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of high intellectual attainments, and of high-flown religious profession. For my part, I am inclined to reckon it an attainment of no mean order, and one that discovers the exercise of sound good sense and genuine piety, to maintain a conscience and a deportment void of offence, a blameless and lovely consistency of character with the dictates of reason, the claims of justice, and the requirements and principles of Christianity. I believe it is much easier to be brilliant than to be inoffensive.
“I stand corrected,” said Mr. Hamilton. “An inoffensive man is an estimable character ; and I rejoice that in assigning this character to the chosen of
my amiable young friend, Miss Tatnall, you convey no disparaging reflection on his intellectual powers and attainments.”
Here the conversation took a different turn; but as Frank was jealous for the honour of his sister's choice, and as the attention of both of us was awakened to the subject of harmlessness of character, we introduced it again at the breakfast table, hoping to elicit some further remarks from my uncle. In this we were not disappointed. The following is the substance of our conversation :
Frank. I have been thinking, uncle, a great dcal about harmlessness and inoffensiveness of character. Will you please to tell me in what
you particularly applied the characteristic
uncle: he is so uniformly kind
UNCLE.-Do you recollect an instance in his conduct which was calculated to wound any person; or at which any person could justly take offence?
FRANK.—No; indeed I do not. He is kind to every body, and every body seems to love him.
UNCLE.—Have you ever seen him act in such a manner as surprised and struck you with an uncomfortable sense of its inconsistency with his general character, and the expectations you had formed of him?
FRANK.—No, uncle ; I never did. Did you ?
UNCLE.-.Certainly not. He is one on whom, as much as on any fellow-creature, dependence can be placed. I am satisfied, that having taken up certain principles, he will act in conformity with them. Have you ever seen in him a selfish disregard, or inconsideration of the taste, feelings, and claims of others ?
FRANK.—No; but I have often seen him deny himself to give pleasure to others.
UNCLE.—Have you ever had reason to suspect him of duplicity, or insincerity ? that in performing a seemingly kind action, he was in reality serving some selfish purpose ?
FRANK.-No, no, uncle; I am sure he would abhor the thought of it.
UNCLE.—Well, if all these features belong to his character, I think he may justly claim that of an inoffensive man.
FRANK.--Yes, uncle ; I am sure he may. I wish, as you said yesterday to Mr. Hamilton, that the phrase was not so commonly applied to weak, silly people, of whom the most that can be said is, that they are not mischievous or quarrelsome; and
who, though they do no harm in the world, do no good.
UNCLE.-I very much question, Frank, whether there are any such people: if there are, they cannot lay claim to the character of inoffensiveness. Apathy and indolence are exceedingly offensive, provoking, and injurious. In a world where there so much good to be done, and so much allotted to the share of every individual as his positive duty, I do not see how any one can fail to discharge that duty without incurring positive guilt. The slothful and unprofitable servant is justly condemned as “ wicked,” Matt. xxv. 18, 26. In speaking of an inoffensive man, I really think we must entirely banish from our minds the idea of an indolent or useless one.
A speech of Captain Tankerville's happened to have been heard and recollected by me, though no one else in the company seemed to have taken much notice of it.—By the way, he can never be called an inoffensive man, who says silly things in the presence of children. Incalculable mischief may result from it; injury which is not rendered less criminal by the inconsideration with which it is inflicted.
“Uncle,” said I, “the captain said, it was a libel upon a gentleman to call him inoffensive. An inoffensive man was no better than the ass in a sand cart, the horse in a mill, or the turnspit dog at a kitchen fire."
UNCLE.-All very respectable animals in their places, because they are useful according to their own abilities and opportunities. I wish every gentleman were as useful and honourable. A man, however, is better than a beast, because he is
endowed with higher powers, and if he employs them aright, he does so upon noble principles; and the higher our capabilities, if they are improved, the greater is our sphere of usefulness, and our meed of honour. But beware, my dear boys, of admitting the world's false principle which allies, if not identifies, talents with wickedness, and imbecility with goodness. It is true that they are sometimes seen in connexion, but not always. Some men seem to have talents for wickedness, and for nothing else ; and some highly gifted men are as harmless as if they had no power of doing mischief; and, again to use the words of a writer already quoted, “inoffensiveness is peculiarly attractive, when it is combined with qualities that would render a man dangerous without it: where the sublime is softened by the beautiful ; where the simplicity of the babe, tempers the wisdom of the sage.” My venerable friend Dr. Reynolds is a fine example of this. It is impossible to come in contact with him, and not have the feelings both of reverence and love called forth ; reverence for his evident superiority of character, and love for his meekness and benignity. Are you not conscious of such feelings?
FRANK.-Yes, uncle; it is impossible to be uncomfortable in his society ; for though, as you say, his excellences command our reverence, there is nothing about him to discourage or confound. His gentleness and kindness of manner seem to invite and encourage to the imitation of his example, though it be but at a humble distance. I have experienced somewhat the same kind of feelings, when in company with the noble lord who visited you lately.
UNCLE.—Yes; he is another of my inoffensive
In each of the three individuals to whom we have alluded, there is nothing to excite, in the mind of a stranger, disgust or prejudice against the order of society to which he belongs; but rather, what would give a favourable prepossession for his sake. I will venture to say, that should you be introduced to a barrister, a clergyman, or a peer, whose manners were coarse, haughty, repulsive, you would be disappointed and shocked, not merely at the incongruity of the thing itself, but on account of the favourable association established in your mind, between those orders of society, and the characters of Henry Mortimer, Dr. Reynolds, and my noble friend.
FRANK.—Yes, uncle, I am sure I should. Well, I am glad this conversation was brought up. I hope it will teach me not to think meanly of an inoffensive man; but rather, to aspire after the character as truly honourable.
SAMUEL.--I wish uncle would be so kind as tell us exactly what he means by being inoffensive, so that we may be able clearly to understand and remember it.
UNCLE.—You have assigned me no very easy task, Samuel. There is no difficulty in perceiving when persons act offensively, nor, perhaps, in pointing out how they might and ought to have acted differently. It is not so easy to lay down abstract rules for inoffensiveness. Nor, indeed, do I think I could do it, without calling to my mind some actual examples of transgression. Well, we will endeavour to recollect a few particulars.
Sincerity is the basis of all real excellence, and he who would be inoffensive, must, in the first place,