« ForrigeFortsæt »
Honour 's a sacred tie, the law of kings,
In the second place, we are to consider those who have mistaken notions of honour; and these are such as establish anything to themselves for a point of honour, which is contrary, either to the laws of God, or of their country; who think it more honourable to revenge, than to forgive an injury; who make no scruple of telling a lie, but would put any man to death that accuses them of it; who are more careful to guard their reputation by their courage than by their virtue. True fortitude is, indeed, so becoming in human nature, that he who wants it scarce deserves the name of a man; but we find several, who so much abuse this notion, that they place the whole idea of honour in a kind of brutal courage; by which means, we have had many among us, who have called themselves men of honour, that would have been a disgrace to a gibbet. In a word, the man who sacrifices any duty of a reasonable creature to a prevailing mode or fashion, who looks upon anything as honourable that is displeasing to his Maker or destructive to society, who thinks himself obliged by this principle to the practice of some vir
of the good (so Cicero, somewhere, defines true honour) was, first to secure the suffrage of our own hearts.
Besides, in fact, these two principles governed, separately, in ancient Rome. Honour was the ruling principle of Cicero's splendid life; and virtue, of Cato's awful one. Whence it may appear, that virtue is the stronger and steadier principle; but that honour is qualified to be a good second, or even substitute of virtue; that is, in the poet's words, to aid her enthusiasm, or to imitate her actions.
The conclusion is, that the learned poet has not violated decorum, in transferring to Juba the ideas of modern times; but has made him speak in the true Roman style, when he distinguishes between honour and virtue : for a distinction, we see, there was; but not the same which our Gothic manners have since introduced.
The mistake might arise from the poet's calling his honour—the law of kings—that being the common boast of Gothic honour. But he only means, that public persons are chiefly governed by the law of honour or outward esteem; which, of course, is a more obvious, and, generally, a more binding law, to men so employed, than that of virtue or self-esteem ; the first rule of which is-tecum habita—a hard injunction to such as are taken up with the great affairs of the world.
tues and not of others, is, by no means, to be reckoned among true men of honour.
Timogenes was a lively instance of one actuated by false honour. Timogenes would smile at a man's jest who ridiculed his Maker, and, at the same time, run a man through the body that spoke ill of his friend. Timogenes would have scorned to have betrayed a secret that was intrusted with him, though the fate of his country depended upon the discovery of it. Timogenes took away the life of a young fellow, in a duel, for having spoken ill of Belinda, a lady whom he himself had seduced in her youth, and betrayed into want and ignominy. To close his character, Timogenes, after having ruined several poor tradesmen's families, who had trusted him, sold his estate to satisfy his creditors; but, like a man of honour, disposed of all the money he could make of it, in the paying off his play-debts, or, to speak in his own language, his debts of honour.
In the third place, we are to consider those persons who treat this principle as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule. Men who are professedly of no honour, are of a more profligate and abandoned nature than even those who are acted by false notions of it, as there is more hopes of a heretic than of an atheist. These sons of infamy consider honour, with old Syphax, in the play before-mentioned, as a fine imaginary notion, that leads astray young, unexperienced men, and draws them into real mischiefs, while they are engaged in the pursuits of a shadow. These are, generally, persons who, in Shakspeare's phrase, “are worn and hackney'd in the ways of men ;" whose imaginations are grown callous, and have lost all those delicate sentiments which are natural to minds that are innocent and undepraved. Such old battered miscreants ridicule everything as romantic that comes in competition with their present interest, and treat those persons as visionaries, who dare stand up in a corrupt age for what · has not its immediate reward joined to it. The talents, interest, or experience of such men, make them very often useful in all parties, and at all times. But whatever wealth and
| To have betrayed.] It should have been, to betray.
2 In the paying off his play-debts.] He should have said—in the paying off of his play-debts-or, rather, to avoid the offensive sound, off of_in paying off his play-debts; that is, paying should be a participle, properly so called, and not a substantive, as it is when preceded by the article.
dignities they may arrive at, they ought to consider, that every one stands as a blot in the annals of his country, who arrives at the temple of Honour by any other way than through that of Virtue.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16.
Proprium hoc esse prudentiæ, conciliare sibi animos hominum et ad usus suos adjungere.
CICERO. I was the other day in company at my Lady Lizard's, when there came in among us their cousin Tom, who is one of those country 'squires, that set up for plain honest gentlemen who speak their minds. Tom is, in short, a lively, impudent clown, and has wit enough to have made him a pleasant companion, had it been polished and rectified by good man
Tom had not been a quarter of an hour with us, before he set every one in the company a blushing, by some blunt question or unlucky observation. He asked the Sparkler if her wit had yet got her a husband: and told her eldest sister she looked a little wan under the eyes, and that it was time for her to look about her, if she did not design to lead apes in the other world. The good Lady Lizard, who suffers more than her daughters on such an occasion, desired her cousin Thomas, with a smile, not to be so severe on his relations ; to which the booby replied, with a rude country laugh, “ If I be not mistaken, aunt, you were a mother at fifteen, and why do you expect that your daughters should be maids till five and twenty ?” I endeavoured to divert the discourse, when, without taking notice of what I said, “ Mr. Ironside,”
my cousins' heads with your fine notions, as you call them, can you teach them to make a pudding ?” I must confess he put me out of countenance with his rustic raillery, so that I made some excuse, and left the room.
This fellow's behaviour made me reflect on the usefulness of complaisance, to make all conversation agreeable. This, though in itself it be scarce reckoned in the number of moral virtues, is that which gives a lustre to every talent a man can be possessed of. It was Plato's advice to an unpolished writer, that he should sacrifice to the Graces. In the same manner, I would advise every man of learning, who would not appear in the world a mere scholar, or philosopher, to
make himself master of the social virtue which I have here mentioned.
Complaisance renders a superior amiable, an equal agreeable, and an inferior acceptable.
It smooths distinction, sweetens conversation, and makes every one in the company pleased with himself. It produces good-nature and mutual benevolence, encourages the timorous, soothes the turbulent, humanizes the fierce, and distinguishes a society of civilized persons from a confusion of savages. In a word, complaisance is a virtue that blends all orders of men together in a friendly intercourse of words and actions, and is suited to that equality in human nature, which every one ought to consider, so far as is consistent with the order and economy of the world.
If we could look into the secret anguish and affliction of every man's heart, we should often find that more of it arises from little imaginary distresses, such as checks, frowns, contradictions, expressions of contempt, and (what Shakspeare reckons among other evils under the sun)
-The poor man's contumely,
That patient merit of the unworthy takes, than from the more real pains and calamities of life. The only method to remove these imaginary distresses, as much as possible, out of human life, would be the universal practice of such an ingenuous complaisance as I have been here describing, which, as it is a virtue, may be defined to be, constant endeavour to please those whom we converse with, so far as we may do it innocently.” I shall here add, that. I know nothing so effectual to raise a man's fortune as complaisance, which recommends more to the favour of the great than wit, knowledge, or any other talent whatsoever. I find this consideration very prettily illustrated by a little wild Arabian tale, which I shall here abridge, for the sake of my reader, after having again warned him, that I do not recommend to him such an impertinent or vicious complaisance as is not consistent with honour and integrity.
“Schacabac being reduced to great poverty, and having eat nothing for two days together, made a visit to a noble
Confusion.] The abstract idea is here out of place. He meant, and should have said-a rout of savages.
Barmecide in Persia, who was very hospitable, but withal a great humourist. The Barmecide was sitting at his table, that seemed ready covered for an entertainment. Upon hearing Schacabac's complaint, he desired him to sit down and fall on. He then gave him an empty plate, and asked him how he liked his rice-soup ? Schacabac, who was a man of wit, and resolved to comply with the Barmecide in all his humours, told him it was admirable, and at the same time, in imitation of the other, lifted up the empty spoon to his mouth with great pleasure. The Barmecide then asked him if he ever saw whiter bread ? Schacabac, who saw neither bread nor meat, 'If I did not like it, you may be sure (says he) I should not eat so heartily of it.'You oblige me
• mightily, (replied the Barmecide,) pray let me help you to this leg of a goose.". Schacabac reached out his plate, and received nothing on it with great cheerfulness. As he was eating very heartily on this imaginary goose, and crying up the sauce to the skies, the Barmecide desired him to keep a corner of his stomach for a roasted lamb, fed with pistacho nuts, and after having called for it, as though it had really been served
· Here is a dish (says he) that you will see at nobody's table but my own. Schacabac was wonderfully delighted with the taste of it, which is like nothing, says he, I ever eat before. Several other nice dishes were served up in idea, which both of them commended and feasted on after the same manner. This was followed by an invisible dessert, no part of which delighted Schacabac so much as a certain lozenge, which the Barmecide told him was a sweetmeat of his own invention. Schacabac at length, being courteously reproached by the Barmecide, that he had no stomach, and that he eat nothing, and, at the same time, being tired with moving his jaws up and down to no purpose, desired to be excused, for that really he was so full he could not eat a bit more. Come, then, (says the Barmecide,) the cloth shall be. removed and you shall taste of my wines, which I may say, without vanity, are the best in Persia.' He then filled both their glasses out of an empty decanter. Schacabac would have excused himself from drinking so much at once,
because he said he was a little quarrelsome in his liquor; however, being pressed to it, he pretended to take it off, having beforehand praised the colour, and afterwards the flavour. . Being plied with two or three other imaginary bumpers of different