ePub 版

necessity which is imposed without appeal on the vast majority of their brethren.

But, if it is desirable that every man should have some regular and stated occupation, so it is certainly not less desirable, that every man should have his seasons of relaxation and leisure. Unhappy is the wretch, whose condition it is to be perpetually bound to the oar, and who is condemned to labour, in one certain mode, during all the hours that are not claimed by sleep, or as long as the muscles of his frame, or the fibres of his fingers will enable him to persevere. “Apollo himself,” says the poet, “does not always bend the bow." There should be a season, when the mind is free as air, when not only we should follow without restraint any train of thinking or action, within the bounds of sobriety, and that is not attended with injury to others, that our own minds may suggest to us, but should sacrifice at the shrine of intellectual liberty, and spread our wings, and take our flight into untried regions. It is good for man that he should feel bimself at some time unshackled and autocratical, that he should say, This I do, because it is prescribed to me by the conditions without which I cannot exist, or by the election which in past time I deliberately made ; and this, because it is dictated by the present frame of my spirit, and is therefore that in which the powers my nature has entailed upon me may be most fully manifested. In addition to which we are to consider, that a certain va

riety and mutation of employments is best adapted to humanity. When my mind or my body seems to be overwrought by one species of occupation, the substitution of another will often impart to me new life, and make me feel as fresh as if no labour had before engaged me. For all these reasons it is to be desired, that we should possess the inestimable privilege of leisure, that in the revolving hours of every day a period should arrive, at which we should lay down the weapons of our labour, and engage

in a sport that may be no less active and strenuous than the occupation which preceded it.

A question, which deserves our attention in this place, is, how much of every day it behoves us to give to regular and stated occupation, and how much is the just and legitimate province of leisure. It has been remarked in a preceding Essay, that, if my main and leading pursuit is literary composition, two or three hours in the twenty-four will often be as much as can advantageously and effectually be so employed. But this will unavoidably vary according to the nature of the occupation: the period above named


be taken as the minimum. Such, let us say, is the portion of time which the man of letters is called on to devote to literary composition.

It may next be fitting to enquire as to the humbler classes of society, and those persons who are engaged in the labour of the hands, how much time

* See above, p. 130.

they ought to be expected to consume in their regular and stated occupations, and how much would remain to them for relaxation and leisure. It has been said, that half an hour in the day given by every member of the community to manual labour, might be sufficient for supplying the whole with the absolute necessaries of life. But there are various considerations that would inevitably lengthen this period. In a community which has made any considerable advance in the race of civilisation, many individuals must be expected to be excused from any portion of manual labour. It is not desirable that any community should be contented to supply itself with necessaries only. There are many refinements in life, and many advances in literature and the arts, which indispensibly conduce to the rendering man in society a nobler and more exalted creature than he could otherwise be ; and these ought not to be consigned to neglect.

On the other hand however it is certain, that much of the ostentation and a multitude of the luxuries which subsist in European and Asiatic society are just topics of regret, and that, if ever those improvements in civilisation take place which philosophy has essayed to delineate, there would be a great abridgment of the manual labour that we now see around us, and the humbler classes of the community would enter into the inheritance of a more

• Political Justice, Book VIII, Chap. VI.

considerable portion of leisure than at present falls to their lot.

But it has been much the habit, for persons not belonging to the humbler classes of the community, and who profess to speculate upon the genuine interests of human society, to suppose, however certain intervals of leisure may conduce to the benefit of men whose tastes have been cultivated and refined, and who from education have many resources of literature and reflection at all times at their beck, yet that leisure might prove rather pernicious than otherwise to the uneducated and the ignorant. Let us enquire then how these persons would be likely to employ the remainder of their time, if they had a greater portion of leisure than they at present enjoy.--I would add, that the individuals of the humbler classes of the community need not for ever to merit the appellation of the uneducated and ignorant.

In the first place, they would engage, like the schoolboy, in active sports, thereby giving to their limbs, which, in rural occupation and mechanical labour, are somewhat too monotonously employed, and contract the stiffness and experience the waste of a premature old age, the activity and freedom of an athlete, a cricketer, or a hunter. Nor do these occupations only conduce to the health of the body, they also impart a spirit and a juvenile earnestness to the mind.

In the next place, they may be expected to de

vote a part of the day, more than they do at present, to their wives and families, cultivating the domestic affections, watching the expanding bodies and minds of their children, leading them on in the road of improvement, warning them against the perils with which they are surrounded, and observing with somewhat of a more jealous and parental care, what it is for which hy their individual qualities they are best adapted, and in what particular walk of life they may most advantageously be en

ged. The father and the son would grow in a much greater degree friends, anticipating each other's wishes, and sympathising in each other's pleasures and pains.

Thirdly, one infallible consequence of a greater degree of leisure in the lower classes would be that reading would become a more common propensity and amusement. It is the aphorism of one of the most enlightened of my contemporaries, “The schoolmaster is abroad:” and many more than at present would desire to store up in their little hoard a certain portion of the general improvement. We should no longer have occasion to say,

But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,

Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unrol. Nor should we be incited to fear that ever wakeful anticipation of the illiberal, that, by the too great diffusion of the wisdom of the wise, we might cease to have a race of men adapted to the ordinary pursuits of life. Our ploughmen and artificers, who

« 上一頁繼續 »