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methinksone may divide the general word Fame into three different species, as it regards the different orders of mankind who have any thing to do with it. Fame therefore may be divided into glory, which respects the hero; reputation, which is preserved by every gentleman; and credit, which must be supported by every tradesman. These possessions in fame are dearer than life to those characters of men, or rather are the life of these characters. Glory, while the hero pursues great and noble enterprizes, is impregnable ; and all the assailants of his renown do but shew their pain and impatience of it's brightness, without throwing the least shade upon it. If the foundation of an high name be virtue and service, all that is offered against it is but rumour, which is too short-lived to stand up in competition with glory, which is everlasting.
Reputation, which is the patron of every man who would live with the elegant and knowing part of mankind, is as stable as glory, if it be as well founded; and the common cause of human society is thought concerned when we hear a man of good behaviour calumniated : besides which, according to a prevailing custom amongst us, every man has his defence in his own arm : and reproach is soon checked, put out of countenance and overtaken by disgrace.
The most unhappy of all men, and the most exposed to the malignity and wantonness of the common voice, is the trader. Credit is undone in whis pers. The tradesman's wound is received from one who is more private and more cruel than the ruffian with the lanthorn and dagger. The manner of repeating a man's name -As; “ Mr. Cash, Oh! do
you leave your money at his shop? Why, do you “ know Mr. Searoom ? He is indeed a general mer" chant.” I say, I have seen, from the iteration of a man's name, hiding one thought of him, and explaining what you hide, by saying something to his
advantage when you speak, a merchant hurt in his credit; and him who every day he lived, literally added to the value of his native country, undone by one who was only a burden and a blemish to it. Since every body who knows the world is sensible of this great evil, how careful ought a man to be in his language of a merchant? It may possibly be in the power of a very shallow creature to lay the ruin of the best family in the most opulent city; and the more so, the more highly he deserves of his country ; that is to say, the farther he places his wealth out of his hands, to draw home that of another climate.
In this case an ill word may change plenty into want, and by a rash sentence à free and generous fortune may in a few days be reduced to beggary. How little does a giddy prater imagine, that an idle phrase to the disfavour of a merchant may be as pernicious in the consequence, as the forgery of a deed to bar an inheritance would be to a gentleman ? Land stands where it did before a gentleman was calumniated, and the state of a great action is just as it was before calumny was offered to diminish it, there is time, place, and occasion, expected to unravel all that is contrived against those characters; but the trader who is ready only for probable demands upon him, can have no armour against the inquisitive, the malicious, and the envious, who are prepared to fill the cry to his dishonour. Fire and sword are slow engines of destruction, in comparison of the babbler in the case of the merchant.
For this reason I thought it an imitable piece of humanity of a gentleman of my acquaintance, who had great variety of affairs, and used to talk with warmth enough against gentlemen by whom he thought himself ill dealt with ; but he would never let any thing be urged against a merchant, with whom he had any difference, except in a court of justice. He used to say, that to speak ill of a mer. chant, was to begin his suit with judgment and execution. One cannot, I think, say more on this occasion, than to repeat, that the merit of the merchant is above that of all other subjects; for while he is untouched in his credit, his hand-writing is a more portable coin for the service of his fellow-citizens, and his word the gold of Ophir to the country wherein he resides.
No. CCXIX. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10.
Vix ea nostra voco..........
These I scarce call our own.
THERE 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 de- lights in that superiority which he enjoys over those who are in some respects beneath him. This ambition, which is natural to the soul of man, might methinks receive a very happy tum; and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a person's advantage, as it generally does to his uneasiness and disquiet.
I shall therefore put together some 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 to 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 most 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 intimate ly united 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 recom• mend men to the high stations which they possess. Holiness is ascribed 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 same 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 descendents they are too often the marks rather of grandeur than of merit. The stamp and denomination still continues, but the intrinsic value is frem quently lost.
The death-bed shews the emptiness of titles in a true light. A poor dispirited sinner lies trembling under the apprehensions of the state he is entering on ; and is asked by a grave attendant how his holiness 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 station suitable 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 post 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 sojourners upon
earth," and life a pilgrimage." Several heathen as well as christian authors, under the same kind of metaphor, have represented the world as an inn, which was only designed to furnish us with accommodations in this our passage.
It is therefore very absurd to think of setting up our rest 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 conveniences and advantages which we enjoy one above another in the way to it.
Epictetus makes use of another kind of allusion, which is very beautiful, and wonderfully proper to incline us to be satisfied with the post in which Providence has placed us. 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