« VorigeDoorgaan »
Quippe domum timet ambiguam, Tyriofque bilingues. VIRG. Æn. i. ver. 665.
He fears th' ambiguous race, and Tyrians doubletongu'd.
HERE is nothing, fays Plato, fo delightful, as the hearing or speaking of truth. For this reason there is no converfation fo agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.
Among all the accounts which are given of Cato, I do not remember one that more redounds to his honour than the following paffage related by Plutarch. As an advocate was pleading the cause of his client before one of the Prætors, he could only produce a fingle witness in a point where the law required the teftimony of two perfons; upon which the advocate infifted on the integrity of that person whom he had produced but the Prætor told him, that where the law required two witneffes he would not accept of one, though it were Cato himfelf. Such a speech from a person who fat at the head of a court of justice, while Cato was ftill living, fhews us, more than a thousand examples, the high reputation this great man had gained among his conte.nporaries upon the account of his fincerity.
When such an inflexible integrity is a little foftened and qualified by the rules of converfation and good-breeding, there is not a more fhining virtue in the whole catalogue of social duties. A man, however, ought to take great care not to polifh himself
The old English plainnefs and fincerity, that geenerous integrity of nature, and honefty of difpofition, which always argues true greatness of mind, and is ufually accompanied with undaunted courage and refolution, is in a great measure loft among us. • The dialect of converfation is now-a-days fo fwelled with vanity and compliment, and fo fury feited (as I may fay) of expreflions of kindness and refpect, that if a man who lived an age or two ago 'fhould return into the world again, he would real⚫ly want a dictionary to help him to understand his own language, and to know the true intrinfic value of the phrafe in fafhion; and would hardly, at first, believe at what a low rate the highest ftrains and expreflions of kindness imaginable do commonly pafs in current payment; and when he should come to understand it, it would be a great while before he could bring himself with a good countenance, and a good confcience, to converfe with men upon equal terms, and in their own way.'
out of his veracity, nor to refine his behaviour to the prejudice of his virtue.
This fubject is exquifitely treated in the most elegant fermon of the great British preacher. I thall beg leave to transcribe out of it two or three fentences, as a proper introduction to a very curious letter, which I fhall make the chief entertainment of this fpeculation.
I have by me a letter which I look upon as a great curiofity, and which may ferve as an exemplification to the foregoing paffage, cited out of this most excellent prelate. It is faid to have been written in King Charles II's reign, by the ambaffador of Bantam, a little after his arrival in England.
The people where I now am, have 'tongues farther from their hearts than from London to Ban
tam, and thou knoweft the inhabitants of one of thefe places do not know what is done in the other. They call thee and thy subjects barbarians, becaufe we fpeak what we mean; and account themselves a civilized people, because they speak one thing and mean another: truth they call barbarity, and falfehood politenefs. Upon my first landing, one who was fent from the king of this place to meet me, told me, That he was extremely forry for the ftorm I had met with just before my • arrival. I was troubled to hear him grieve and afflict himself upon my account; but in less than a quarter of an hour he fmiled, and was as merry as • if nothing had happened. Another who came with him, told me by my interpreter, He should be glad to do me any fervice that lay in his power. Upon which I defired him to carry one of my portmanteaus for me; but instead of ferving me according to his promife, he laughed, and bid another do it. I lodged, the first week, at the house of one who defired me to think myself at home, and to confider his houfe as my own. Accordingly, I the nextmorning began to knock down one of the walls of it, in order to let in the fresh air, and had packed. < up fome of the household goods, of which I in• tended to have made thee a prefent; but the falfe varlet no fooner faw me falling to work, but he fent word to defire me to give over, for that he would have no such doings in his houfe. I had not been long in this nation, before I was told by one, for whom I had afked a certain favour from the • chief of the king's fervants, whom they here call the Lord Treasurer, that I had eternally obliged him. I was fo furprised at his gratitude, that I could not forbear faying, What fervice is there which one • man can do for another, that can oblige him to all eternity! However, I only afked him for my reward, that he would lend me his eldest daughter • during my stay in this country; but I quickly found
that he was as treacherous as the rest of his coun" trymen.
At my first going to court, one of the great men almoft put me out of countenance, by afking ten • thousand pardons of me for only treading by accident upon my toe. They call this kind of lie a compliment; for when they are civil to a great man, they tell him untruths, for which thou wouldst order any of thy officers of state to receive a hundred blows upon his foot. I do not know how I 'fhall negotiate any thing with this people, fince there is fo little credit to be given to them. When I go to fee the King's scribe, I am generally told that he is not at home, though perhaps I faw him go into his house almost the very moment before. Thou wouldst fancy that the whole nation are physicians, for the first question they always afk me, is, how I do: I have this question put to me above a hundred times a-day. Nay, they are not only thus inquifitive after my health, but with it in a more folemn manner, with a full glafs in their hands, every time I fit with them at table, though at the fame time they would perfuade me to drink their liquors in fuch quantities as I have found by experience will make me fick. They often pretend to pray for thy health also in the fame manner; but I have more reason to expect it from the good, nefs of thy constitution, than the fincerity of their wishes. May thy flave escape in safety from this 'double-tongued race of men, and live to lay him' self once more at thy feet in thy royal city of • Bantam.'
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23.
Qui fit, Macenas, ut nemo, quam fibi fortem
HOR. Sat. i. lib. i. ver. 1.
Whence is't, Mecenas, that so few approve