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for their masters, they fill up their time by filling up the stomach.”
Uncle," said Frank,“ do you think such a thing ever really happens as for a person to have nothing to do?
“No, Frank, indeed I do not; it is quite an imaginary evil. The consequences resulting, however, are sufficiently real and mischievous. '
“Your friend, uncle, in the Welsh cottage”
“ True, Samuel ; he was placed in circumstances unfriendly to activity ; but the energy of his mind overcame them, and he found something to do. The circumstances of the Greenwich pensioners are not favourable to activity ; but you have seen that they are not uncontrollable. Some of the men yield to them, and are indolent and discontented; others rise above them, and are active and happy."
Uncle,” said Frank, “I know you in general object to our making remarks on absent persons ; but since we have been talking on this subject, I have so often thought of captain Tankerville, that I cannot help asking you whether you do not think that his being so discontented and tiresome is owing to his having nothing to do?"
Yes, Frank, indeed I do; the very best cure that I can think of for all his troubles would be the obligation to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow; and I have more than once told him as much.
I do not like to make unfavourable remarks on the absent ; but when a person so glaringly and constantly displays the defects of his character, it is but just that those who are exposed to danger by his example should be
guarded against it, by being told that it is evil. The captain is a miserable man, and makes every body around him uncomfortable, simply because he is idle and useless. Happiness cannot live within the atmosphere of idleness. All the affairs of the idle go to ruin and decay; and even if they are so peculiarly circumstanced, as to have all their wants abundantly provided for, and their property taken care of for them, they become themselves a prey to lassitude and ennui. Only attach the idea of idleness to any character you can imagine, and you directly pronounce it contemptible and wretched. An idle servanthis work becomes a drudgery, it is continually left in arrears and confusion, altogether neglected, or imperfectly finished. He is ever in disgrace, and likely soon to be in destitution; he is a burden to himself, and a nuisance to all around him. *As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him,' Prov. x. 26. An idle mechanic—he undertakes to get work done by a certain time; but he lounges in bed, or he fritters away his time, sauntering here and there with his hands in his pockets, gaping idly after a fiddler in the street, or dropping asleep over his employment. Look at the vacant, wretched expression of his countenance ; and
you will soon see that he is not happy. Discontented with himself, and all about him, he is going fast to prove that ‘drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags,' and that ‘an idle soul shall suffer hunger.' An idle scholar---you, my lads, are not idle scholars; but you know some who are. Cannot you fancy them, while professedly learning their lessons, shulling the sand about with their
feet, twirling the corner of their pocket handkerchief, catching flies in the window, or making dog's ears in their books ? and do not you always see those boys at the bottom of the class, wearing every badge of disgrace; the first rules in their grammar worn out with dirty thumbing ; and the figures on their slates blotted out with tears? These boys are any thing but happy, any thing but improving. An idle philosopher - no, that cannot be ; it is a contradiction in terms ; a philosopher is a lover of wisdom, and he who loves wisdom, must and will apply himself diligently to attain it; he cannot at any rate be idle. An idle Christian-surely this can never be: a Christian, a follower of Christ, who rose a great while before day, and laboured so diligently that he had not leisure so much as to eat, and whose satisfaction it was to say, 'I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do!' Surely if an idle man bear the name of Christian, he gives us reason to fear that he bears it unworthily; and certain I am, that he must be a stranger to pious enjoyment, for that belongs only to the diligent Christian. An idle minister-I once knew such a one; and with all his sad defects, I hope and believe his heart was sincere. He might have been, had he improved his talents and opportunities of usefulness, a burning and a shining light, approved of God, and a blessing to men; but he gave way to an indolent, inactive disposition. It grew upon him; and he became too indolent to study, or preach, or visit his flock; he was a burden to himself and all around him; he sunk into a state of religious melancholy. The last time I saw him, he wished to borrow books suitable to his case ;
and was eager to purchase, at any price, the excellent but heavy treatises of the seventeenth century, bearing on the subject of spiritual depression. Whether or not he read them, is another question. I endeavoured in vain to persuade him to form some plan of pious activity, and begged him to labour to be useful to others; for I thought it much more likely that the demon of gloom would be charmed away by diligent and benevolent labour, than driven away by studying symptoms, and applying set rules. He said it was in vain for him to attempt to labour for others; he must give his whole time and attention to seeking comfort for himself. He lamented that he had uselessly taken up the room that belonged to a better man; he was conscious of the injury his people had sustained through his indolence, and would endeavour to rectify it by engaging a more active brother to take charge of his professional duties; and by giving a large portion of his property to found schools : but to personal effort he could not be roused. He soon afterwards sunk into a state of lethargy, and was carried off by apoplexy. I have always cherished the hope that disease in some measure was the occasion of his extreme indolence; but it is hard to say whether indolence was not rather the occasion of disease, as in many cases it certainly is. My boys, if you wish to be healthy and happy, cultivate betimes such habits of conscientious activity, as will secure to you, in whatever circumstances you may be placed, something to do, and pleasure in doing it.”
The bustle of the streets put an end to our conversation ; but before the subject of it had quite
passed away from our minds, my uncle mentioned to us two facts which I thought interesting and instructive. One was of a lady of large fortune, who was always in ill-health, and suffering from depression of spirits, for which she could assign no reason ; being surrounded with every thing that heart could wish, soothed with the utmost tenderness by an indulgent and devoted husband and a circle of affectionate friends, and having at full command the use of every means of health that medical skill could devise. But she derived no benefit from any thing that was tried ; indeed she became so extremely weak that she was unable, not only to do a mother's part by her children, but even to bear the sound of their voices or their footsteps. It was expected that she must shortly sink into the grave. At this time, some sudden calamity occurred, by which the family was plunged from affluence to destitution. The shock, it was concluded, must prove fatal to the poor lady. To the surprise of all her friends, she bore it with calmness, and even discovered a degree of energy unknown before. The splendid mansion in
square was given up, the numerous establishment scattered, and the family removed to a small farm in the country, the sole remnant of their vast property. There, with the assistance of only one servant, it became necessary for every member of the family to exert themselves ; and habit soon rendered exertion easy ; air and exercise proved the best physicians; and in the course of a few years, the malade imaginaire became a healthy, cheerful, busy, farm-house wife and mother; and she, and all belonging to her,