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PRIDE often affects to despise, and may sometimes really despise, popularity. But it is a silly pride : for what is popularity but the favour, the love, and the esteem of the people; those of our fellow-creatures who are destined to exist on this globe at the same time with ourselves, and who have it greatly in their power to render our lives comfortable or uncomfortable, honourable or disgraceful? Next to the approbation of our God and our consciences, is the esteem of our fellow-creatures. Every nobleman should endeavour to be popular. If his disposition lead him to rural retirement, yet he should become the favourite of his neighbourhood, beloved by the poor, and esteemed by all. Is this commonly the case? Go into countries where mansion-houses of the nobility abound; ask the neighbours their opinion of the lord at the great house. A shake of the head often speaks eloquently, when the tongue, through fear of the great man's persecution, is compelled to be silent. But, in general, the neighbours neither love nor fear the great man, and are loquacious enough at his expense. “My Lord is very strict about the game,” says one. “My Lord does but little good with his great fortune,” says another. “My Lord is scarcely ever here,” says a third, “but always in London, or at a watering-place.”—“So much the better,” cry they all, “for he gives nothing away, and associates with few but gamblers, who follow him into the country, as the crow follows the carrion.” The great man brings London with him to the sweet village retreat, where
nature and simplicity once reigned, but whence they are driven by false refinement, or gross luxury. The pleasures he enjoys there are all selfish, or confined to a circle of companions whom the country-people view with contempt or hatred. What becomes of his popularity ? He despises it-he is above it. The low people in his neighbourhood, even those who are what his ancestor was, are beneath his notice. The contempt is reciprocal. His lordship will do them no good, and he can do them no hurt; but they have it in their power to injure him deeply, by speaking of him on all occasions disrespectfully. Thus, his character suffers; and his honour, one of the most valuable possessions of a nobleman, is sullied by foul aspersion. The very order is held in contempt on his account; and, however he may despise this evil, yet let him be assured, that it is in its consequences of considerable magnitude. The contempt spreads, from a rural neighbourhood, to the whole community; as the undulating circles, caused by the falling of a pebble into a pond, extend themselves gradually to its remotest margin.
I advise you therefore, my Lord; you, who are willing to retard the degradation of nobility, to reside at your provincial mansion in a style of magnificence adequate to your rank and fortune, and with an hospitality and beneficence that may compel envy her . self to acknowledge, that you are no less noble in your nature, than by the accident of primogeniture in a patrician family.
The English are still attached to illustrious birth, and if it is accompanied with any virtue,- pay it great respect. How unfortunate, that some nobles do all they can to eradicate the prejudices, which the people retain for them, by showing that they nave no pretensions to distinction or superiority, but the wretched
ones of an hereditary fortune, which they dissipate in mischief ; and an hereditary title, to which they are a disgrace!
A nobleman in the country should be looked up to by the vulgar with admiration, by the gentlemen and clergy with esteem and affection, and considered by all, as the universal friend; and this, not for the paltry purposes of a county or borough election, but for the sake of supporting the dignity which the laws of his country have consented that he shall inherit or possess, certainly not for his own good only, but for the good of the society. - Why should I agree, says a free citizen, to exalt my fellow-creature above me, unless I am to enjoy the benefit of his protection, his bounty, or his good example ?
| Largesses bestowed for the sake of influencing votes, or condescension shown at the approach, or at the time of an election, gain no permanent popularity: they are seen through, and known to proceed from selfishness, meanness, and a contemptuous opinion of the very persons to whom they are offered. They are a cheap and dishonourable way of purchasing favours that cannot be bought and sold without betraying the country. Your kindness will proceed from true generosity; noble in your sentiments, noble in your actions, noble in your family, you will show your compeers what it is to be right honourable. The people, instead of divesting you, will wish to bind your brows with a brighter diadem than the coronet. : I trust to your natural disposition, and to your education, that even if nobility is to be abolished, the historian, who records the event, will express regret that you could not be exempted from the degradation. Indeed, you cannot be degraded. Your title may be withdrawn, your armorial ensigns effaced, but such nobility as yours will emblazon itself. It
will, if any thing can, redeem the whole order. Such, I know, is your ambition. Indulge it; and thus emulate, equal, and surpass, the ancestor who founded your house. I am, &c.
I Never said that aristocracy or nobility was necessary or useful in a state. It is a question which I mean not to discuss. All I contend for is, that it cannot subsist long in any free country like our own, (especially since the example of France,) when unsupported by personal merit; a merit as distinguished as the rank, and titles, and privileges, with which it is honoured. Do you think, in this age, that a peerage given to a man because he is enormously rich, and has employed his riches, in corrupting boroughs for a number of years to serve a minister, confers such honours as the people venerate? Such peerages are objects of derision among all but servile dependents, or mean and weak admirers of false grandeur. If they were unfortunately to multiply too fast, there is no doubt but they would accelerate a total abolition of such distinctions, like that which has happened, contrary to the expectations of most men, in a country which once idolized nobility. Riches and honours, united to personal merit, will always command unlimited respect. The riches acquire double value, the honours double lustre, when accompanied with weight and brilliancy of character. On the other hand, it must be owned, that personal merit appears to very great advantage, when the splendour of those showy externals throws a kind of sunshine upon it. A very little merit is magnified to a very extraordinary size, when united with birth and fortune; and great merit is then sure to have ample justice done it. What an encouragement this, for noblemen to labour in their youth in acquiring personal merit? But you justly observe, that if learning is a constituent part of this merit, it must happen among noblemen, as among all other men, that the parts necessary to acquire learning may be deficient, or may not rise above mediocrity. How then shall they acquire this personal merit, in which alone true nobility is said to consist? Personal merit, my Lord, is of a very extensive nature. A lord, we all know, may be, as well as a plebeian, a dunce; but he may still have a great deal of such merit as will vindicate himself and his order from contempt. He may do good in every useful way, though he has not abilities to strike out new modes of doing it. If abilities are rather deficient, he may still rely for respect, with full security, on the virtues. To do good by his property, by his influence, and by his example, requires not the abilities of an orator, or a great statesman. Let him mean well in all his conduct, and the world will make every due allowance for the defects of nature. But if, in despair of shining in his proper sphere, he descends to the low company and amusements of pugilists; appears in public with sharpers, buffoons, grooms, horse-dealers, and jockies; avoids men of sense; gives no encouragement to useful or polite arts; and degrades himself by coarse mirth, childish pranks, by excess of drinking, or any other vice; then his nobility only serves as a torch to show in a more glaring light his foul depravity. * The public, considering how frail and imperfect