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Τὸν ἐλάτω μὴ ἀποσκαλίσῃς.
Do not despise your inferiors.
THERE is not, in human nature, a more odious disposition than a proneness to contempt; nor is there any which more certainly denotes a bad mind; for, in a good and benign temper, there can be no room for this sensation. That which constitutes an object of contempt to the malevolent, becomes the object of other passions to a worthy and good-natured man; for, in such a person, wickedness and vice must raise hatred and abhorrence, and weakness and folly will be sure to excite compassion; so that he will find no object of his contempt, in all the actions of men. And, however detestable this quality, which is a mixture of pride and ill-nature, may appear, when considered in the serious school of Heraclitus, it will present no less absurd and ridiculous an idea to the laughing sect of Democritus, especially as we may observe, that the meanest and basest of all human beings are generally the most forward to despise others.
So that the most contemptible are generally the most contemptuous.
I have often wished that some of those curious persons, who have employed their time in inquiring into the nature and actions of several insects, such as bees and ants, had taken some pains to examine whether they are not apt to express any contemptuous behaviour one towards another; the plain symptoms of which might possibly be discovered by the help of microscopes. It is scarce conceivable that the queen-bee, amongst the hundred gallants which she keeps for her own recreation, should not have especial favourites; and it is full as likely, that these favourites will so carry themselves towards their brethren, as to display sufficient marks of their contempt to the eye of an accurate discoverer in the manners of the reptile world. For my own part, I have remarked many instances of contempt amongst animals, which I have farther observed to increase in proportion to the decrease of such species, in the rank and order of the animal creation. Mr. Ellis informs me, that he never could discover any the least indication of contempt in the lions under his care; the horse, I am sorry to say it, gives us some, the ass many more, the turkey-cock more still, and the toad is supposed
to burst itself frequently with the violence of this passion. To pursue it gradually downwards would be too tedious. It may be reasonably supposed to arrive at a prodigious height before it descends to the louse. With what a degree of contempt may we conceive that a substantial freeholder of this kind, who is well established in the head of a beggar-wench, considers a poor vagabond louse, who hath strayed into the head of a woman of quality, where it is in hourly danger of being arrested by the merciless hands of her woman.
This may perhaps seem to some a very ridiculous image; and as ridiculous, as I-apprehend, to a being of a superior order, will appear a contemptuous man; one puffed up with some trifling, perhaps fancied superiority, and looking round him with disdain on those who are, perhaps, so nearly his equals, that, to such a being as I have just mentioned, the difference may be as inconsiderable and imperceptible between the despiser and the despised, as the difference be tween two of the meanest insects may seem to us.
And as a very good mind, as I have before observed, will give no entertainment to any such affection; so neither will a sensible mind, I am persuaded, find much opportunity to exert it. If men
would make but a moderate use of that selfexamination, which philosophers and divines have recommended to them, it would tend greatly to the cure of this disposition. Their contempt would then, perhaps, as their charity is said to do, begin at home. To say truth, a man hath this better chance of despising himself, than he hath of despising others, as he is likely to know himself best.
But I am sliding into a more serious vein than I intended. In the residue of this paper, therefore, I will confine myself to one particular consideration only; one which will give as ridiculous an idea of contempt, and afford as strong dissuasives against it, as any other which at present suggests itself.
The consideration I mean is, that contempt is, generally at least, mutual, and that there is scarce any one man who despises another, without being at the same time despised by him, of which I shall endeavour to produce some few instances.
As the right honourable the lord Squanderfield, at the head of a vast retinue, passes by Mr. Moses Buckram, citizen and tailor, in his chaise and one; "See, there! (says my lord, with an air of the highest contempt) that rascal
Buckram, with his fat wife, I suppose he is going to his country house; for such fellows must have their country house, as well as their vehicle. These are the rascals that complain of want of trade." Buckram, on the other side, is no sooner recovered from the fear of being run over before he could get out of the way, than turning to his wife, he cries, "Very fine, faith! an honest citizen is to be run over by such fellows as these, who drive about their coaches and six with other people's money. See, my dear, what an equipage he hath, and yet he cannot find money to pay an honest tradesman. He is above fifteen hundred pounds deep in my book: how I despise such lords!"
Lady Fanny Rantun, from the side-box, casting her eyes on an honest pawn-broker's wife below her, bids lady Betty her companion take notice of that creature in the pit: "Did you ever see, lady Betty (says she), such a strange wretch? how the awkward monster is dressed! The good woman at the same time surveying lady Fanny, and offended, perhaps, at a scornful smile, which she sees in her countenance, whispers her friend, "Observe lady Fanny Rantun. As great airs as that fine lady gives herself, my husband hath all her jewels under