Page images

as well as the keys of their wardrobes, their writing tables, or their caskets, or who are obliged occasionally to confide them to the care of others. They cannot even be faithful friends, since letters of the most confidential character may be exposed by their negligence.

Wherever this habit is established, women will bid adieu to practical regularity and economy; and thus create one of the most fruitful sources for the consumption of valuable time. Life is then half spent in fruitless searches, and in digesting the inconvenience consequent upon them ; inconveniencies, which might easily be avoided, by having fixed places for every article.

Youth should always be trained to the habit of doing every thing with attention and celerity; because slowness of movement occasions a vast loss of time. Were we to reflect what an infinite number of minutes are lost by this simple deficiency, the calculation would appal us: they would probably amount to more than two hours each day, or above fifteen years in the course of a long life; that is, from early youth to seventy-five years old. Besides which, every hour that is spent in unmeaning trifles, should be considered as lost time; thus making it appear, that most men waste, upon folly, one quarter of their lives: the passions, and a vain pursuit of false pleasures generally consume two other quarters : some must be allowed for physical sufferings and sickness, which few escape: and then, how little remains to be well employed !

The greatest loss of time to grown persons is occasiond by a passion for cabals, and a taste for gossiping and bustle; a species of idle curiosity, which inspires them with a desire of knowing all that passes, and all the little secrets of society. “Those who employ their time ill (says La Bruyere) are the first to complain of the shortness of its duration; those, on the contrary, who make a good use of it, have enough to spare.

Albania has a great memory, a vast deal of activity, and uncommon steadiness of character; she learns a multitude of things, and is equal to them all : she draws, sings, and plays wusic: she reads a great deal, makes extracts from what she reads, and pos. sesses all the information it is possible a girl of thirteen should be mistress of: she understands French, English, and Italian: she embroiders in a superior style, and executes plain work equally well : she makes all her own clothes, keeps her mother's house, and regulates all the accounts; and has the charge of all the stores laid up for the family consumption, of which she alone keeps the keys. It is she who has the superintendence of preparing apartments for visitors; who, in the time of vintage and harvest, pays the labourers their wages, and presides over all their rural employments. It is she, in fine, who, as a recompense for all those cares, is charged with the honourable, the sweet office of distributing alms, of searching for and visiting the

poor. How, say the indolent and the idle, can she find time for so many employments? It may be answered, first, Albania wears pockets, thus Albania's keys are never astray: she always carries two little books about her, the one for reading, the other, in which there is a pencil, serves her for a memorandum book, an almanack, and for setting down any little unforeseen expenses; for those of a more fixed kind, she keeps a large account book in her writing box. Secondly, Albania does every thing with as much despatch as address; she has no gossiping, no frivolous curiosity, nor is she an unmeaning prattler. Thirdly, she is so careful, has every thing in her charge arranged in such perfect order, that she never loses a moment in searching for them. Fourthly, Albania is steady and persevering, she has fixed rules for her daily occupations, which she will allow nothing to derange: all her time is carefully distributed, and fully employed. Fifthly and lastly, Albania is not fond of finery; she displays the most delicate neatness in her apparel; but even on her days of greatest dress, she never spends more than three-quarters of an hour at her toilette. At twenty,

Albania will be a woman of the most superior accomplisments, and will have the happiness of saying, that, during the whole course of her education, she never experienced a single moment of lassitude or weariness.

Lassitude was introduced into the world by sloth, (says La Bruyere.) This is a very just remark. It has been said, that idleness is the mother of all vices; it might have been added, that it is also the parent of the most overpowering and insupportable lassitude.

The laws of Draco punished idleness with death; and a considerable penalty was imposed on such as got beyond a certain degree of corpulency, because it was supposed that idleness and indolence were the occasion of it. Solon decreed infamy as the punishment of idleness; and deprived him, who had neglected to give his son a trade, of that assistance which he might have expected in his old age. That, however, which above all ought to inspire Christians with an abhorrence of idleness, is the express condemnation attached to it in the holy Scriptures. In every instance it is held up to execration, whilst labour is as distinctly enjoined to all, without distinction of rank or sex. The barren tree was to be cut down and cast into the fire; the slothful servant to be cast into outer darkness; and sluggishness was always to be punished with as much severity as infidelity itself.

It is to be hoped that these reflections will make some impression on the minds of young readers : they have still before them the whole field of life; let them gather its fruits diligently, without stopping to squander them.

The two things most necessary to right employment of our time, are regularity and perseverance.-

Who well begins, can thence small merit claim;
To finish well is all.

The following quaint observations on Idleness are abridged from Feltham :

“The idle man is the most barren piece of earth in the orb. There is no creature that has life, but is busied in some action for the benefit of the restless world. Even the most venomous and most ravenous things that are, have their commodities as well as their annoyances : and they are ever engaged in some action, which both profiteth the world, and continues them in their nature's courses. Even the vegetables, wherein calm nature dwells, have their turns and times in fructifying: they leaf, they flower, they seed. Nay, creatures quite inani'mate are, some, the most laborious in their motion. With what a cheerful face the golden sun chariots through the rounding sky! How perpetual is the maiden moon, in her just and horned mutations! The fire, how restless in his quick and catching flames! In the air, what transitions ! and how fluctuous are the salted waves! Nor is the teeming earth weary, after so many thousand years' production. All which may tutor the couch-stretched man, and raise the modest red to shew through his unwashed face. Idleness is the most corrupting fly, that can blow in any human mind. That ignorance is the most miserable, which knows not what to do. I do not wonder to see some of our gentry grown well near the lewdest men of our land: since they are most of them so muffled in a non-employment. It is action that keeps the soul both sweet and sound : while lying still, rots it to an odorous noisomeness. Augustin imputes Esau's loss of the blessing, partly to his slothfulness, that had rather receive meat, than seek it. Surely exercise is the fattening food of the soul, without which, she grows lank and thinly pasted. That the followers of great men are so much debauched, I believe to be want of employment: for the soul, impatient of an absolute recess, for want of the wholesome food of business, preys upon the lewder actions. It is true, men learn to do ill, by doing what is next it, nothing. I believe Solomon meant the field of the sluggard, as well for the emblem of his mind as the certain index of his outward state. As the one is overgrown with thorns and briars; so is the other with vices and enormities. When one would boast the blessings of the Roman state, that since Carthage was razed, and Greece subjected, they might now be happy, as having nothing to fear; says the best Scipio, 'We now are most in danger; for while we want business, and have no foe to awe us, we are ready to drown in the mud of vice and slothfulness.” How bright does the soul grow with use and negotiation! With what proportioned sweetness does that family flourish, where but one laborious guide steereth in an ordered course! When Cleanthes had laboured, and got some coin, he shews it to his companions, and tells them, that he now, if he will, can nourish another Cleanthes. Believe it, industry is never wholly unfruitful. If it bring not joy with the incoming profit, it will yet banish mischief from thy_busied gates. There is a kind of good angel waiting upon Diligence, that ever carries a laurel in his hand, to crown her.

Fortune, they said of old, should not be prayed unto, but with the hands in motion. The bosomed hand beckons the approach of poverty, and leaves beside, the noble arm guarded : but the lifted arm does frighten want, and is ever a shield to that noble director. How unworthy was that man of the world, that never did ought, but only lived, and died. That I had liberty to do any thing, I account it from the favouring heavens. I am glad of that leisure, which gives me leisure to employ myself. If I should not grow better for it; yet this benefit, I am sure, would accrue me: I should both keep myself from being worse, and not have time to entertain evil.” Thus far Feltham.

Idleness is the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, the step-mother of discipline, the chief author of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, the cushion upon which the tempter chiefly reposes, and a great cause not only of melancholy, but of many other diseases : for the mind is naturally active; and if it be not occupied about some honest business, it rushes into mischief, or sinks into melancholy.

Melancholy is certainly a familiar disease to all idle persons; an inseparable companion to such as live indolent and luxurious lives. Any pleasant company, discourse, business, sport, recreation, or amusement, suspend the pains and penalties of idleness; but the moment these engagements cease, the mind is again afflicted with the torments of disease. The lazy, lolling race of men are always miserab and uneasy. Seneca well says, “I had rather be sick than idle.” This disposition is either of body or of mind. Idleness of body is the improper intermission of necessary exercise, which causes crudities, obstructions, excrementitious humours, quenches the natural heat, dulls the spirits, and renders the mind unfit for employment. As ground that is untilled runs to weeds, so indolence produces nothing but gross humours. A horse unexercised, and a hawk unflown, contract diseases, from which, if left at

« PreviousContinue »