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IN my first paper I took occasion to mention a few particulars of my situation and character, and my object in this publication. My design has been to afford an agreeable and innocent amusement; and by laying before my readers those characters I was acquainted with, and which presented themselves before me, I had some hopes, though I should not reclaim the completely vicious, that I might be able to guard the young and inexperienced, to alarm the inconsiderate, to confirm the wavering, and to point out, even to the worthy, some of those errors and imperfections, from which, perhaps, the finest minds are in the greatest danger of suffering.
How far I have been able to afford any amusement, I will not take upon me to say; but I am sorry to find, that many of the characters which I have presented to the public, with a view to point out men's errors and defects, have been considered as proper objects of imitation, and that some of my readers have so far mistaken the purpose I had in presenting such characters, as to be flattered by thinking that themselves bear some resemblance to them.
When I made my readers acquainted with my - friend, Mr. Fleetwood, I never meant to recommend that excessive delicacy and false refinement which often prevents him from being happy; on the contrary, my intention was to point out the danger of that excessive refinement, and to guard such of my readers as should be disposed to indulge in it, against its fatal consequences; and yet I know a gentleman who is so desirous of being thought possessed of delicacy and refinement, that, the other day, I saw him very much pleased when one of his friends told him he was a very Fleetwood. Luckily for him, I know him to be possessed of Fleetwood's good qualities without his imperfections. I cannot say so much for his acquaintance C. D.; he is a peevish discontented creature, quick in his temper,
jealous of his friends, and dissatisfied with every thing about him. He has of late taken it into his head to be a man of taste, though he has not the least pretensions to the character; and while he indulges his own peevishness and chagrin, he flatters himself with the thought that he is a Fleetwood, and apologises for his bad temper, by calling it the effect of his delicacy and refinement of mind. Though I confess my partiality for Fleetwood's good qualities, yet, had I not known C. D. I could hardly have thought that any one would have been vain of his imperfections, who was not possessed of any of his merits.
When I introduced Mr. Umphraville to my readers, I never meant to recommend that seclusion from the world, and that abstraction from the duties of life, which, with all the dignity of mind he is possessed of, have given occasion to his little oddities, and disqualified him for every active purpose; and yet Tom Meadows, who gave up the profession of the law, because he was too idle to attend to it, and who has lately sold his commission in the army, because he would not undergo the fatigues of a foreign campaign, has thought proper to justify his conduct by appealing to Mr. Umphraville's example; and pretends to say, that he, forsooth, has too much pride of mind, to occupy himself in applying the rules of law to the uninteresting disputes of individuals, or to be engaged in assisting at a review, or lining the streets at a procession.
H. B.'s letter, in my fifty-first Number, describes the dangerous effects of giving too much culture, and too many accomplishments, and of softening too much the mind of a young girl who has to struggle with the difficulties of life, and is not placed in such a situation as makes her independent of the world. It represents, in a very feeling manner, the delicate distress which these circumstances had occasioned.
I have lately, however, received a letter from a correspondent, who, from her language and expressions, seems to be a great reader in the circulating library. She says, she has lately spent much of her time in studying the Belles-Lettres; that of all things, she would wish to be learned and accomplished ;....that she regrets that her father did not educate her better ;....that of all the persons she ever read of, she would wish to be like my correspondent H. B. ;.... that she envies her affliction, for that "affliction "makes part of her dream of happiness."
The letter published in my seventy-eighth Number, gives an excellent description of the bad effects of that too great easiness of temper which leads a man into folly and extravagance, and makes him be ruined by having too many friends. My neighbour Will Littlebit, whose heart is so contracted as not to be susceptible of the sentiment of friendship, and who, far from being in danger of being preyed upon by his friends, never admits a guest within his house, says, that the seventy-eighth is the only good paper he has seen in the Mirror, and that the last paragraph in particular should be printed in letters of gold, to serve as a lesson of imitation for all the young men of the age.
The particulars above mentioned have taught me how difficult is the attempt to instruct or reform. There is no virtue which is not near connected with some vice; there is no imperfection which does not bear a near resemblance to some excellency. And mankind, fond of indulging their favourite passions and inclinations, instead of distinguishing, endeavour to confound their vices with their virtues ; instead of separating the bad from the good grain, they bind all up together, and hug themselves in the belief of holding only what is valuable.
I AM, though at this distance, one of your constant readers, and mark with pleasure not only the general good tendency of your papers, but perceive also, that you draw your pictures of human nature from the only pure fountain, Nature herself.
You must know I am a native of Edinburgh, where I passed my youth, and received my education; but have been long settled in this place. Some years ago I was impelled by a very natural desire to revisit my native country, and I now sit down to communicate to you the sensations I felt upon that oc
On my arrival in Edinburgh, I will own that what first struck me was the total change of faces. Very few were left whom I knew when a boy, and those so altered in their appearance, so much the shadows only of what they once were, as could not fail to excite many serious reflections. Hardly a single house did I find inhabited by the same persons I left in it; but every where a new race, new manners, and new modes of living. In short, I found myself, in almost every sense of the word, an utter stranger. Even the improvements that had been made during my long absence displeased me. The corn-fields on the south-side of the town were quite covered with substantial houses; Barefoot's Parks, where I have had many a retired and pleasant walk, converted into a splendid city, and, in the old town, many ruinous buildings, the scenes of some of my youthful amusements, now rebuilt with equal solidity and elegance.
Nor were these my only grievances. The removal of the Cross, of the Netherbow-port, and of many other incumbrances; in short every alteration,
though evidently for the better, that had taken place since my departure, more or less displeased me. You will more easily account than I can, how it comes to pass that the human mind should be so much set against all innovations of what nature soever. This may, perhaps, insensibly arise from the picture they exhibit of the mutability of every object before us, and a tacit intimation that we ourselves are composed of the same changeable materials, and must soon quit the scene.
I will acknowledge, however, that I had the satisfaction to find many places that did not hurt me by any alteration or improvement. Your wynds and closes were nearly in the state I had left them; and where, in some parts of the streets, you have got new pavements, the good people who live at the sides of them take care that there shall be no innovation in point of cleanliness. Your Theatre and Concert-hall are new buildings; but your Assemblyroom, where people of the highest fashion resort, is just as paltry as ever. But as they dance there for the benefit of the poor, I shall forbear any further remarks on it...." charity covereth a multitude of "sins."
The High School*, and its environs, I found unaltered, though the yards appeared to me to be much diminished in their extent. The College, too, remained the same plain, mean, unadorned building it was half a century ago, and seemed to me, after having seen the splendid palaces of Oxford and Cambridge, more homely than ever. Though, perhaps, in literature, as in religion, Sister Peg confines herself to substance, without much regard to ornament; yet, methinks, it is rather a reproach to the capital of our country, that, amidst all its improvements, this university, so much celebrated over
*This school, I understand, has been since rebuilt,