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THE LOVE OF NOVELTY.
There is scarcely any description of mind, less capable of substantiating a claim to be considered respectable, than that which is easily moved out of its settled convictions, (if indeed such a mind can be supposed to have any settled convictions,) by a plausible representation of some new-fangled notion. It matters not much what the notion is, or whence it originated, provided, only, it has the sound and aspect of novelty. This quality, whatever else it may, or may not, have, to recoinmend it, is sure to find for it an easy access, and an eager reception. It matters not how whimsical, or absurd, the new opinion may be; the superlative quality of novelty, posesses an irresistible charm, under whose influence, common sense is abjured, and the unenviable condition of second childhood, prematurely attained. It is needless to remark, that these observations do not apply to any really original conception, or useful discovery. Such a mind has nothing to do with originality, and nothing with usefulness. Indeed, it is one of its characteristics, that it exists doggedly, and servilely, amidst common place trivialities, until some wil-o-the-whisp-like Chimera, attracts it into the labyrinth, or the bog, where it sinks in the mire, or is lost in the maze.
There always have been (whatever may be said or hoped with regard to the future,) sundry small geniuses, hovering about, as the apostles of chimerical novelty. Their sole business, like that of the Athenians, seems to be, “either to hear, or to tell some new thing." This tribe, display an amazing diligence and activity in searching after novelties ; and when they happen to alight on the angle of something new, (if, what appears so to them, for a thing may have been contemporaneous with all the ages from the flood, and yet be quite new to them,) they exhibit a somewhat ludicrous resemblance to the Fairies, a fabulous race, reputed as having a wonderful capacity of dancing on the point of a needle. It is more than a little amusing to observe the exultation displayed by one of this fraternity, on being successful in hunting up a morsel of the delicious commodity. Like a child with a new toy, or a squirrel with the first nut of the season, he is pleased, delighted, to ecstacy. And then the air of triumph with which the self-complacent feeling within, lights up every feature, and imparts vivacity and a sort of conscious dignity and superiority to the whole person, admits of but one interpretation; “Hide your diminished heads, ye minor stars! Ye dogged and grovelling plodders, concentrate your admiring gaze upon the man who has discovered this !
It is farther characteristic of this tribe, to wonder beyond the capacity of lan. guage to express, that the earth-worms they consider the rest of mankind to be, grovel on, utterly unobservant of what has the power to concentrate the energics of their whole being, such a being as it is; and to convert into food for their vanity, what would be a source of mortification and chagrin, to minds differently constituted. The very fact that their fellow mortals are not at once astounded by their discoveries, and charmed, as if by magic, into implicit discipleship, is construed into a proof of their own immeasurable superiority, and serves to swell them out into a ludicrous excess of inflation and self importance ; like the frog in the fable, barring that they imitate no ox, neither do they burst
It is a mischief, however, and a calamity, that men of this stamp, are generally successful in entangling some minds, in the web of their flimsy sophistries. This is the description of mind glanced at, in the opening sentence. It may not be without its use, especially to young persons, to specify some of the leading features of this cast of mind. Should the attempt to do so, have the effect of inducing in them a determined hostility to a similar mental formation, in their own case, it would be a happiness indeed!
The description of mind, under consideration, is marked by its habit of skimming, like the swallow, over the surface of everything. It never dives into the mass and essence of a subject, with a view to analyze and examine it; to turn it inside out, so to speak, and to know what it is composed of. It is never guided in reference to a proposition, by the apposite an questions, What is it? How and why is it? and what then? This incapacity, indisposition, ineptitude, or whatever else it may be, to go below the surface of things, is not, it is conceived, the consequence of any defect in the original, mental constitution, so much as of sheer, habitual, idleness,
Unaddictedness to active exercise, by and by, begets an aversion, if not, an utter incapacity for it. So a mind, unaccustomed to examine, becomes in time, entirely indisposed, if not, unable to investigate any subject presenting the least difficulty. It will force the exquisite enjoyment arising in the process of investigation, and from the discovery of truth; and allow itself to be gulled by the merest sophism, or caught by the most puerile whimsicality, rather than stir a single faculty, or relinquish its ignoble repose. Whatever may have been its original calibre ; or to whatever degree of capacity, vigour, and elevation, it might have attained, had it not been so unfortunate as to be idle, it has acquired a character which assimilates it to the consistency of cork; it never relinquishes the surface nor dreams of a thing, so preposterous, as attempting it.
Another characteristic of a mind of this cast, is its volatility : not, indeed, that it is ever guilty of soaring, except it be, in the sense in which feathers may be said to soar. It combines the lightness of a feather, with the insubstantiality and frothiness of a bubble. It ever and anon magnifies trifles into a character of importance, and diminishes what is really important into mere triviality. Volatility, changefulness, whim, indicate the character of all its movements, and mark out the entire circle of its evolutions. It never remains long, at one point; not long enough to know what should be the reasons for retaining or abandoning it, as it was unconscious of any, definite, reason for attaching itself to it. Like chaff, it is, passively, at the mercy of every breeze, and the sport of every gust It yields, without resistance, to every new impulse, and is handed over, a helpless and a hapless thing, from impulse to impulse, in an indeffinite series.
It is unnecessary to add, that, a mind in this condition, is a pitiful and despicable thing ; but it is also guilty! It cannot be affirmed of any mind that this is its character, but it must, also, be allowed that it is its own fault, that it is so. When a young person, unhappily, comes within the influence of an association of circumstances, calculated to induce this most deplorable mental formation, he does not then, and therefore, lose his character of a moral, an accountable agent, as by a stroke of magic; or like certain insects, which, in their passage from one condition of being to another, cast off their external covering. That is and must be still his character, at every stage and in every mode of life, so long as he retains that property which forms the basis of the character,-his capacity of intelligence and reason. If he yield to the influence of circumstances, hostile to a respectable and useful mental formation, his doing so will be criminal, and render him guilty: his virtue would consist in surmounting, and turning them to a good account
The disposition animadverted upon, must present a fatal hinderance to the formation of a solid, useful, social character. It is the necessary consequence of the constitution of things, that it should be so ! How long would be required to build house, if the builder should fritter away the time in comparing plans, counting bricks, tempering mortar, or in changing sites ? And, on what ground can it be expected that a solid and useful character will be formed by a person, who, impelled by a feverish restlessness, which forbids his settling down into any prescribed course of action, in pursuit of a defined, useful, purpose, dissipates the time allotted for that object, in grasping at novelties, each of which is doomed, in its turn, to be laid aside in favour of something else which shall present the stimulant quality? Surprise that such a being should be useless in the world, would be no more reasonable, than to wonder, that, in an intolerably flat and monotonous country, there are to be seen, no rapid streams, dashing and foaming cascades, variegated and charming landscapes, or indeed anything at all approaching the beautiful or the sublime.
But it is easy to see, farther, that a person of this unhappy cast of mind will be something worse than a cipher on the great stage. Such a person will be useless, indeed, except, in so far as he may serve as a warning to others, to avoid a similar formation; but he will be, also, a hinderance, a stumbling-block and a pest. Dissatisfied with himself and with every thing and every body around him, such a person will be envious of the success and happiness of better formed and better cultivated minds. Conscious of his own inutility and of his utter disinclination for usefulness, he will misinterpret and censure, deride, and sometimes oppose the plans and efforts of others to do good. IIe will conceive nothing, devise nothing, himself; nor will he conour in the conceptions and schemes of others, for good. Such a being is, not only, a sort of embodied negation of practical benevolence; he is also a positive obstacle to its operation.
What can be more obvious, than, that such a mind must be miserably destitute of all internal elements of personal happiness? Unaccustomed to retire within for the purpose of self-communion and observation ; a stranger to itself; having neglected all self-culture, discipline, training, it must also be destitute of the solidity, confidence and repose, necessary to the right action and well-being of every inhabitant of this world. Accustomed to live without and to derive its sole means of subsistency from external incidents and impulses, its happiness will be entirely at their mercy ; like the supplies of that pitiable class of persons, who, dependent for support upon the bounty of others, are three parts of their time without suitable food and clothing ; or, like a vitiated, sickly, appetite, always craving after something fresh, it will be fretful, peevish and restless, except during the rare intervals of gratification.
It is a melancholy thought, that multitudes of human beings are guilty of the enormous folly of habitually expending time and wasting the thinking principle, the mental energy, upon trifles; to the entire neglect of the momentous task allotted to all men, of aiming at personal excellence, and social usefulness. And then to think of the disastrous consequences, perpetually arising to the individuals and the successive generations of men ! Some in one way, and some in another, they throw away, piecemeal, the whole term of life, in doing nothing, except mischief for themselves and their contemporaries; and, by acting as a sort of drag upon the wheel of social improvement, they retard the progress of their own and succeeding generations. Sometimes, indeed, the eye rests upon a cheering contrast in both the fact and the results. It is a happy circumstance, indeed, that there are those who constantly aim to subordinate every thing to a useful purpose, and thus serve their own generation according to the will of God; and contribute, in their measure, to the improvement of those that shall follow them. The contrast is solemnly affecting in the circumstances of the exit into another world, and in the respective destinations there. The final scene in the one case is serenely calm and delightful; in the other it is characterized by an awful gloom. What can exceed in beauty the close of a fine day in the season of the year's decline ? The autumnal tinge upon the luxuriant foliage of the trees, the somewhat pensive music of the birds, the soft ripple of the clear stream, the peculiar freshness and salubrity of the air, the mild effulgence of the setting sun, smiling with promise, as he retires and commissions his faithful substitute, the moon, to shed her soft enchantment upon those regions, from which he is, for a while, retiring, to impart life and light to other regions equally dependent upon his bounty,--all conspire to invest it with a delightful charm. Similar to this is the close of a life, spent in the service of God; but a life wasted in the pursuit of trifles, or consumed in the haunts of vice, must end, like a dark winter's day, whose exit, the peculiarity of the season and its attendant inclemencies, have combined to render stormy and dismal.
How imperatively it behoves every young person to guard against a mental conformation which will subject him to the intluence of every new impulse, and allow him to be borne away by chimeras, dreams, and fancies. The case with him should be such, that he will not be drawn into any course, about which there are not visibly exhibited the land marks of, at least, probable truth, nor yield assent to any proposition, which does not present, on a careful investigation, the evidence suitable to justify practical belief. Let him think of the degradation and disgrace inseparable from a being endowed with reason and intelligence in the predicament against which he is cautioned, and of the consequences which must, of necessity, arise to himself and others. Let him think of the honour and happiness which will as certainly accrue to him, who has acquired an assimilating familiarity with truth, and the habit of a cheerful conformity to it, in the entire course of life; who owns no rule of conduct but truth, and no últimate object short of the greatest possible good; who with an ardour which nothing shall repress, and a vigour and determination which nothing shall conquer, moves on, steadily in a career of integrity and usefulness.
If the young reader, would, for himself, avoid the former and attain the latter, let him take the following suggestions into serious consideration, first, let hini addict
himself to a careful, impartial, vigorous, self observation. Let him diligently examine his own mind until he shall have succeeded in making something like a complete analysis, enabling him to form a just estimate of its capabilities and its defects of its good and evil tendencies. Next, let him subject his mind to a process of vigorous self-discipline with a view to strengthen what is weak and to add vigour and muscularity to what is strong; to supply deficiencies and to repress and correct all wrong tendencies : nor let him shrink at the thought of self-dicipline; he will not have occasion to use the whip if he is docile at first. Next, let him, with humility and ardour suited to one who is conscious of his liability to err and determined to acquire a practical acquaintance with truth, seek the guidance and tuition of that Being, who is the fountain of truth, and who condescends to be the Teacher of men. Then let him go cautiously, but vigorously to work, economizing time, carefully examining the structure, proportions and evidence of every proposition which promises to be worth examination, mastering everything that is useful, and arrangeing it, with due regard to its relative value, in the mental repository. But let him not forget that the Divine Oracle is the centre whence all the rays of truth radiate and that this alone is the universal test. And should difficulties at first and afterwards oppose his progress, let him nevertheless, be assured, that the course of the earnest enquirer after truth resembles that of a tourist, through a beautiful and picturesque country, who having carefully examined the different scenes through which he has passed and transferred the image of them into the chambers of his mind, at length attains the summit of some lofty eminence, which commands the full dome of the sky, whence, with astonishment and rapture, he beholds them all melting and blending into the whole grand landscape. Soham.
OUR LETTER BOX.
of their Correspondents.
To the Editor of the Soham Magazine. Sir,-- A friend has communicated to me, that the following resolution has been unaniously adopted by the Guardians of the Mildenhall Union; and I have considered that its insertion in your valuable magazine, together with a few remarks on the general administration of the Poor Laws, will not be unacceptable to your readers, and that by inviting discussion, it may lead to the dissemination of correct views on this important subject, and may tend to promote the professed object of your publication, viz :that of "improving the condition of the Neighbourhood.”
“ Resolved-- T'hat in the opinion of the Board, it is desirable to endeavour to create “a greater feeling of independence on the part of the Labouring population, and to “discourage as far as possible the present craving after parish assistance, which in“duces many of them to apply for relief on every trifling emergency ; and therefore “ that out-door relief sufficient to meet the circumstances of each case, be given “ in future only to those who have shown themselves to be provident, by having sub“scribed to the funds of Benefit Societies or otherwise, and that admissions to the “ Workhouse (where practicable) be the only relief afforded to those who have made no “provision against sickness, or any other calamity which may have caused their des-" titution.”
No doubt can be entertained that the objects which the promoters of the Poor Law Amendment Act had in view, were to put an end to fraud and imposture in the reception of parish relief ; to prevent the Labourers from placing too great a reliance on the poor's rates; to check improvidence and intemperance; to improve their moral condition ; and by stimulating them to industry and frugality, to add to the comforts of themselves and their families, and if the whole of the results contemplated by this n'ise act of Legislation, have not been atiained, the cause must be attributed to the senseless clamour raised in inerperienced, although well meaning persons, which, has deterred the parties charged with the administration of the Act, from pursuing that prudent and progressive course, which their own sound sense and correct judgment would otherwise have induced them to adopt.
It is a fact which cannot be controverted, that the test of the Workhouse has operated in u great measure to prevent able-bodied men in full health from advancing their claims to relief from the parish funds, and that it has induced them to seek more diligently for employment to gain subsistence for their families ; but beyond this result, what great change has been effected? We daily see Labourers in the receipt of high wages, spending their money at the public house with the same prodigality as heretofore ; we see the same improvident marriages effected; we experience no increase in the number of Members of Benefit Clubs; we witness the same disposition to crave parish relief, where the rules of the Commissioners will permit its distribution, and generally we find no decided improvement in the moral habits of the poor.
I think therefore that the Guardians of Mildenhall, have exercised a wise discretion in the execution of the powers with which they are entrusted, by adopting the resolution above quoted, which their experience has taught them to deem both practicable, and conducive to the best interests of the Labouring Classes, but that such a result would be hopeless if they had waited for orders of the Poor Law Commissioners to the same effect, or for a new interposition by Act of Parliament.
If the Poor Law Commissioners had issued such an order as this, there would have been no end to the thunderbolts of the Times, and the denunciations of Mr. Ferrand, which would have been launched against them for their cruelty, harshness, &c,“ Mott's case” would have sunk into comparative insignificance, and the Andover Union Committee have been forgotten, and few Members of Parliament could vote for an Act of Legislation to the same effect, with any chance of regaining their seats when a new election sholud take place. T'he plain fact is, that the public are unprepared to go so far, they look to individual cases of fancied hardship, and their mistaken feelings of humanity induce them to offer all the opposition in their power, and it is only practised and experienced men who have the firmness and foresight to advocate a sound principle, which they know will eventually tend to the well being and happiness of their poorer fellow countrymen.
Non let us examine in detail, the effect of this resolution.
It first provides that ample relief " shall be given to those who have shown themselves to be provident, by having subscribed to the funds of Benefit Societies, or otherwise," this is sound policy, as it is right to offer as much encouragement as possible to habits of prudence and foresight.
It then provides that a maintenance in the Workhouse, shall be the only relief (where practicable) afforded to those who have made no exertion to provide against sickness or other calamity.
T'he Poor Law Commissioners, by their orders have directed, that out-door relief shall be refused to able-bodied men in full health, but the Mildenhall Guardians go further than this, they conceive it to be the duty of Labourers to make provision to the extent of their means, against sickness, and they have determined to extend the operation of the Workhouse system, with the view of discouraging pauperism, and of endeavouring to create a more independent feeling amongst the Labouring Classes, and I congratulate them on their firmness and determination.
It is true that it may appear harsh, that a pauper brought up under the old system, and who is now beyond the age to be admitted as a Member of a Club, should be obliged in ill health to submit to the classification and dicipline of a Workhouse ; but what real hardship is there in affording, as a refuge in distress, more wholesome food, better clothing, cleaner and better ventilated rooms, and more constant medical attendance, than a Labourer could provide in his own cottage, there is no real hardship, that the Workhouse is distasteful to them is true, but long established diseases require strong remedies, and surely a remedy like this cannot be condemned, if it should have the contemplated effect of creating more independent and prudent habits amongst the rising generation.
The West Suffolk Friendly Society offers to young men and women under the age of 15, the opportunity, by the payment of Is. 63 d. monthly, of securing to themselves during sickness, till the age of 65, 10s. per week full pay, and 58. per week half pay, and a neenly allowance of 5s, in sickness and in health during life, after