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racter, that we have an expressive phrase in the English language,—“to break the spirit.” The preceptor may occasionally perhaps prescribe to the pupil a severe task; and the young adventurer may say, Can I be expected to accomplish this ? But all must be done in kindness. The generous attempter must be reminded of the powers he has within him, perhaps yet unexercised; with cheering sounds his progress must be encouraged; and, above all
, the director of the course must take care not to tax him beyond his strength. And, be it observed, that the strength of a human creature is to be ascertained by two things; first, the abstract capacity, that the thing required is not beyond the power of a being so constituted to perform ; and, secondly, we must take into the account his past achievements, the things he has already accomplished, and not expect that he is at once to overleap a thousand obstacles.
For there is such a thing as a broken spirit. I remember a boy who was my schoolfellow, that, having been treated with uncalled for severity, never appeared afterwards in the scene of instruction, but with a neglected appearance, and the articles of his dress scarcely half put on. I was very young at the time, and viewed only the outside of things. I cannot tell whether he had any true ambition previously to his disgrace, but I am sure he never had afterwards.
How melancholy an object is the man, who, "for the privilege to breathe, bears up and down the city
A discontented and repining spirit
Burthensome to itself," incapable of enterprise, listless, with no courage to undertake, and no anticipation of the practicability of success and honour! And this spectacle is still more affecting, when the subject shall be a human creature in the dawn of youth, when nature opens to him a vista of beauty and fruition on every side, and all is encouraging, redolent of energy and enterprise!
To break the spirit of a man, bears a considerable resemblance to the breaking the main spring, or principal movement, of a complicated and ingeniously constructed machine. We cannot tell when it is to happen ; and it comes at last perhaps at the time that it is least expected. A judicious superintendent therefore will be far from trying consequences in his office, and will, like a man walking on a cliff whose extremes are ever and anon crumbling away and falling into the ocean, keep much within the edge, and at a safe distance from the line of danger.
But this consideration has led me much beyond the true subject of this Essay. The instructor of youth, as I have already said, is called upon to use all his skill, to animate the courage, and maintain the cheerfulness and self-complacency of his pupil. And, as such is the discipline to be observed to the candidate, while he is “under a schoolmaster," so, when he is emancipated, and his plan of conduct is! to be regulated by his own discretion, it is necessary that he should carry forward the same scheme, and cultivate that tone of feeling, which should best reconcile him to himself, and, by teaching him to esteem himself and bear in mind his own value, enable him to achieve things honourable to his character, and memorably useful to others. Melancholy, and a disposition anticipating evil are carefully to be guarded against, by him who is desirous to perform his part well on the theatre of society. He should habitually meditate all cheerful things, and sing the song of battle which has a thousand times spurred on his predecessors to victory. He should contemplate the crown that awaits him, and say to himself, I also will do my part, and endeavour to enrol myself in the select number of those champions, of whom it has been predicated that they were men, of whom, compared with the herd of ordinary mortals, “the world,” the species among whom they were rated, “ was not worthy."
Another consideration is to be recollected here. Without self-complacency in the agent no generous enterprise is to be expected, and no train of voluntary actions, such as may purchase honour to the person engaged in them.
But, beside this, there is no true and substantial happiness but for the self-complacent. “The good man," as Solomon says, “is satisfied from himself.” " The reflex act is inseparable from the constitution
of the human mind. How can any one have genuine happiness, unless in proportion as he looks round, and, “behold! every thing is very good ?” This is the sunshine of the soul, the true joy, that gives cheerfulness to all our circulations, and makes us feel ourselves entire and complete. What indeed is life, unless so far as it is enjoyed ? It does not merit the name. If I go into a school, and look round on a number of young faces, the scene is destitute of its true charm, unless so far as I see inward peace and contentment on all sides. And, if we require this eminently in the young, neither can it be less essential, when in growing manhood we have the real cares of the world to contend with, or when in declining age we need every auxiliary to enable us to sustain our infirmities.
But, before I conclude my remarks on this subject, it is necessary that I should carefully distinguish between the thesis, that self-complacency is the indispensible condition of all that is honourable in human achievements, and the proposition contended against in Essay XI, that “self-love is the source of all our actions.” Self-complacency is indeed the feeling without which we cannot proceed in an honourable course; but is far from being the motive that impels us to act. The motive is in the real nature and absolute properties of the good thing that is proposed to our choice: we seek the happiness of another, because his happiness is the object of our desire. Self-complacency may be likened to the bottle-holder in one of those contentions for bodily prowess, so characteristic of our old English manners.
The bottle-holder is necessary to supply the combatant with refreshment, and to encourage him to persist; but it would be most unnatural to regard him as the cause of the contest. No: the parties have found reason for competition ; they apprehend a misunderstanding or a rivalry impossible to be settled but by open contention, and the putting forth of mental and corporeal energy; and the bottle-holder is an auxiliary called in afterwards, his interference implying that the parties have already a motive to act, and have thrown down the gauntlet in token of the earnest good-will which animates them to engage.