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- The Recreations of A Country Parson - 50/63 -


is no doubt that they adopted this practice, however barbarous it may seem to us), would he set up to the goddess in the West-end of the town: another at Temple Bar, of less ample dimensions and less elaborate decoration, would receive the devout homage of worshippers who came to attend their lawyers in that quarter of the town: while a statue, on which the cunning sculptor should have impressed the marks of haste, anxiety, and agitation, would be sharply glanced up at, with as much veneration as they could afford to give to it, by the eager men of business in the City.

The goddess Worry, however, would be no local deity, worshipped merely in some great town, like Diana of the Ephesians; but, in the market-places of small rural communities, her statue, made somewhat like a vane, and shitting with every turn of the wind, would be regarded with stolid awe by anxious votaries belonging to what is called the farming interest. Familiar too and household would be her worship: and in many a snug home, where she might be imagined to have little potency, small and ugly images of her would be found as household gods--the Lares and Penates--near to the threshold, and ensconced above the glowing hearth.

The poet, always somewhat inclined to fable, speaks of Love as ruling

The court, the camp, the grove, And men below, and heaven above;

but the dominion of Love, as compared with that of Worry, would be found, in the number of subjects, as the Macedonian to the Persian--in extent of territory, as the county of Rutland to the empire of Russia.

Not verbally accurate is the quotation from the Lay of the Last Minstrel, we may remark; but we may take it for granted that no reader who has exceeded the age of twenty-five will fail to recognize in this half-playful and half-earnest passage the statement of a sorrowful fact. And the essay goes on to set forth many of the causes of modern worry with all the knowledge and earnestness of a man who has seen much of life, and thought much upon what he has seen. The author's sympathies are not so much with the grand trials of historical personages, such as Charles V., Columbus, and Napoleon, as with the lesser trials and cares of ordinary men; and in the following paragraph we discern at once the conviction of a clear head and the feeling of a kind heart:--

And the ordinary citizen, even of a well-settled state, who, with narrow means, increasing taxation, approaching age, failing health, and augmenting cares, goes plodding about his daily work thickly bestrewed with trouble and worry (all the while, perhaps, the thought of a sick child at home being in the background of his mind), may also, like any hero of renown in the midst of his world-wide and world-attracting fortune, be a beautiful object for our sympathy.

There is indeed no more common error, than to estimate the extent of suffering by the greatness of the causes which have produced it; we mean their greatness as regards the amount of notice which they attract. The anguish of an emperor who has lost his empire, is probably not one whit greater than that of a poor lady who loses her little means in a swindling Bank, and is obliged to take away her daughter from school and to move into an inferior dwelling. Nor is it unworthy of remark, in thinking of sympathy with human beings in suffering, that scrubby-looking little men, with weak hair and awkward demeanour, and not in the least degree gentleman-like, may through domestic worry and bereavement undergo distress quite as great as heroic individuals six feet four inches in height, with a large quantity of raven hair, and with eyes of remarkable depth of expression. It is probable, too, that in the lot of ordinary men a ceaseless and countless succession of little worries does a great deal more to fret away the happiness of life than is done by the few great and overwhelming misfortunes which happen at long intervals. You lose your child, and your sorrow is overwhelming; but it is a sorrow on which before many months you look back with a sad yet pleasing interest, and it is a sorrow which you know you are the better for having felt. But petty unfaithfulness, carelessness, and stupidity on the part of your servants; little vexations and cross-accidents in your daily life; the ceaseless cares of managing a household and family, and possibly of making an effort to maintain appearances with very inadequate means;--all those little annoying things which are not misfortune but worry, effectually blister away the enjoyment of life while they last, and serve no good end in respect to mental and moral discipline. 'Much tribulation,' deep and dignified sorrow, may prepare men for 'the kingdom of God;' but ceaseless worry, for the most part, does but sour the temper, jaundice the views, and embitter and harden the heart.

'The grand source of worry,' says our author, 'compared with which perhaps all others are trivial, lies in the complexity of human affairs, especially in such an era of civilization as our own.' There can be no doubt of it. In these modern days, we are encumbered and weighed down with the appliances, physical and moral, which have come to be regarded as essential to the carry lag forward of our life. We forget how many thousands of separate items and articles were counted up, as having been used, some time within the last few years, by a dinner-party of eighteen persons, at a single entertainment. What incalculable worry in the procuring, the keeping in order, the using, the damage, the storing up, of that enormous complication of china, glass, silver, and steel! We can well imagine how a man of simple tastes arid quiet disposition, worried even to death by his large house, his numerous servants and horses, his quantities of furniture and domestic appliances, all of a perishable nature, and all constantly wearing out and going wrong in various degrees, might sigh a wearied sigh for the simplicity of a hermit's cave and a hermit's fare, and for 'one perennial suit of leather.' Such a man as the Duke of Buccleuch, possessing enormous estates, oppressed by a deep feeling of responsibility, and struggling to maintain a personal supervision of all his intricate and multitudinous belongings, must day by day undergo an amount of worry which the philosopher would probably regard as poorly compensated by a dukedom and three hundred thousand a year. He would be a noble benefactor of the human race who should teach men how to combine the simplicity of the savage life with the refinement and the cleanliness of the civilized. We fear it must be accepted as an unquestionable fact, that the many advantages of civilization are to be obtained only at the price of countless and ceaseless worry. Of course, we must all sometimes sigh for the woods and the wigwam; but the feeling is as vain as that of the psalmist's wearied aspiration, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove: then would I flee away and be at rest!' Our author says,

The great Von Humboldt went into the cottages of South American Indiana, and, amongst an unwrinkled people, could with difficulty discern who was the father and who was the son, when he saw the family assembled together.

And how plainly the smooth, cheerful face of the savage testified to the healthfulness, in a physical sense; of a life devoid of worry! If you would see the reverse of the medal, look at the anxious faces, the knit brows, and the bald heads, of the twenty or thirty greatest merchants whom you will see on the Exchange of Glasgow or of Manchester. Or you may find more touching proof of the ageing effect of worry, in the careworn face of the man of thirty with a growing family and an uncertain income; or the thin figure and bloodless cheek which testify to the dull weight ever resting on the heart of the poor widow who goes out washing, and leaves her little children in her poor garret under the care of one of eight years old. But still, the cottages of Humboldt's 'unwrinkled people' were, we have little doubt, much infested with vermin, and possessed a pestilential atmosphere; and the people's freedom from care did but testify to their ignorance, and to their lack of moral sensibility. We must take worry, it is to be feared, along with civilization. As you go down in the scale of civilization, you throw off worry by throwing off the things to which it can adhere. And in these days, in which no man would seriously think of preferring the savage life, with its dirt, its stupidity, its listlessness, its cruelty, the good we may derive from that life, or any life approximating to it, is mainly that of a sort of moral alterative and tonic. The thing itself would not suit us, and would do us no good; but we may be the better for musing upon it. It is like a refreshing shower-bath, it is like breathing a cool breeze after the atmosphere of a hot-house, to dwell for a little, with half-closed eyes, upon pictures which show us all the good of the unworried life, and which say nothing of all the evil. We know the thing is vain: we know it is but an idle fancy; but still it is pleasant and refreshful to think of such a life as Byron has sketched as the life of Daniel Boone. Not in misanthropy, but from the strong preference of a forest life, did the Kentucky backwoodsman keep many scores of miles ahead of the current of European population setting onwards to the West. We shall feel much indebted to any reader who will tell us where to find anything more delightful than the following stanzas, to read after an essay on modern worry:--

He was not all alone: around him grew A sylvan tribe of children of the chase; Whose young, unwakened world was ever new, Nor sin, nor sorrow, yet had left a trace On her unwrinkled brow; nor could you view A frown on Nature's or on human face: The free-born forest found and kept them free, And fresh as is a torrent or a tree.

And tall, and strong, and swift of foot were they, Beyond the dwarfing city's pale abortions: Because their thoughts had never been the prey Of care or gain: the green woods were their portions. No sinking spirits told them they grew grey, No fashion made them apes of her distortions; Simple they were, not savage, and their rifles, Though very true, were yet not used for trifles.

Motion was in their days, rest in their slumbers, And cheerfulness the handmaid of their toil: Nor yet too many, nor too few their numbers, Corruption could not make their hearts her soil: The lust which stings, the splendour which encumbers, With the free foresters divide no spoil: Serene, not sullen, were the solitudes, Of this unsighing people of the woods.

The essay on Worry is followed by an interesting conversation on the same subject, at the close of which we are heartily obliged to Blanche for suggesting one pleasant thought; to wit, that children for the most part escape that sad infliction; it is the special heritage of comparatively mature years. And Milverton replies:--

Yes; I have never been more struck with that than when observing a family in the middle class of life going to the sea-side. There is the anxious mother wondering how they shall manage to stow away all the children when they get down. Visions of damp sheets oppress her. The cares of packing sit upon her soul. Doubts of what will


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