Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

man of spirit :' they become ambitious of acquiring that epithet ; and perceiving it to be most generally bestowed on such men as I have described, they look up to them as patterns of life and manners, and begin to ape them at an age which thinks only of enjoyment, and despises consequences ; nay, if they should look forward, and view the man of • spirit reduced, by his own profusion, to the most abject state of servile dependence, it does not mend the matter. In the voice of the world he is a • man of spirit still. It is said, that the easy engaging manners of Captain Macheath have induced many young men to go on the highway. I am convinced the character of a man of spirit' tempts many a young man to enter on a course of intemperance and prodigality, that most frequently ends in desperate circumstances and a broken constitu

tion.

This perversion is the more provoking, that of all human characters, the intemperate prodigal is, in every feature and every stage, the most diametrically opposite to a man of spirit. - True spirit is founded on a love and desire of independence, and the two are so blended together, that it is impossible, even in idea, to separate them. But the intemperate prodigal is the most dependent of all human beings.--He depends on others for amusement and company; and, however fashionable he may be in the beginning, his decline in the article of com. panions is certain and rapid. In the course of his profuzion, he becomes dependent on others for the means of supporting it ; and when his race of prodigality is run, he suffers a miserable dependence for the support even of that wretched life to which it has reduced hini. After all, the world calls him a « man of spirit,' when he is really in a state of servile indigence, with a broken constitution, with

VOL. XXXVII.

out spirit, and without the power of exerting it ; with the additional reflection of having himself been the cause of his distresses.

Nor is it only in the affirmative use of the term that I have to complain of its perversion ; the same injustice takes place when it is applied in the negative. Calling an intemperate and ruined pro. digal a'MAN OF SPIRIT,' may proceed sometimes from pity ; but when you hear a man of moderation and virtue, especially if he happen also to be opu. lent, blamed as " wanting spirit,' the accusation is generally the child of detraction and malignity. I do not apply my observation to the avaricious and niggardly, to men whose purses are shut against their friends, and whose doors are barred againt every body; such men certainly want spirit, and are, for the most part, defective in every virtue ; but I am afraid that it often happens that a person, benevolent to his friends, hospitable to the deserv. ing, kind to his servants, and indulgent to his chil. dren, is blamed as 'wanting spirit,' for no reason but because he is proof against the absurdities of fashion and vanity, because he guards against the tricks of the designing, despises the opinions and disapprobation of the foolish, and persists in that train of moderate ceconomy, which he knows is best suited to his fortune and rational views.

Instead of wanting spirit,' such a character is the true idea of a man of spirit.'. In every part of his manners and conduct, he passes through life with an uniform steadiness and dignity. His moderation secures his independence, and his atten• tion supplies the means of hospitality and benevolence. While the prodigal is running his feverous and distempered course, the man of moderation and virtue proceeds in a train of quiet contentment and respectable industry ; and, at the end of their race, when the prodigal, with a shattered constitution, without fortune, and without friends, is in absolute want, or, at best, become the mean flatterer of some insolent minion of wealth or power; the man of moderation and virtue, feeling his independence with, out pride, is happy in himself, useful to his family and friends, and beneficent to mankind, contributing perhaps, from charity, not respect, his assistance to that very decayed prodigal who had frequently characterised him as a man of no spirit.

But it was not my purpose to delineate at length the character of a real man of spirit.'-I pro. posed only to explode a very absurd and mischievous abuse of an epithet that too generally prevails. I shall therefore conclude, with assuring those who are ambitious of being 'men of spirit,' by putting on the life and manners of an intemperate prodigal, that, though they may attain the character, and even preserve it after their fortunes are spent, and their constitutions broken ; yet they will be · men

of spirit only nominally, and in the mouths of the world ; in reality, and in their hearts, they will be the meanest as well as the most unhappy of mankind, lingering out a useless and contemptible life, on which intemperance has entailed disease, and extravagance and profusion inflicted poverty and de, pendence.

I am, &c.

MODERATUS.

My correspondent has confined his observations to one half of the world, and remarked the abuse of the term spirit, when applied to the men only, Might he not have extended his remarks a little Farther, and traced the application of the phrase to the conduct and behaviour of the other sex? Perhaps, indeed, the character is not so universally in repute, as to come within the line of Moderatus's complaint; but the thing is more in vogue than it seems to have been at any period of which my predecessors, who are a sort of chroniclers of manners and fashions, have preserved the history.

In London, to which place we are always to look for the Glass of Fashion, the ladies, not satisfied with shewing their spirit in the bold look, the mas. culine air, and the manly garb, have made inroads into a province from which they were formerly considered as absolutely excluded; I mean that of public oratory. Half a dozen societies have started up this winter, in which female speakers exercise their powers of elocution before numerous audiences, and canvass all manner of subjects with the freedom and spirit of the boldest male orators. We, in Edinburgh, have not yet attempted to rival the polite people of the metropolis in this respect : some of our ladies, however, do all they can to put us on a footing with them. There is seldom a crowded play, or a full concert, at which some of our public speakers do not exert themselves with a most laudable spirit to drown the declamation of the stage, or tlıç music of the orchestra.

Nor is the ambition of those spirited ladies satisfied with speaking in public, and carrying off the attention of the audience from the voice of the actor, or the tones of the musician. The public eye, as well as ear, is to be commanded ; and, in the side-box of the theatre, or the front.bench of the concert room, there is often such a collection of beauty, animated with so much spirit of exhibition, that it is impossible the male part of the company should look at the scene, or think of the music. One of my predecessors has mentioned the art which the ladies of his day used in the unfurling of their fans, so as to display certain little Cupids and Venuses which lurked in their folds. Had he seen some of our ladies in the attitudes which modern spirit has taught them to assume—such unfurlings and unfoldings-his Venuses and Cupids were mere ice and snow to them.

It is but justice to those ladies to remark, that this part of their behaviour seems calculated merely to shew their accomplishment in fashionable free. dom of manner, without any motive of an interested or selfish kind. They are contented with the reputation of ease and spirit, without procuring much indulgence from the one or licence from the other. I have sometimes, however, been inclined to think, that there was a degree of unfairness in this, and to doubt, if a lady was entitled thus to hang out false colours, and to be in reality innocent and harmless, while she was quite a different sort of creature in appearance. I could not help allowing some justice in the complaint of a girl, whom I overheard some weeks ago, in the passage from the upper boxes, thus addressing her companion : • Did you • observe that pert, giggling, naked thing in the • stage box? There's not a man in the house she • cares a farthing for; and yet she has the assurance 'to look like one of us.

« VorigeDoorgaan »