S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I might likewise observe, that the gloominess in which sometimes the minds of the best men are involved very often stands in need of such little incitements to mirth and laughter, as are apt to disperse melancholy and put our faculties in good humour. To which some will add, that the British climate, more than any other, makes entertainments of this nature in a manner necessary.
I the more inculcate this cheerfulness of temper, as it is a virtue in which our countrymen are observed to be more deficient than any other nation. Melancholy is a kind of demon that haunts our island, and often conveys himself to us in an easterly wind. A celebrated French novelist, in opposition to those who begin their romances with the flowery season of the year, enters on his story thus: In the gloomy month of November, when the people of England hang and drown themselves, a disconsolate lover walked out into the fields, etc.
Every one ought to fence against the temper of his climate or constitution, and frequently to indulge in himself those considerations which may give him a serenity of mind, and enable him to bear up cheerfully against those little evils and misfortunes which are common to human nature, and which, by a right improvement of them, will produce a satiety of joy, and an uninterrupted happiness.
I shall not here mention the several entertainments of art, with the pleasures of friendship, books, conversation, and other accidental diversions of life, because I would only take notice of such incitements to a cheerful temper as offer themselves to persons of all ranks and conditions, and which may sufficiently show us that Providence did not design this world should be filled with murmurs and repinings, or that the heart of man should be involved in gloom and melancholy.
Some that are of an ill and melancholy nature incline the company into which they come to be sad and ill disposed; and others that are of a jovial nature do dispose the company to be merry and cheerful.
Scoffs, calumnies, and jests are frequently the causes of melancholy. It is said that a blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword; and certainly there are many men whose feelings are more galled by a calumny, a bitter jest, a libel, a pasquil, a squib, a satire, or an epigram, than by any misfortune whatsoever.
The victims of ennui paralyze all the grosser feelings by excess, and torpify all the finer by disuse and inactivity. Disgusted with this world, and indifferent about another, they at last lay violent hands upon themselves, and assume no small credit for the sang-froid with which they meet death. But, alas! such beings can scarcely be said to die, for they have never truly lived.
It is reported of the Sybarites, that they destroyed all their cocks, that they might dream out their morning dreams without disturbance. Though I would not so far promote effeminacy as to propose the Sybarites for an example, yet since there is no man so corrupt or foolish but something useful may be learned from him, I could wish that, in imitation of a people not often to be copied, some regulations might be made to exclude screech-owls from all company, as the enemies of mankind, and confine them to some proper receptacle, where they may mingle sighs at leisure, and thicken the gloom of one another.
We should not sadden the harmless mirth of others by suffering our own melancholy to be seen; and this species of exertion is, like virtue, its own reward; for the good spirits which are at first simulated become at length real.
Never give way to melancholy; resist it steadily, for the habit will encroach. I once gave a lady two-and-twenty receipts against melancholy: one was a bright fire; another, to remember all the pleasant things said to her; another, to keep a box of sugar-plums on the chimney-piece and a kettle simmering on the hob. I thought this mere trifling at the moment, but have in after-life discovered how true it is that these little pleasures often banish melancholy better than higher and more exalted objects; and that no means ought to be thought too trifling which can oppose it either in ourselves or in others.
Imaginary evils soon become real ones by indulging our reflections on them; as he who in a melancholy fancy sees something like a face on the wall or the wainscot, can, by two or three touches with a lead-pencil, make it look visible, and agreeing with what he fancied.
When soured by disappointment, we must endeavour to pursue some fixed and pleasing course of study, that there may be no blank leaf in our book of life . Painful and disagreeable ideas vanish from the mind that can fix its attention upon any subject. The sight of a noble and interesting object, the study of a useful science, the varied pictures of the different revolutions exhibited in the history of mankind, the improvements in any art, are capable of arresting the attention and charming every care; and it is thus that man becomes sociable with himself; it is thus that he finds his best friend within his own bosom.