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ART. II.-The Poor Rich Man and the Rich Poor Man. By the author of "Hope Leslie," &c. New York: 1836.
The gifted authoress of the above little book has conferred no small favour upon the community in which she lives, by its publication. Her former, more ambitious productions have abundantly testified her capacity for what are falsely considered the higher walks of fictitious composition. That she can charm the imagination and please the fancy, has been manifested by her efforts in the path of novel writing; an art which now-a-days seldom aspires to, or is at least successful in answering more than these purposes. To do practical goodto make the rising generation wiser or better-or to conduce to the amelioration of the lot of suffering humanity-is above and beyond the aim of the novelist. To originate and effectuate such an object, an ardent love of one's kind must be implanted in the heart of the writer, and, what is equally important, there must co-exist with it, a knowledge of the proper mode of putting it into practice.
One chief reason of the growing distaste of the reflecting and judicious for works of mere fancy, arises from their total inefficiency for any good; not to mention the positively bad results attendant upon the reading of very many of these productions, from the circumstance of their ministering to the worst passions of the human breast. They originate no virtuous feelingthey lead to no self-examination, no conviction of one's own worthlessness-no desire to improve either the physical or moral condition of one's neighbour: on the contrary, they pamper a sickly appetite for excitement never conducive to action; they nourish a profitless sentimentality as foreign from true benevolence or charity as cruelty itself; they feed a spirit of false honour destructive of the repose of society. They are suited, generally, to the atmosphere of the so-called higher classes, and upon them they work no beneficial effect. The humbler citizens, the labouring poor, who constitute the mass of our population, and whose children may one day occupy the places of their now wealthy neighbours, are beneath the notice of these ambitious writers. For these they take not up the pen-they strive not to lessen the load which they must bear through life, or to present a loftier aim for their struggles. They offer no consolations that may impart to their state an unction of which it is fully capable, and which their prouder brethren might sigh for in vain.
ar otherwise has Miss Sedgwick been impelled in preparing the simple and touching scenes before us. She seems to have become sensible of higher claims upon one of her talents than
merely to furnish the amusement of an idle hour-claims which the condition of our country is every day rendering more imperative upon those gifted with the brighter endowments of nature-an attention to which, too, seems of the more value as the instances of it are so rare.
We have elsewhere remarked upon the character of the literature of our country; for the most part, how ephemeral and superficial! and have endeavoured to attract attention to the necessity of rendering it as pure and beneficial as possible. Apart from newspapers, many of which are little circulating libraries, scattering through the country injurious trash at an almost incredibly cheap rate, the current literature of the day appears in the shape of weekly or semi-monthly journals, containing the reprint of novels, or other light material, from the British press; sometimes, it may be, the pestilent progeny of French romancers. If even a better supply is found in voyages, travels, or biographies, and works on science or politics-upon the numerous class of persons we before referred to, these confer no benefit. They leave their hearts and feelings untouched, and their heads as really vacant as before-for the superficial information these works may impart is worse than entire ignorance upon such subjects. There must be system-a commencement from the foundation-in education as in every thing else, to ensure success; and ideas picked up in a desultory way, without examination and without reflection, can answer no good purpose, and in all probability will be conducive to a bad one.
Reading forms an essential part of education-in our country, especially, is the remark correct, and will continue to be so. Every effort should be made, therefore, to render the class of reading-books for the people inviting, and at the same time wholesome. As there is no time for extended investigations into any branch, either of science, literature, or art, in a land where the great mass of the population are called upon to secure their own bread by their own labours, it is of infinitely more importance to promote the growth of correct moral and religious principles which will serve as a guide through all the devious paths of after life, than to sprinkle a little science or belles lettres among those whose totally diverse pursuits will ever render more than a mere smattering upon such topics entirely out of the question. To disseminate superficial views of politics, manners, science, or the fine arts, is not to educate the people-to teach them their duties to themselves, their families, their neighbours, to society, and to their God, is eminently The first is a labour, which, like the sickly and untimely fruit of the tree, will yield but disappointment and sorrow: the latter will produce an increase here, imparting both nourishment
and joy, and continuing to bloom and flourish even through the ages of eternity.
A full appreciation by the poorer and humbler classes (we of course use this latter term in no invidious sense) of their proper station in the social economy, their responsibilities and advantages, is what is needed. In them a spirit of contentment, not of ambition, should be fostered. The Creator has given to such, sources of enjoyment peculiar to their condition, which others, in their different spheres, know not of. But to realize these blessings, virtue must settle upon the hearth of him who receives but the frowns of fortune. In such case it is his to be free from the corroding cares of ambition and rivalry-the aching head and the feverish hand-his to press his pillow with a mind at ease, and to rise with thankfulness for a night's repose to eat his scanty, it may be, but wholesome food, with a grateful heart, and a readiness to share his little portion with any commended by honesty and misfortune even to his limited charity.
Blessed with such feelings, and governed by such motives, even worldly advantages-if these should enter the mind of him we have described-would, in the end, be surely attained. Honest industry, strict integrity, and Christian charity, would not come short of their reward in our land; and the deserving father would see his children enjoying those means of extended usefulness which he was denied in his youth, and which they, fortified with religious principles, will know so well how to use.
To show, in the words of Scripture, that "there is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches;" and to inculcate the true principles by which the goods of this life are to be estimated, and our conduct regulated, is the aim of Miss Sedgwick in this little work, and she has most fully succeeded to the permanent increase of her own reputation, and, we trust, the good of her species. She has adopted, as the means for this excellent purpose, a very simple story, in which apposite reflections are naturally intermingled with the incidents; and the whole expressed in phraseology perfectly adapted to the sphere of those for whose benefit the book is intended. Two individuals are selected to illustrate her views, (who may be considered as the principals in her little tale, as they ultimately form the married couple,) educated in the country, of humble parentage, and blessed with early religious instruction. It is this last which carries them triumphantly through all their temptations. An interesting example of the success of equal virtue under trials of a different, probably of a severer, description, is offered in the person of another young girl whom accident had disabled in infancy, and
who was doomed to pass through a lengthened life, a cripple. The pair we have alluded to exemplify the success of honest industry, pious integrity, and unaffected benevolence: the poor invalid illustrates the triumph of Christianity in all its length and breadth-for in her it shone forth in all its beauty-over penury, disease, and depression-the blighting of almost every human feeling. The contrasts are equally well sketched. The vanity of mere riches in the hands of an unworthy possessor; the real poverty which is the lot of such an one in the midst of his gold; the want of refinement of gratitude-of religion-of peace of mind-of contentment; the cares and disappointments which accompany the ambition of fashion, as well as that of power, the littleness of the seeming great: these are depicted in a familiar but striking manner, and with a simplicity and adherence to nature which apply them at once to the heart.
We think that the author has been rather indulgent to the father of the two heroines, "Uncle Phil," as he was familiarly called; his careless good-nature amounting to culpable negligence, and having been productive of the most disastrous consequences. His heart, however, was so good as almost to disarm resentment, even at such results. We will introduce him to the notice of the reader in an extract which, at the same time, will make him acquainted with the two daughters who play the chief part in the little story.
"But, before they arrived at this stage in the journey of life, both good and evil had chanced to them. Their first-born, Ellen, ran into an open cistern, the surface of which was just on a level with the platform before the house so it had remained a year after the active child began to run about; and, to its mother's reiterated requests and warnings, Philip always answered Now that's just what I am going about next week. When his only child was drowned in this seeming water-trap was certainly no time to reproach Philip, and he who never reproached any one could not be expected to make himself an exception. He merely said, 'It was a wonderful providence Ellen was drowned that day, for the very next he calculated to put a kerb to the cistern-but it was meant so to behe always felt Ellen was not long for this world! Their next child was our friend Charlotte; and she, like her drowned sister, was born with one of the best mortal gifts-a sound constitution, which, watched over by her wise and vigilant mother, promised a long life of physical comfort. But these prospects were sadly reversed when her father, having one day taken her out in his wagon, left her holding the reins 'while he just stepped to speak to a neighbour.' While he was speaking, the horse took fright, Charlotte was thrown out, and received an injury that embittered her whole life. Philip was really grieved by this accident. He said, 'It seemed somehow as if it was so to be, for he had no thought of taking Charlotte out that day till he met her in his way.'
"His next mishap was the burning of his work-shop, in which, on one gusty day, he left a blazing fire. A consequence so natural seemed very strange to Uncle Phil, who said 'It was most onaccountable, for he had often left it just so, and it had never burned up before! This incident gave a new turn to Philip's life. He abandoned his trade, and really
loving, or, as he said, 'aiming' to suit every body, he was glad to be rid of incessant complaints of want of punctuality, bad materials, and bad work, and became, what most imbeciles become sooner or later, a Jack at all trades. In a community like that at Essex, where labourers in every department are few, and work plenty, even the universal Jack need not starve; and Uncle Phil, if unskilful and slack, was always good-natured, and seldom so much engrossed by one employment that he could not leave it for another. But, though rather an unprofitable labourer, Uncle Phil had no vices. He was temperate and frugal in his habits, and a striking illustration of how far these virtues alone will sustain a man, even in worldly matters. His small supplies were so well managed by his wife, that no want was felt by his family during her life. That valuable life was prematurely ended. Soon after the birth of her last baby, Uncle Phil was called up in the night by some cattle having entered his garden through his rickety fence. His bed-room door opened upon the yard; he left it open; it was a damp, chilling night. Mrs. May, being her own nurse, had fallen asleep exhausted. She awoke in an ague that proved the prelude to a fatal illness; and Uncle Phil, being no curious tracer of effects to causes, took no note of the open door, and the damp night, and replied to the condolence of his friends, that 'Miss May was too good a wife for him-the only wonder was Providence had spared her so long.' More gifted people than honest Uncle Phil deposit quietly at the door of Providence the natural consequences of their own carelessness.
"The baby soon followed its mother, and Philip May was left with but two children-Charlotte, at the time of her mother's death, thirteen, and Susan, nine. They had been so far admirably trained by their mother, and were imbued with her character, seeming only to resemble their father in hearts running over with the milk of human kindness, unless Susan's all-conquering cheerfulness was derived from her father's everacquiescing patience. His was a passive virtue-hers an active principle. If any one unacquainted with the condition of life in New England should imagine that the Mays had suffered the evils of real poverty, they must allow us to set them right. In all our wide-spread country there is very little necessary poverty. In New England none that is not the result of vice or disease. If the moral and physical laws of the Creator were obeyed, the first of these causes would be at an end, and the second would scarcely exist. Industry and frugality are wonderful multipliers of small means. Philip May brought in but little, but that little was well administered. His house was clean-his garden productive, (the girls kept it weeded,)-his furniture carefully preserved-his family comfortably clad, and his girls schooled. No wonder Uncle Phil never dreamed he was a poor man!" pp. 19-22.
It was to endeavour to procure, if possible, some remedy for the injury sustained by Charlotte, alluded to in the above extract, that a journey was undertaken to New York in order to consult an eminent physician of that city. The difficulty of procuring money sufficient for this object was extreme; and this difficulty was the occasion for the display of unusual generosity on the part of a play-fellow, a fine boy, named Harry
1 "We have heard a gentleman, who, in virtue of the office he holds as minister at large, is devoted to succouring the poor, state, that even in this city, (New York,) he had known very few cases of suffering from poverty that might not be traced directly or indirectly to vice."