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by Pliny the necessary qualifications of a fine speaker. Shakspeare also has expressed himself in the same favourable strain of modesty, when he says,
- In the modesty of fearful duty
Of saucy and audacious eloquence “Now, since these authors have professed themselves for the modest man, even in the utmost confusions of speech and countenance, why sh ld an intrepid utterance and a resolute vociferation thunder so successfully in our courts of justice? And why should that confidence of speech and behaviour, which seems to acknowledge no superior, and to defy all contradiction, prevail over that deference and resignation with which the modest man implores that favourable opinion which the other seems to command ?
“ As the case at present stands, the best consolation that I can administer, to those who cannot get into that stroke of business (as the phrase is) which they deserve, is to reckon every particular acquisition of knowledge in this study as a real increase of their fortune; and fully to believe, that one day this imaginary gain will certainly be made out, by one more substantial. I wish you would talk to us a little on this head; you will oblige, Sir,
“ Your most humble servant." The author of this letter is certainly a man of good sense, but I am perhaps particular in my opinion on this occasion: for I have observed that, under the notion of modesty, men have indulged themselves in a spiritless sheepishness, and been for ever lost to themselves, their families, their friends, and their country. When a man has taken care to pretend to nothing but what he may justly aim at, and can execute as well as any other, with out injustice to any other; it is ever want of breeding, or courage, to be brow-beaten, or elbowed out of his honest ambition. I have said often, modesty must be an act of the will, and yet it always implies self-denial : for, if a man has an ardent desire to do what is laudable for him to perform, and from an unmanly bashfulness shrinks away, and lets his merit languish in silence, he ought not to be angry at the world that a more unskilful actor succeeds
in his part, because he has not confidence to come upon the stage himself. The generosity my correspondent mentions of Pliny cannot be enough applauded. To cherish the dawn of merit, and hasten its maturity, was a work worthy a noble Roman, and a liberal scholar. That concern which is described in the letter, is to all the world the greatest charm imaginable; but then the modest man must proceed, and shew a latent resolution in himself: for the admiration of his modesty arises from the manifestation of his merit. I must confess we live in an age wherein a few empty blusterers carry away the praise of speaking, while a crowd of fellows overstocked with knowledge are run down by them : I say overstocked, because they certainly are so, as to their service of mankind, if from their very store they raise to themselves ideas of respect, and greatness of the occasion, and I know not what, to disable themselves from explaining their thoughts. I must confess, when I have seen Charles Frankair rise up with a commanding mien, and torrent of handsome words, talk a mile off the purpose, and drive down twenty bashful boobies of ten times his sense, who at the same time were envying his impudence, and despising his understanding, it has been matter of great mirth to me; but it soon ended in a secret lamentation, that the fountains of every thing praiseworthy in these realms, the universities, should be so mudded with a false sense of this virtue, as to produce men capable of being so abused. I will be bold to say, that it is a ridiculous education which does not qualify a man to make his best appearance before the greatest man, and the finest woman, to whom he can address himself. Were this judiciously corrected in the nurseries of learning, pert coxcombs would know their distance: but we must bear with this false modesty in our young nobility and gentry, till they cease at Oxford and Cambridge to grow dumb in the study of eloquence.
N° 485. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 1712. Nihil tam firmum est, cui periculum non sit etiam ab invalido.
Quin. Curr. I. vii. c. 8. The strongest things are not so well established as to be out of danger from the weakest. “ MR. SPECTATOR,
Y Lord Clarendon has observed, that few men have
to be able to do least; and there cannot be a greater error, than to believe a man, whom we see qualified with too mean parts to do good, to be therefore incapable of doing hurt. There is a supply of malice, of pride, of industry, and even of folly, in the weakest, when he sets his heart upon it, that makes a strange progress in mischief. What may seem to the reader the greatest paradox in the reflection of the historian is, I suppose, that folly, which is generally thought incapable of contriving or executing any design, should be so formidable to those whom it exerts itself to molest. But this will appear very plain, if we remember that Solomon says, “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief;' and that he might the more emphatically express the calamitous circumstances of him who falls under the displeasure of this wanton person, the same author adds farther, that 'A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty, but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both. It is impossible to suppress my own illustration upon this matter, which is, that as the man of sagacity bestirs himself to distress his enemy by methods probable and reducible to reason, so the same reason will fortify his enemy to elude these his regular efforts; but your fool projects, acts, and concludes, with such notable inconsistency, that no regular course of thought can evade or counterplot his prodigious machinations. My frontispiece, I believe, may be extended to imply, that several of our misfortunes arise from things, as well as persons, that seem of very
little consequence. Into what tragical extravagances does Shakspeare hurry Othello, upon the loss of a handkerchief only! And what barbarities does Desdemona suffer, from a slight inadvertency in regard to this fatal trifle! If the schemes of all the enterprising spirits were to be carefully examined,
some intervening accident not considerable enough to occasion any debate upon, or give them any apprehension of ill
consequence from it, will be found to be the occasion of their ill success, rather than any error in points of moment and difficulty, which naturally engaged their maturest deliberations. If you go to the levee of any great man, you will observe him exceeding gracious to several very insignificant fellows; and upon this maxim, that the neglect of any person must arise from the mean opinion you have of his capacity to do you any service or prejudice; and that this calling his sufficiency in question must give him inclination, and where this is there never wants strength, or opportunity, to annoy you. There is nobody so weak of invention, that cannot aggravate, or make some little stories to vilify his enemy; there are very few but have good inclinations to hear them; and it is infinite pleasure to the majority of mankind to level a person superior to his neighbours. Besides, in all matters of controversy, that party which has the greatest abilities labours under this prejudice, that he will certainly be supposed, upon account of his abilities, to have done an injury, when perhaps he has received one. It would be tedious to enumerate the strokes that nations and particular friends have suffered from persons very contemptible.
“ I think Henry IV. of France, so formidable to his neighbours, could no more be secured against the resolute villainy of Ravillac, than Villiers duke of Buckingham could be against that of Felton. And there is no incensed person so destitute, but can provide himself with a knife or a pistol, if he finds stomach to apply them. That things and persons of no moment should give such powerful revolutions to the progress of those of the greatest, seems a providential disposition to bafile and abate the pride of human sufficiency; as also to engage the humanity and benevolence of superiors to all below them, by letting them into this secret, that the stronger depends upon the weaker.
“ I am, Sir, 66 Your very
humble servant." “ DEAR SIR,
Temple, Paper-buildings. “ I received a letter from you some time ago, which I should have answered sooner, had you informed me in
yours to what part of this island I might have directed my impertinence; but, having been led into the knowledge of that matter, this handsome excuse is no longer serviceable. My neighbour Prettyman shall be the subject of this letter; who, falling in with the Spectator's doctrine concerning the month of May, began from that season to dedicate himself to the service of the fair in the following manner. I observed at the beginning of the month he bought him a new night-gown, either side to be worn outwards. Both equally gorgeous and attractive; but till the end of the month I did not enter so fully into the knowledge of his contrivance, as the use of that garment has since suggested to me. Now you must know, that all new clothes raise and warm the wearer's imagination into a conceit of his being a much finer gentleman than he was before, banishing all sobriety and reflection, and giving him up to gallantry and amour. Inflamed therefore with this way of thinking, and full of the spirit of the month of May, did this merciless youth resolve upon the business of captivating. At first he confined himself to his room, only now and then appearing at his window, in his night-gown, and practising that easy posture which expresses the very top and dignity of languishment. It was pleasant to see him diversify his loveliness, sometimes obliging the passengers only with a sideface, with a book in his hand; sometimes being so generous as to expose the whole in the fulness of its beauty; at other times, by a judicious throwing back his periwig, he would throw in his ears. You know he is that sort of person which the mob call a handsome jolly man; which appearance cannot miss of captives in this part of the town. Being emboldened by daily success, he leaves his room with a resolution to extend his conquests; and I have apprehended him in his night-gown smiting in all parts of this neighbourhood.
“ This, I, being of an amorous complexion, saw with indignation, and had thoughts of purchasing a wig in these parts ; into which, being at a greater distance from the earth, I might have thrown a very liberal mixture of white horse-hair, which would make a fairer and consequently a handsomer appearance, while my situation would secure me against any discoveries. But the passion of the hand