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I was walking with some friends in a retired part of the country. It had rained for fourteen days before, and I believe it rained then ; but there was a belief among the ladies of that country, that it is better to walk in all weather. The lane was wide enough to pass in file, with chilly droppings from the boughs above, and rude reaction of the briers beneath. The clay upon our shoes showed a troublesome affinity to the clay upon the road. Umbrellas we could not hold up, because of the wind. But it was better to walk than stay at home, so at least my companions assured me, for exercise and an appetite. After pursuing them, with hopeless assiduity, for more than a mile, without sight of egress or sign of termination; finding I had already enough of the one, and doubting how far the other might be offf; I lagged behind, and began to think how I might amuse myself till their return. By one of those fortunate incidents, which, they tell me, never happen to anybody but the Listener, I heard the sound of voices over the hedge. This was delightful. In resuming my proper occupation, I forgot both mud and rain, exercise and appetite. The hedge was too thick to see through, and all that appeared above it was a low chimney, from which I concluded it concealed a cottage garden. “What in the name of wonder, James, can you be doing ?” said a voice,
significant of neither youth nor gentleness. 66 1 war’nt ye I know what I'm about,” said another, more rudely than unkindly. “ I'm not sure of that,” rejoined the first; "you've been hacking and hewing at them trees these four hours, and I do not see, for my part, as you're like to mend them.”
“ Why, mother,” said the lad, “you see we have but two trees in all the garden, and I've been thinking they'd match better if they were alike; so I've tied up to a pole the boughs of the gooseberry-bush, that used to spread themselves about the ground, to make it look more like this thorn, and now I'm going to cut down the thorn to make it look more like the
gooseberry-bush.”_" And what's the good of that?” rejoined the mother—“ has not the tree sheltered us many a stormy night, when the wind would have eaten the old casement about our ears ? and many a scorching noontide, hasn't your father eaten his dinner in its shade? And now, to be sure, because you are the master, you think that you can mend it !”—“ We shall see,” said the youth, renewing his strokes. “It's no use as it is—I dare say you'd like to see it bear gooseberries.”—“ No use !” exclaimed the mother, “ don't the birds go to roost on the branches, and the poultry get shelter under it from the rain ? And after all your cutting, I don't see as you're likely to turn a thorn-tree into a gooseberrybush."_“I do not see why I should not," replied the sage artificer, with a tone of reflectiveness " the leaf is near about the same, and there are thorns on both; if I make that taller and this shorter, and they grow the same shape, I don't suppose you know why one should bear gooseberries any more than the other, as wise as you are.”
Why, to be sure, James,” the old woman answered, in a moderate voice, “ I can't say that I do : but I have lived
almost through my threescore years and ten, and I never heard of gooseberries growing on a thorn." “ Haven't you, though ?" said James, “but then I have, or something pretty much like it ; for I saw the gardener, over yonder, cutting off the head of a young pear-tree, and he told me he was going to make it bear apples.”—“Well,” said the mother, seemingly reconciled—“I know nothing of your newfangled ways. I only know it was the finest thorn in the parish—but, to be sure, now they're more match-like and regular."
I left a story half told. This may seem to be another, but it is in fact the same. James in the Sussex Lane, and my friends in Montague Square, were engaged in the same task, and the result of the one would pretty fairly measure the successes of the other; both were contravening the order of nature, and pursuing their own purpose without consulting the appointments of Providence.
Fanny was a girl of common understanding ; such, indeed, as suitable cultivation might have matured into simple good sense; but from which her parents' scheme of education could produce nothing but pretension that could not be supported, and an a affectation of what could never be attained. Conscious of the want of all perceptible talent in her child, Mrs. A., from the first, told stories of talent opening late, and the untimely blithing of premature intellect; and to the last maintained the omnipotence of cultivation. On every new proof of the smallness of her mind, another science was added to enlarge it. Languages, dead and living, were to be to her the keys of knowledge ; but they unlocked nothing to Fanny but their own grammars and vocabularies, which she learned assiduously, without so much as wondering what they meant. The more dull she
proved, the more earnestly she was plied. She was sent to school to try the spur of emulation ; and brought home again for the advantage of more exclusive attention. And as still the progress lagged, all feminine employ and childlike recreations were prohibited, to gain more time for study. It cannot be said, that Fanny's health was injured by the overaction of her mind; for having none, it could not easily be acted upon; but by perpetual dronish application, and sacrifice of all exterior things for the furtherance of this scheme of mental cultivation, her physical energies were suppressed, and she became heavy, awkward, and inactive. Fanny had no pleasure in reading, but she had a pride in having read; and listened with no small satisfaction to her mother's detail of the authors she was conversant with; beyond her age, and as some untalented ventured to suggest, not always suited to her years of inno
The arcana of their pages were safe, however, and quite guiltless of her mind's corruption. Fanny never thought, whatever she might read; what was in the book was nothing to her; all her business was to have read it. Meantime, while the powers she had not were solicited in vain, the ta. Ients she had were neglected and suppressed. Her good-humoured enjoyment of ordinary things, her real taste for domestic arrangement, and open simplicity of heart, were derided as vulgar and unintellectual. Her talent for music was thought not worth cultivating : time could not be spared. Some little capacity she had for drawing, as an imitative art, was baffled by the determination to teach it her scientifically; thus rendering it as impossible as every thing else. In short—for why need I prolong my sketch ?-Fanny was prepared by nature to be the beau-ideal of Mrs. Wi's amiable woman.
Constitutionally active and benevolent, judicious culture might have made her sensible, and, in common life, intelligent, pleasing, useful, happy-nay, I need only refer to the picture of my former paper, to say what Fanny, well educated, was calculated to become. But this was what her parents were determined she could not be: and they spent twenty years, and no small amount of cash, to make her a woman of superior mind, and distinguished literary attainments. I saw the result; for I saw Fanny, at twenty, the most unlovely, useless, and unhappy being I ever met with. The very docility of a mind not strong enough to choose its own part, and resist the influence of circumstance, hastened forward the catastrophe. She had learned to think herself what she could not be, and to despise what in reality she was: she could not otherwise than do so, for she had been imbued with it from her cradle. She was accustomed from her infancy to intellectual society; kept up to listen when she should have been in bed; she counted the spots on the carpet, heard nothing that was said, and prided herself on being one of such company. A little later, she was encouraged to talk to everybody, and give her opinion upon everything, in order to improve and exercise her mind. Her mind remained unexercised, because she talked without thinking; but she learned to chatter, to repeat other people's opinions, and fancy her own were of immense importance. She was unlovely, because she sought only to please by means she had not, and to please those who were quite beyond her reach; others she had been accustomed to neglect as unfit for her companionship. She was useless, because what she might have done well she was unaccustomed to do at all, and what she attempted she was incapable of. And she was unhappy, be