Page images

NUMB. 104. SATURDAY, March 16, 1751.

Nihil eft quod credere de fe

Non poffit

None e'er rejects hyperboles of praise.


THE apparent infufficiency of every individual

to his own happiness or fafety, compels us to seek from one another affiftance and fupport. The neceffity of joint efforts for the execution of any great or extenfive defign, the variety of powers diffeminated in the fpecies, and the proportion between the defects and excellencies of different perfons, demand an interchange of help, and communication of intelligence, and by frequent reciprocations of beneficence unite mankind in fociety and friendship.

If it can be imagined that there ever was a time when the inhabitants of any country were in a state of equality, without diftinction of rank, or pecu liarity of poffeffions, it is reasonable to believe that every man was then loved in proportion as he could contribute by his ftrength, or his fkill, to the fupply of natural wants; there was then little room for peevish diflike, or capricious favour; the affection admitted into the heart was rather efteem than tenderness; and kindness was only purchased by benefits. But when by force or policy, by wisdom or by fortune, property and fuperiority were introduced and established, fo that many were condemned VOL. V.

[ocr errors]


to labour for the fupport of a few, then they whose poffeffions fwelled above their wants, naturally laid out their fuperfluities upon pleafure; and those who could not gain friendship by neceffary offices, endeavoured to promote their intereft by luxurious gratifications, and to create needs, which they might be courted to fupply.

The defires of mankind are much more numerous than their attainments, and the capacity of imagination much larger than actual enjoyment. Multitudes are therefore unfatisfied with their allotment; and he that hopes to improve his condition by the favour of another, and either finds no room for the exertion of great qualities, or perceives himself excelled by his rivals, will, by other expedients, endeavour to be. come agreeable where he cannot be important, and learn, by degrees, to number the art of pleasing among the most useful ftudies, and most valuable acquifitions.

This art, like others, is cultivated in proportion to its usefulness, and will always flourish most where it is most rewarded; for this reafon we find it prac-. tifed with great affiduity under abfolute governments, where honours and riches are in the hands of one man, whom all endeavour to propitiate, and who foon becomes fo much accustomed to compliance and officioufnefs, as not eafily to find, in the most delicate address, that novelty which is neceffary to procure attention.

It is difcovered by a very few experiments, that no man is much pleafed with a companion, who does not increase, in fome respect, his fondness of 'himself; and, therefore, he that wishes rather to be


led forward to profperity by the gentle hand of favour, than to force his way by labour and merit, muft confider with more care how to difplay his patron's excellencies than his own; that whenever he approaches, he may fill the imagination with pleafing dreams, and chafe away chase away disgust and weariness by a perpetual fucceflion of delightful images.

This may, indeed, fometimes be effected by turning the attention upon advantages which are really poffeffed, or upon profpects which reafon spreads before hope; for whoever can deferve or require to be courted, has generally, either from nature or from fortune, gifts, which he may review with fatisfaction, and of which, when he is artfully recalled to the contemplation, he will feldom be dif pleased.

But those who have once degraded their underfstanding to an application only to the paffions, and who have learned to derive hope from any other fources than industry and virtue, feldom retain dignity and magnanimity fufficient to defend them against the conftant recurrence of temptation to falfehood. He that is too defirous to be loved, will foon learn to flatter, and when he has exhaufted all the variations of honeft praise, and can delight no longer with the civility of truth, he will invent new topicks of panegyrick, and break out into raptures at virtues and beauties conferred by himself.

The drudgeries of dependance would, indeed, be aggravated by hopeleffnefs of fuccefs, if no indul. gence was allowed to adulation. He that will obftinately

P 2

ftinately confine his patron to hear only the commendations which he deferves, will foon be forced to give way to others that regale him with nore compass of mufick. The greatest human virtue bears no proportion to human vanity. We always think ourselves better than we are, and are generally defirous that others fhould think us ftill better than we think ourselves. To praise us for actions or difpofitions which deferve praise, is not to confer a benefit, but to pay a tribute. We have always pretenfions to fame, which, in our own hearts, we know to be difputable, and which we are defirous to ftrengthen by a new fuffrage; we have always hopes which we fufpect to be fallacious, and of which we eagerly fnatch at every con firmation.

It may, indeed, be proper to make the first approaches under the conduct of truth, and to secure credit to future encomiums, by fuch praise as may be ratified by the confcience; but the mind once habituated to the luscioufnefs of eulogy, becomes, in a fhort time, nice and faftidious, and, like a vitiated palate, is inceffantly calling for higher gratifi


It is fcarcely credible to what degree difcernment may be dazzled by the mift of pride, and wisdom infatuated by the intoxication of flattery; or how low the genius may defcend by fucceffive gradations of fervility, and how swiftly it may fall down the precipice of falsehood. No man can, indeed, obferve, without indignation, on what names, both of ancient and modern times, the ut most exuberance of praife has been lavished, and


by what hands it has been bestowed. It has never yet been found, that the tyrant, the plunderer, the oppreffor, the most hateful of the hateful, the most profligate of the profligate, have been denied any celebrations which they were willing to purchase, or that wickedness and folly have not found correfpondent flatterers through all their fubordinations, except when they have been affociated with avarice or poverty, and have wanted either inclination or ability to hire a panegyrist.

As there is no character fo deformed as to fright away from it the prostitutes of praife, there is no degree of encomiaftick veneration which pride has refused. The emperors of Rome fuffered themfelves to be worshipped in their lives with altars and facrifices; and, in an age more enlightened, the terms peculiar to the praise and worship of the Supreme Being, have been applied to wretches whom it was the reproach of humanity to number among men; and, whom nothing but riches or power hindered those that read or wrote their deification, from hunting into the toils of juftice, as difturbers of the peace of nature.

There are, indeed, many among the poetical flatterers, who must be refigned to infamy without vindication, and whom we must confefs to have deferted the cause of virtue for pay: they have committed, against full conviction, the crime of obliterating the distinctions between good and evil, and, instead of oppofing the encroachments of vice, have incited her progrefs, and celebrated her conquests. But there is a lower clafs of fycophants, whofe understanding has not made them capable of

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »