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nocent, but laudable; as if mirth was made for repro. bates, and cheerfulness of heart denied those who are the only persons that have a proper title to it.
Sombrius is one of these sons of sorrow. He thinks himself obliged in duty to be sad and disconsolate. He looks on a sudden fit of laughter as a breach of his baptismal vow. An innocent jest startles him like blasphemy. Tell him of one who is advanced to a title of honour, he lifts op his hands and eyes; describe a public ceremony, he shakes his head; show him a gay equipage, he blesses himself. All the little orna. ments of life are pomps and vanities. Mirth is wan. ton, and wit profane. He is scandalized at youth for being lively, and at childhood for being playful. He sits at a christening, or a marriage-feast, as at a funeral; sighs at the conclusion of a merry story, and grows devout when the rest of the company grow pleasant. After all Sombrius is a religious man, and would bave behaved himself very properly, had he lived when Christianity was under a general persecution.
I would by no means presume to tax such characters with bypocrisy, as is done too frequently; that being a vice which I think none but he, who knows the secrets of men's hearts, should pretend to discover in another, where the proofs of it do not amount to a demonstration. On the coutrary, as there are many excellent persons, who are weighed down by this ha. bitual sorrow of heart, they rather deserve our com. passion than our reproaches. I thiuk, however, they would do well to consider whether such a behaviour does not deter men from a religious life, by represent. ing it as an upsociable state, that extinguishes all joy and gladness, darkens the face of nature, and destroys the relish of being itself.
I have, in former papers, shown how great a tendency there is to cheerfulness in religion, and how such a frame of mind is not only the most lovely, but VOL. II.
the most commendable in a virtuous person. In short, those who represeut religion in so unamiable a light, are like the spies, sept by Moses to make a discovery of the Land of Promise, when by their reports they discouraged the people from entering upon it. Those who show us the joy, the cheerfulness, the good-humour, that naturally spring up in this happy state, are like the spies bringing along with them the clusters of grapes, and delicious fruits, that might invite their companions into the pleasant country which produced them.
An eminent pagan writer bas made a discourse, to show that the atheist, who depies a God, does bim less dishonour than the man who owns his being, but at the same time believes bim to be cruel, hard to please, and terrible to buman nature. For my own part, says he, I would rather it should be said of me, that there was never any such man as Plutarch, than that Plutarch was ill-natured, capricious, or inboman.
If we may believe our logicians, man is distinguish. ed from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter. He bas a heart capable of mirth, and naturally disposed to it. It is not the business of virtue to extirpate the affections of the mind, but to regulate them. It may moderate and restrain, but was not designed to banish gladness from the heart of man. Religion con. tracts the circle of our pleasures, but leaves it wide enongh for her votaries to expatiate in. The contem. plation of the Divine Being, and the exercise of virtue, are in their own nature so far from excluding all glad. ness of heart, that they are perpetual sources of it. In a woril, the true spirit of religion cheers as well as composes the soul; it banishes indeed all levity of be. haviour, all vicious and dissolute mirth, but in ex. change fills the mind with a perpetual serenity, unin. terrupted cheertulness, and an habitual inclination to please others, as well as to be pleased in itself.
AN HEROIC WOMAN.
I KNOW not, whether Madam de Villacerfe’s depar;
ture out of this life, a man of philosophy will call unfortunate or not, since it was attended with some circumstances as much to be desired as to be lamented. She was her whole life happy in an uninterrupted health, and was always honoured for an evenness of temper and greatness of mind. That lady was taken with an indisposition which confined her to her chamber; but was such as was too slight to make ber take a sick bed, and yet too grievous to admit of any satisfaction in being out of it. It is uotoriously known, that, some years ago, Monsieur Festeau, one of the most considerable surgeons in Paris, was desperately in love with this lady: her quality placed her above any application to ber on the account of his passion; but, as a woman always has some regard to the per. son whom she believes to be her real admirer, she now took it in her head (upon advice of her physicians to lose some of her blood) to send for Monsieur Festeau on that occasion. I happened to be there at that time, and my near relation gave me the privilege to be present. As soon as her arm was stripped bare, and be began to press it in order to raise the vein, his colour changed, and I observed bim seized with a sudden tremor, which made me take the liberty to speak of it to my cousin with some apprebension: she smiled, and said, she knew Mr. Testeau had no inclination to do ber injury. He seemed to recover himself, and, smiling also, proceeded in his work. Immediately after the operation he cried out, that he was the most unfortunate of all men, for that he had opened an artery instead of a vein. It is as impossible to express the artist's distraction as the patient's composure. I will not dwell on little circumstances, but go on to inform you, that within three days tiine it was thought necessary to take off her arm. She was so far from using Festeau as it would be natural to one of a lower spirit to treat him, that she would not let him be absent from any concultation about her present condi. tion, and on every occasion asked whether he was satisfied in the measures that were taken about her. Before this last operation sbe ordered her will to be drawn, and, after having been about a quarter of an hour alone, she bid the surgeons, of whom pour Festeau was one, go on in their work. I know not how to give the terms of art; but there appeared such symptoms after the amputation of her arm, that it was visible she could not live four-and-twenty hours. Her behaviour was so magnanimous throughout this whole affair, that I was particularly curious in taking notice of wbat passed, as her fate approached nearer and nearer, and took notes of what she said to all about her, particularly word for word what she spoke to Mr. Festeau, which was as follows:
“Sir, you give me inexpressible sorrow for the anguish with which I see you overwhelmed. I am removed to all intents and purposes from the interests of human life, therefore I am to begin to think like one wholly unconcerned in it. I do not consider you as ove by whose error I have lost my life; no, you are my benefactor, as you have hastened my entrance into an happy immortality. This is my sense of this accident; but the world in which you live may have thoughts of it to your disadvantage: I have therefore taken care to provide for you in my will, and have placed you above what you have to fear from their illa nature.”
While this excellent woman spoke these words, Festeau looked as if he received a condemnation to die, instead of a pension for his life. Madam de Vil. lacerfe lived till eight of the clock next night; and, though she must have laboured under the most exqui. site torments, she possessed her mind with so wonderful a patience, that one may rather say she ceased to breathe than she died at that hour. You who had not the bappiness to be personally known to this lady have nothing but to rejoice in the honour you bad of being related to so great merit; but we who have lost her conversation cannot so easily resign our own happiness by reflection upon hers.
There hardly can be a greater instance of an heroic mind, than the unprejndiced manner in which this lowly weigbed this mistortune. The regard of life itself could not make her overlook the contrition of the unhappy man, whose more than ordinary concern for her was all his guilt. It would certainly be of singu. lar use to human society to have an exact account of this lady's ordinary conduct, which was crowned by so uncommon magnanimity. Such greatness was not to be acquired in the last article, nor is it to be doubt. ed but it was a constant practice of all that is praiseworthy, which made her capable of beholding death, uot as the dissolution, but the consummation of her life.