Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

. (page 10 of 30)
Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 10 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

practical results. The general idea is improvement, and
there is a great uproar on the subject ; but the greater part
jf the multitude seem not to know wherefore they are
come together; for some cry one thing and some another,
making much confusion and really accomplishing but
little. It is true, this is a fruitful age, emphatically an
age of invention, both as it regards new projects, and the
means of accomplishing old ones. Before one scheme of
improvement is fully tested, or even half matured, it is
superseded in whole, or in part, by another, proposed by
a different individual. The usual mode selected by the
several reformers, or advocates of modern improvement,
for introducing their favorite schemes, is to trumpet them
with such unblushing confidence, as to keep the world
gaping and running to find out some method of becoming


wise without study, wealthy without industry and econ-
omy, honorable without justly asserting any sufficient
claims to reputation, and to be happy without the trouble
of being pious or virtuous. In this state of morbid excite-
ment, and so far as the votaries of novelty are concerned,
he who makes the largest pretensions to the discoveries
of facilities for improvement, and gives the least proof of
it by actual usefulness, seems to acquire the greatest

That there have been some valuable discoveries made
in modern times, respecting the mechanical arts, hus-
bandry, the means of conveyance by land and water, etc.,
calculated to save labor, and facilitate business, is not
denied; and possibly this circumstance has contributed
to the desire of some to ascertain a plan for mental im-
provement without much mental exertion. They may
reason thus : As the wants of the body are supplied by
means of various machinery, at a great reduction of time,
labor, and expense, why not those of the soul by certain
improvements within our power? But if the latter object
has been realized to any considerable extent, the judicious
part of society do not appear to be apprised of it. It is
true, some things are taught now in a shorter time than
formerly, but it is believed that the knowledge obtained
under the new modes is usually more superficial ; and if
there is a more general thirst for knowledge among the
people, it is feared that, in a large number of cases, it
is not the knowledge which will render us more holy on
earth or happy in heaven, but which puffeth up. We will
here give a few specimens of modern improvement to sus-
tain the positions we have taken.

The art of penmanship used to be considered not only
ornamental, but highly useful in the practical business of
life. Young men, after leaving school or college, would,
in some cases, employ a part of their time for years, as


clerks in public offices, to acquire the habit of writing a
'air, elegant, and rapid hand, as though this was a matter
uf some importance. But what folly to spend so much
time to learn what is now professedly taught in ten short
lessons of two hours each; and what imbecility to be
making plain letters, when zigzag lines, hieroglyphics, and
fanciful dashes, are — with a few honorable exceptions — all
the learned care to make! What is a printer good for
who can not guess at words, especially in the pure classic
style, embellished with Latin quotations? Who that has
the reputation of a distinguished scholar, troubles himself
about the mechanical process of making his thoughts leg-
ible on paper ?

The science of English grammar in the days of Murray
filled a respectable volume ; and a young man of ordinary
mind, who mastered it in six months, connected with a
few other branches, did well. But now it is by some
reduced to a mere table, printed on a single sheet, and
taught by twelve short lectures, in the same number of
evenings. Is not this a vast improvement? And what
appears to be a more important discovery is, that, in the
present polished state of society, grammar is no longer
strictly necessary except for the vulgar and mere novices
in science. What distinguished statesman, doctor of law,
or president of a theological college, pays any particular
attention to syntax, either in speaking or writing? Such
cases are believed to be comparatively few. Indeed, to
do this would afford evidence that they had attended to
little things, and, consequently, that they are not the great
men the world takes them to be. What! a literary char-
acter speak and write grammatically? Away with such
school-boy trifles in this age of improvement.

In the style of composition and book-making, the im-
provement is wonderful. The time was when such writers
as the plain John Bunyan, the pious Baxter, the amiable


Bishop Watson, and the conscientious John Wesley — who
said he did not dare to write in a line style — passed prettr
well even among men of reading; but who, of all the
zealous advocates of modern improvement, cares for their
simple, easy, graphic style ? When books were compara-
tively scarce, the old-fashioned works of English reformers
were read and could be sold ; but who will buy and read
them now, when the world is full of novels, plays, annu-
als, and other works adapted to the present refined state
of society ? They may be esteemed by some old-fashioned
Christians, who still read their Bibles, and adhere to the
principles of piety, truth, and common sense ; but with
the advocates for new-fashioned improvement, these prin-
ciples appear to be out of fashion, and generally laid aside
to make room for their heroes in the world of fiction.

Oratory has of course been remanufactured and ren-
dered conformable to the refined taste of the people, in this
age of wonders. In the rude state of society, at the com-
mencement of this century, public speakers, to succeed
well, had to seek out the truth according to the standards
of their profession ; arm themselves with facts and sound
argument, and address them to the understanding and the
heart. This was somewhat troublesome. It cost the
orator some research and preparation, and the people
were put to the trouble of thinking and feeling under the
discourse. But since the world has felt the polishing
hand of recent fashionable improvement, facts and logic
are dull things, and none but ordinary speakers, who have
no popularity to lose, can safely deal in them. The im-
agination of our novel-reading community is rendered so
prominent by the light of fiction, that if they have any
judgment and conscience left, they are thrown quite in
the background; and to gain the reputation of a popular
orator, you must aim higher than the heart. The fancy
must be addressed by a tremendous display of uncommon

essays. 12T

words and phrases, imagery, compound figures, and
double superlatives. And as the object is neither to con-
vince nor persuade, but merely to gratify the taste of the
hearers, and keep up the credit of the orator, the less he
deals in simple truth, the less he understands himself or
is understood by the people, the better ; for this will con-
firm them in the belief that he is a very great man, too
much so to be comprehended; and they will, as a matter
of course, reward him liberally with unqualified praise.

It would be easy to multiply examples to show the
character of some boasted improvements of this age, in
support of our positions, but these are sufficient. I
might also have treated the subject more gravely, had I
thought it suitable. And, lest some should think me cen-
surable for adopting a different style, I will just add two
reasons in self-justification. 1. I doubt whether the spec-
imens of modern improvement above named are proper
subjects of grave discussion. 2. I am persuaded that the
votaries of such improvement are too far advanced in the
regions of fancy to be reached by sober, rational argu-
ments, if I were capable of wielding them.

Those who object to the restraints of a religious life,
would do well to consider whether they are not in general
the vassals of a system far less tolerable to an enlightened
mind ; namely, that of fashionable life. Much is said of
late about negro slavery — of which I am no advocate —
but who is a greater slave than the dupe of fashion?
Has he any judgment, any will of his own? It appears
not. Fashion dictates to him in all things, as rigidly as
the master does to his servant. More particularly, it


prescribes his manner of life, dress, and intercourse witt
society. The real wants and comforts of life are compar-
atively few, simple, and cheap ; those regulated by fash-
ion are numerous, complex, and costly. It renders a bill
of articles for housekeeping, without regard to means and
prospects; ordering judgment and conscience to stand
aside, it prescribes the form of the table, figure of the
mantle-piece, finish of the sideboard, and color of the car-
pet, while convenience, utility, and economy, all have to
bow implicitly to its rules. When a suit of clothes is to
be purchased, no authority is consulted, by many, but
fashion; without regard to price or quality, it dictates th6
color of the cloth and cut of the garment. This drudgery
becomes the more troublesome on account of continual
changes invented by idle spendthrifts, who study nothing-
else but how to keep in the foremost ranks of fashionables,
while others strive to follow hard after them. What is
considered the very "tip of the mode," when the suit is
made, may become obsolete before it is half worn; the
consequence is, it must be laid aside, lest the owner be
thought unfashionable.

Fashion regulates, by severe rules, the intercourse of
its subjects with society, regardless of convenience or
pleasure. If you have occasion to call on them, however
important your business, or limited your time, it is only
by a very tedious process that you can obtain an inter-
view. The success, however, will depend much on ob-
serving the proper hours to suit the etiquette of high life.
The fashionables usually start out to make their morning
calls about half after twelve to one o'clock, P. M. From
that till about half past two, they make and receive short
visits, dodging in and out among their acquaintance, with
the ordinary salutation, " Good morning." About three
they return, and by four are ready to commence dinner,
which, with all its ceremonies, they finish some time


toward night, with much loquacity and fine glee, which is

not at all lessened by the quantity of tea and wine con-
sumed. From eight to nine o'clock — the time prudent
people prepare for rest — they go out to "spend the even-
ing." Supper may be expected to commence as early as
eleven and end before one, so that they can be at home
and in bed by two, or three at the farthest. People who
keep such timely hours may be expected to rise next
morning by nine or ten o'clock, which will be in time for
what they esteem early breakfast; for which, however,
they will have but little relish after the surfeit of the
night and the nap of the morning. Such are the charac-
ters who are most addicted to complaints against the re-
straints of religion ; they object to its duties and crosses,
the simplicity of its ordinances, and the general serious-
ness of character it imposes. They are not willing to be
bound by her silken cords of love, though they seem too
well content to wear the galling chains of bondage im-
posed by a life of fashion, which is a life of sin and folly,
and, consequently, of misery, without any hope of a bet-
ter state hereafter.

If such folly as above described was confined to a few
that have much wealth, and who promise no other good
to society than that of putting it into circulation by fool-
ishly squandering it, the subject would be less afflictive;
but the evil is contagious. Those whose circumstances
are limited and even embarrassing, are too often tempted
to imitate the manners of the rich and fashionable; for
such is the pride of man's heart, that even poor people
are mortified if thought to be out of fashion. But before
we yield to this temptation, let us pause and consider if
this is the true road either to usefulness or felicity. Of
what use to the world are any of the blind devotees of
fashion ? Who of them are distinguished as philanthro-
pists, patriots, scholars, statesmen, or professional men?


Do men of dress, fashion, and pleasure, ever excel in any
of these useful departments of society ? We believe not.
What fashionable lady, properly so called, is remarkable
for relieving the sick, instructing- the ignorant, educating
the orphan, or encouraging, by her property and example,
any humane efforts to better the condition of her suffering
fellow-creatures ? Alas ! it is doubtful whether she either
knows or cares any thing about the sufferings of the un-
fortunate, or the means of their relief. Why, then, such
a proneness among us to imitate characters so unprofita-
ble ? Yet this exists to so great an extent that not a few
families and individuals are ruined in their temporal cir-
cumstances, sometimes in their characters, and often in
their enjoyments, by its influence. The vanity of the rich
is no excuse for the vices of the poor; but the bondage
of the former to the rules, or, rather, caprice of fashion,
should reconcile the latter to their more humble condition.
There is another fact which adds to the mischief and
mortification occasioned by the operation of this principle.
Fashion extends its slavish dominion, to a great extent,
over the borders of Zion. Many professed disciples of
the meek Savior, are, in fact, only fashionable gentlemen
and ladies, aiming to keep friends with both parties — the
Church and the world — but enjoying the confidence of
neither. To be a humble Christian requires true cour-
age. He that possesses independence and virtue enough
to be governed by his own judgment and conscience, in
accordance with the Gospel, is charged with being singu-
lar; and though God calls all his children to be "a pecu-
liar people," but few have the courage to obey. What a
condescension it is for the children of the Most High to
be under bondage to the elements of the world ! How
much more honorable and happy are they, who, like Paul,
can say, " God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified


unto me, and I unto the world!?' My object is not to
recommend singularity for its own sake, but to encourage
professors of religion to do right, regardless of fashion
and the reproach of being accounted singular. This is
not only possible, but grace can make it easy and delight-
ful. There are some worthy examples and living com-
ments on this doctrine, both among the rich and poor.

Some of the former have been enabled, "through Christ
strengthening them," to dismiss all their affected airs,
vain and worldly-minded associates, fashionable parties,
and other fooleries, and become sober-minded, happy
Christians, devoting their time, talents, property, and
influence, to the service of the Lord. On the other hand,
some in the humbler walks of life have been effectually
cured of a desire to be thought fashionable, and are well
reconciled to their lot, having Christ for their portion,
and viewing heaven as their final home. May the Lord
increase the number of truly-pious souls among all classes
of people !


Loquacity, which, according to Walker, means "too
much talk," is a fault as disagreeable as it is common.
It is not restricted to either sex. The reader must not
suppose that I judge women to be more faulty in this
respect than men. In either it is unlovely, and when
indulged to excess, becomes reprehensible in the estima-
tion of all judicious people.

Loquacity is objectionable, because it savors of vanity.
It indicates that the speaker wishes to bring himself into
notice by a display of words; and, consequently, that he
presumes much upon his own intelligence, and upon the


ignorance of others, as if they knew nothing till he en-
lightened them. The talkative individual seems, also, to
take it for granted, that his neighbors have leisure and
patience to be lectured by the hour, on any subject which
fancy, inclination, or accident may lead him to introduce.
This is a great mistake in most cases. Such a character
would do well to study the import of Solomon's maxim,
"A fool's voice is known by multitude of words."

Again : loquacity is troublesome. It breaks in on the
regular calling of all who have the misfortune to be
assailed by it. Few things are more annoying to a man
of business or a man of study, than to be frequently
interrupted by the idle and loquacious. It embarrasses
him in his necessary avocation, and, of course, chafes his
feelings; and, unless he possesses uncommon forbearance,
lays him under temptation to rudeness of manner. There
are individuals in every extensive community who seem to
have no employment but to talk. They are generally
very willing souls to give direction concerning the business
of others, while they neglect their own ; for, as Solomon
said, "every fool will be meddling." But they are as
poor counselors as they are unpleasant companions. Let
it not be supposed that talkative characters are peculiar to
this age or country. Paul said, '-'There are many unruly
and vain talkers, and deceivers, especially they of the cir-
cumcision, . . . whose mouths must be stopped;" and he
instructed Titus to "rebuke them sharply."

It is frequently observed, that they who talk most do it
to least purpose. Public speakers, of a loquacious dispo-
sition, are generally diffusive ; they often lack point, and
obscure their arguments by a superabundance of words.
If they be members of deliberative bodies, they are apt
to become troublesome, lose their iniluence, and, some-
times, secure to themselves an unenviable notoriety. Such
orators might profit by the advice of St. James, "Let


every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to

A loquacious disposition leads to many indiscretions, of
which some examples may here be furnished. It influen-
ces confidentials to divulge secrets, betray confidence, and
produce open ruptures between neighbors. It leads fami-
lies to discuss their private business in the presence of
strangers, which is improper. It betrays many individu-
als into the very impertinent and annoying practice of
catechising civil travelers as to their residence, destination,
name, and business. This is an extremely rude practice.
Loquacity interrupts the harmony of conversation ; for a
talkative individual will often break in upon another while
speaking, which is embarrassing and uncourteous. It
makes people appear self-important and unteachable. For
example, when a minister of the Gospel calls on a talk-
ative family, instead of being heard as their religious
teacher, he is compelled to keep silence, and listen to their
desultory harangues, perhaps all speaking at once, till his
time and patience are exhausted, or retire abruptly. To
visit such a family, except for the purpose of teaching
them better manners, is a waste of time.

In some instances, loquacity is an infirmity of old age,
and in others, of partial insanity, and in all such cases
should be endured with patience. But in young and sane
persons it is usually a defect of education, or of natural
judgment, or both together. It leads some very young
persons, like saucy children, to monopolize the time in
conversation, to the exclusion of the aged and experi-
enced. This is very indiscreet. Few things are more
disgusting than the frivolous conversation of young peo-
ple to each other in the presence of seniors. Well-edu-
cated and sensible young people, of both sexes, always
pay respect to strangers and seniors, however inferior
their accomplishments may be ; but the ignorant and fcalk-



ative respect no one, and, of course, no person respects
them. They are radically defective in sound under-
standing, and in civility, and, therefore, introduce their
uncalled-for questions and topics, without regard to cir-

A few individuals of loquacious habits, are sufficient to
cause general confusion in a large social company; be-
cause no one of them is willing to be a hearer — they all
speak at once, which produces sound without sense, very
much resembling the gabble of a large flock of geese.
Hence it is that social parties seldom afford any in-
structive or profitable conversation on subjects of general

I have not the vanity to suppose that this short essay
on loquacity will reform any confirmed talker ; but it may
possibly be the means of preventing some individuals from
becoming such ; and with that result I should not only be*
content, but feel amply rewarded for the labor of writing.
It is admitted that there is an opposite extreme to
loquacity; that is, taciturnity, or habitual silence. This
is also a fault to be guarded against. Very diffident and
reserved persons are most liable to fall into this error.
Often, when a few words might be spoken to the edifica-
tion of some individual, or company, they keep silence,
from timidity, or disinclination to talk, and thereby lose
an opportunity of doing good. Man is a social being. It
is wisdom in all to cultivate social habits and feelings ;
and one of the best means of doing so, is a familiar,
friendly conversation. When we engage in social con-
verse, it should be to instruct, impress, amuse, or gain
information ; and as some one of these objects may be
effected with any civil companion, there is no necessity of
confining our conversation to a few select friends. Ex-
treme taciturnity is not profitable or commendable. Still,
I am of the opinion, that to say too little is a less fault


than to say too much, and, indeed, that it is better to say-
nothing than to speak unadvisedly.

There is, between the two extremes of loquacity and
taciturnity, a happy medium ; that of speaking on a suit-
able subject, at the right time, and in a proper manner, so
as to accomplish some good purpose. If all would en-
deavor to speak thus, much idle and unprofitable talk
would be dispensed with. Fine colloquial powers are
among the choicest accomplishments of human life. If
properly employed, they may be rendered exceedingly
entertaining and instructive. They afford their possessor
ready and easy access to society, and great facilities in
accomplishing any object for which he is dependent on
the co-operation of others; provided, always, that they
be not used too freely. To be able to say enough on all
occasions, without saying too much, is a rare attainment.
It is the perfection of human converse, which every indi-
vidual should aim to approximate as far as practicable.

The term, tongue, is used not only to signify the organ
of speech, but likewise good or evil conversation. The
tongue is designed to render social intercourse convenient
and agreeable, to communicate intelligence from man to
man, and to celebrate the praise of God ; but it is too fre-
quently employed for evil purposes. It is a good or evil
member, according to the use or abuse made of it. Who
has not been entertained with the soft, broken accents of
the babe, in his first efforts to imitate language, or profited
by the conversation of an intelligent friend, or moved to
pity by the plaintive cries of distress, or fired by the
tongue of the orator, or charmed by the rich melody of


song? And who has not been pained by the tongue of
slander, shocked with the demoralizing tones of bias-
phemy, or disgusted with the insolence of self-conceited
ignorance ? Each individual is responsible for the use he
makes of his own tongue, and should, therefore, learn to
speak discreetly. Every word spoken contributes to the
weal or woe of its author, if not to that of others. How
solemn are the words of Christ, "But I say unto you,
That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall
give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy
words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt
be condemned!" This awful truth needs no comment.
Conscience approves, and warns us to prepare for its ful-
fillment. What, then, will be the final doom of thought-
less millions, who deal only in "the filthy conversation of
the wicked !" Nay, what will become of thousands of the
professed followers of the lowly Savior ! Many who, in
other respects, appear to be pious, are given to "evil-

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 10 of 30)