The Lives of Misers teach us that no propensity can be abused without entailing its own punishment—The Effects of Avarice—Its appearance in Youth—Manhood—and Old Age—Concluding Remarks, &C.
WE imagine that the most inquisitive will not be dissatisfied at the scantiness of our facts. We have given more perhaps, than some will care to read, but we have not given them without feeling assured that they will be found useful to others than those, who merely seek amusement from their perusal. We flatter ourselves that as delineations of the human mind, as manifestations of the abuse of one of the propensities of our nature, they may prove instructive to the philosopher. The phrenologist will find among our anecdotes many illustrations, and perhaps many corroborations of his science. It was the doctrine of Gall and Spurzheim that no mental power could be abused or rendered over excited by immoderate gratification, without entailing its own punishment as a necessary consequence; and certainly in the wretched lives, in the pining, anxious, endless cares; in the remarkable deaths of the votaries of avarice whose lives and vices we have endeavoured to display, we observe an awful retribution follow their sins against nature's laws.
Some of our examples would seem to favour this doc-trine of the innateness of the human passions; for the passion of avarice is found peeping forth in infancy, triumphant in manhood, all-absorbing in old age, and sometimes strong in death. It is observed to be the most powerful when least prompted by necessity, or by the fear of future want. Abuse seems to grow with abuse—activity becomes more active when encouraged by gratification: the passion of avarice expands as it is fed. The miser with a moderate store of wealth, may feel that to double his riches, would be to satisfy his cravings; but he deludes himself: they are doubled, and with the augmentation of riches, he discovers an augmentation of desire. His first ardent wish now ap-pears insignificant, and he feels more ambitious, more restless, and more greedy for acquisitions than ever. Gratification has fed and stimulated his avarice, and in-creased his ideas of wealth: he thinks himself poor, although he has doubled his fortune.
We have seen, by many deplorable examples, how the gratification of this propensity absorbs all other feelings—how the very soul, and the purposes, and duties of life are sacrificed to subdue the insatiable thirst of this inordinate passion. We have seen how the slave of avarice becomes the most despicable—the most grovelling, and the most worthless of human kind. We have seen how, when blinded by this lust for gold, affection has been extinguished; honour and rectitude have been undermined; social duties have been neglected; and domestic ties have been disregarded. We have seen how, even on the bed of death, the miser has been still greedy to acquire; how, whilst on the very threshold of that grave, which would soon render back his body to its parent earth; he has been painfully anxious to increase the heap of dross, which his avarice had already accumulated; how all thought of the endless future, all thought of the vast eternity into which he was about to enter was discarded, in gratifying in his last dying moments this ruling passion of his soul. We have seen the miser, whilst neglecting his own physical preservation, and refusing medical aid that he might save a paltry fee, hurried into eternity; and we have read that some have died, repining amidst the agonies of death, that they could not live longer to acquire more! We have in fact, seen how the miser to gratify his senseless craving for gold,
"Throws up his interest in both worlds—
First starved in this, then damned in that to come."
Yet, like other powers and propensities of the human mind, the propensity to acquire has its legitimate sphere of usefulness, capable of adding to the blessings and the purposes of life. To its healthy exercise we are indebted for many of those perilous enterprises which have resulted in the discovery of unknown regions, to those vast schemes of art, which have enabled us to span the world with iron roads, and to plough the deep with untiring swiftness. The love of worldly gain, honourably and nobly made manifest, will act sometimes as a lever to lift the soul to gigantic efforts, and to stimulate the sleeping brain to effusions of immortal worth. God gives us the elements of mental action, but has left it to ourselves to train by education, these elements into a virtuous and honourable course. If we totally neglect the propensity to acquire, we become the spendthrift; if we exert it into undue activity we become the miser. Observation and science would lead us to imagine that some are born with a preponderance of this propensity; whilst others are only endowed with a moderate share. If such observations are correct,—if the deductions drawn from these facts are true, the responsibilities of education are doubled. It becomes the solemn duty of the monitor of youth to discourage that propensity in the one, by displaying the sinfulness of avarice and to encourage prudence in the other, by teaching how necessary is economy in the affairs of life.
And now, in parting, we cannot but express a hope that we have done something more than amuse the curious reader. We shall feel well repaid if we have done this; for we look upon it as a pleasant thing to make ourselves pleasant unto others; but we hope that whilst exciting a smile on the countenance, we may also have aroused a better feeling in the heart, have made our readers less prone to regard so tenaciously their hoards, and to have sown a disposition within them to bestow in charity a part of that of which they may have an abundance. We should, indeed, be amply repaid if our little book should be the means Of converting one soul from the idolatry of Mammon to the faith of brotherly love, if it should be instrumental in softening one heart, which had become hardened by avarice; or if it should be the cause of inspiring one poor but improvident man with the wish to save, or one rich, but avaricious man, with the desire to give. It is indeed, a great thing in the eyes of the world to be a man of wealth; but it is a still greater thing in the sight of heaven, to be a man of charity.