« ForrigeFortsett »
riage of a well-bred man. I did not, I confess, explain myself enough on this subject, when I called Dorimant a clown, and made it an instance of it, that he called the orange wench, Double Tripe: I should have shewn, that humanity obliges a gentleman to give no part of human-kind reproach, for what they, whom they reproach, may possibly have in common with the most virtuous and worthy amongst us. When a gentleman speaks coarsely, he has dressed himself clean to no purpose. The clothing of our minds certainly ought to be regarded before that of our bodies. To betray in a man's talk a corrupt imagination, is a much greater offence against the conversation of gentlemen, than any negligence of dress imaginable. But this sense of the matter is so far from being received among people even of condition, that Vocifer even passes for a fine gentleman. He is loud, haughty, gentle, soft, lewd, and obsequious by turns, just as a little understanding and great impudence prompt him at the present moment. He passes among the silly part of our women for a man of wit, because he is generally in doubt. He contradicts with a shrug, and confutes with a certain sufficiency, in professing such and such a thing is above his capacity. What makes his character the pleasanter is, that he is a professed deluder of women; and because the empty coxcomb has no regard to any thing that is of itself sacred and inviolable. I have heard an unmarried lady of fortune say, it is a pity so fine a gentleman as Vocifer is so great an atheist. The crowds of such inconsiderable creatures, that infest all places of assembling, every reader will have in his eye from his own observation; but would it not be worth considering what sort of figure a man who formed himself upon those principles among us, which are agreeable to the dictates of honour and religion, would make in the familiar and ordinary occurrences of life?
I hardly have observed any one fill his several duties of life better than Ignotus. All the under parts of his behaviour, and such as are exposed to common observation, have their rise in him from great and noble motives. A firm and unshaken expectation of another life makes him become this; humanity and good-nature, fortified by the sense of virtue, has the same effect upon him, as the neglect of all goodness has upon many others. Being firmly established in all matters of importance, that certain inattention which makes men's actions look easy, appears in him with greater beauty: by a thorough contempt of little excellencies, he is perfectly master of them. This temper of mind leaves him under no necessity of studying his air, and he has this peculiar distinction, that his negligence is unaffected. He that can work himself into a pleasure in considering this being as an uncertain one, and think to reap an advantage by its discontinuance, is in a fair way of doing all things with a graceful unconcern, and a gentleman-like ease. Such a one does not behold his life as a short, transient, perplexing state, made up of trifling pleasures and great anxieties; but sees it in quite another light; his griefs are momentary and his joys immortal. Reflection upon death is not a gloomy and sad thought of resigning every thing that he delights in, but it is a short night followed by an endless day. What I would here contend for is, that the more virtuous the man is, the nearer he will naturally be to the character of genteel and agreeable. A man whose fortune is plentiful, shews an ease in his countenance, and confidence in his behaviour, which he that is under wants and difficulties cannot assume. It is thus with the state of the mind; he that governs his thoughts with the everlasting rules of reason and sense, must have something so inexpressibly graceful in his words and actions, that every circumstance must become him. The change of persons or things around him does not at all alter his situation, but he looks disinterested in the occurrences with which others are distracted, because the greatest purpose of his life is to maintain an indifference both to it and all its enjoyments. In a word, to be a fine gentleman, is to be a generous and a brave man. What can make a man so much in constant good humour, and shine, as we call it, than to be supported by what can never fail him, and to believe that whatever happens to him was the best thing that could possibly befal him, or else he on whom it depends, would not have permitted it to have befallen him at all! R.
N°76. MONDAY, MAY 28, 1711.
Ut tu foiianam, tic not te, Celte, feremut.
HOR. 1 Ep. viii. 17.
As you your fortune bear, we will bear you.
There is nothing so common as to find a man whom in the general observation of his carriage you take to be of an uniform temper, subject to such unaccountable starts of humour and passion, that he is as much unlike himself, and differs as much from the man you at first thought him, as any two distinct persons can differ from each other. This proceeds from the want of forming some law of life to ourselves, or fixing some notion of things in general, which may affect us in such a manner as to create proper habits both in our minds and bodies. The negligence of this, leaves us exposed not only to an unbecoming levity in our usual conversation, but also to the same instability in our friendships, interests, and alliances. A man who is but a mere Spectator of what passes around him, and not engaged in commerces of any consideration, is but an ill judge of the secret motions of the heart of man, and by what degrees it is actuated to make such visible alterations in the same person: but at the same time, when a man is no way concerned in the effect of such inconsistencies, in the behaviour of men of the world, the speculation must be in the utmost degree both diverting and instructive; yet to enjoy such observations in the highest relish, he ought to be placed in a post of direction, and have the dealings of their fortunes to them. I have therefore been wonderfully diverted with some pieces of secret history, which an antiquary, my very good friend, lent me as a curiosity. They are memoirs of the private life of Pharamond of France. 'Pharamond,' says my author, 'was a prince of infinite humanity and generosity, and at the same time the most pleasant and facetious companion of his time. He had a peculiar taste in him, which would have been unlucky in any prince but himself; he thought there could be no exquisite pleasure in conversation, but among equals; and would pleasantly bewail himself that he always lived in a crowd, but was the only man in France that could never get into company. This turn of mind made him delight in midnight rambles, attended only with one person of his bed-chamber. He would in these excursions get acquainted with men (whose temper he had a mind to try) and recommend them privately to the particular observation of his first minister. He generally found himself neglected by his new acquaintance as soon as they had hopes of growing great; and used on such occasions to remark, that it was a great injustice to tax princes of forgetting themselves in their high fortunes, when there were so few that could with constancy bear the favour of their very creatures.' My author in these loose hints has one passage that gives us a very lively idea, of the uncommon genius of Pharamond. He met with one man whom he had put to all the usual proofs he had made of those he had a mind to know thoroughly, and found him for his purpose. In discourse with him one day, he gave him an opportunity of saying how much would satisfy all his wishes. The prince immediately revealed himself, doubled the sum, and spoke to him in this manner: 'Sir, you have twice what you desired, by the favour of Pharamond; but look to it, that you are satisfied with it, for it is the last you shall ever receive. I from this moment consider you as mine; and to make you truly so, I give you my royal word you shall never be greater or less than you are at present. Answer me not (concluded the prince smiling), but enjoy the fortune I have put you in, which is above my own condition; for you have hereafter nothing to hope or to fear.'
His majesty having thus well chosen and bought a friend and companion, he enjoyed alternately all the pleasures of an agreeable private man, and a great and powerful monarch. He gave himself, with his companion, the name of the merry tyrant; for he punished his courtiers for their insolence and folly, not by any act of public disfavour, but by humorously practising upon their imaginations. If he observed a man untractable to his inferiors, he