Page images

ness than to raise esteem. Therefore in assemblies and places of resort it seldom fails to happen, that though at the entrance of some particular person every face brightens with gladness, and every hand is extended in salutation, yet if you pursue him beyond the first exchange of civilities, you will find him of very small importance, and only welcome to the company, as one by whom all conceive themselves admired,& with whom any one is at liberty to amuse himself when he can find no auditor or companion; as one with whom all are at ease, who will hear a jest without criticism, and a narrative without contradiction; who laughs at every wit and yields to every disputer.

There are many whose vanity always inclines them to associate with those from whom they have no reason to fear mortification; and there are times in which the wise and the knowing are willing to receive praise without the labour of deserving it, in which the most elevated mind is willing to descend, and the most active to be at rest. All therefore are at some hour or other fond of companions whom they can entertain upon easy terms and who will relieve them from solitude, without condemning them to vigilance & caution. We are most inclined to love when we have nothing to fear; and he thatencourages us to please ourselves, will not be long without preference in our affection to those whose learning holds us at the distance of pupils, or whose wit calfs all attention from us, and leaves us without importance and without regard.

It is remarked by prince Henry, when he sees Falstaff lying on the ground, "hat he could have better spared a better man" He was well acquainted with the vices and follies of him whom he lamented, but while his conviction compelled him to do justice to superior qualities, his tenderness still broke out at the remembrance of Falstaff, of the cheerful companion, the loud buffoon, with whom he had passed his time in all the luxury of idle

ness, who had gladdened him with unenvied merriment, and whom he could at once enjoy and despise.

You may perhaps think this account of those who are distinguished for their good humour, not very consistent with the praises which I have bestowed upon it. But surely nothing can more evidently shew the value of this quality, than that it recommends those who are destitute of all other excellences, and procures regard to the trifling, friendship to the worthless, and affection to the dull.

Good humour is indeed generally degraded by the characters in which it is found; for being considered as a cheap and vulgar quality, we find it often neglected by those that having excellencies of higher reputation and brighter splendor, perhaps imagine that they have some right to gratify themselves at the expence of others, and are to demand compliance, rather than to practise it. It is by some unfortunate mistake that almost all those who have any claim to esteem or love, press their pretensions with too little consideration of others. This mistake my own interest as well as my zeal for general happiness makes me desirous to rectify; for I have a friend, who because he knows his own fidelity and usefulness, is neve er willing to sink into a companion. I have a wife whose beauty first subdued me, and whose wit confirmed her conquest; but whose beauty now serves no other purpose than to entitle her to tyranny, and whose wit is only used to justify perverseness.

Surely nothing can be more unreasonable than to lose the will to please, when we are conscious of the pow er, or shew more cruelty than to choose any kind of influence before that of kindness. He that regards the welfare of others, should make his virtue approachable, that it may be loved and copied ; and he that considers the wants which every man feels, or will feel, of external assistance, must rather wish to be surrounded by those that love him, than by those that admire his excellencies, or solicit his favours; for admiration ceases with novelty,

and interest gains its end and retires. A man whose great qualities want the ornament of superficial attractions, is like a naked mountain with mines of gold, which will be frequented only till the treasure is exhausted.


[ocr errors][merged small]


NOTHING has so much exposed men of learning to contempt and ridicule, as their ignorance of things which are known to all but themselves. Those who have been taught to consider the istitutions of the schools, as giving the last perfection to human abilities, are surprised to see men wrinkled with study, yet wanting to be instructed in the minute circumstances of propriety, or the necessary forms of daily transaction: and quickly shake off sheir reyerence for modes of education, which they find to produce no ability above the rest of mankind.

Books, says Bacon, can never teach the use of books. The student must learn by commerce with mankind to reduce his speculations to practice, and accomodate his knowledge to the purposes of life.

It is too common for those who have been bred to scholastic professions, and passed much of their time in acade. mies, where nothing but learning confers honours, to disregard every other qualification, and to imagine that they shall find mankind ready to pay homage to their knowledge, and to crowd about them for instruction. They therefore step out from their cells into the open world, with all the confidence of authority and dignity of impor tance; they look round about them at once with igno rance and scorn on a race of beings to whom they are

equally unknown and equally contemptible, but whose manners they must imitate, and with whose opinions they must comply, if they desire to pass their time happily among them.

To lessen that disdain with which scholars are incl ined to look on the common business of the world, and the unwillingness with which they condescended to learn what is not to be found in any system of philosophy, it may be necessary to consider, that though admiration is excited by abstruse researches and remote discoveries, yet pleasure is not given, nor affection conciliated, but by softer accomplishments, and qualities more easily communicable to those about us. He that can only converse upon questions, about which only a small part of mankind has knowledge sufficient to make them curious, must lose his days in unsocial silence, and live in the crowd of life without a companion. He that can only be useful in great occasions, may die without exerting his abilities, and stand a helpless spectator of a thousand vexations which fret away happiness, and which nothing is required to remove but a little dexterity of conduct and readiness of expedients.

No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance, or to extinguish the desire of fond endearments, and tender officiousness; and therefore no one should think it unnecessary to learn those arts by which friendship may be gained. Kindness is preserved by a constant reciprocation of benefits or interchange of pleasures; but such benefits only can be bestowed, as others are capable of receiving, and such. pleasures only imparted, as others are qualified to enjoy.

By this descent from the pinnacles of art no honour will be lost; for the condescensions' of learning are always overpaid by gratitude. An elevated genius employed in little things, appears, to use the smile of Longinus, like the sun in his evening declination; he remits his splendor but retains his magnitude; and pleases more though he dazzles less.

[merged small][ocr errors]


I MENTIONED to you, some time ago, a sentence, which I would most earnestly wish you always to retain in your thoughts, and observe in your conduct; it is suaviter in modo, fortiter in re. I do not know any one rule so unexceptionably useful and necessary in every part of life.

The suaviter in modo alone would degenerate and, sink into a mean, timid complaisance, and passiveness, if not supported and dignified by the fortiter in re; which would also run into impetuosity and brutality, if not tempered and softened by the suaviter in modo: however, they are but seldom united. The warm choleric man, with strong animal spirits, despises the suaviter in modo, and thinks to carry all before him by the fortiter in re. He may possibly, by great accident, now and then suc'ceed, when he has only weak and timid people to deal with; but his general fate will be, to shock, offend, be hated, and fail. On the other hand the cunning crafty man thinks to gain all his ends by the suaviter in modo only; he becomes all things to all men; he seems to have no opinion of his own, and servilely adopts the present opinion of the present person; he insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools, but is soon detected, and surely despised, by every body else. The wise man (who differs as much from the cunning, as from the choleric man} alone joins the suaviter in modo with the fortiter in re.

If you are in authority, and have a right to command, your commands delivered suaviter in modo will be wil lingly, cheerfully, and consequently well obeyed; whereas if given only fortiter, that is rally, they will rather, as Tacitus says, be interpreted than excuted

For my

« EelmineJätka »