« ÎnapoiContinuă »
who perhaps imagine, that they have some right to gratify themselves at the expense 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 bave a friend, who, because he knows his own fidelity and usefulness, is never 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 power; or show 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 it's end and retirés. 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. RAMBLER.
ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD.
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 institutions 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 their reverence 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 accommodate 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 academies, 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 importance; they look round about them at once with ignorance 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 inclined to look on the common business of the world, and the unwillingness with which they condescend 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, or 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 on 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 pre
served 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 over* paid by gratitude. An elevated genius employed in little things appears, to use the simile of Longinus, like the sun in his evening declination; he remits his splendour, but retains his magnitude; and pleases more, though he dazzles less. RAMBLER.
ON THE ADVANTAGES OF UNITING GENTLENESS OF MANNERS WITH FIRMNESS OF MIND.
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 suavitèr in modo, fortitèr in re. I do not know any one rule so unexceptionably useful and necessary in every part of life.
The suavitèr 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 suavitèr in modo: however, they are seldom united. The warm choleric man, with strong animal spirits, despises the suavitèr in modo, and thinks to carry all before him by the fortitèr in re. He may possibly, by great accident, now and then succeed, 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 suavitèr 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 suavitèr in modo with the fortitèr in re.
If you are in authority, and have a right to command, your commands delivered suavitèr in modo will be willingly, cheerfully, and consequently well obeyed: whereas if given only fortitèr, that is brutally, they will rather, as Tacitus. says, be interpreted than executed. For my own part, if I bade my footman bring me a glass of wine in a rough insulting manner, I should expect, that, in obeying me, he would contrive to spill some of it upon me and I am sure I should deserve it. A cool steady resolution should show, that, where you have a right to command, you will be obeyed; but at the same time a gentleness in the manner of enforcing that obedience should make it a cheerful one, and soften, as much as possible, the mortifying consciousness of inferiority. If you are to ask a favour, or even to solicit your due, you must do it suavitèr in modo, or you will give those, who have a mind to refuse you either, a pretence to do it, by resenting the manner; but, on the other hand, you must, by a steady perseverance and decent tenaciousness, show the fortiter in re. In short, this precept is the only way I know in the world of being loved without being despised, and feared without being hated. It constitutes the dignity of character, which every wise man must endeavour to establish.
If therefore you find, that you have a hastiness in your temper, which unguardedly breaks out into indiscreet sallies, or rough expressions, to either your superiors, your equals, or your inferiors, watch it narrowly, check it carefully, and call the suavitèr in modo to your assistance: at the first im pulse of passion be silent, till you can be soft. Labour even to get the command of your countenance so well, that those emotions may not be read in it; a most unspeakable advantage in business! On the other hand, let no complaisance, no gentleness of temper, no weak desire of pleasing on your part, no wheedling, coaxing, nor flattery, on other people's, make you recede one jot from any point, that reason and prudence have bid you pursue; but return to the charge, persist, persevere, and you will find most things attainable that are possible. A yielding, timid meekness is always abused and insulted by the unjust and the unfeeling; but meekness, when sustained by the fortitèr in re, is always re
spected, commonly successful. In your friendships and connections, as well as in your enmities, this rule is particularly useful: let your firmness and vigour preserve and invite attachments to you; but, at the same time, let your manner hinder the enemies of your friends and dependents from becoming yours; let your enemies be disarmed by the gentleness of your manner, but let them feel, at the same time, the steadiness of your just resentment; for there is a great difference between bearing malice, which is always ungenerous, and a resolute self-defence, which is always prudent and justifiable.
I conclude with this observation, That gentleness of man. ners, with firmness of mind, is a short, but full description of human perfection, on this side of religious and moral duties. LORD CHESTERFIELD.
ON GOOD SENSE.
WERE I to explain what I understand by Good Sense, I should call it right reason; but right reason that arises not from formal and logical deductions, but from a sort of intuitive faculty in the soul, which distinguishes by immediate perception: a kind of innate sagacity, that in many of it's properties seems very much to resemble instinct. It would be improper, therefore, to say, that sir Isaac Newton showed his good sense, by those amazing discoveries which he made in natural philosophy; the operations of this gift of Heaven are rather instantaneous than the result of any tedious process. Like Diomede, after Minerva had indued him with the power of discerning gods from mortals, the man of good sense discovers at once the truth of those objects he is most concerned to distinguish, and conducts himself with suitable caution and security.
It is for this reason, possibly, that this quality of the mind is not so often found united with learning as one could wish ; for good sense being accustomed to receive her discoveries without labour or study, she cannot so easily wait for those