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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Those also who attend these diversions


[Footnote

7: I have been told by a physician of the first eminence, that music and novels have done more to produce the sickly countenances and nervous habits of our highly educated females, than any other causes that can be assigned. The excess of stimulus on the mind from the interesting and melting tales, that are peculiar to novels, affects the organs of the body, and relaxes the tone of the nerves, in the same manner as the melting tones of music have been described to act upon the constitution, after the sedentary employment, necessary for skill in that science, has injured it.]

It is difficult to estimate the injury which is done to persons, by this last mentioned effect of novel-reading upon the mind. For the contents of our best books consist usually of plain and sober narrative. Works of this description give no extravagant representations of things, because their object is truth. They are found often without characters or catastrophies, because these would be often unsuitable to the nature of the subject of which they treat. They contain repellants rather than stimulants, because their design is the promotion of virtue. The novel-reader therefore, by becoming indisposed towards these, excludes himself from moral improvement, and deprives himself of the most substantial pleasure, which reading can produce. In vain do books on the study of nature unfold to him the treasures of the mineral or the vegetable world. He foregoes this addition to his

knowledge, and this innocent food for his mind. In vain do books on science lay open to him the constitution and the laws of the motion of bodies. This constitution and these laws are still mysteries to him. In vain do books on religion discover to him the true path to happiness. He has still this path to seek. Neither, if he were to dip into works like these, but particularly into those of the latter discription, could he enjoy them. This latter consideration makes the reading of novels a more pernicious employment than many others. For though there may be amusements, which may sometimes produce injurious effects to those, who partake of them, yet these may be counteracted by the perusal of works of a moral tendency. The effects, on the other hand, which are produced by the reading of novels, seem to admit of no corrective or cure; for how, for instance, shall a perverted morality, which is considered to be one of them, be rectified, if the book which is to contain the advice for this purpose, be so uninteresting, or insipid, that the persons in question have no disposition to peruse it?

CHAP. VII-SECT. I.

_Diversions of the field--diversions of the field forbidden--general thoughtlessness on this subject--sentiments of Thomson--sentiments of George Fox--of Edward Burroughs--similar sentiments of Cowper--law of the society on the subject._

The diversions of the field are usually followed by people, without any consideration, whether they are justifiable, either in the eye of morality or of reason. Men receive them as the customs of their ancestors, and they are therefore not likely to entertain doubts concerning their propriety. The laws of the country also sanction them; for we find regulations and qualifications on the subject. Those also who attend these diversions, are so numerous, and their rank, and station, and character, are often such, that they sanction them again by their example, so that few people think of making any inquiry, how far they are allowable as pursuits.


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