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RESPECTABLE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING PEOPLE
1. THERE are, and we are sure the reader must have come across some of them in the course of his life, a curious description of persons, who, possessing many of those qualities which one would think well adapted for securing success in the world, and presenting none obviously of an opposite description, yet never do succeed; who never can, somehow or other, manage to succeed. Yet are the particular kind of people whom we mean neither dissipated, dishonest, nor deficient in ability.
2. On the contrary, they are decent, respectable persons -grave, sober, and intelligent; their whole manner and bearing, character and dispositions, being eminently calculated to impress you with the most favorable opinion of them; and, at the same time, to excite your utmost wonder at the fact above alluded to, namely, their being always unfortunate, and never able, seemingly, to rise above the most humble cir. cumstances.
3. What is wrong in these cases ? for that there must be something wrong, after all, is evident; some deficiency there must be somewhere ;-no doubt of it. The broad fact is, that the worthy persons of whom we speak-notwithstanding their gravity, their steadiness, their intelligence-are found, on trial, to be absolutely and literally good for nothing, They want ordinary tact,—they want worldly wisdom,—and are deficient in energy and decision of character; and therein lies the secret of their utter uselessness.
4. All their good sense is theoretical, none of it practical ; and, therefore, of no value whatever to the owner as an instrument for working his advancement in life. It will not enable him to remove the smallest obstacle that comes in his way. He indeed tries to do so with it, but finds it totally incompetent to the task.
5. Others coming the same road, but provided with better working-tools, cast the difficulty aside in an instant; our worthy good-for-nothing looking on all the while, with a face of innocent amazement, and wondering how in the world they do it. The thing perplexes him sadly. Than the decent, sensible, respectable good-for-nothing, no man on earth is more willing to do well if he only knew how; but this, some way or other, he never can find out; and the consequence is that he is always to be found dozing along the lower paths that wind round the base of the hill of fortune.
6. He can by no means, although he has often tried it, find out that which leads to the summit; and in his perplexity gazes, with a look of amazement and non-comprehension, on those who have gained higher elevations than himself, and who are gradually increasing their height with every circuit. He cannot conceive how in the world they got there; and the greater is his wonder that he sees among them many who started on the journey of life from the same point with himself, nay, many from much lower positions.
7. The former, then must have, some time or other, given him the slip; the latter the go-by. They must; but how and when they did this, he cannot tell. It must have been when he was asleep, and no lack of such opportunity was there; for our worthy, respectable good-for-nothing is always asleep. It is, in fact, the circumstance of his being never awake that keeps him in the humble position in which we always find him.
8. The respectable good-for-nothing is always a person of quiet and inoffensive disposition. He would not hurt a fly, poor soul-not he. He injures nobody, and does not know how to resent it when anybody injures him. Indeed, he resents nothing ;-never, at any rate, by any active proceeding. His countenance, too, is mild and intelligent, but always most piteously lugubrious. It is as long as a fiddle-back, and has an expression of heart-rending sorrow about it that is most truly affecting.
9. He, in fact, seems always as if he had just recovered from a fit of crying; and so touching is this expression that we could never look on the grave, dismal, sensible face that exhibited it without being likely to cry too. No wonder, however, poor man, that he should look dismal; for, being, as has been already said, a remarkably intelligent person, his sense of his own unhappy state, of the strange fatality that prevents him getting on like other people, is very acute; and the more distressing that he cannot, for the life of him, see the why or the wherefore of his ill luck. He thus endures not only the misery of misfortune, but the perplexity of being unable to account for it.
RESPECTABLE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING PEOPLE. CONTINUED.
1. The good-for-nothing will frequently be found to be of that description of persons who have made a fair start in the world under favorable circumstances; who have yet, and without any apparent fault of their own, gone, as the saying is, to“ pigs and whistles” before they have got half-way on their journey; and who, by some fatality, can never manage to get their heads up again-never regain their lost footing, but continue during the remainder of their natural lives, to be in reality, and to exhibit the appearance of, respectable unfortunates; that is, grave, melancholy-looking persons in shabbyish apparel, who wander about doing nothing, but al. ways looking as if they would do something if they only knew what to do.
2. These persons, including, of course, our worthy good-fornothing, blame the world, and the world in turn blames them. They say the world used them ill, took advantage of them, and did not give them fair play. The world stoutly denies the charge, and says it used them no worse than other people, and that they ought to have looked more sharply after their own interests. The good-for-nothing, in short, calls the world
a rogue, and the world calls him a fool; and there the matter stands between them.
3. We have said more than once that the respectable goodfor-nothing is a sensible sort of person. He is
very sensible; nay, often a bit of a philosopher. It is, in truth, astonishing how rationally he talks. Yet it must be confessed that there is a peculiar kind of ponderosity about his good sense. It yields a terribly dull, leaden sound, and, to a fastidious judge of the article, does not seem to be quite genuine. There is nothing about it, indeed, with which you can quarrel ; still it never, somehow or other, impresses you with a very high opinion of the owner. By the way, there is a great deal of this kind of sense to be met with in the world.
4. There are persons who will talk for hours in the most unexceptionable strain, nay, who never talk otherwise; giving utterance to a world of the soundest doctrines, and most undeniable truths; and who, yet, never impress you with the idea of their being clever people. On the contrary, you are very apt to be guilty of the irreverence of deeming them bores; seeing that it is one of the qualities of the most formidable description of bores to speak fluently and sensibly on all things.
5. To return to our worthy friend. Keep him speaking only of the world and its ways, and you would be amazed at the shrewdness and soundness of his remarks-at the correctness of his views--and the justness of his appreciation of conduct and motive. But bring him in contact with that worldthrust him into the midst of its strife, and you at once discover his weakness. You at once perceive his total want of energy, and activity, and tact. He cannot see an inch beyond his nose, and is taken by surprise by everything that happens.
6. There seems, too, an unaccountable sort of powerlessness about him ; for, somehow'or other, he never can begin anything nor get through anything like other people ; and when emergencies overtake him, he gets bewildered, confused, stupefied-looking very like a timid person who is threatened with being ridden over by a coach.
7. He does not know which way to run—he hesitates—and the consequence is, that he is immediately knocked down, laid prostrate, and left sprawling in the mud, with probably a couple of broken legs. We think it hardly necessary to add that our worthy good-for-nothing is generally a bit of a simpleton ;-nay, a good deal of one, credulous and gullible.
8. He swallows everything that is placed before him with unsuspecting avidity; and this weakness is betrayed in his countenance ; for, notwithstanding it exhibits also a certain expression of intelligence, it would not take a Lavater to discover, in association and mingling with this expression, marked indications of that feebleness of character, amounting to imbecility, which renders our worthy friend what he is, namely, GOOD-FOR-NOTHING.
PICTURE OF SLANDER.
What mortal but slander, that serpent, hath stung,