The Young Lady's Mentor eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 263 pages of information about The Young Lady's Mentor.

It is peculiarly desirable, at this particular juncture of time, that this subject be insisted upon.  Man, naturally a social and gregarious animal, becomes every day more so.  The vast undertakings, the mighty movements of the present day, which can only be carried into operation by the combined energy of many wills, tend to destroy individuality of thought and action, and the consciousness of individual responsibility.  The dramatist complains of this fact, as it affects his art, the representation of surface,—­the moralist has greater cause to complain of it, as affecting the foundation of character.  If it be true that we must not follow a multitude to do evil, it is equally true that we must not follow a multitude even to do good, if it involve the neglect of our own peculiar duties.  Our first, most peremptory, and most urgent duty, is, the improvement of our own character; so that public beneficence may not be neutralized by private selfishness,—­public energy by private remissness,—­that the applause of the world may not be bought at the expense of private and domestic wretchedness.  So frequent and so lamentable are the proofs of human weakness in this respect, that we are sometimes tempted to believe the opinion of the cold and sneering skeptic,[112] that the two ruling passions of men are the love of pleasure and the love of action; and that all their seemingly good deeds proceed from these principles.  It is not so:  it is a libel on human nature:  men,—­even erring men,—­have better motives, and higher aims:  but they mistake the nature of their duties and invert their order; what should be “first is last, and the last first.”

It may be wisely urged, that if men waited for the perfecting of individual character, before they joined their fellow men in those great undertakings which are to insure benefit to the race, nothing would ever be accomplished, and society would languish in a state of passive inertness.  It is far from necessarily following that attention to private should interfere with attention to public interests; and public interests are more advanced or retarded than it is possible to believe, by the personal characters of their agitators.  It is difficult to get the worldly and the selfish to see this, but it is, nevertheless, true; and there is no wisdom, political or moral, in the phrase, “Measures, not men.”  Measures, wise and just in themselves, are received with distrust and suspicion, because the characters of their originators are liable to distrust and suspicion.  Lord Chesterfield, the great master of deception, was forced to pay truth the compliment of declaring, that “the most successful diplomatist would be a man perfectly honest and upright, who should, at all times, and in all circumstances, say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  So the rulers of nations ought to be perfectly honest and upright; not because such men would be free from error, but because the faith of the governed in their honour would obviate

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The Young Lady's Mentor from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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