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REFLECTIONS ON A NEW YEAR.
-new actors crowd in upon the stage,
with whom our interests and affecOn entering upon another year of tions are again insensibly mingled, our labours, it is natural, and not un- and when we ourselves shall remove wise, to pause a little in our course, from it, we must not imagine that the and to collect a few of those reflections, blank which we occasion, will be at all which the observation of passing years wider or more deeply felt. There is cannot but awaken. Every year, as it something in all this humiliating to leaves us, is bringing us so much our self-estimation,-but it is an nearer the final close of all our years useful lesson, and a sound estimate of upon earth, and when we contemplate life and of ourselves, is much more that termination, not a distant one, valuable than a flattering one. We of pursuits and anxieties which now need not be afraid that it will render seem so important, it is scarcely pos- us either too indifferent in the game sible not to have some feeling of their of life, or too much overwhelmed
with shadowy nature, and to regard them our own insignificance,-human nawith a temper somewhat different ture is so deeply attached to itself and from that which they commonly ex to every thing about it, that it is selcite in us. We cannot but smile, in dom in any great hazard of falling this review, at the fretting and dis- into such an extreme; our enter turbance, which even the most trivial prises," whether “ of great pith and of those cares may have occasioned to moment or no, commonly occupy us ; they are already swallowed up in us too exclusively to be in much danthe abyss of past time, yet we are, ger of being." sicklied o'er with the perhaps, thoughtlessly permitting our- pale cast of thought,”—but if we selves again to be discomposed by thought a little more, there might be circumstances equally insignificant, more wisdom in our aims, and less which will, in their turn, pass away disappointment in their failure. It is with as little influence upon the solid useful to acquire a habit of “ reasonmaterials of our happiness, or from ing thus with life," that we may not which we ourselves shall pass away have our expectations raised too high, still more effectually. We cannot and that we may easily slide along in look back, too, upon any past year, the stream of time, without any obwithout seeing the forms of many structions from cross accidents withwhom we loved and valued, first va- out, or from our own overweening nishing from our sight, and then, bv humours within. degrees, from our imaginations. In It is far, however, from our wish this region of shadows, the human to inculcate an insensibility to the beings, with whom our sentiments of events of life. We wish men to be happiness or of admiration have been as happy as possible amidst the chances most intimately blended, partake of which they may encounter, but by no the same unsubstantial existence with means to be unconcerned or forgetful. Every thing else which occupies us; On the contrary, we think that disas
ter or disappointment, if it affects us sorely wounded in its course. In too much at the time, commonly such a world, it does not become us passes away too soon from our re to go on unthinkingly; one moment collection. We are in a state of may tear up from the roots the most despair, perhaps, for a few days, whe- firmly established systems of human ther it be ocoasioned by the loss of a happiness; and while such things dear friend, or of a thousand pounds, are, thought and sentiment seemn far -by the alarm of a radical mob, or more suited to our condition than by a sarcasm in some ludicrous publi- careless gaiety and forgetfulness. cation, and then we think no more The year which has left us has of our friend or of our fears,-forget been one likewise of much suffering, thắt we have been able to live, even from the distresses of the times. without our money, and that we have Here, too, there has been a disapnot found the jest a death-blow. The pointinent. We too readily looked memory of some of the most insig- to the close of that tremendous war nificant of such adventures, indeed, is which for so many years darkened apt, we fear, to stick longer by us, our prospects, as to the close of every than that of the more weighty and human ill. We almost seemed to think important; little paltry passions are that a millenium was in its progress ; mingled with these ; but our friends but we have had both greater sufferleave us, and we too soon get new ing and alarm, in these days of peace, ones, and our worst alarms and cross than we had to endure during the accidents pass away without either worst periods of the war. At least leaving us grateful for their removal, so we are apt to think at present, for or rendering us wiser again at their re we always reckon the present evil as turn, by the experience that we had the worst. We have had to witness so much overrated them. We do not, the melancholy spectre of poverty however, mean to enter at present into making its gigantic progress through any regular moral discussion. It is our mercantile population, and not enough to exercise that degree of re- having its arrows blunted hy the shield flection, which, in these moments, al- of religion, but rather envenomed, and most every one is prompted to. The made infinitely more destructive, by year which has just gone, like every the poison of infidelity. The bad other before it, will, if we give way to spirit of an unhallowed licentiousness such reflections, tend both to loosen has but too fatally spread around us, an inordinate love of life, ard to ele- -and in order to check it, it has been vate our view to nobler prospects. thought necessary to have recourse to
There are few men in this short such measures as formerly seemed to period who have not had occasion to be justificd, only, by the alarm of a folament over the failure of some of reign enemy, abetting the projects of their most favourite views of happi- the disaffected at home. It is amidst ness. Both in public and private it such impressions, public and private, has contained losses and disappoint- that we have entered upon a new ments to all. We have, in this jour- year, and we can scarcely feel those nal, had occasion to record the deaths joyful sentiments of mutual congraof great and excellent men in the pro- tulation of which that season is comminent positions of rank or of genius. monly so profuse. We see not the These have been public losses, and termination of gloom and apprehenthey are of a kind to which the eyes sion, and we set down our steps inof all are directed. At this moment, securely and with trembling: in our sister island, a general mourn There is sometimes an advantage, ing prevails over the fate of an illus- however, in things reaching their acme. trious and virtuous Lady, the partner It is then commonly observed, that of the representative of majesty. Such they are on the point of change. Evils, an event draws all eyes to regard it, yet indeed, produce their own cure, and valuable wives and mothers have been we are much satisfied of the existence departing around us, likewise, in pri- of that vis medicatrix naturæ, by which vate life,-and many a heart ihat health is restored in the disorders of beat high with hope and joy in the the world. It is true, that these disbeginning of the last year, has been orders often break out to such a de.
gree, as to occasion vast inconvenience, • The Countess Talbot.
and the process of cure goes on through
revolutions, conquests, bloody battles, fringements on the letter of the conmassacres, and every sort of extreme stitution, infringements which, in the surgical operation: we are in hopes, present state of society, can be of no however, ihat our radicalism will pass very lasting nature. away without opening another vein ; There is an immense deal attemptthe bleeding at Manchester, rather, it ed, at least, in the world, at present, is to be apprehended, added to the in- with a view to its improvement,--and flammatory symptoms of the disease. altijough very possibly more may be What we chiefly trust to as the remedy expected from many of these attempts in this case, is the more thorough ac- than they will, in the first instance, quaintance which, in this season of produce, yet they will all do somedistress and suffering, those in the ihing,—and they will all tend to that higher stations of society will form great consummation, in which we with the lower. As fear subsides, think the perfection of society will ulsympathy will increase, and there will timately terminate,—that universal be a greater eagerness to supply, in as sympathy with every thing humanfar as is possible, all the physical and which will render the concerns of moral wants of the poor. That there every man a subject of interest to is something wrong in our institu- every other. The misery and menations for these purposes, is pretty ap- ces of the poor, and the fears and comparent, from the evil being increased passion of the rich, are all at present rather than diminished by their co-operating to this mighty end; they means. Nor is it yet clear how the are showing that a still closer feeling remedy is to be brought about; but and sympathy are required, than can there are vast resources in the human be produced by mere cold calculating mind, when it is brought steadily to schemes of amelioration ; that it is not bear upon any subject, and methods merely the formation of schools, or may be discovered, which even Mr the distribution of Bibles, or new plans Owen has been unable to hit upon. for the maintenance of the poor, or The great thing, as we have said, is any thing which the rich can do by the to bring all the classes of society into contribution of a few guineas, or a few contact, and to make them take a deep hours attendance in public meetings, interest in each other, and this the where they may gratify their own selfpresent state of affairs is doing for us. consequence by making eloquent haThe lower classes, in particular, have rangues,—that will do the great busibeen laid open and exhibited, as a ness of humanity. These are the mere subject in an anatomical school, for scaffoldings in the grand Christian the inspection of the higher: they fabric of society, the foundation-stone, have seen them in their ignorance of which was laid in sacrED BLOOD, and in their knowledge, in their tur- eighteen hundred years ago, which bulence, and in their patience, in has since been gradually rearing in their piety, and in their infidelity: the general heart and affections of man, The spectacle has been terrible and and is ever more visibly coming into alarming, no less than affecting, and view from amid the rubbish of vulgar in both ways, it will operate, we institutions. Man must grapple firmly trust, to good. Legislators and the with man, before this mighty work higher classes will be made to feel, can be accomplisheil : the tower which that even the less reasonable demands is to be raised to Heaven inust be built of the lower are not entirely to be ne- by workinen who are all of one moglected!,- that in their utmost extra- ral language, and of one sympathietic Fagancies, it is still human nature that mind; contusion, and babbling, and is at work, and that none of the work- ignorance of one another's sentiments ings of a nature, which is conmon to and designs, are fitted only to the us all, are to be met without some de- builders of those rule and inartifigree of sympathy. Extravagant de- cial fabrics which have no Divine armands will be silenced by reasonable chirect to conduct their progress, concessions ;-even our ministers are We may be asked, perhaps, do we now become Parliamentary reformers really then expect this perfection of in their way,—every thing must have society in the present world, as what a beginning, and it is in such begin- is ever likely to be realized ? We nings that we rather ground our hopes cannot pretend to predict what will for the future, than permit our fears be actually attained, because we have to be awakened by any supposed in- no complete view of the plans of Di
vine Providence throughout; we see disement,they must, In a word, know a little in our own day, and we con- much more of human nature, and enter nect what we see with the history of more thoroughlyinto all its sentiments, former ages, however obscurely and —and love it much more, not as it apimperfectly, that in most instances pears in themselves, and in their own may be handed down to us. What retired conceit,,but as it is reflected we see is the progress rather than the from every heart, and as it burns from beginning or the end, and we cannot bosom to bosom. We have no fanspeak very distinctly of the begin- tastic conceptions of a sudden perfectining, nor very confidently of the end. bility, but we see a possibility in men But it is a noble thing to catch the stepping more and more out of themprogress, and, in fact, the highest selves and their narrow spheres; and wisdom that man can show, and what on the realization of such a possibilimay well call forth his most enlight- ty, we see in man no longer the conened efforts, is, in every age, as hu- tracted being of corrupt Nature, but man nature proceeds, to fix the points the expanding soul which is touched of progress, and to make those efforts by the fire of a higher and purer inbear upon them.
stitution. The point to which the present age The present state of this country seems to have reached is, that human gives, as we have already hinted, nature is coming out more visibly no slight facilities for this result. from its adventitious distinctions: The circumstances of the lower orthat it is not now as princes, or no- ders are forced upon the attention of bles, or citizens or peasants, that we the higher, to a degree which never class men in our imaginations, at all equally took place, and the contemto the degree, at least, that formerly plation must be attended, we believe, was customary: we are rather disposed with an increase of hearty and symto look upon all simply as men, and al- pathetic humanity. Is it not evithough there is not yet that charm in dent how much the character of the the word humanity which we think higher orders will be improved, in will one day be attached to it, yet the consequence,—both their moral and progress seems to be going on to that intellectual character? If they see with point. The French Revolution, and their own eyes, and come into conthe quantity of wild yet shrewd per- tact with distresses which their exerceptions which accompanied it, gave tions can to a very considerable extent a very rude shock to many of the old remove, will they not abate somewhat prejudices of society which they will of their thoughiless dissipation, and never recover: we do not know that feel that the real happiness of their any thing better has yet come in their nature is to be found in moral and room, but we think we can see the ten- beneficent occupation ? And what a dency to improvement. The only strong field is there opened for the noblest aristocracy at present is that of talent, efforts of legislative intelligence, in all and that we are not disposed to admire, those questions respecting the support in itself, more than any other, for it is and the education of the people, which as proud, and supercilious, and selfish are now agitating in the nation ! as any. Its only advantages are, that it As to the people, and their extravais a lottery in which all men may gancies of disaffection, these are best have nearly an equal chance of drawing to be cured by a feeling that they are -that it is a part of man and not of not neglected; and they will feel this his condition, and that the efforts of more and more, the more that they talent must in the long-run benefit become the objects, not only of legisa the species. It may mislead in indi- lative care, but of the general sympavidual instances, but misdirected ta- thy of the orders above them. Murh, lent is encountered by such as is well too, is to be done by the progress of directed. This, then, is a great point sound religion, of which, perhaps, we in the progress; the next grand point have more of the scaffolding, at premust be the overthrow of selfish tastes, sent, among us, than of the solid buildand private vanities. Men must love ing. Without this holy principle, knowledge for itself, and its uses, and indeed, actuating the whole frame of not for display,--they must love acti- society, nothing will go on well or vity for the good of their fellow crea- steadily to good ;-all ranks are called tures, and not for their own aggrana devoutly to imbibe it, as what alone