« PreviousContinue »
children view the step-mother as the seducer of their father. To the chivalrous feeling of youth about love and constancy, it appears like a prostitution of the affections. While the child remembers the mother that “watched o'er his childhood,' and finds her place filled by another, who demands her services, and assumes her name, he feels that there is an inconsistency, but he cannot explain it to himself; his heart is hardened in rebellion. The father, too, is all the time watching lest his wife meet with slight from his children, and every accidental neglect is construed by him into intentional insult. Difficulties occur in the family circle ; mistrust and suspicion on one side, wounded affections on the other, and the stubborn sense of wrong; the father loses the regard of his offspring; his authority is defied, and his house abandoned.
Who can calculate the extent of such a state of domestic affairs upon the pliant character of youth? Possessed of a hasty and impetuous spirit, after the charm of novelty had worn off — after the wedding cake was eaten, and the congratulations over- after the temporary importance, any change, whether of death, birth, or marriage, gives its members -- after all these excitements had subsided, by the law of moral gravitation, I began to hate my mother. Why, I cannot tell. I knew her in after years as the pattern of excellence, as the most patient, the most devoted of mothers to us all. She was by nature a mild woman, with highly cultivated tastes, and an unrutħed sweetness of temper; but she was not suited to take charge of a young tiger or wild-cat. We were a large family, and my brothers were perfect torments : they were counterparts of myself; though heaven be praised, they have had better training. She succeeded in gaining their affections, for they were too young, at the time she entered our family, to have fixed prejudices. She moulded their characters after the pattern of her own, tamed the wild luxuriance of their minds, grafted upon them the love of knowledge and the love of virtue, gave them principles, and excited in them pure tastes. They are, I believe, fine fellows; but I have not seen them for twenty years.
I now look back with admiration at the patience and endurance with which she suffered all our slights and impudence. Never do I recollect of her having complained to our father. She suffered in secret. I have often seen her in tears. What misery she must have endured! Had she been a very fashionable, party-giving, shopping, journeying, hysterical, heartless woman, how different would have been the lot of my brothers ! My father was a man of violent passions. A cunning woman might have gained the whole ground to herself, and turned us all out of doors; for my father was easily influenced by those he loved.
The difficulties were so frequent on my account, that since, soon after my father's marriage, I have never had a permanent home in my father's house. College vacations were planned to be spent abroad; and though for months, sometimes, I staid at home, yet never with the feeling that I was other than a visitor, whose presence could well be dispensed with.
Who does not know the sanctifying influence of the domestic hearth? Take from a young man his love for home - deprive him
of domestic habits and domestic affectionsand the road is clear for base passions to enter.
and enthusiastic mind must have something to cling to. Like the ivy, it will reach out its tendrils far to seek support, but finding nothing around which it may wind, it sinks to earth, and grapples with the base soil. I pity the orphan; I pity the stranger in a strange land; but, Oh! I pity most of all the desolate youth, who by his own vices, his own obstinacy, his own pride, has closed the hearts of his family to his welcome. Think of the misery that mind must endure, which, with the knowledge of what is good and refined, finds itself deprived of these legitimate privileges of its nature, and is driven by turns with despair and indignation to seek alleviation for the bitterness of its lot, in what looks to the inexperienced like pleasure. The youth without a home is like a mariner without a compass, in a boundless sea : he has no point from which or to which to direct his course, but is driven, here and there, upon a tumultuous ocean, unknowing and unknown. At a time when so much is said in the cause of education, and when so many plans are offered for its improvement, I am prised that the influence of home is so much disregarded.
Parents! do not send your sons and daughters from home. Do not destroy the love for your fireside, and the objects about home. Let their eyes rest upon the same furniture, and the same prospects ; let their slumbers be, where they slept when very young:
There are valuable associations there. Keep them under the shadow of your wings. They were given to you ; who can watch over them like you? Who can pray with them like you? Who can love them like you? Do not sever the bonds of home! Home binds the heart to virtue. Home is pure. Who would defile his father's house? Who dreams of vice in the presence of his younger brothers and sisters ? How healing to the sick and worn out spirit is the society of those young prattlers, whose blood, we feel in our hearts, is derived from the same source as our own ?
Mistrust not the warning of one, who records deeds of folly and years of uselessness — the confessions of penitence - produced directly by exile from home - by having no home but a world full of vice; no friends, but the chance companions of pleasure. But do mistrust, I warn you to mistrust, the pretensions of schools, 'where every attention is paid to the morals of the pupils.' Their air is moral death. They deaden that fine sensibility which keeps us children of God, before we are under the influence of higher principles. Beside, children are always unhappy away from home, when they cease from their sports, and have time to think. How
blessed seasons of sorrow and contrition for faults are lost by this separation ! A child will not open its heart to a stranger, or one he esteems as a governor. Were your child with
how you might, in such seasons, rivet the principle of love and gratitude to you, and fix a strong impression upon some point of conduct! When every hour is training your child for some character, can you trust him in his ductile years to be absent from your hearths for months ? When he shall return, you will not know him. He has become a different being from what he was when he left you. You do not now know the avenues to his heart, consequently you have lost your
over him. Still, he is bound to you by the idea, that we must love our parents. He will say that he loves you, and will resent your wrongs, and be happy in your successes, but you will see that he does this more from childish habit, than from any really hearty feeling between you. He will never seek you in child-like confidence, silently to ask your sympathy, or turn his face, full of the overflowings of a loving heart, to yours to speak his affection. He will never seem pleased in your society, but consider it as a restraint he would gladly be rid of. He will come to you for money, but he will ask it more as a favor due to his wants, than a gift paid for in love for you. He will ask your concurrence in his views, more from a wish to avoid your opposition, than to strengthen the dictates of his own judgment. If you endeavor to control him, in the dangerous passage from boy to man, he will view your authority as assumption, and escape from it as tyranny. But this boarding-school education is the education nine-tenths of the sons of rich men receive, in our country.
If it be asked how this result is to be avoided, we answer, by keeping our children with us; by studying their dispositions ; making them our friends; getting their confidence, and in this way searching their hearts. What a chance does a young man run now!
He is thrown boldly into the world to sink or swim. It is a trial by fire by the fire of the passions, untempered by age, unregulated by experience. But the reader is looking for incident, and is weary of my youth. I set out with the intention of writing a plain unvarnished tale,' and 'a history of my mind.' The reader must know causes. I ask his patience, and if necessary, his pardon.
SUPERSTITIONS OF BURIAL. It is said of Diogenes, that when his friends asked him, toward the close of his life, how he would be buried, he replied that he did not desire them to bury him at all, but to throw him into the field.' That, they told him, was the way to be devoured by the birds and beasts. * No,' says he, ‘you may put a cudgel by my side. “A cudgel! How should you make use of it, when you have neither sense nor feeling ?' "'T is there,' said he, that I wanted you. What need I care what is done with me, when I have neither sense nor feeling ?' The satirical reasoning of Diogenes, on the subject of disposing of his body after death, seems strictly rational : for what is the corporeal mass, when the spirit which ennobled it has taken its flight, but inert matter, as insensible and worthless as the clods beneath our feet ? Nay, we are not taught by nature or religion to think it otherwise. The angel of death may
the storm, and doom thousands to wait their judgment in the caverns of the great deep; he may career amid the thunders and lightnings of battle, till myriads of corses fatten the field of conflict, and the living be not able to bury the dead; he may will that the earth open and entomb a nation in undistinguished burial; he may ordain that fire shall consume the body, the elements waste it, or some violent accident or convulsion scatter it; and yet, we are assured, nothing which can happen to the body can affect our immortal destiny.
With this settled conviction upon our minds, the question may naturally arise, why in this enlightened age is there so much anxiety in regard to the mere body, when nothing can preserve it from corruption and the worm ?
A friend dies — we arrange the mournful ceremonials of his interment — we give a tearful tribute to sorrow for his loss, and the memory of his virtues. His spiritual essence is released from its bonds of clay, and all that lies before us is dust, soon to be consigned to its original dust. But do our minds stop here? We follow him to the grave. We look down into his narrow tenement, upon the frail receptacle which hides the progress of decay. A moment more, and the clods are heaped up to the common level of the soil, and the face of nature seems to say, “ All is earth – undistinguishable and common.' Do our minds stop here? We mark the spot with some slight memorial; a tablet soon appears, to distinguish and preserve the hallowed ground. We visit it, and our feelings are stirred as we read the name once familiar to our lips and our ears, and associate it with virtues and endearments which once lived in the form that sleeps below. Though that form may have mouldered, we think not of this. Though the reptile may, even at the moment, be rioting upon all that once shone in beauty and grace, yet we think not of this. Our thoughts are not of earth nor of corruption. If our friend is before us, he appears as we once knew him ; and if our thoughts extend to the future, we invest him with new attributes of dignity and beauty, and think not of the time when we too shall moulder, but when we shall put off all that is perishable, and rise to a new and refined existence. I find that, in considering this subject, I have imperceptibly run into
sentiment, though at the same time I have perhaps given the chief reasons for the reverence paid to the bodies of the dead in Christian countries. With the dead is inseparably associated the memory of their lives; and it is unfeeling and futile presumption, to speak of philosophy- of dust and forgetfulness-among assembled mourners, who recognise in the passive clay the remains of a friend, a husband, or a father. Nay, reverence for our own deceased relatives teaches us respect for the breathless human form, under whatever circumstances of desolation or destitution it may come before us. The unknown and shipwrecked mariner, on a Christian shore, finds a Christian grave. Particular spots are consecrated to this duty, and the dead are carefully watched and guarded, till they are conveyed to their appointed resting-place, and hidden from human eyes
There is no doubt a strong feeling, somewhat bordering upon superstition, in regard to the dead. How strongly soever Reason may argue, and however ready men may be to submit to the accidental circumstances which deprive their friends of burial, yet the violation of the grave is regarded with the greatest abhorrence. Science, assisted by reason, may appeal to the understanding for liberality, and yet the reclaiming of poor discarded matter from corruption, to assist the knowledge of man, is regarded by many with the utmost abhorrence. It is not my purpose to inquire into the secret causes of this feeling, least of all to blame it.
There are few nations, either civilized or barbarous, that do not venerate the ashes of the dead; and the most barbarous have always been noted as the most irreverent to the bones of their ancestors. In the ancient and modern civilized nations, monuments have been erected to stir up future emulation for the virtues of the individuals they celebrated, and appeals to the memory of their ancestors have always been found inspiring a people of character and honor. A religious veneration for the tombs and traditions of their ancestors, was a striking characteristic of the naturally-gifted aborigines of this country; and ail history shows us, that where this feeling is implanted, it is generally attended with virtues and qualities of a high order of moral dignity.
I have thus far been considering only the feelings and sentiments of the living in regard to the dead. Let me now make a few remarks upon some of the opinions, or rather notions of men, in regard to the disposal of their bodies after death.
Instances have not been unfrequent, of men who seemed to attach some fearful superstition to the situation of their bodies after death, and who have therefore given particular directions to their friends in reference to them. This is not extraordinary, where some religious tenet affords the inducement, as in the desire of burial in consecrated ground; but when we hear of bodies transported beyond seas, in order to be laid in a particular church-yard or family-vault - of the anxiety at times manifested to be laid beside some friend or object of affection-of the pang, which adds keenness to death, of breathing one's last in a foreign land- and of the numberless cares and anxieties which poor
frail mortals give themselves, on the confines of eternity, for that, which, whatever is done with it, can have neither sense nor