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A CAUTION ADDRESSED TO MARRIED PERSONS, AS UNITED BY
THE BRITTLE TIE OF HUMAN LIFE ; FROM TIIE CONFESSIONS
Bonus est fugiendi aspicere alieno in malo.
It is a good thing to learn caution by
In the perusal of history, or of the more limited pictures which biography presents to us, there is no reader who does not take a warm interest in every thing that regards a truly deserving character; who does not feel a sensible pleasure in those instances where the benevolent purposes of such a person have been attended with success, or his virtuous actions followed by reward. This approbation paid to virtue is a tribute of the heart, which is given with ease, which is bestowed even with pleasure. But in life itself, it is unhappily found, that virtue has not the same concomitant approbation.
This contrast of opinions is never so perceptible, as when, on the death of a person who was well known to us, we compare the idea we formed of his character when alive with that which we now entertain of him. His excellencies and defects are now more impartially estimated. On the former, the memory dwells with peculiar satisfaction, and indulges a melancholy pleasure in bestowing its tribute of approbation. On the latter we kindly throw the veil of charitable alleviation : we reflect on our own imbecility ; we find apologies for another in the weakness of our own nature, and impute the error of the individual to the imper. fection of the species.
But above all, should it happen that the person thus removed by death was one who had approved himself our
friend, and whose kind affections we had repeatedly experienced ; the difference we now perceive in our estimate of such a character is apt to strike the mind with the most for. cible conviction of our own unworthiness. Memory is industrious to torment us with numberless instances of merit we have overlooked, of kindness we have not returned, of services repaid with cold neglect. The injury we have done is aggravated by the reflection, that it cannot be repaired ; for he whose life was perhaps imbittered by our ingratitude, is now insensible to our contrition.
Ah, sir ! the man who now writes to you bears witness himself to the misery of that feeling which he describes. He who now addresses you was once blessed with the affection of the best, the most amiable of women. When I married my Maria, engaged to her by that esteem, which an acquaintance almost from infancy had produced, I knew not half her worth. The situation in which she was now placed, brought to my view many points of excellence, which be. fore were undiscovered. Must I own, to my shame, that the possession of this treasure diminished its value ? Fool that I was! I knew not my own happiness till I had for ever lost it. Six years were the short period of our union. Would to Heaven that term were yet to live again! loved Maria. Severely as I am now disposed to review my past conduct, I cannot reproach myself with a failure in affection. But what human being could have been insensible to loveliness, to worth, to tenderness like hers ! Poor was that affection, which often preferred the most trivial selfish gratification to her wishes or requests; and of small value was that regard, which a sudden gust of passion could at times entirely obliterate.
It was my character, sir, as that of many, to see the path of duty and propriety, but to have the weakness to be for ever deviating from it. Educated in a respectable sphere of life, but possessing a narrow income, which with strict economy was barely sufficient to maintain with decency that
station which we occupied, it was the care of my Maria to superintend herself the minutest article of our domestic con. cerns, and thus to retrench a variety of the ordinary expenses of a family, from her own perfect skill in every useful accomplishment of her sex. Though fond of society, and formed to shine in it; though not insensible to admiration ; (and what woman with her graces of person could have been insensible to it?) though possessing the becoming pride of appearing among her equals with equal advantages of dress and ornament; she sparingly indulged in gratifications, which ill accorded with our limited fortune. She weighed with ad. mirable discretion the greater against the less duties of life, and made no scruple to sacrifice the one, when they interfered ever so little with the performances of the other.
Shall I own, that to me, thoughtless, extravagant, and vain, the conduct of this excellent woman appeared oftener to merit blame than approbation? Regardless of consequences, and careless of the future whilst I enjoyed the present, I censured that moderation which was a continual reproach to my own profuseness. Incapable of imitating her example, I denied that it was meritorious; and what in her was real magnanimity, I with equal weakness and ingratitude, attributed to poorness of spirit. How shall I describe to you, sir, her mild and gentle demeanour, the patience with which she bore the most unmerited reproofs, the tender soli. citude and endearing efforts which she used, to wean me from those ruinous indulgences, to which vanity or appetite was continually prompting me! Too often were these ef. forts repaid by me with splenetic indifference, or checked at once by sarcasm or by anger.
It is but a poor alleviation of the anguish I feel from these reflections, to remember, that, even whilst my Maria lived, the esteem which I sincerely felt for her virtues, the affection which I really bore her, and the sense I had of her tenderness, wrung my heart at times with the deepest remorse, and prompted me to atone for my injustice by the warmest expressions of kindness and regard. Many a time, sir, in those tranquil moments when no wayward inclination or peevish humour overpowered my better feelings, have I firmly resolved, that my future conduct should make ample reparation for the offences of the past. Nor were these resolutions altogether fruitless ; for whilst under the influence of this salutary conviction of my errors, I have so far amended them as to feel for a time a genuine relish for calm and do. mestic happiness. But how short the dawning of amendment ! A new temptation presented itself, and my weak resolution yielded to the force of returning passion. With my former errors I resumed the despicable pride of justifying them, and every deviation from duty was aggravated by harshness and ill humour.
Ever offending, and ever purposing to atone for my offences, I have now irretrievably lost the opportunity. The best of women is now no more. I have received her latest breath, and heard her last supplication, which was a prayer to Heaven to pourits blessings on the most unworthy of men.
Here let me end this letter.—No words can express the feelings which these reflections convey to the breast of
ON ECONOMICS AS A SCIENCE.
That logic, ethics, physics, and metaphysics, should be exalted to the dignity of arts or sciences, excites no sur. prise ; but that the art of managing a house and family should be placed on a level with them, appears rather wonderful. Yet it is certain that economics were taught as a scholastic science by the ancient philosophers; and there still remains a very curious book, in which Xenophon has recorded the doctrines of Socrates on the subject of economy. At first sight one is apt to imagine, that philosophy has departed from her province, when she enters on domestic management; and that it would be ridiculous to send a housekeeper to Socrates for the improvement of good housewifery ; yet it must be confessed, that there is in the work of Xenophon nothing of impertinence, but a great deal of good sense most elegantly expressed.
Notwithstanding the air of superiority which is assumed by logic, physics, and metaphysics, yet, considering the influence on human happiness, the greatest value should be placed on economics ; for the others, as they are treated in the schools, are little more than speculations and have but a very limited influence on the regulation or enjoyment of life. But the true pater familias, or master of a family, is one of the most respectable characters in society ; and the science which directs his conduct, or reforms his mistakes, is entitled to peculiar esteem.
Much of the misery which prevails in the world, is justly to be imputed to the want of economy.
But the word eco. nomy is usually misunderstood. It is confined in its mean. ing to parsimony, though it undoubtedly comprehends