페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

ON THE POLICY OF CONCEALING OUR WANTS OR POVERTY.

IT

is usually said by grammarians, that the use of language is to express our wants and desires; but men who know the world hold, and I think with some show of reason, that he who best knows how to keep his necessities private, is the most likely person to have them redressed; and that the true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.

When we reflect on the manner in which mankind generally confer their favours, there appears something so attractive in riches, that the large heap generally collects from the smaller: and the poor find as much pleasure in increasing the enor mous mass of the rich, as the miser, who owns it, sees happiness in its increase. Nor is there in this any thing repugnant to the laws of morality. Se neca himself allows, that, in conferring benefits, the present should always be suited to the dignity of the receiver. Thus the rich receive large presents, and are thanked for accepting them. Men of middling stations are obliged to be content with presents something less; while the beggar, who may be truly said to want indeed, is well paid if a farthing rewards his warmest solicitations.

Every man who has seen the world, and has had his ups and downs in life, as the expression is, must have frequently experienced the truth of this doctrine; and must know, that to have much, or to seem to have it, is the only way to have more. Ovid finely compares a man of broken fortune to a falling column; the lower it sinks, the greater weight it is obliged to sustain. Thus, when a man's

circumstances are such that he has no occasion to borrow, he finds numbers willing to lend him; but, should his wants be such, that he sues for a trifle, it is two to one whether he may be trusted with the smallest sum. A certain young fellow, whom I knew, whenever he had occasion to ask his friend for a guinea, used to prelude his request as if he wanted two hundred; and talked so familiarly of large sums, that none could ever think he wanted a small one. The same gentleman, whenever he wanted credit for a suit of clothes, always made the proposal in a laced coat; for he found by expe rience, that, if he appeared shabby on these occasions, his taylor had taken an oath against trusting, or, what was every whit as bad, his foreman was out of the way, and would not be at home for some time.

There can be no inducement to reveal our wants, except to find pity, and by this means relief; but before a poor man opens his mind,in such circum. stances, he should first consider whether he is contented to lose the esteem of the person he solicits, and whether he is willing to give up friendship to excite compassion. Pity and friendship are passions incompatible with each other; and it is impossible that both can reside in any breast, for the smallest space, without impairing each other. Friendship is made up of esteem and pleasure; pity is com. posed of sorrow and contempt: the mind may, for some time, fluctuate between them, but it can never entertain both at once.

In fact, pity, though it may often relieve, is but, at best, a short-lived passion, and seldom affords distress more than transitory assistance: with some it scarce lasts from the first impulse till the haud can be put into the pocket; with others it may continue for twice that space; and on some of extraor dinary sensibility, I have seen it operate for half an hour together: but still, last as it may, it generally produces but beggarly effects; and where, from this

motive, we give five farthings, from others we give pounds: whatever be our feelings from the first impulse of distress, when the same distress solicits a second time, we theu feel with diminished sensibi lity; and, like the repetition of an echo, every stroke becomes weaker; till, at last, our sensations lose all mixture of sorrow, and degenerate into downright contempt.

These speculations bring to my mind the fate of a very good-natured fellow, who is now no more. He was bred in a counting-house, and his father dying just as he was out of his time, left him a handsome fortune, and many friends to advise with. The restraint in which my friend had been brought up, had thrown a gloom upon his temper, which some regarded as prudence; and, from such considerations, he had every day repeated offers of friendship. Such as had money, were ready to offer him their assistance that way; and they who had daughters, frequently, in the warmth of affection, advised him to marry. My friend, however, was in good circumstances; he wanted neither their mo ney, friends, nor a wife; and therefore modestly declined their proposals.

Some errors, however, in the management of his affairs, and several losses in trade, soon brought him to a different way of thinking; and he at last considered, that it was his best way to let his friends know that their offers were at length acceptable. His first address was to a scrivener, who had formerly made him frequent offers of money and friendship, at a time when, perhaps, he knew those offers would have been refused. As a man, there fore, confident of not being refused, he requested the use of a hundred guineas for a few days, as he just then had occasion for money. And pray, sir,' replied the scrivener, do you want all this money?" Want it, sir!' says the other: if I did not want it I should not have asked it. I am sorry for that,' says the friend; for those who want money when

6

they borrow, will always want money when they should come to pay. To say the truth, sir, money is money now; and I believe it is all sunk in the bottom of the sea, for my part; he that has got a little, is a fool if he does not keep what he has got.'

Not quite disconcerted by this refusal, our adventurer was resolved to apply to another, who he knew was the very best friend he had in the world. The gentleman whom he now addressed, received his proposal with all the affability that could be expected from generous friendship. Let me see ; you want a hundred guineas; and pray, dear Jack, would not fifty answer? If you have but fifty to spare, sir, I must be contented.'- Fifty to spare! I do not say that, for I believe I have but twenty about me.'-'Then I must borrow the other thirty from some other friend.'-' And pray,' replied the friend, would it not be the best way to borrow the whole money from that other friend, and then one note will serve for all, you know? You know, my dear sir, that you need make no ceremony with me at any time; you know I'm your friend; and when you chuse a bit of dinner or so-You, Tom, see the gentleman down. You won't forget to dine with us now and then. Your very humble şervant.'

Distressed, but not discouraged, at this treatment, he was at last resolved to find that assistance from love, which he could not have from friendship, A young lady, a distant relation by the mother's side, had a fortune in her own hands; and, as she had already made all the advances that her sex's modesty would permit, he made his proposal with con fidence. He soon, however, perceived that no bankrupt ever found the fair one kind. She had lately fallen deeply in love with another, who had more money, and the whole neighbourhood thought it would be a match.

Every day now began to strip, my poor friend of

с

his former finery; his clothes flew, piece by piece, to the pawnbroker's, and he seemed at length equipped in the genuine livery of misfortune. But still he thought himself secure from actual necessity; the numberless invitations he had received to dine, even after his losses, were yet unanswered; he was therefore now resolved to accept of a dinner, because he wanted one; and in this manner he actually lived among his friends a whole week without being openly affronted. The last place I saw him in was at a reverend divine's. He had, as he fancied, just nicked the time of dinner, for he came in as the cloth was laying. He took a chair without being desired, and talked for some time without being attended to. He assured the company, that nothing procured so good an appetite as a walk in the Park, where he had been that morning. He went on, and praised the figure of the damask tablecloth; talked of a feast where he had been the day before, but that the venison was over-done. But all this procured him no invitation: finding, therefore, the gentleman of the house insensible to all his fetches, he thought proper, at last, to retire, and mend his appetite by a second walk in the Park.

You then, O ye beggars of my acquaintance, whether in rags or lace, whether in Kent-street or the Mall, whether at the Smyrna or St. Giles's, night I be permitted to advise as a friend, never seem to want the favour which you solicit. Apply to every passion but human pity for redress: you may find permanent relief from vanity, from self. interest, or from avarice, but from compassion never. The very eloquence of a poor man is disgusting; and that mouth which is opened even by wisdom, is seldom expected to close without the horrors of a petition.

To ward off the gripe of Poverty, you must pretend to be a stranger to her, and she will at least use you with ceremony, If you be caught dining upon a halfpenny porrenger of peas-soup and po

« 이전계속 »