
the Edomites or Idumeans--the exquisitely affecting story of Joseph and
his brethren--and of his transplanting the Israelites into Egypt, who
there multiplied to a great nation.

In EXODUS you read of a series of wonders wrought by the Almighty, to
rescue the oppressed Israelites from the cruel tyranny of the Egyptians,
who, having first received them as guests, by degrees reduced them to a
state of slavery. By the most peculiar mercies and exertions in their
favour, God prepared his chosen people to receive, with reverent and
obedient hearts, the solemn restitution of those primitive laws, which
probably he had revealed to Adam and his immediate descendants, or
which, at least, he had made known by the dictates of conscience, but
which, time, and the degeneracy of mankind, had much obscured. This
important revelation was made to them in the wilderness of Sinah: there,
assembled before the burning mountain, surrounded "with blackness, and
darkness, and tempest," they heard the awful voice of God pronounce the
eternal law, impressing it on their hearts with circumstances of terror,
but without those encouragements and those excellent promises, which
were afterwards offered to mankind by Jesus Christ. Thus were the great
laws of morality restored to the Jews, and through them transmitted to
other nations; and by that means a great restraint was opposed to the
torrent of vice and impiety, which began to prevail over the world.

To those moral precepts, which are of perpetual and universal
obligation, were superadded, by the ministration of Moses, many peculiar
institutions, wisely adapted to different ends--either to fix the memory
of those past deliverances, which were figurative of a future and far
greater salvation--to place inviolable barriers between the Jews and the
idolatrous nations, by whom they were surrounded--or, to be the civil
law, by which the community was to be governed.

To conduct this series of events, and to establish these laws with his
people, God raised up that great prophet Moses, whose faith and piety
enabled him to undertake and execute the most arduous enterprises, and
to pursue, with unabated zeal, the welfare of his countrymen: even in
the hour of death, this generous ardour still prevailed: his last
moments were employed in fervent prayers for their prosperity, and in
rapturous gratitude for the glimpse vouchsafed him of a Saviour, far
greater than himself, whom God would one day raise up to his people.

Thus did Moses, by the excellency of his faith, obtain a glorious
pre-eminence among the saints and prophets in heaven; while, on earth,
he will be ever revered, as the first of those benefactors to mankind,
whose labours for the public good have endeared their memory to all
ages.

The next book is LEVITICUS, which contains little besides the laws for
the peculiar ritual observance of the Jews, and therefore affords no
great instruction to us now: you may pass it over entirely; and, for the
same reason, you may omit the first eight chapters of NUMBERS. The rest
of Numbers is chiefly a continuation of the history, with some ritual
laws.

In DEUTERONOMY, Moses makes a recapitulation of the foregoing history,
with zealous exhortations to the people, faithfully to worship and obey
that God, who had worked such amazing wonders for them: he promises them
the noblest temporal blessings, if they prove obedient, and adds the
most awful and striking denunciations against them, if they rebel or
forsake the true God. I have before observed, that the sanctions of the
Mosaic law were _temporal_ rewards and punishments, those of the New
Testament are _eternal_: these last, as they are so infinitely more
forcible than the first, were reserved for the last, best gift to
mankind--and were revealed by the Messiah, in the fullest and clearest
manner. Moses, in this book, directs the method in which the Israelites
were to deal with the seven nations, whom they were appointed to punish
for their profligacy and idolatry! and whose land they were to possess,
when they had driven out the old inhabitants. He gives them excellent
laws, civil as well as religious, which were ever after the standing
municipal laws of that people. This book concludes with Moses' song and
death.

The book of JOSHUA contains the conquests of the Israelites over the
seven nations, and their establishment in the promised land. Their
treatment of these conquered nations must appear to you very cruel and
unjust, if you consider it as their own act, unauthorized by a positive
command: but they had the most absolute injunctions, not to spare these
corrupt people--"to make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy to them,
but utterly to destroy them." And the reason is given--"lest they should
turn away the Israelites from following the Lord, that they might serve
other gods[16]." The children of Israel are to be considered as
instruments in the hand of the Lord, to punish those whose idolatry and
wickedness had deservedly brought destruction on them: this example,
therefore, cannot be pleaded in behalf of cruelty, or bring any
imputation on the character of the Jews. With regard to other cities,
which did not belong to these seven nations, they were directed to deal
with them, according to the common law of arms at that time. If the city
submitted, it became tributary, and the people were spared; if it
resisted, the men were to be slain, but the women and children
saved[17]. Yet, though the crime of cruelty cannot be justly laid to
their charge on this occasion, you will observe in the course of their
history many things recorded of them very different from what you would
expect from the chosen people of God, if you supposed them selected on
account of their own merit: their national character was by no means
amiable; and we are repeatedly told, that they were not chosen for their
superior righteousness--"for they were a stiff-necked people, and
provoked the Lord with their rebellions from the day they left
Egypt."--"You have been rebellious against the Lord," says Moses, "from
the day that I knew you[18]." And he vehemently exhorts them, not to
flatter themselves that their success was, in any degree, owing to their
own merits. They were appointed to be the scourge of other nations,
whose crimes rendered them fit objects of Divine chastisement. For the
sake of righteous Abraham, their founder, and perhaps for many other
wise reasons, undiscovered to us, they were selected from a world
over-run with idolatry, to preserve upon earth the pure worship of the
one only God, and to be honoured with the birth of the Messiah amongst
them. For this end, they were precluded, by Divine command, from mixing
with any other people, and defended by a great number of peculiar rites
and observances from falling into the corrupt worship practised by their
neighbours.

The book of JUDGES, in which you will find the affecting stories of
Samson and of Jephtha, carries on the history from the death of Joshua,
about two hundred and fifty years; but the facts are not told in the
times in which they happened, which makes some confusion; and it will be
necessary to consult the marginal dates and notes, as well as the index,
in order to get any clear idea of the succession of events during that
period.

The history then proceeds regularly through the two books of SAMUEL, and
those of KINGS: nothing can be more interesting and entertaining than
the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon: but, after the death of Solomon,
when the ten tribes revolted from his son Rehoboam, and became a
separate kingdom, you will find some difficulty in understanding
distinctly the histories of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which
are blended together, and, by the likeness of the names, and other
particulars, will be apt to confound your mind, without great attention
to the different threads thus carried on together: the Index here will
be of great use to you. The Second Book of Kings concludes with the
Babylonish captivity, 588 years before Christ; till which time, the
kingdom of Judea had descended uninterruptedly in the line of David.

The first book of CHRONICLES begins with a genealogy from Adam, through
all the tribes of Israel and Judah; and the remainder is the same
history which is contained in the books of Kings, with little or no
variation, till the separation of the ten tribes: from that period, it
proceeds with the history of the kingdom of Judah alone, and gives
therefore a more regular and clear account of the affairs of Judah than
the book of Kings. You may pass over the first book of Chronicles, and
the nine first chapters of the second book: but, by all means, read the
remaining chapters, as they will give you more clear and distinct ideas
of the history of Judah, than that you read in the second book of Kings.
The second of Chronicles ends, like the second of Kings, with the
Babylonish captivity.

You must pursue the history in the book of EZRA, which gives an account
of the return of some of the Jews, on the edict of Cyrus, and of the
rebuilding the Lord's temple.

NEHEMIAH carries on the history for about twelve years, when he himself
was governor of Jerusalem, with authority to rebuild the walls, &c.

The story of ESTHER is prior in time to that of Ezra and Nehemiah; as
you will see by the marginal dates: however, as it happened during the
seventy years captivity, and is a kind of episode, it may be read in its
own place.

This is the last of the canonical books that is properly historical; and
I would therefore advise, that you pass over what follows, till you have
continued the history through the apocryphal books.

The history of JOB is probably very ancient, though that is a point upon
which learned men have differed: It is dated, however, 1520 years before
Christ: I believe it is uncertain by whom it was written: many parts of
it are obscure, but it is well worth studying, for the extreme beauty of
the poetry, and for the noble and sublime devotion it contains. The
subject of the dispute, between Job and his pretended friends, seems to
be, whether the providence of God distributes the rewards and
punishments of this life in exact proportion to the merit or demerit of
each individual. His antagonists suppose that it does: and therefore
infer, from JOB'S uncommon calamities, that, notwithstanding his
apparent righteousness, he was in reality a grievous sinner: they
aggravate his supposed guilt, by the imputation of hypocrisy, and call
upon him to confess it, and to acknowledge the justice of his
punishment. Job asserts his own innocence and virtue in the most
pathetic manner, yet does not presume to accuse the Supreme Being of
injustice. Elihu attempts to arbitrate the matter, by alleging the
impossibility that so frail and ignorant a creature as man should
comprehend the ways of the Almighty, and, therefore, condemns the unjust
and cruel inference the three friends had drawn from the sufferings of
Job. He also blames Job for the presumption of acquitting himself of all
iniquity, since the best of men are not pure in the sight of God--but
all have something to repent of; and he advises him to make this use of
his affliction. At last, by a bold figure of poetry, the Supreme Being
himself is introduced, speaking from the whirlwind, and silencing them
all by the most sublime display of his own power, magnificence, and
wisdom, and of the comparative littleness and ignorance of man. This
indeed is the only conclusion of the argument which could be drawn, at
a time when life and immortality were not yet brought to light. A future
retribution is the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty arising
from the sufferings of good people in this life.

Next follow THE PSALMS, with which you cannot be too conversant. If you
have any taste, either for poetry or devotion, they will be your
delight, and will afford you a continual feast. The Bible translation is
far better than that used in the Common Prayer Book: and will often give
you the sense, when the other is obscure. In this, as well as in all
other parts of the scripture, you must be careful always to consult the
margin, which gives you the corrections made since the last translation,
and is generally preferable to the words of the text. I would wish you
to select some of the Psalms that please you best, and get them by
heart; or, at least, make yourself mistress of the sentiments contained
in them: Dr. Delany's Life of David will show you the occasions on which
several of them were composed, which add much to their beauty and
propriety; and, by comparing them with the events of David's life, you
will greatly enhance your pleasure in them. Never did the spirit of true
piety breathe more strongly than in these divine songs; which, being
added to a rich vein of poetry, makes them more captivating to my heart
and imagination than any thing I ever read. You will consider how great
disadvantages any poems must sustain from being rendered literally into
prose, and then imagine how beautiful these must be in the original. May
you be enabled, by reading them frequently, to transfuse into your own
breast that holy flame which inspired the writer!--to delight in the
Lord, and in his laws, like the Psalmist--to rejoice in him always, and
to think "one day in his courts better than a thousand!" But may you
escape the heart-piercing sorrow of such repentance as that of David, by
avoiding sin, which humbled this unhappy king to the dust, and which
cost him such bitter anguish, as it is impossible to read of without
being moved. Not all the pleasures of the most prosperous sinner could
counterbalance the hundredth part of those sensations described in his
Penitential Psalms; and which must be the portion of every man, who has
fallen from a religious state into such crimes, when once he recovers a
sense of religion and virtue, and is brought to a real hatred of sin:
however available such repentance may be to the safety and happiness of
the soul after death, it is a state of such exquisite suffering here,
that one cannot be enough surprised at the folly of those, who indulge
in sin, with the hope of living to make their peace with God by
repentance. Happy are they who preserve their innocence unsullied by any
great or wilful crimes, and who have only the common failings of
humanity to repent of: these are sufficiently mortifying to a heart
deeply smitten with the love of virtue, and with the desire of
perfection. There are many very striking prophecies of the Messiah in
these divine songs; particularly in Psalm xxii: such may be found
scattered up and down almost throughout the Old Testament. To bear
testimony to _him_ is the great and ultimate end, for which the spirit
of prophecy was bestowed on the sacred writers:--but this will appear
more plainly to you, when you enter on the study of prophecy, which you
are now much too young to undertake.

The PROVERBS and ECCLESIASTES are rich stores of wisdom; from which I
wish you to adopt such maxims as may be of infinite use, both to your
temporal and eternal interest. But detached sentences are a kind of
reading not proper to be continued long at a time: a few of them well
chosen and digested will do you much more service than to read half a
dozen chapters together: in this respect they are directly opposite to
the historical books, which, if not read in continuation, can hardly be
understood, or retained to any purpose.

The SONG of SOLOMON is a fine poem; but its mystical reference to
religion lies too deep for a common understanding: if you read it,
therefore, it will be rather as matter of curiosity than of edification.

Next follow the PROPHECIES, which, though highly deserving the greatest
attention and study, I think you had better omit for some years, and
then read them with a good exposition; as they are much too difficult
for you to understand without assistance. Dr. Newton on the Prophecies
will help you much, whenever you undertake this study; which you should
by all means do, when your understanding is ripe enough; because one of
the main proofs of our religion rests on the testimony of the
prophecies; and they are very frequently quoted and referred to in the
New Testament: besides the sublimity of the language and sentiments,
through all the disadvantages of antiquity and translation, must, in
very many passages, strike every person of taste; and the excellent
moral and religious precepts found in them must be useful to all.

Though I have spoken of these books in the order in which they stand, I
repeat, that they are not to be read in that order; but that the thread
of the history is to be pursued, from Nehemiah, to the first book of
MACCABEES, in the Apocrypha; taking care to observe the Chronology
regularly, by referring to the Index, which supplies the deficiencies of
this history, from _Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews_. The first of
Maccabees carries on the story till within 195 years of our Lord's
circumcision: the second book is the same narrative, written by a
different hand, and does not bring the history so forward as the first;
so that it may be entirely omitted, unless you have the curiosity to
read some particulars of the heroic constancy of the Jews, under the
tortures inflicted by their heathen conquerors; with a few other things
not mentioned in the first book.

You must then connect the history by the help of the Index, which will
give you brief heads of the changes that happened in the state of the
Jews, from this time, till the birth of the Messiah.

The other books of the Apocrypha, though not admitted as of sacred
authority, have many things well worth your attention; particularly the
admirable book called ECCLESIASTICUS, and the BOOK OF WISDOM. But, in
the course of reading which I advise, these must be omitted till after
you have gone through the Gospels and Acts, that you may not lose the
historical thread. I must reserve, however, what I have to say to you
concerning the New Testament to another letter.

    Adieu, my dear!

FOOTNOTES:

[16] Deut. chap. ii.

[17] Ibid. chap. xx.

[18] Deut. chap. ix. ver. 24.



LETTER III.


    _MY DEAREST NIECE_,

WE come now to that part of scripture, which is the most important of
all; and which you must make your constant study, not only till you are
thoroughly acquainted with it, but all your life long; because how often
soever repeated, it is impossible to read the life and death of our
blessed Saviour, without renewing and increasing in our hearts that
love, and reverence, and gratitude, towards him, which is so justly due
for all he did and suffered for us! Every word that fell from his lips
is more precious than all the treasures of the earth; for his "are the
words of eternal life!" They must therefore be laid up in your heart,
and constantly referred to on all occasions, as the rule and direction
of all your actions; particularly those very comprehensive moral
precepts he has graciously left with us, which can never fail to direct
us aright, if fairly and honestly applied: such as, _whatsoever ye would
that men should do unto you, even so do unto them_. There is no
occasion, great or small, on which you may not safely apply this rule,
for the direction of your conduct: and, whilst your heart honestly
adheres to it, you can never be guilty of any sort of injustice or
unkindness. The two great commandments, which contain the summary of our
duty to God and man, are no less easily retained, and made a standard by
which to judge our own hearts.--_To love the Lord our God with all our
hearts, with all our minds, with all our strength; and our neighbour_
(or fellow-creature) _as ourselves_. "Love worketh no ill to his
neighbour;" therefore, if you have true benevolence, you will never do
any thing injurious to individuals, or to society. Now, all crimes
whatever are (in their remoter consequences at least, if not immediately
and apparently) injurious to the society in which we live. It is
impossible _to love God_ without desiring to please him; and, as far as
we are able, to resemble him; therefore, the love of God must lead to
every virtue in the highest degree; and, we may be sure, we do not truly
love him, if we content ourselves with avoiding flagrant sins, and do
not strive in good earnest, to reach the greatest degree of perfection
we are capable of. Thus do those few words direct us to the highest
Christian virtue. Indeed, the whole tenor of the gospel is to offer us
every help, direction, and motive, that can enable us to attain that
degree of perfection, on which depends our eternal good.

What an example is set before us in our blessed Master! How is his whole
life, from earliest youth, dedicated to the pursuit of true wisdom, and
to the practice of the most exalted virtue! When you see him, at _twelve
years of age_, in the temple amongst the doctors, hearing them, and
asking them questions on the subject of religion, and astonishing them
all with his understanding and answers, you will say, perhaps, "Well
might the Son of God, even at those years, be far wiser than the aged;
but, can a mortal child emulate such heavenly wisdom? Can such a pattern
be proposed to _my_ imitation?" Yes, my dear; remember that he has
bequeathed to you his heavenly wisdom, as far as concerns your own good.
He has left you such declarations of his will, and of the consequences
of your actions, as you are, even now, fully able to understand, if you
will but attend to them. If then you will imitate his zeal for
knowledge, if you will delight in gaining information and improvement,
you may, even now, become _wise unto salvation_. Unmoved by the praise
he acquired amongst those learned men, you see him meekly return to the
subjection of a child, under those who appeared to be his parents,
though he was in reality their Lord: you see him return to live with
them, to work for them, and to be the joy and solace of their lives;
till the time came, when he was to enter on that scene of public action,
for which his heavenly Father had sent him from his own right hand, to
take upon him the form of a poor carpenter's son. What a lesson of
humility is this, and of obedience to parents. When, having received
the glorious testimony from heaven, of his being the beloved Son of the
Most High, he enters on his public ministry, what an example does he
give us, of the most extensive and constant benevolence!--how are all
his hours spent in doing good to the souls and bodies of men!--not the
meanest sinner is below his notice: to reclaim and save them, he
condescends to converse familiarly with the most corrupt as well as the
most abject. All his miracles are wrought to benefit mankind; not one to
punish and afflict them. Instead of using the almighty power, which
accompanied him, to the purpose of exalting himself and treading down
his enemies, he makes no other use of it than to heal and to save.

When you come to read of his sufferings and death, the ignominy and
reproach, the sorrow of mind, and torment of body, which he submitted
to--when you consider, that it was for all our sakes--"that by his
stripes we are healed"--and by his death we are raised from destruction
to everlasting life--what can I say that can add any thing to the
sensations you must then feel? No power of language can make the scene
more touching than it appears in the plain and simple narrations of the
evangelists. The heart that is unmoved by it can be scarcely human.
But, my dear, the emotions of tenderness and compunction, which almost
every one feels in reading this account, will be of no avail, unless
applied to the true end--unless it inspires you with a sincere and warm
affection towards your blessed Lord--with a firm resolution to obey his
commands:--to be his faithful disciple--and ever to renounce and abhor
those sins, which brought mankind under Divine condemnation, and from
which we have been redeemed at so dear a rate. Remember, that the title
of Christian, or follower of Christ, implies a more than ordinary degree
of holiness and goodness. As our motives to virtue are stronger than
those which are afforded to the rest of mankind, our guilt will be
proportionably greater if we depart from it.

Our Saviour appears to have had three great purposes, in descending from
his glory and dwelling amongst men. The first, to teach them true
virtue, both by his example and precepts: the second, to give them the
most forcible motives to the practice of it, "by bringing life and
immortality to light," by showing them the certainty of a resurrection
and judgment, and the absolute necessity of obedience to God's laws:
the third, to sacrifice himself for us, to obtain by his death the
remission of our sins upon our repentance and reformation, and the power
of bestowing on his sincere followers the inestimable gift of immortal
happiness.

What a tremendous scene of the _last day_ does the gospel place before
our eyes?--of _that day_ when you, and every one of us, shall awake from
the grave, and behold the Son of God, on his glorious tribunal, attended
by millions of celestial beings, of whose superior excellence we can now
form no adequate idea:--When, in presence of all mankind, of those holy
angels, and of the great Judge himself, you must give an account of your
past life, and hear your final doom, from which there can be no appeal,
and which must determine your fate to all eternity. Then think--if for a
moment you can bear the thought--what will be the desolation, shame, and
anguish of those wretched souls, who shall hear these dreadful
words:--_Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for
the devil and his angels_. Oh! my beloved child! I cannot support even
the idea of your becoming one of those undone, lost creatures. I trust
in God's mercy, that you will make a better use of that knowledge of his
will, which he has vouchsafed you, and of those amiable dispositions he
has given you. Let us therefore turn from this horrid, this
insupportable view, and rather endeavour to imagine, as far as is
possible, what will be the sensation of your soul, if you shall hear our
heavenly Judge address you in these transporting words--_Come, thou
blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world_. Think, what it must be, to become an object of
the esteem and applause, not only of all mankind assembled together, but
of all the host of heaven, of our blessed Lord himself, nay, of his and
our Almighty Father: to find your frail flesh changed in a moment into a
glorious celestial body, endowed with perfect beauty, health, and
agility--to find your soul cleansed from all its faults and infirmities;
exalted to the purest and noblest affections, overflowing with divine
love and rapturous gratitude;--to have your understanding enlightened
and refined, your heart enlarged and purified, and every power and
disposition of mind and body adapted to the highest relish of virtue and
happiness! Thus accomplished, to be admitted into the society of
amiable and happy beings, all united in the most perfect peace and
friendship, all breathing nothing but love to God, and to each
other;--with them to dwell in scenes more delightful than the richest
imagination can paint--free from every pain and care, and from all
possibility of change or satiety:--but, above all, to enjoy the more
immediate presence of God himself--to be able to comprehend and admire
his adorable perfections in a high degree, though still far short of
their infinity--to be conscious of his love and favour, and to rejoice
in the light of his countenance!--but here all imagination fails:--We
can form no idea of that bliss which may be communicated to us by such a
near approach to the source of all beauty and all good:--We must content
ourselves with believing, that it is what _mortal eye hath not seen, nor
ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive_.
The crown of all our joys will be to know that we are secure of
possessing them _for ever_--What a transporting idea!

My dearest child! can you reflect on all these things, and not feel the
most earnest longings after immortality? Do not all other views and
desires seem mean and trifling when compared with this? And does not
your inmost heart resolve that this shall be the chief and constant
object of its wishes and pursuit, through the whole course of your life?
If you are not insensible to that desire of happiness, which seems woven
into our nature, you cannot surely be unmoved by the prospect of such a
transcendent degree of it; and that, continued to all eternity--perhaps
continually increasing. You cannot but dread the forfeiture of such an
inheritance as the most insupportable evil! Remember then--remember the
conditions on which alone it can be obtained. God will not give to vice,
to carelessness, or sloth, the prize he has proposed to virtue. You have
every help that can animate your endeavours:--You have written laws to
direct you--the example of Christ and his disciples to encourage
you--the most awakening motives to engage you--and you have, besides,
the comfortable promise of constant assistance from the Holy Spirit, if
you diligently and sincerely pray for it. O, my dear child! let not all
this mercy be lost upon you; but give your attention to this your only
important concern, and accept, with profound gratitude, the inestimable
advantages that are thus affectionately offered you.

Though the four gospels are each of them a narration of the life,
sayings, and death of Christ; yet, as they are not exactly alike, but
some circumstances and sayings, omitted in one, are recorded in another,
you must make yourself perfectly mistress of them all.

The ACTS of the holy Apostles, endowed with the Holy Ghost, and
authorized by their divine Master, come next in order to be read.
Nothing can be more interesting and edifying, than the history of their
actions--of the piety, zeal, and courage, with which they preached the
glad tidings of salvation--and of the various exertions of the wonderful
powers conferred on them by the Holy Spirit, for the confirmation of
their mission.

The character of St. Paul, and his miraculous conversion, demand your
particular attention: most of the apostles were men of low birth and
education; but St. Paul was a Roman citizen; that is, he possessed the
privileges annexed to the freedom of the city of Rome, which was
considered as an high distinction in those countries that had been
conquered by the Romans. He was educated amongst the most learned sect
of the Jews, and by one of their principal doctors. He was a man of
extraordinary eloquence, as appears not only in his writings, but in
several speeches in his own defence, pronounced before governors and
courts of justice, when he was called to account for the doctrines he
taught. He seems to have been of an uncommon warm temper, and zealous in
whatever religion he professed: this zeal, before his conversion, showed
itself in the most unjustifiable actions, by furiously persecuting the
innocent Christians: but though his actions were bad, we may be sure his
intentions were good; otherwise we should not have seen a miracle
employed to convince him of his mistake, and to bring him into the right
way. This example may assure us of the mercy of God towards mistaken
consciences, and ought to inspire us with the most enlarged charity and
good-will towards those whose erroneous principles mislead their
conduct: instead of resentment and hatred against their persons, we
ought only to feel an active wish of assisting them to find the truth;
since we know not whether, if convinced, they might not prove, like St.
Paul, chosen vessels to promote the honour of God, and of true religion.
It is not my intention now to enter with you into any of the arguments
for the truth of Christianity, otherwise it would be impossible wholly
to pass over that which arises from this remarkable conversion, and
which has been so admirably illustrated by a noble writer,[19] whose
tract on this subject is in every body's hand.

Next follow the EPISTLES, which make a very important part of the New
Testament: and you cannot be too much employed in reading them. They
contain the most excellent precepts and admonitions, and are of
particular use in explaining more at large several doctrines of
Christianity, which we could not so fully comprehend without them. There
are indeed in the Epistles of St. Paul many passages hard to be
understood; such, in particular, are the first eleven chapters to the
Romans; the greater part of his Epistles to the Corinthians and
Galatians; and several chapters of that to the Hebrews. Instead of
perplexing yourself with these more obscure passages of Scripture, I
would wish you to employ your attention chiefly on those that are plain;
and to judge of the doctrines taught in the other parts, by comparing
them with what you find in these. It is through the neglect of this
rule, that many have been led to draw the most absurd doctrines from
the Holy Scriptures. Let me particularly recommend to your careful
perusal the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th chapters of the Epistle to the
Romans. In the 14th chapter, St. Paul has in view the difference between
the Jewish and Gentile (or Heathen) converts at that time; the former
were disposed to look with horror on the latter, for their impiety in
not paying the same regard to the distinctions of days and meats, that
they did; and the latter, on the contrary, were inclined to look with
contempt on the former, for their weakness and superstition. Excellent
is the advice which the apostle gives to both parties: he exhorts the
Jewish converts not to judge, and the Gentiles not to despise;
remembering that the kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, but
righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Endeavour to
conform yourself to this advice; to acquire a temper of universal
candour and benevolence: and learn neither to despise nor condemn any
persons on account of their particular modes of faith and worship;
remembering always, that goodness is confined to no party; that there
are wise and worthy men among all the sects of Christians; and that, to
his own master, every one must stand or fall.

I will enter no further into the several points discussed by St. Paul in
his various epistles--most of them too intricate for your understanding
at present, and many of them beyond my abilities to state clearly. I
will only again recommend to you, to read those passages frequently,
which, with so much fervour and energy, excite you to the practice of
the most exalted piety and benevolence. If the effusions of a heart,
warmed with the tenderest affection for the whole human race--if
precept, warning, encouragement, example, urged by an eloquence which
such affection only could inspire, are capable of influencing your mind,
you cannot fail to find, in such parts of his epistles as are adapted to
your understanding, the strongest persuasives to every virtue that can
adorn and improve your nature.

The Epistle of St. James is entirely practical, and exceedingly fine;
you cannot study it too much. It seems particularly designed to guard
Christians against misunderstanding some things in St. Paul's writings,
which have been fatally perverted to the encouragement of a dependance
on faith alone, without good works. But the more rational commentators
will tell you, that by the works of the law, which the apostle asserts
to be incapable of justifying us, he means not the works of moral
righteousness, but the ceremonial works of the Mosaic law; on which the
Jews laid the greatest stress, as necessary to salvation. But St. James
tells us, that, "If any man among us seem to be religious, and bridleth
not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, that man's religion is
vain." And that pure religion, and undefiled before God the Father, is
this: "to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to
keep himself unspotted from the world." Faith in Christ, if it produce
not these effects, he declares is dead, or of no power.

The Epistles of St. Peter are also full of the best instructions and
admonitions, concerning the relative duties of life; amongst which are
set forth the duties of women in general, and of wives in particular.
Some part of the second Epistle is prophetical; warning the church of
false teachers, and false doctrines, which would undermine morality, and
disgrace the cause of Christianity.

The first of St. JOHN is written in a highly figurative style, which
makes it in some parts hard to be understood: but the spirit of divine
love, which it so fervently expresses, renders it highly edifying and
delightful.--That love of God and of man, which this beloved apostle so
pathetically recommends, is in truth the essence of religion, as our
Saviour himself informs us.

The book of REVELATIONS contains a prophetical account of most of the
great events relating to the Christian church, which were to happen from
the time of the writer, St. John, to the end of the world. Many learned
men have taken a great deal of pains to explain it; and they have done
this in many instances very successfully: but, I think, it is yet too
soon for you to study this part of scripture; some years hence perhaps
there may be no objection to your attempting it, and taking into your
hands the best expositions to assist you in reading such of the most
difficult parts of the New Testament as you cannot now be supposed to
understand. May Heaven direct you in studying this sacred volume, and
render it the means of making you wise unto salvation! May you love and
reverence, as it deserves, this blessed and invaluable book, which
contains the best rule of life, the clearest declaration of the will
and laws of the Deity, the reviving assurance of favour to true
penitents, and the unspeakably joyful tidings of eternal life and
happiness to all the truly virtuous, through Jesus Christ, the Saviour
and Deliverer of the world!

    Adieu.

FOOTNOTE:

[19] Lord Lyttelton.



LETTER IV.

ON THE REGULATION OF THE HEART AND AFFECTIONS.


YOU will have read the New Testament to very little purpose, my dearest
Niece, if you do not perceive the great end and intention of all its
precepts to be the improvement and regulation of the heart: not the
outward actions alone, but the inward affections, which give birth to
them, are the subjects of those precepts; as appears in our Saviour's
explanation[20] of the commandments delivered to Moses; and in a
thousand other passages of the gospels, which it is needless to recite.
There are no virtues more insisted on, as necessary to our future
happiness, than humility, and sincerity, or uprightness, of heart; yet
none more difficult and rare. Pride and vanity, the vices opposite to
humility, are the sources of almost all the worst faults, both of men
and women. The latter are particularly accused--and not without
reason--of _vanity_, the vice of _little_ minds, chiefly conversant with
trifling subjects. Pride and vanity have been supposed to differ so
essentially, as hardly ever to be found in the same person. "Too proud
to be vain," is no uncommon expression; by which I suppose is meant, too
proud to be over anxious for the admiration of others: but this seems to
be founded on mistake. Pride is, I think, an high opinion of one's self,
and an affected contempt of others: I say _affected_, for that it is not
a _real_ contempt is evident from this, that the lowest object of it is
important enough to torture the proud man's heart, only by refusing him
the homage and admiration he requires. Thus Haman could relish none of
the advantages in which he valued himself, whilst that Mordecai, whom he
pretended to despise, sat still in the king's gate, and would not bow to
him as he passed. But as the proud man's contempt of others is only
assumed with a view to awe them into reverence by his pretended
superiority, so it does not preclude an extreme inward anxiety about
their opinions, and a slavish dependance on them for all his
gratifications. Pride, though a distinct passion, is seldom
unaccompanied by vanity, which is an extravagant desire of admiration.
Indeed, I never saw an insolent person, in whom a discerning eye might
not discover a very large share of vanity, and of envy, its usual
companion. One may nevertheless see many _vain_ persons who are not
_proud_; though they desire to be admired, they do not always admire
themselves: but as timid minds are apt to despair of those things they
earnestly wish for, so you will often see the woman who is most anxious
to be thought handsome, most inclined to be dissatisfied with her looks,
and to think all the assistance of art too little to attain the end
desired. To this cause, I believe, we may generally attribute
affectation; which seems to imply a mean opinion of one's own real form,
or character, while we strive against nature to alter ourselves by
ridiculous contortions of body, or by feigned sentiments and unnatural
manners. There is no art so mean, which this mean passion will not
descend to for its gratification--no creature so insignificant, whose
incense it will not gladly receive. Far from despising others, the vain
man will court them with the most assiduous adulation; in hopes, by
feeding their vanity, to induce them to supply the craving wants of his
own. He will put on the guise of benevolence, tenderness, and
friendship, where he feels not the least degree of kindness, in order to
prevail on good-nature and gratitude to like and to commend him; but if,
in any particular case, he fancies the airs of insolence and contempt
may succeed better, he makes no scruple to assume them; though so
awkwardly, that he still appears to depend on the breath of the person
he would be thought to despise. Weak and timid natures seldom venture to
try this last method; and, when they do, it is without the assurance
necessary to carry it on with success: but a bold and confident mind
will oftener endeavour to command and extort admiration than to court
it. As women are more fearful than men, perhaps this may be one reason
why they are more vain than proud; whilst the other sex are oftener
proud than vain. It is, I suppose, from some opinion of a certain
greatness of mind accompanying the one vice rather than the other, that
many will readily confess their pride, nay, and even be proud of their
pride, whilst every creature is ashamed of being convicted of vanity.
You see, however, that the end of both is the same, though pursued by
different means; or, if it differs, it is in the importance of the
subject. Whilst men are proud of power, of wealth, dignity, learning, or
abilities, young women are usually ambitious of nothing more than to be
admired for their persons, their dress, or their most trivial
accomplishments. The homage of men is their grand object; but they only
desire them to be in love with their persons, careless how despicable
their minds appear, even to these their pretended adorers. I have known
a woman so vain as to boast of the most disgraceful addresses; being
contented to be thought meanly of, in points the most interesting to her
honour, for the sake of having it known, that her person was attractive
enough to make a man transgress the bounds of respect due to her
character, which was not a vicious one, if you except this intemperate
vanity. But this passion too often leads to the most ruinous actions,
always corrupts the heart, and, when indulged, renders it, perhaps, as
displeasing in the sight of the Almighty, as those faults which find
least mercy from the world; yet, alas! it is a passion so prevailing, I
had almost said universal, in our sex, that it requires all the efforts
of reason, and all the assistance of grace, totally to subdue it.
Religion is indeed the only effectual remedy for this evil. If our
hearts are not dedicated to God, they will in some way or other be
dedicated to the world, both in youth and age. If our actions are not
constantly referred to him, if his approbation and favour is not our
principal object, we shall certainly take up with the applause of men,
and make that the ruling motive of our conduct. How melancholy is it to
see this phantom so eagerly followed through life! whilst all that is
truly valuable to us is looked upon with indifference; or, at best, made
subordinate to this darling pursuit!

Equally vain and absurd is every scheme of life that is not subservient
to, and does not terminate in, that great end of our being--the
attainment of real excellence, and of the favour of God. Whenever this
becomes sincerely our object, then will pride and vanity, envy,
ambition, covetousness, and every evil passion, lose their power over
us; and we shall, in the language of scripture, "walk humbly with our
God." We shall then cease to repine under our natural or accidental
disadvantages, and feel dissatisfied only with our moral defects;--we
shall love and respect all our fellow-creatures, as the children of the
same dear parent, and particularly those who seek to do his will: All
our delight will be "in the saints that are in the earth, and in such as
excel in virtue." We shall wish to cultivate good-will, and to promote
innocent enjoyment wherever we are:--we shall strive to please, not from
vanity, but from benevolence. Instead of contemplating our own fancied
perfections, or even real superiority with self-complacence, religion
will teach us to "look into ourselves, and fear:" the best of us, God
knows, have enough to fear, if we honestly search into all the dark
recesses of the heart, and bring out every thought and intention fairly
to the light, to be tried by the precepts of our pure and holy religion.

It is with the rules of the gospel we must compare ourselves, and not
with the world around us; for we know, "that the many are wicked: and
that we must not be conformed to the world."

How necessary it is frequently thus to enter into ourselves, and search
out our spirit, will appear, if we consider, how much the human heart is
prone to insincerity, and how often, from being first led by vanity into
attempts to impose upon others, we come at last to impose on ourselves.

There is nothing more common than to see people fall into the most
ridiculous mistakes, with regard to their own characters; but I can by
no means allow such mistakes to be unavoidable, and therefore innocent:
they arose from voluntary insincerity, and are continued for want of
that strict honesty towards ourselves and others, which the Scripture
calls "_singleness of heart_;" and which in modern language is termed
_simplicity_,--the most enchanting of all qualities, esteemed and
beloved in proportion to its rareness.

He, who "requires truth in the inward parts," will not excuse our
self-deception; for he has commanded us to examine ourselves diligently,
and has given us such rules as can never mislead us, if we desire the
truth, and are willing to see our faults, in order to correct them. But
this is the point in which we are defective; we are desirous to gain our
own approbation, as well as that of others, at a cheaper rate than that
of being really what we ought to be; and we take pains to persuade
ourselves that we are that which we indolently admire and approve.

There is nothing in which this self-deception is more notorious than in
what regards sentiment and feeling. Let a vain young woman be told that
tenderness and softness is the peculiar charm of the sex, that even
their weakness is lovely, and their fears becoming, and you will
presently observe her grow so tender as to be ready to weep for a fly;
so fearful, that she starts at a feather; and so weak-hearted, that the
smallest accident quite overpowers her. Her fondness and affection
become fulsome and ridiculous; her compassion grows contemptible
weakness; and her apprehensiveness the most abject cowardice: for, when
once she quits the direction of Nature, she knows not where to stop, and
continually exposes herself by the most absurd extremes.

Nothing so effectually defeats its own ends as this kind of affectation:
for though warm affections and tender feelings are beyond measure
amiable and charming, when perfectly natural, and kept under the due
control of reason and principle, yet nothing is so truly disgusting as
the affectation of them, or even the unbridled indulgence of such as are
real.

Remember, my dear, that our feelings were not given us for our ornament,
but to spur us on to right actions. Compassion, for instance, was not
impressed upon the human heart, only to adorn the fair face with tears,
and to give an agreeable languor to the eyes; it was designed to excite
our utmost endeavours to relieve the sufferer. Yet, how often have I
heard that selfish weakness, which flies from the sight of distress,
dignified with the name of tenderness!--"My friend is, I hear, in the
deepest affliction and misery;--I have not seen her--for indeed I cannot
bear such scenes--they affect me too much!--those who have less
sensibility are fitter for this world;--but, for my part, I own, I am
not able to support such things.--I shall not attempt to visit her, till
I hear she has recovered her spirits." This have I heard said, with an
air of complacence; and the poor selfish creature has persuaded herself
that she had finer feelings than those generous friends, who are sitting
patiently in the house of mourning, watching, in silence, the proper
moment to pour in the balm of comfort;--who suppressed their own
sensations, and only attended to those of the afflicted person; and
whose tears flowed in secret, whilst their eyes and voice were taught to
enliven the sinking heart with the appearance of cheerfulness.

That sort of tenderness which makes us useless, may indeed be pitied and
excused, if owing to natural imbecility; but, if it pretends to
loveliness and excellence, it becomes truly contemptible.

The same degree of active courage is not to be expected in woman as in
man; and, not belonging to her nature, it is not agreeable in her: but
passive courage--patience, and fortitude under sufferings--presence of
mind, and calm resignation in danger--are surely desirable in every
rational creature; especially in one professing to believe in an
over-ruling Providence, in which we may at all times quietly confide,
and which we may safely trust with every event that does not depend upon
our own will. Whenever you find yourself deficient in these virtues, let
it be a subject of shame and humiliation--not of vanity and
self-complacence: do not fancy yourself the more amiable for that which
really makes you despicable; but content yourself with the faults and
weaknesses that belong to you, without putting on more by way of
ornament. With regard to tenderness, remember that compassion is best
shown by an ardour to relieve; and affection, by assiduity to promote
the good and happiness of the persons you love; that tears are
unamiable, instead of being ornamental, when voluntarily indulged; and
can never be attractive but when they flow irresistibly, and avoid
observation as much as possible: the same may be said of every other
mark of passion. It attracts our sympathy, if involuntary, and not
designed for our notice--It offends, if we see that it is purposely
indulged and obtruded on our observation.

Another point, on which the heart is apt to deceive itself, is
generosity: we cannot bear to suspect ourselves of base and ungenerous
feelings, therefore we let them work without attending to them, or we
endeavour to find out some better motive for those actions, which really
flow from envy and malignity. Before you flatter yourself that you are a
generous benevolent person, take care to examine whether you are really
glad of every advantage and excellence, which your friends and
companions possess, though they are such as you are yourself deficient
in. If your sister or friend makes a greater proficiency than yourself
in any accomplishment, which you are in pursuit of, do you never wish to
stop her progress, instead of trying to hasten your own?

The boundaries between virtuous emulation and vicious envy are very
nice, and may be easily mistaken. The first will awaken your attention
to your own defects, and excite your endeavours to improve; the last
will make you repine at the improvements of others, and wish to rob them
of the praise they have deserved. Do you sincerely rejoice when your
sister is enjoying pleasure or commendation, though you are at the same
time in disagreeable or mortifying circumstances? Do you delight to see
her approved and beloved, even by those who do not pay you equal
attention? Are you afflicted and humbled, when she is found to be in
fault, though you yourself are remarkably clear from the same offence?
If your heart assures you of the affirmative to these questions, then
may you think yourself a kind sister and a generous friend: for you must
observe, my dear, that scarcely any creature is so depraved as not to be
capable of kind affections in some circumstances. We are all naturally
benevolent, when no selfish interest interferes, and where no advantage
is to be given up: we can all pity distress, when it lies complaining at
our feet, and confesses our superiority and happier situation: but I
have seen the sufferer himself become the object of envy and ill-will,
as soon as his fortitude and greatness of mind had begun to attract
admiration, and to make the envious person feel the superiority of
virtue above good fortune.

To take sincere pleasure in the blessings and excellencies of others, is
a much surer mark of benevolence than to pity their calamities: and you
must always acknowledge yourself ungenerous and selfish, whenever you
are less ready to "rejoice with them that do rejoice," than to "weep
with them that weep." If ever your commendations of others are forced
from you, by the fear of betraying your envy--or if ever you feel a
secret desire to mention something that may abate the admiration given
them, do not try to conceal the base disposition from yourself, since
that is not the way to cure it.

Human nature is ever liable to corruption, and has in it the seeds of
every vice, as well as of every virtue; and the first will be
continually shooting forth and growing up, if not carefully watched and
rooted out as fast as they appear. It is the business of religion to
purify and exalt us, from a state of imperfection and infirmity, to that
which is necessary and essential to happiness. Envy would make us
miserable in heaven itself, could it be admitted there; for we must
there see beings far more excellent, and consequently more happy than
ourselves; and till we can rejoice in seeing virtue rewarded in
proportion to its degree, we can never hope to be among the number of
the blessed.

Watch then, my dear child, and observe every evil propensity of your
heart, that you may in time correct it, with the assistance of that
grace which alone can conquer the evils of our nature, and which you
must constantly and earnestly implore.

I must add, that even those vices which you would most blush to own, and
which most effectually defile and vilify the female heart, may by
degrees be introduced into yours--to the ruin of that virtue, without
which, misery and shame must be your portion--unless the avenues of the
heart are guarded by a sincere abhorrence of every thing that
approaches towards evil. Would you be of the number of those blessed,
"who are pure in heart," you must hate and avoid every thing, both in
books and in conversation, that conveys impure ideas, however neatly
clothed in decent language, or recommended to your taste by pretended
refinements, and tender sentiments--by elegance of style, or force of
wit and genius.

I must not now begin to give you my thoughts on the regulation of the
affections, as that is a subject of too much consequence to be soon
dismissed. I shall dedicate to it my next letter: in the mean time,
believe me,

    Your ever affectionate.

FOOTNOTE:

[20] Matt. v.



LETTER V.

ON THE REGULATION OF THE AFFECTIONS.


THE attachments of the heart, on which almost all the happiness or
misery of life depends, are most interesting objects of our
consideration. I shall give my dear niece the observations which
experience has enabled me to draw from real life, and not from what
others have said or written, however great their authority.

The first attachment of young hearts is _friendship_--the noblest and
happiest of affections, when real, and built on a solid foundation; but,
oftener pernicious than useful to very young people, because the
connection itself is ill understood, and the subject of it frequently
ill chosen. Their first error is that of supposing equality of age, and
exact similarity of disposition, indispensably requisite in friends;
whereas these are circumstances which in great measure disqualify them
for assisting each other in moral improvements, or supplying each
other's defects; they expose them to the same dangers, and incline them
to encourage rather than correct each other's failings.

The grand cement of this kind of friendship is telling secrets, which
they call confidence: and I verily believe that the desire of having
secrets to tell, has often helped to draw silly girls into very unhappy
adventures. If they have no lover or amour to talk of, the too frequent
subject of their confidence is betraying the secrets of their families;
or conjuring up fancied hardships to complain of against their parents
or relations: this odious cabal, they call friendship; and fancy
themselves dignified by the profession; but nothing is more different
from the reality, as is seen by observing how generally those early
friendships drop off, as the parties advance in years and understanding.

Do not you, my dear, be too ready to profess a friendship with any of
your young companions. Love them, and be always ready to serve and
oblige them, and to promote all their innocent gratifications: but, be
very careful how you enter into confidence with girls of your own age.
Rather choose some person of riper years and judgment, whose good-nature
and worthy principles may assure you of her readiness to do you a
service, and of her candour and condescension towards you.

I do not expect that youth should delight to associate with age, or
should lay open its feelings and inclinations to such as have almost
forgot what they were, or how to make proper allowance for them; but if
you are fortunate enough to meet with a young woman eight or ten years
older than yourself, of good sense and good principles, to whom you can
make yourself agreeable, it may be one of the happiest circumstances of
your life. She will be able to advise and to improve you--and your
desire of this assistance will recommend you to her taste, as much as
her superior abilities will recommend her to you. Such a connection will
afford you more pleasure, as well as more profit, than you can expect
from a girl like yourself, equally unprovided with knowledge, prudence,
or any of those qualifications which are necessary to make society
delightful.

With a friend, such as I have described, of twenty-three or twenty-four
years of age, you can hardly pass an hour without finding yourself
brought forward in some useful knowledge; without learning something of
the world or of your own nature, some rule of behaviour, or some
necessary caution in the conduct of life: for even in the gayest
conversations, such useful hints may often be gathered from those whose
knowledge and experience are much beyond our own. Whenever you find
yourself in real want of advice, or seek the relief of unburdening your
heart, such a friend will be able to judge of the feelings you describe,
or of the circumstances you are in--perhaps from her own experience--or,
at least, from the knowledge she will have gained of human nature! she
will be able to point out your dangers, and to guide you into the right
path; or, if she finds herself incapable, she will have the prudence to
direct you to some abler adviser. The age I have mentioned will not
prevent her joining in your pleasures, nor will it make her a dull or
grave companion; on the contrary, she will have more materials for
entertaining conversation, and her liveliness will shew itself more
agreeably than in one of your own age. Your's therefore will be the
advantage in such a connection; yet do not despair of being admitted
into it, if you have an amiable and docile disposition. Ingenuous youth
has many charms for a benevolent mind; and, as nothing is more endearing
than the exercise of benevolence, the hope of being useful and
beneficial to you will make her fond of your company.

I have known some of the sweetest and most delightful connections
between persons of different ages, in which the elder has received the
highest gratification from the affection and docility of the younger;
whilst the latter has gained the noblest advantages from the
conversation and counsels of her wiser friend. Nor has the attachment
been without use as well as pleasure to the elder party. She has found
that there is no better way of improving one's own attainments, than by
imparting them to another; and the desire of doing this in the most
acceptable way has added a sweetness and gentleness to her manner, and
taught her the arts of insinuating instruction, and of winning the
heart, whilst she convinces the understanding.

I hope, my dear, you in your turn will be this useful and engaging
friend to your younger companions, particularly to your sisters and
brothers, who ought ever--unless they should prove unworthy--to be your
nearest and dearest friends, whose interest and welfare you are bound to
desire as much as your own. If you are wanting here, do not fancy
yourself qualified for friendship with others, but, be assured, your
heart is too narrow and selfish for so generous an affection.

Remember, that the end of true friendship is the good of its object, and
the cultivation of virtue, in two hearts emulous of each other, and
desirous to perpetuate their society beyond the grave. Nothing can be
more contrary to this end than that mutual intercourse of flattery,
which some call friendship. A real friend will venture to displease me,
rather than indulge my faulty inclinations, or increase my natural
frailties; she will endeavour to make me acquainted with myself, and
will put me upon guarding the weak parts of my character.

Friendship, in the highest sense of the word, can only subsist between
persons of strict integrity and true generosity. Before you fancy
yourself possessed of such a treasure, you should examine the value of
your own heart, and see how well it is qualified for so sacred a
connection; and then a harder task remains--to find out whether the
object of your affection is also endued with the same virtuous
disposition. Youth and inexperience are ill able to penetrate into
characters: the least appearance of good attracts their admiration, and
they immediately suppose they have found the object they pursued.

It is a melancholy consideration, that the judgement can only be formed
by experience, which generally comes too late for our own use, and is
seldom accepted for that of others. I fear it is in vain for me to tell
you what dangerous mistakes I made in the early choice of friends--how
incapable I then was of finding out such as were fit for me, and how
little I was acquainted with the true nature of friendship, when I
thought myself most fervently engaged in it! I am sensible all this will
hardly persuade you to choose by the eyes of others, or even to suspect
that your own may be deceived. Yet, if you should give any weight to my
observations, it may not be quite useless to mention to you some of the
essential requisites in a friend; and to exhort you never to choose one
in whom they are wanting.

The first of these is a deep and sincere regard for religion. If your
friend draws her principles from the same source with yourself, if the
gospel precepts are the rule of her life, as well as your's, you will
always know what to expect from her, and have one common standard of
right and wrong to refer to, by which to regulate all material points of
conduct. The woman who thinks lightly of sacred things, or who is ever
heard to speak of them with levity or indifference, cannot reasonably be
expected to pay a more serious regard to the laws of friendship, or to
be uniformly punctual in the performance of any of the duties of
society; take no such person to your bosom, however recommended by
good-humour, wit, or any other qualification; nor let gaiety or
thoughtlessness be deemed an excuse for offending in this important
point: a person habituated to the love and reverence of religion and
virtue, no more wants the guard of serious consideration to restrain her
from speaking disrespectfully of them, than to prevent her speaking ill
of her dearest friend. In the liveliest hour of mirth, the innocent
heart can dictate nothing but what is innocent; it will immediately take
alarm at the apprehension of doing wrong, and stop at once in the full
career of youthful sprightliness, if reminded of the neglect or
transgression of any duty. Watch for these symptoms of innocence and
goodness, and admit no one to your entire affection, who would ever
persuade you to make light of any sort of offence, or who can treat with
levity or contempt any person or thing that bears a relation to
religion.

A due regard to reputation is the next indispensable
qualification.--"Have regard to thy name," saith the wise son of Sirach,
"for that will continue with thee above a thousand great treasures of
gold." The young person, who is careless of blame, and indifferent to
the esteem of the wise and prudent part of the world, is not only a most
dangerous companion, but gives a certain proof of the want of rectitude
in her own mind. Discretion is the guardian of all the virtues; and,
when she forsakes them, they cannot long resist the attacks of an enemy.
There is a profligacy of spirit in defying the rules of decorum, and
despising censure, which seldom ends otherwise than in extreme
corruption and utter ruin. Modesty and prudence are qualities that early
display themselves, and are easily discerned: where these do not appear,
you should avoid, not only friendship, but every step towards intimacy,
lest your own character should suffer with that of your companion; but,
where they shine forth in any eminent degree, you may safely cultivate
an acquaintance, in the reasonable hope of finding the solid fruits of
virtue beneath such sweet and promising blossoms: should you be
disappointed, you will at least have run no risk in the search after
them, and may cherish as a creditable acquaintance the person so
adorned, though she may not deserve a place in your inmost heart.

The understanding must next be examined: and this is a point which
requires so much understanding to judge of in another, that I must
earnestly recommend to you, not to rely entirely on your own, but to
take the opinion of your older friends. I do not wish you to seek for
bright and uncommon talents, though these are sources of inexhaustible
delight and improvement, when found in company with solid judgment and
sound principles. Good sense (by which I mean a capacity for reasoning
justly and discerning truly) applied to the uses of life, and exercised
in distinguishing characters and directing conduct, is alone _necessary_
to an intimate connection; but, without this, the best intentions,
though certain of reward hereafter, may fail of producing their effects
in this life; nor can they singly constitute the character of an useful
and valuable friend. On the other hand, the most dazzling genius, or the
most engaging wit and humour, can but ill answer the purposes of
friendship, without plain common sense and a faculty of just reasoning.

What can one do with those who will not be answered with reason, and
who, when you are endeavouring to convince or persuade them by serious
arguments, will parry the blow with a witty repartee or a stroke of
poignant raillery? I know not whether such a reply is less provoking
than that of an obstinate fool, who answers your strongest reasons
with--"What you say may be very true, but this is my way of thinking." A
small acquaintance with the world will show you instances of the most
absurd and foolish conduct in persons of brilliant parts and
entertaining faculties. But how trifling is the talent of diverting an
idle hour, compared with true wisdom and prudence, which are perpetually
wanted to direct us safely and happily through life, and to make us
useful and valuable to others!

Fancy, I know, will have her share in friendship, as well as in
love:--you must please as well as serve me, before I can love you as the
friend of my heart. But the faculties that please for an evening may not
please for life. The humourous man soon runs through his stock of odd
stories, mimickry, and jest; and the wit, by constant repeated flashes,
confounds and tires one's intellect, instead of enlivening it with
agreeable surprise: but good sense can neither tire nor wear out; it
improves by exercise, and increases in value, the more it is known: the
pleasure it gives in conversation is lasting and satisfactory, because
it is accompanied with improvement; its worth is proportioned to the
occasion that calls for it, and rises highest on the most interesting
topics; the heart, as well as the understanding, finds its account in
it; and our noblest interests are promoted by the entertainment we
receive from such a companion.

A good temper is the next qualification; the value of which in a friend,
you will want no arguments to prove, when you are truly convinced of the
necessity of it in yourself, which I shall endeavour to show you in a
following letter. But, as this is a quality in which you may be
deceived, without a long and intimate acquaintance, you must not be
hasty in forming connections, before you have had sufficient opportunity
for making observations on this head. A young person, when pleased and
enlivened by the presence of her youthful companions, seldom shows ill
temper; which must be extreme indeed, if it is not at least controllable
in such situations. But, you must watch her behaviour to her own family,
and the degree of estimation she stands in with them. Observe her manner
to servants and inferiors--to children--and even to animals. See in
what manner she bears disappointments, contradiction, and restraint;
and what degree of vexation she expresses on any accident of loss or
trouble. If in such little trials she shows a meek, resigned, and
cheerful temper, she will probably preserve it on greater occasions; but
if she is impatient and discontented under these, how will she support
the far greater evils which may await her in her progress through life?
If you should have an opportunity of seeing her in sickness, observe
whether her complaints are of a mild and gentle kind, forced from her by
pain, and restrained as much as possible; or whether they are
expressions of a turbulent rebellious mind, that hardly submits to the
Divine hand. See whether she is tractable, considerate, kind, and
grateful, to those about her: or whether she takes the opportunity,
which their compassion gives her, to tyrannize over and torment them.
Women are in general very liable to ill health, which must necessarily
make them in some measure troublesome and disagreeable to those they
live with. They should therefore, take the more pains to lighten the
burden as much as possible, by patience and good humour; and be careful
not to let their infirmities break in on the health, freedom, or
enjoyments of others, more than is needful and just. Some ladies seem
to think it very improper for any person within their reach to enjoy a
moment's comfort while they are in pain; and make no scruple of
sacrificing to their own least convenience, whenever they are
indisposed, the proper rest, meals, or refreshments of their servants,
and even sometimes of their husbands and children. But their selfishness
defeats its own purpose, as it weakens that affection and tender pity
which excites the most assiduous services, and affords the most healing
balm to the heart of the sufferer.

I have already expressed my wishes that your chosen friend may be some
years older than yourself; but this is an advantage not always to be
obtained. Whatever be her age, _religion_, _discretion_, _good sense_,
and _good temper_, must on no account be dispensed with; and till you
can find one so qualified, you had better make no closer connection than
that of a mutual intercourse of civilities and good offices. But if it
is always your aim to mix with the best company, and to be worthy of
such society, you will probably meet with some one among them deserving
your affection, to whom you may be equally agreeable.

When I speak of the best company, I do not mean, in the common
acceptation of the word, persons of high rank and fortune--but rather
the most worthy and sensible. It is however very important to a young
woman to be introduced into life on a respectable footing, and to
converse with those whose manners and style of life may polish her
behaviour, refine her sentiments, and give her consequence in the eye of
the world. Your equals in rank are most proper for intimacy, but to be
sometimes amongst your superiors is every way desirable and
advantageous, unless it should inspire you with pride, or with the
foolish desire of emulating their grandeur and expense.

Above all things avoid intimacy with those of low birth and education!
nor think it a mark of humility to delight in such society; for it much
oftener proceeds from the meanest kind of pride,--that of being the head
of the company, and seeing your companions subservient to you. The
servile flattery and submission, which usually recommend such people,
and make amends for their ignorance and want of conversation, will
infallibly corrupt your heart, and make all company insipid from whom
you cannot expect the same homage. Your manners and faculties, instead
of improving, must be continually lowered, to suit you to your
companions; and, believe me, you will find it no easy matter to raise
them again to a level with those of polite and well-informed people.

The greatest kindness and civility to inferiors is perfectly consistent
with proper caution on this head. Treat them always with affability, and
talk to them of their own affairs with an affectionate interest; but
never make them familiar, nor admit them as associates in your
diversions: but, above all, never trust them with your secrets, which is
putting yourself entirely in their power, and subjecting yourself to the
most shameful slavery. The only reason for making choice of such
confidants, must be the certainty that they will not venture to blame or
contradict inclinations, which you are conscious no true friend would
encourage. But this is a meanness into which I trust you are in no
danger of falling. I rather hope you will have the laudable ambition of
spending your time chiefly with those, whose superior talents,
education, and politeness, may continually improve you, and whose
society will do you honour. However, let no advantage of this kind
weigh against the want of principle. I have long ago resolved with
David, that, as far as lies in my power, "I will not know a wicked
person." Nothing can compensate for the contagion of bad example, and
for the danger of wearing off by use that abhorrence of evil actions and
sentiments, which every innocent mind sets out with, but which an
indiscriminate acquaintance in the world soon abates, and at length
destroys.

If you are good, and seek friendship only among the good, I trust you
will be happy enough to find it. The wise son of Sirach pronounces that
you will. "[21]A faithful friend," saith he, "is the medicine of life;
and he that feareth the Lord shall find him. Whoso feareth the Lord
shall direct his friendship aright; for, as he is, so shall his
neighbour be also." In the same admirable book, you will find directions
how to choose and preserve a friend. Indeed there is hardly a
circumstance in life concerning which you may not there meet with the
best advice imaginable. Caution in making friendships is particularly
recommended. "[22]Be in peace with many, nevertheless have but one
counsellor of a thousand. If thou wouldst get a friend, prove him first,
and be not hasty to credit him; for some man is a friend for his own
occasion, and will not abide in the day of trouble. And there is a
friend, who, being turned to enmity and strife, will discover thy
reproach." Again, "Some friend is a companion at the table, and will not
continue in the day of thy affliction; but in thy prosperity he will be
as thyself, and will be bold over thy servants: if thou be brought low,
he will be against thee, and will hide himself from thy face." Chap. ix.
10. "Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him--A
new friend is as new wine; when it is old, thou shalt drink it with
pleasure."

When you have discreetly chosen, the next point is how to preserve your
friend. Numbers complain of the fickleness and ingratitude of those on
whom they bestowed their affection; but few examine, whether what they
complain of is not owing to themselves. Affection is not like a portion
of freehold land, which once settled upon you is a possession for ever,
without further trouble on your part. If you grow less deserving, or
less attentive to please, you must expect to see the effects of your
remissness, in the gradual decline of your friend's esteem and
attachment. Resentment and reproaches will not recal what you have lost;
but, on the contrary, will hasten the dissolution of every remaining
tie. The best remedy is, to renew your care and assiduity to deserve and
cultivate affection, without seeming to have perceived its abatement.
Jealousy and distrust are the bane of friendship, whose essence is
esteem and affiance. But if jealousy is expressed by unkind upbraidings,
or, what is worse, by cold haughty looks and insolent contempt, it can
hardly fail, if often repeated, to realize the misfortune, which at
first perhaps was imaginary. Nothing can be more an antidote to
affection than such behaviour, or than the cause of it, which, in
reality, is nothing but pride; though the jealous person would fain
attribute it to uncommon tenderness and delicacy: but tenderness is
never so expressed: it is indeed deeply sensible of unkindness, but it
cannot be unkind;--it may subsist with anger, but not with contempt;--it
may be weakened, or even killed, by ingratitude; but it cannot be
changed into hatred. Remember always, that if you would be _loved_, you
must be _amiable_. Habit may, indeed, for a time, supply the deficiency
of merit; what we have long loved we do not easily cease to love; but
habit will at length be conquered by frequent disgusts.--"[23]Whoso
casteth a stone at the birds, frayeth them away; and he that upbraideth
his friend, breaketh friendship. Though thou drewest a sword at thy
friend, yet despair not, for there may be a returning to favour. If thou
hast opened thy mouth against thy friend, fear not, for there may be a
reconciliation; excepting for _upbraiding_, or _pride_, or _disclosing
of secrets_, or a _treacherous wound_,--for, for these things every
friend will depart."

I have hitherto spoken of a friend in the singular number, rather in
compliance with the notions of most writers, who have treated of
friendship, and who generally suppose it can have but one object, than
from my own ideas. The highest kind of friendship is indeed confined to
one;--I mean the conjugal, which, in its perfection, is so entire and
absolute an union of interest, will, and affection, as no other
connection can stand in competition with. But there are various degrees
of friendship, which can admit of several objects, esteemed, and
delighted in, for different qualities, and whose separate rights are
perfectly compatible. Perhaps it is not possible to love two persons
exactly in the same degree; yet, the difference may be so small, that
none of the parties can be certain on which side the scale
preponderates.

It is narrowness of mind to wish to confine your friend's affection
solely to yourself; since you are conscious that, however perfect your
attachment may be, you cannot possibly supply to her all the blessings
she may derive from several friends, who may each love her as well as
you do, and may each contribute largely to her happiness. If she depends
on you alone for all the comforts and advantages of friendship, your
absence or death may leave her desolate and forlorn. If therefore you
prefer her good to your own selfish gratification, you should rather
strive to multiply her friends, and be ready to embrace in your
affections all who love, and deserve her love: this generosity will
bring its own reward, by multiplying the sources of your pleasures and
supports; and your first friend will love you the more for such an
endearing proof of the extent of your affection, which can stretch to
receive all who are dear to her. But if, on the contrary, every mark of
esteem shewn to another excites uneasiness or resentment in you, the
person you love must soon feel her connection with you a burden and
restraint. She can own no obligation to so selfish an attachment; nor
can her tenderness be increased by that which lessens her esteem. If she
is really fickle and ungrateful, she is not worth your reproaches: If
not, she must be reasonably offended by such injurious imputations.

You do not want to be told, that the strictest fidelity is required in
friendship: and though possibly instances might be brought, in which
even the secret of a friend must be sacrificed to the calls of justice
and duty, yet these are rare and doubtful cases; and we may venture to
pronounce that, "[24]Whoso discovereth secrets, loseth his credit, and
shall never find a friend to his mind."--"Love thy friend, and be
faithful unto him: but if thou betrayest his secrets, follow no more
after him. For as a man that hath destroyed his enemy, so hast thou
destroyed the love of thy friend. As one that letteth a bird go out of
his hand, so hast thou let thy neighbour go. Follow no more after him,
for he is too far off; he is as a roe escaped out of the snare. As for a
wound, it may be bound up; and after revilings there may be
reconcilement; but he that betrayeth secrets is without hope."

But in order to reconcile this inviolable fidelity with the duty you owe
to yourself or others, you must carefully guard against being made the
repository of such secrets as are not fit to be kept. If your friend
should engage in any unlawful pursuit--if, for instance, she should
intend to carry on an affair of love, unknown to her parents--you must
first use your utmost endeavours to dissuade her from it; and if she
persists, positively and solemnly declare against being a confidant in
such a case. Suffer her not to speak to you on the subject, and warn her
to forbear acquainting you with any step she may propose to take towards
a marriage unsanctified by parental approbation. Tell her, you would
think it your duty to apprize her parents of the danger into which she
was throwing herself. However unkindly she may take this at the time,
she will certainly esteem and love you the more for it, whenever she
recovers a sense of her duty, or experiences the sad effects of swerving
from it.

There is another case, which I should not choose to suppose possible, in
addressing myself to so young a person, was it not that too many
instances of it have of late been exposed to public animadversion: I
mean the case of a married woman, who encourages or tolerates the
addresses of a lover. May no such person be ever called a friend of
your's! but if ever one, whom, when innocent, you had loved, should fall
into so fatal an error, I can only say that, after proper remonstrances,
you must immediately withdraw from all intimacy and confidence with her.
Nor let the absurd pretence of _innocent intentions_, in such
circumstances, prevail with you to lend your countenance a moment to
disgraceful conduct. There cannot be innocence, in any degree of
indulgence to unlawful passion. The sacred obligations of marriage are
very ill understood by the wife, who can think herself innocent, while
she parleys with a lover, or with love, and who does not shut her heart
and ears against the most distant approaches of either. A virtuous
wife--though she should be so unhappy as not to be secured, by having
her strongest affections fixed on her husband--will never admit an idea
of any other man, in the light of a lover; but if such an idea should
unawares intrude into her mind, she would instantly stifle it, before it
grew strong enough to give her much uneasiness. Not to the most intimate
friend--hardly to her own soul--would she venture to confess a weakness,
she would so sincerely abhor. Whenever therefore such infidelity of
heart is made a subject of confidence, depend upon it the corruption has
spread far, and has been faultily indulged. Enter not into her counsels:
show her the danger she is in, and then withdraw yourself from it,
whilst you are yet unsullied by contagion.

It has been supposed a duty of friendship to lay open every thought and
every feeling of the heart to our friend. But I have just mentioned a
case, in which this is not only unnecessary, but wrong. A disgraceful
inclination, which we resolve to conquer, should be concealed from every
body; and is more easily subdued when denied the indulgence of talking
of its object; and, I think, there may be other instances, in which it
would be most prudent to keep our thoughts concealed even from our
dearest friend. Some things I would communicate to one friend, and not
to another, whom perhaps I loved better, because I might know that my
first friend was not so well qualified as the other to counsel me on
that particular subject: a natural bias on her mind, some prevailing
opinion, or some connection with persons concerned, might make her an
improper confidant with regard to one particular, though qualified to be
so on all other occasions.

This confidence of friendship is indeed one of its sweetest pleasures
and greatest advantages. The human heart often stands in need of some
kind and faithful partner of its cares, in whom it may repose all its
weaknesses, and with whom it is sure of finding the tenderest sympathy.
Far be it from me to shut up the heart with cold distrust, and rigid
caution, or to adopt the odious maxim, that "we should live with a
friend, as if he were one day to become an enemy." But we must not
wholly abandon prudence in any sort of connection; since, when every
guard is laid aside, our unbounded openness may injure others as well as
ourselves. Secrets entrusted to us must be sacredly kept even from our
nearest friend: for we have no right to dispose of the secrets of
others.

If there is danger in making an improper choice of friends, my dear
child, how much more fatal would it be to mistake in a stronger kind of
attachment--in that which leads to an irrevocable engagement for life!
yet so much more is the understanding blinded, when once the fancy is
captivated, that it seems a desperate undertaking to convince a girl in
love that she has mistaken the character of the man she prefers.

If the passions would wait for the decision of judgment, and if a young
woman could have the same opportunities of examining into the real
character of her lover, as into that of a female candidate for her
friendship, the same rules might direct you in the choice of both: for
marriage being the highest state of friendship, the qualities requisite
in a friend are still more important in a husband. But young women know
so little of the world, especially of the other sex, and such pains are
usually taken to deceive them, that they are every way unqualified to
choose for themselves, upon their own judgment. Many a heart-ache shall
I feel for you, my sweet girl, if I live a few years longer! Since, not
only all your happiness in this world, but your advancement in religion
and virtue, or your apostacy from every good principle you have been
taught, will probably depend on the companion you fix to for life. Happy
will it be for you, if you are wise and modest enough to withdraw from
temptation, and preserve your heart free and open to receive the just
recommendation of your parents: further than a recommendation, I dare
say they will never go, in an affair which, though it should be begun by
them, ought never to be proceeded in without your free concurrence.

Whatever romantic notions you may hear or read of, depend upon it, those
matches are the happiest which are made on rational grounds--on
suitableness of character, degree, and fortune--on mutual esteem, and the
prospect of a real and permanent friendship. Far be it from me to advise
you to marry where you do not love;--a mercenary marriage is a detestable
prostitution. But, on the other hand, an union formed upon mere personal
liking, without the requisite foundation of esteem, without the sanction
of parental approbation, and, consequently, without the blessing of God,
can be productive of nothing but misery and shame. The passion, to which
every consideration of duty and prudence is sacrificed, instead of
supplying the loss of all other advantages, will soon itself be changed
into mutual distrust--repentance--reproaches--and, finally, perhaps into
hatred. The distresses it brings will be void of every consolation; you
will have disgusted the friends who should be your support--debased
yourself in the eyes of the world--and, what is much worse, in your own
eyes, and even in those of your husband: above all, you will have
offended that God, who alone can shield you from calamity.

From an act like this, I trust, your duty and gratitude to your kind
parents--the first of dudes next to that we owe to God, and inseparably
connected with it--will effectually preserve you. But most young people
think they have fulfilled their duty, if they refrain from actually
marrying against prohibition: they suffer their affections, and even
perhaps their word of honour, to be engaged, without consulting their
parents; yet satisfy themselves with resolving not to marry without
their consent: not considering, that, besides the wretched, useless,
uncomfortable state they plunge _themselves_ into, when they contract an
hopeless engagement, they must likewise involve a _parent_ in the
miserable dilemma of either giving a forced consent against his
judgment, or of seeing his beloved child pine away her prime of life in
fruitless anxiety--seeing her accuse him of tyranny, because he
restrains her from certain ruin--seeing her affections alienated from
her family--and all her thoughts engrossed by one object, to the
destruction of her health and spirits, and of all improvements and
occupations. What a cruel alternative for parents, whose happiness is
bound up with that of their child! The time to consult them is before
you have given a lover the least encouragement; nor ought you to listen
a moment to the man who would wish you to keep his addresses secret;
since he thereby shows himself conscious that they are not fit to be
encouraged.

But perhaps I have said enough on this subject at present; though, if
ever advice on such a topic can be of use, it must be before passion has
got possession of the heart, and silenced both reason and principle. Fix
therefore in your mind, as deeply as possible, those rules of duty and
prudence which now seem reasonable to you, that they may be at hand in
the hour of trial, and save you from the miseries, in which strong
affections, unguided by discretion, involve so many of our sex.

If you love virtue sincerely, you will be incapable of loving an openly
vicious character. But, alas! your innocent heart may be easily ensnared
by an artful one--and from this danger nothing can secure you but the
experience of those, to whose guidance God has entrusted you: may you be
wise enough to make use of it!--So will you have the fairest chance of
attaining the best blessings this world can afford, in a faithful and
virtuous union with a worthy man, who may direct your steps in safety
and honour through this life, and partake with you the rewards of virtue
in that which is to come. But, if this happy lot should be denied you,
do not be afraid of a single life. A worthy woman is never destitute of
valuable friends, who in a great measure supply to her the want of
nearer connections. She can never be slighted or disesteemed, while her
good temper and benevolence render her a blessing to her companions.
Nay, she must be honoured by all persons of sense and virtue, for
preferring the single state to an union unworthy of her. The calamities
of an unhappy marriage are so much greater than can befall a single
person, that the unmarried woman may find abundant argument to be
contented with her condition, when pointed out to her by Providence.
Whether married or single, if your first care is to please God, you will
undoubtedly be a blessed creature;--"For that which he delights in _must
be happy_." How earnestly I wish you this happiness, you can never know,
unless you could read the heart of

    Your truly affectionate.

FOOTNOTES:

[21] Ecclus v.

[22] Ibid. vi.

[23] Ecclus. xxii. 20.

[24] Ecclus. xxvii. 16.



LETTER VI.

ON THE GOVERNMENT OF THE TEMPER.


THE next great point of importance to your future happiness, my dear, is
what your parents have, doubtless, been continually attentive to from
your infancy, as it is impossible to undertake it too early--I mean the
due Regulation of your Temper. Though you are in great measure indebted
to their forming hands for whatever is good in it, you are sensible, no
doubt, as every human creature is, of propensities to some infirmity of
temper, which it must now be _your own_ care to correct and to subdue:
otherwise the pains that have hitherto been taken with you may all
become fruitless; and, when you are your own mistress, you may relapse
into those faults, which were originally in your nature, and which will
require to be diligently watched and kept under, through the whole
course of your life.

If you consider, that the constant tenor of the gospel precepts is to
promote love, peace, and good-will amongst men, you will not doubt that
the cultivation of an amiable disposition is a great part of your
religious duty: since nothing leads more directly to the breach of
charity, and to the injury and molestation of our fellow-creatures, than
the indulgence of an ill-temper. Do not therefore think lightly of the
offences you may commit, for want of a due command over it, or suppose
yourself responsible for them to your fellow-creatures only; but, be
assured, you must give a strict account of them all to the Supreme
Governor of the world, who has made this a great part of your appointed
trial upon earth.

A woman, bred up in a religious manner, placed above the reach of want,
and out of the way of sordid or scandalous vices, can have but few
temptations to the flagrant breach of the Divine laws. It particularly
concerns her therefore to understand them in their full import, and to
consider how far she trespasses against them, by such actions as appear
trivial when compared with murder, adultery, and theft, but which become
of very great importance, by being frequently repeated, and occurring in
the daily transactions of life.

The principal virtues or vices of a woman must be of a private and
domestic kind. Within the circle of her own family and dependents lies
her sphere of action--the scene of almost all those tasks and trials,
which must determine her character, and her fate, here and hereafter.
Reflect, for a moment, how much the happiness of her husband, children,
and servants, must depend on her temper, and you will see that the
greatest good, or evil, which she ever may have in her power to do, may
arise from her correcting or indulging its infirmities.

Though I wish the principle of duty towards God to be your ruling motive
in the exercise of every virtue, yet, as human nature stands in need of
all possible helps, let us not forget how essential it is to present
happiness, and to the enjoyment of this life, to cultivate such a temper
as is likewise indispensably requisite to the attainment of higher
felicity in the life to come. The greatest outward blessings cannot
afford enjoyment to a mind ruffled and uneasy within itself. A fit of
ill-humour will spoil the finest entertainment, and is as real a torment
as the most painful disease. Another unavoidable consequence of
ill-temper is the dislike and aversion of all who are witnesses to it,
and, perhaps, the deep and lasting resentment of those who suffer from
its effects. We all, from social or self-love, earnestly desire the
esteem and affection of our fellow-creatures; and indeed our condition
makes them so necessary to us, that the wretch who has forfeited them,
must feel desolate and undone, deprived of all the best enjoyments and
comforts the world can afford, and given up to his inward misery,
unpitied and scorned. But this can never be the fate of a good-natured
person: whatever faults he may have, they will generally be treated with
lenity; he will find an advocate in every human heart; his errors will
be lamented rather than abhorred; and his virtues will be viewed in the
fairest point of light. His good humour, without the help of great
talents or acquirements, will make his company preferable to that of the
most brilliant genius, in whom this quality is wanting; in short, it is
almost impossible that you can be sincerely beloved by any body, without
this engaging property, whatever other excellencies you may possess;
but, with it, you will scarcely fail of finding some friends and
favourers, even though you should be destitute of almost every other
advantage.

Perhaps you will say, all this is very true; "but our tempers are not in
our own power; we are made with different dispositions, and, if mine is
not amiable, it is rather my unhappiness than my fault." This, my dear,
is commonly said by those who will not take the trouble to correct
themselves. Yet, be assured, it is a delusion, and will not avail in our
justification before Him, "who knoweth whereof we are made," and of what
we are capable. It is true, we are not all equally happy in our
dispositions; but human virtue consists in cherishing and cultivating
every good inclination, and in checking and subduing every propensity to
evil. If you had been born with a bad temper, it might have been made a
good one, at least with regard to its outward effects, by education,
reason, and principle: and, though you are so happy as to have a good
one while young, do not suppose it will always continue so, if you
neglect to maintain a proper command over it. Power, sickness,
disappointments, or worldly cares, may corrupt and embitter the finest
disposition, if they are not counteracted by reason and religion.

It is observed, that every temper is inclined, in some degree, either to
passion, peevishness, or obstinacy. Many are so unfortunate as to be
inclined to each of the three in turn: it is necessary therefore to
watch the bent of our nature, and to apply the remedies proper for the
infirmity to which we are most liable. With regard to the first, it is
so injurious to society, and so odious in itself, especially in the
female character, that one would think shame alone would be sufficient
to preserve a young woman from giving way to it: for it is as unbecoming
her character to be betrayed into ill-behaviour by _passion_, as by
_intoxication_, and she ought to be ashamed of the one as much as of the
other. Gentleness, meekness, and patience, are her peculiar
distinctions; and an enraged woman is one of the most disgusting sights
in nature.

It is plain, from experience, that the most passionate people can
command themselves, when they have a motive sufficiently strong--such as
the presence of those they fear, or to whom they particularly desire to
recommend themselves; it is therefore no excuse to persons, whom you
have injured by unkind reproaches, and unjust aspersions, to tell them
you was in a passion; the allowing yourself to speak to them in a
passion is a proof of an insolent disrespect, which the meanest of your
fellow-creatures would have a right to resent. When once you find
yourself heated so far as to desire to say what you know would be
provoking and wounding to another, you should immediately resolve either
to be silent, or to quit the room, rather than give utterance to any
thing dictated by so bad an inclination. Be assured, you are then unfit
to reason or to reprove, or to hear reason from others. It is therefore
your part to retire from such an occasion of sin; and wait till you are
cool, before you presume to judge of what has passed. By accustoming
yourself thus to conquer and disappoint your anger, you will, by
degrees, find it grow weak and manageable, so as to leave your reason at
liberty. You will be able to restrain your tongue from evil, and your
looks and gestures from all expressions of violence and ill-will. Pride,
which produces so many evils in the human mind, is the great source of
passion. Whoever cultivates in himself a proper humility, a due sense of
his own faults and insufficiencies, and a due respect for others, will
find but small temptation to violent or unreasonable anger.

In the case of real injuries, which justify and call for resentment,
there is a noble and generous kind of anger, a proper and necessary part
of our nature, which has nothing in it sinful or degrading. I would not
wish you insensible to this; for the person, who feels not an injury,
must be incapable of being properly affected by benefits. With those,
who treat you ill without provocation, you ought to maintain your own
dignity. But, in order to do this, whilst you show a sense of their
improper behaviour, you must preserve calmness, and even good-breeding;
and thereby convince them of the impotence as well as injustice of
their malice. You must also weigh every circumstance with candour and
charity, and consider whether your showing the resentment deserved may
not produce ill consequences to innocent persons--as is almost always
the case in family quarrels; and whether it may not occasion the breach
of some duty, or necessary connection, to which you ought to sacrifice
even your just resentments. Above all things, take care that a
particular offence to you does not make you unjust to the general
character of the offending person. Generous anger does not preclude
esteem for whatever is really estimable, nor does it destroy good-will
to the person of its object: it even inspires the desire of overcoming
him by benefits, and wishes to inflict no other punishment than the
regret of having injured one who deserved his kindness: it is always
placable, and ready to be reconciled, as soon as the offender is
convinced of his error; nor can any subsequent injury provoke it to
recur to past disobligations, which had been once forgiven. But it is
perhaps unnecessary to give rules for this case. The consciousness of
injured innocence naturally produces dignity, and usually prevents
excess of anger. Our passion is most unruly, when we are conscious of
blame, and when we apprehend that we have laid ourselves open to
contempt. Where we know we have been wrong, the least injustice in the
degree of blame imputed to us, excites our bitterest resentment; but,
where we know ourselves faultless, the sharpest accusation excites pity
or contempt, rather than rage. Whenever, therefore, you feel yourself
very angry, suspect yourself to be in the wrong, and resolve to stand
the decision of your own conscience before you cast upon another the
punishment, which is perhaps due to yourself. This self-examination will
at least give you time to cool, and, if you are just, will dispose you
to balance your own wrong with that of your antagonist, and to settle
the account with him on equal terms.

Peevishness, though not so violent and fatal in its immediate effects,
is still more unamiable than passion, and, if possible, more destructive
of happiness, inasmuch as it operates more continually. Though the
fretful man injures us less, he disgusts us more than the passionate
one; because he betrays a low and little mind, intent on trifles, and
engrossed by a paltry self-love, which knows not how to bear the very
apprehension of any inconvenience. It is self-love then, which we must
combat, when we find ourselves assaulted by this infirmity; and, by
voluntarily induring inconveniences, we shall habituate ourselves to
bear them with ease and good-humour, when occasioned by others. Perhaps
this is the best kind of religious mortification; as the chief end of
denying ourselves any innocent indulgences, must be to acquire a habit
of command over our passions and inclinations, particularly such as are
likely to lead us into evil. Another method of conquering this enemy, is
to abstract our minds from that attention to trifling circumstances,
which usually creates this uneasiness. Those, who are engaged in high
and important pursuits, are very little affected by small
inconveniences. The man, whose head is full of studious thought, or
whose heart is full of care, will eat his dinner without knowing whether
it was well or ill dressed, or whether it was served punctually at the
hour or not: and though absence from the common things of life is far
from desirable--especially in a woman--yet too minute and anxious an
attention to them seldom fails to produce a teasing, mean, and fretful
disposition. I would therefore wish your mind to have always some object
in pursuit worthy of it, that it may not be engrossed by such as are in
themselves scarce worth a moment's anxiety. It is chiefly in the decline
of life, when amusements fail, and when the more importunate passions
subside, that this infirmity is observed to grow upon us; and perhaps it
will seldom fail to do so, unless carefully watched, and counteracted by
reason. We must then endeavour to substitute some pursuits in the place
of those, which can only engage us in the beginning of our course. The
pursuit of glory and happiness in another life, by every means of
improving and exalting our own minds, becomes more and more interesting
to us, the nearer we draw to the end of all sublunary enjoyments.
Reading, reflection, rational conversation, and, above all, conversing
with God, by prayer and meditation, may preserve us from taking that
anxious interest in the little comforts and conveniences of our
remaining days, which usually gives birth to so much fretfulness in old
people. But though the aged and infirm are most liable to this evil--and
they alone are to be pitied for it--yet we sometimes see the young, the
healthy, and those who enjoy most outward blessings, inexcusably guilty
of it. The smallest disappointment in pleasure, or difficulty in the
most trifling employment, will put wilful young people out of temper,
and their very amusements frequently become sources of vexation and
peevishness. How often have I seen a girl, preparing for a ball, or for
some other public appearance--unable to satisfy her own vanity--fret
over every ornament she put on, quarrel with her maid, with her clothes,
her hair; and growing still more unlovely as she grew more cross, be
ready to fight with her looking-glass for not making her as handsome as
she wished to be! She did not consider, that the traces of this
ill-humour on her countenance would be a greater disadvantage to her
appearance than any defect in her dress, or even than the plainest
features enlivened by joy and good-humour. There is a degree of
resignation necessary even to the enjoyment of pleasure: we must be
ready and willing to give up some part of what we could wish for, before
we can enjoy that which is indulged to us. I have no doubt that she, who
frets all the while she is dressing for an assembly, will suffer still
greater uneasiness when she is there. The same craving restless vanity
will there endure a thousand mortifications, which, in the midst of
seeming pleasure, will secretly corrode her heart; whilst the meek and
humble generally find more gratification than they expected, and return
home pleased and enlivened from every scene of amusement, though they
could have staid away from it with perfect ease and contentment.

Sullenness, or obstinacy, is perhaps a worse fault of temper than either
of the former, and, if indulged, may end in the most fatal extremes of
stubborn melancholy, malice, and revenge. The resentment which, instead
of being expressed, is nursed in secret, and continually aggravated by
the imagination, will, in time, become the ruling passion; and then, how
horrible must be his case, whose kind and pleasurable affections are all
swallowed up by the tormenting as well as detestable sentiments of
hatred and revenge? "[25]Admonish thy friend, peradventure he hath not
done it: or, if he hath, that he do it no more.--Admonish thy friend,
peradventure he hath not said it: or, if he hath, that he speak it not
again." Brood not over a resentment which perhaps was at first
ill-grounded, and which is undoubtedly heightened by an heated
imagination. But when you have first subdued your own temper, so as to
be able to speak calmly, reasonably, and kindly, then expostulate with
the person you suppose to be in fault--hear what she has to say; and
either reconcile yourself to her, or quiet your mind under the injury by
the principle of Christian charity. But, if it should appear that you
yourself have been most to blame, or if you have been in an error,
acknowledge it fairly and handsomely; if you feel any reluctance to do
so, be certain that it arises from pride, to conquer which is an
absolute duty. "A soft answer turneth away wrath," and a generous
confession oftentimes more than atones for the fault which requires it.
Truth and justice demand, that we should acknowledge conviction, as soon
as we feel it, and not maintain an erroneous opinion, or justify a wrong
conduct, merely from the false shame of confessing our past ignorance. A
false shame it undoubtedly is, and as impolitic as unjust, since your
error is already seen by those who endeavour to set you right; but your
conviction, and the candour and generosity of owning it freely, may
still be an honour to you, and would greatly recommend you to the person
with whom you disputed. With a disposition strongly inclined to
sullenness or obstinacy, this must be a very painful exertion; and to
make a perfect conquest over yourself at once may perhaps appear
impracticable, whilst the zeal of self-justification, and the abhorrence
of blame, are strong upon you. But, if you are so unhappy as to yield to
your infirmity, at one time, do not let this discourage you from
renewing your efforts. Your mind will gain strength from the contest,
and your internal enemy will by degrees be forced to give ground. Be not
afraid to revive the subject, as soon as you find yourself able to
subdue your temper; and then frankly lay open the conflict you sustained
at the time: by this you will make all the amends in your power for your
fault, and will certainly change the disgust you have given into pity at
least, if not admiration. Nothing is more endearing than such a
confession; and you will find such a satisfaction in your own
consciousness, and in the renewed tenderness and esteem you will gain
from the person concerned, that your task for the future will be made
more easy, and your reluctance to be convinced will on every occasion
grow less and less.

The love of truth, and a real desire of improvement, ought to be the
only motives of argumentation; and, where these are sincere, no
difficulty can be made of embracing the truth, as soon as it is
perceived. But, in fact, people oftener dispute from vanity and pride,
which makes it a grievous mortification to allow that we are the wiser
for what we have heard from another. To receive advice, reproof, and
instruction, properly, is the surest sign of a sincere and humble heart;
and shows a greatness of mind, which commands our respect and reverence,
while it appears so willingly to yield to us the superiority.

Observe, notwithstanding, that I do not wish you to hear of your faults
without pain: Such an indifference would afford small hopes of
amendment. Shame and remorse are the first steps to true repentance; yet
we should be willing to bear this pain, and thankful to the kind hand
that inflicts it for our good. Nor must we, by sullen silence under it,
leave our kind physician in doubt, whether the operation has taken
effect or not, or whether it has not added another malady, instead of
curing the first. You must consider that those who tell you of your
faults, if they do it from motives of kindness, and not of malice, exert
their friendship in a painful office, which must have cost them as great
an effort as it can be to you to acknowledge the service; and, if you
refuse this encouragement, you cannot expect that any one, who is not
absolutely obliged to it by duty, will a second time undertake such an
ill-requited trouble. What a loss would this be to yourself!--How
difficult would be our progress to that degree of perfection, which is
necessary to our happiness, was it not for the assistance we receive
from each other!--This certainly is one of the means of grace held out
to us by our merciful Judge, and, if we reject it, we are answerable for
all the miscarriages we may fall into for want of it.

I know not, whether that strange caprice, that inequality of taste and
behaviour, so commonly attributed to our sex, may be properly called a
fault of temper,--as it seems not to be connected with, or arising from,
our animal frame,--but to be rather the fruit of our own
self-indulgence, degenerating by degrees into such a wantonness of will
as knows not how to please itself. When, instead of regulating our
actions by reason and principle, we suffer ourselves to be guided by
every slight and momentary impulse of inclination, we shall, doubtless,
appear so variable and inconstant, that nobody can guess, by our
behaviour to day, what may be expected from us to-morrow; nor can we
ourselves tell, whether what we delighted in a week ago will now afford
us the least degree of pleasure. It is in vain for others to attempt to
please us--we cannot please ourselves, though all we could wish for
waits our choice: and thus does a capricious woman become "sick of
herself, through very selfishness:" And, when this is the case, it is
easy to judge how sick others must be of her, and how contemptible and
disgusting she must appear. This wretched state is the usual consequence
of power and flattery. May my dear child never meet with the temptation
of that excessive and ill-judged indulgence from a husband, which she
has happily escaped from her parents, and which seldom fails to reduce
women to the miserable condition of a humoured child, always unhappy
from having nobody's will to study but its own! The insolence of such
demands for yourself, and such disregard to the choice and inclinations
of others, can seldom fail to make you as many enemies as there are
persons obliged to bear with your humours; whilst a compliant,
reasonable, and contented disposition, would render you happy in
yourself, and beloved by all your companions; particularly by those, who
live constantly with you; and, of what consequence this is to your
happiness, a moment's reflection will convince you. Family friendships
are the friendships made for us, if I may so speak, by God himself. With
the kindest intentions, he has knit the bands of family love, by
indispensable duties; and wretched are they who have burst them asunder
by violence and ill-will, or worn them out by constant little
disobligations, and by the want of that attention to please, which the
presence of a stranger always inspires, but which is so often shamefully
neglected towards those, whom it is most our duty and interest to
please. May you, my dear, be wise enough to see that every faculty of
entertainment, every engaging qualification, which you possess, is
exerted to the best advantage for those, whose love is of most
importance to you--for those who live under the same roof, and with whom
you are connected for life, either by the ties of blood, or by the still
more sacred obligations of a voluntary engagement.

To make you the delight and darling of your family, something more is
required than barely to be exempt from ill-temper and troublesome
humours. The sincere and genuine smiles of complacency and love must
adorn your countenance. That ready compliance, that alertness to assist
and oblige, which demonstrates true affection, must animate your
behaviour, and endear your most common action. Politeness must accompany
your greatest familiarities, and restrain you from every thing that is
really offensive, or which can give a moment's unnecessary pain.
Conversation, which is so apt to grow dull and insipid in families, nay,
in some to be almost wholly laid aside, must be cultivated with the
frankness and openness of friendship, and by the mutual communication of
whatever may conduce to the improvement or innocent entertainment of
each other.

Reading, whether apart or in common, will furnish useful and pleasing
subjects; and the sprightliness of youth will naturally inspire harmless
mirth and native humour, if encouraged by a mutual desire of diverting
each other, and making the hours pass agreeably in your own house: every
amusement that offers will be heightened by the participation of these
dear companions, and by talking over every incident together and every
object of pleasure. If you have any acquired talent of entertainment,
such as music, painting, or the like, your own family are those before
whom you should most wish to excel, and for whom you should always be
ready to exert yourself; not suffering the accomplishments which you
have gained, perhaps by their means, and at their expense, to lie
dormant, till the arrival of a stranger gives you spirit in the
performance. Where this last is the case, you may be sure vanity is the
only motive of the exertion: a stranger will praise you more: but how
little sensibility has that heart which is not more gratified by the
silent pleasure painted on the countenance of a partial parent, or of an
affectionate brother, than by the empty compliment of a visitor, who is
perhaps inwardly more disposed to criticise and ridicule than to admire
you!

I have been longer in this letter than I intended, yet it is with
difficulty I can quit the subject, because I think it is seldom
sufficiently insisted on, either in books or in sermons; and because
there are many persons weak enough to believe themselves in a safe and
innocent course of life, whilst they are daily harassing every body
about them by their vexatious humours. But you will, I hope, constantly
bear in mind, that you can never treat a fellow-creature unkindly,
without offending the kind Creator and Father of all; and that you can
no way render yourself so acceptable to him, as by studying to promote
the happiness of others, in every instance, small as well as great. The
favour of God, and the love of your companions, will surely be deemed
rewards sufficient to animate your most fervent endeavours; yet this is
not all: the disposition of mind, which I would recommend, is its own
reward, and is in itself essential to happiness. Cultivate it therefore,
my dear child, with your utmost diligence; and watch the symptoms of
ill-temper, as they rise, with a firm resolution to conquer them, before
they are even perceived by any other person. In every such inward
conflict, call upon our Maker, to assist the feeble nature he hath given
you, and sacrifice to _Him_ every feeling that would tempt you to
disobedience: so will you at length attain the true Christian meekness,
which is blessed in the sight of God and man; "which has the promise of
this life as well as of that which is to come." Then will you pity, in
others, those infirmities, which you have conquered in yourself; and
will think yourself as much bound to assist, by your patience and
gentleness, those who are so unhappy as to be under the dominion of evil
passions, as you are to impart a share of your riches to the poor and
miserable.

    Adieu, my dearest.

FOOTNOTES:

[25] Ecclus. xix. 13.



LETTER VII.

ON ECONOMY.


    _MY DEAREST NIECE_,

ECONOMY is so important a part of a woman's character, so necessary to
her own happiness, and so essential to her performing properly the
duties of a wife and of a mother, that it ought to have the precedence
of all other accomplishments, and take its rank next to the first duties
of life. It is, moreover, an _art_ as well as a _virtue_; and many
well-meaning persons, from ignorance, or from inconsideration, are
strangely deficient in it. Indeed it is too often wholly neglected in a
young woman's education; and she is sent from her father's house to
govern a family, without the least degree of that knowledge which should
qualify her for it: this is the source of much inconvenience; for though
experience and attention may supply, by degrees, the want of
instruction, yet this requires time: the family in the meantime may get
into habits, which are very difficult to alter; and, what is worse, the
husband's opinion of his wife's incapacity may be fixed too strongly to
suffer him ever to think justly of her gradual improvements. I would
therefore earnestly advise you to make use of every opportunity you can
find, for the laying in some store of knowledge on this subject, before
you are called upon to the practice; by observing what passes before
you--by consulting prudent and experienced mistresses of families--and
by entering in a book a memorandum of every new piece of intelligence
you acquire; you may afterwards compare these with more mature
observations, and you can make additions and corrections, as you see
occasion. I hope it will not be long before your mother entrusts you
with some part, at least, of the management of your father's house.
Whilst you are under her eye, your ignorance cannot do much harm, though
the relief to her at first may not be near so considerable as the
benefit to yourself.

Economy consists of so many branches, some of which descend to such
minutenesses, that it is impossible for me in writing to give you
particular directions. The rude outlines may be perhaps described, and I
shall be happy if I can furnish you with any hint that may hereafter be
usefully employed.

The first and greatest point is, to lay out your general plan of living
in a just proportion to your fortune and rank: if these two will not
coincide, the last must certainly give way; for, if you have right
principles, you cannot fail of being wretched under the sense of the
injustice as well as danger of spending beyond your income, and your
distress will be continually increasing. No mortifications, which you
can suffer from retrenching in your appearance, can be comparable to
this unhappiness. If you would enjoy the real comforts of affluence, you
should lay your plan considerably within your income; not for the
pleasure of amassing wealth--though, where there is a growing family, it
is an absolute duty to lay by something every year--but to provide for
contingencies, and to have the power of indulging your choice in the
disposal of the overplus, either in innocent pleasures, or to increase
your funds for charity and generosity, which are in fact the true funds
of pleasure. In some circumstances indeed this would not be prudent:
there are professions in which a man's success greatly depends on his
making some figure, where the bare suspicion of poverty would bring on
the reality. If by marriage you should be placed in such a situation, it
will be your duty to exert all your skill in the management of your
income: yet, even in this case, I would not strain to the utmost for
appearance, but would choose my models among the most prudent and
moderate of my own class; and be contented with slower advancement, for
the sake of security and peace of mind.

A contrary conduct is the ruin of many; and, in general, the wives of
men in such professions might live in a more retired and frugal manner
than they do, without any ill consequence, if they did not make the
scheme of advancing the success of their husbands an excuse to
themselves for the indulgence of their own vanity and ambition.

Perhaps it may be said, that the settling the general scheme of expenses
is seldom the wife's province, and that many men do not choose even to
acquaint her with the real state of their affairs. Where this is the
case, a woman can be answerable for no more than is entrusted to her.
But I think it a very ill sign, for one or both of the parties where
there is such a want of openness, in what equally concerns them. As I
trust you will deserve the confidence of your husband, so I hope you
will be allowed free consultation with him on your mutual interest; and
I believe there are few men, who would not hearken to reason on their
own affairs, when they saw a wife ready and desirous to give up her
share of vanities and indulgences, and only earnest to promote the
common good of the family.

In order to settle your plan, it will be necessary to make a pretty
exact calculation: and if, from this time, you accustom yourself to
calculations, in all the little expenses entrusted to you, you will grow
expert and ready at them, and be able to guess very nearly, where
certainty cannot be obtained. Many articles of expense are regular and
fixed: these may be valued exactly; and, by consulting with experienced
persons, you may calculate nearly the amount of others: any material
article of consumption, in a family of any given number and
circumstances, may be estimated pretty nearly. Your own expenses of
clothes and pocket-money should be settled and circumscribed, that you
may be sure not to exceed the just proportion. I think it an admirable
method to appropriate such a portion of your income, as you judge
proper to bestow in charity, to be sacredly kept for that purpose, and
no longer considered as your own. By which means you will avoid the
temptation of giving less than you ought, through selfishness, or more
than you ought, through good-nature or weakness. If your circumstances
allow of it, you might set apart another fund for acts of liberality or
friendship, which do not come under the head of charity. The having such
funds ready at hand, makes it easy and pleasant to give; and when acts
of bounty are performed without effort, they are generally done more
kindly and effectually. If you are obliged in conscience to lay up for a
family, the same method of an appropriated fund for saving will be of
excellent use, as it will prevent that continual and often ineffectual
anxiety, which a general desire of saving, without having fixed the
limits, is sure to create.

Regularity of payments and accounts is essential to Economy:--your
house-keeping should be settled at least once a week, and all the bills
paid: all other tradesmen should be paid, at furthest, once a year.
Indeed I think it more advantageous to pay oftener: but, if you make
them trust you longer, they must either charge proportionally higher, or
be losers by your custom. Numbers of them fail, every year, from the
cruel cause of being obliged to give their customers so much longer
credit than the dealers, from whom they take their goods, will allow to
them. If people of fortune considered this, they would not defer their
payments, from mere negligence, as they often do, to the ruin of whole
families.

You must endeavour to acquire skill in purchasing: in order to this, you
should begin now to attend to the prices of things, and take every
proper opportunity of learning the real value of every thing, as well as
the marks whereby you are to distinguish the good from the bad.

In your table, as in your dress, and in all other things, I wish you to
aim at _propriety_ and _neatness_, or, if your state demands it,
_elegance_, rather than _superfluous figure_. To go beyond your sphere,
either in dress or in the appearance of your table, indicates a greater
fault in your character than to be too much within it. It is impossible
to enter into the _minutiæ_ of the table; good sense and observation on
the best models must form your taste, and a due regard to what you can
afford must restrain it.

Ladies, who are fond of needle-work, generally choose to consider that
as a principal part of good housewifery: and though I cannot look upon
it as of equal importance with the due regulation of a family, yet, in a
middling rank, and with a moderate fortune, it is a necessary part of a
woman's duty, and a considerable article in expense is saved by it. Many
young ladies make almost _every thing_ they wear; by which means they
can make a genteel figure at a small expense. This, in your station, is
the most profitable and desirable kind of work; and, as much of it as
you can do, consistently with a due attention to your health, to the
improvement of your mind, and to the discharge of other duties, I should
think highly commendable. But, as I do not wish you to impose upon the
world by your appearance, I should be contented to see you worse
dressed, rather than see your whole time employed in preparations for
it, or any of those hours given to it, which are needful to make your
body strong and active by exercise, or your mind rational by reading.
Absolute idleness is inexcusable in a woman, because the needle is
always at hand for those intervals in which she cannot be otherwise
employed. If you are industrious, and if you keep good hours, you will
find time for all your proper employments. Early rising, and a good
disposition of time, is essential to Economy. The necessary orders, and
examinations into household affairs, should be dispatched as soon in the
day and as privately as possible, that they may not interrupt your
husband or guests, or break in upon conversation, or reading, in the
remainder of the day. If you defer any thing that is necessary, you may
be tempted by company, or by unforeseen avocations, to forget or to
neglect it: hurry and irregularity will ensue, with expensive expedients
to supply the defect.

There is in many people, and particularly in youth, a strange aversion
to regularity--a desire to delay what ought to be done immediately, in
order to do something else, which might as well be done afterwards. Be
assured it is of more consequence to you than you can conceive, to get
the better of this idle procrastinating spirit, and to acquire habits of
constancy and steadiness, even in the most trifling matters: without
them there can be no regularity, or consistency of action or
character--no dependence on your best intentions, which a sudden humour
may tempt you to lay aside for a time, and which a thousand unforeseen
accidents will afterwards render it more and more difficult to execute:
no one can say what important consequences may follow a trivial neglect
of this kind. For example--I have known one of these _procrastinators_
disoblige and gradually lose very valuable friends, by delaying to write
to them so long, that, having no good excuse to offer, she could not get
courage enough to write at all, and dropped their correspondence
entirely.

The neatness and order of your house and furniture is a part of Economy,
which will greatly affect your appearance and character, and to which
you must yourself give attention, since it is not possible even for the
_rich_ and _great_ to rely wholly on the care of servants, in such
points, without their being often neglected. The more magnificently a
house is furnished, the more one is disgusted with that air of
confusion, which often prevails where attention is wanting in the owner.
But, on the other hand, there is a kind of neatness, which gives a lady
the air of a housemaid, and makes her excessively troublesome to every
body, and particularly to her husband: in this, as in all other branches
of Economy, I wish you to avoid all parade and bustle. Those ladies who
pique themselves on the particular excellence of neatness, are very apt
to forget that the decent order of the house should be designed to
promote the convenience and pleasure of those who are to be in it; and
that, if it is converted into a cause of trouble and constraint, their
husbands and guests would be happier without it. The love of fame, that
universal passion, will sometimes show itself on strangely insignificant
subjects; and a person who acts for praise only, will always go beyond
the mark in every thing. The best sign of a house being well governed
is, that nobody's attention is called to any of the little affairs of
it, but all goes on so well of course, that one is not led to make
remarks upon any thing, nor to observe any extraordinary effort that
produces the general result of ease and elegance, which prevails
throughout.

Domestic Economy, and the credit and happiness of a family, depend so
much on the choice and proper regulation of servants, that it must be
considered as an essential part both of prudence and duty. Those who
keep a great number of them, have a heavy charge on their consciences,
and ought to think themselves in some measure responsible for the morals
and happiness of so many of their fellow-creatures, designed like
themselves for immortality. Indeed the cares of domestic management are
by no means lighter to persons of high rank and fortune, if they perform
their duty, than to those of a retired station. It is with a family, as
with a commonwealth, the more numerous and luxurious it becomes, the
more difficult it is to govern it properly. Though the great are placed
above the little attentions and employments, to which a private
gentlewoman must dedicate much of her time, they have a larger and more
important sphere of action, in which, if they are indolent and
neglectful, the whole government of their house and fortune must fall
into irregularity. Whatever number of deputies they may employ to
overlook their affairs, they must themselves overlook those deputies,
and be ultimately answerable for the conduct of the whole. The
characters of those servants, who are entrusted with power over the
rest, cannot be too nicely inquired into; and the mistress of the
family must be ever watchful over their conduct; at the same time that
she must carefully avoid every appearance of suspicion, which, whilst it
wounds and hinders a worthy servant, only excites the artifice and
cunning of an unjust one.

None, who pretend to be friends of religion and virtue, should ever keep
a domestic, however expert in business, whom they know to be guilty of
immorality. How unbecoming a serious character is it, to say of such an
one, "He is a bad man, but a good servant!" What a preference does it
show of private convenience to the interests of society, which demand
that vice should be constantly discountenanced, especially in every
one's own household; and that the sober, honest, and industrious, should
be sure of finding encouragement and reward, in the houses of those who
maintain respectable characters! Such persons should be invariably
strict and peremptory with regard to the behaviour of their servants, in
every thing which concerns the general plan of domestic government; but
should by no means be severe on small faults, since nothing so much
weakens authority as frequent chiding. Whilst they require precise
obedience to their rules, they must prove by their general conduct,
that these rules are the effect, not of humour but of reason. It is
wonderful that those, who are careful to conceal their ill-temper from
strangers, should be indifferent how peevish and even contemptibly
capricious they appear before their servants, on whom their good name so
much depends, and from whom they can hope for no real respect, when
their weakness is so apparent. When once a servant can say, "I cannot do
any thing to please my mistress to-day," all authority is lost.

Those, who continually change their servants, and complain of perpetual
ill usage, have good reason to believe that the fault is in themselves,
and that they do not know how to govern. Few indeed possess the skill to
unite authority with kindness, or are capable of that steady and
uniformly reasonable conduct, which alone can maintain true dignity, and
command a willing and attentive obedience. Let us not forget that human
nature is the same in all stations. If you can convince your servants,
that you have a generous and considerate regard to their health, their
interest, and their reasonable gratifications--that you impose no
commands but what are fit and right, nor ever reprove but with justice
and temper--why should you imagine that they will be insensible to the
good they receive, or whence suppose them incapable of esteeming and
prizing such a mistress? I could never, without indignation, hear it
said, that "servants have no gratitude;" as if the condition of
servitude excluded the virtues of humanity! The truth is, masters and
mistresses have seldom any real claim to gratitude. They think highly of
what they bestow, and little of the service they receive: they consider
only their own convenience, and seldom reflect on the kind of life their
servants pass with them: they do not ask themselves, whether it is such
an one as is consistent with the preservation of their health, their
morals, their leisure for religious duties, or with a proper share of
the enjoyments and comforts of life. The dissipated manners, which now
so generally prevail, perpetual absence from home, and attendance on
assemblies or at public places, is, in all these respects, pernicious to
the whole household, and to the _men-servants_ absolutely ruinous. Their
only resource, in the tedious hours of waiting, whilst their masters and
ladies are engaged in diversions, is to find out something of the same
kind for themselves. Thus they are led into gaming, drinking,
extravagance, and bad company; and thus, by a natural progression, they
become distressed and dishonest. That attachment and affiance, which
ought to subsist between the dependant and his protector, are destroyed.
The master looks on his attendants as thieves and traitors, whilst they
consider him as one whose money only gives him power over them, and who
uses that power without the least regard to their welfare.

"[26]The fool saith, I have no friends--I have no thanks for all my good
deeds, and they that eat my bread speak evil of me." Thus foolishly do
those complain, who choose their servants, as well as their friends,
without discretion, or who treat them in a manner that no worthy person
will bear.

I have been often shocked at the want of politeness, by which masters
and mistresses sometimes provoke impertinence from their servants: a
gentleman, who would resent to death an imputation of falsehood, from
his equal, will not scruple, without proof, to accuse his servant of it
in the grossest terms. I have heard the most insolent contempt of the
whole class expressed at a table, whilst five or six of them attended
behind the chairs, who the company seemed to think were without senses,
without understanding, or the natural feelings of resentment: these are
cruel injuries, and will be retorted in some way or other.

If you, my dear, live to be at the head of a family, I hope you will not
only avoid all injurious treatment of your domestics, but behave to them
with that courtesy and good breeding, which will heighten their respect
as well as their affection. If, on any occasion, they do more than you
have a right to require, give them, at least, the reward of seeing that
they have obliged you. If, in your service, they have any hardship to
endure, let them see that you are concerned for the necessity of
imposing it. When they are sick, give them all the attention and every
comfort in your power, with a free heart and kind countenance; "[27]not
blemishing thy good deeds, not using uncomfortable words when thou
givest any thing. Is not a word better than a gift? but both are with a
gracious man. A fool will upbraid churlishly, and a gift of the envious
consumeth the eyes."

Whilst you thus endear yourself to all your servants, you must ever
carefully avoid making a favourite of any; unjust distinctions, and weak
indulgences to one, will of course excite envy and hatred in the rest.
Your favourite may establish whatever abuses she pleases; none will dare
to complain against her, and you will be kept ignorant of her ill
practices, but will feel the effects of them, by finding all your other
servants uneasy in their places, and, perhaps, by being obliged
continually to change them.

When they have spent a reasonable time in your service, and have behaved
commendably, you ought to prefer them, if it is in your power, or to
recommend them to a better provision. The hope of this keeps alive
attention and gratitude, and is the proper support of industry. Like a
parent, you should keep in view their establishment in some way, that
may preserve their old age from indigence; and to this end, you should
endeavour to inspire them with care to lay up part of their gains, and
constantly discourage in them all vanity in dress, and extravagance in
idle expenses. That you are bound to promote their eternal as well as
temporal welfare, you cannot doubt, since, next to your children, they
are your nearest dependants. You ought therefore to instruct them as far
as you are able, furnish them with good books suited to their capacity,
and see that they attend the public worship of God: and you must take
care so to pass the sabbath-day as to allow them time, on that day, at
least, for reading and reflection at home, as well as for attendance at
church. Though this is part of your religious duty, I mention it here,
because it is also a part of family management: for the same reason I
shall here take occasion earnestly to recommend family prayers, which
are useful to all, but more particularly to servants, who, being
constantly employed, are led to the neglect of private prayer, and whose
ignorance makes it very difficult for them to frame devotions for
themselves, or to choose proper helps, amidst the numerous books of
superstitious or enthusiastic nonsense, which are printed for that
purpose. Even, in a political light, this practice is eligible, since
the idea which it will give them of your regularity and decency, if not
counteracted by other parts of your conduct, will probably increase
their respect for you, and will be some restraint at least on their
outward behaviour, though it should fail of that inward influence, which
in general may be hoped from it.

The prudent distribution of your charitable gifts may not improperly be
considered as a branch of Economy, since the great duty of almsgiving
cannot be truly fulfilled without a diligent attention so to manage the
sums you can spare as to produce the most real good to your
fellow-creatures. Many are willing to give money, who will not bestow
their time and consideration, and who therefore often hurt the
community, when they mean to do good to individuals. The larger are your
funds, the stronger is the call upon you to exert your industry and care
in disposing of them properly. It seems impossible to give rules for
this, as every case is attended with a variety of circumstances, which
must all be considered. In general, charity is most useful, when it is
appropriated to animate the industry of the young, to procure some ease
and comforts to old age, and to support in sickness those, whose daily
labour is their only maintenance in health. They, who are fallen into
indigence, from circumstances of ease and plenty, and in whom education
and habit have added a thousand wants to those of nature, must be
considered with the tenderest sympathy by every feeling heart. It is
needless to say, that to such the bare support of existence is scarcely
a benefit, and that the delicacy and liberality of the manner, in which
relief is here offered, can alone make it a real act of kindness. In
great families, the waste of provisions, sufficient for the support of
many poor ones, is a shocking abuse of the gifts of Providence: nor
should any lady think it beneath her to study the best means of
preventing it, and of employing the refuse of luxury in the relief of
the poor. Even the smallest families may give some assistance in this
way, if care is taken that nothing be wasted.

I am sensible, my dear child, that very little more can be gathered from
what I have said on Economy, than the general importance of it, which
cannot be too much impressed on your mind, since the natural turn of
young people is to neglect and even to despise it; not distinguishing
it from parsimony and narrowness of spirit. But, be assured, my dear,
there can be no true generosity without it; and that the most enlarged
and liberal mind will find itself not debased but ennobled by it.
Nothing is more common than to see the same person, whose want of
Economy is ruining his family, consumed with regret and vexation at the
effect of his profusion; and, by endeavouring to save, in such trifles
as will not amount to twenty pounds in a year, that which he wastes by
hundreds, incur the character and suffer the anxieties of a miser,
together with the misfortunes of a prodigal. A rational plan of expense
will save you from all these corroding cares, and will give you the full
and liberal enjoyment of what you spend. An air of ease, of hospitality,
and frankness, will reign in your house, which will make it pleasant to
your friends and to yourself. "Better is a morsel of bread," where this
is found, than the most elaborate entertainment, with that air of
constraint and anxiety, which often betrays the grudging heart through
all the disguises of civility.

That you, my dear, may unite in yourself the admirable virtues of
Generosity and Economy, which will be the grace and crown of all your
attainments, is the earnest wish of

    Your ever affectionate.

FOOTNOTES:

[26] Ecclus. xx. 16.

[27] Ecclus. xviii.



LETTER VIII.

ON POLITENESS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS.


WHILST you labour to enrich your mind with the essential virtues of
Christianity--with piety, benevolence, meekness, humility, integrity,
and purity--and to make yourself useful in domestic management, I would
not have my dear child neglect to pursue those graces and acquirements,
which may set her virtue in the most advantageous light, adorn her
manners, and enlarge her understanding: and this, not in the spirit of
vanity, but in the innocent and laudable view of rendering herself more
useful and pleasing to her fellow-creatures, and consequently more
acceptable to God. Politeness of behaviour, and the attainment of such
branches of knowledge and such arts and accomplishments as are proper to
your sex, capacity, and station, will prove so valuable to yourself
through life, and will make you so desirable a companion, that the
neglect of them may reasonably be deemed a neglect of duty; since it is
undoubtedly our duty to cultivate the powers entrusted to us, and to
render ourselves as perfect as we can.

You must have often observed, that nothing is so strong a recommendation
on a slight acquaintance as _politeness_; nor does it lose its value by
time or intimacy, when preserved, as it ought to be, in the nearest
connections and strictest friendships. This delightful qualification--so
universally admired and respected, but so rarely possessed in any
eminent degree--cannot but be a considerable object of my wishes for
you: nor should either of us be discouraged by the apprehension, that
neither I am capable of teaching, nor you of learning it, in
_perfection_; since whatever degree you attain will amply reward our
pains.

To be perfectly polite, one must have great _presence of mind_, with a
delicate and quick _sense of propriety_; or, in other words, one should
be able to form an instantaneous judgment of what is fittest to be said
or done, on every occasion as it offers. I have known one or two
persons, who seemed to owe this advantage to nature only, and to have
the peculiar happiness of being born, as it were, with another sense, by
which they had an immediate perception of what was proper and improper,
in cases absolutely new to them: but this is the lot of very few; in
general, propriety of behaviour must be the fruit of instruction, of
observation, and reasoning; and is to be cultivated and improved like
any other branch of knowledge or virtue. A good temper is a necessary
groundwork of it; and, if to this is added a good understanding, applied
industriously to this purpose, I think it can hardly fail of attaining
all that is essential in it. Particular modes and ceremonies of
behaviour vary in different countries, and even in different parts of
the same town. These can only be learned by observation on the manners
of those who are best skilled in them, and by keeping what is called
good company. But the principles of politeness are the same in all
places. Wherever there are human beings, it must be impolite to hurt the
temper or to shock the passions of those you converse with. It must
every where be good-breeding, to set your companions in the most
advantageous point of light, by giving each the opportunity of
displaying their most agreeable talents, and by carefully avoiding all
occasions of exposing their defects;--to exert your own endeavours to
please, and to amuse, but not to outshine them;--to give each their due
share of attention and notice--not engrossing the talk, when others are
desirous to speak, nor suffering the conversation to flag, for want of
introducing something to continue or renew a subject;--not to push your
advantages in argument so far that your antagonist cannot retreat with
honour:--In short, it is an universal duty in society to consider others
more than yourself--"in honour preferring one another." Christianity, in
this rule, gives the best lesson of politeness; yet judgment must be
used in the application of it: our humility must not be strained so far
as to distress those we mean to honour; we must not quit our proper
rank, nor force others to treat us improperly; or to accept, what we
mean as an advantage, against their wills. We should be perfectly easy,
and make others so, if we can. But this happy ease belongs perhaps to
the last stage of perfection in politeness, and can hardly be attained
till we are conscious that we know the rules of behaviour, and are not
likely to offend against propriety. In a very young person, who has
seen little or nothing of the world, this cannot be expected; but a real
desire of obliging, and a respectful attention, will in a great measure
supply the want of knowledge, and will make every one ready to overlook
those deficiencies, which are owing only to the want of opportunities to
observe the manners of polite company. You ought not therefore to be too
much depressed by the consciousness of such deficiencies, but endeavour
to get above the shame of wanting what you have not had the means of
acquiring. Nothing heightens this false shame, and the awkwardness it
occasions, so much as vanity. The humble mind, contented to be known for
what it is, and unembarrassed by the dread of betraying its ignorance,
is present to itself, and can command the use of understanding, which
will generally preserve you from any great indecorum, and will secure
you from that ridicule, which is the punishment of affectation rather
than of ignorance. People of sense will never despise you, whilst you
act naturally; but, the moment you attempt to step out of your own
character, you make yourself an object of just ridicule.

Many are of opinion, that a very young woman can hardly be too silent
and reserved in company; and, certainly, nothing is so disgusting in
youth as pertness and self-conceit. But modesty should be distinguished
from an awkward bashfulness, and silence should be only enjoined, when
it would be forward and impertinent to talk. There are many proper
opportunities for a girl, young even as you are, to speak in company,
with advantage to herself; and, if she does it without conceit or
affectation, she will always be more pleasing than those, who sit like
statues, without sense or motion. When you are silent, your looks should
show your attention and presence to the company: a respectful and
earnest attention is the most delicate kind of praise, and never fails
to gratify and please. You must appear to be interested in what is said,
and endeavour to improve yourself by it: if you understand the subject
well enough to ask now and then a pertinent question, or if you can
mention any circumstances relating to it that have not before been taken
notice of, this will be an agreeable way of showing your willingness to
make a part of the company; and will probably draw a particular
application to you, from some one or other. Then, when called upon, you
must not draw back as unwilling to answer, nor confine yourself merely
to _yes_, or _no_, as is the custom of many young persons, who become
intolerable burdens to the mistress of the house, whilst she strives in
vain to draw them into notice, and to give them some share in the
conversation.

In your father's house it is certainly proper for you to pay civility to
the guests, and to talk to them in your turn--with modesty and
respect--if they encourage you to it. Young ladies of near your own age,
who visit there, fall of course to your share to entertain. But, whilst
you exert yourself to make their visit agreeable to them, you must not
forget what is due to the elder part of the company, nor, by whispering
and laughing apart, give them cause to suspect, what is too often true,
that they themselves are the subjects of your mirth. It is so shocking
an outrage against society, to talk of, or laugh at, any person in his
own presence, that one would only think it could be committed by the
vulgar. I am sorry however to say, that I have too often observed it
amongst young ladies, who little deserved that title whilst they
indulged their overflowing spirits in defiance of decency and
good-nature. The desire of laughing will make such inconsiderate young
persons find a subject of ridicule, even in the most respectable
character. Old age, which--if not disgraced by vice or affectation--has
the justest title to reverence, will be mimicked and insulted; and even
personal defects and infirmities will too often excite contempt and
abuse, instead of compassion. If you have ever been led into such an
action, my dear girl, call it seriously to mind, when you are confessing
your faults to Almighty God; and be fully persuaded, that it is not one
of the least which you have to repent of. You will be immediately
convinced of this, by comparing it with the great rule of justice, that
of doing to all as you would they should do unto you. No person living
is insensible to the injury of contempt, nor is there any talent so
invidious, or so certain to create ill-will, as that of ridicule. The
natural effects of years, which all hope to attain, and the infirmities
of the body, which none can prevent, are surely of all others the most
improper objects of mirth. There are subjects enough that are innocent,
and on which you may freely indulge the vivacity of your spirits; for I
would not condemn you to perpetual seriousness; on the contrary, I
delight in a joyous temper, at all ages, and particularly at your's.
Delicate and good-natured raillery amongst equal friends, if pointed
only against such trifling errors as the owner can hardly join to laugh
at, or such qualities as they do not pique themselves upon, is both
agreeable and useful; but then it must be offered in perfect kindness
and sincere good-humour; if tinctured with the least degree of malice,
its sting becomes venomous and detestable. The person rallied should
have liberty and ability to return the jest, which must be dropped upon
the first appearance of its affecting the temper.

You will wonder, perhaps, when I tell you, that there are some
characters in the world, which I would freely allow you to laugh
at--though not in their presence. Extravagant vanity and affectation are
the natural subjects of ridicule, which is their proper punishment. When
you see old people, instead of maintaining the dignity of their years,
struggling against nature to conceal them, affecting the graces, and
imitating the follies of youth--or a young person assuming the
importance and solemnity of old age--I do not wish you to be insensible
to the ridicule of such absurd deviations from truth and nature. You
are welcome to laugh, when you leave the company, provided you lay up a
lesson for yourself at the same time; and remember that, unless you
improve your mind whilst you are young, you also will be an
insignificant fool in old age; and that, if you are presuming and
arrogant in youth, you are as ridiculous as an old woman with a
head-dress of flowers.

In a young lady's behaviour towards gentlemen, great delicacy is
certainly required: yet, I believe, women oftener err from too great a
consciousness of the supposed views of men, than from inattention to
those views, or want of caution against them. You are at present rather
too young to want rules on this subject; but I could wish that you
should behave almost in the same manner three years hence as now; and
retain the simplicity and innocence of childhood, with the sense and
dignity of riper years. Men of loose morals or impertinent behaviour
must always be avoided: or, if at any time you are obliged to be in
their company, you must keep them at a distance by cold civility. But,
with regard to those gentlemen whom your parents think it proper for you
to converse with, and who give no offence by their own manners, to them
I wish you to behave with the same frankness and simplicity as if they
were of your own sex. If you have natural modesty, you will never
transgress its bounds, whilst you converse with a man, as one rational
creature with another, without any view to the possibility of a lover or
admirer, where nothing of that kind is professed; where it is, I hope
you will ever be equally a stranger to coquetry and prudery; and that
you will be able to distinguish the effects of real esteem and love from
idle gallantry and unmeaning fine speeches: the slighter notice you take
of these last, the better; and that, rather with good-humoured contempt
than with affected gravity: but the first must be treated with
seriousness and well-bred sincerity; not giving the least encouragement,
which you do not mean, nor assuming airs of contempt, where it is not
deserved. But this belongs to a subject, which I have touched upon in a
former letter. I have already told you, that you will be unsafe in every
step which leads to a serious attachment, unless you consult your
parents, from the first moment you apprehend any thing of that sort to
be intended: let them be your first confidants, and let every part of
your conduct, in such a case, be particularly directed by them.

With regard to accomplishments, the chief of these is a competent share
of reading, well chosen and properly regulated; and of this I shall
speak more largely hereafter. Dancing and the knowledge of the French
tongue are now so universal, that they cannot be dispensed with in the
education of a gentlewoman; and indeed they both are useful as well as
ornamental; the first, by forming and strengthening the body, and
improving the carriage; the second, by opening a large field of
entertainment and improvement for the mind. I believe there are more
agreeable books of female literature in French than in any other
language; and, as they are not less commonly talked of than English
books, you must often feel mortified in company, if you are too ignorant
to read them. Italian would be easily learnt after French, and, if you
have leisure and opportunity, may be worth your gaining, though in your
station of life it is by no means necessary.

To write a free and legible hand, and to understand common arithmetic,
are indispensable requisites.

As to music and drawing, I would only wish you to follow as Genius
leads: you have some turn for the first, and I should be sorry to see
you neglect a talent, which will at least afford you an innocent
amusement, though it should not enable you to give much pleasure to your
friends. I think the use of both these arts is more for yourself than
for others: it is but seldom that a private person has leisure or
application enough to gain any high degree of excellence in them; and
your own partial family are perhaps the only persons who would not much
rather be entertained by the performance of a professor than by your's:
but, with regard to yourself, it is of great consequence to have the
power of filling up agreeably those intervals of time, which too often
hang heavily on the hands of a woman, if her lot be cast in a retired
situation. Besides this, it is certain that even a small share of
knowledge in these arts will heighten your pleasure in the performances
of others: the taste must be improved before it can be susceptible of an
exquisite relish for any of the imitative arts: an unskilful ear is
seldom capable of comprehending _harmony_, or of distinguishing the most
_delicate_ charms of _melody_. The pleasure of seeing fine paintings, or
even of contemplating the beauties of Nature, must be greatly heightened
by our being conversant with the rules of drawing, and by the habit of
considering the most picturesque objects. As I look upon taste to be an
inestimable fund of innocent delight, I wish you to lose no opportunity
of improving it, and of cultivating in yourself the relish of such
pleasures as will not interfere with a rational scheme of life, nor lead
you into dissipation, with all its attendant evils of vanity and luxury.

As to the learned languages, though I respect the abilities and
application of those ladies who have attained them, and who make a
modest and proper use of them, yet I would by no means advise you--or
any other woman who is not strongly impelled by a particular genius--to
engage in such studies. The labour and time which they require are
generally incompatible with our natures and proper employments: the real
knowledge which they supply is not essential, since the English, French,
or Italian tongues afford tolerable translations of all the most
valuable productions of antiquity, besides the multitude of original
authors which they furnish: and these are much more than sufficient to
store your mind with as many ideas as you will know how to manage. The
danger of pedantry and presumption in a woman--of her exciting envy in
one sex and jealousy in the other--of her exchanging the graces of
imagination for the severity and preciseness of a scholar, would be, I
own, sufficient to frighten me from the ambition of seeing my girl
remarkable for learning. Such objections are perhaps still stronger with
regard to the abstruse sciences.

Whatever tends to embellish your fancy, to enlighten your understanding,
and furnish you with ideas to reflect upon when alone, or to converse
upon in company, is certainly well worth your acquisition. The wretched
expedient, to which ignorance so often drives our sex, of calling in
slander to enliven the tedious insipidity of conversation, would alone
be a strong reason for enriching your mind with innocent subjects of
entertainment, which may render you a fit companion for persons of sense
and knowledge, from whom you may reap the most desirable improvements;
for, though I think reading indispensably necessary to the due
cultivation of your mind, I prefer the conversation of such persons to
every other method of instruction: but this you cannot hope to enjoy,
unless you qualify yourself to bear a part in such society, by, at
least, a moderate share of reading.

Though _religion_ is the most important of all your pursuits, there are
not many _books_ on that subject which I should recommend to you at
present. Controversy is wholly improper at your age, and it is also too
soon for you to enquire into the evidence of the truth of revelation, or
to study the difficult parts of scripture: when these shall come before
you, there are many excellent books, from which you may receive great
assistance. At present, practical divinity--clear of superstition and
enthusiasm, but addressed to the heart, and written with a warmth and
spirit capable of exciting in it pure and rational piety--is what I wish
you to meet with.

The principal study, I would recommend, is _history_. I know of nothing
equally proper to entertain and improve at the same time, or that is so
likely to form and strengthen your judgment, and, by giving you a
liberal and comprehensive view of human nature, in some measure to
supply the defect of that experience, which is usually attained too late
to be of much service to us. Let me add, that more materials for
conversation are supplied by this kind of knowledge, than by almost any
other; but I have more to say to you on this subject in a future letter.

The faculty, in which women usually most excel, is that of imagination;
and, when properly cultivated, it becomes the source of all that is most
charming in society. Nothing you can read will so much contribute to the
improvement of this faculty as _poetry_; which, if applied to its true
ends, adds a thousand charms to those sentiments of religion, virtue,
generosity, and delicate tenderness, by which the human soul is exalted
and refined. I hope you are not deficient in natural taste for this
enchanting art, but that you will find it one of your greatest pleasures
to be conversant with the best poets, whom our language can bring you
acquainted with, particularly those immortal ornaments of our nation,
_Shakspeare_ and _Milton_. The first is not only incomparably the
noblest genius in dramatic poetry, but the greatest master of nature,
and the most perfect characterizer of men and manners: in this last
point of view, I think him inestimable; and I am persuaded that, in the
course of your life, you will seldom find occasion to correct those
observations on human nature, and those principles of morality, which
you may extract from his capital pieces. You will at first find his
language difficult; but, if you take the assistance of a friend, who
understands it well, you will by degrees enter into his manner of
phraseology, and perceive a thousand beauties, which at first lay buried
in obsolete words and uncouth constructions. The admirable _Essay on
Shakespeare_, which has lately appeared, so much to the honour of our
sex, will open your mind to the peculiar excellences of this author, and
enlighten your judgment on dramatic poetry in general, with such force
of reason and brilliancy of wit, as cannot fail to delight as well as
instruct you.

Our great English poet, Milton, is as far above my praise as his
_Paradise Lost_ is above any thing which I am able to read, except the
sacred writers. The sublimity of his subject sometimes leads him into
abstruseness; but many parts of his great poem are easy to all
comprehensions, and must find their way directly to every heart by the
tenderness and delicacy of his sentiments, in which he is not less
strikingly excellent than in the richness and sublimity of his
imagination. Addison's criticism in the Spectators, written with that
beauty, elegance, and judgment, which distinguish all his writings, will
assist you to understand and to relish this poem.

It is needless to recommend to you the translations of Homer and Virgil,
which every body reads that reads at all. You must have heard that Homer
is esteemed the father of poetry, the original from whence all the
moderns--not excepting Milton himself--borrow some of their greatest
beauties, and from whom they extract those rules for composition, which
are found most agreeable to nature and true taste. Virgil, you know, is
the next in rank among the classics: you will read his Eneid with
extreme pleasure, if ever you are able to read Italian, in Annibal
Caro's translation; the idiom of the Latin and Italian languages being
more alike, it is, I believe, much closer, yet preserves more of the
spirit of the original than the English translations.

For the rest, fame will point out to you the most considerable of our
poets; and I would not exclude any of name among those whose morality is
unexceptionable: but of poets, as of all other authors, I wish you to
read only such as are properly recommended to you--since there are many
who debase their divine art by abusing it to the purposes of vice and
impiety. If you could read poetry with a judicious friend, who could
lead your judgment to a true discernment of its beauties and defects, it
would inexpressibly heighten both your pleasure and improvement. But,
before you enter upon this, some acquaintance with the _Heathen
Mythology_ is necessary. I think that you must before now have met with
some book under the title of _The Pantheon_[28]: and, if once you know
as much of the gods and goddesses as the most common books on the
subject will tell you, the rest may be learned by reading Homer: but
then you must particularly attend to him in this view. I do not expect
you to penetrate those numerous mysteries--those amazing depths of
morality, religion, and metaphysics--which some pretend to have
discovered in his mythology, but to know the names and principal offices
of the gods and goddesses, with some idea of their moral meaning, seems
requisite to the understanding almost any poetical composition. As an
instance of the _moral meaning_ I speak of, I will mention an
observation of Bossuet. That Homer's poetry was particularly recommended
to the Greeks by the superiority which he ascribes to them over the
Asiatics: this superiority is shown in the Iliad, not only in the
conquest of Asia by the Greeks, and in the actual destruction of its
capital, but in the division and arrangement of the gods, who took part
with the contending nations. On the side of Asia was _Venus_--that is,
sensual passion--pleasure--and effeminacy. On the side of Greece was
_Juno_--that is, matronly gravity and conjugal love; together with
_Mercury_--invention and eloquence--and _Jupiter_--or political wisdom.
On the side of Asia was _Mars_, who represents brutal valour and blind
fury. On that of Greece was _Pallas_--that is, military discipline, and
bravery, guarded by judgment.

This, and many other instances that might be produced, will show you how
much of the beauty of the poet's art must be lost to you, without some
notion of these allegorical personages. Boys, in their school learning,
have this kind of knowledge impressed on their minds by a variety of
books: but women, who do not go through the same course of instruction,
are very apt to forget what little they read or hear on the subject: I
advise you, therefore, never to lose an opportunity of enquiring into
the meaning of any thing you meet with in poetry, or in painting,
alluding to the history of any of the heathen deities, and of obtaining
from some friend an explanation of its connection with true history, or
of its allegorical reference to morality or to physics.

Natural Philosophy, in the largest sense of the expression, is too wide
a field for you to undertake; but the study of nature, as far as may
suit your powers and opportunities, you will find a most sublime
entertainment: the objects of this study are all the stupendous works of
the Almighty Hand, that lie within the reach of our observation. In the
works of man perfection is aimed at, but it can only be found in those
of the Creator. The contemplation of perfection must produce delight,
and every natural object around you would offer this delight, if it
could attract your attention. If you survey the earth, every leaf that
trembles in the breeze, every blade of grass beneath your feet, is a
wonder as absolutely beyond the reach of human art to imitate as the
construction of the universe. Endless pleasures, to those who have a
taste for them, might be derived from the endless variety to be found in
the composition of this globe and its inhabitants. The fossil--the
vegetable--and the animal world--gradually rising in the scale of
excellence--the innumerable species of each, still preserving their
specific differences from age to age, yet of which no two individuals
are ever perfectly alike--afford such a range for observation and
enquiry, as might engross the whole term of our short life, if followed
minutely. Besides all the animal creation obvious to our unassisted
senses, the eye, aided by philosophical inventions, sees myriads of
creatures, which by the ignorant are not known to have existence: it
sees all nature teem with life; every fluid--each part of every
vegetable and animal--swarm with its peculiar inhabitants--invisible to
the naked eye, but as perfect in all their parts, and enjoying life as
indisputably, as the elephant or the whale.

But if from the earth, and from these minute wonders, the philosophic
eye is raised towards the heavens, what a stupendous scene there opens
to its view!--those brilliant lights that sparkle to the eye of
ignorance as gems adorning the sky, or as lamps to guide the traveller
by night, assume an importance that amazes the understanding!--they
appear to be _worlds_, formed like ours for a variety of inhabitants--or
_suns_, enlightening numberless other worlds too distant for our
discovery! I shall ever remember the astonishment and rapture with which
my mind received this idea, when I was about your age: it was then
perfectly new to me, and it is impossible to describe the sensations I
felt from the glorious boundless prospect of infinite beneficence
bursting at once upon my imagination! Who can contemplate such a scene
unmoved? If our curiosity is excited to enter upon this noble enquiry, a
few books on the subject, and those of the easiest sort, with some of
the common experiments, may be sufficient for your purpose--which is to
enlarge your mind, and to excite in it the most ardent gratitude and
profound adoration towards that great and good Being, who exerts his
boundless power in communicating various portions of happiness through
all the immense regions of creation.

_Moral_ philosophy, as it relates to human actions, is of still higher
importance than the study of nature. The works of the ancients on this
subject are universally said to be entertaining as well as instructive,
by those who can read them in their original languages; and such of them
as are well translated will undoubtedly, some years hence, afford you
great pleasure and improvement. You will also find many agreeable and
useful books, written originally in French, and in English, on morals
and manners: for the present, there are works, which, without assuming
the solemn air of philosophy, will enlighten your mind on these
subjects, and introduce instruction in an easier dress: of this sort are
many of the moral essays, that have appeared in periodical papers,
which, when excellent in their kind--as are the _Spectators_,
_Guardians_, _Ramblers_, and _Adventurers_--are particularly useful to
young people, as they comprehend a great variety of subjects--introduce
many ideas and observations that are new to them--and lead to a habit of
reflecting on the characters and events that come before them in real
life, which I consider as the best exercise of the understanding.

Books on taste and criticism will hereafter be more proper for you than
at present: whatever can improve your discernment, and render your taste
elegant and just, must be of great consequence to your enjoyments as
well as to the embellishment of your understanding.

I would by no means exclude the kind of reading, which young people are
naturally most fond of: though I think the greatest care should be taken
in the choice of those _fictitious stories_ that so enchant the mind;
most of which tend to inflame the passions of youth, whilst the chief
purpose of education should be to moderate and restrain them. Add to
this, that both the writing and sentiments of most novels and romances
are such as are only proper to vitiate your style, and to mislead your
heart and understanding. The expectation of extraordinary
adventures--which seldom ever happen to the sober and prudent part of
mankind--and the admiration of extravagant passions and absurd conduct,
are some of the usual fruits of this kind of reading; which, when a
young woman makes it her chief amusement, generally render her
ridiculous in conversation, and miserably wrong-headed in her pursuits
and behaviour. There are however works of this class in which excellent
morality is joined with the most lively pictures of the human mind, and
with all that can entertain the imagination and interest the heart. But
I must repeatedly exhort you, never to read any thing of the sentimental
kind without taking the judgment of your best friends in the choice;
for, I am persuaded that, the indiscriminate reading of such kind of
books corrupts more female hearts than any other cause whatsoever.

Before I close this correspondence, I shall point out the course of
history I wish you to pursue, and give you my thoughts of geography and
chronology, some knowledge of both being, in my opinion, necessary to
the reading of history with any advantage.

    I am, my dearest Niece,

      Your ever affectionate.

FOOTNOTE:

[28] There has been lately published a work particularly adapted to the
use of young ladies, entitled, "_A Dictionary of Polite Literature, or
Fabulous History of Heathen Gods and Illustrious Heroes._ Two Vols. with
Plates."

       _Editor._



LETTER IX.

ON GEOGRAPHY AND CHRONOLOGY.


    _MY DEAREST NIECE_,

I HAVE told you, that you will not be able to read history, with much
pleasure or advantage, without some little knowledge of _Geography_ and
_Chronology_. They are both very easily attained--I mean in the degree
that will be necessary for you. You must be sensible that you can know
but little of a country, whose situation with respect to the rest of the
world you are entirely ignorant of; and, that it is to little purpose
that you are able to mention a fact, if you cannot nearly ascertain the
_time_ in which it happened, which alone, in many cases, gives
importance to the fact itself.

In Geography--the easiest of all sciences, and the best adapted to the
capacity of children--I suppose you to have made some beginning; to know
at least the figure of the earth--the supposed lines--the degrees--how
to measure distances--and a few of the common terms: If you do not
already know these, two or three lessons will be sufficient to attain
them; the rest is the work of memory, and is easily gained by reading
with maps; for I do not wish your knowledge to be exact and masterly;
but such only as is necessary for the purpose of understanding history,
and, without which, even a newspaper would be unintelligible. It may be
sufficient for this end, if, with respect to _ancient_ Geography, you
have a general idea of the situation of all the great states, without
being able precisely to ascertain their limits. But, in the _modern_,
you ought to know the bounds and extent of every state in Europe, and
its situation with respect to the rest. The other parts of the world
will require less accurate knowledge, except with regard to the European
settlements.

It may be an useful and agreeable method, when you learn the situation
of any important country, to join with that knowledge some one or two
leading facts or circumstances concerning it, so that its particular
property may always put you in mind of the situation, and the situation,
in like manner, recal the particular property. When, for instance, you
learn in what part of the globe to find Ethiopia, to be told at the same
time, that, in that vast unknown tract of country, the Christian
religion was once the religion of the state, would be of service;
because the geographical and historical knowledge would assist each
other. Thus, to join with Egypt, _the nurse and parent of arts and of
superstition_--with Persia, _shocking despotism and perpetual
revolutions_--with ancient Greece, _freedom and genius_--with Scythia,
_hardiness and conquest_, are hints which you may make use of as you
please. Perhaps annexing to any country the idea of some familiar form
which it most resembles may at first assist you to retain a general
notion of it; thus Italy has been called a _boot_, and Europe compared
to a _woman sitting_.

The difference of the ancient and modern names of places is somewhat
perplexing; the most important should be known by both names at the same
time, and you must endeavour to fix a few of those which are of most
consequence so strongly in your mind, by thinking of them, and being
often told of them, that the ancient name should always call up the
modern one to your memory, and the modern the ancient: Such as the Ægean
Sea, now _The Archipelago_--The Peloponnesus, now _The Morea_--Crete,
_Candia_--Gaul, _France_--Babylon, _Bagdat_--Byzantium--to which the
Romans transplanted their seat of empire--_Constantinople_, &c.

There have been so many ingenious contrivances to make Geography easy
and amusing, that I cannot hope to add any thing of much service; I
would only prevail with you not to neglect acquiring, by whatever method
pleases you best, that share of knowledge in it which you will find
necessary, and which is so easily attained; and I entreat that you would
learn it in such a manner as to fix it in your mind, so that it may not
be lost and forgotten among other childish acquisitions, but that it may
remain ready for use through the rest of your life.

Chronology indeed has more of difficulty; but if you do not bewilder
yourself by attempting to learn too much and too minutely at first, you
need not despair of gaining enough for the purpose of reading history
with pleasure and utility.

Chronology may be naturally divided into three parts, _the
Ancient_--_the Middle_--and _the Modern_. With respect to all these, the
best direction that can be given is to fix on some periods or epochas,
which, by being often mentioned and thought of, explained and referred
to, will at last be so deeply engraven on the memory, that they will be
ready to present themselves whenever you call for them: these indeed
should be few, and ought to be well chosen for their importance, since
they are to serve as elevated stations to the mind, from which it may
look backwards and forwards upon a great variety of facts.

Till your more learned friends shall supply you with better, I will take
the liberty to recommend the following, which I have found of service to
myself.

In the ancient chronology, you will find there were four thousand years
from the creation to the redemption of man; and that Noah and his family
were miraculously preserved in the ark 1650 years after Adam's creation.

As there is no history, except that in the Bible, of any thing before
the flood, we may set out from that great event, which happened, as I
have said above, in the year of the world 1650.

The 2350 years, which passed from the deluge to our Saviour's birth, may
be thus divided.--There have been four successive _Empires_, called
_Universal_, because they extended over a great part of the then known
world: these are usually distinguished by the name of _The Four great
Monarchies_: the three first of them are included in ancient Chronology,
and began and ended in the following manner.

1st, The ASSYRIAN EMPIRE, founded by Nimrod in the year of the world
1800, ended under Sardanapalus in 3250, endured 1450 years.

     The Median--though not accounted one of the four great
     monarchies, being conquests of rebels on the Assyrian
     empire--comes in here for about 200 years.

2d, THE PERSIAN EMPIRE, which began under Cyrus, in the year of the
world 3450, ended in Darius in 3670, before Christ 330, lasted a little
more than 200 years.

3d, THE GRECIAN EMPIRE, began under Alexander the Great in 3670, was
soon after his death dismembered by his successors; but the different
parcels into which they divided it were possessed by their respective
families, till the famous Cleopatra, the last of the race of Ptolemy,
one of Alexander's captains who reigned in Egypt, was conquered by
Julius Cæsar, about half a century before our Lord's birth, which is a
term of about 300 years.

Thus you see that, from the deluge to the establishment of the first
great monarchy--the

                                      Years
    Assyrian--is                         150
    The Assyrian empire continued       1450
    The Median                           200
    The Persian                          200
    The Grecian                          300
    From Julius Cæsar, with whom began
      the fourth great monarchy,--_viz._
      the Roman--to Christ                50
                                        ----
                              In all    2350

years; the term from the deluge to Christ.

I do not give you these dates and periods as correctly true, for I have
taken only round numbers, as more easily retained by the memory; so
that, when you come to consult chronological books or tables, you will
find variances of some years between them and the above accounts; but
precise exactness is not material to a beginner.

I offer this short table as a little specimen of what you may easily do
for yourself; but even this sketch, slight as it is, will give you a
general notion of the ancient history of the world, from the deluge to
the birth of Christ.

Within this period flourished the Grecian and Roman republics, with the
history and chronology of which it will be expected you should be
tolerably well acquainted; and indeed you will find nothing in the
records of mankind so entertaining. Greece was divided into many petty
states, whose various revolutions and annals you can never hope
distinctly to remember; you are therefore to consider them as forming
together one great kingdom--like the Germanic body, or the United
Provinces--composed separately of different governments, but sometimes
acting with united force for their common interest. The _Lacedemonian_
government, formed by Lycurgus in the year of the world 3100--and the
_Athenian_, regulated by Solon about the year 3440--will chiefly engage
your attention.

In pursuing the _Grecian_ chronology, you need only perhaps make one
stand or epocha, at the time _Socrates_, that wisest of philosophers,
whom you must have heard of, who lived about 3570 years from the
creation, and about 430 before Christ: for within the term of 150 years
_before_ Socrates, and 200 _after_ him, will fall in most of the great
events and illustrious characters of the Grecian history.

I must inform you that the Grecian method of dating time was by
_Olympiads_; that is, four complete years; so called from the
celebration, every fifty years, of the Olympic Games, which were
contests in all the manly exercises, such as wrestling, boxing, running,
chariot-racing, &c. They were instituted in honour of Jupiter and took
their name from Olympia, a city of Elis, near which they were performed:
they were attended by all ranks of people, from every state in Greece;
the noblest youths were eager to obtain the prize of victory, which was
no other than an olive crown, but esteemed the most distinguishing
ornament. These games continued all the time that Greece retained any
spark of liberty; and with them begins the authentic history of that
country--all before being considered as fabulous. You must therefore
endeavour to remember, that they began in the year of the world 3228;
after the flood 1570 years; after the destruction of Troy 400; before
the building of Rome 23; before Cyrus about 200; and 770 before Christ.
If you cannot retain _all_ these dates, at least you must not fail to
remember the near coincidence of the first _Olympiad_ with the _building
of Rome_, which is of great consequence, because, as the Grecians
reckoned time by Olympiads, the Romans dated from the building of their
city; and as these two eras are within 23 years of each other, you may,
for the ease of memory, suppose them to begin together, in the year of
the world 3228.

In reading the history of the _Roman Republic_, which continued in that
form of government to the time of Julius Cæsar's dictatorship, about the
year of the world 3960, and about 48 years before Christ, you will make
as many epochas as you shall find convenient: I will mention only two;
the sacking of Rome by the Gauls, which happened in the year of the
world 3620, in the 365th year of the city, in the 97th Olympiad, before
Christ 385, and about 30 years before the birth of Alexander. The
second epocha may be the 608th year of the city, when, after three
obstinate wars, Carthage was destroyed, and Rome was left without a
rival.

Perhaps the following bad verses, which were given me when I was young,
may help to fix in your mind the important eras of the Roman and Grecian
dates: You must not laugh at them, for chronologers do not pique
themselves on their poetry, but they make use of numbers and rhymes
merely as assistants to memory, being so easily learned by heart.

    "Rome and Olympiads bear the same date,
    Three thousand two hundred and twenty-eight.
    In three hundred and sixty[29] was Rome sack'd and torn,
    Thirty summers before Alexander was born."

You will allow that what I have said in these few pages is very easily
learned; yet, little as it is, I will venture to say that, was you as
perfectly mistress of it as of your alphabet, you might answer several
questions relating to ancient chronology more readily than many who
pretend to know something of this science. One is not so much required
to tell the precise year, in which a great man lived, as to know, with
whom he was contemporary in other parts of the world. I would know then,
from the slight sketch above given, about what year of the Roman
republic Alexander the Great lived. You would quickly run over in your
mind, "Alexander lived in the 3670th year of the world, 330 before
Christ; consequently he must have flourished about the 400th _of Rome_,
which had endured 750 years when Christ was born." Or, suppose it was
asked, what was the condition of Greece, at the time of the sacking of
Rome by the Gauls; had any particular state, or the united body, chosen
then to take advantage of the misfortunes of the Romans? You consider
that the 365th year of the city--the date of that event---is 385 before
Christ; consequently this must have happened about the time of Philip of
Macedon, father of Alexander, when the Grecians under such a leader
might have extirpated the Roman nation from the earth, had they ever
heard of them, or thought the conquest of them an object worthy their
ambition.

Numberless questions might be answered in like manner, even on this very
narrow circumscribed plan, if it was completely mastered. I might
require that other periods or epochas should be learned with the same
exactness; but these may serve to explain my meaning, and to show you
how practicable and easy it is. One thing, however, I must
observe--though perhaps it is sufficiently obvious--which is, that you
can make no use of this sketch of ancient Chronology, nor even hope to
retain it, till you have read the ancient _history_. When you have gone
through Rollin's Histoire Ancienne _once_, then will be the time to fix
the ancient Chronology deep in your mind, which will very much enhance
the pleasure and use of reading it a _second_ time; for you must
remember, that nobody reads a history to much purpose, who does not go
over it more than once.

When you have got through your course of ancient history, and are come
to the more modern, you must then have recourse to the second of the
three divisions; viz. _middle Chronology_: containing about 800 years,
from the birth of our Lord, and from within 50 years of the rise of the
Roman empire, to Charlemagne, who died in 814.

This period, except in the earliest part of it, is too much involved in
obscurity to require a very minute knowledge of its history: it may be
sufficient to fix two or three of the most singular circumstances by
their proper dates.

The first epocha to be observed is the year of our Lord 330, when
Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who restored peace to the
oppressed and persecuted church, removed the seat of empire from Rome to
Byzantium, called afterwards from him Constantinople. After his time,
about the year 400, began those irruptions of the Goths and Vandals, and
other northern nations, who settled themselves all over the western
parts of the Roman empire, and laid the foundation of the several states
which now subsist in Europe.

The next epocha is the year 622--for the ease of memory say 600--when
Mahomet, by his successful imposture, became the founder of the Saracen
empire, which his followers extended over a great part of Asia and
Africa, and over some provinces of Europe. At the same time, St.
Gregory, bishop of Rome, began to assume a spiritual power, which grew
by degrees into that absolute and enormous dominion, so long maintained
by the popes over the greatest part of Christendom. St. Augustine--a
missionary from St. Gregory--about this time, began the conversion of
Great Britain to Christianity.

The third and concluding epocha in this division, is the year 800; when
Charlemagne, king of France--after having subdued the Saxons, repressed
the Saracens, and established the temporal dominion of the pope by a
grant of considerable territories--was elected emperor of the west, and
protector of the church. The date of this event corresponds with that
remarkable period of our English history--the union of the Heptarchy, or
seven kingdoms, under Egbert.

As to the _third_ part of Chronology, namely, the _Modern_, I shall
spare you and myself all trouble about at present; for if you follow the
course of reading which I shall recommend, it will be some years before
you reach modern history; and, when you do, you will easily make periods
for yourself, if you do but remember carefully to examine the dates as
you read, and to impress on your memory those of very remarkable reigns
or events.

I fear you are by this time tired of Chronology; but my sole intention,
in what I have said, is to convince you that it is a science not out of
your reach, in the moderate degree that is requisite for you; _the last
volume of the Ancient Universal History_ is the best English
Chronological Work I know; if that does not come in your way, there is
an excellent French one, called Tablettes Chronologiques de l'Histoire
Universelle, Du Fresnoy, 3 tomes, Paris; there is also a _chart_ of
universal history, including Chronology, and a _Biographical_ chart,
both by Priestley, which you may find of service to you.

Indeed, my dear, a woman makes a poor figure who affects, as I have
heard some ladies do, to disclaim all knowledge of times and dates: the
strange confusion they make of events, which happened in different
periods, and the stare of ignorance when such are referred to as are
commonly known, are sufficiently pitiable: but the highest mark of folly
is to be proud of such ignorance--a resource, in which some of our sex
find great consolation.

Adieu, my dear child! I am, with the tenderest affection,

    Ever your's.

FOOTNOTE:

[29] That is, in the 365th year of the city.



LETTER X.

ON READING HISTORY.


    _MY DEAREST NIECE_,

WHEN I recommend to you to gain some insight into the general history of
the world, perhaps you will think I propose a formidable task; but your
apprehensions will vanish, when you consider that of near half the globe
we have no histories at all; that of other parts of it, a few facts only
are known to us; and that, even of those nations which make the greatest
figure in history, the early ages are involved in obscurity and fable:
it is not indeed allowable to be totally ignorant even of those fables,
because they are the frequent subjects of poetry and painting, and are
often referred to in more authentic histories.

The first recorders of actions are generally poets: in the historical
songs of the bards are found the only accounts of the first ages of
every state; but in these we must naturally expect to find truth mixed
with fiction, and often disguised in allegory. In such early times,
before science has enlightened the minds of men, the people are ready to
believe every thing; and the historian, having no restraints from the
fear of contradiction or criticism, delivers the most improbable and
absurd tales as an account of the lives and actions of their
forefathers; thus the first heroes of every nation are gods, or the sons
of gods; and every great event is accompanied with some supernatural
agency. Homer, whom I have already mentioned, as a poet, you will find
the most agreeable historian of the early ages of Greece; and Virgil
will show you the supposed origin of the Carthaginians and Romans.

It will be necessary for you to observe some regular plan in your
historical studies, which can never be pursued with advantage otherwise
than in a continued series. I do not mean to confine you solely to that
kind of reading; on the contrary, I wish you frequently to relax with
poetry or some other amusement, whilst you are pursuing your course of
history; I only mean to warn you against mixing _ancient_ history with
_modern_, or _general_ histories of one place with _particular reigns_
in another; by which desultory manner of reading, many people distract
and confound their memories, and retain nothing to any purpose from such
a confused mass of materials.

The most ancient of all histories, you will read in your Bible: from
thence you will proceed to l'Histoire Ancienne of Rollin, who very
ingeniously points out the connection of profane with sacred history,
and enlivens his narrative with many agreeable and improving
reflections, and many very pleasing detached stories and anecdotes,
which may serve you as resting places in your journey. It would be an
useful exercise of your memory and judgment, to recount these
interesting passages to a friend, either by letter or in conversation;
not in the words of the author, but in your own natural style--by
memory, and not by book; and to add whatever remarks may occur to you. I
need not say that you will please me much, whenever you are disposed to
make this use of _me_.

The want of memory is a great discouragement in historical pursuits, and
is what every body complains of. Many artificial helps have been
invented, of which those who have tried them can best tell you the
effects; but the most natural and pleasant expedient is that of
conversation with a friend, who is acquainted with the history which you
are reading. By such conversations, you will find out how much is
usually retained of what is read, and you will learn to select those
characters and facts which are best worth preserving: for it is by
trying to remember every thing, without distinction, that young people
are so apt to lose every trace of what they read. By repeating to your
friend what you can recollect, you will fix it in your memory: and if
you should omit any striking particular, which ought to be retained,
that friend will remind you of it, and will direct your attention to it
on a second perusal. It is a good rule to cast your eye each day over
what you read the day before, and to look over the contents of every
book when you have finished it.

Rollin's work takes in a large compass: but, of all the ancient nations
it treats of, perhaps there are only the Grecians and Romans, whose
stories ought to be read with any anxious desire of retaining them
perfectly: for the rest, such as the Assyrians, Egyptians, &c., I
believe you would find, on examination, that most of those who are
supposed tolerably well read in history, remember no more than a few of
the most remarkable facts and characters. I tell you this, to prevent
your being discouraged on finding so little remain in your mind after
reading these less interesting parts of ancient history.

But, when you come to the Grecian and Roman[30] stories, I expect to
find you deeply interested and highly entertained; and, of consequence,
eager to treasure up in your memory those heroic actions and exalted
characters by which a young mind is naturally so much animated and
impressed. As Greece and Rome were distinguished as much for genius as
valour, and were the theatres, not only of the greatest military
actions, the noblest efforts of liberty and patriotism, but of the
highest perfection of arts and sciences, their immortal fame is a
subject of wonder and emulation, even to these distant ages; and it is
thought a shameful degree of ignorance, even in our sex, to be
unacquainted with the nature and revolutions of their governments, and
with the characters and stories of their most illustrious heroes.
Perhaps, when you are told that the government and the national
character of your own countrymen have been compared with those of the
Romans, it may not be an useless amusement, in reading the Roman
history, to carry this observation in your mind, and to examine how far
the parallel holds good. The French have been thought to resemble the
Athenians in their genius, though not in their love of liberty. These
little hints sometimes serve to awaken reflection and attention in young
readers--I leave you to make what use of them you please.

When you have got through Rollin, if you add _Vertot's Revolutions
Romaines_--a short and very entertaining work--you may be said to have
read as much as is _absolutely necessary_ of ancient history. Plutarch's
lives of famous Greeks and Romans--a book deservedly of the highest
reputation--can never be read to so much advantage as immediately after
the histories of Greece and Rome: I should even prefer reading each life
in Plutarch, immediately after the history of each particular hero, as
you meet with them in Rollin or in Vertot.

If hereafter you should choose to enlarge your plan, and should wish to
know more of any particular people or period than you find in Rollin,
the sources from which he drew may be open to you; for there are, I
believe, French or English translations of all the original historians,
from whom he extracted his materials.

Crevier's continuation of Rollin, I believe, gives the best account of
the Roman emperors down to Constantine. What shocking instances will you
there meet with, of the terrible effects of lawless power on the human
mind! How will you be amazed to see the most promising characters
changed by flattery and self-indulgence into monsters that disgrace
humanity! To read a series of such lives as those of Tiberius, Nero, or
Domitian, would be intolerable, were we not consoled by the view of
those excellent emperors, who remained uncorrupted through all
temptations. When the mind--disgusted, depressed, and terrified--turns
from the contemplation of those depths of vice, to which human nature
may be sunk, a Titus, the delight of mankind--a Trajan--an
Antoninus--restore it to an exulting sense of the dignity, to which
that nature may be exalted by virtue. Nothing is more awful than this
consideration: a human creature given up to vice is infinitely below the
most abject brute; the same creature, trained by virtue to the utmost
perfection of his nature, 'is but a little lower than the angels, and is
crowned with glory and immortality.'

Before you enter upon the modern history of any particular kingdom, it
will be proper to gain some idea of that interval between ancient and
modern times, which is justly called the dark and barbarous ages, and
which lasted from Constantine to Charlemagne--perhaps one might say to
some centuries after. On the irruption of the northern Barbarians, who
broke the Roman empire, and dissipated all the treasures of knowledge,
as well as of riches, which had been so long accumulating in that
enormous state, the European world may be said to have returned to a
second infancy; and the Monkish legends, which are the only records
preserved of the times in which they were written, are not less fabulous
than the tales of the demi-gods. I must profess myself ignorant how to
direct you to any distinct or amusing knowledge of the History of Europe
during this period[31]: some collect it from _Puffendorf's
Introduction_; some from _The Universal History_; and now, perhaps, with
more advantage and delight, from the first volume of _Robertson's
Charles the Fifth_, in which he traces the progress of civilization,
government, and arts, from the first settlements of the Barbarians; and
shows the foundation of the several states into which Europe is now
divided, and of those laws, customs, and politics, which prevail in this
quarter of the world.

In those dark ages, you will find no single character so interesting as
that of Mahomet; that bold impostor, who extended his usurped dominion
equally over the minds and properties of men, and propagated a new
religion, whilst he founded a new empire, over a large portion of the
globe. His life has been written by various hands.

When you come to the particular histories of the European states, your
own country seems to demand the precedence; and there is no part more
commodious to set out from, since you cannot learn the history of Great
Britain, without becoming in some degree acquainted with almost every
neighbouring nation, and without finding your curiosity excited to know
more of those with whom we are most connected.

By the amazing progress of navigation and commerce, within the last two
or three centuries, all parts of the world are now connected: the most
distant people are become well acquainted, who, for thousands of years,
never heard of one another's existence: we are still every day exploring
new regions; and every day see greater reason to expect that immense
countries may yet be discovered, and America no longer retain the name
of the _New World_. You may pass to every quarter of the earth, and find
yourself still in the British dominion: this island, in which we live,
is the least portion of it; and, if we were to adopt the style of
ancient conquerors, we might call it the throne, from which we rule the
world. To this boast we are better entitled than some of those who
formerly called themselves _Masters of the Globe_, as we possess an
empire of greater extent, and from the superior advantages of our
commerce, much greater power and riches: but we have now too many
rivals in dominion, to take upon us such haughty titles.

You cannot be said to know the history of that empire, of which you are
a subject, without knowing something of the East and West Indies, where
so great a part of it is situated: and you will find the accounts of the
discovery and conquest of America very entertaining, though you will be
shocked at the injustice and cruelty of its conquerors. But, with which
of the glorious conquerors of mankind must not humanity be shocked!
Ambition, the most remorseless of all passions, pursues its object by
all sorts of means: justice, mercy, truth, and every thing most sacred,
in vain oppose its progress! Alas, my dear, shall I venture to tell you,
that the history of the world is little else than a shocking account of
the wickedness and folly of the ambitious! The world has ever been, and,
I suppose, ever must be, governed and insulted by these aspiring
spirits: it has always, in greater or less degree, groaned under their
unjust usurpation.

But let not the horror of such a scene put a stop to your curiosity: it
is proper you should know mankind as they are: you must be acquainted
with the heroes of the earth, and perhaps you may be too well reconciled
to them: mankind have in general a strong bias in their favour; we see
them surrounded with pomp and splendour--every thing that relates to
them has an air of grandeur--and, whilst we admire their natural powers,
we are too apt to pardon the detestable abuse of them, to the injury and
ruin of the human race. We are dazzled with false glory, and willingly
give into the delusion; for mighty conquests, like great conflagrations,
have something of the sublime that pleases the imagination, though we
know, if we reflect at all, that the consequences of them are
devastation and misery.

The Western and Eastern world will present to you very different
prospects. In _America_, the first European conquerors found nature in
great simplicity; society still in its infancy; and consequently the
arts and sciences yet unknown: so that the facility with which they
overpowered these poor innocent people, was entirely owing to their
superior knowledge in the arts of destroying. They found the inhabitants
brave enthusiastic patriots, but without either the military or
political arts necessary for their defence. The two great kingdoms of
Mexico and Peru had alone made some progress in civilization; they were
both formed into regular states, and had gained some order and
discipline: from these therefore the Spaniards met with something like
an opposition. At first indeed the invaders appeared supernatural
beings, who came upon them flying over the ocean, on the wings of the
wind, and who, mounted on fiery animals, unknown in that country,
attacked them with thunder and lightning in their hands; for such the
fire-arms of the Spaniards appeared to this astonished people. But from
being worshipped as gods, they soon came to be feared as evil spirits;
and in time being discovered to be men--different from the Americans
only in their outrageous injustice, and in the cruel arts of
destroying--they were abhorred and boldly opposed. The resistance
however of a million of these poor naked people, desperately crowding on
each other to destruction, served only to make their ruin more complete.
The Europeans have destroyed, with the most shocking barbarity, many
millions of the original inhabitants of these countries, and have ever
since been depopulating Europe and Africa to supply their places.

Though our own countrymen have no reason to boast of the justice and
humanity of their proceedings in America, yet, in comparison with those
of the Spaniards, our possessions there were innocently acquired. Some
of them gained by conquest, or cession, from Spain and from other
European powers; some by contract with the natives, or by settlements on
uninhabited lands[32]. We are now possessed of a series of colonies,
extending above two thousand miles along the whole Eastern coast of
North-America, besides many islands of immense value. These countries,
instead of being thinly peopled by a few hordes of ignorant savages, are
now adorned with many great cities, and innumerable rich plantations,
which have made ample returns to their mother-country, for the dangers
and expenses which attended their first establishment. Blessed with more
natural advantages than almost any country in the world, they are making
a swift progress in wealth and grandeur, and seem likely, in some future
period, to be as much the seat of empire and of science as Europe is at
present. Whether their attainments in virtue and happiness will keep
pace with their advancement in knowledge, wealth, and power, is much to
be questioned; for you will observe in your historical view of the
several great empires of the world, that as each grew up towards the
highest pitch of greatness, the seeds of destruction grew up with it;
luxury and vice, by debasing the minds, and enervating the bodies of the
people, left them all, in their turns, an easy prey to poorer and more
valiant nations.

In the East, the Europeans introduced themselves in a milder way;
admitted first as traders--and, for the more commodious carrying on
their commerce, indulged by the powers of the country in establishing a
few small factories--they, by gentle degrees, extended and strengthened
their settlements there, till their force became considerable enough to
be thought an useful auxiliary to contending princes; and, as it has
often happened to those who have called in foreign powers to interfere
in their domestic contentions, by availing themselves of the
disturbances of a dismembered monarchy, they at length raised a power
almost independent of their employers. Soon, the several European
nations, who had thus got footing in the Indies, jealous of each other's
growing greatness, made the feuds of the native princes subservient to
their mutual contests; till within a few years, the English, by a happy
concurrence of circumstances, obtained the mastery, and expelled their
rivals from all their considerable settlements.

The rapidity of our conquests here has been perhaps equal to that of the
first invaders of America--but from different causes. Here we found an
old-established empire advanced to its crisis; the magnificence and
luxury of the great carried to the highest excess, and the people in a
proportionable degree of oppression and debasement. Thus ripe for
destruction, the rivalship of the viceroys, from the weakness of the
government, become independent sovereigns; and the dastardly spirit of
the meaner people, indifferent to the cause for which they were
compelled to fight, encouraged these ambitious merchants to push their
advantages further than they could at first have supposed possible: with
astonishment they saw the intrepid leaders of a few hundreds of brave
free Britons, boldly oppose and repeatedly put to flight millions of
these effeminate Indian slaves; and, in a short time, raised for them an
empire much larger than their mother-country.

From these remote quarters of the world, let us now return to Great
Britain, with the history of which you ought certainly to acquaint
yourself, before you enter upon that of any other European kingdom. If
you have courage and industry enough to begin so high as the invasion of
Julius Cæsar--before which nothing is known of the inhabitants of this
island--you may set out with Rapin, and proceed with him to William the
Conqueror. From this era there are other histories of England more
entertaining than his, though I believe none esteemed more authentic.
Party so strongly influences both historians and their readers, that it
is a difficult and invidious task to point out the _best_ amongst the
number of English histories that offer themselves: but, as _you_ will
not read with a critical view, nor enter deeply into politics, I think
you may be allowed to choose that which is most entertaining; and, in
this view, I believe the general voice will direct you to Hume, though
he goes no further than the Revolution. Among other _historians_, do not
forget my darling _Shakspeare_--a faithful as well as a most agreeable
one--whose historical plays, if read in a series, will fix in your
memory the reigns he has chosen, more durable than any other history.
You need not fear his leading you into any material mistakes, for he
keeps surprisingly close to the truth, as well in the characters as in
the events. One cannot but wish he had given us a play on the reign of
every English king; as it would have been the pleasantest, and perhaps
the most useful, way of becoming acquainted with it.

For the other portion of Great Britain, Robertson's History of Scotland
is a delightful work, and of a moderate size.

Next to your own country, _France_ will be the most interesting object
of your inquiries; our ancient possessions in that country, and the
frequent contests we have been engaged in with its inhabitants, connect
their history with our own. The extent of their dominion and
influence--their supposed superiority in elegance and politeness--their
eminence in the Arts and Sciences--and that intercourse of thought, if
so I may call it, which subsists between us, by the mutual communication
of literary productions--make them peculiarly interesting to us; and we
cannot but find our curiosity excited to know their story, and to be
intimately acquainted with the character, genius, and sentiments of this
nation.

I do not know of any general history of France, that will answer your
purpose, except that of _Mezerai_, which even in the abridgment is a
pretty large work: there is a very modern one by _Velly and others_,
which perhaps may be more lively, but is still more voluminous, and not
yet completed. From Mezerai you may proceed with Voltaire to the end of
the reign of Louis the Fourteenth.

In considering the rest of Europe, your curiosity may be confined within
narrower limits. Modern history is, from the nature of it, much more
minute and laborious than the ancient; and to pursue that of so many
various kingdoms and governments, would be a task unequal to your
leisure and abilities, at least for several years to come; at the same
time, it must be owned, that the present system of politics and commerce
has formed such a relation between the different powers of Europe, that
they are in a manner members of one great body, and a total ignorance of
any considerable state would throw an obscurity even upon the affairs
of your own country[33]; an acquaintance however with the most
remarkable circumstances that distinguish the principal governments,
will sufficiently enlighten you, and will enable you to comprehend
whatever relates to them, in the histories with which you are more
familiar. Instead of referring you for this purpose to dull and
uninteresting abridgments, I choose rather to point out to you a few
small Tracts, which exhibit striking and lively pictures, not easily
effaced from the memory, of the constitutions and the most remarkable
transactions of several of these nations. Such are

     Sir William Temple's Essay on the United Provinces.

     His Essay on Heroic Virtue, which contains some account of
     the Saracen Empire.

     Vertot's Revolutions de Suede.

     Vertot's Revolutions de Portugal.

     Voltaire's Charles XII. de Suede.

     Voltaire's Pierre le Grand.

     Puffendorf's Account of the Popes, in his Introduction to
     Modern History.

Some part of the History of Germany and Spain, you will see more in
detail in Robertson's History of Charles the Vth, which I have already
recommended to you in another view.

After all this, you may still be at a loss for the transactions of
Europe, in the last fifty years: for the purpose of giving you, in a
very small compass, some idea of the state of affairs during that
period, I will venture to recommend one book more--_Campbell's State of
Europe_[34].

Thus much may suffice for that moderate scheme, which I think is best
suited to your sex and age. There are several excellent histories, and
memoirs of particular reigns and periods, which I have taken no notice
of in this circumscribed plan; but with which, if you should happen to
have a taste for the study, you will hereafter choose to be acquainted:
these will be read with most advantage after you have gained some
general view of history; and they will then serve to refresh your
memory, and settle your ideas distinctly; as well as enable you to
compare different accounts of the persons and facts which they treat of,
and to form your opinions of them on just grounds.

As I cannot, with certainty, foresee what degree of application or
genius for such pursuits you will be mistress of, I shall leave
deficiencies of this collection to be supplied by the suggestions of
your more informed friends; who, if you explain to them how far you wish
to extend your knowledge, will direct you to the proper books.

But if, instead of an eager desire for this kind of knowledge, you
should happen to feel that distaste for it, which is too common in young
ladies who have been indulged in reading only works of mere amusement,
you will perhaps rather think that I want mercy in offering you so large
a plan, than that there needs an apology for the deficiencies of it:
but, comfort yourself with the assurance, that a taste for history will
grow and improve by reading; that, as you get acquainted with one period
or nation, your curiosity cannot fail to be awakened for what concerns
those immediately connected with it: and thus you will insensibly be led
on from one degree of knowledge to another.

If you waste in trivial amusement the next three or four years of your
life, which are the prime season of improvement, believe me you will
hereafter bitterly regret their loss: when you come to feel yourself
inferior in knowledge to almost every one you converse with--and, above
all, if you should ever be a mother, when you feel your own inability to
direct and assist the pursuits of your children--you will then find
ignorance a severe mortification and a real evil. Let this, my dear,
animate your industry; and let not a modest opinion of your own capacity
be a discouragement to your endeavours after knowledge: a moderate
understanding, with diligent and well-directed application, will go much
further than a more lively genius, if attended with that impatience and
inattention, which too often accompanies quick parts. It is not from
want of capacity that so many women are such trifling insipid
companions, so ill qualified for the friendship and conversation of a
sensible man, or for the task of governing and instructing a family: it
is much oftener from the neglect of exercising the talents which they
really have, and from omitting to cultivate a taste for intellectual
improvement: by this neglect, they lose the sincerest of pleasures; a
pleasure which would remain when almost every other forsakes them; which
neither fortune nor age can deprive them of, and which would be a
comfort and resource in almost every possible situation of life.

If I can but inspire you, my dear child, with the desire of making the
most of your time and abilities, my end is answered; the means of
knowledge will easily be found by those who diligently seek them, and
they will find their labours abundantly rewarded.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, my dear, I think it is time to finish this long correspondence,
which, though in some parts it may have been tedious to you, will not, I
hope, be found entirely useless in any. I have laid before you all that
my maturest reflections could enable me to suggest, for the direction of
your conduct through life. My love for you, my dearest child, extends
its views beyond this frail and transitory existence; it considers you
as a candidate for immortality--as entering the lists for the prize of
your high calling--as contending for a crown of unfading glory. It sees,
with anxious solicitude, the dangers that surround you, and the
everlasting shame that must follow, if you do not exert all your
strength in the conflict. Religion therefore has been the basis of my
plan--the principle to which every other pursuit is ultimately referred.
Here then I have endeavoured to guide your researches; and to assist you
in forming just notions on a subject of such infinite importance, I have
shown you the necessity of regulating your heart and temper, according
to the genuine spirit of that religion which I have so earnestly
recommended as the great rule of your life. To the same principle I
would refer your attention to domestic duties; and, even that refinement
and elegance of manners, and all those graces and accomplishments, which
will set your virtues in the fairest light, and will engage the
affection and respect of all who converse with you. Endeared to society
by these amiable qualities, your influence in it will be more extensive,
and your capacity of being useful proportionably enlarged. The studies,
which I have recommended to you, must be likewise subservient to the
same views; the pursuit of knowledge, when it is guided and controlled
by the principles I have established, will conduce to many valuable
ends: the habit of industry it will give you, the nobler kind of
friendships for which it will qualify you, and its tendency to promote a
candid and liberal way of thinking, are obvious advantages. I might add,
that a mind well informed in the various pursuits which interest
mankind, and the influence of such pursuits on their happiness, will
embrace with a clearer choice, and will more steadily adhere to, those
principles of Virtue and Religion, which the judgment must ever approve,
in proportion as it becomes enlightened.

May those delightful hopes be answered which have animated my heart,
while with diligent attention I have endeavoured to apply to your
advantage all that my own experience and best observation could furnish.
With what joy should I see my dearest girl shine forth a bright example
of every thing that is amiable and praiseworthy;--and how sweet would be
the reflection that I had, in any degree, contributed to make her
so!--My heart expands with the affecting thought, and pours forth in
this adieu the most ardent wishes for your perfection! If the tender
solicitude expressed for your welfare by this 'labour of love' can
engage your gratitude, you will always remember how deeply your conduct
interests the happiness of

    Your most affectionate

      AUNT.

FOOTNOTES:

[30] _Dr. Goldsmith's Histories of Greece and Rome_ are generally
considered as most useful to young persons.

        _Editor._

[31] _Russel's History of Ancient Europe_ will give all the information
requisite.

        _Editor._

[32] This work was first printed in 1773.

[33] _The History of Modern Europe_ may be read with particular
advantage.

        _Editor._

[34] This work has not been published for some years; _Guthrie's
Geographical and Historical Grammar_ is the best work of the kind, at
present.

        _Editor._


                     FINIS.

Printed by Weed and Rider, Little Britain, London.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious misspellings and punctuation errors repaired. Otherwise,
unusual spellings retained when used consistently in original.

Hyphenated/nonhyphenated retained when occurring evenly.

Thought break on P.209 added, corresponds to "Conclusion" in Contents.

P.205, list: Second occurrences of "Vertot's Revolutions" and
"Voltaire's" added in place of "repeat" dashes.

"Ecclus" = Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus

P.xxxii, "whole tenour of the Gospel" to "whole tenor of the Gospel"

P.26 "himself was govenor" to "himself was governor"





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