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“A Constant Reader" has suggested the propriety of our raising forth with the price of this Miscellany, and, consequently, increasing the space devoted to original communications. An additional sixpence, we agree with him in thinking, no very great increase. At present, we are no doubt unable, from want of roon, to give an equal variety with contemporary works ; but, from the great accession of literary strength which we can calculate on, we readily pledge ourselves for the gradual, but certain, improvement of this “ National Work," as Mr Hogg so correctly describes it. The subject is, however, under consideration.

With regard to Politics, “ the glorious privilege of being independent” has hitherto been our pride and our boast; and we are now satisfied, that we have been successful in establishing our claims to a virtue as rare as it is estimable, in these days of political duels, law-suits, and botheration. One gentleman, for example, than whom the earth does not carry a better or a worthier, consigns us to the devil wholesale, for our accursed Toryism ; and another cunning man, who, as he is at the lug of the law, may be supposed to know a great deal, positively declines perusing our modest and unpretending pages, because they smell so rank of Whiggery. 66 Who shall decide when doctors disagree?” Will our readers infer, from this horrid discrepancy, that we blow hot and cold with the same breath? We feel that they will not ; on the contrary, they will admit, that an Editor, in these days of schism and dissension, who is allowed on all hands to be neither Whig nor Tory, and yet has cou. rage to declare boldly his sentiments were he either, is fully entitled to lay claim to the high prerogative of the most questionless independence. We should like to hear from the man who says nay.

If, as is most likely, we have omitted to notice the communications of any of our numerous correspondents, we hope the oversight will be ascribed, not to intentiorral neglect or disrespectful feelings, but to the true cause, the bustle and hurry of writing against time, in order to be ready to weigh anchor by a stated day. We are proud to say that, for some time past, we have noticed a progressive improvement in the cominunications of our friends, which affords us the sincerest pleasure, both as an earnest of greater future excellence, and as a proof that the tone of learning and feeling cominunicated to our pages has been felt, and is about to produce its proper fruits. Once for all, we render our friends our most hearty thanks for their kind assistance, of which we pray a continuance.

THE

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE,

AND

LITERARY MISCELLANY.

NOVEMBER 1821.

THE CHANCE DINNER.

few of these, we employ in adding

comfort to the mode of living we pre(Continued from last Number.)

fer. To prove what I say, and to

shew that the company of a friend is Mrs Carter, whom we found amu a part of our daily plan, I shall not sing her two children, received us quit the room, nor give a single order, with that sort of pleased and cordial till dinner be announced.-Off, chilsmile, which gives assurance of a dren, to the nursery ! kind and benevolent heart. The first R. Why so soon? thought of some women, on such oc Mrs C. Because I wish you not to casions, is about the task of arran dislike them. I can compute exactly ging matters for unexpected guests; the pleasure you take in them, by and the second, about disguising that which I (who am constitutiontheir selfish solicitude, and getting ally fond of children) take in those up the proper look of a hospitable of other people: and 'I know, by this welcome. This mental process is criterion, that the interlude of the easily discerned, and not easily for- Bons Enfans is generally most sucgot; but to Mrs C., the former of cessful when it is shortened. You will these ideas seemed never to occur, think of them kindly, if you have nor did she force an expression of sa never seen them but with pleasure. tisfaction which she did not feel, in As we had to wait for no loiterer, an opportunity of combining with either of the dawdle or the dandy the pleasure which she naturally de- species, we were soon summoned to rives from society, that of pleasing the eating-room.

The dinner was the friends of her husband. “You plain, but genteel; and served up see," said I, “ my dear Mrs C., we with that neatness, approaching to are free and easy with you. But I grace, which had become the habit believe you permit no apologies in of the family, from the example of cases like this.”

its heads. The skill and attention, Mrs C. None whatever, unless for which were not called for by any not being free and easy with me. thing requiring scientific cookery, Though Carter and I frequently dine had not been spared, in the simpler alone, especially in term-time, yet I processes of the art to which they every day hold myself prepared for were confined. Our conversation was some forlorn bachelor, whom he may cheerful and unconstrained, as it will kidnap in his ramble.

always be among people who speak R. I know your practice; and to please, and not to shine. It was when I escape from my single, but I also pretty equally divided : for the am sorry to say not singular state, good nature, which endeavours to the practice shall be mine.

keep every member of a company saMrs C. Neither of us relish large tisfied with his own exertions and parties, and what we save, by giving importance, (the true way of giving

3 D

VOI. IX

the party.

society its greatest charn), avoided rious changes of subject, took the folany topic which was not likely to lowing turn: be equally interesting and intelligible R. That reinark was happily exto all. Many things were said not pressed, Vanstricht. How well you worth repeating; but the disposition speak English! from which they flowed was more V. Not so well as I ought, after precious than a thousand bons mots. having been for years in this counJohnson recommends convivial meet try. Some of your words I shall ings, not so much for colloquial re

never learn to pronounce. creation, as for the promotion of kind R. Why so? ness; and I could have exchanged V. From physical impossibility. some of the wit and wisdom of the If there be any sound, which we are surly sage, for more examples of at not accustomed to utter, while our tention to his own recommendation. infant organs are flexible and soft, no Mrs Carter having withdrawn with exertion will make us do it, after the children, who had for a few these become rigid, and have their acminutes been readmitted, we were tion circumscribed by habit. Transleft to sip our wine, and nibble at our fer a Northumbrian, at the age of filberts. A dessert of this kind is not three or four, to another county, and unfavourable to conversation ; for, he will soon pronounce the letter R like a lady's knotting, it supplies a in the usual way; but at twenty, it gentle and optional exercise, just suf- is out of his power. ficient to keep the mind alert, but R. Well, I only wish that I could not to engross its attention. It serves speak any one continental language the same purpose as those expedients, as correctly as you do ours. By the which some inen habitually employ, way, Homerton sets off for Paris on to quicken mental by muscular ac Monday. tion. A certain clergyman, I have C. Yes; and I had nearly been of been told, could not compose a sentence, unless he was turning his snuff R. Pray what prevents it? box in his hand. The thread of a C. The same weakness which, I discourse is an expression which Joe fear, has defrauded me of many enMiller derives from the custom of a joyments: Indecision. It is about a counsellor, who, when speaking, con- fortnight since Homerton told me of tinued to wind and unwind a thread his intention, and of his wish that I round his finger; and having one day should accompany him. Being, at lost his auxiliary clew, lost his elo- that time, perplexed with a multipliquence, and his cause along with it: city of professional concerns, I found and of the same nature was the habit the call to decide on this proposal a of a Roman pleader, who, during his teasing and gratuitous addition to my harangues, always paced to and fro perplexities. My first impression, at the bar, so that he was sometimes therefore, was unfavourable to it; asked, not how many hours, but how and first impressions, though we may many furlongs he had spoken? To think them effaced, are, oftener thaii persons like these, the act of passing we suppose, the latent cause of our the bottle, or peeling an orange, gives final resolutions. At length, I found some relief: and, indeed, I believe time to hear the pleadings of my most men will acknowledge, that own mind on both sides. Indolence there are times when, from a dislike opened the case, and represented the to speak, without some interruption trouble of packing up, for a longer to apologise for their failures, they journey, and making arrangements feel a propensity to interrupt them- at home for a longer absence than selves ; and that, under the cover of I am accustomed to ; the anxiety I a few skirmishing manæuvres with should feel about my family when their fingers, they can advance their at a distance; the chances of sea-sickcolloquial forces with less solicitude ness, and overfatigue, and every other and more success, than when expec- discouraging circumstance. These tation is raised, by seeing them free objections were repelled by Curiosity, i. give undivided attention to their which reminded me of the pleasure discourse. But, to proceed with my of visiting new scenes, characters. omntive our conversation, after va and manners; of actually beholding

characters, and manners; of actually in favour of a contrary decision, and, beholding things which I had so often by a similar accumulation, restores heard and read of, and comparing my the equipoise. A mind in this state conception of them with the original; may be compared to a Welch stream; of the enlivened interest I should which rushes obliquely through the ever after feel in what concerned valley till it strike the mountain on them, and of the increased confi- one side, and, when reflected, hurdence and precision with which I ries with equal violence to the barcould talk of them. Next came Ti- rier upon the other. But pray conmidity, anticipating mortification, clude your account. embarrassment, and awkwardness, C. That I can do in a moment. from imperfect practice in the lan- Finding suspense impair, not only guage. This was answered by the my tranquillity, but the attention unrefutable fact, that I had now the which my business required, I was very best opportunity, which had under an indispensable necessity of ever offered, of doing what I had long ending it; and not having time to intended, in the company of a friend work up my mind to a positive deciwho was familiar with the language sion, I suffered my vis inertiæ to deand the country, and with a long va cide in the negative, which, implying cation just commencing:

no change, and coming nearest to no R. I should say, “ the Ayes have decision at all, demanded less conit.” But I suppose you delayed judg- sideration. To avoid a short uneament till another hearing.

siness, I incurred the danger of a C. I did so. Yet this could not long repentance. prevent the question from forcing ito Ř. It were well if decisions, from self upon my thoughts, at the most the same motive, were confined to unseasonable times; and even when matters so insignificant as a Trip to the pressure of occupation made me Paris. But many, I fear, are under forget it, I could not forget that there its influence, in adopting their most was a cause of disquiet awaiting me important and irretrievable ineawhen my business should be finished. sures, such as resolving on a profes

R. I, and I suppose all others, sion, on a marriage, or on plausible have experienced similar feelings. pecuniary speculations. Young men, Suspense, indeed, even on matters of who are the most impatient of disno great moment, is so subversive of quiet, and the least qualified to guide peace, that I have sometimes thought even their internal reasonings to a a wrong decision preferable to a slow conclusion, will fluctuate between one. The former may lose you a several professions, till they become prospective good, but it relieves you hypochondriacal, and make their from a present evil. I have observed, choice at last, not from rational prethat men like you, Carter, of a lively ference, but to get once more a night fancy, and quick association of ideas, of sound refreshing sleep, to which sustain a more uneasy conflict, before they have long been strangers. A coming to a determination, than the friend told me that he deliberated on dull and obtuse. The latter have his marriage, which had many reabefore them only the prominent, or sons for, and many against it, till at least the real alternatives of the the distraction of his mind became case; while the former exhaust the intolerable, and, in the end, forced strength which the act of deciding him to marry, for the cure of a marequires, in balancing, not only reali- lady which the thought of marriage ties, but a thousand imaginary con had created. The match proved rasequences, none of which will pro- ther unfortunate ; but he consoles bably occur. An argument for one himself with the reflection, that of the alternatives, which suggests though he has got a vixen, he has itself to a man of this description, escaped insanity. begets a second, and that a third, till V. The cases you have stated are they accumulate to such a number the most puzzling of any, because as he hopes will easily turn the scale; they generally occur but once in our but when he encounters, in the train, lives; and when we have to resolve an objection to his reasoning, the a question, which is not only difficult, same process of thought is repeated but altogether new, we know not how

to set about it. Courage is learned from a proportional superiority of by practice, and so may decision. mental vigour, and disposes us to To me, for instance, who have tra- resort for aid to him who possesses velled much, Homerton's proposal it. The tear of emotion with which could have occasioned little hesita- we receive any account of high and tion. I should easily have perceived happy decision, such as Wellington's on which side the advantages lay; order for a general charge, at the and Carter, I presume, can, with precise moment when it ought to equal promptness, determine whether have been given, springs from our or not he will undertake some ques. instant perception of the numerous cionable cause, a proposal which, in exalted qualities, which must comsimilar circumstances, would throw bine, like rays in a focus, to produce me into endless perplexity.

this splendid result; and our admiC. To be sure.

What we mustration of a mind so singularly gifted, do every day, we soon do with ease. shews with what facility we would The most arduous of all human du- acquiesce in its powerful and salutary ties is probably that of commander of guidance. a great army, on whose decisions, not C. Yes; and our contempt for only the instant fate of 100,000 men, the reverse. A physician of my acbut even the whole future destinies quaintance has an injudicious and of his country may hinge, for then unfortunate habit of hesitating, in

the presence of his patients, between - on the insect wing of one small moment ride th' eternal will even adopt any proposal of the

different modes of cure. Nay, he Fates.

patient himself, provided it be harmHe must acquire the habit of chu- less ; and, in consequence of this sing, almost without consideration, artless simplicity, and apparent pobetween the hazardous alternatives, verty of resource, though he is : which the unexpected casualties of a man of great professional skill, the battle are momentarily presenting; confidence of his employers has been yet even this habit we see experience withdrawn, and transferred to infeconfer.

rior practitioners, who have address R. He gains it, I suppose, by to disguise their doubts, and who gaining confidence in himself, from are presumed to understand, because repeated success; and by learning they affect a steady and peculiar not to be too curious and minute in opinion both on the case and the his anticipation of consequences.

C. The first of these lessons pro v. I knew two counsellors at duces the last ; for if he knows that Dresden, one of whom was much his extempore decisions have former-employed in arbitration, chiefly bely issued well, he will rest on this cause, from a constitutional impaconscious evidence of his possessing tience of laborious thought, he was that sort of intuitive judgment, of always ready, or rather hasty, to dewhich the reasoning is so rapid as cide; while few applied to the other, not to be perceptible. He trusts that though of higher talents, whose miits effects will continue the same as nute investigation of circumstances before, and is thus relieved from caused a slowness of progress, which much of that anxious toiling of was interpreted into slowness of parts. thought, which is the greatest impe- It is difficult to say, whether decidiment to decision.

sion without talent, or talent withR. Knowledge, we are told, is out decision, be more disadvantapower; and perhaps the same thing geous. inay be said of decision ; for a man,

C. The conduct of these clients in whom the symptoms of this qua- was natural, though proceeding partlity are strong, generally acquires ly from a weakness of their own. great influence over others. Inabili. Men will often compound, by losing ty to resolve is accompanied with a money, or risking injustice, for demortifying consciousness of helpless- liverance from the pressure of susness and imbecility. It is natural pense. for us, therefore, to infer, that unu V. I doubt if this can, with prosual promptness of resolution flows priaty, be called a weakness. Per

cure.

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