« PreviousContinue »
basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gifts, and every man's wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s. This is fit for kings, and rich men who represent kings, and a false state of property, to make presents of gold and silver stuffs, as a kind of symbolical sin-offering, or payment of blackmail.
The law of benefits is a difficult channel, which requires careful sailing, or rude boats. It is not the office of a man to receive gifts. How dare you give them ? We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten. We can receive anything from love, for that is a way of receiving it from ourselves ; but not from any one who assumes to bestow. We sometimes hate the meat which we eat, because there seems something of degrading dependence in living by it.
Brother, if Jove to thee a present make,
We ask the whole. Nothing less will content us.
We arraign society, if it do not give us besides earth, and fire and water, opportunity, love, reverence, and objects of veneration.
He is a good man who can receive a gift well. either glad or sorry at a gift, and both emotions are unbecoming. Some violence, I think, is done, some degradation borne, when I rejoice or grieve at a gift. I am sorry when my independence is invaded, or when a gift comes from such as do not know my spirit, and so the act is not supported ; and if the gift pleases me overmuch, then I
should be ashamed that the donor should read my heart, and see that I love his commodity and not him. The gift, to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him. When the waters are at level, then my goods pass to him, and his to me. All his are mine, all mine his. I say to him, How can you give me this pot of oil, or this flagon of wine, when all your oil and wine is mine, which belief of mine this gift seems to deny? Hence the fitness of beautiful, not useful, things for gifts. This giving is flat usurpation, and therefore when the beneficiary is ungrateful, as all beneficiaries hate all Timons, not at all considering the value of the gift, but looking back to the greater store it was taken from, I rather sympathize with the beneficiary than with the anger of my lord Timon. For the expectation of gratitude is mean, and is continually punished by the total insensibility of the obliged person. It is a great happiness to get off without injury and heart-burning from one who has had the ill luck to be served by you. It is a very onerous business, this of being served, and the debtor naturally wishes to give you a slap. A golden text for these gentlemen is that which I so admire in the Buddhist, who never thanks, and who says, “Do not flatter your benefactors.”
The reason of these discords I conceive to be, that there is no commensurability between a man and any gift. You cannot give anything to a magnanimous person. After you have served him, he at once puts you in debt by his magnanimity. The service a man renders his friend is trivial and selfish, compared with the service he knows his friend stood in readiness to yield him, alike before he had begun to serve his friend, and now also. Compared
with that good-will I bear my friend, the benefit it is in my power to render him seems small. Besides, our action on each other, good as well as evil, is so incidental and at random, that we can seldom hear the acknowledgments of any person who would thank us for a benefit, without some shame and humiliation. We can rarely strike a direct stroke, but must be content with an oblique one ; we seldom have the satisfaction of yielding a direct benefit, which is directly received. But rectitude scatters favors on every side without knowing it, and receives with wonder the thanks of all people.
I fear to breathe any treason against the majesty of love, which is the genius and god of gifts, and to whom we must not affect to prescribe. Let him give kingdoms or flower-leaves indifferently. There are persons, from whom we always expect fairy tokens ; let us not cease to expect them. This is prerogative, and not to be limited by our municipal rules. For the rest, I like to see that we cannot be bought and sold. The best of hospitality and of generosity is also not in the will but in fate. I find that I am not much to you ; you do not need me ; you do not feel me; then am I thrust out of doors, though you proffer me house and lands. No services are of any value, but only likeness. When I have attempted to join myself to others by services, it proved an intellectual trick, — no
They eat your service like apples, and leave you out. But love them, and they feel you, and delight in you all the time.
LIST OF AUTHORS.
Agassiz, Jean Louis Rodolphe (page 210), was a famous teacher of science and one of the foremost naturalists of the nineteenth century. He was born at Fribourg, in Switzerland, in 1807, and came to the United States in 1846 where he made his home for the rest of his life. In 1859 he was made the curator of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge. He was the author of several important works on subjects connected with natural history. He died in 1873.
Alcott, Louisa May (page 21), was born at Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1833. Her parents, who were New England people, removed to Concord, Massachusetts, while she was a child, and there the greater part of her life was spent. As a child she frequently wrote stories for the amusement of her playmates. Her first novel, “ Moods,” appeared in 1865. Her most popular book, “Little Women,” was published in 1868, and is the story of her own home life. 6 An Old-fashioned Girl,” from which our extract is taken, was published in 1870. She died at Concord in 1888.
Bancroft, George (page 160), was America's first great historian. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1800. He was educated at Harvard College and at the University of Göttingen, Germany. In 1823 he opened the Round Hill school at Northampton, Massachusetts, where he taught for some time. In 1834 he published the first volume of his great work, the “ History of the United States.” The tenth and last volume appeared in 1874. During his long life Mr. Bancroft filled many important offices of honor and trust under the United States government. He was Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of President Polk; in 1846 he was appointed minister to
NEW MCGUF. FIFTH
Great Britain ; in 1867 he was minister to Russia, and in 1868, he was accredited to the North German Confederation. He remained in Germany until 1874, when he was recalled at his own request. He died in 1891.
Browning, Robert (page 260), a fa aous English poet, was born at Camberwell, London, in 1812. 5o was educated at the University of London. His first poem, "Pauline," was published in 1832, and his first drama, "Paracelsus," in 1835. He was married in 1846 to Elizabeth Barrett, the poet. Most of his life was spent in Italy. He died in Venice, Dec. 12, 1889.
Bryant, William Cullen (page 47), was born at Cummington, Massachusetts, in 1794. At the age of sixteen he entered Williams College, but his father being unable to give him a finished education, he remained there less than two years. He then began the study of law and was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-one. He practiced his profession, with much success, for about nine years. In 1826, he removed to New York, and became connected with the Evening Post, a connection which continued to the time of his death. - Thanatopsis,” perhaps the best known of all his poems, was written when he was but nineteen. His excellent translations of the “Iliad" and the “Odyssey," together with some of his best poems, were written after the poet had passed the age of seventy. He died in New York in 1878.
Bullen, Frank T. (page 56), an English author and lecturer, born at Paddington in 1857. He received no education after his ninth year, but was at sea in various capacities until 1883, when he became a clerk in the Meteorological Office in London. His best-known work is “ The Cruise of the Cachalot,” a true story of whaling adventures.
Byron, George Gordon, Lord Byron (page 125, 300), a famous English poet, was born at London in 1788. “ Hours of Idleness," his first book, appeared in 1807. It was severely treated by the Edinburgh Review, which called forth his “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,” in 1809. Soon after, he went abroad for two years; and, on his return, published the first two cantos of “Childe Harold's Pilgrimage,” a work that made