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which to a degree are become fashionable, are in effect destructive to society. I cannot dispense with observing collaterally on this occasion that professional men in England consort more exclusively amongst themselves, and communicate less generally than in other countries, which gives their conversation, however informing, an air of pedantry, contracted by long habits, great ardour for their profession, and deep learning in it.
As for slander, which amongst other evils owes much of its propagation to the same vehicle of the daily press, it is the poison of society; depresses virtuous ambition, damps the early shoots of genius, puts the innocent to pain, and drives the guilty to desperation; it infuses suspicion into the best natures, and loosens the cement of the strongest friendships; very many affect to despise it, few are so high-minded as not to feel it; though common slanderers, seldom have it in their power to hurt established reputations, yet they can always contrive to spoil company, and put honest men to the trouble of turning them out of it.
It is a common saying that authors are more spiteful to each other, and more irritable under an attack, than other men; I do not believe the observation is well founded; every sensible man knows that his fame, especially of the literary kind, before it can pass current in the world, pays a duty on entrance, like some sort of merchandize, ad valorem; he knows that there are always some who live upon der of condemned reputations, watching the tides of popular favour in hopes of making seizures to their own account—Habent venenum pro victu, immo pro deliciis. The little injury such "men do to letters chiefly consists in the stupidity of their own productions: they may to a certain degree check a man's living fame, but if he writes to posterity, he
is out of their reach, because he appeals to a court where they can never appear against him.
When we give our praise to any man's character or performances, let us give it absolutely, and without comparison, for it is justly remarked by foreigners, that we seldom commend positively: this remark bears both against our good nature and our good sense; but let no man by this or any othe declamation against slander be awed into that timid prudence, which affecting the name of candour, dares not to condemn, and of course is not entitled to applaud. Truth and justice have their claims upon us, and our testimony against vice, folly, and hypocrisy, is due to society; manly resentment against mischievous characters, cleanly ridicule of vanity and impertinence, and fair criticism of what is under public review are the prerogatives of a free spirit: they peculiarly belong to Englishmen, and he betrays a right constitutionally inherent in him, who from mean and personal motives forbears to exercise it.
When I have said this, I think it right to add, that I cannot state a case, in which a man can be justified in treating another's name with freedom, and concealing his own.
Et quando uberior vitiorum copia? quando
Juvenal, Sat. 1. The passage
which I have selected for the motto of this paper will shew, that I intend to devote it to the
consideration of the vice of Gaming; and I'forbore to state it in any preceding essay amongst the causes, that affect society in this country, because I re-. garded it as an evil too enormous to be brought within the brief enumeration therein contained, resolving to treat it with that particular respect and attention which its high station and dignity in mischief have a claim to.
Though I have no hesitation at beginning the attack, I beg leave to premise that I am totally without hope of carrying it. I may say to my antagonists in the words, though not altogether in the sense, that the angel Gabriel does to his
Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine. What avails my hurling a feeble essay at the heads of this hydra, when the immortal drama of The Gamester lies trodden under his feet?
Conscious that I do not possess the strength, I shall not assume the importance of a champion, and as I am not of dignity enough to be angry, I shall keep my temper and my distance too, skirmishing like those insignificant gentry, who play the part of teasers in the Spanish bull-fights, sticking arrows in his crest to provoke him to bellow, whilst bolder combatants engage him at the point of his horns.
It is well for Gamesters, that they are so numerous as to make a society of themselves, for it would be a strange abuse of terms to rank them amongst society at large, whose profession it is, to prey upon all who compose it. Strictly speaking it will bear a doubt, if a Gamester has any other title to be called a man, except under the distinction of Hobbes, and upon claim to the charter of Homo Homini Lupus As a Human Wolf I grant he has a right to his wolfish prerogatives: he, who so far surprises my reason or debauches my principle, as to make me a party
in my own destruction, is a worse enemy than he who robs me of my property by force and violence, because he sinks me in my own opinion; and if there was virtue in mankind, sufficient for their own defence, honest men would expel gamesters as outlaws from society, and good citizens drive them from the state, as the destroyers of human happiness, wretches, who make the parent childless and the wife a widow.
But what avail a parcel of statutes against gaming, when they, who make them, conspire together for the infraction of them? Why declare gaming-debts void in law, when that silly principle, so falsely called honour (at once the idol and the idiot of the world), takes all those debts upon itself and calls them debts of honour? It is not amongst things practicable to put gaming down by statute. If the face of society was set steadily against the vice; if parents were agreed to spurn at the alliance of a gamester, however ennobled; if our seminaries of education would enforce their discipline against early habits of play; if the crown, as the fountain of honour, and the virtuous part of the fair sex, as the dispensers of happiness, would reprobate all men addicted to this desperate passion, something might perhaps be done. If tradesmen would consult their own interest, and give no credit to gamesters; if the infamous gang of money-lenders could be absolutely extinguished, and the people at large, instead of rising against a loyal fellow-subject, because he worships God according to the religion of his ancestors at a Catholic altar, would exercise their resentment against those illegal places of resort, where desperadoes meet for nightly pillage, this contagious evil might possibly be checked; but when it is only to be hoped that a combination of remedies might stem the disease, how can we expect a recovery, when no one of them all is administered?
Though domestic misery must follow an alliance with a gamester, matches of this sort are made every day; a parent, who consents so to sacrifice his child, must either place his hope in her reforming her husband, or else he must have made up his mind to set consequences at defiance; a very foolish hope, or a very fatal principle. There can be no domestic comfort in the arms of a gamester, no conjugal asylum in his heart: , weak and ignorant young women may be duped into such connexions; vain and self-conceited ones may adventure with their eyes open, and trust to their attractions for security against misfortune; but let them be assured there is not a page in the world's history, that will furnish them with an example to palliate their presumption; eager to snatch the present pleasures of a voluptuous prospect, they care little for the ruin, which futurity keeps out of sight.
With the clearest conviction in my mind of the general advantages of public education, I must acknowledge a suspicion that due attention is not paid in our great seminaries of education to restrain this fatal passion in its first approaches. I fear there are some evidences of a guilty negligence now in operation, spreading poison as they flow, and carrying with them in their course all the charms of eloquence, the flow of wit, and fascinating spell of science; sanctified by fashion, gaming-houses, which out-peer the royal palace, rise around it in defiance; trophies and monuments of the triumphs of dissipation. The wife, whose husband enters those doors, and the parent, who owns a son within them, must either eradicate affection and nature from their hearts or take leave of happiness for ever.
Woe be to the nation, whose police cannot, or dare not, correct such an evil! "f'is foolish to lament the amputation of a limb, when the mortality is in our vitals.
I shall not take upon myself to lay down rules for