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possible to assume the position of the infant phenomenon, you still find many men anx-' ious to represent themselves as a good deal; younger than they are. To the population of Britain generally, ten years elapse before one census is followed by the next; but some persons, in these ten years, grow no more than two or three years older. Let me confess to an extreme abhorrence of such men. Their conduct affects me with an indescribable disgust, I dislike it more than many things which in themselves are probably more evil morally. Such men are, in the essential meaning of the word, humbugs. They are shams; impostures; false pretences. They are an embodied falsehood j their very personality is a lie; and you don't know what about them may next prove to be a deception. Looking at a man who says he is forty-three when in fact he is above sixty, I suspect him all over. I am in doubt •whether his hair, his teeth, his eyes, are real. I do not know whether that breadth of chest be the development of manly bone and muscle, or the skilful padding of the tailor. I am not sure how much is the man, and how much the work of his valet. I suspect that his whiskers and moustache are dyed. I look at his tight boots, and think how they must be tormenting his poor old corny feet. I admire his affected buoyancy of manner, and think how the miserable creature must collapse when he finds himself alone, and is no longer compelled by the presence of company to put himself on the stretch, and carry on that wretched acting. When I see the old reptile whispering in a corner to a girl of eighteen, or furtively squeezing her in a waltz, I should like extremely to take him by the neck, and shake him till he came into the pieces of which he is made up. And when I have heard (long ago) such a one, with a hideous gloating relish telling a profane or indecent story j or instilling cynical and impious notions of life and things into the minds of young lads j or (more disgusting still) using pnrases of double meaning in the presence of innocent young women, and enjoying their innocent ignorance of his sense; 1 have thought that I was beholding as degraded a phase of human nature as you will find on the face of this sinful world. O venerable age; gray, wise, kindly, sympathetic; before which I shall never cease reverently to bend, respecting even what I may (wrongly perhaps) esteem your prejudices; that you should be caricatured and degraded in that foul, old leering satyr! And if there be a thing on earth that disgusts one more than even the thought of the animal himself, it is to think of ministers of religion (prudently pious) •who will wait meekly in his ante-cbamber
and sit humbly at his table, because he is an earl or a duke!
But though all this be so, there is a sense in which I interpret the clinging to vouth, in which there is nothing contemptible about it, but much that is touching and pleasing. I abominate the padded, rouged, dyed old sham; but I heartly respect the man or woman, pensive and sad, as some little circumstance has impressed upon them the fact that they are growing old. A man or woman is a fool, who is indignant at being called the old lady or the old gentleman when these phrases state the truth j but there is nothing foolish or unworthy when some suchj occurrence brings it home to us, with some-1 thing of a shock, that we are no longer' reckoned among the young, and that the innocent and impressionable days of childhood (so well remembered) are beginning to be far away. We are drawing nearer, we know, to certain solemn realities of which we speak much and feel little; the undiscovered country (humbly sought through the pilgrimage of life) is looming in the distance before. We feel that life is not long, and is not commonplace, when it is regarded as the portal to eternity. And probably nothing will bring back the season of infancy and early youth upon any thoughtful man's mind so vividly as the sense that he is growing old. How short a time since then! You look at your great brown hand. It seems but yesterday since a boy-companion (gray now) tried to print your name upon the little paw, and there was not room. You remember it (is it five-and-twenty years since ?) as it looked when laid on the head of a friendly dog, two or three days before you found him poisoned and dead; and helped, not without tears, to bury him in the garden under an apple-tree. You see, as plainly as if you saw it now, his brown eye, as it looked at you in life for the last time. And as you feel these things, you quite unaffectedly and sincerely put otf, time after time, the period at which you will accept it as a fact, that you are old. Twentyeight, thirty, thirty-five, forty-eight, mark years on reaching which you will still feel yourself young; many men honestly think that sixty-five or sixty-eight is the prime of life. A less amiable accompaniment of this pleasing belief is often found in a disposition to call younger men (and not very young) boys. I have heard that word uttered in a very spiteful tone, as though it were a name of great reproach. There are few epithets which I have ever heard applied in a manner betokening greater bitterness, than that of a clever lad. You remember how Sir Robert Walpole hurled the charge of youth against Pitt. You remember how Pitt (or Dr. Johnson for him) defended himself with great force of argument against the imputation. Possibly in some cases envy is at the root of the matter. Not every man has the magnanimity of Sir Bulwer Lytton, who tells us so frankly and so often how much he would like to be young again if he could.
To grow old is so serious a matter, that it always appears to me as if there were something like profanation in putting the fact or its attendant circumstances in a ludicrous manner. It is not a fit thing to joke about. A funny man might write a comic description of the way in which starving sailors on a raft used up their last poor allotments of bread and water, and watched with sinking hearts their poor stock decrease. Or he might record in a fashion that some people would laugh at, the gradual sinking of a family which had lost its means through degree after degree in the social scale, till the workhouse was reached at last. But I do not think there is any thing really amusing in the spectacle of a human being giving up hold after hold to which he had clung, and sinking always lower and lower; and there is no doubt that, in a physical sense, we soon come to do all that in the process of growing old. And though you may put each little mortification, each petty coming down, in a •way amusing to bystanders, it should always be remembered that each may imply a severe pang on the part of the man himself. We smile when Mr. Dickens tells us concerning his hero, Mr. Tupman, that
"Time and feeding had expanded that once romantic form; tlie black silk waistcoat had become more and more developed; inch by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath it disappeared from within tlie range of Tupman's vision; and gradually had tlie capacious chin encroached upon the borders of the white cravat; bnt the soul of Tupman had known no change."
Now, although Mr. Tupman was an exceedingly fat man physically, and morally (to say the truth) a very great fool, you may rely upon it that as each little circumstance had occurred which his biographer has recorded, it would be a very serious circumstance in the feeling of poor Tupman himself. And this not nearly so much for the little personal mortification implied in each step of expanding bulk and lessening agility, but because each would be full as a milestone, 4 marking the progress of Tupman from his cradle to his grave. Each would be something to signify that the innocence and freshness of childhood were left so much further behind, and that the reality of life was growing more hard and prosaic. It is some feeling like this which makes it a sad thing to lay aside an old coat which one has worn for a long time. It is a decided step. Of course
we all know that time goes on as fast when its progress is unmarked as when it is noted. And each day that the coat went on was an onward stage as truly as the day when the coat went off; hut in this world we must take things as they are to our feelings: and there is something that very strongly appeals to our feeling in a decided beginning or a decided ending. Do not laugh, thoughtless folk, at the poor old maid, who persists in going bareheaded long after nhe ought to have taken to caps. You cannot know how much further away that change would make her days of childhood seem : how much more remote and dim and faint it would make the ittle life, the face, the voice of the young jrother or sister that died when they hoth • were children together. Do not fancy that ;t is mere personal vanity which prompts that clinging to apparent youth: feelings which are gentle, pure, and estimahle may protest against any change from the old familiar way. Do not smile at the phrases of the house when there are gray-headed boys, and girls on the lower side of forty-five: it would be a terrible sacrifice, it would make a terrible change, to give up the old names. You thoughtless young people are ready to deride Mr. Smith when he appears in his new wig. You do not think how, when poor Smith went to Truefitt's to get it, he thought many thoughts of the long-departed mother, whom he remembers dimly on her sick-bed smoothing down her little boy's hair, thick enough then. And when you see Mr. Robinson puffing up the hill with purpled face and laboring breath, do you think that poor Robinson does not remember the days when he was the best runner at school? Perhaps he tells you at considerable length about these days. Well, listen patiently: some day you may be telling long stories too. There is a peculiar sadness in thinking of exertions of body or mind to which we were once equal, but to which we are not equal now. You remember the not very earnest Swift, conscious that the " decay at the top" had begun, bursting into tears as he read one of his early works, and exclaiming, "Heavens, what a genius I had when I wrote that!" What is there more touching than the picture of poor Sir Walter, wheeled like a child in a chair through the rooms at Abbotsford, and suddenly exclaiming, "Come, this is sad idleness," and insisting on beginning to dictate a new tale, in which the failing powers of the great magician appeared so sadly, that large as its marketable value would have been, it never was suffered to appear in print. Probablv the sense of enfeebled faculties is a sadder thing than the sense of diminished physical power. Probably Sir Isaac Newton, in his later Jaye,
when he sat down to his own mathematical demonstrations, and could not understand them or follow them, felt more bitterly the wear of advancing time than the gray-headed Highlander sitting on a stone at his cottage door in the sunshine, and telling you how, long ago, he could breast the mountain with the speed of a deer; or than the crippled soldier, who leans upon his crutch, and tells how, many years ago, that shaky old hand had cut down the French cuirassier. But in either case it is a sad thing to think of exertions onco put forth, and work once done, which could not be done or put forth now. Change for the worse is always a sorrowful thing. And the aged man, in the . respect of physical power, and the capacity for intellectual exertion, has "seen better days." You do not like to think that in any respect you are falling off. You are not pleased at being told that ten years ago you wrote a plainer hand or spoke in a rounder voice. It is mortifying to find that whereas you could once walk at five miles an hour, you can now accomplish no more than three and a half. Now, in a hundred ways, at every turn, and by a host of little wounding facts, we are compelled to feel as we grow old that we are tailing off. As the complexion roughens, as the hair thins off, as we come to stoop, as we blow tremendously if we attempt to run, the man of no more than middle age is conscious of a bodily decadence. And advancing years make the wise man sadly conscious of a mental decadence too. Let us be thankful that if physical and intellectual decline must come at a certain ttage of growing old, there are respects in which, so long as we live, we may have the comfort of thinking that we are growing better. The higher nature may daily be reaching a nobler development; when "heart and flesh faint and fail," when the clay tenement is turning frail and shattered, the better part within may show in all moral grace as but a little lower than the angels. Age need not necessarily be " dark and unlovely," as Ossian says it is; and the conviction that in some respect, that in the most important of all respects, we are growing better, tends mightuy to strip age of that sense of falling off which is the bitterest thing about it. And as the essential nature of growing old;—its essence as a sad thing; —lies in the sense of decadence, the conviction that in almost any thing we are gaining ground has a wonderful power to enable us cheerfully to grow old. A man will contentedly grow fatter, balder, and puffier, if he feels assured that he is pushing on to eminence at the bar or in politics; and if he takes his seat upon the woolsack even at the age of seventy-five, though he might now
seek in vain to climb the trees he climbed in youth, or to play at leapfrog as then, still he is conscious that his life on the whole has been a progress; that he is on the whole better now than he was in those days which were his best days physically j that to be lord chancellor, albeit a venerable one, is, as the world goes, a more eminent thing than to be the gayest and most active ot midshipmen. And so on the whole he is content to grow old, because he feels that in growing he has not on the whole been comng down hill.
The supremely mortifying thing is, to feel that the physical decadence which comes with growing old, is not counterbalanced by any improvement whatsoever. We shall not mind much about growing less agile and less beautiful, if we think that we are growing wiser and better. The gouty but wealthy merchant, who hobbles with difficulty to his carriage, feels that after all he has made an advance upon those days in which, if free from gout, he was devoid of pence ; and if he did not hobble, he had no carriage into which he might get in that awkward manner. The gray-haired old lady who was a beauty once, is consoled for her growing old, if in her age she is admitted to the society of the county, while in her youth she was confined to the society of the town. Make us feel that we are better in something, and we shall be content to be worse in many things ; but it is miserable to think that in all things we are falling off, or even in all things standing still. A man would be very much mortified to think that at fifty he did not write materially better sermons, essays, or articles than he did at five-and-twenty. In many things he knows the autumn of life is a falllng-on'from its spring-time. He has ceased to dance; his voice quavers abominably when he tries to sing; he has no fancy now for climbing hills, and he shirks walks of forty miles a day. Perhaps deeper wrinkles have been traced by time on the heart than on the forehead, and the early freshness of feeling is gone. But surely, in mellowed experience, in sobered and sound views of things, in tempered expectations, in patience, in sympathy, in kindly charity, in insight into God's ways and dealings, he is better now a thousand times than he was then. He has worked his way through the hectic stage in which even able and thoughtful men • fancy that Byron was a great poet. A sounder judgment and a severer taste direct him now; in all things, in short, that make the essence of the manly nature, he is a better and further advanced man than he ever was before. The physical nature says, by many little signs, We Are Going Down Bill; the spiritual nature testifies by many
noble gains and acquirements, We Abe coIno Onwakd And CPWAKD! It seems to me that the clergyman's state of feeling must be a curious one, who, on a fine Sunday morning, when he is sixty, can take out of his drawer a sermon which hft wrote at five-andtwenty, and go and preach it with perfect approval and without the alteration of a word. It is somewhat mortifying, no doubt, to look at a sermon which you wrote seven or eight years since, and which you then thought brilliant eloquence, and to find that in your present judgment it is no better than tawdry fustian. But still, my friend, even though you grudge to find that you must throw the sermon aside and preach it no more, arc you not secretly pleased at this proof how much your mind has grown in these years? It is pleasant to think that you have not been falling off, not standing still. The wings of your imagination are somewhat clipped indeed, and your style has lost something of that pith which goes with want of consideration. Some youthful judges may think that you have sadly fallen off; but you are content in the firm conviction that you have vastly improved. It was veal then: it is beef now. I remember hearing with great interest how a venerable professor of fourscore wrote in the last few weeks of his life a little course of lectures on a certain debated point of theology. He had outgrown his former notions upon the subject. The old man said his former lectures upon it did not do him justice. Was it not a pleasant sight—the aged tree bearing fruit to the last? How it must have pleased and soothed the good man amid many advancing infirmities to persuade himself (justly or unjustly) that in the most important respect he was going onward still!
It is indeed a pleasant sight to kindly on
this world, the aged man or woman may be growing still. In the last days, indeed, it may be ripening rather than growing: mellowing, not expanding. But to do that is to "grow in grace." And doubtless the yellow harvest-field in September is an advance upon the fresh green blades of June. You may like better to look upon the wheat that is progressing towards ripeness; but the wheat which has reached ripeness is not a falling ofl'. The stalks will not bend now, without breaking: you rub the heads, and the yellow chaff that wraps the grain, crumbles ofl in dust. But it is beyond a question that there you see wheat at its best.
Still, not forgetting this, we must all feel it sad to see human beings as they grow old, retrograding in material comforts and advantages. It is a mournful thing to sec : a man grower poorer as he is growing older, or losing position in any way. If it were in my power, I would make all barristers, above sixty, judges. They ought to be put in a situation of dignity and independence. You don't like to go into a court of justice, and there behold a thin, gray-headed counsel, somewhat shaken in nerve, looking rather frail, battling away with a full-blooded, confident, hopeful, impudent fellow, fivc-andtwenty years his junior. The youthful, bigwhiskered, roaring, and bullying advocate is sure to be held in much the greater estimation by attorney's clerks. The old gentleman's day is over; but with lessening practice and disappointed hopes he must drive on at the bar still. I wish I were a chief justice, that by special deference and kindfiness of manner, I might daily soothe somewhat the feelings of that aging man. But it is especially in the case of the clergy that one sees the painful sight of men growing poorer as they are growing older. I think
lookers, and it is a sustaining and consoling | of the case of a clergyman who at his first thing to the old man himself, w'hen amid phys-j start was rather fortunate: who gets a nice ical decadence there is intellectual growth, j parish at six-and-twenty: I mean a parish But this is not a common thing. As a gen- which is a nice one for a man of six-and
eral rule it cannot be doubted that, intellectually, we top the summit sometime before fourscore, and begin to go down hill. I do not wish to turn my essays into sermons; or to push upon my readers in Fraser things more fitly addressed to my congregation on Sundays : still, let me say that in the thought that growing old implies at last a decay both mental and bodily, and that unrelieved going down is a very sad thing to feel or to see, I find great comfort in remembering that as regards the best and noblest of all characteristics, the old man may be progress
twenty: and who never gets any other preferment, but in that parish grows old. Don't we all know how pretty and elegant every thing was about him at first: how trim and weedless were his garden and shrubbery: how rosy his carpets, how airy his windowcurtains, how neat though slight all his furniture: how graceful, merry, and nicely dressed the young girl who was his wife: how (besides hosts of parochial improvements) he devised numberless little changes about his dwelling: rustic bowers, mosshouses, green mounts, labyrinthine walks, though young hearts are hopeful: but with six or seven children, with boys who must be sent to college, with girls who must be educated as ladies, with the prices of all things ever increasing, with multiplying bills from the shoemaker, tailor, dressmaker; the poor parson grows yearly poorer. The rosy face of the young wife has now deep lines of care: the weekly sermon is dull and spiritless: the parcel of books comes no more: the carpets grow threadbare but are not replaced: the furniture becomes creaky and rickety: the garden walks are weedy: the bark peels off the rustic verandah: the mosshouse falls much over to one side: the friends, far away, grow out of all acquaintance. The parson himself, once so precise in dress, is shabby and untidy now; and his wife's neat figure is gone: the servants are of inferior class, coarse and insolent: perhaps the burden of hopeless debt presses always with its dull, dead weight upon the poor clergyman's heart. There is little spring in him to push off the invasion of fatigue and infection, and he is much exposed to both j and should he be taken away, who shall care for the widow and the fatherless, losing at once their head, their home, their means of living? Even you, non-clerical reader, know precisely what I describe: hundreds have seen it: and such will agree with me when I say thot there is no sadder sight than that of a clergyman, with a wife and children, growing poor as he is growing old. Oh, that I had the fortune of John Jacob Astor, that I might found, once for all, a fund that should raise forever above penury and degradation the widows and the orphans of rectory, vicarage, parsonage, and manse!
ing to the last. In all those beautiful qual- fantastically trimmed yews, root-bridges over ities which most attract the love and rever- j the little stream. But as his family increased, ence of those around, and which fit for purer i his income stood still. It was hard enough and happier company than can be found in 1 work to make the ends meet even at first,
And even when the old man has none depending upon him for bread, to be provided from his lessening store, there is something inexpressibly touching and mournful in the spectacle of an old man who must pinch and screw. You do not mind a bit about a hopeful young lad having to live in humble lodgings up three pair of stairs; or about such a one having a limited number of shirts, stockings, and boots, and needing to be very careful and saving as to his clothes ; or about his having very homely shaving-things, or hair-brushes which are a good deal worn out. The young fellow can stand all that: it is all quite right: let him bear the yoke in his youth: he may look forward to better days. Nor does there seem in the nature of things any very sad inconsistency in the idea of a young lad carefully considering how long his boots or great coat will last, or with what minimum of shirts he can manage to get on. But I cannot bear the thought of a grayheaded old man, with shaky hand and weary limb, sitting down in his lonely lodging, and
meditating on such things as these: counting his pocket-handkerchiefs, and suspecting that one is stolen; or looking ruefully at a boot which has been cut where the upper leather joins the sole. Let not the aged man be worried with such petty details! Of course, my reader, I know as well as you do, that very many aged people must think of these things to the last. All I say is, that if I had the ordering of things, no man or woman above fifty should ever know the want of money. And whenever I find a fourleaved shamrock, that is the very first arrangement I shall make. Possibly I may extend the arrangement further, and provide that no honest married man or woman shall ever grow early old through wearing care. What a little end is sometimes the grand object of a human being's strivings through many weeks and months! I sat down the other day in a poor chamber, damp with much linen drying upon crossing lines. There dwells a solitary woman, an aged and infirm woman, who supports herself by washing. For months past her earnings have averaged three shillings a week. Out of that sum she must provide food and raiment; she must keep in her poor fire, and she must pay a rent of nearly three pounds a year. "It is hard work, sir," she said: "it costs me many a thought getting together the money to pay my rent." And I could see well, that from the year's beginning to its end, the thing always uppermost in that poor old widow's waking thoughts, was the raising of that great incubus of a sum of money. A small end, you would say, for the chief thoughts of nn immortal being! Don't you feel, gay young reader, for that fellow-creature, to whom a week has been a success, if at its close she can put by a few halfpence towards meeting the term day? Would you not like to enrich her, to give her a light heart, by sending her a half-sovereign? If you would, you may send it to me.
It is well, I have said, for a man who is growing old, if he is able to persuade himself that though physically going downhill, he is yet in some respect progressing. For if he can persuade himself that he is progressing in any one thing, he will certainly ! believe that he is advancing on the whole. 'Still, it must be said, that the self-complacency of old gentlemen is sometimes amusing (where not irritating) to their juniors. The self-conceit of many old men is something quite amazing. They talk incessantly about themselves and their doings; and, to hear them talk, you would imagine that every great social or political change of late years had been brought about mainly by their instrumentality. I have heard an elderly man of fair average ability, declare in sober ear