« PreviousContinue »
Harriet. Was it not proud to say she should not wear a cnarity dress ?
Mrs. B. Why should she? — would you wear a charity dress ?
Harriet. Oh! mamma, but this is a poor man!
Mrs. B. He is able to pay for her learning, I suppose ; otherwise, he would certainly do wrong to refuse his child the advantage of instruction because his feelings were hurt by it.
Harriet. Yes, he is going to put her to Dame Primmer's across the Green: she will have half a mile to walk.
Mrs. B. That will do her no hurt.
Harriet. But he is throwing his money away; for he might have his little girl taught for nothing; and, as he is a poor man, he ought to be thankful for it.
Mrs. B. Pray, what do you mean by a poor man?
Harriet. Oh!- a man — those men that live in poor houses, and work all day, and are hired for it.
Mrs. B. I cannot tell exactly how you define a poor house: but as to working, your papa is in a public office, and works all day long, and more hours certainly than the labourer does; and he is hired to it, for he would not do the work, but for the salary they give him.
Harriet. But you do not live like those poor people; and you do not wear a check apron, like the gardener's wife.
Mrs. B. Neither am I covered with lace and jewels like a duchess : there is as much difference between our manner of living and that of many people above us in fortune, as between ours and this gardener's whom you call poor.
Harriet. What is being poor then ? — is there no such thing?
Mrs. B. Indeed, I hardly know how to answer your question: rich and poor are comparative terms; and provided a man is in no want of the necessaries of life, and is not in debt, he can only be said to be poor comparatively with others, of whom the same might be affirmed by those who are still richer. But to whatever degree of indigence you apply the term, you must take care not to confound a poor man with a pauper.
Harriet. What is a pauper? I thought they were the same ching.
Mrs. B. A pauper is one who cannot maintain himselt, and who is maintained by the charity of the community. Your gardener was not a pauper : he worked for what he had, and he paid for what he had ; and therefore he had a right to expect that his child should not be confounded with the children of paupers. If the gardener's daughter were to wear a kind of charity-badge, the little girls she plays with, would consider her as having lost her rank in society. You would not like to lose your rank, and to be thrust down lower than your proper place in society. There are several things it would not at all hurt you to do, which you would not choose to do, on this account; — for instance, to carry a bandbox through the street; yet it would not hurt you to carry a bandbox; you would carry a greater weight in your garden for pleasure.
Harriet. But I thought gardeners and such sort of people had no rank?
Mrs. B. That is a very great mistake. Every one has his rank, his place in society; and so far as rank is a source of honourable pride, there is less difference in rank between you and the gardener, than between the gardener and a pauper. Between the greater part of those we call different classes, there is only the difference of less and more; the spending a hundred, or five hundred, or five thousand a year; the eating off earthenware, or china, or plate : but there is a real and essential difference between the man who provides for his family by his own exertions, and him who is supported by charity. The gardener has a right to stretch out his nervous arm, and say, " This right hand, under Providence, provides for myself and my family; I earn what I eat, I am a burden to no one; and therefore if I have any superfluity I have a right to spend it as I please, and to dress my little girl to my own fancy.”
Harriet. But do you not think, mamma, that a brown gown and a straw bonnet would be a more proper dress for the lower sort of people, than any thing gaudy? If they are much dressed, you know, we always laugh at their vulgar finery.
Mrs. B. They care very little for your laughing at them; they do not dress to please you. They have a natural love of ornament as well as we have. It is true they can do our work as well in a plainer dress; but when the work is done, and the time of enjoyment comes, — in the dance on the green, or the tea-party among their friends, — who shall hinder them from indulging their taste and fancy, and laying out the money they have so fairly earned, in what best pleases them?
Harriet. But they are not content without following our fashions; and they are so ridiculous in their imitations of them. I was quite diverted to see Molly, the pastry-cook's girl, tossing her head about in a hat and riband which I dare say she thought very fashionable; but such a caricature of the mode! — I was so diverted !
Mrs. B. You may be diverted with a safer conscience when I assure you that the laugh goes round. London laughs at the country; the court laughs at the city; and I dare say your pastry-cook's girl laughs at somebody who is distanced by herself in the race of fashion.
Harriet. But every body says, and I have heard you say, mamma, that the kind of people I mean, and servants particularly, are very extravagant in dress.
Mrs. B. That unfortunately is true : they very often are so; and when they marry they suffer for it severely; but do not you think many young ladies are equally so? Did you not see, at your last dancing-school ball, many a girl whose father cannot give her a thousand pounds, covered with lace and ornaments ?
Harriet. It is very true.
Mrs. B. Are not duchesses driven by extravagance to pawn their plate and jewels ?
Harriet. I have heard so.
Mrs. B. The only security against improper expense, is dignity of mind, and moderation : these are not common in any rank; and I do not know why we should expect them to be more common among the lower and uneducated classes than among the higher. — To return to your gardener. — He has certainly a right to dress his girl as he pleases, without asking you or me: but I shall think he does not make a wise use of that right, if he lays out his money in finery, instead of providing the more substantial comforts and enjoyments of life. And I should think exactly the same of my neighbour in the great house in the park. The feelings of vanity are exactly the same in a countess's daughter dancing at court, and a milk woman figuring at a country hop.
Harriet. But surely, mamma, the countess's daughter will be more really elegant ?
Mrs. B. That will depend very much upon individual taste. However, the higher ranks have so many advantages for cultivating taste, so much money to lay out in decoration, and are so early taught the graces of air and manner, to set off those decorations, that it would be absurd to deny their
superiority in this particular. But taste has one great enemy to contend with.
Harriet. What is that?
Mrs. B. Fashion, - an arbitrary and capricious tyrant, who reigns with the most despotic sway over that department which taste alone ought to regulate. It is fashion that imprisons the slender nymph in the vast rotunda of the hoop, and loads her with heavy ornaments, when she is conscious, if she dared rebel, she should dance lighter, and look better, in a dress of one tenth part of the price. Fashion sometimes orders her to cut off her beautiful tresses, and present the appearance of a cropped schoolboy; and though this is a sacrifice which a nun going to be professed, looks upon as one of the severest she is to make, she obeys without a murmur. The winter arrives, and she is cold; but fashion orders her to leave off half her clothes, and be abroad half the night. She complies, though at the risk of her life. A great deal more might be said about this tyrant; but as we have had enough of grave conversation for the present, we will here drop the subject.
THE DEATH OF THE FLOWERS.
W. C. Bryant.
[The tone of pensive melancholy which pervades this piece, requires
the “subdued” form of “pure tone," with a deeper note than the o expression” of pathos, merely; as the element of regret is added. Prolonged “ quantities,” in the prosodial effect, with slow 6 median” swell and decreasing “vanish,” long pauses and prevailing semitones, and the “minor third” in the cadence of the stanza, are, in
all such cases, the vocal accompaniments of true feeling. Nothing can be farther from nature and truth, than the mechanical,
automaton-like utterance which is sometimes exemplified in the school style of reading such pieces.]
The melancholy days are come,
The saddest of the year,
And meadows brown and sear.
The withered leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying gust,
And to the rabbit's tread.
And from the shrubs the jay,
Through all the gloomy day.
Where are the flowers, the fair young flowers,
That lately sprang and stood
A beauteous sisterhood?
The gentle race of flowers
With the fair and good of ours.
But the cold November rain
The lovely ones again.
They perished long ago,
Amid the summer glow;
And the aster in the wood,
In autumn beauty stood,
As falls the plague on men; And the brightness of their smile was gone,
From upland, glade, and glen.
And now, when comes the calm, mild day,
As still such days will come, To call the squirrel and the bee
From out their winter home; When the sound of dropping nuts is heard,
Though all the trees are still,
The waters of the rill,
Whose fragrance late he bore,
And by the stream no more.