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The greater the obstacles nature opposes to man's comfortable existence, the greater efforts are required to overcome them, and the greater is the necessity that all his powers should be developed to the uttermost. Hitherto the animal has been fully equal to the task of self-subsistence, wherever bad governments have not interfered with the natural distribution of the products of industry, and quartered noble indigence upon plebeian activity. Civilization confers an increased power over the elements, and a corresponding facility in manufacturing food; but unjust governments weigh down the labourer, and avail themselves of every improvement to increase the lion's share of the product. Malthus, properly understood, is a powerful radical reformer.
MADAME DE GENLIS regrets the abandonment of the nightly ceremony of paternal benedictions (Dict. des Etiquettes). The mere repetition, however, must destroy any efficacy it might be supposed to possess, in forcing good conduct. A benediction is at first valued as a reward of virtue, or a symbol of pardon for repented error: but it inevitably becomes a thing of course; and is desired for its own sake alone, or as a pledge of the favourable prepossession of a doating old man who has something to leave.
If a benediction be supposed to possess efficacy in procuring good to its object, so also must a curse be potent in evil; and by the prevalence of this notion, the delirious ravings of disappointed ambition may become the cause of misery to the innocent. Thus considered, the benediction enters into the category of spells and enchantments; and the formulary once recited, the omnipotence of heaven is enchained to the performance of its conditions. This is a most degrading superstition ; and, like all similar errors, it cannot in the long run be serviceable to the species. Its obvious ill effect is to make the will of others, and not the morality of things, the standard of action.
SENTIMENT is at best an invention of vanity to mask the infirmities of mind and body: no wonder that it so easily lapses into affectation. Joseph Surface is but a cynical display of what passes in the mind of the great majority of the species; and of what the hypocrite is as anxious to hide from himself as from the rest of the world. Marriage is the grave of sentimentality ; because the parties are like Cicero's Augurs; they cannot carry on the farce, and keep their countenance.
The great are fond of presents; but they are superlatively ungrateful. Little people, in their need of protection, instinctively apply to the great, with a bribe in their hand : and they do so wisely, Flattered self-love yields what justice or benevolence alone might deny. It is, however, by a succession of trifling gifts that the experienced toadeater makes way with a patron. Women (par parenthèse) enter into the details of toad-eating much better than men.
An ignoramus offers something valuable, something above his means to afford ; and he “ takes nothing by the motion;" for neither money, nor money's worth is valued by those whose wants are supplied as soon as they arise. Such persons receive without compunction or consideration; and are neither obliged, nor disposed to return in kind. It is courtesy, and not pecuniary value they want; and it enters not into their conception that the value, which is nothing to them, may be an inconvenient sacrifice to the donor. Valuable presents must be rare; while it is unceasing homage that wins. The spooneys alone are taken in, and strive to astonish by the splendour of their gifts. The “ able-bodied” toadies 66 win with honest trifles to betray to deepest consequences.
Kings, however, like substantial presents ; but they will take anything, even from the poorest of their subjects. When George the Third went to return thanksgivings at St. Paul's, on the recovery of his health, a picture was made by Dayes of the ceremony in the interior of the church. This picture was bought by an engraver, and a print executed from it; and an application was made for the king's permission to dedicate the work to him. The permission was graciously granted by that patron of the arts ; with a stipulation that the original picture should be consigned to himself: a proposition with which the spirited engraver refused to comply.
Courtiers laud the liberality of kings; and, in the eyes of poets laureate, regal munificence is the first