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[On Thinking.]
[From Melmoth's Letters.]

If one would rate any particular merit according to its true valuation, it may be necessary, perhaps, to consider how far it can be justly claimed by mankind in general. I am sure, at least, when I read the very uncommon sentiments of your last letter, I found their judicious author rise in my esteem, by reflecting that there is not a more singular character in the world than that of a thinking man. It is not merely having a succession of ideas which lightly skim over the mind, that can with any propriety be styled by that denomination. It is observing them separately and distinctly, and ranging them under their respective classes; it is calmly and steadily viewing our opinions on every side, and resolutely tracing them through all their consequences and connections, that constitutes the man of reflection, and distinguishes reason from fancy. Providence, indeed, does not seem to have formed any very considerable number of our species for an extensive exercise of this higher faculty, as the thoughts of the far greater part of mankind are necessarily restrained within the ordinary purposes of animal life. But even if we look up to those who move in much superior orbits, and who have opportunities to improve, as well as leisure to exercise their understandings, we shall find that thinking is one of the least exerted privileges of cultivated humanity.

It is, indeed, an operation of the mind which meets with many obstructions to check its just and free direction; but there are two principles which prevail more or less in the constitutions of most men, that particularly contribute to keep this faculty of the soul unemployed; I mean pride and indolence. To descend to truth through the tedious progression of wellexamined deductions, is considered as a reproach to the quickness of understanding, as it is much too laborious a method for any but those who are possessed of a vigorous and resolute activity of mind. For this reason the greater part of our species generally choose either to seize upon their conclusions at once, or to take them by rebound from others, as best suiting with their vanity or their laziness. Accordingly, Mr Locke observes, that there are not so many errors and wrong opinions in the world as is generally imagined. Not that he thinks mankind are by any means uniform in embracing truth; but because the majority of them, he maintains, have no thought or opinion at all about those doctrines concerning which they raise the greatest clamour. Like the common soldiers in an army, they follow where their leaders direct, without knowing or even inquiring into the cause for which they so warmly contend.

This will account for the slow steps by which truth has advanced in the world on one side, and for those absurd systems which at different periods have had a universal currency on the other; for there is a strange disposition in human nature either blindly to tread the same paths that have been traversed by others, or to strike out into the most devious extravagances: the greater part of the world will either totally renounce their reason, or reason only from the wild suggestions of a heated imagination.

From the same source may be derived those divisions and animosities which break the union both of public and private societies, and turn the peace and harmony of human intercourse into dissonance and contention. For, while men judge and act by such measures as have not been proved by the standard of dispassionate reason, they must equally be mistaken in their estimates both of their own conduct and that of others.

If we turn our view from active to contemplative

life, we may have occasion, perhaps, to remark that thinking is no less uncommon in the literary than the civil world. The number of those writers who can, with any justness of expression, be termed thinking authors, would not form a very copious library, though one were to take in all of that kind which both ancient and modern times have produced. Necessarily, I imagine, must one exclude from a collection of this sort all critics, commentators, translators, and, in short, all that numerous under-tribe in the commonwealth of literature that owe their existence merely to the thoughts of others. I should reject, for the same reason, such compilers as Valerius Maximus and Aulus Gellius: though it must be owned, indeed, their works have acquired an accidental value, as they preserve to us several curious traces of antiquity, which time would otherwise have entirely worn out. Those teeming geniuses, likewise, who have propagated the fruits of their studies through a long series of tracts, would have little pretence, I believe, to be admitted as writers of reflection. For this reason I cannot regret the loss of those incredible numbers of compositions which some of the ancients are said to have produced:

Quale fuit Cassi rapido ferventius amni

Ingenium; capsis quem fama est esse, librisque Ambustum propriis.-Hor.

Thus Epicurus, we are told, left behind him three hundred volumes of his own works, wherein he had not inserted a single quotation; and we have it upon the authority of Varro's own words, that he himself composed four hundred and ninety books. Seneca assures us that Didymus the grammarian wrote no less than four thousand; but Origen, it seems, was yet more prolific, and extended his performances even to six thousand treatises. It is obvious to imagine with what sort of materials the productions of such expeditious workmen were wrought up: sound thought and well-matured reflections could have no share, we may be sure, in these hasty performances. Thus are books multiplied, whilst authors are scarce; and so much easier is it to write than to think! But shall I not myself, Palamedes, prove an instance that it is so, if I suspend any longer your own more important reflections, by interrupting you with such as mine?

[On Conversation.]
[From the same.]

It is with much pleasure I look back upon that philosophical week which I lately enjoyed at as there is no part, perhaps, of social life which affords more real satisfaction than those hours which one passes in rational and unreserved conversation. The free communication of sentiments amongst a set of ingenious and speculative friends, such as those you gave me the opportunity of meeting, throws the mind into the most advantageous exercise, and shows the strength or weakness of its opinions, with greater force of conviction than any other method we can employ.

That it is not good for man to be alone,' is true in more views of our species than one; and society gives strength to our reason, as well as polish to our manners. The soul, when left entirely to her own solitary contemplations, is insensibly drawn by a sort of constitutional bias, which generally leads her opinions to the side of her inclinations. Hence it is that she contracts those peculiarities of reasoning, and little habits of thinking, which so often confirm her in the most fantastical errors; but nothing is more likely to recover the mind from this false bent than the counter-warmth of impartial debate. Conversation opens our views, and gives our faculties a more vigorous play; it puts us upon turning our notions on every side, and holds them up to a light that discovers those latent flaws which would probably have lain

WILLIAM HARRIS (1720-1770), a dissenting divine in Devonshire, published historical memoirs of James I., Charles I., Oliver Cromwell, and Charles II. These works were written in imitation of the manner of Bayle, the text being subordinate to the notes and illustrations. Very frequently only a single line of the memoir is contained in the page, the rest being wholly notes. As depositories of original papers, the memoirs of Harris (which are still to be met with in five volumes) are valuable: the original part is trifling in extent, and written without either merit or pretension. JAMES HARRIS of Salisbury, a learned and bene

concealed in the gloom of unagitated abstraction. Accordingly, one may remark that most of those wild doctrines which have been let loose upon the world, have generally owed their birth to persons whose circumstances or dispositions have given them the fewest opportunities of canvassing their respective systems in the way of free and friendly debate. Had the authors of many an extravagant hypothesis discussed their principles in private circles, ere they had given vent to them in public, the observation of Varro had never perhaps been made (or never, at least, with so much justice), that there is no opinion so absurd, but has some philosopher or other to produce in its support.'

Upon this principle I imagine it is that some of the finest pieces of antiquity are written in the dialogue manner. Plato and Tully, it should seem, thought truth could never be examined with more advantage than amidst the amicable opposition of well-regulated converse. It is probable, indeed, that subjects of a serious and philosophical kind were more frequently the topics of Greek and Roman conversations than they are of ours; as the circumstances of the world had not yet given occasion to those prudential reasons which may now perhaps restrain a more free exchange of sentiments amongst us. There was something, likewise, in the very scenes themselves where they usually assembled, that almost unavoidably turned the stream of their conversations into this useful channel. Their rooms and gardens were generally adorned, you know, with the statues of the greatest masters of reason that had then appeared in the world; and while Socrates or Aristotle stood in their view, it is no wonder their discourse fell upon those subjects which such animating representations would naturally suggest. It is probable, therefore, that many of those ancient pieces which are drawn up in the dialogue manner were no imaginary conversations invented by their authors, but faithful transcripts from real life. And it is this circumstance, perhaps, as much as any other, which contributes to give them that remarkable advantage over the gene-Account of the Antiquities and Curiosities of Great rality of modern compositions which have been formed Britain, An Account of Stonehenge, &c. &c. Stukeley upon the same plan. I am sure, at least, I could studied medicine, but afterwards took orders, and scarcely name more than three or four of this kind at the time of his death, was rector of St George which have appeared in our language worthy of church, Queen Square, London. notice. My Lord Shaftesbury's dialogue, entitled The (1735-1807), an English barrister, published ObserMoralists, Mr Addison's upon Ancient Coins, Mrvations on Ancient Castles, and an elaborate work, in Spence's upon the Odyssey, together with those of my of English architecture anterior to the Norman three folio volumes, Munimenta Antiqua, descriptive very ingenious friend, Philemon to Hydaspes, are almost the only productions in this way which have Conquest. hitherto come forth amongst us with advantage. These, indeed, are all master-pieces of the kind, and written in the true spirit of learning and politeness. The conversation in each of these most elegant performances is conducted, not in the usual absurd method of introducing one disputant to be tamely silenced by the other, but in the more lively dramatic manner, where a just contrast of characters is preserved throughout, and where the several speakers support their respective sentiments with all the strength and spirit of a well-bred opposition.

Two distinguished antiquarian writers, whose researches illustrate the history of their native country, may be here mentioned-WILLIAM STUKELEY (16871765), who published Itinerarium Curiosum, or an

EDWARD KING

6

volent man, published in 1744 treatises on art, on
music and painting, and on happiness. He after-
wards (1751) produced his celebrated work, Hermes,
or a Philosophical Inquiry concerning Universal Gram-
mar. The definitions of Harris are considered arbi-
trary and often unnecessary, and his rules are com-
plicated; but his profound acquaintance with Greek
literature, and his general learning, supplying nu-
merous illustrations, enabled him to produce a
curious and valuable publication. Every writer on
the history and philosophy of grammar must consult
Hermes. Unfortunately the study of the ancient
dialects of the northern nations was little prevalent
at the time of Mr Harris, and to this cause (as was
the case also with many of the etymological distinc-
tions in Johnson's Dictionary) must be attributed
some of his errors and the imperfection of his plan.
Mr Harris was a man of rank and fortune: he sat
several years in parliament, and was successively_a
lord of the admiralty and lord of the treasury. In
1774 he was made secretary and comptroller to the
queen, which he held till his death in 1780. His
son, Lord Malmesbury, published, in 1801, a com-
plete edition of his works in two volumes quarto.
Harris relates the following interesting anecdote of
a Greek pilot, to show that even among the present
Greeks, in the day of servitude, the remembrance of
their ancient glory is not extinct :-'When the late
Mr Anson (Lord Anson's brother) was upon his
travels in the East, he hired a vessel to visit the
Isle of Tenedos. His pilot, an old Greek, as they
were sailing along, said with some satisfaction,
"There 'twas our fleet lay." Mr Anson demanded,
"What fleet?" "What fleet!" replied the old man,
fleet at the siege of Troy."
a little piqued at the question, "why, our Grecian

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE.

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE's Commentaries on the

Laws of England, published in 1765, exhibit a logical and comprehensive mind, and a correct taste in comlarise legal knowledge, and were eminently successposition. They formed the first attempt to popuful. Junius and others have attacked their author for leaning too much to the side of prerogative, and abiding rather by precedents than by sense and justice; yet in the House of Commons, when Blackstone was once advocating what was considered servile obedience, he was answered from his own book! The Commentaries have not been supplanted by any subsequent work of the same kind, but various additions and corrections have been made by eminent lawyers in late editions. Blackstone thus sums up the relative merits of an elective and hereditary monarchy: It must be owned, an elective monarchy seems to be the most obvious, and best suited of any to the rational principles of government and the freedom of human nature; and, accordingly, we find from history that, in the infancy and first rudiments of

almost every state, the leader, chief magistrate, or prince, hath usually been elective. And if the individuals who compose that state could always continue true to first principles, uninfluenced by passion or prejudice, unassailed by corruption, and unawed by violence, elective succession were as much to be desired in a kingdom as in other inferior communities. The best, the wisest, and the bravest man would then be sure of receiving that crown which his endowments have merited; and the sense of an unbiased majority would be dutifully acquiesced in by the few who were of different opinions. But history and observation will inform us that elections of every kind, in the present state of human nature, are too frequently brought about by influence, partiality, and artifice; and even where the case is otherwise, these practices will be often suspected, and as constantly charged upon the successful, by a splenetic disappointed minority. This is an evil to which all societies are liable; as well those of a private and domestic kind, as the great community of the public, which regulates and includes the rest. But in the former there is this advantage, that such suspicions, if false, proceed no farther than jealousies and murmurs, which time will effectually suppress; and, if true, the injustice may be remedied by legal means, by an appeal to those tribunals to which every member of society has (by becoming such) virtually engaged to submit. Whereas in the great and independent society which every nation composes, there is no superior to resort to but the law of nature; no method to redress the infringements of that law but the actual exertion of private force. As, therefore, between two nations complaining of

mutual injuries, the quarrel can only be decided by the law of arms, so in one and the same nation, when the fundamental principles of their common union are supposed to be invaded, and more especially when the appointment of their chief magistrate is alleged to be unduly made, the only tribunal to which the complainants can appeal is that of the God of battles; the only process by which the appeal can be carried on is that of a civil and intestine war. A hereditary succession to the crown is therefore now established in this and most other countries, in order to prevent that periodical bloodshed and misery which the history of ancient imperial Rome, and the more modern experience of Poland and Germany, may show us are the consequences of elective kingdoms.'

manners of many American nations, when first discovered by the Europeans; and from the ancient method of living among the first Europeans themselves, if we may credit either the memorials of them preserved in the golden age of the poets, or the uniform accounts given by historians of those times wherein erant omnia communia et indivisa omnibus, veluti unum cunctis patrimonium esset. Not that this communion of good seems ever to have been applicable, even in the earliest ages, to aught but the substance of the thing, nor could be extended to the use of it. For, by the law of nature and reason, he who first began to use it acquired therein a kind of transient property, that lasted so long as he was using it, and no longer; or, to speak with greater precision, the right of possession continued for the same time only that the act of possession lasted. Thus the ground was in common, and no part of it was the permanent property of any man in particular; yet, whoever was in the occupation of any determinate spot of it, for rest, for shade, or the like, acquired for the time a sort of ownership, from which it would have been unjust, and contrary to the law of nature, to have driven him by force; but the instant that he quitted the use or occupation of it, another might seize it without injustice. Thus also a vine or other tree might be said to be in common, as all men were equally entitled to its produce; and yet any private individual might gain the sole property of the fruit, which he had gathered for his own repast; a doctrine well illustrated by Cicero, who compares the world to a great theatre, which is common to the public, and yet the place which any man has taken is for the time his own.

But when mankind increased in number, craft, and of more permanent dominion; and to appropriate to ambition, it became necessary to entertain conceptions individuals not the immediate use only, but the very merable tumults must have arisen, and the good order substance of the thing to be used. Otherwise, innuof the world been continually broken and disturbed, while a variety of persons were striving who should get the first occupation of the same thing, or disputing also grew more and more refined, abundance of conwhich of them had actually gained it. As human life veniences were devised to render it more easy, commodious, and agreeable, as habitations for shelter and safety, and raiment for warmth and decency. But no man would be at the trouble to provide either, so long as he had only a usufructuary property in them, which was to cease the instant that he quitted possession; if, as soon as he walked out of his tent, or pulled off his garment, the next stranger who came by would I have a right to inhabit the one, and to wear the other. In the case of habitations, in particular, it was natural to observe, that even the brute creation, to whom everything else was in common, maintained a kind of permanent property in their dwellings, especially for the protection of their young; that the birds of the air had nests, and the beasts of the field had caverns, the invasion of which they esteemed a very flagrant injustice, and would sacrifice their lives to preserve them. Hence a property was soon established in every man's house and homestall, which seem to have been originally mere temporary huts or movable cabins, suited to the design of Providence for more speedily peopling the earth, and suited to the wandering life of their owners, before any extensive property in the soil or ground was established. And there can be no doubt but that movables of every kind became sooner appropriated than the permanent substantial soil; partly because they were more susceptible of a long occupance, which might be continued for months together without any sensible interruption, and at length by usage ripen into an established right; but principally because few of them could be fit for use, till improved and meliorated by the bodily labour of the

[On the Right of Property.]
[From Blackstone's Commentaries.]

In the beginning of the world, we are informed by holy writ, the all-bountiful Creator gave to man 'dominion over all the earth, and over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.' This is the only true and solid foundation of man's dominion over external things, whatever airy metaphysical notions may have been started by fanciful writers upon this subject. The earth, therefore, and all things therein, are the general property of all mankind, exclusive of other beings, from the immediate gift of the Creator. And while the earth continued bare of inhabitants, it is reasonable to suppose that all was in common among them, and that every one took from the public stock to his own use such things as his immediate necessities required.

These general notions of property were then sufficient to answer all the purposes of human life; and might, perhaps, still have answered them, had it been possible for mankind to have remained in a state of primeval simplicity; as may be collected from the

occupant; which bodily labour, bestowed upon any subject which before lay in common to all men, is universally allowed to give the fairest and most reasonable title to an exclusive property therein.

The article of food was a more immediate call, and therefore a more early consideration. Such as were not contented with the spontaneous product of the earth, sought for a more solid refreshment in the flesh of beasts, which they obtained by hunting. But the frequent disappointments incident to that method of provision, induced them to gather together such animals as were of a more tame and sequacious nature; and to establish a permanent property in their flocks and herds, in order to sustain themselves in a less precarious manner, partly by the milk of the dams, and partly by the flesh of the young. The support of these their cattle made the article of water also a very important point. And therefore the book of Genesis (the most venerable monument of antiquity, considered merely with a view to history) will furnish us with frequent instances of violent contentions concerning wells, the exclusive property of which appears to have been established in the first digger or occupant, even in such places where the ground and herbage remained yet in common. Thus we find Abraham, who was but a sojourner, asserting his right to a well in the country of Abimelech, and exacting an oath for his security, 'because he had digged that well.' And Isaac, about ninety years afterwards, reclaimed this his father's property; and after much contention with the Philistines, was suffered to enjoy it in peace.

All this while the soil and pasture of the earth remained still in common as before, and open to every occupant; except perhaps in the neighbourhood of towns, where the necessity of a sole and exclusive property in lands (for the sake of agriculture) was earlier felt, and therefore more readily complied with. Otherwise, when the multitude of men and cattle had consumed every convenience on one spot of ground, it was deemed a natural right to seize upon and occupy such other lands as would more easily supply their necessities. This practice is still retained among the wild and uncultivated nations that have never been formed into civil states, like the Tartars and others in the East, where the climate itself, and the boundless extent of their territory, conspire to retain them still in the same savage state of vagrant liberty which was universal in the earliest ages, and which Tacitus informs us continued among the Germans till the decline of the Roman empire. We have also a striking example of the same kind in the history of Abraham and his nephew Lot. When their joint substance became so great, that pasture and other conveniences grew scarce, the natural consequence was, that a strife arose between their servants, so that it was no longer practicable to dwell together. This contention Abraham thus endeavoured to compose:- Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and me. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, If thou wilt take the left hand, then will I go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then will I go to the left.' This plainly implies an acknowledged right in either to occupy whatever ground he pleased, that was not pre-occupied by other tribes. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan, and journied east, and Abraham dwelt in the land of Canaan.'

from me.

Upon the same principle was founded the right of migration, or sending colonies to find out new habitations, when the mother-country was overcharged with inhabitants; which was practised as well by the Phoenicians and Greeks, as the Germans, Scythians, and other northern people. And so long as it was confined to the stocking and cultivation of desert, unin

habited countries, it kept strictly within the limits of the law of nature. But how far the seizing on countries already peopled, and driving out or massacring the innocent and defenceless natives, merely because they differed from their invaders in language, in religion, in customs, in government, or in colour; how far such a conduct was consonant to nature, to reason, or to Christianity, deserved well to be considered by those who have rendered their names immortal by thus civilising mankind.

As the world by degrees grew more populous, it daily became more difficult to find out new spots to inhabit, without encroaching upon former occupants; and, by constantly occupying the same individual spot, the fruits of the earth were consumed, and its spontaneous produce destroyed, without any provision for a future supply or succession. It therefore became necessary to pursue some regular method of providing a constant subsistence; and this necessity produced, or at least promoted and encouraged, the art of agriculture, by a regular connection and consequence; introduced and established the idea of a more permanent property in the soil than had hitherto been received and adopted. It was clear that the earth would not produce her fruits in sufficient quantities, without the assistance of tillage; but who would be at the pains of tilling it, if another might watch an opportunity to seize upon and enjoy the product of his industry, art, and labour? Had not, therefore, a separate property in lands, as movables, been vested in some individuals, the world must have continued a forest, and men have been mere animals of prey; which, according to some philosophers, is the genuine state of nature. Whereas now (so graciously has Providence interwoven our duty and our happiness together) the result of this very necessity has been the ennobling of the human species, by giving it opportunities of improving its rational faculties, as well as of exerting its natural. Necessity begat property; and, in order to insure that property, recourse was had to civil society, which brought along with it a long train of inseparable concomitantsstates, government, laws, punishments, and the public exercise of religious duties. Thus connected together, it was found that a part only of society was sufficient to provide, by their manual labour, for the necessary subsistence of all; and leisure was given to others to cultivate the human mind, to invent useful arts, and to lay the foundations of science.

The only question remaining is, how this property became actually vested; or what it is that gave a man an exclusive right to retain in a permanent manner that specific land which before belonged generally to everybody, but particularly to nobody? And as we before observed, that occupancy gave the right to the temporary use of the soil, so it is agreed upon all hands that occupancy gave also the original right to the permanent property in the substance of the earth itself, which excludes every one else but the owner from the use of it. There is, indeed, some difference among the writers on natural law concerning the reason why occupancy should convey this right, and invest one with this absolute property; Grotius and Puffendorf insisting that this right of occupancy is founded upon a tacit and implied assent of all mankind, that the first occupant should become the owner; and Barbeyrac, Titius, Mr Locke, and others, holding that there is no such implied assent, neither is it necessary that there should be; for that the very act of occupancy alone being a degree of bodily labour, is, from a principle of natural justice, without any consent or compact, sufficient of itself to gain a title; a dispute that savours too much of nice and scholastic refinement! However, both sides agree in this, that occupancy is the thing by which the title was in fact originally gained;

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every man seizing to his own continued use such spots of ground as he found most agreeable to his own convenience, provided he found them unoccupied by any one else.

EARL OF CHESTERFIELD.

PHILIP DORMER STANHOPE, Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773), was an elegant author, though his only popular compositions are his Letters to his Son, a work containing many excellent advices for the cultivation of the mind and improvement of the external worldly character, but greatly deficient in the higher points of morality. Lord Chesterfield was an able politician and diplomatist, and an eloquent parliamentary debater. The celebrated Letters to his Son' were not intended for publication, and did not appear till after his death. Their publication was much to be regretted by every friend of this accomplished, witty, and eloquent peer.

[Definition of Good Breeding.]

[From Chesterfield's Letters.]

"

A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good breeding to be, the result of much good sense, some good nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them.' Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed), it is astonishing to me that anybody, who has good sense and good nature, can essentially fail in good breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, places, and circumstances, and are only to be acquired by observation and experience; but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the same. Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in general-their cement and their security. And as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones, so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners and punish bad ones. And indeed there seems to me to be less difference both between the crimes and punishments, than at first one would imagine. The immoral man, who invades another's property, is justly hanged for it; and the ill-bred man, who by his ill manners invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civilised people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects; whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think that, next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. | Thus much for good breeding in general; I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it. Very few, scarcely any, are wanting in the respect which they should show to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely their superiors, such as crowned heads, princes, and public persons of distinguished and eminent posts. It is the manner of showing that respect which is different. The man of fashion and of the world expresses it in its fullest extent, but naturally, easily, and without concern; whereas a man who is not used to keep good company expresses it awkwardly; one sees that he is not used to it, and that it costs him a great deal; but I never saw the worst-bred man living guilty of lolling, whistling, scratching his head, and such like indecencies, in company that he respected. In such companies, therefore, the only point to be attended to is, to show

that respect which everybody means to show, in an easy, unembarrassed, and graceful manner. This is what observation and experience must teach you.

In mixed companies, whoever is admitted to make part of them is, for the time at least, supposed to be on a footing of equality with the rest; and, conse quently, as there is no one principal object of awe and respect, people are apt to take a greater latitude in their behaviour, and to be less upon their guard; and so they may, provided it be within certain bounds, which are upon no occasion to be transgressed. But upon these occasions, though no one is entitled to distinguished marks of respect, every one claims, and very justly, every mark of civility and good breeding. Ease is allowed, but carelessness and negligence are strictly forbidden. If a man accosts you, and talks to you ever so dully or frivolously, it is worse than rudeness, it is brutality, to show him, by a manifest inattention to what he says, that you think him a fool or a blockhead, and not worth hearing. It is much more so with regard to women, who, of whatever rank they are, are entitled, in consideration of their sex, not only to an attentive, but an officious good breeding from men. Their little wants, likings, dislikes, preferences, antipathies, and fancies, must be officiously attended to, and, if possible, guessed at and anticipated, by a well-bred man. You must never usurp to yourself those conveniences and gratifications which are of common right, such as the best places, the best dishes, &c.; but on the contrary, always decline them yourself, and offer them to others, who, in their turns, will offer them to you; so that, upon the whole, you will in your turn enjoy your share of the common right. It would be endless for me to enumerate all the particular instances in which a well-bred man shows his good breeding in good company; and it would be injurious to you to suppose that your own good sense will not point them out to you; and then your own good nature will recommend, and your self-interest enforce the practice.

There is a third sort of good breeding, in which people are the most apt to fail, from a very mistaken notion that they cannot fail at all. I mean with regard to one's most familiar friends and acquaintances, or those who really are our inferiors; and there, undoubtedly, a greater degree of ease is not only allowed, but proper, and contributes much to the comforts of a private social life. But ease and freedom have their bounds, which must by no means be violated. A certain degree of negligence and carelessness becomes injurious and insulting, from the real or supposed inferiority of the persons; and that delightful liberty of conversation among a few friends is soon destroyed, as liberty often has been, by being carried to licentiousness. But example explains things best, and I will put a pretty strong case: Suppose you and me alone together; I believe you will allow that I have as good a right to unlimited freedom in your company, as either you or I can possibly have in any other; and I am apt to believe, too, that you would indulge me in that freedom as far as anybody would. But, notwithstanding this, do you imagine that I should think there was no bounds to that freedom? I assure you I should not think so; and I take myself to be as much tied down by a certain degree of good manners to you, as by other degrees of them to other people. The most familiar and intimate habitudes, connexions, and friendships, require a degree of good breeding both to preserve and cement them. The best of us have our bad sides, and it is as imprudent as it is ill-bred to exhibit them. I shall not use ceremony with you; it would be misplaced between us; but I shall certainly observe that degree of good breeding with you which is, in the first place, decent, and which, I am sure, is absolutely necessary to make us like one another's company long.

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