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and self-satisfaction, but his “by-play,” for the most part, is horrible. However, the very idea of music is good, especially in the middle of the night; and a little imagination and Christian charity, together with a consideration of his cold fingers, will help us to be thankful for his best parts, and slip as we can over his worst. When the English become a more musical people, zealous amateurs will volunteer their services on fine nights, and, going forth with their harps and guitars, charm their friends and neighbors with strains rendered truly divine by the hour and the occasion,
“ Divinely-warbled voice
Answering the stringed noise.” (See Milton's ode, as above-mentioned.)
A Christmas day, to be perfect, should be clear and cold, with holly branches in berry, a blazing fire, a dinner with mince-pies, and games and forfeits in the evening. You cannot have it in perfection, if you are very fine and fashionable. Neither, alas ! can it be enjoyed by the very poor; so that, in fact, a perfect Christmas is impossible to be had, till the progress of things has distributed comfort more equally. But when we do our best, we are privileged to enjoy our utmost; and charity gives us a right to hope. The completest enjoyer of Christmas (next to a lover who has to receive forfeits from his mistress), is the holiday school-boy who springs up early, like a bird, darting hither and thither, out of sheer delight, thinks of his mince-pies half the morning, has too much of them when they come (pardon him this once), roasts chestnuts and cuts apples half the evening, is conscious of his new silver in his pocket, and laughs at every piece of mirth with a loudness that rises above every other noise. Next day what a pegtop will he not buy! what string, what nuts, what gingerbread! And he will have a new clasp-knife, and pay three times too much for it. Sour oranges also will he suck, squeezing their cheeks into his own with staring eyes; and his mother will tell him they are not good for him, and let him go on.
A Christmas evening should, if possible, finish with music. It carries off the excitement without abruptness, and sheds a repose over the conclusion of enjoyment.
A word respecting the more serious part of the day's subject alluded to above. It is but a word, but it may sow a seed of reflection in some of the best natures, especially in these days of perplexity between new doctrines and old. It appears to us, that there is a point never enough dwelt upon, if at all, by those who attempt to bring about a reconciliation between belief and the want of it. It is addressed only to the believers in a Providence, but those who have that belief, if they have no other, are a numerous body. The point is this, — that Christianity, to say the least of it, is a GREAT EVENT. It has had a wonder ful effect on the world, and still has, even in the workings of its apparently unfilial daughter, modern philosophy, who could never have been what she is but for the doctrine of boundless sympathy, grafted upon the elegant self-reference of the Greeks, and the patriotism of the Romans, which was so often a mere pretext for the most unneighborly injustice. Now so great an event must have been in the contemplation of Providence, - one of the mountain-tops of its manifestation ; and, if we say, even of a Shakespeare and a Plato (and not without reason), that there is something “divine” in them, that is to say, something partaking of a more energetic and visible portion of the mysterious spirit breathed into mankind, how much more, and with how much more reverential a love, ought we not to have a divine impression of the nature of Him, who drew the great line between the narrowness of the Old World and the universalities of the New, and uttered to the earth, through the angelical organ of his whole being, life and death, that truly celestial doctrine, “ Think of others !! "
NEW YEAR'S GIFTS.
ORMERLY, everybody made presents on New
Year's Day, as they still do in Paris, where our lively neighbors turn the whole metropolis into a world of cakes, sweetmeats, jewel
lery, and all sorts of gifts and greetings. The Puritans checked that custom, out of a notion that it was superstitious, and because the heathens did it; which was an odd reason, and might have abolished many other innocent and laudable practices — eating itself, for one — and going to bed. Innumerable are the authorities which (had we lived in those days) we would have brought up in behalf of those two customs, in answer to the New-Year'sDay-knocking-down folios of Mr. Prynne, the great “blasphemer of custard.” Unfortunately if the Puritans thought gift-giving superstitious, the increasing spirit of commerce was too well inclined to admit half its epithet, and regard the practice as, at least, superfluous - a thing over and above -- and what was not always productive of
consideration.” “Nothing is given for nothing nowadays,” as the saying is. Nay, it is doubtful whether next to nothing will always be given for something. There are people, we are credibly informed, taken for persons “well to do” in the world, and of respectable character, who will even turn over the pages of the “London Journal," and narrowly investigate whether there is enough wit, learning, philosophy, lives, travels, poetry, voyages, and romances in it, for three halfpence.*
This must be mended, or there will be no such thing as a New Year by and by. Novelty will go out; the sun will halt in the sky, and prudent men sharply consider whether they have need of common perception.
Without entering into politics, something is to be said, nowadays, for an Englishman's being averse to making presents; and, as it behooves us to make the best of a bad thing, reasons might be shown also why it is not so well to have a formal and official sort of day for making presents, as to leave them to more spontaneous occasions. Besides, if everybody gives and everybody receives, where, it may be asked, is the compliment? And how are people to know whether they would have given or received anything, had it not been the custom ?
How are they to be sure, whether a very pretty present is not a positive insult, till they compare it with what has been received by others? And how are men in office and power to be sure that in the gifts of their inferiors there is anything but self-seeking and bribery? It was formerly the custom in England to load princes and ministers with New-Year's Gifts. Queen Elizabeth, who had the soul of a mantuamaker as well as of a monarch, received whole wardrobes of gowns and caps, as well as caskets of jewellery. What a day must she have passed of it, with all the fine things spread out before her! And yet with all her just estimation of herself, and her vanity to boot, bitter suspicions must occasionally have crossed her, that all this was but so much self-interest appealing to self-love. But suppose a Duke or an Earl did not send a gift good enough. Here was ground for anger and jealousy, and all the pleasure-spoiling self-will which see no good in what is given it, provided something be wanting. Dryden addressed some verses on New-Year's Day to Lord cellor Hyde (Clarendon), which he begins as follows:
* Such a one was not Walter Savage Landor, who thus wrote, from Italy to a friend in England: “Let me recommend to you Leigh Hunt’s ‘London Journal,' three halfpence a week. It contains neither politics nor scandal, but very delightful things in every department of graceful literature.” – Ed.
Here was a blow (not very well considered, perhaps) at the self-complacency induced by the receipt of “great presents.” Suppose Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst, or Lord Chancellor Brougham, had similar presents sent them on the like occasion. How could the one be sure that his great legal knowledge, or the other, that even his great genius and tact for all knowledge, had anything to do with the compliment? Or that it was not as mere a trick for court-favor as anything which they would now despise ? We grant that (where there is any right to bestow it at all) a present is a present; that it is an addition to one's stock, and, at all events, a compliment to one's influence; and influence is often its own proof of a right to be compli