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which he got on to the rocks and perished in her ; four of the daughters married four bankrupts; the remaining daughter was a miser, who hoarded her property to be sure, and almost starved herself in a voluntary poverty; but finally she died, and her illkept wealth went to a host of dissipated nephews and nieces; and so ended the accumulations of the Packwell family. They are all now wretchedly poor, and may go, if they would act wisely, to their grandfather's original occupation of selling sand for their own support.
This is the round, which is run through in Boston by thousands of families. It is as regular as the ebbing and flowing of the sea. But will not men learn sometime before the millennium comes, (and they certainly will then,) that life was given for higher purposes than to gather wealth, and that wealth can be appropriated in a better way than to corrupt their children? "My hearers," said an Episcopal clergyman in Boston, now dead, "you might give ten thousand dollars more a year, in charity, and yet keep enough in your purses to corrupt all your posterity." The science of statistics might be applied to teach the lessons of morality.
A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure.
NOTHING is more common in the world, than to produce a false impression, without telling a lie. This is done by an intentional concealment of some part of the circumstances pertaining to the subject, which the person to whom you address yourself, has, by supposition, a right to know. I have already mentioned a case, in the conduct of my unhappy father. Poor man ! His half-truths, were lies of vanity. They were poor expedients to cover over his own poverty. In every other case, he was a man of the strictest veracity. But how many are there, that keep back part of the facts in more important cases; from the drayman, who tells his partial story by the street side, to the historian, who fills his pages with mutilated representations which he knows will deceive,
until his book shall be no more! Most people deal with truth, as New England farmers paint their houses; adorning the front with the purest white, while the hinder part is slobbered over with Spanishbrown, or even covered with the rust and moss of the weather; so that a man is ashamed to admit a stranger into his back door.
This partial representation, has affected no part of literature more disastrously than biography. I am now old enough to have known some of those people, whose matchless virtues figure in books; and I must confess, that I know not one of them, of whom all the follies are told. They are generally slid over by a few barren confessions that they were imperfect; but nothing is distinctly seen; no one fault is set in its forcible light; and we survey them as a sort of human angels, rather than frail and erring men. To this fault, I am aware, there is strong temptation. For who would wound the heart of a weeping widow, or a fond son, by mentioning the imperfections of a husband and father, when their virtues are magnified by remembering affection, and every fault comes to them, softened by the twilight of the tomb!
For this reason, I have very little confidence in modern biography. It has too little truth in it, to make its narratives instructing. Not only faults are dimly shown or entirely concealed, but surviving friends are still more impatient of hearing those little ridiculous follies, which mark man as man, and give
all the truth and fidelity to the colorings of our nature. It is well that the great Johnson died without a family or relatives; we owe to this circumstance, perhaps, that best biography from the greatest of all fools-Jemmy Boswell.
In order to show the importance of the whole truth, to the knowledge of character, I shall give some account of Mr. James Background, a fellow-townsman of mine, in the remarkable village of ndleborough;
and if the reader should find the close of the story upset the beginning, I beg him to remember, it is owing to my determination to tell the whole truth.
Now I begin by solemnly declaring that Mr. Background had a great many virtues. He was a middlesized man, of a fine shape, and a remarkably mild countenance. He almost always had a smile on his face, and his voice was remarkably sweet and winning. He was an honest man, never made a promise but what he kept, and never contracted a debt, which he was not willing to pay. Once on a time, he owed a neighbor a note of a hundred dollars; the note was lost, and the holder had no proof of its existence; but Mr. Background renewed the note without hesitation. No man could ever say that he violated his word, however the times or his interest might change. His word was as good as his bond.
Nor was Mr. Background destitute of the sympathies of our nature. He felt for the wants of the suffering, and was always ready, to the extent of his
means, to afford them relief. There was a fire in our town, and a very thrifty trader was burnt out, losing his house, shop, and all his capital. His case excited compassion; and, on the paper for his relief, Mr. Background put down the largest sum of any man in the place, according to his property. Nor was this a solitary act. To him, the hungry widow never lifted her imploring hands in vain; and he never sent the unclothed orphan away naked. That almost universal vice-avarice, was not the tyrant that domineered in his generous soul.
But he had this higher praise, that his charities were always skilfully bestowed. He was one of the wisest men in this respect, I ever knew. Like Job, the cause he knew not, he would search out; and gave in such a manner as to promote industry, and not to encourage idleness. He was charitable, not only of his money, but of his skill and time.
This worthy man was no backbiter; never gave severe characters of people, when they were not present; but was always remarkably tender of the faults of his neighbors. If he heard a slanderous story, he would always ask, how do you know it to be true? and nothing moved his indignation more, than to see the levity with which some thoughtless persons would sport with another's good name. He was ever for drawing a veil over the faults of his acquaintance, and if he could say nothing good of them, he said nothing.