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to the denomination of a gentleman. That tradesman, who deals with me in a commodity wbich I do not understand, with uprightness, has much more right to that character, than the courtier that gives me false hopes, or the scholar who laughs at my ignorance.
The appellation of gentleman is never to be affixed to a man's circumstances, but to his behaviour in them. For this reason I shall ever, as far as I am able, give my nephews such impressions as shall make them value themselves rather as they are useful to others, than as they are conscious of merit in themselves. There are no qualities for which we ought to pretend to the esteem of others, but such as render us serviceable to them: for “ freemen have no superiors but benefactors.” I was going on like a true old fellow to this purpose to my guests, when I received the following epistle :
SIR, " I have your's, with notice of a benefit ticket of four hundred pounds per annum, both enclosed by Mr. Elliot, who had my numbers for that purpose. Your philosophic advice came very seasonably to me with that good fortune: but I must be so sincere with you as to acknowledge, I owe my present moderation more to my own folly than your wisdom. You will think this strange until I inform you, that I had fixed my thoughts upon the thousand pounds a year, and had with that expectation, laid down so many agreeable plans for my behaviour towards my new lovers and old friends, that I have received this favour of fortune with an air of disappointment. This is interpreted, by all who know not the springs of my heart, as a wonderful piece of humility. I hope my present state of mind will grow into that ; but I confess my conduct to be now owing to anVOL. IV.
other cause. However, I know you will approve my taking hold even of imperfections to find my way towards virtue, which is so feeble in us at the best, that we are often beholden to our faults, for the first appearances of it. I am, Sir, “ Your most humble servant,
N° 208. TUESDAY, AUGUST 8, 1710.
Si dixeris æstuo, suclat.
Juv. Sat. ii. 103.
- If you complain of heat, They rub th' unsweating brow, and swear they sweat.
From my own Apartment, August 7. An old acquaintance, who met me this morning, seemed overjoyed to see me, and told me I looked as well as he had known me do these forty years: “but," continued he, “ not quite the man you were, when we visited together at lady Brightly's. Oh! Isaac, those days are over. Do you think there are any such fine creatures now living, as we then conversed with ?" He went on with a thousand incoherent circumstances, which, in his imagination, must needs please me; but they had the quite contrary effect. The flattery with wbich he began, in telling me how well I wore, was not disagreeable; but his indiscreet mention of a set of acquaintance we had out-lived, recalled ten thousand things to my memory, which made me reflect upon my present condition with regret. Had he indeed been so kind as, after a long absence, to felicitate me upon an indolent and easy old age and mentioned how much he and I had to thank for, who at our time of day could walk firmly, eat heartily, and converse cheerfully, he had kept up my pleasure in myself. But of all mankind, there are none so shocking as these injudicious civil people. They ordinarily begin upon something, that they know must be a satisfaction; but then for fear of the imputation of flattery they follow it with the last thing in the world of which you would be reminded. It is this tbat perplexes civil persons. The reason that there is such a general outcry among us against ftatterers is, that there are so very few good ones. It is the nicest art in this life, and is a part of eloquence which does not want the preparation that is necessary to all other parts of it, that your audience should be your well wishers : for praise from an enemy is the most pleasing of all commendations.
It is generally to be observed, that the person most agreeable to a man for a constancy is he that has no shining qualities, but is a certain degree above great imperfections : whom. he can live with as his inferior, and who will either overlook, or not observe his little defects. Such an easy companion as this either now and then throws out a little fattery, or lets a man silently flatter himself in bis superiority to him. If you take notice, there is hardly a rich man in the world, who has not such a led friend of small consideration, who is a darling for his insignificancy. It is a great ease to have one in our own shape a species below us, and who, without being listed in our service, is by nature of our retinue. These dependents are of excellent use on a rainy day,
or when a man has not a mind to dress; or to exclude solitude, when one has neither a mind to that or to company. There are of this good-natured order, who are so kind as to divide themselves, and do these good offices to many. Five or six of them visit a whole quarter of the town, and exclude the spleen, without fees from the families they frequent. If they do not prescribe physic, they can be company when you take it. Very great benefactors to the rich, or those whom they call people at their ease, are your persons of no consequence. I have known sone of them, by the help of a little cunning, make delicious fatterers. They know the course of the town, and the general characters of persons : by this means they will sometimes tell the most agreeable falsehoods imaginable. They will acquaint you, that such a one of a quite contrary party said,
" That though you were engaged in different interests, yet he had the greatest respect for your good sense and address.” When one of these has a little cunning, he passes his time in the utmost satisfaction to himself and his friends : for his position is never to report or speak a displeasing thing to his friend. for letting him go on in an error, he knows advice against them is the office of persons of greater talents and less discretion.
The Latin word for a flatterer, assentator, implies no more than a person that barely consents; and indeed such a one, if a man were able to purchase or maintain him, cannot be huught too dear. Such a one vever contradicts you; but gains upon you, not by a fulsome way of commending you iu broad terms, but liking whatever you propose or utter ; at the same time, is ready to beg your pardon, and gainsay you, if you chance to speak ill of yourself. An old lady is very seldom without such a companion as this, who can rt cite the names of all her lovers, and the matches refused by her in the days when she minded such vanities, as she is pleased to call them, though she so much approves the mention of them. It is to be noted, that a woman's flatterer is generally elder than herself; her years serving at once to recommend her patroness's age, and to add weight to her complaisance in all other particulars.
We gentlemen of small fortunes are extremely necessitous in this particular. I have indeed one who smokes with me often; but his parts are so low, that all the incense he does me is to fill his pipe with me, and to be out at just as many wbiffs as I take. This is all the praise or assent that he is capable of; vet there are more hours when I would rather be in his company, than in that of the brightest man I know. It would be an hard matter to give an account of this inclination to be flattered; but if we go to the bottom of it, we shall find, that the pleasure in it is something like that of receiving money which layout. Every man thinks he has an estate of reputation, and is glad to see one that will bring any of it home to him. It is no matter how dirty a bag it is conveyed to him in, or by how clownish a messenger, so the money be good. All that we want, to be pleased with flattery, is to believe that the man is sincere who gives it us. It is by this one accident, that absurd creatures often out-run the most skilful in this art. Their want of ability is here an advantage; and their bluntuess as it is the seeñiing effect of sincerity, is the best cover to artifice.
Terence introduces a flatterer talking to a coxcomb, whom he cheats out of a livelihood: and a third person on the stage makes on him this pleasant remark, “ This fellow has an art of making fools madmen.” The love of Aattery is, indeed, sometimes the weakness of a great mind ; but you see it