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Friday, December 14.
"HERE are none who deserve Superiority over make it their Endeavour to be beneficial to Society; and who, upon all Occasions which their Circumstances of Life can administer, do not take a certain unfeigned Pleasure in conferring Benefits of one Kind or other. Those whose great Talents and high Birth have placed them in conspicuous Stations of Life, are indispensibly obliged to exert some noble Inclinations for the Service of the World, or else such Advantages become Misfortunes, and Shade and Privacy are a more eligible Portion Where Opportunities and Inclinations are given to the same Person, we sometimes see sublime Instances of Virtue, which so
dazzle our Imaginations, that we look with Scorn on all which in lower Scenes of Life we may our selves be able to practise. But this is a vicious Way of Thinking, and it bears some Spice of romantick Madness for a Man to imagine that he must grow ambitious, or seek Adventures, to be able to do great Actions. It is in every Man's Power in the World, who is above meer Poverty, not only to do things worthy but heroick, The great Foundation of civil Virtue is Self-Denial; and there is no one above the Necessities of Life, but has Opportunities of exercising that noble Quality, and doing as much as his Circumstances will bear for the Ease and Convenience of other Men and he who does more than ordinarily Men practise upon such Occasions as occur in his Life, deserves the Value of his Friends as if he had done Enterprizes which are usually attended with the highest Glory. Men of publick Spirit differ rather in their Circumstances than their Virtue ; and the Man who does all he can in a low Station, is more an Hero than he who omits any worthy Action he is able to accomplish in a great one. It is not many Years ago since Lapirius,
in Wrong of his elder Brother, came to a great Estate No. 248. by Gift of his Father, by reason of the dissolute Friday, Behaviour of the First-born. Shame and Contrition Dec. 14, reformed the Life of the disinherited Youth, and he became as remarkable for his good Qualities, as formerly for his Errors. Lapíríus, who observed his Brother's
Amendment, sent him on a New-Year's Day in the + Morning the following Letter,
Minds in the domestick Way of Life deny themselves e many Advantages, to satisfie a generous Benevolence ' which they bear to their Friends oppressed with Distresses and Calamities, Such Natures one may call
Stores of Providence, which are actuated by a secret < celestial Influence to undervalue the ordinary Gratifi
cations of Wealth, to give Comfort_to an Heart loaded with Affliction, to save a falling Family, to preserve a Branch of Trade in their Neighbourhood, and give Work to the Industrious, preserve the Portion of the helpless Infant, and raise the Head of the mourning Father, People whose Hearts are wholly bent towards Pleasure, or intent upon Gain, never hear of the noble Occurrences among Men of Industry and Humanity. It would look like a City Romance, to tell them of the
generous Merchant who the other Day sent this Billet to an eminent Trader under Difficulties to support himself , in whose Fall many hundreds besides himself
No. 248. had perished, but because I think there is more Spirit Friday, and true Gallantry in it than in any Letter I have Dec. 14,
ever read from strephon to Phillis, I shall insert it 1711
even in the mercantile honest Stile in which it was sent.
I have heard of the Casualties which have involved you in extreme Distress at this Time; and knowing you to be a Man of great Good-nature, Industry, and Probity, have resolved to stand by you.
Be of good Chear, the Bearer brings with him five thousand Pounds, and has my Order to answer your drawing as much more on my Account I did this in Haste, for Fear I should come too late for your Relief; but you may value your self with me to the Sum of fifty thousand Pounds; for I can very chearfully run the Hazard of being so much less rich than I am now, to save an honest Man whom I love, Your Friend and Servant,
W. S' I think there is somewhere in Montaigne Mention made of a Family-Book, wherein all the Occurrences that happened from one Generation of that House to another were recorded. Were there such a Method in the Families which are concerned in this Generosity, it would be an hard Task for the greatest in Europe to give in their own, an Instance of a Benefit better placed, or conferred with a more graceful Air. It has been heretofore urged, how barbarous and inhuman is any unjust Step made to the Disadvantage of a Trader; and by how much such an Act towards him is detestable, by so much an Act of Kindness to him is laudable. I remember to have heard a Bencher of the Temple tell a Story of a Tradition in their House, where they had formerly a Custom of chusing Kings for such a Season, and allowing him his Expences at the Charge of the Society: One of our Kings, said my friend, carried his royal Inclination a little too far, and there was a Committee ordered to look into the Management
of his Treasury. Among other things it appeared, that No. 248. his Majesty walking incog, in the Cloyster, had over- Friday:
Dec. 14, heard a poor Man say to another, Such a small Sum
1711 would make me the happiest Man in the World. The King out of his royal Compassion privately enquired into his Character, and finding him a proper Object of Charity sent him the Money. When the Committee read their Report the House passed his Accompts with a Plaudite without farther Examination, upon Recital of this Article in them,
d. For making a Man happy 10 00 00
T No. 249. (ADDISON.]
Saturday, December 15. Γελως άκαιρος έν βροτοίς δεινόν κακόν.-Frag. Vet. Poet. 7HEN I make Choice of a Subject that has not
been treated of by others, I throw together my Reflections on it without any Order or Method, so that 5 they may appear rather in the Looseness and Freedom of an Essay, than in the Regularity of a Set Discourse. It is after this manner that I shall consider Laughter and Ridicule in my present Paper, lig
Man is the merriest Species of the Creation, all above and below him are serious. He sees things in a different Light from other Beings, and finds his Mirth rising from Objects which perhaps cause something like Pity or Displeasure in higher Natures. Laughter is indeed a very good Counterpoise to the Spleen, and it seems but reasonable that we should be capable of receiving Joy from what is no real Good to us, since we can receive Grief from what is no real Evil.
I have in my Forty seventh Paper_raised a Speculation on the Notion of a modern Philosopher, who describes the first Motive of Laughter to be a secret Comparison which we make between our selves and the Persons we laugh at; or, in other Words, that Satisfaction which we receive from the Opinion of some Preveminence in our selves, when we see the
No. 249. Absurdities of another, or when we reflect on any
most cases, and we may observe that the vainest Part
I have read a Sermon of a Conventual in the Church of Rome, on those Words of the Wise Man, I said of Laughter it is mad, and of Mirth what does it? Upon which he laid it_down as a Point of Doctrine, that Laughter was the Effect of Original Sin, and that Adam could not laugh before the Fall.
Laughter, while it lasts, slackens and unbraces the Mind, weakens the Faculties, and causes a Kind of Remisness, and Dissolution in all the Powers of the Soul. And thus far it may be looked upon as Weakness in the Composition of human Nature. But if we consider the frequent Reliefs we receive from it, and how often it breaks the Gloom which is apt to depress the Mind and damp our Spirits, with transient unexpected Gleams of Joy, one would take Care not to grow too wise for so great a Pleasure of Life.
The Talent of turning Men into Ridicule, and ex posing to Laughter those one converses with, is the Qualification of little ungenerous Tempers. Man with this Cast of Mind cuts himself off from all manner of Improvement Every one has his Flaws and Weaknesses ; nay, the greatest Blemishes are often found in the most shining Characters; but what an absurd thing is it to pass over all the valuable Parts of a Man, and fix our Attention on his Infirmities; to observe his Imperfections more than his Virtues; and to make use of him for the Sport of others, rather than for our own Improvement
We therefore very often find that Persons the most accomplished in Ridicule, are those who are very shrewd at hitting a Blot, without exerting any thing Masterly in themselves. As there are many eminent Criticks who never writ a good Line, there are many admirable Buffoons that animadvert upon every single Defect in another, without ever discovering the least Beauty of their own By this Means these unluck little Wits often gain Reputation in the Esteem of vulgar