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No. 557. MONDAY, JUNE 21, 1714.
Quippe domum timet ambiguam, Tyriosque bilingues. VIRG. n. i. ver. 665. He fears th' ambiguous race, and Tyrians double-tongu'd. THERE is nothing,' says Plato, so delightful as the hearing or the speaking of truth.' For this reason there is no conversation so 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 passage related by Plutarch. As an advocate was pleading the cause of his client before one of the prætors, he could only produce a single witness in a point where the law required the testimony of two persons: upon which the advocate insisted on the integrity of that person whom he had produced; but the prætor told him, that where the law required two witnesses he would not accept of one, though it were Cato himself. Such a speech from a person who sat at the head of a court of justice, while Cato was still living, shews us, more than a thousand examples, the high reputation this great man had gained among his contemporaries upon the account of his sincerity.
When such an inflexible integrity is a little softened and qualified by the rules of conversation and good-breeding, there is not a more shining virtue in the whole catalogue of social duties. A man however ought to take great care not to polish himself out of his veracity, nor to refine his behaviour to the prejudice of his virtue..
This subject is exquisitely treated in the most elegant sermon of the great British Preacher. I shall beg leave to transcribe out of two or three sentences, as a proper introduction to a very curious letter, which I shall make the chief entertainment of this speculation.
The old English plainness and sincerity, that generous integrity of nature, and honesty of disposition, which
* Archbishop Tillotson, fulio edit, vol. ii. Sermon.i.
always argues true greatness of mind, and is usually accompanied with undaunted courage and resolution, is in a great measure lost among us.
The dialect of conversation is now-a-days so swelled with vanity and compliment, and so surfeited (as I may say) of expressions of kindness and respect, that if a man who lived an age or two ago should return into the world again, he would really want a dictionary to help him to understand his own language, and to know the true intrinsic value of the phrase in fashion; and would hardly at first believe at what a low rate the highest strains and expressions of kindness imaginable do commonly pass 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 conscience, to converse with men upon equal terms and in their own way.'
I have by me a letter which I look upon as a great curiosity, and which may serve as an exemplification to the foregoing passage, cited out of this most excellent prelate It is said to have been written in King Charles the Second's reign by the ambassador of Bantam, a little after his arrival in England *.
THE people, where I now am, have tongues further from their hearts than from London to Bantam, and thou knowest the inhabitants of one of these places do not know what is done in the other. They call thee and thy subjects barbarians, because we speak what we mean; and account themselves a civilized people, because they speak one thing and mean another: truth they call barbarity, and falsehood politeness. Upon my first landing, one, who was sent from the king of this place to meet me, told me, that he was extremely sorry for the storm 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 smiled, 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 service that lay in his power. Upon which
* In 1682.
I desired him to carry one of my portmanteaus for me; but, instead of serving me according to his promise, he laughed, and bid another do it. I lodged the first week at the house of one who desired me to think myself at home, and to consider his house as my own. Accordingly, I the next morning began to knock down one of the walls of it, in order to let in the fresh air, and had packed up some of the household goods, of which I intended to have made thee a present; but the false varlet no sooner saw me falling to work, but he sent word to desire me to give over, for that he would have no such doings in his house. I had not been long in this nation, before I was told by one, for whom I had asked a certain favour from the chief of the king's servants, whom they here call the Lord Treasurer, that I had eternally obliged him. I was so surprised at his gratitude, that I could not forbear saying, What service is there which one man can do for another, that can oblige him to all eternity! However, I only asked 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 countrymen.
• At my first going to court, one of the great men almost put me out of countenance, by asking 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 shall negociate any thing with this people, since there is so little credit to be given to them. When I go to see the king's scribe, I am generally told that he is not at home, though perhaps I saw 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 ask me is, how I do: I have this question put to me above an hundred times a-day. Nay, they are not only thus inquisitive after my health, but wish it in a more solemn manner, with a full glass in their hands, every time I sit with them at table, though at the same time they would persuade me to drink their liquors in such quantities as I have found by experience will make me sick. They often pretend to pray for thy health also in the same manner; but I have more reason to expect it
from the goodness of thy constitution than the sincerity of their wishes. May thy slave escape in safety from this double-tongued race of men, and live to lay himself once more at thy feet in the royal city of Bantam.'
No. 558. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 1714.
Qui fit, Maecenas, ut nemo, quam sibi sortem
Cætera de genere hoc (adeo sunt multa) loquacem
Whence is't, Mæcenas, that so few approve
With thousands more of this inconstant race,
IT is a celebrated thought of Socrates, that if all the misfortunes of mankind were cast into a public stock, in order to be equally distributed among the whole species, those who now think themselves the most unhappy, would prefer the share they are already possessed of before that which would fall to them by such a division. Horace has carried this thought a great deal farther, in the motto of my paper, which implies that the hardships of misfortunes we lie under are more easy to us than those of any other person would be, in case we could change conditions with him.
As I was ruminating on these two remarks, and seated in my elbow-chair, I insensibly fell asleep; when, on a sudden, methought there was a proclamation made by Jupiter, that every mortal should bring in his griefs and calamities, and throw them together in a heap. There was a large plain appointed for this purpose. I took my stand in the centre of it, and saw with a great deal of pleasure the whole human species marching one after another, and throwing down their several loads, which immediately grew up into a prodigious mountain, that seemed to rise above the clouds.
There was a certain lady of a thin airy shape, who was very active in this solemnity. She carried a magnifying glass in one of her hands, and was clothed in a loose flowing robe, embroidered with several figures of fiends and spectres, that discovered themselves in a thousand