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CONCERNING THE AMUSEMENTS OF A
AMUSEMENT is necessary to man in every station of life, and it is a main assistance to the knowledge of men to observe which way this necessity lies with them; to inquire, not only how they occupy themselves, but after what manner they amuse themselves. If the magistracy shows the man, according to the Greek adage, his amusements show him more; for in them nature has her way.
The species of relaxation which is adapted to a statesman depends in part upon the manner in which he is apt to suffer from the pressure of business, whether he is apt to sink into
lassitude (which is the safe way), or to run amain in excitement. Books are an easy and commodious resource, because they can be summoned and dismissed at pleasure; but in the extreme of either of the cases above mentioned they will not be suitable; because in the one case the mind will be too dead to be moved by them, in the other it will be running too fast for them to lay hold of it. But in those which are not cases of extremity either way, books may be used,light books for the languid man, strong books for the excited; and there are books of a light strength which may not come amiss to a man in either predicament.
But as there will not always be life enough in the society of books to afford enjoyment to a statesman, let him step from the library to the drawing-room. A small society should not infrequently be formed there, consisting for the most part-but not wholly of intimate acquaintances, and they should be persons of lively
conversation, but above all, of easy natures. Knowledge and wit will naturally be found in sufficient proportions in the society of a man of talents occupying an eminent position; but if knowledge be argumentative and wit agonistic, the society becomes an arena, and loses all merit as a mode of relaxation. An adequate proportion of women will slacken the tone of conversation in these particulars, and yet tend to animate it also. And there is this advantage in the of company women especially if some of them be beautiful and innocent that breaks in conversation are not felt to be blanks; for the sense of such a presence will serve to fill up voids and interstices. But though knowledge, wit, wisdom, and beauty should be found in this circle, there should be no sedulous exclusion of such persons not possessed of these recommendations, as would otherwise naturally find a place there. For unless the statesman between the business and the pleasures of the world have
lost sight of its charities, he will not find his society the less of a relaxation for mixing some of the duties and benevolences of life with its enjoyments; and he will count amongst its amenities if not amongst its charms, some proportion of attentions to the aged and kindness to the dull and unattractive. It may also be observed that dulness, like a drab ground, serves to give an enhanced effect to the livelier colours of society.
It will be perhaps equally desirable for the statesman whose business exhausts his excitability, and for him whose excitement, beginning in business, pursues him in his social hours, that the society which they cultivate should be quietly gay. Exuberant noisy gaiety will overbear the spirits of the exhausted man, and overstimulate those of the other. Some reference should be had to this object in the lighting of his rooms; for the loud or low talking of a company, together with the tone of mind belonging
to the tone of voice, very much depends upon that, -as any canary-bird will teach us when a handkerchief is thrown over his cage.
Music is an excellent mode of relaxation to
those who possess I will not say an ear for it, because that seems a shallow expression — but a faculty of the mind for it. Yet unless a man's susceptibility in this kind be very peculiar, he will generally prefer music which mixes itself with conversation, or alternates with it by brief returns, to music which sets it aside. Instrumental music, exciting without engrossing the mind, will often rather stimulate and inspire conversation than suppress it; though to take this advantage of it, the company must break up into retired groups or couples, speaking low in corners. But the singing of ladies is a thing which, in courtesy if not for enjoyment, must be heard in silence; unless (which is best) it be heard from an adjoining room, through an open door, so that they who desire to listen to the