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Saturday, November 10.
Vix ea nostra vocoa
Ovid. Met. lib.
ver. 141. These I scarce call our own. There
HERE are but few men who are not ambitious of distinguishing themselves in the nation or country where they live, and of growing considerable among those with whom they converse. There is a kind of grandeur and respect, which the meanest and most insignificant part of mankind endeavour to procure in the little circle of their friends and acquaintance. The poorest mechanic, nay, the man who lives upon common alms, gets him his set of admirers, and delights in that superiority which he enjoys over those who are in some respects beneath him. This ambition, which is natural to the foul of man, might methinks receive a very happy turn; and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a person's advantage, as it generally does to his uneasiness and disquiet.
I fill therefore put together fome thoughts on this subject, which I have not met with in other writers ; and shall set them down as they have occurred to me, without being at the pains to connect or methodise them. All superiority and pre-eminence that one man can have over another, may be reduced the notion of quality, which, considered at large, is either that of fortune, body, or mind. The first is that which consists in birth, title
, or riches; and is the moft foreign to our natures, and what we can the least call our own of any of the three kinds of quality In relation to the body, quality arises from health, strength, or beauty; which are nearer to us, and more a part of ourselves than the former. Quality, as it regards the mind, has its rise from knowledge or virtue ; and is that which is more essential to us, and more intimately :inited with us than either of the other two.
The quality of fortune, though a man has less reason to value himself upon it than on that of the body or mind,
is however the kind of quality which makes the most shining figure in the eye of the world.
As virtue is the most reasonable and genuine source of honour, we generally find in titles an intimation of some particular merit that should recommend men to the high stations which they possess. Holiness is afcribed to the pope ; majesty to kings; serenity or mildness of temper to princes' ; excellence or perfection to ambassadors; grace to archbishops'; 'honour to peers ; worship, or venerable behaviour to magistrates ; and reverence, which is of the fame import as the former, to the inferior clergy.
In the founders of great families, such attributes of honour are generally correspondent with the virtues of the person to whom they are applied ; but in the descendants they are too often the marks rather of grandeur than of merit. The stamp and denomination still continues, but the intrinsic value is frequently loft.
The death-bed shews the emptiness of titles in a true light. A poor dispirited finner lies trembling under the apprehensions of the state he is entering on; and is asked by a grave attendant how his holineis does ? Another hears himself addressed to under the title of highness or excellency, who lies under such mean circumstances of mortality, as are the disgrace of human nature. Titles at such a time look rather like insults and mockery than respect.
The truth of it is, honours are in this world under no regulation ; true quality is neglected, virtue is oppressed, and vice triumphant. The last day will rectify this disorder, and assign to every one a itation fuitable to the dignity of his character ; ranks will be then adjusted, and precedency set right.
Methinks we should have an ambition, if not to advance ourselves in another world, at least to preserve our poft in it, and outshine our inferiors in virtue here, that they may not be put above us in a state which is to settle the distinction for eternity.
Men in scripture are called “ strangers and fojourners upon earth," and life a
pilgrimage.” Several heaa then, as well as christian authors, under the same kind of metaphor, have represented the world as an inn, which was only designed to furnith us with accommodations in
this our passage. It is therefore very absurd to think of setting up our reft before we come to our journey's end, and not rather to take care of the reception we shall there meet, than to fix our thoughts on the little conveniencies and advantages which we enjoy one above another in the way to it.
Epictetus makes use of another kind of allasion, which is
very beautiful, and wonderfully proper to incline us to be satisfied with the post in which Providence has placed
We are here, says he, as in a theatre, where every one has a part allotted to him. The great duty which lies upon a man is to act his part in perfection. We may indeed say, that our part does not suit us, and that we could act another better. But this, says the philosopher, is not our business. All that we are concerned in is to excel in the part which is given us. If it be an improper one, the fault is not in us, but in him who has cast our several parts, and is the great disposer of the drama.
The part that was acted by this philosopher himself was but a yery indifferent one, for he lived and died a Nave. His motive to contentment in this particular, receives a very great enforcement from the above-mentioned consideration, if we remember that our parts in the other world will be new cast, and that mankind will be thure ranged in different stations of superiority and pre-eirinence, in proportion as they have here excelled one another in virtue, and performed in their several pofts of life the duties which belong to them.
There are many beautiful paffages in the little apocryphal book, entitled, “The Wisdom of Solomon," to set forth the vanity of honour, and the like temporal blefsings which are in so great repute among men, and to comfort those who have not the possession of them. It represents. in very warm and noble terms this advancement of a good man in the other world, and the great surprise which it will produce among those who are his superiors in this. Then shall the righteous man stand
in great boldness before the face of such as have af' ficted him, and made no account of his labours. When
they see it, they shall be troubled with terrible fear, • and shall be amazed at the strangeness of his salvation,
so far beyond all that they looked for. And they
repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, shall say • within themselves ; this was he whom we had some
time in derision, and a proverb of reproach. We fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without 'honour. How is he numbered among the children • of God, and his lot is among the saints !'
If the reader would see the description of a life that is passed away in vanity, and among the shadows of pomp and greatness, he may see it very finely drawn in the
same place. In the mean time, since it is necessary in the I present constitution of things, that order and distinction
should be kept up in the world, we should be happy, if those who enjoy the upper stations in it, would endeavour to surpass others in virtue, as much as in rank, and by their humanity and condescension make their superiority easy and acceptable to those who are beneath them: and if, on the contrary, those who are in meaner posts of life, would consider how they may better their condition hereafter, and by a just deference and submisfion to their superiors, make them happy in those blerfings with which Providence has thought fit to distinguish them.
Monday, November 12.
Rumoresque ferit varios VIRG. Æn. 12. V. 228. A thousand rumours spreads.
Why will you apply to my father for my love?
· I cannot help it if he will give you my person ; but I • assure you it is not in his power, nor even in my own,
to give you my heart. Dear sir, do but consider the ill-confequence of such a match you are fifty-five, I
twenty-one. You are a man of business, and mightily • conversant in arithmetic and making calculations; be
pleased therefore to consider what proportion your spirits bear to mine, and when you have made a just estimate of the necessary decay on one side, and the * redundance on the other, you will act accordingly. • This perhaps, is such language as you may not ex
pect from a young lady; but my happiness is at stake, • and I must talk plainly. I mortally hate you; and so, as you and my father
agree, you may take me or ' leave me: but if you will be so good as never to see me more, you will for ever oblige,
• HENRIETTA.' • Mr. SPECTATOR, • THERE are so many artifices and modes of false : wit, and such a variety of humour discovers itself
among its votaries, that it would be impossible to ex
haust To fertile a subject, if you would think fit to re* sume it. The following inftances may, if you think • fit, be added by way of appendix to your discourses on • that subject.
• That feat of poetical activity mentioned by Horace, ' of an author who could compose two hundred verses