Page images

-Abest virtute diserti

No. 484. Messalae, aec scit quantum Cascellius Aulus.-Hor.


Sept. 15, so I can't conceive the Injustice done to the Publick, if the 1712. Men of Reputation in this Calling would introduce such of the young ones into Business, whose Application to this Study will let them into the Secrets of it, as much as their Modesty will hinder them from the Practices I say, it would be laying an everlasting Obligation upon a young Man, to be introduc'd at first only as a Mute 'till by this Countenance, and a Resolution to support the good Opinion conceiv'd of him in his Betters, his Complection shall be so well settled, that the Litigious of this Island may be secure of his obstreperous Aid. If I might be indulged to speak in the Stile of a Lawyer I would say, That any one about thirty Years of Age, might make a common Motion to the Court with as much Elegance and Propriety as the most aged Advocates in the Hall,

I can't advance the Merit of Modesty by any Argument of my own so powerfully, as by enquiring into the Sentiments the greatest among the Ancients of different Ages entertain'd upon this Virtue. If we go back to the Days of Solomon, we shall find Favour a necessary Copsequence to a shame-fac'd Man.

Pliny, the greatest Lawyer, and most elegant Writer of the Age he liv'd in, in several of his Epistles is very sollicitous in recommending to the Publick some young Men of his own Profession, and very often undertakes to become an Advocate, upon Condition that some one of these his Favourites might be joya'd with him, in order to produce the Merit of such, whose Modesty otherwise would have suppress'd it. It may seem very marvelous to a sawcy Modern, that Multum sanguinis, multum verer cundiae, multum sollicitudinis in ore ; To have the Face first full of Blood, then the Countenance dash'd with Modesty, and then the whole Aspect as of one dying with Fear, when a Man begins to speak : should be esteem'd by Pliny the necessary Qualifications of a fine Speaker. Shakespear also has express'd himself in the same favourable Strain of Modesty when he says,


No. 484.
Sept. 15,

la the Modesty of fearful Duty
I read as much as from the rattling Tongue

Of sawcy and audacious Eloquence-
Now since these Authors have profess'd themselves for
the modest Man, even in the utmost Confusions of Speech
and Countenance, why should an intrepid Utterance and
a resolute Vociferation thunder so successfully in our
Courts of Justice? and why shou'd that Confidence of
Speech and Behaviour which seems to acknowledge no
Superior, and to defy all Contradiction, prevail over that
Deference and Resignation with which the modest Man
implores that favourable Opinion which the other seems
to command.

As the Case at present stands, the best Consolation that I can administer to those who cannot get into that Stroke of Business (as the Phrase is) which they deserve, is to reckon every particular Acquisition of Knowledge in this Study as a real Increase of their Fortune ; and fully to believe, that one Day this imaginary Gain will certainly be made out by one more substantial. I wish you

would talk to us a little on this Head; you would oblige,


Your most humble Servant.

The Author of this Letter is certainly a Man of good Sense; but I am perhaps particular in my Opinion on this Occasion, for I have observed, that, under the Notion of Modesty, Men have indulged themselves in a spiritless Sheepishness, and been for ever lost to themselves, their Families, their friends, and their Country. When a Man has taken care to pretend to nothing but what he may justly aim at, and can execute as well as any other, without Injustice to any other; it is ever Want of Breeding or Courage to be brow-beaten or elbow'd out of his honest Ambition. I have said often, Modesty must be an Act of the Will, and yet it always implies SelfDenial: For if a Man has an ardent Desire to do what is laudable for him to perform, and, from an unmanly Bashfulness, shrinks away, and lets his Merit languish in Silence, he ought not to be angry at the World that a


more unskilful Actor succeeds in his Part, because he has No. 484. not Confidence to come upon the Stage himself. The Monday, Generosity my Correspondent mentions of Pliny cannot Sept. 15,

1712. be enough applauded. To cherish the Dawn of Merit, and hasten its Maturity, was a Work worthy a noble Roman and liberal Scholar. That Concern which is describes in the Letter, is to all the World the greatest Charm imaginable ; but then the modest Man must proceed, and shew a latent Resolution in himself for the Admiration of his Modesty arises from the Manifestation of his Merit I must confess, we live in an Age wherein a few empty Blusterers carry away the Praise of Speaking, while a Croud of Fellows over-stock'd with Knowledge are run down by them: I say over-stock'd, because they certainiy are so as to their Service of Mankind, if from their very Store they raise to themselves Ideas of Respect, and Greatness of the Occasion, and I know not what, to disable themselves from explaining their Thoughts. I must confess, when I have seen Charles Frankair rise up with a commanding Mein and Torrent of handsome Words, talk a Mile off the Purpose, and drive down twenty bashful Boobies of ten Times his Sense, who at the same Time were envying his Impudence and despising his Understanding, it has been Matter of great Mirth to me; but it soon ended in a secret Lamentation, that the Fountains of every Thing Praise-worthy in these Realms, the Universities, should be so muddied with a false Sense of this Virtue, as to produce Men capable of being so abused. I will be bold to say, that it is a ridiculous Education which does not qualify a Man to make his best Appearance before the greatest Man and the finest Woman to whom he can address himself. Were this judiciously corrected in the Nurseries of Learning, pert Coxcombs would know their Distance : But we must bear with this false Modesty in our young Nobility and Gentry, 'till they cease at Oxford and Cambridge to grow dumb in the Study of Eloquence,




[ocr errors]

No. 485 No. 485.
Tuesday, (STEELE.]

Tuesday, September 16. Sept. 16, 1712. Nihil tam firmum est, cui periculum non sit etiam ab invalido,

-Quint. Curt. * Mr. SPECTATOR,

Lord Clarendon has observ'd, That few Men

have done more Harm than those who have been thought to be able to do least, and there cannot be a greater Error, than to believe a Mau whom we see qualified with too mean Parts to do Good, to be therefore incapable of doing Hurt. There is a Supply of Malice, of Pride, of Industry, and even of Folly, in the Weakest,

when he sets his Heart upon it, that makes a strange Progress in Mischief. What may seem to the Reader the greatest Paradox in the Reflection of the Historian, is, I suppose, that Folly, which is generally thought incapable of contriving or executing any Design, should be so formidable to those whom it exerts it self to molest. But this will appear very plain, if we remember that Solomon says, It is as Sport to a Fool to do Mischief, and that he might the more emphatically express the calamitous Circumstances of him that falls under the Displeasure of this wanton Person, the same Author adds further, That a Stone is heavy, and the Sand weighty, but a Fool's Wrath is heavier than them both,

It is impossible to suppress my own Illustration upon this Matter, which is, That as the Man of Sagacity bestirs himself to distress his Enemy by Methods probable and reducible to Reason, so the same Reason will fortify his Enemy to elude these his regular Efforts, but your Fool projects, acts, and concludes with such notable Inconsistence, that no regular Course of Thought can evade or counterplot his prodigious Machinations, My Frontispiece, I believe, may be extended to imply, That several of our Misfortunes arise from Things, as well as Persons, that seem of very little Consequence. Into what tragical Extravagances does Shakespear hurry Othello upon the Loss of an Handkerchief only? And what Barbarities does Desdemona suffer from a slight Inadvertency in regard to this fatal Trifle ? If the Schemes of all the enterprizing Spirits were to be


carefully examined, some intervening Accident, not con- No. 485. siderable enough to occasion any Debate upon, or give Tuesday, 'em any, Apprehension of ill Consequence from it

, will Sept. 16, be found to be the Occasion of their ill Success, rather than any Errour in Points of Moment and Difficulty, which naturally engaged their maturest Deliberations. If you go to the Levee of any great Man, you

will observe him exceeding gracious to several very insignificant Fellows; and this upon this Maxim, That the Neglect of any person must arise from the mean Opinion you have of his Capacity to do you any Service or Prejudice; and that this calling his Sufficiency in Question, must give him Inclination, and where this is, there never wants Strength or Opportunity to annoy you. There is no Body so weak of Invention, that can't aggravate or make some little Stories to vilify his Enemy; and there are very few but have good Inclinations to hear 'em, and 'tis infinite Pleasure to the Majority of Mankind to level a Person superiour to his Neighbours. Besides, in all Matter of Controversy, that Party which has the greatest Abilities labours under this Prejudice, that he will certainly be supposed, upon Account of his Abilities, to have done an Injury, when perhaps he has received one. It would be tedious to enumerate the Strokes that Nations and particular Friends have suffer'd from Persons very contemptible.

I think Henry IV of France, so formidable to his Neighbours, could no more be secur'd against the resolute Villany of Ravillac, than Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, could be against that of Felton. And there is no incens d Person so destitute, but can provide himself with a knife or a Pistol, if he finds Stomach to apply 'em. That Things and Persons of no Moment should give such powerful Revolutions to the Progress of those of the greatest, seems a providential Disposition to baffle and abate the Pride of humane Sufficiency as also, to engage the Humanity and Benevolence of Superiors to all below 'em, by letting them into this Secret, That the Stronger depends upon the Weaker. I am, Sir, your very humble Servant:


« PreviousContinue »