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tatoes, praise the wholesomeness of your frugal repast. You may observe that Dr. Cheyne has prescribed peas-broth for the gravel; hint that you are not one of those who are always making a deity of your belly. If, again, you are obliged to wear a flimsy stuff in the midst of winter, be the first to remark, that stuffs are very much worn at Paris; or, if there be found some irreparable defects in any part of your equipage, which cannot be concealed by all the arts of sitting cross-legged, coaxing, or darning, say, that neither you nor sir Samson Gideon were ever very fond of dress. If you be a philosopher, hint that Plato or Seneca are the tailors you choose to employ; assure the company that man ought to be content with a bare covering, since what now is so much his pride, was formerly his shame. In short, however caught, never give out; but ascribe to the frugality of your disposition what others might be apt to attribute to the narrowness of your circumstances. To be poor, and to seem poor, is a certain method never to rise: pride in the great is hateful; in the wise it is ridiculous; but beggarly pride is a rational vanity which I have been taught to applaud and excuse.
ON GENEROSITY AND JUSTICE.
LYSIPPUS is a man whose greatness of soul the whole world admires. His generosity is such, that it prevents a demand, and saves the receiver the confusion of a request. His liberality also does not oblige more by its greatness, than by his inimitable grace in giving. Sometimes he even distributes
his bounties to strangers, and has been known to do good offices to those who professed themselves his enemies. All the world are unanimous in the praise of his generosity; there is only one sort of people who complain of his conduct. Lysippus does not pay his debts.
It is no difficult matter to account for a conduct so seemingly incompatible with itself. There is greatness in being generous, and there is only simple justice in satisfying creditors. Generosity is the part of a soul raised above the vulgar. There is in it something of what we admire in heroes, and praise with a degree of rapture. Justice, on the contrary, is a mere mechanic virtue, only fit for tradesmen, and what is practised by every broker in Change-alley.
In paying his debts a man barely does his duty, and it is an action attended with no sort of glory. Should Lysippus satisfy his creditors, who would be at the pains of telling it to the world? Generosity is a virtue of a very different complexion. It is raised above duty, and, from its elevation, attracts the attention and the praises of us little mortals below.
In this manner do men generally reason upon justice and generosity. The first is despised, though a virtue essential to the good of society, and the other attracts our esteem, which too frequently proceeds from an impetuosity of temper, rather directed by vanity than reason, Lysippus is told that his banker asks a debt of forty pounds, and that a distressed acquaintance petitions for the same sum. He gives it without hesitating to the latter, for he demands as a favour what the former requires as a debt.
Mankind in general are not sufficiently acquainted with the import of the word justice: it is commonly believed to consist only in a performance of those duties to which the laws of society can oblige us. This I allow is sometimes the import of
the word, and in this sense justice is distinguished from equity; but there is a justice still more extensive, and which can be shown to embrace all the virtues united.
- Justice may be defined, that virtue which impels us to give to every person what is his due. In this extended sense of the word, it comprehends the practice of every virtue which reason prescribes, or society should expect. Our duty to our Maker, to each other, and to ourselves, are fully answered, if we give them what we owe them. Thus justice, properly speaking, is the only virtue rest have their origin in it.
and all the
The qualities of candour, fortitude, charity, and generosity, for instance, are not in their own nature virtues; and, if ever they deserve the title, it is owing only to justice, which impels and directs them. Without such a moderator, candour might become indiscretion, fortitude obstinacy, charity imprudence, and generosity mistaken profusion.
: A disinterested action, if it be not conducted by justice, is, at best, indifferent in its nature, and not unfrequently even turns to vice. The expenses of society, of presents, of entertainments, and the other helps to cheerfulness, are actions merely indiffer ent, when not repugnant to a better method of disposing of our superfluities; but they become vicious when they obstruct or exhaust our abilities from a more virtuous disposition of our circum.
True generosity is a duty as indispensably necessary as those imposed upon us by law. It is a rule imposed on us by reason, which should be the sovereign law of a rational being. But this generosity does not consist in obeying every impulse of humanity, in following blind passion for our guide, and impairing our circumstances by present benefactions, so as to render us incapable of future
Misers are generally characterised as men without
honour, or without humanity, who live only to ac cumulate, and to this passion sacrifice every other happiness. They have been described as madmen, who, in the midst of abundance, banish every pleasure, and make, from imaginary wants, real necessities. But few, very few, correspond to this exaggerated picture; and, perhaps, there is not one in whom all these circumstances are found united. Instead of this, we find the sober and the indus trious branded by the vain and the idle with this odious appellation; men who, by frugality and labour, raise themselves above their equals, and contribute their share of industry to the common stock.
Whatever the vain or the ignorant may say, well were it for society, had we more of these characters amongst us. In general these close men are found at last the true benefactors of society. With an avaricious man we seldom lose in our dealings, but too frequently in our commerce with prodigality.
A French priest, whose name was Godinot, went for a long time by the name of the Griper. He refused to relieve the most apparent wretchedness, and, by a skilful management of his vineyard, had the good fortune to acquire immense sums of mo ney. The inhabitants of Rheims, who were his fellow-citizens, detested him; and the populace, who, seldom love a miser, wherever he went, followed him with shouts of contempt. He still, however, continued his former simplicity of life, his amazing and unremitted frugality. He had long perceived the wants of the poor in the city, particularly in having no water but what they were obliged to buy at an advanced price; wherefore, that whole fortune which he had been amassing, he laid out in an aqueduct, by which he did the poor more useful and lasting service, than if he had distributed his whole income in charity every day at his door.
Among men long conversant with books, we too frequently find those misplaced virtues, of which I
have been now complaining. We find the studious animated with a strong passion for the great virtues, as they are mistakenly called, and utterly forgetful of the ordinary ones. The declamations of philosophy are generally rather exhausted on those supererogatory duties, than on such as are indispensably necessary. A man, therefore, who has taken his ideas of mankind from study alone, generally comes into the world with a heart melting at every fictious distress. Thus he is induced, by misplaced liberality, to put himself into the indigent circumstances of the person he relieves.
I shall conclude this paper with the advice of one of the ancients, to a young man whom he saw giving away all his substance to pretended distress. It is possible, that the person you relieve may be an honest man; and I know that you, who relieve him, are such. You see then, by your generosity, that you rob a man who is certainly deserving, to bestow it on one who may possibly be a rogue: and, while you are unjust in rewarding uncertain merit, you are doubly guilty by stripping yourself.'
ON THE EDUCATION OF YOUTH.
AS few subjects are more interesting to society'
so few have been more frequently written upon, than the education of youth. Yet it is a little surprising that it has been treated almost by all in a declamatory manner. They have insisted largely on the advantages that result from it, both to individuals and to society; and have expatiated in the praise of what none have ever been so hardy as to call in question.