( Originally Published 1879 )
Congenial passions souls together bind,
THAT we may be known by the company we frequent, has become proverbial. For, when unrestrained, we are prone to choose and associate with those whose manners and dispositions are agreeable and congenial to ours. Hence, when we find persons frequenting any company whatsoever, we are disposed to believe that such company is congenial with their feelings, not only in regard to their intellectual capacities and accomplishments, but also their moral disposition and their particular manner in life.
Good company not only improves our manners, but also our minds; for intelligent associates will become a source of enjoyment, as well as of edification. If they be pious they will improve our morals; if they be polite they will tend to improve our manners; if they be learned they will add to our knowledge and correct our errors. On the other hand, if they be immoral, ignorant, vulgar, their impress will most surely be left upon us. It therefore becomes a matter of no trivial concern to select, and associate with proper company, while avoiding that which is certainly prejudicial.
We should always seek the company of those who are known to possess superior merit and natural endowments; for then, by being assimilated in manners and disposition, we rise: Whereas, by associating with those who are our inferiors in every respect, we become assimilated with them, and by that assimilation become degraded. Upon the whole much care and judgment are necessary in selecting properly that company which will be profitable. Yet this is not a point of so great interest among females as men; because they are not necessarily thrown into such promiscuous associations of such diversity of character as the latter. Nevertheless, the greater care and prudence are requisite to them, should they happen in such circles, to avoid their pernicious influence, to which most are too prone to yield.
Good company is that which is composed of intelligent and well-bred persons; whose language is chaste and good; whose sentiments are pure and edifying; whose deportment is such as pure and well-regulated education and correct morals dictate; and whose con-duct is ,directed and restrained by the pure precepts of religion.
When we have the advantage of such company, it should be the object of our zeal "to imitate their real perfections; copy their politeness, their carriage, their address, and the easy well-bred turn of their conversation; but we should remember that, let them shine ever so bright, their vices (if they have any) are so many blemishes, which we should no more endeavor to imitate than we should make artificial warts on our faces because some very handsome lady happened to have one by nature. We .should, on the contrary, think • how much handsomer she would have been without it."
What can be more pleasing and more angelic, than a young lady, virtuous and adorned with the graces and elegances of finished politeness, based upon a sound intellect, and well improved mind!
" For her inconstant man might cease to range, And gratitude forbid desire to change."
The reflection is pleasing, that it is in the power of all to acquire an elegance of manner, although they may be deprived of the advantages to be derived from a liberal education. At least they may attain to that degree of elegance and manners, by judicious selection of company, that will render them pleasing in any social circle, whether at home or abroad. This will excite interest, which will grow into respect; from which always. springs that pure, ardent, and affection ate attachment which alone forms the only generous and indissoluble connection between the sexes; that which the lapse of time serves only to confirm, and nought but death can destroy.
If so much importance be attached to the prudent selection of company and associates, and if this be of such vital interest to every young female, how careful should she be in taking to her bosom for life a companion of dissolute habits and morals. Such an act might destroy all the domestic felicity she might have hoped to enjoy, and be a source of constant sorrow to her through life.
"Oh shun my friend, avoid that dangerous coast Where peace expires, and fair affection's lost."
For no connection or friendship can be fond and lasting, where a conformity of inclination and disposition does not exist; but where this exists, all passions and finer feelings of the soul gently harmonize, and form one common and lasting interest.