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Satan beheld their plight,
And to his mates thus in derision call'd:
O friends, why come not on these victors proud?
And breast, what could we more? propounded terms
As they would dance; yet for a dance they seem'd
To whom thus Belial in like gamesome mood:
MILTON'S PAR. LOST, vi. 609, &c.
No. 280. MONDAY, JANUARY 21, 1711-12.
Principibus placuisse viris non ultima laus est.
THE desire of pleasing makes a man agreeable or unwelcome to those with whom he converses, according to the motive from which that inclination appears to flow. If your concern for pleasing others arises from an innate benevolence, it never fails of success; if from a vanity to excel, its disappointment is no less certain. What we call an agreeable man, is he who is endowed with that natural bent to do acceptable things from a delight he takes in them merely as such; and the affectation of that character is what constitutes a fop. Under these leaders one may draw up all those who make any manner of figure, except in dumb show. A rational and select conversation is composed of persons, who have the talent of pleasing with delicacy of sentiments flowing from habitual chastity of thought; but mixt company is frequently made up of pretenders to mirth, and is usually pestered with constrained, obscene, and painful, witticisms. Now and then you meet with a man so exactly formed for pleasing, that it is no matter what he is doing or saying, that is to say, that there need be no manner of importance in it, to make him gain upon every body who hears or beholds him. This felicity is not the gift of nature only, but must be attended with happy circumstances, which add a dignity to the familiar behaviour which distinguishes
him whom we call an agreeable man. It is from this that every body loves and esteems Polycarpus. He is in the vigour of his age and the gaiety of life, but has passed through very conspicuous scenes in it though no soldier, he has shared the danger, and acted with great gallantry and generosity on a decisive day of battle. To have those qualities which only make other men conspicuous in the world as it were supernumerary to him, is a circumstance which gives weight to his most indifferent actions; for as a known credit is ready cash to a trader, so is acknowledged merit immediate distinction, and serves in the place of equipage, to a gentleman. This renders Polycarpus graceful in mirth, important in business, and regarded with love in every ordinary occurrence. But not to dwell upon characters which have such particular recommendations to our hearts, let us turn our thoughts rather to the methods of pleasing which must carry men through the world who cannot pretend to such advantages. Falling in with the parti cular humour or manner of one above you, abstracted from the general rules of good behaviour, is the life of a slave. A parasite differs in nothing from the meanest servant, but that the footman hires himself for bodily labour, subjected to go and come at the will of his master, but the other gives up his very soul: he is prostituted to speak, and professes to think, after the mode of him whom he courts. This servitude to a patron, in an honest nature, would be more grievous than that of wearing his livery; therefore we shall speak of those methods only which are worthy and ingenuous.
The happy talent of pleasing either those above you or below you, seems to be wholly owing to the opinion they have of your sincerity. This quality is to attend the agreeable man in all the actions of his
life; and I think there need be no more said in honour of it, than that it is what forces the approbation even of your opponents. The guilty man has an honour for the judge who, with justice, pronounces against him the sentence of death itself. The author of the sentence, at the head of this paper, was an excellent judge of human life, and passed his own in company the most agreeable that ever was in the world. Augustus lived amongst his friends, as if he had his fortune to make in his own court. Candour and affability, accompanied with as much power as ever mortal was vested with, were what made him in the utmost manner agreeable among a set of admirable men, who had thoughts too high for ambition, and views too large to be gratified by what he could give them in the disposal of an empire, without the pleasures of their mutual conversation. A certain unanimity of taste and judgement, which is natural to all of the same order in the species, was the band of this society; and the emperor assumed no figure in it but what he thought was his due, from his private talents and qualifications, as they contributed to advance the pleasures and sentiments of the company.
Cunning people, hypocrites, all who are but half virtuous, or half wise, are incapable of tasting the refined pleasure of such an equal company as could wholly exclude the regard of fortune in their conversations. Horace, in the discourse from whence I take the hint of the present speculation, lays down excellent rules for conduct in conversation with men of power; but he speaks it with an air of one who had no need of such an application for any thing which related to himself. It shows he understood what it was to be a skilful courtier, by just admonitions against importunity, and showing how forcible it was to speak modestly of your own wants. There
is indeed something so shameless in taking all opportunities to speak of your own affairs that he who is guilty of it towards him on whom he depends, fares like the beggar who exposes his sores, which, instead of moving compassion, makes the man he begs of turn away from the object.
I cannot tell what is become of him, but I remember about sixteen years ago an honest fellow, who so justly understood how disagreeable the mention or appearance of his wants would make him, that I have often reflected upon him as a counterpart of Irus, whom I have formerly mentioned. This man, whom I have missed for some years in my walks, and have heard was some way employed about the army, made it a maxim, that good wigs, delicate linen, and a cheerful air, were to a poor dependent the same that working tools are to a poor artificer. It was no small entertainment to me, who knew his circumstances, to see him, who had fasted two days, attribute the thinness they told him of, to the violence of some gallantries he had lately been guilty of. The skilful dissembler carried this on with the utmost address; and if any suspected his affairs were narrow, it was attributed to indulging himself in some fashionable vice rather than an irreproachable poverty, which saved his credit with those on whom he depended.
The main art is to be as little troublesome as you can, and make all you hope for come rather as a favour from your patron than claim from you. But I am here prating of what is the method of pleasing so as to succeed in the world, when there are crowds, who have, in city, town, court, and country, arrived to considerable acquisitions, and yet seem incapable of acting in any constant tenor of life, but have gone on from one successful error to another: therefore I think I may shorten this inquiry after the