« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
which he will, he is, I am sure, a very disagreeable man in company. He fails in all the common offices of civility; he seems not to know those people to-day, with whom yesterday he appeared to live in intimacy. He takes no part in the general conversation ; but, on the contrary, breaks into it from time to time, with some start of his own, as if he waked from a dream. This (as I said before) is a sure indication, either of a mind so weak that it is not able to bear above one object at a time; or so affected, that it would be supposed to be wholly engrossed by, and directed to, some very great and important objects. Sir Isaac Newton, Mr. Locke, and it may be) five or six more, since the creation of the world, may have had a right to absence, from that intense thought which the things they were investigating required. But if a young man, and a man of the world, who has no such avocations to plead, will claim and exercise that right of absence in company, his pretended right should, in my mind, be turned into an involuntary absence, by his perpetual exclusion out of company. [Same date.]
INSULT AND INJURY.-However frivolous a company may be, still, while you are among them, do not show them by your inattention
that you think them so ; but rather take their tone, and conform in some degree to their weakness, instead of manifesting your contempt for them. There is nothing that people bear more impatiently, or forgive less, than contempt; and an injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult. [Same date.]
FLATTERY.—Most people (I might say all people) have their weaknesses; they have their aversions and their likings to such and such things; so that, if you were to laugh at a man for his aversion to a cat, or cheese (which are common antipathies), or, by inattention and negligence, to let them come in his way where you could prevent it, he would, in the first case, think himself insulted, and, in the second, slighted; and would remember both. Whereas your care to procure for him what he likes, and to remove from him what he hates, shows him that he is at least an object of your attention, flatters his vanity, and makes him possibly more your friend than a more important service would have done. With regard to women, attentions still below these are necessary, and, by the custom of the world, in some measure due, according to the laws of good breeding.
HIS LETTERS.—My long and frequent letters,
which I send you, in great doubt of their success, put me in mind of certain papers, which you have very lately, and I formerly, sent up to kites, along the string, which we called messengers; some of them the wind used to blow away, others were torn by the string, and but few of them got up and stuck to the kite. But I will content myself now, as I did then, if some of my present messages do but stick to you.
EMPLOYMENT OF TIME.—I hope you employ your whole time, which few people do ; and that you put every moment to profit of some kind or other. I call company, walking, riding, etc., employing one's time, and, upon proper occasions, very usefully; but what I cannot forgive in anybody is sauntering, and doing nothing at all with a thing so precious as time, and so irrecoverable when lost. [Dec. 9, 0. S., 1746.*]
VULGAR PLEASURES.—Many young people adopt pleasures for which they have not the least taste, only because they are called by that name. They often mistake so totally as to imagine that debauchery is pleasure. You must
* His lordship had during this year been made one of his Majesty's Secretaries of State.
allow that drunkenness, which is equally destructive to body and mind, is a fine pleasure. Gaming, that draws you into a thousand scrapes, leaves you penniless, and gives you the air and manners of an outrageous madman, is another most exquisite pleasure, is it not ? As to running after women, the consequences of that vice are only the loss of one's nose, the total destruction of health, and, not unfrequently, the being run through the body. [March, 1747.]
A GENTLEMAN'S PLEASURES. — The true pleasures of a gentleman are, those of the table, but within the bounds of moderation ; good company, that is to say, people of merit ; moderate play, which amuses without any interested views; and sprightly, gallant conversations with women of fashion and sense.
These are the real pleasures of a gentleman : which occasion neither sickness, shame, nor repentance. Whatever exceeds them becomes low vice, brutal passion, debauchery, and insanity of mind; all of which, far from giving satisfaction, bring on dishonor and disgrace. Adieu. [Same date.]
VIRTUE AND GOLD.–Virtue and learning, like gold, have their intrinsic value ; but if they are not polished they certainly lose a great deal of their lustre; and even polished brass will pass upon more people than rough gold. What a number of sins does the cheerful, easy, good breeding of the French frequently cover ? Many of them want common sense, many more common learning; but, in general, they make up so much by their manner for those defects, that frequently they pass undiscovered. I have often said, and do think, that a Frenchman, who, with a fund of virtue, learning, and good sense, has the manners and good breeding of his country, is the perfection of human nature. [Same date.]
PLEASURE.-Do not think that I mean to snarl at pleasure like a stoic, or to preach against it like a parson; no, I mean to point it out, and recommend it like an epicurean ; I wish you a great deal, and my only view is to hinder you from mistaking it. [March 6, 1747.]
GOODNESS.—You know what virtue is; you may have it if you will; it is in every man's power, and miserable is the man who has it not. [Same date.]
THE MAN OF PLEASURE.—The character which most young men first aim at is that of a man of pleasure; but they generally take it