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tanities of good; they have too often funk into inactivity and useleffnefs; and though they have forborne to injure fociety, have not fully paid their contributions to its happiness.
While riches are fo neceffary to prefent convenience, and fo much more eafily obtained by crimes than virtues, the mind can only be fecured from yielding to the continual impulfe of covetoufnefs by the preponderation of unchangeable and eternal motives. Gold will generally turn the intellectual balance, when weighed only against reputation; but will be light and ineffectual when the oppofite fcale is charged with justice, veracity, and piety.
Politeness a neceffary Auxiliary to Knowledge and Virtue. [Advent. No. 87.]
HERE are many accomplishments which, tho' they are comparatively trivial, and may be acquired by fmall abilities, are yet of great importance in our common intercourfe with men. Of this kind is that general courtefy, which is called GOOD BREEDING; a name, by which, as an artificial excellence, it is at once characterised and recommended.
Good breeding, as it is generally employed in the gratification of vanity, a paffion almoft univerfally predominant, is more highly prized by the majority than any other; and he who wants it, though he may be preferved from contempt by inconteftible fuperiority either of virtue or of parts, will yet be regarded with malevolence, and avoided as an enemy with whom it is dangerous to combat.
In fome inftances, indeed, the enmity of others cannot be avoided without the participation of guilt; but then it is the enmity of thofe, with whom neither virtue nor wisdom can defire to affociate: and good breeding may generally be practifed upon more eafy and more honourable terms, than acquiefcence in the detraction of malice or the adulation of fervility, the obfcenity of a letcher,
a letcher, or the blafphemy of an infidel. Difagreeable truths may be fuppreffed; and when they can be fuppreffed without guilt, they cannot innocently be uttered; the boaft of vanity may be fuffered without fevere reprehenfion, and the prattle of abfurdity may be heard without expreflions of contempt.
It happens, indeed, fomewhat unfortunately, that the practice of good breeding, however neceffary, is obftructed by the poffeffion of more valuable talents; and that great integrity, delicacy, fenfibility, and fpirit, exalted genius, and extenfive learning, frequently render men ill-bred.
Petrarch relates, that his admirable friend and cotemporary, Dante Aligheri, one of the most exalted and original geniufes that ever appeared, being banished his country, and having retired to the court of a prince, which was then the fanctuary of the unfortunate, was held at first in great esteem; but became daily less acceptable to his patron, by the feverity of his manners and the freedom of his fpeech. There were at the fame court many players and buffoons, gametters and de- bauchees, one of whom, distinguished for his impudence, ribaldry, and obfcenity, was greatly careffed by the reft; which the prince fufpecting Dante not to be pleased with, ordered the man to be brought before him, and having highly extolled him, turned to Dante and faid, "I wonder that this person, who is by fome deemed a "fool, and by others a madman, fhould yet be fo ge
nerally pleafing, and fo generally beloved; when you, who are celebrated for wisdom, are yet heard' "without pleasure and commended without friendship." "You would ceafe to wonder, replied Dante, "if you confidered, that a conformity of character is "the fource of friendship." This farcasm, which had all the force of truth, and all the keenness of wit, was intolerable; and Dante was immediately difgraced and banished.
But by this answer, though the indignation which produced it was founded in virtue, Dante probably gratified his own vanity, as much as he mortified that of others: it was the petulant reproach of refentment and
pride, which is always retorted with rage; and not the ftill voice of REASON, which is heard with complacency and reverence: if Dante intended reformation, his answer was not wife; if he did not intend reformation, his answer was not good.
Great delicacy, fenfibility, and penetration, do not lefs obftruct the practice of good breeding than integrity. Perfons thus qualified, not only difcover proportionably more faults and failings in the characters which they examine, but are more difgufted with the faults and failings which they difcover: the common topics of conversation are too trivial to engage their attention; the various turns of fortune that have lately happened at a game at whift, the hiftory of a ball at Tunbridge or Bath, a defcription of lady Fanny's jewels and lady Kitty's vapours, the journals of a horse-race or a cock-match, and difquifitions on the game-act or the scarcity of partridges, are fubjects upon which men of delicate tafte do not always chufe to declaim, and on which they cannot patiently hear the declamation of others. But they should remember, that their impatience is the impotence of reafon and the prevalence of vanity; that if they fit filent and referved, wrapped up in the contemplation of their own dignity, they will in their turn be despised and hated by those whom they hate and despise; and with better reafon, for perverted power ought to be more odious than debility. To hear with patience, and to anfwer with civility, feems to comprehend all the good breeding of converfation; and in proportion as this is eafy, filence and inattention are without excufe.
He, who does not practise good breeding, will not find himself confidered as the object of good breeding by others. There is, however, a fpecies of rufticity, which it is not lefs abfurd than injurious to treat with contempt: this fpecies of ill breeding is become almost proverbially the characteristic of a scholar; nor fhould it be expected, that he who is deeply attentive to an abftrufe fcience, or who employs any of the three great faculties of the foul, the memory, the imagination, or the judgment, in the close pursuit of their feveral ob
jects, fhould have ftudied punctilios of form and ceremony, and be equally able to fhine at a route and in the fchools. That the bow of a chronologer, and the compliment of an aftronomer, fhould be improper or uncouth, cannot be thought ftrange to thofe, who duly confider the narrowness of our faculties, and the impoffibility of attaining univerfal excellence.
Equally excufable, for the fame reasons, are that abfence of mind, and that forgetfulness of place and perfon to which scholars are fo frequently fubject. When Lewis XIV. was one day lamenting the death of an old comedian whom he highly extolled, "Yes," replied Boileau, in the prefence of madam Maintenon, he "performed tolerably well in the defpicable pieces of "Scarron, which are now deservedly forgotten even in "the provinces."
As every condition of life, and every turn of mind, has fome peculiar temptation and propenfity to evil, let not the man of uprightness and honefty be morofe and furly in his practice of virtue; let not him, whose delicacy and penetration difcern with difguft thofe imperfections in others from which he himself is not free, indulge perpetual peevishness and difcontent; nor let learning and knowledge be pleaded as an excufe for not condefcending to the common offices and duties of civil life for as no man fhould be WELL-BRED, at the expence of his VIRTUE; no man should practise virtue, fo as to deter others from IMITATION.
Idlenefs incapable of Felicity. Story of NED FROTH. [Advent. N° 94.]
YOU have fomewhere difcouraged the hope of idlecompares number of those who have poffeffed fortuitous advantages, and of those who have been difappointed in their expectations, will have little reafon to register himself in the lucky catalogue.
But as we have feen thoufands fubfcribe to a raffle, of which one only could obtain the prize; fo idleness will ftill presume to hope, if the advantages, however improbable, are admitted to lie within the bounds of poffibility. Let the drone, therefore, be told, that if by the error of fortune he obtains the ftores of the bee, he cannot enjoy the felicity; that the honey which is not gathered by industry, will be eaten without relish, if it is not wafted in riot; and that all who become poffeffed of the immediate object of their hope without any efforts of their own, will be disappointed of enjoy
No life can be happy, but that which is spent in the profecution of fome purpose to which our powers are equal, and which we, therefore, profecute with fuccefs: for this reafon it is abfurd to dread bufinefs, upon pretence that it will leave few intervals to pleasure. Bufinefs is that by which industry pursues its purpose, and the purpose of induftry is feldom difappointed; he who endeavours to arrive at a certain point, which he perceives himself perpetually to approach, enjoys all the happiness which nature has allotted to thofe hours, that are not spent in the immediate gratification of appetites by which our own wants are indicated, or of affections by which we are prompted to fupply the wants of others. The end propofed by the bufy, is various as their temper, conftitution, habits, and circumftances: but in the labour itself is the enjoyment, whether it be purfued to fupply the neceffaries or the conveniencies of life, whether to cultivate a farm or decorate a palace; for when the palace is decorated, and the barn filled, the pleasure is at an end, till the object of defire is again placed at a distance, and our powers are again employed to obtain it with apparent fuccefs. Nor is the value of life lefs, than if our enjoyment did not thus consist in anticipation; for by anticipation, the pleasure which would otherwise be contracted within an hour, is dif fufed through a week; and if the dread which exaggerates future evil, is confeffed to be an increase of mifery, the hope which magnifies future good cannot be denied to be an acceffion of happiness.