S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The next method, therefore, that I would propose to fill up our time, should be useful and innocent diversions. I must confess, I think it is below reasonable creatures to be altogether conversant in such diversions as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them but that there is no hurt in them. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself I shall not determine; but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing away a dozen hours together in shuffling and dividing a pack of cards, with no other conversation but what is made up of a few game phrases, and no other ideas but those of black or red spots ranged together in different figures. Would not a man laugh to hear any one of this species complaining that life is short?
Whatever amuses serves to kill time, to lull the faculties, and to banish reflection. Whatever entertains usually awakens the understanding or gratifies the fancy. Whatever diverts is lively in its nature, and sometimes tumultuous in its effects.
It is a private opinion of mine that the dull people in this countryno matter whether they belong to the Lords or the Commonsare the people who, privately as well as publicly, govern the nation. By dull people I mean people, of all degrees of rank and education, who never want to be amused. I dont know how long it is since these dreary members of the population first hit on the cunning ideathe only idea they ever had or will haveof calling themselves Respectable; but I do know that, ever since that time, this great nation has been afraid of them,afraid in religious, in political, and in social matters.
Mere innocent amusement is in itself a good, when it interferes with no greater, especially as it may occupy the place of some other that may not be innocent. The Eastern monarch who proclaimed a reward to him who should discover a new pleasure would have deserved well of mankind had he stipulated that it should be blameless. Those, again, who delight in the study of human nature may improve in the knowledge of it, and in the profitable application of that knowledge, by the perusal of such fictions [by Miss Jane Austen] as those before us.