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HAVING yesterday morning received a paper of Latin verses, written with very much elegance in honour of these my papers, and being informed at the same time, that they were composed by a youth under age, I read them with much delight, as an instance of his improvement. There is not a greater pleasure to old age, than seeing young people entertain themselves in such a manner as that we can partake of their enjoyments. On such occasions we flatter ourselves that we are not quite laid aside in the world ; but that we are either used with gratitude for what we were, or honoured for what we are. A well-inclined young man, and whose good-breeding is founded upon the principles of nature and virtue, must needs take delight in being agreeable to his elders, as we are truly delighted when we are not the jest of them. When I say this, I must confess I cannot but think it a very lamentable thing, that there should be a necessity for making that a rule of life, which should be, methinks, a mere instinct of nature. If reflection upon a man in poverty, whom we once knew in riches, is an argument of commiseration with generous minds ; sure old age, which is a decay from that vigour which the young possess, and must certainly, if not prevented against their will, arrive at, should be more forcibly the object of that reverence which honest spirits are inclined to, from a sense of being themselves liable to what they observe has already overtaken others. My three nephews, whom, in June last was twelvemonth, I disposed of according to their several capacities and inclinations; the first to the university, the second to a merchant, and the third to a woman of quality as her page, by my invitation dined with me to-day. It is my custom often, when I have a mind to give myself a more than ordinary cheerfulness, to invite a certain young gentlewoman of our neighbourhood to make one of the company. She did me that favour this day. The presence of a beautiful woman of honour, to minds which are not trivially disposed, displays an alacrity which is not to be communicated by any other object. It was not unpleasant to me, to look into her thoughts of the company she was in. She smiled at the party of pleasure I had thought of for her, which was composed of an old man and three boys. My scholar, my citizen, and myself, were very soon neglected ; and the young courtier, by the bow he made to her at her entrance, engaged her observation without a rival. I observed the Oxonian not a little discomposed at this preference, while the trader kept his eye upon his uncle. My nephew Will had a thousand secret resolutions to break in upon the discourse of his younger brother, who gave my fair companion a full account of the fashion, and what was reckoned most becoming to this complexion, and what sort of habit appeared best upon the other shape. He proceeded to acquaint her, who of quality was well or sick within the bills of mortality, and named very familiarly all his lady's acquaintance, not forgetting her very words when he spoke of their characters. Besides all this, he had a road of flattery; and upon her inquiring what sort of woman Lady Lovely was in her person, “Really, madam,' says the Jackanapes, “she is exactly of your height and shape; but, as you are fair, she is a brown woman.’ There was no enduring that this fop should outshine us all at this unmerciful rate ; therefore I thought fit to talk to my young scholar concerning his studies; and, because I would throw his learning into present service, I desired him to repeat to me the translation he had made of some tender verses in Theocritus. He did so, with an air of elegance peculiar to the college to which I sent him. I made some exceptions to the turn of the phrases; which he defended with much modesty, as believing in that place the matter was rather to consult the softness of a swain's passion, than the strength of his expressions. It soon appeared that Will had outstripped his brother in the opinion of our young lady. A little poetry to one who is bred a scholar, has the same effect that a good carriage of his person has on one who is to live in courts. The favour of women is so natural a passion, that I envied both the boys their success in the approbation of my guest; and I thought the only person invulnerable was my young trader. During the whole meal, I could observe in the children a mutual contempt and scorn of each other, arising from their different way of life and education, and took that occasion to advertise them of such growing distastes; which might mislead them in their future life, and disappoint their friends, as well as themselves, of the advantages which might be expected from the diversity of their professions and interests.
The prejudices which are growing up between these brothers from the different ways of education, are what create the most fatal misunderstandings in life. But all distinctions of disparagement, merely from our circumstances, are such as will not bear the examination of reason. The courtier, the trader, and the scholar, should all have an equal pretension to the denomination of a gentleman. That tradesman, who deals with me in a commodity which 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 ‘free men have no superiors but benefactors.” . . .
[Tatler, No. 207.
19atentg ant Children
AMONG those inclinations which are common to all men, there is none more unaccountable than that unequal love by which parents distinguish their children from each other. Sometimes vanity and self-love appear to have a share towards this effect; and in other instances I have been apt to attribute it to mere instinct : but, however that is, we frequently see the child, that has been beholden to neither of these impulses in his parents, in spite of being neglected, snubbed, and thwarted at home, acquire a behaviour which makes him as agreeable to all the rest of the world, as that of every one else of their family is to each other. I fell into this way of thinking from an intimacy which I have with a very good house in our neighbourhood, where there are three daughters of a very different character and genius. The eldest has a great deal of wit and cunning ; the second has good sense, but no artifice; the third has much vivacity, but little understanding. The first is a fine, but scornful woman; the second is not charming, but very winning ; the third is no way commendable, but very desirable. The father of these young creatures was ever a great pretender to wit, the mother a woman of as much coquetry. This turn in the parents has biassed their affections towards their children. The