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النشر الإلكتروني

AN INOFFENSIVE MAN.

THE Conversation at my Uncle Barnaby's table, one day, happened to turn on the intended marriage of my cousin Ellen, Frank's eldest sister. A gentleman present spoke in the highest terms of Ellen, as a most amiable and accomplished young woman. He expressed his hope that in the contemplated union she might enjoy as much happiness as she was likely to confer; and said he had not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Mortimer; but, turning to my uncle, added, "I hope, sir, the match is entirely satisfactory to you." "Very much so," replied my uncle. "Mortimer is an excellent, I may add, an inoffensive man; as much so as any man with whom I am acquainted."

"That is but negative praise," said Mr. Hamilton, the gentleman who had introduced the subject. "I should exceedingly regret to see so fine and sensible a young woman as Ellen Tatnall, throw herself away on a harmless noodle. But is it not very remarkable, that men of talent are frequently known to choose women of inferior understanding; and that very superior women consent to tie themselves for life to mere dolts in point of intellect and acquirement?"

"True," said another gentleman present; "I have often grieved, and often blushed, for those

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ill-assorted matches, in which one party is utterly incapable of appreciating the merits of the other; and where no community of tastes and pursuits can possibly subsist. A particular friend of mine, a man of fine talents, and highly cultivated mind, has made an entire sacrifice of domestic happiness by marrying a beautiful simpleton: harmless, indeed, and kind-hearted, but incapable of half an hour's rational conversation with her husband, and utterly unqualified to educate his children. For want of an intelligent companion to share his fireside, the poor man is completely confined to his library, or compelled to go abroad to seek society." "Poor man, indeed!" said my uncle ; and yet I know not whether pity is justly due to the man of superior intellect, who marries a fool. It is a matter in which a person, possessing even a moderate portion of common sense, cannot be deceived. Artfulness may conceal, and love may be too blind to discover, defects in temper, or deficiencies in education and manners; but a fool cannot open his or her lips without proclaiming the fact. Folly betrays itself, and cannot be hid; and the man who, for the sake of a pretty face, or a full purse, attaches himself to a woman void of understanding, richly deserves all the dissatisfaction and mortification to which he has exposed himself."

MR. H.-He certainly does. But must we award the same meed of blame, without pity, to the highly gifted female, who, with a more acute and delicate perception, and finer sensibilities, falls into the same mistake? At all events, it is matter of deep regret that such a surmise should rest on the amiable and talented Ellen Tatnall.

UNCLE. My dear sir, what surmise? I should

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indeed most deeply regret any well-founded surmise that could lower in my esteem, the object of my dear niece's tender affections. I hope I have not been misapprehended, as intending to imply a disparaging opinion of him. I consider him as one of the excellent of the earth.

MR. H.-You spoke of him as "an inoffensive man:" and the idea conveyed to my mind was certainly that of a pious simpleton.

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UNCLE. It is a pity that words, by their conventional use, should be so far removed from their original and legitimate meaning; and I cannot but regard it, with a distinguished writer, whom I have the honour to call my friend, an evidence of the degeneracy of the age, that an inoffensive man is an expression used generally to intimate some imagined intellectual deficiency; as if there could be no good sense without cunning and villainy," or at least without violence and turbulence of spirit. Inoffensiveness is not so disparaged in the sacred volume. It is enjoined on Christians, as a necessary evidence of their filial relation to God, and as an essential qualification for that exemplary usefulness, after which every good man aspires -a recommendation of the principles of the gospel to those who manifest indifference to, if not prejudice against, every other species of evidence in its favour. "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life," Phil. ii. 15, 16. Call, if you please, this commendation of harmlessness a negative praise. It is, however, a praise which belongs not to many persons of exalted genius, or at least

of high intellectual attainments, and of high-flown religious profession. For my part, I am inclined to reckon it an attainment of no mean order, and one that discovers the exercise of sound good sense and genuine piety, to maintain a conscience and a deportment void of offence, a blameless and lovely consistency of character with the dictates of reason, the claims of justice, and the requirements and principles of Christianity. I believe it is much easier to be brilliant than to be inoffensive.

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"I stand corrected," said Mr. Hamilton. inoffensive man is an estimable character; and I rejoice that in assigning this character to the chosen of my amiable young friend, Miss Tatnall, you convey no disparaging reflection on his intellectual powers and attainments."

Here the conversation took a different turn; but as Frank was jealous for the honour of his sister's choice, and as the attention of both of us was awakened to the subject of harmlessness of character, we introduced it again at the breakfast table, hoping to elicit some further remarks from my uncle. In this we were not disappointed. The following is the substance of our conversation :—

FRANK.-I have been thinking, uncle, a great deal about harmlessness and inoffensiveness of character. Will you please to tell me in what respects you particularly applied the characteristic to Henry Mortimer?

UNCLE. I will answer your question, Frank, by another. Did Henry Mortimer ever give you offence or pain?

FRANK.-Oh, no, uncle: he is so uniformly kind and agreeable, I never experienced any thing but pleasure in his society.

UNCLE. Do you recollect an instance in his conduct which was calculated to wound any person; or at which any person could justly take offence?

FRANK.-No; indeed I do not. He is kind to every body, and every body seems to love him. UNCLE. Have you ever seen him act in such a manner as surprised and struck you with an uncomfortable sense of its inconsistency with his general character, and the expectations you had formed of him?

FRANK. No, uncle; I never did. Did you? UNCLE. Certainly not. He is one on whom, as much as on any fellow-creature, dependence can be placed. I am satisfied, that having taken up certain principles, he will act in conformity with them. Have you ever seen in him a selfish disregard, or inconsideration of the taste, feelings, and claims of others?

FRANK.-No; but I have often seen him deny himself to give pleasure to others.

UNCLE. Have you ever had reason to suspect him of duplicity, or insincerity? that in performing a seemingly kind action, he was in reality serving some selfish purpose?

FRANK.-No, no, uncle; I am sure he would abhor the thought of it.

UNCLE. Well, if all these features belong to his character, I think he may justly claim that of an inoffensive man.

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FRANK.-Yes, uncle; I am sure he may. wish, as you said yesterday to Mr. Hamilton, that the phrase was not so commonly applied to weak, silly people, of whom the most that can be said is, that they are not mischievous or quarrelsome; and

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