صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

both incessantly employed in schemes to intercept the praises of each other.

I am, however, far from intending to inculcate that this confinement of the studious to studious companions, has been wholly without advantage to the public: neighbourhood, where it does not conciliate friendfhip, incites competition: and he that would contentedly rest in a lower degree of excellence, where he had no rival to dread, will be urged by his impatience of inferiority to inceffant endeavours after great' attainments.

These ftimulations of honest rivalry are, perhaps, the chief effects of academies and societies ; for whatever be the bulk of their joint labours, every fingle piece is always the production of an individual, that owes nothing to his colleagues but the contagion of diligence, a resolution to write, because the rest are writing, and the scorn of obscurity while the rest are illustrious.

No.

N

No. XLVI. Saturday, April 14. 1753.

Μισω μνημονά Συμπoτην

Prov. Gr.

Far from my table be the tell-tale guest.

It has been remarked, that men are generally kind in proportion as they are happy; and it is said even of the devil, that he is good-humoured when he is pleased. Every act, therefore, by which another is injured, from whatever motive, contracts more guilt and expresses greater malignity, if it is committed in those seasons which are set apart to pleasantry and good-humour, and brightened with enjoyments peculiar to rational and social beings. Detraction is

among those vices, which the most languid virtue has sufficient force to prevent; because by detraction, that is not gained which is taken away: “ he who filches from me my good name," says Shakespeare, “ enriches not himself, but makes me

poor indeed :" as nothing, therefore, degrades human nature more than detraction, nothing more disgraces conversation. The detractor, as he is the lowest moral character, reflects greater dishonour upon his company, than the hangman; and he, whose disposition is afcandal to his species, should be more diligently avoided, than he who is fcandalous only by his office.

But for this practice, however vile, some have dared to apologize, by contending, that the report, by which

they they injured an absent character, was true : this, how. ever, amounts to no more, than that they have not complicated malice with falsehood, and that there is some difference between detraction and flander. To-relate all the ill that is true of the best man in the world, would probably render him the object of suspicion and distrust; and if this practiee was universal, mutual confidence and esteem, the comforts of society, and the endearments of friendship, would be at an end.

There is fomething unspeakably more hateful in thofe fpecies of villainy by which the law is evaded, than in those by which it is violated and defied.' Courage has fometimes preserved rapacity from abhorrenee, as beauty has been thought to apologize for prostitution; but the injustice of cowardice is universally abhorred, and like the lewdness of deformity has no advocate. Thus hateful are the wretches who detract with caution; and while they perpetuate the wrong, are folicitous to avoid the reproach : they do not say that Chloe forfeited her honour to Lysander ; but they say that fuch a report has been spread, they know not how true. Those who propagate these reports, frequently invent them; and it is no breach of charity to suppose this to be always the case; because no man who spreads detraction, would have scrupled to produce it; and he who should diffuse poison in a brock, would scarce be acquitted of a malicious design, though he should alledge, that he received it of another who is doing the fame elsewhere.

Whatever is incompatible with the highest dignity of our nature, should indeed be excluded from our conversation : as companions, not only that which we owe to ourselves, but to others, is required of us; and they who

[ocr errors]

can

can indulge any vice in the presence of each other, are become objects in guilt and insensible to infamy.

Reverence thyself is one of the sublime precepts of that amiable philofopher, whose humanity alone was an inconteftible proof of the dignity of his mind. Pythagoras, in his idea of virtue, comprehended intellectual purity; and he fuppofed, that by him who reverenced himfelf, those thoughts would be fupprefled by which a being capable of virtue is degraded : this divine prewcept evidently presupposes a reverence of others, by which men are restrained from more gross immoralities; and with which he hoped a reverence of self would also co-operate as an auxiliary motive.

The great duke of Marlborough, who was perhaps the most accomplished gentleman of his age, would never suffer any approaches to obscenity in his prefence; and it was faid by the late lord Cobham, that he did not reprove it as an immorality in the speaker, but resented it as an indignity to himself: and it is evi. dent, that to speak evil of the absent, to utter lewdness, blasphemy, or treason, must degrade not only him who speaks, but those who hear; for surely that dignity of character which a man ought always to sustain, is in danger, when he is made the confident of treachery, detraction, impiety, or luft; for he, who in conversation displays his own vices, imputes them; as he who boasts to another of a robbery, presupposes that he is a thief.

It should be a general rule, never to utter any thing in conversation which would justly disonour us, if it should be reported to the world : if this rule could be always kept, we should be secure in our own innocence

againt

against the craft of knaves and parasites, the stratagems of cunning, and the vigilance of envy.

But after all the bounty of nature, and all the labour of virtue, many imperfections will be still discerned in human beings, even by those who do not fee with all the perspicacity of human wisdom: and he is guilty of the most aggravated detraction, who reports the weakness of a good mind discovered in an unguarded hour; something which is rather the effect of negligence, than defign; rather a folly, than a fault; a sally of vanity rather than an eruption of malevolence. It has, therefore, been a maxim inviolably sacred among good men, never to disclose the secrets of private conversa. tion; a maxim, which, though it seems to arise from the breach of some other, does yet imply that general rectitude, which is produced by a consciousness of virtuous dignity, and a regard to that reverence which is due to ourselves and others : for to conceal

any moral purpose, which to disclose is to disappoint ; any crime, which to hide is to countenance ; or any character, which to avoid is to be safe ; as it is incompatible with virtue, and injurious to fociety, can be a law only among those who are enemies to both.

Among fuch, indeed, it is a law which there is some degree of obligation to fulfil ; and the secrets even of their conversation are, perhaps, feldom disclosed, without an aggravation of their guilt; it is the interest of fociety, that the veil of taciturnity should be drawn over the mysteries of drunkenness and lewdness; and to hide even the machinations of envy, ambition, or revenge, if they happen to mingle in these orgies among the rites of Bacchus, seems to be the duty of the initiated, though not of the prophane.

im

« السابقةمتابعة »