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Non quia, Mecenas, Lydorum quidquid Etruscos
HOR. In estimating the conduct of men, we naturally take into account, not only the merit or blame of their actions, abstractedly considered, but also that portion of either which those actions derive from the situation of the persons performing them. Besides the great moral laws by which every man is bound, particular ranks and circumstances have their peculiar obligations; and he who attains elevation of place, or extent of fortune, increases not only the pleasure he has to enjoy, but the duties he has to perform. This, however, moralists have always complained, is apt to be forgotten ; the great are ever ready to exercise power, and the rich to purchase pleasure : but the first are not always mindful of benignity, nor the latter of beneficence.
In the lighter duties of life the same rule takes place, and is, in the same manner, but little attended to. In these, indeed, it is more liable to be disre. garded from an idea of its unimportance. Yet, to the little and the poor, the behaviour of the great or the rich is often as essential as their conduct. There may be tyranny and injustice in the one as well as in the other; nay, I have known many men who could
forgive the oppression of the powerful, and the encroachments of the wealthy, in more material in. stances, who never could pardon the haughtiness of their demeanour, and the fastidiousness of their air.
It is strange, methinks, that the desire of depressing the humble, and overawing the modest, should be so common as it is among those on whom birth or station has conferred superiority. One might wonder how it should ever happen, that people should prefer being feared to being loved, to spread around them the chillness of unsocial grandeur, rather than the warmth of reciprocal attachment. Yet, from the pride of folly, or of education, we find this is often the case ; there is scarce any one who can. not recollect instances of persons who seem to have exchanged all the pleasures of society, all intercourse of the affections, for the cold pre-eminence of state and place.
But, in the ideas of their power, it is proper to inform such persons, they are frequently mistaken, It must be on a mind very contemptible indeed, that mere greatness can have the effects they are apt to ascribe to it. They cannot blast with a frown or elevate with a smile, from rank or station alone, without some other qualities attending them. 'Tis with rank and station, as an acquaintance of mine, somewhat of a coxcomb, though a better thing from nature, observed to me of dress: • Every man,' said he, looking at himself in a mirror,' every man can • put on a fine coat ; but it is not every man who • can wear one.'
It is by no means so easy to do the honours of a high station, as many who attain high stations are apt to imagine The importance of a man to him. self is a feeling common to all; to settle with propriety the claims of others, as well as of ourselves, requires no inconsiderable degree of discernment ; and the jealousy of inferior stations in this matter, will criticise with the utmost nicety the determina. tions of their superiors. In proportion as the great claim respect or adulation, the spirit of those be. neath them will commonly refuse it. We see daily examples of men, who go on arrogating dignity, and procuring contempt; who meet with slights where they demand respect, and are refused even the atten. tion to which they are entitled, because they would impose attention rather than receive it.
But it is not always by haughtiness of demeanour that people shew themselves most haughty. There is a claim of superiority, amidst the condescension of some men, infinitely more disgusting than the distant dignity of ordinary pride. Somebody has called the part which the inferiors of such people play, « holding the lower end of familiarity.' Orgilius keeps a pack of these end-holders constantly about him. He calls them by their names, as he does his hounds; they open at his jests, follow the scent of every observation he makes, and run down every cha. racter he attacks. For all this he rewards them exact. ly as he does his favourite dogs, by allowing them to dirty his parlour, and feed at his table ; and, like the master of many a pack, he is despised by all his neighbours who have understanding, and hated by all those who want it.
Nothing is more difficult than the art of a patron ; the power of patronising is but one ingredient in its composition. A patron must be able to read man. kind, and to conciliate their affections; he must be BO deserving of praise as to be independent of it ; yet receive it as if he had no claim, and give it value where it is just, by resisting adulation. He must have that dignity of demeanour which may keep his place in the circle ; yet that gentleness which may not overpower the most timid, or overawe the meanest. If he patronises the arts, he must know and feel them ; yet he must speak to the learned as a learner, and often submit the correctness of his taste to the errors of genius. With so many qualifications requisite for a patron, it is not wonderful that so few should arise ; or that the bunglers whom we see attempt the part, should so frequently make enemies by offices of friendship, and purchase a lampoon at the price of a panegyric.
There is a sort of female patronage, of which I cannot forbear taking notice, though it be somewhat out of place here. It is considered as of little importance, though I am apt to believe, its consequences are sometimes of a very serious nature. In some great houses, My Lady, as well as My Lord, has a train of followers, who contend for that honour which her intimacy is held to confer, and emulate those manners which her rank and fashion are supposed to sanctify. Let the humanity of such a patroness lead her to beware, lest her patronage be fatal to her favourites. If the glare of grandeur, or the luxuries of wealth, deprive them of the relish of sober enjoyments; if the ease of fashionable behaviour seduce them from the simplicity of purer manners ; they will have dearly purchased the friendship which they court, or the notice which they envy. Let such noble persons consider, that, to the young ladies they are pleased to call their friends, those sober pleasures, those untainted manners, are to be the support of celibacy, the dower of marriage, the comfort and happiness of a future life. It were cruel, indeed, if, by any infringement of those manners, any contempt for those pleasures (too easily copied by their inferiors), they should render the little transient distinctions which they bestow in kindness, a source of lasting misery to those who receive them.
To the behaviour of the rich, the above observa. tions may apply; wealth, in a commercial country like ours, conferring, in a great measure, the dignity of title or of birth. There are, however, some par. ticular errors, into which the possessors of suddenly acquired fortunes are apt to fall, that defeat the ends at which they aim, that disgust where they meant to dazzle, and only create envy where they wish to ex, cite admiration. When Lucullus, at a dinner to which he has invited half a dozen of his old acquaintance, shews his sideboard loaded with plate, and brings in seven or eight laced servants to wait at table, I do not reckon the dinner given, but sold. I am expected to pay my reckoning as much as in a tavern s only here I am to give my admiration, and there my money; and it is certain that many men, and some very narrow ones too, will sooner part with the last than with former. I have sometimes seen a high-spirited poor man at Lucullus's table, affronted by the production of Burgundy, and refuse Champaigne, because it had the borachio of our landlord's fourscore thousand pounds on't. This was honest, and Lucullus had not much title to complain ; but he knows not how often his Burgundy and Champaigne are drank by fellows who tell all the world, next day, of their former dinners with him aç a shilling ordinary, with sixpenny-worth of punch, by way of regale, upon holidays.
There is an obligation to complacency, I had al, most said humility of manners, which the acquisition of wealth or station lays on every man, though it has often, especially on weak minds, a directly op, posite effect. A certain degree of inattention, or