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If we would examine into the secret springs of action in the impudent and the absurd, we shall find, though they bear a great resemblance in their behaviour, that they move upon very different principles. The impudent are pressing, though they know they are disagreeable ; the absurd are importunate, because they think they are acceptable: impudence is a vice, and absurdity a folly. Sir Francis Bacon talks very agreeably upon the subject of impudence. He takes notice, that the orator being asked, what was the first, second, and third requisite to make a fine speaker? still answered, action. This, said he, is the very outward form of speaking, and yet it is what with the generality has more force than the most consummate abilities. Impudence is to the rest of mankind of the same use which action is to orators.
The truth is, the gross of men are governed more by appearances than realities, and the impudent man in his air and behaviour uudertakes for himself that he has ability and merit, while the modest or diffident gives himself up as one who is possessed of neither. For this reason, men of front carry things before them with little opposition, and make so skilful an use of their talent, that they can grow out of humour like' men of consequence, and be sour, and make their dissatisfaction do them the same service as desert.... This way of thinking has often furnished me with an apology for great men who confer favours on the impudent. In carrying on the government of mankind, they are not to consider what men they themselves approve in their closets and private conversations, but what men will extend themselves farthest, and more generally pass upon the world for such as their patrons want in such and such stations, and consequently take so much work off the hands of those who'employ them.
Far be it from me that I should attempt to lessen the acceptance which men of this character meet with
in the world ; but I humbly propose only, that they who have merit of a different kind, would accomplish themselves in some degree with this quality of which I am now treating. Nay, I allow these gentlemen to press as forward as they please in the advancement of their interests and fortunes, but not to intrude upon others in conversation also : let them do what they can with the rich and great, as far as they are suffered, but let them not interrupt the easy and agreeable. They may be useful as servants in ambition, but never as associates in pleasure. However, as I would still drive at something instructive in every lucubration, I must recommend it to all men who feel in themselves an impulse towards attempting laudible actions, to acquire such a degree of assurance, as never to lose the possession of themselves in public or private, so far as to be incapable of acting with a due decorum on any occasion they are called to. It is a mean want of fortitude in a good man, not to be able to do a virtuous action with as much confidence as an impudent fellow does an ill one. There is no way of mending such false modesty, but by laying it down for a rule, that there is nothing shameful but what is criminal.
The Jesuits, an order whose institution is perfectly calculated for making a progress in the world, take care to accomplish their disciples for it, by breaking them of all impertinent bashfulness, and accustoming them to a ready performance of all indifferent things. I remember in my travels, when I was once at a public exercise in one of their schools, a young man made a most admirable speech, with all the beauty of action, cadence of voice, and force of argument imaginable, in defence of the love of glory. We were all enamoured with the grace of the youth, as he came down from the desk, where he spoke, to present a copy of his speech to the head of the society. The principal received it in a very obliging manner, and
bid him go to the market-place and fetch a joint of meat, for he should dine with him. He bowed, and in a trice the orator returned, full of the sense of glory in this obedience, and with the best shoulder of mutton in the market.
This treatment capacitates them for every scene of life. I therefore recommend it to the consideration of all who have the instruction of youth, which of the two is the more inexcusable, he who does every thing by the mere force of his impudence, or who performs nothing through the oppression of his modesty? In a word, it is a weakness not to be able to attempt what a man thinks he ought, and there is no modesty but in self denial.
P. S. Upon my coming home, I received the following petition and letter:
The humble Petition of Sarah Lately,
“ THAT your petitioner has been one of those « ladies who has had fine things constantly spoken to “ her in general terms, and lived, during her most “ blooming years, in daily expectations of declarations 6 of marriage, but never had one made to her.
“ That she is now in her grand climacteric; which “ being above the space of four virginities, accounting 6 at fifteen years each ;
66 Your petitioner most humbly prays, that
6 in the lottery for the Bass-Viol she may «« have four tickets, in consideration that 66 her single life hath been occasioned by 6 the inconstancy of her lovers, and not " through the cruelty or frowardness of “ your petitioner.
“ And your petitioner, &c." 66 MR. BICKERSTAFF,
May 3, 1710. « ACCORDING to my fancy, you took a much “ better way to dispose of a Bass-Viol in yesterday's
paper than you did in your table of marriage. I de“ sire the benefit of a lottery for myself too...... The “ manner of it I leave to your own discretion : only if
you can ........allow the tickets at above five farthings
a-piece. Pray accept of one ticket for your trouble, 6 and I wish you may be the fortunate man that 66 wins. “ Your very humble servant till then,
« ISABELLA Kır."
I must own the request of the aged petitioner to be founded upon a very undeserved distress; and since she might, had she had justice done her, been mother of many pretenders to this prize, instead of being one herself, I do readily grant her demand; but as for the proposal of Mrs. Isabella Kit, I cannot project a lottery for her, till I have security she will surrender herself to the winner.
No. CLXIX. TUESDAY, MAY 9.
O Rus! Quando ego te aspiciam, quandoque licebit
From my own Apartment, May 8. THE summer season now approaching, several of our family have invited me to pass away a month or two in the country, and indeed nothing could be more agreeable to me than such a recess, did I not consider that I am by two quarts a worse companion than when I was last among my relations: and I am admonished by some of our club, who lately visited Staffordshire, that they drink at a greater rate than they did at that time. As every soil does not produce every fruit or tree, so every vice is not the growth of every kind of life ; and I have, ever since I could think, been astonished, that drinking should be the vice of the country. If it were possible to add to all our senses, as we do to that of sight, by perspectives, we should, methinks, more particularly labour to improve them in the midst of the variety of beauteous objects which nature has produced to entertain us in the country; and do we in that place destroy the use of what organs we have ? As for my part, I cannot but lament the destruction that has been made of the wild beasts of the field, when I see large tracts of earth possessed by men who take no advantage of their being rational, but lead mere animal lives, making it their whole endeavour to kill in themselves all they have above beasts ; to wit, the use of reason, and taste of society. It is frequently boasted in the writings of orators and poets, that it is to eloquence and poesy we owe that we are drawn out of woods and solitudes into towns and cities, and from a wild and savage being be. come acquainted with the laws of humanity and civility