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not only *bear those fiusalties meekly,' but
■hoold consider it as no derogation, oheerfully
lo fulfil those humbler offices which make up
the business and the duties of common life,
while they should always take into the account
the nobler exertions as well as the higher re-
■ponsibilities attached to higher gifts. In the
mean time women of lower attainments should
exert to the utmost such abilities as Providence
has atsigned them ; and while they should not
deride excellences which are above their reach,
they should not despond at any infbriority which
did not depend on themselves , nor, because God
has denied them ten talents, should they forget
that they are equally responsible for the one he
kms allotted them, but set about devoting that
one with humble diligence to the glory of the
giver.

Vanity, however, is not the monopoly of ta-
Isnta. Let not a young lady, therefore, fancy
that she is humble, merely because she is not
ingenious, or consider the absence of talents as
the criterion of worth. Humili^ is not the ex-
elusive privilege of dufaiess. Folly is as con-
oeited as wit, and ignoranco many a time out-
•trips knowledge in the race of vanity. Equally
earnest oompetitions spring from causes less
worthy to excite them mn wit and genius.
Vanity insinuates itself into the female heart
under a variety of unsuspected forms, and is on
liie watch to enter it by seizing on many a little
pass which wae not tfaiought worth guarding.

Who has not seen as restless emotion agitate
the features ofan anxious matron, while peace
end feme hung trembling in doubtf\il suspense
on the success of a soup or sauce, on which sen-
tence was about to be pronounced by some con-
nnunate critic, as could have been excited by
any competition ibr literary renown, or anj
etruggle for contested witi Anxiety for fame is
br no means measured by the real value of the
object pursued, but by thie degree of estimation
in which it is held bv the pursuer. Nor was
the illustrious hero of Greece more efiectuallv
hindered from sleeping by the trophies at Mii-
tiades, than man^f a modish damsel by the
edipsing superiority of some newer decoration
exhibited by her more suceessful friend.

Tliere is another species of vanity in some
women which disguises itself under the thin veil
ef an affN^d humility ; they will accuse them-
tehres of some feuH fVom which they are re-
markablv exempt, and lament the want of some
taknt which the? are rather notonous for pos-
•essing. Now though the wisest are commonly
the most humble, and those who are freest from
feohs are most fbrwtfd in confessing error ; yet
^ practice we are eensurinff is not only a
eiomsy trap for praise, but a disingenuous inten-
tion, by renouncing a quality they eminently
p08«esii, to gain credit for others in which they
are really deficient All affec^tion involves a



species of deceit The Apostle when he enjoins,
^ not to think of ourselves more highly than we
ought,* does not exhort us to think/aZ««Z^ of our
selves, but to think * soberly ;* and it is worth
observing that in this injunction he does not use
the word sfmUr, but iMink, inferring possibly,
that it Would be safer to speok little of ourselves
or not at aU ; for it is so far from being an un-
equivocal proof of our humility to talk even of
our defects, that while we make teZ/ the subject*
in whatever way, self-love contrives to be grati-
fied, and will even be content that our faults
should be talked o^ rather than that we should
not be talked of at all. Some are also attacked
with such proud fits of humility, that while
they are ready to accuse themselves of almost
every sin in the lump, they yet take fire at the
imputation of the slightest individiuil fault;
and instantly enter upon their own vindication
as warmly as if you, and not themselves, had
brought forward the charge. The truth is, they
ventured to condemn themselves, in the full con-
fidence that you would contradict the self-accu-
sation ; the last thing they intended was that
you should believe them, and they are never so
much piqued and disappointed as when they are
taken at their word.

Of the various shapee and undefined forms
into which vanity branches out in conversation,
there is no end. Out of restless desire to please,
grows the vain desire to astonish : for fVom
vanity, as much as f^m credulity, arises that
strong love of the marvellous, with which the
conversationofthe ill-educated abounds. Hence
that fondness fbr dealing in narratives hardly
within the compass of possibility. Here vanity
has many shaoes of gntification ; those shades
will be stronger or weaker, whether the relator
chance to have been an eye-witness of the won-
der she records ; or whether she claim only the
second-hand renown of its having happened to
her firiend, or the still remoter celebrity of its
having been witnessed only by her friend*s
^iend : but even though that fViend only knew
the man, who remembered the woman, who con-
versed with the person, who actually beheld the
thing which is now causing admiration in the
company, still seZ/', though in a feinter degree,
is brought into notice, and the relator contrives
in some circuitous and distant way to be con
nected with the wonder.

To correct this propensity, *to elevate and
surprise,** it would be well m mixed society to
abstain altogether from haiarding stories, which
though they may not be absolutely false, yet
lying without the verge of probability, are apt
to impeach the credit of the narrator ; in whom
the very consciousness that she is not beUeved,
excites an increased eagerness to depart stiH
fitfther f^om the soberness of truth, and induces
a habit of vehement asseveration, which is too
often called in to help out a questionable pointt

* Hie Re h e a r sa l.

t This is also a goodfnle in eosBpoeittoB. An event
tboagh it may actually have happened, yet if -it be ont
of the reach of probability, or contrary to the common
coorse of nature, will wldom be cboeen aa a luhject by
a Writer of good taite ; for be knowt that n probable
Action will interest the feeling more than an :intikf>Iy
truth. VerlwrniMtude is indeed lh« pool's Irulli. Nil the
^th of tbe moralist 's of a more sturdy growth.



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376



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MOR£.



Or if the propeniity be irresistible, I would re-
connnend to thoee persons who are much addict-
ed to relate doubtful, or improbable, or wonder-
Ail circumstances, to imitate the example of the
two great naturalists, Aristotle and Bojrle, who
not ^inp willing to discredit their works with
incredible realities threw all their improbabili-
ties into a lump, under the general name of
Strangle RepofU, Maj we not suspect that, in
some mstances, the chapter of strange reports
would be a bulkj one?

There is another shape, and a very deformed
shape it is, in which loquacious vanity shows
itself: I mean the betraying of confidence.
Though the act be treacherous, yet the fault, in
the first instance, is not treachery, but Tanity.
It does not so ofloi spring fVoro the mischieTous
desire of divulging a secret, as fi-om the pride
of having been trusted with it It is the secret
inclination of mixing seZ/ with whatever is im-
portanL The secret would be of little value, if
the revealing it did not serve to intimate our
connexion with it; the pleasure of its having
been deposited with us would be nothing, if
others mav not know that it has been so depo-
sited. — When we continue to see the variety of
serious evils which this principle involves, shall
we persist in asserting tnat vanity is a slender
mischief?

There is one offence committed in oonversa.
tion of much too^ serious a nature to be over-
looked, or to be animadverted on without sorrow
and indication : I mean, the habitual thought-
less profaneness of those who are repeatedly in-
voking their Maker's name on occasions the
most trivial It is offensive in all its variety of
aspects ; — ^it is verv pernicious in its effeeti f —
it IB a growing evil ; — those who are most guUty
of it, are from habit hardly conscious when they
do if ; are not aware of the sin ; and for both
these reasons without the admonitions of faithful
fHendship, are little likely to discontinue it It
is utterly inkzcub4Bli; — it has none of the pal-
liatives of tempUUion which other vices plead,
and in that respect stands distinguished fix»m all
others both in its nature and degree of guilt —
Like many other sins, however, it is at once
cause and effect : it proeeed$ from want of love
and reverence to the best of Beings, and eau$e$
the want of that love both in themselves and
others. Yet with all these aggravations, there
is perhaps, hardly any sin so frequently com-
mitted, so sLiffhtly censured, so seldom repented
o( and so litUe guarded against On the score
oiimfintprieiy too, it is additionally offensive, as
to being utterly repugnant to female delicacy,
which oflen does not see the turpitude of tms
sin, while it affects to be shocked at swearing
in a man. Now this species of pro^eness is
not only swearing, but, perhaps, in some re-
spects, swearing of the worst sort ; as it is a
direct breach of an express command, and
offends against the very Utter of that law which
says in so many words, thou bh4Lt not take

THE NAME OF THE LOID THT GoD IN VAIN. It

offends against politeness and good breeding;
for tho8o who commit it, little think of the pain
they are inflicting on the sober mind, which is
deeply wounded when it hears the holy name it
Hives dishonoured ; and it is as contrary to good



breeding to |[ive pain, as it is to tme piety to be
profane. It is astonishing that the refined and
elegant should not reprobate this practice for its
coarseness and vulgarity, as much as the pious
abhor it for its sinfulncM.

1 would endeavour to give some faint idea of
the groBsness of this OTence, bv an analogy
(oh! how inadequate!) with which the feeling
heart, even though Hot seasoned with religion,
may yet be touched. To such I would earnestly
say : — Suppose you had some beloved fiiend - -
to put the case still more strongly, a depart-
ed fViend — a revered parent, perhaps - -wbose
image never occurs without awaking in your
bosom sentiments of tender love and liveljr
gratitude; how would you feel if you heard this
honourable name bandied about with unfeeling
familiarity and indecent levity ; or at best, thrust
into every pause of speech as a fulgar expletive ?
Does not your affectionate heart recoil at the
thought 7 And yet the hallowed name of your
truest Benefactor, your heavenly Father, your
best friend, to whom you are indebted for all
you enjoy ; who gives you those very friends in
whom you so much delight, those very talents
with which you dishonour him, those very or-
gans of speech with which you blaspheme him,
is treatea with an irreverence, a contempt, a
wantonness, with which you cannot bear the
very thought or mention of treating a human
friend, ms name is impiously, is unfeelingly,
is ungratefully singled out as the object of de-
cided irreverence, of t^stematic contempt, of
thoughtless levity. His sacred name is used
indi^iminately to express anger, ioy, grie^
surprise, impatience ; and what is almost still
more unpardonable than all, it is wantonly used
as a mere unmeaning expletive, which, being
excited by no temptation, can have nothing to
extenuate it ; which, causing no emotion, csn
have nothing to recommend it, unless it be the
pleasure of ue sin.

Among the deep, but less obvious mischiefs
of oonversation, mierejpreeentatUm must not be
overlooked. Self-love is continually at work, to
give to all we say a bias in our own favour.
The counteraction of this fault should be set
about in the earliest stages of education. If
young persons have not been discouraged iii the
natural, but evil, propensity to relate every dis-
pute they have had with others to their own ad*
vantage ; if thev have not been trained to the
bounden duty of doing justice even to those with
whom they are at variance ; if they have not
been led to aim at a complete impartiality in
their little narratives, and instructed never to
take advantage of the absence of the other party,
in order to make the story lean to their own
side more than the truth will admit : how shall
we in advanced lift look for correct habits, for
unprejudiced representations, for fidelity, accu-
racy, and unbiassed justice 7

Yet, how oflen in society, otherwise respect-
able, are we pained with narrations in which
prejudice warps, and self-love binds ! How oflen
do we see, that withholding part of a truth an-
swers the worst ends of a filsehood ! How ofisa
regret the unfair turn given to a cause, Imf
placing a sentiment in one point of view, whica
the speaker had used in another ' the hatter of



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TfflB WOftKS OF HANNAH MORE.



377



Inith preserved where ito ipirit is Tiolated ! a
stperatitkHia exaeteeM eormraloiialy maintained
in the under parte of a detail, in order to imprect
tueh an idea of integrity as sfaaU gain credit for
the mtsrtfpref enter, while he is designedly mis-
taking the leading principle. How may we ob-
serve a new character ffiven to a fiict by a diflbr-
ent look, tone, or emphasis, which alters it as
much as words could have done ! the false im-
pression of a sermon conveyed, when we do not
Uke the preacher, or when throuj^ him we wish
to make religion itself ridicoloas ! the care to
avoid Uteral nntroths, while the mbchief is bet-
ter effected by the anfair quotation of a p^fsage
divested of ite context ; the bringing together
detached portions (^ a subject, and mwng those
parte ludicrous, when connected, which were
serious in their distinct position ! the insidious
ose made of a sentiment by representing it as
the ninion of him who had only brought it for-
ward in order to expose it ! the relating opinions
which bad merely been put hypothetiMlly, as if
they were the avowed principles of him we would
discredit ! that subtle fidsehood which is so made
to incorporate with a certain quantity of truth,
that the most skilful moral chemiste eannot ana-
lyse or separate them ! for a good misrepretenter
knows that a successful lie must have a certain
infusion of truth, or it will not go down- And
this amalgamation it the test of his skill ; as too
muck truth would defeat the end of his mischief;
and too little would destrov the belief of the
hearer. All that indefinable ambiguitv and
equivocation ; all that prudent deceit, which is
rather implied than expressed ; those more deli-
cate artifices of the school of Loyola and of
Chesterfield, which allow us when we dare not
deny a truth, yet so to disguise and discolour it,
that the truth we relate shall not resemble the
truth we heard ! These and all the thousand
shades of simulation and dissimulation will be
carefullyguarded against in the conversation of
vigilant Qiristians.

Again, it is surprising to mark the commoo
deviations from strict veracity which spring, not
^m enmity to truth, not firom intentional de-
eeit, not from malevolence or envy, not from the
least design to injure ; but from mere levi^, ha-
oitoal inattention, and a current notion that it
is not worth while to be correct in small thin|[s.
But here the doctrine of haUte comes in with
great force, and in that view no error b small.
The cure of this disease in ite more inveterate
stages being next to impossible, ite prevenUon
ought to be one of the earliest objecte of educa-
tion.*

Some women indulge themselves in sharp
raillery, unfeeling wit, and cutting sarcasms,
fitHn the consciousness, it is to be feared, that
they are secure from the danger of being called
to account ; this license of speech being encou-
raged by the very circumstance which ought to
suppress it To be severe, because they can be
so with impunity, is a most ungenerous reason.
It is taking a base and dishonourable advantage
of their sex, the weakness of which, instead of
tempting them to commit oflfbnces because they
can commit them with safety, ought rather to
make them more scrupulously careful to avoid
* See tbe chapter o« Uie use of defU itions.

Vol. I.



indiscretions fer which nd reparation can be do.
manded. What can be said for those who care-
lessly involve the injured party in consequences
fVom which they know tnemselves exempted,
and whose very sense of their own security
leads them to be indifibrent to the secority at
others!

The ffrievous fault of gross and obvious detrac-
tion which infecte conversation, has been so
heavily and so justly condemned by divines and
morahste, that the subject, copious as it is, is
exhausted. But there is an error of an opposite
complexion, which we have before noticed, and
against which the peculiar temper of the times
requires that young ladies of a better cast should
be guarded. FVom the narrowness of their own
sphere of observation, they are sometimes ad-
dicted to accuse of unchariteUeness, that dis-
tinguishing judgment which, resulting fVom e
sound penetration and a zeal for truth, forbids
persons of a very correct principle to be indis-
criminately prodigal of commendation without
inquiry and without distinction. There is an
afiectetion of candour, which is almost as mis-
chievous as calumny itself; nay, if it be less in*
jurious in ite individual application, it is per-
naps, more alarming in ite general principle, as
it lays waste the strong fences which separate
good from evil. They know, as a general prin-
ciple (though they sometimes calumniate) that
calumny is wrong ; but they have not been told
that flattery is wrong also; and youth, being apt
to fancy that the direct contrary to wrong must
necessarily be right, are apt to be driven into
violent extremes. The dread of being only sus-
pected of one fault, makes them actually guilty
of the opposite ; and to avoid the charge of harsh-
ness or of envy, they plunge into insincerity and
fUsehood. In this they are actuated either by
an unsound judgment which does not see what
is right, or an unsound principle which prefers
what is wrong. Some also commend to conceal
envy ; and ouers are compassionate to indulge
superiority.

In this age of high-minded independence when
our youth are apt to set up for themselves, and
every man is too much disposed to be his own
k^lator without looking to the esteblished law
of the land as his standard ; and to set up for
his own divine, without looking tc the revealed
will of God as his rule— by a candour equally
vicious with our vanity, we are also complai-
santly led to give the latitude we take : and it is
become too frequent a practice in our tolerating
young ladies, when speaking of their more
erring and misled acquaintance, to offer fer them
this flimsy vindication, * that what they do is
right if it appear right to them :'— * if they see
the thing in that light, and act up to it with sin-
cerity, they cannot be materially wrong.* But
the standard of truth, justice, and religion, must
neither be elevated nor depressed, in order to
accommodate it to actual circumstances; it most
never be lowered to palliate error, to justify folly,
or to vindicate vice. Good natured young peo-
ple otien speak fevourably of unworthy, or extra
vagantly of common characters, from one of
these motives ; either their own views of excel
lencie are low, or they speak respectfully of the
undeserving, to purchase for theip«»'»^ the re



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378



THB WOEKS OF HikHllAH liCȣ.



Citation of tenderneBS and fenerofity ; or tliey
vish unsparing praise on almost aU alike, in
the usurious hope of bnyinf back nniversal com-
mendation in retom; or in those captivating
characters in which the simple and mascidine
language of truth is sacrificed to the jargon of
affected softness ; and in which smooth and pli-
ant manners are snbstitiited for intrinric worth,
the inexperienced are too apt to »upp0§e viitnee,
and io forpve vices. But diey sb^old oarefiilly
guard against the error of making YNonner tlie
criterion of merit, and of |[iving imlimited cre-
dit to strangers tot possessmg every perfection,
aaHy becaose they bring into oompany the en-
gaging exterior of urbanity and alluring gentle-
iiess. They should also remember that it is an
eas^, but not an honest way of obtaining the
nraise of candour, to get into the soft and popu-
lar nabit of sayinff m all their acquaintance,
when speaking of Uiem, that they are $0 good !
True Christian candour conceals ftults, but it
does not invent virtues. It tenderly forbears to
expose the evil which may bekmff to a oharac
ter, but it dares not ascribe to it the good which
does not exist To correct this propensity to
&lse judgment and insincerity, it would be well
to bear in mind, that while every good action,
come from what source it may, and every good
quality, be it found in whomsoever it will, de-
serves its fair proportion of distinct and wiUing
commendation ; yet no diameter is good, in the
true sense of the word, which is not ekuoious.
In fine^to reciqiittdate what has been said,
with some additional hints >^tudy to promote
both iniellectual and moral improvement in con-
vers^tion ; labour to bring into it a disposition
to bear with others, and to be watchful over
yourself; keep out of sight any prominent ta-
lent of your own, which, if indulged, might dis-
eourage or oppress the feeble mmded ; and try
10 bring their modest virtues into notice, u
you know any one present to possess any parti-
enlar weakness or infirmity, never exercise vour
wit by maliciously inventing occasions which
may lead her to expose or betray it ; but give as
Ikvourable a turn as you can to the ft>llies which
appear, and kindly help her to keep the rest out
of flight Never gratUy your own humour, by
hazarding what you suspect may wound any
one present in their persons, connexions, pro-
fbssions in lif^, or religious opinions ; and do hot
forget to examine whether the laugh your wit
has raised be never bought at this expense.
Give credit to those who, without your kindness,
will get none ; do not talk at any one whom jon
dare not talk to, unless firom motives in which
the golden rule will bear you out Seek neither
to shine nor to triuntph ; and if you seek to
please, take care that it be in order to convert
the influence you may gain by pleasing to the
good of others. Cultivate true politeness, for it
grows out of true principle, and is consistent
with the Gospel of Christ ; but avoid those fbign-
ed Attentions which are not stimulated by good
will, and those stated profcssbns of fondness
which are not dictated by esteem. Remember
that the pleasure of beinff thought amiable by
strangers may be too dearly purchased, if it be
purchased at the expense of truth and siniplici-
ty , remember that simplicity is the first charm



in raaootr as tralh i» in mkudi and oonld tnifli
niake herself viuble, she would appear invested
in simplicity.

Remember also that true Christian goodna-
ture is the soul, of which politeness b only the
garb. It is not that artificial quality which is
taken up by many when they go into society, in
order to charm those whom it is not their par-
ticular business to pleese ; and Is laid down when
they retom home to those to whom to appear
amiabfe is « real doty. It is not that fkscinating
but deoeitfiil softness, which, afbr having acted
over a hundred seenes of the most lively sympa-
thy ^d tender interest with every idight ae-
quaimnoe ; after having exhausted every phrase
of fteling, for the trivial ncknesses w petty sor-
rows of multitudes who are scarcely known,
leaves it donbtfhl whether a grain of nol foeling
or genuine sympathy be resored for tlie dearest
connexions ; and which dismisses a woman to
her immediate friends with little affection, and
to her own fiunily with little attachment

True good-nature, that which alone deserves
the name, is not a holyday ornament, but an
every-day habit It does not consist in servile
complaisance, or dishonest flattery, or affected

rpathy, or unqualified assent, or unwarranta-
xnnpliance, or eternal smiles. Before it can
be allowed to rank with the virtues, it must be
wrought up from a humour into a principle,
(kom an occasional dispoeition into a habit It
must be the result of an equal and well-governed
mind, not the start of casual ^yety, the trick
of designing vanity, or the whim of capricious
fondness. It is compounded of kindness, for-
bearancc^ forgiveness, and self-denial ; * it seek-
eth not its own,* but is capable of making oon-



Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 90 of 135)