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wife, mother nor maiden, are sacred in the eyes of these premature debauchees. With an effrontery that is only paralleled by their iniquity, they seek to flatter, cajole, entice and ruin women of every station in whose presence they are tolerated. How far they are successful is illustrated in part by the number of damaged reputations, separated husbands and wives, divorce cases, “elopements in high life,” disgraced and abandoned young girls, with which the events of every year make us acquainted in “our best society."
Who are chargeable with the toleration and countenance of these juvenile dandies, rakes and blockheads; with their admission and continuance in the spheres of social life? I answer, the women. They knowingly receive a man with such attributes, performing such acts, and who should be branded with everlasting contempt, into their houses and at their parties; they allow their attentions to themselves and their daughters; and when they are spoken to on this subject they blandly reply that “all young men do such things." The strictly fashionable society of several of the principal cities of this country is fast becoming as corrupt and depraved as a member of the Parisian or Viennese beau monde could desire. And this is the goal of respectability, to which our countrymen and countrywomen are urging their impatient and zealous way! These are the associa
tions and friendships which we are coveting for our sons and daughters !
Among the middling classes, the case is not quite so hopeless; but it is bad enough.
A brief but impartial inquiry into the status of these classes in this country may justly claim our attention. It is unquestionably true that among them we shall find more scrupulous regard to the proprieties and decencies of life, a stronger emphasis upon an unsullied reputation, and character holden to a stricter accountability. It is likewise true that among them is to be found the greater portion of that philanthropic zeal and benevolent activity, which embody themselves in the great organizations and smaller societies laboring to convert the heathen, reform the inebriate, alleviate the sufferings of the poor, and to diffuse throughout all realms, and all conditions of men, the practical tokens of Christian mercy. It is from them that we derive our armies of Sunday-school teachers, tract distributors, visitors to the poor, laborers for the destitute and afflicted. It is upon them that the best hopes of the Christian Republic must be founded; for they constitute by far the largest portion of our virtuous and religious community. We cannot fail to be painfully impressed with the cold, hard, austere forms of social existence presented among these middling, or religious classes. The problem-one of the most vital to our interests
ASCETICISM TO BE AVOIDED.
-of the relation of amusements to well-regulated society, has not yet been solved, nor as far as I am apprised, has there been an approach to a solution. If a wretched seclusion or a harsh conventionalism, baptized with the name of churchly, or Christian, be imposed upon young people, does not every one know that they will be guilty of private derelictions, that they will nurse secret vices, and when they have escaped from parental guardianship, that they are evidently liable to revolt, even from all good influences, and rush into the wildest extremes of dissipation ? A loathing of the Sabbath, a detestation of church-going, a disgust for the Bible, are not unusual tastes among the children of strictly orthodox families. The confessions of later years inform us that many of the children of pious parents are accustomed to read in secret forbidden books and those of the very worst description, to visit those places of amusement which have been most rigidly interdicted, and in every way to evade the vigilance of their superiors, and to disregard and contemn their commands. I confess that I do not find a sufficient explanation of these mysterious facts in the doctrine of the depravity of human nature, nor in the declaration that the children of virtuous parents are very imps of Satan.
This tendency towards morbid asceticism, thus disastrous in its effects upon young people, manifests itself in another but not less repulsive form among the mature portion of these circles. A stiff and formal code is established, to regulate such larger assemblages as there may be, while often a frigid and artificial conventionalism seems to control even the most select intercourse of friendship. Conversation is the employment of the groups and parties; but, alas! what is the chief characteristic of that conversation? They begin with “news,” and proceed to the canvass of reputation. The qualities of acquaintances and neighbors are discussed with metaphysical sharpness. The dissecting-knife of a cynical criticism is unsparingly applied to the characters of friends and associates. Defects, faults and vices of others are pointed out, with what is supposed to be unflinching conscientiousness; and the follies of those occupying superior social positions are searched for with inquisitorial rigor, and dealt with after a most scorching fashion. Domestic difficulties unfortunately dividing families of their own"sets,” are scented by the delicate nostrils, and hunted down by the ravening appetites of too many who claim and receive credit for great sanctity. Scandal sup plies the stimulus, at many virtuous tea-parties, which dancing affords to the frequenters of the ballroom; and unlicensed gossip yields an ample com pensation to crowds whose scruples or whose mean: prevent their indulgence in fashionable recreations
PHARISAISM REPLACES TRUE RELIGION.
Stern rebukes are administered to childish merriment by those who are too sour to be gay; while free issues of gentle and spontaneous feeling are checked and driven back upon the ingenuous heart, by callous indifference and puritanical and pharisaical egotism. That there is a fearful amount of illiberality, narrowness and cant, of contemptuous and scornful invective, of self satisfied and haughty condemnation, in the tone and conduct of the classes we are considering, no one well acquainted with them can for a moment doubt. Are not all these inimical to the true tone and right conduct of society? Are we to be united only as vultures in search of carrion; to revel upon putrid banquets? Is our only compact to be that of familiars of the Holy Office, to pry into the innermost sanctuaries and consciences of our friends and relatives, that we inay expose their delinquencies, short-comings and crimes? Is society so established that the strong may hunt the weak, that those that are whole, needing not a physician, may cruelly taunt and maltreat those that are sick? that the wounded stag may perish by the antlers of his unhurt fellows? Shall the sleek face palliate libel, or the demure expression sanction slander ? Can a professed regard for virtue justify bitterness of spirit, or the breadth of pharisaical phylacteries atone for truculence of discourse? Nay, nay. Society is appointed for a sweet and holy office, and