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observed its dwelling was with the prosperous. I might have taken it for disease, but that I found it with the young and healthful. I might have taken it for a sin, but that I heard it avow itself boldly, where I believed that sin was dreaded. It seems it has no English name; and meaning no riddle, I should have called it by its foreign one at once, but that I have found the feeling existing where it would disclaim its more fashionable appellation. By name, however, or by feature, or by what means soever, I have endeavoured to detect this thing, that in its genuine character I may present it to my readers, and bid them judge whether it be a friend or foe, a Christian virtue, or an unsuspected vice.
I have a young friend, but just become a woman, who is perpetually complaining of Ennui. She is complaining in wet weather, hot weather, and cold weather. She finds it wearisome in the country with too little company, and in the city with too much. She goes out, because she finds it tedious at home; and comes home dissatisfied, because she was tired with being out. She finds some people wearisome, because they talk so much; and others, because they are too silent. I never put a book into her hand, though she thinks herself fond of reading, but after getting half through the first chapter, she fluttered the leaves, looked at the binding, and declared it quite tedious. I never asked her to read the most exquisite passage of poetry, or the most exalted expression of feeling, but she stopt three or four words short of the end,
to express something of a similar opinion. I have heard her many times express a distaste for life, and almost a desire to be rid of it; from a feeling, which, though she gave it not the name, I could perceive by her description of it, to be this same Ennui. Where could I better
choose to study it? to trace its characters, to detect its origin, and, if it might be, to expose its consequences? Was it disease ? Was it misfortune? Was it sin? Was it any thing, or but a modish expression, used from habit, and without a meaning? I determined to know. I had ample opportunities, and I resolved to search the secret to the bottom. I tell what I discovered, in hope that those who are conscious of the feeling, whether accustomed to use the word or not, will make the like search within themselves, to find whether it originates in a source as evil.
Misfortune ? Hester Eden never knew one. Sorrow never chilled her bosom. Death never widowed her affections. She had never parted from a thing she loved, nor foregone a blessing she enjoyed. Injustice had not robbed, unkindness had not wounded, falsehood had not wronged her. She was not old enough in life to know its difficulties, or feel the blightings of its disappointments. All her portion of it yet, bad been domestic affection, the indulgence of genteel life, and the advantages of polite education, unearned, and unembittered. Disease ! Hester Eden was a finely-formed, lively, healthy girl. Pain had never racked her limbs, nor sickness dimmed her eyes, nor watchfulness chased her slumbers. Was it any thing? Could that be nothing, which often made existence a weariness to herself; and herself, not seldom, a weariness to those about her; with every thing a bountiful Providence could give her to enjoy; and with powers to please, to enliven, and to bless? There is but one thing else—we shall
I observed Hester at home, where she had no society but her own family. It was large and affectionate; but Hester had no particular object of interest in it. Her brothers and sisters were younger
than herself—they could teach her nothing ; they could do nothing to amuse her ; she could not gain any thing by their society; and, therefore, without exactly wanting affection, she found little interest in being among them. She had parents, the kindest and the best; but their attention was occupied in their business, or their family, or the pursuits that became them: this did not interest her: it was not her business; and with them, too, she was wearied. Hester had horses; and so long as she was riding, she was all life and spirits, and enjoyment; but unfortunately, she could not ride on for ever; and back, at the dismounting, came the ennui. Hester had a garden : and so long as there were flowers to train, and sun to shine upon them, she was active, and amused; but it sometimes rained, or flowers were no more; and back again came the ennui. Hester could draw. I saw her sometimes set about it; begin half-a-dozen things, loiter over them an hour or two, and put them unfinished in the fire. I asked, why? She only drew to amuse herself, because she did not know what else to do; they were of no use to her, she never meant to finish them. She was wearied at the sight of them. Hester had books—that is to say, there were books to be had. If it was a fashionable book, that she might talk about in company, or an exciting story that might stimulate her passions, or even a scientific work, that she was ashamed not to have read, Hester got through it. But though she fancied she liked reading, it was clear, that for its own sake, she did not like reading, or care for knowledge. She never liked a book, unless she had a secondary motive for doing so, more immediately connected with herself. For the rest, she lolled on her chair, turned over the leaves, and the subject might comprise the interest
of a world, it was nothing to her; she should never have occasion to know it, or talk about it; therefore it was dry and stupid, and altogether irksome to her. Hester could work; but of what use to her to work, unless it was something she particularly wanted; it was very tiresome to work what she did not care for. Hester could sing; and Hester could talk; and in company, Hester did, at times, both sing and talk: but at home, it was not worth while. It was no amusement to her, whatever it might have been to those about her—of course, too fatiguing to be worth the pains.
I observed Hester in society, where, it may be supposed, from what I have said, she would find sufficient zest to keep off the enemy. Not at all. So long as anybody would amuse Hester by immediate attention to herself, and ply her with conversation about things that concerned her own immediate feelings, objects, and occupations; or so long as, with the exercise of her talents, wit, and knowledge, she could amuse herself by amusing those she thought it worth while to please, Hester was the most animated, vivacious happy being of the company : but let the conversation, however interesting, be carried on by others, without regarding her; let the subjects, though of deepest moment, be such as did not personally affect her: or in an opposite case, let her find herself capable of giving pleasure to others, but from their inferiority, real or imaginary, not likely to receive any in return; and Hester is seized with a direr fit of ennui than ever found her in the country in a shower of rain. In short, when under the excitement of selfish gratification, Hester Eden was a most active, animated, humorous, and agreeable woman: when without it, she was the most indolent, lounging, careless, and wearisome person I ever met
with. With every possible means of happiness, she enjoyed but little: because, as she herself explained it to me, so few things interested her, or seemed an object worthy of pursuit.
What young lady, or what number of young ladies, shall I offend, if I venture to unravel this mystery ; to call Hester's enemy by its right name, to show why so few things interested her, and why life afforded no object of sufficient value to be worth pursuing? I am in hopes that nobody will take the entire character to themselves; but only certain parts and portions of it, with various palliatives and alternatives, that will lessen the effect of
discloThey will convict themselves of ennui only once a-week, or once a-month, or when it rains for three days together; and thus be less unwilling to believe the extent of an evil they have not extensively suffered.
Hester lived only for herself. Had she honestly watched the movements of her heart from the time she awoke in the morning, till she closed her eyes at night, she would have found there was not a thought, a feeling, a pleasure, a desire, of which self was not the ultimate object. Had she examined her actions, she would have found they began in self, and issued in self: her own gratification, her own advantage, her own adornment, her own success, thoughtfully or thoughtlessly, had been exclusively pursued. Not a living being was made happier by what Hester did, or comforted in sorrow, by what Hester said. Had she never come into the world, nobody would have come short of any good they had; had she gone out of it, nobody would have lost any thing, except her parents, who loved her as their affection's charge, and not for any service she had rendered them. Her brothers and sisters would have