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friend or relative, when paying a visit of condolence. Such inquiries are extremely offensive: what right have you to put yourself in the place of a confessor, or to wring an answer from some bereaved one, who perchance has no sure hope as respects the departed? It may be that the subject of your inquiry has led a careless life, and death has stolen in unawares; or that a few parting words alone betokened that the soul had become awake to its perilous condition. If such has been the case, how harrowing are all such questions, the more especially when the afflicted relative is fully aware that whatever information can be elicited will be repeated from house to house! Do not think the caution needless: instances occur to us in which kind and well-bred persons have so far forgotten themselves as to fall into this error, and we desire especially to warn our readers on the subject.
Invalids often acquire a most undesirable habit of speaking at large concerning their ailments to whoever may chance to call. We are acquainted with many such; one, especially, a gentlewoman of somewhat high degree, who uniformly entertains her visitors with recapitulating the symptoms of her malady, and the prescriptions of her doctor, accurately narrating how many hours she lies awake at night, and how many times in the day her draughts are taken. Neither is she content without giving them a true and faithful account as respects her appetite, and, as a matter of course, what she has had for breakfast or dinner. This done, she generally complains of neglect on the part of her friends and relations, and draws a doleful comparison between the present degenerate age and that Elysium of grumblers-the past, when young people knew how to behave to their betters. We cannot enter into the grievances of which this lady complains, but we well know that those who are commencing life uniformly dislike such narratives as the one in which she excels; that, moreover, those who are much older listen only from politeness, making their escape when a break in the discourse ensues, and letting as much time as possible elapse before repeating their visits.
Elderly persons, likewise, sometimes adopt the same habit, and instead of rendering themselves agreeable and attractive, they drive away their younger relatives, who would gladly render them every possible attention. They complain of neglect, and say that no one cares for old people. Our experience inclines us to take a very different view of the matter; judging of others by ourselves, and carrying back our thoughts to days long past, we confidently assert that a strong feeling of love and reverence prevails towards those who are advanced in life. True it is that, if the aged and invalids will tease their youthful visitors with recapitulating all their pains and aches, and with tiresome repetitions of what the medical man either prescribes or else forbids, no one cares to listen; but if, remembering past days, when the future seemed as an unlimited horizon, and the present was decked with rainbow tints, they study to please and to attract, they will have bright and loving eyes looking to them with that undefinable emotion which may be more readily felt than described, and warm hearts bounding with joy towards them.
We well remember, in our days of buoyant feeling, the delight with which we used to run into our little gardens, and gather the choicest fruits
or flowers, as small presents with which to fill our baskets; and how quietly we used to sit beside our aged friends, aye! beside their beds often, when no longer able to remain in their elbow-chairs. Pilgrims were they, who had seen much of this world's cares, as well as joys; but they loved young people, and drew forth from their ardent affections, as from wells of gushing waters, the full flowing of affection in return. Vividly before our mental view uprises one such pilgrim-a lady who, in youth, had been eminently beautiful. As years passed on, and she advanced to that serene and dignified period in human life, when the mortal traveller seems to have reached the confines of both worlds, and to be waiting only for a summons to depart, the love of God which glowed in her heart gave to her sweet and venerable countenance an indescribable expression, which appeared to partake far more of the heavenly country to which she was advancing, than of the earthly one she was about to leave.
The Indians of North America observe an admirable rule in their social intercourse, and that is, of speaking only one at a time. We earnestly recommend the unqualified adoption of this simple rule in all families, for the better preservation of domestic quietness; and while writing on the subject, two sisters are remembered by us, whom we cannot do better than present to our readers as examples, or rather beacons, that they may take warning, and beware. The sisters are sensible people, and by no means deficient in good man ners, but they uniformly speak at the same time, and it is consequently extremely difficult to unravel the thread of their discourse. If, for instance, a visitor chances to call shortly after the two sisters have heard an excellent sermon, or been to some public exhibition, they both simultaneously commence telling what they have heard or seen. The eldest begins, and the youngest nearly repeats her sister's words, after the fashion of a wood-side echo-yet not like the echo, which waits for the last word spoken, and then recapitulates it in her own sweet, soft, unearthly voicebut talking both at once, till the unfortunate visitor, catching up one sentence, then another, while endeavouring earnestly to comprehend the narrative, which is, perhaps, extremely interesting, becomes at length nearly bewildered, and goes away, mentally exclaiming-"What an intolerable clacking!" We have seen, likewise, three or four gentlemen standing at the corner of a street, evidently discoursing on some important topic, which they strive to explain to an unfortunate listener, for whose benefit the explanation is intended. Alas, for him! he looks from face to face, as if their varied expressions might help him to understand the purport of their words; but the longer he listens, the more bewildered he evidently becomes, and the more earnest are also his instructors that he may clearly understand the bearings of their subject.
Many people accustom themselves to repeat what they have just said. They do not remember that if a tale twice told is wearisome, equally so is a twice told sentence. Not contented with mentioning some striking fact, they go over it again, seemingly lest their auditors should forget what they have just heard; and thus, instead of being listened to with pleasure, they are mostly avoided in society. They remind us of a lady who was much displeased with her servant for neglecting one of
her directions, when sent on an errand. "Would you believe it," said the mistress, "that stupid girl forgot to get the cherries, though I told her of it at least twenty times!" "No wonder," thought the lady, "half that number would have puzzled me."
All such peculiarities as the ones to which we have adverted are breaches of etiquette, and should be carefully guarded against. Whispering, also, in company, is most undesirable; and while speaking on the subject, we would notice a certain impropriety, which chiefly occurs among those who pique themselves on their good manners; and that is, bowing, or curtseying, or whispering, or smiling, in those hours which ought to be very differently occupied, and which are utterly inconsistent with the duty and true intent of our entering such places as are appropriated to religious worship. In this matter we may take an example from men who are very differently circumstanced from ourselves, on whom the true light of religion has never shone. Mahometans uniformly observe great reverence in their mosques; and travellers relate, that grandees of the first quality, equally with persons of humble rank-of the nearest relationship and intimate acquaintance, pass one another, unknowingly as it were, and unknown, as if their minds were suitably and solemnly engaged, and themselves having respect only to the propriety of their demeanour in the conventions of their erroneous worship. Such examples are much deserving of imitation, and we shall do well to remember the solemn and holy purpose of our assembling together. Be watchful, also, that you do not offend against propriety-we might almost say against the etiquette of the Sabbath-in returning homeward, because we are enjoined not to think our own thoughts, nor to speak our own words, on the day of rest. How many people, on the contrary, after leaving church, begin to expatiate about the dresses of those who worshipped with them! Strange it seems that the two brief hours of divine service should be thus desecrated, and that rational beings, who have joined in solemn prayer, and listened to words of the highest importance, should thus so soon forget themselves.
While taking to ourselves somewhat of the cha. racter of censors, in pointing out those breaches of good manners which often render otherwise agreeable people extremely tiresome, we must enlarge on a subject that deserves considerable reprehension, namely, a certain frivolous kind of falsehood, which ought to be held in greater detestation than is frequently the case. We mean a neglect of promises made on small and indifferent occasions, such as parties of pleasure, or visiting places of public interest, museuins, and exhibitions. Many causes may be assigned for this bad habit; in one it results from vanity, in another from an ill-directed mind. Charles Fribel never keeps the hour of appointment; but he is an insignificant person, and every one knows the reason of his ill manners. He cannot be ignorant that it would be impossible for him to make any figure in company, except by occasioning some little disturbance at his entry; and he therefore takes care to come in when he thinks the company are just seated. He occupies his place, after discomposing every one, and desires there may be no ceremony, after which he begins to call himself a most unfortunate creature, in disappointing so many
parties that he was invited to elsewhere. It is the vanity of this foolish young man, to name persons of wealth or quality, and to acquaint the master of the house that he rather preferred dining with him than accepting any other invitation among the many which he declared had been sent him. Every one sees through such a flimsy disguise, and inwardly pities or despises the person of whom we speak. But there are others, of a superior description, who fall into the same fault, and for their sakes we shall extend our admonitions a little further, selecting from among our acquaintance an individual of great merit, who is fast losing the respect of his friends by persevering in this ungentlemanly mode of behaviour.
Henry Courtney, for by this name we shall introduce him to our readers, possesses naturally an excellent disposition, and yet he does not scruple to keep a whole company waiting, out of respect to him, either for their dinner, or from some distant object of interest, while he is finishing a favourite book, or else is loitering away his time. Occasionally an excuse is sent for not coming at all, when every one is tired; or else he arrives so late that the company have only to lament that they neglected matters of moment to meet him whom they find a trifler. This want of attention to the most common rules of politeness has already cost him several friends; and now, when he is invited to a dinner party or excursion, his promises are not depended on; hence it happens that he often comes in at the middle of a meal, secretly slighted by the guests, and disliked by the servants, who are, perhaps, sufficiently fatigued by long waiting. The constant offending in this way has a very bad effect upon the mind of him who is guilty; it is a species of falsehood, and makes the individual inattentive to the sacredness of truth, even when a promise is on his lips; being unmindful in small things, if any thing can be called small which is morally wrong, his conscience becomes deadened, and when a great temptation occurs, he has no strength wherewith to stand his ground. Phocion, beholding a wordy orator while he was making a magnificent speech to the people, full of vain promises-"Methinks," said he, "I am now fixing my eyes on a cypresstree; it has all the pomp and beauty imaginable in its branches, leaves, and height, but, alas! it bears no fruit! The remark of this enlightened heathen often comes to our remembrance when recurring to such vain and frivolous persons as the young man concerning whose fault we have just been speaking.
Do not pluck those beautiful and fragrant buds, but let them expand into the full-blown flower. And why not? they are very beautiful and very fragrant, and if left to expand, their fragrance will soon depart, their fresh tints will be lost, and the chilly wind of evening will scatter their leaves, or the noonday sun will destroy them. God often plucks the buds in the midst of their beauty and fragrance, before they expand and perish. We miss them from the parent stem, but still remem ber them only in that exquisite freshness in which they were taken from our gaze.