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coarse or fine in itself, though he may mould it into vessels of very different shape or beauty. Who shall alter the stamina of national character by any systematic process? Who shall make the French respectable, or the English amiable? Yet the author of THE YEAR 2500' has done it! Suppose public spirit to become the general principle of action in the community-how would it shew itself? Would it not then become the fashion, like loyalty, and have its apes and parrots, like loyalty ? The man of principle would no longer be distinguished from the crowd, the servum pecus imitatorum. There is a cant of democracy as well as of aristocracy; and we have seen both triumphant in our day. The Jacobin of 1794 was the Anti-Jacobin of 1814. The loudest chaunters of the Pæans of liberty were the loudest applauders of the restored doctrine of divine right. They drifted with the stream, they sailed before the breeze in either case. The politician was changed; the man was the same, the very same !-But enough of this.

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I do not know any moral to be deduced from this view of the subject but one, namely, that we should mind our own business, cultivate our good qualities, if we have any, and irritate ourselves less about the absurdities of other people, which neither we nor they can help. I grant there is something in what I have said, which might be made to glance towards the doctrines of original sin, grace, election, reprobation, or the Gnostic principle that acts alone did not determine the virtue or vice of the character ; and in those doctrines, so far as they are deducible from what I have said, I agree—but always with a salvo.

ESSAY XIX.

ON VULGÁRITY AND AFFECTATION.

יל

Few subjects are more nearly allied than these two-vulgarity and affectation. It may be said of them truly that “thin partitions do their bounds divide." There cannot be a

" surer proof of a low origin or of an innate meanness of disposition, than to be always talking and thinking of being genteel. We must have a strong tendency to that which we are always trying to avoid : whenever we pretend, on all occasions, a mighty contempt for any thing, it is a pretty clear sign that we feel ourselves very nearly on a level with it. Of the two classes of people, I hardly know which is to be regarded with most distaste, the vulgar aping the genteel, or the genteel constantly sneering at and endeavouring to distinguish

themselves from the vulgar. These two sets of persons are always thinking of one another; the lower of the higher with envy, the more fortunate of their less happy neighbours with contempt. They are habitually placed in opposition to each other; jostle in their

pretensions at every turn; and the same objects and train of thought (only reversed by the relative situation of either party) occupy their whole time and attention. The one are straining every nerve and outraging common sense, to be thought genteel; the others have no other object or idea in their heads than not to be thought vulgar. This is but poor spite ; a very pitiful style of ambition. To be merely not that which one heartily despises, is a very humble claim to superiority: to despise what one really is, is still worse. Most of the characters in Miss Burney's novels, the Branghtons, the Smiths, the Dubsters, the Cecilias, the Delvilles, etc. are well met in this respect, and much of a piece : the one half are trying not to be taken for themselves, and the other half not to be taken for the first. They neither of them have any pretensions of their own, or real standard of worth. “A feather will turn the scale of their avoirdupois :" though the fair authoress was not aware of the metaphysical identity of her principal and subordinate characters. Affectation is the master-key to both.

Gentility is only a more select and artificial kind of vulgarity. It cannot exist but by a sort of borrowed distinction. It plumes itself up and revels in the homely pretensions of the mass of mankind. It judges of the worth of every thing by name, fashion, opinion; and hence, from the conscious absence of real qualities or sincere satisfaction in itself, it builds its supercilious and fantastic conceit on the wretchedness and wants of others. Violent antipathies are always suspicious, and betray a secret affinity. The difference between the “Great Vulgar and the Small” is mostly in outward circumstances. The coxcomb criticises the dress of the clown, as the pedant cavils at the bad grammar of the illiterate, or as the prude is shocked at the backslidings of her frail acquaintance. Those who have the fewest resources in themselves, naturally

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