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MAXIMS TO LIVE BY.
BY A MEMBER OF THE MIDDLE ORDERS.
I. If you must flatter your friends, contrive not to be too particular in your compliments, lest a large portion of what you bestow in this kind of coin should turn out, eventually, to be so many excerpts from your own pocket. If you tell authors or artists that they are demi-gods and goddesses, they will, should you afterwards wish to profit by their professional aid, require to be remunerated in exact proportion to the rank with which your courtesy may have invested them. Their arguments in defence of their exorbitant estimates of their importance, will, if deduced from your own idle and fulsome compliments to them, prove wholly unanswerable; since immortals, whether poets or painters, will naturally expect a higher rate of compensation for their services, than mere ordinary matter-of-fact people can have any right to anticipate. That philosopher who has declared that civil words may be employed with advantage upon all occasions, because they are attended with expense, could have possessed but a very limited knowledge of the world. Pat a spoiled urchin on the head, and tell him he is a nice boy, and he will forthwith look for some premium at your hands for his good behaviour. Should he be disappointed, he will inevitably set you down either for a liar or a cheat. Upon pretty much the same principle, if a butter-mouthed bookseller or picture-fancier were to compliment an artist or an author, by protesting that one painted like Sir Thomas Lawrence, and the other wrote like the “Great Unknown,” he would, did he afterwards happen to have any business to transact with the object of his flummery, speedily discover, to his cost, that both the painter and the poet will take care to resemble their distinguished archetypes in more respects than one. much useful advice into a very few words, make the rule absolute never to flatter unless you entertain a conviction, amounting almost to a certainty, that it will not turn out to be at your own expense !
II. It is seldom good policy to attempt to make a bargain with a hackneycoachman, however great the distance it may be convenient to you to take him; for if you do, he will be sure not to ask you a sixpence less than his legitimate fare; whilst, on the other hand, the chances are in the proportion of about ten to one that he will demand two or three shillings more. Your endeavour, by ascertaining his charge beforehand, to skreen yourself from the possibility of imposition, has no more beneficial effect than that of betraying your own ignorance of what you ought to pay, and affording Jarvie the means of turning it to account. If you entertain the slightest doubt as to his fare, take your seat in his coach with an air of quiet nonchalance, and when you arrive at your place of destination coolly inquire the amount of his demand; casting at the same time a pretty obvious glance at his number. If he employs the word ought in his rejoinder, you may safely give him from sixpence to a
shilling less than he asks, for if he doubts, he is sure not to give you the benefit of his uncertainty. However, if you do but prefer your inquiry with the tone and gesture of a veteran fare, he will scarcely venture to impose upon you.
III. One of the most successful arts of pleasing your friends or acquaintance, is the art of listening to them. Humour them by suffering them to hear the music of their own sweet voices, and you are pretty secure of gaining a tolerably prominent place in their good graces. Dr. Franklin recommends persons who wish to learn to swim, to put a frog into a glass of water, and try to imitate its motions ; but this sort of theory, unless, instead of wallowing about upon a large table you can flounder in the animal's native element, answers but very indifferently. It is, however, quite safe to imitate the means by which a Scotchman of nous makes his
way in the world ; because you may practice your task in the same element. A North Briton is of all men the best hand at conciliating a superior. His air is always deferential; and then he is invariably an untiring listener; a quality which is of vastly more importance than is generally supposed. You may however carry the joke too far: sheer sycophancy will only answer with fools. If you have a man of sense to deal with and wish to weave yourself into his good opinion, you must take other tow upon your distaff
. To an ordinary woman (and these animals usually pride themselves upon their understanding and powers of conversation, you cannot be too attentive a listener. A pretty one is a direct exception to the rule. If you listen too attentively to her she will take you for a fool. Such jewels very naturally expect to be talked to.
IV. Shun a suburban tradesman as you would avoid a dun, or the typhus fever. If a butcher, a baker, a grocer, or a tallow-chandler, practice his vocation but one mile north, south, east, or west of the metropolis, he thinks himself fairly entitled to add somewhere about twenty per cent. to the prices of a London tradesman of the same calling ; although he stands at considerably less rent, has a less expensive establishment, and keeps an inferior commodity. This may seem strange, but it is no less true than strange. He has not the same means of purchasing his goods as a London shopkeeper; and as his chances of custom are proportionably smaller, he cannot afford to serve you on the same terms. This fact being notorious, his business grows more and more limited, and he not seldom attempts to make good the deficiency by fresh additions to his rates of charge to those who deal with him. Let all sensible people who desire to make the most of a small income, cut these personifications of rapacity, and send to London once or twice a week for the chief of their marketings, and they will find themselves full twenty per cent. in pocket at the end of the year. Probatum est. Some persons entertain an absurd notion that because they can rent a house from ten to twenty pounds per annum cheaper in the outskirts of the town, than in town itself, they can therefore live on a more economical scale in one situation than in the other. The difference in taxes, and all kinds of incidental charges, will however usually amount to more than the difference of rent;
and if it do not, the increased price of the necessaries of life will send the beam aloft in the twinkling of an eye-to say nothing of the expense of coach and stage hire for yourself and family to and from the great Babel. It is a fact which the experience of thousands will confirm, that there is no part of England where a family can live cheaper or more retired (i. e. free from impertinent observation and intrusion) than in London.
V. Satirists, whether male or female, are almost invariably cowards. They dread the slightest stroke of the weapon they are themselves accustomed to wield against others, with an extraordinary degree of apprehension ; perhaps, because no one knows better than themselves the keenness and causticity of its edge. Lord Byron was a striking illustration of the correctness of this remark. He had so perfect a horror of ridicule, that he would rather at all times have been the victim of the most envenomed calumny than the object of a single sneer. It was the Edinburgh Reviewers' ridicule of his early poems, that first embittered the current of his youthful feelings, and excited his gall. People of his disposition will at all time rather sustain a serious injury than be made the butt of a joke, however harmless and good humoured.
VI. If you encounter in a fashionable street, for the first time after the acquisition of his new honours, a poet who has arrived at a third edition; a painter who has had R. A. tacked to his name ; an actor who has been endured in Hamlet ; an apothecary who has received his diploma ; or a college companion who has taken a fellowship; do not expose yourself to unnecessary mortification by addressing him in those terms of cordiality which your previous intimacy with him may appear to warrant; lest he strike you dumb with an heroical stare, and cut you dead as a herring. Treat persons so circumstanced, as it is a point of etiquette to treat ladies who may possibly not find it convenient to acknowledge an acquaintance with you in public; give them the option of recognising you or not as they may think proper. You can devote them to the “ Infernal Gods” for their puppyism and ingratitude, in a twopenny poster; any thing is better than being cut on the king's high way by a scoundrel whose acquaintance you have been silly enough to claim.
VII. Eschew a fawning, mealy mouthed tailor, indeed any and every species of tradesman with whom you intend to run a tick); for to say nothing of the great chance that he is a hypocrite, and will impose upon you, these crawling creatures are commonly the most impatient, insolent, and merciless of creditors. I was dragged, some years ago, to a sponging house by the familiars of one of these cringing sycophants, (backed by a sheriff's writ), for the amount of an account for which he had never applied, and the credit term of which had between two and three months to run. The wretch (he was an insidious looking monster, with an excessively long nose, high cheek bones, and a pair of red ferret-eyes, that appeared, from an habitual disposition to smirk, to be for ever dancing a minuet with his mouth, wore stocking-net pantaloons, which shone in the sun like a lawn on the first of May, and a bright snuff-coloured coat) had given me no notice of his intentions, because the nervous sensitiveness of his nature rendered it extremely "s annoying” to him to dun a gentleman of my appearance. He did not, however, scruple to marshal the catchpoles to my chambers, and instruct them to refuse me the indulgence usual on such occasions of waiting until I had sent for bail; and all this because he had been informed that my uncle, from whom I had great expectations had died, and bequeathed every sixpence of his property to his housekeeper. For civility and persuasiveness of manner he would have rivalled Ali Pacha, who, Lord Byron declares, was the civilest spoken gentleman he had ever met with. The lover of poetical justice will be glad to learn that in consequence of a slight informality in the proceeding, I succeeded, ultimately, in saddling my persecutor with the entire costs of the arrest, and coerced him, moreover, into a donation in my name of 501. to Saint George's Hospital, as a compromise for assault and false imprisonment! His name is- -but hold, I will not gibbet the wretch twice for the same offence !
VIII. If you are really in want of money, and find it impossible to avoid borrowing of a friend, measure your request rather by his power of complying with it than by your own wants ; for it is far more easy to obtain a large loan than a trifling one. If you only ask for the latter, your friend will immediately conclude that your situation is desperate, and will most probably give you a flat refusal. If you obtain twice as much as you really want, repay one half of the amount in a day or two, and you will so far lull his suspicions that you may take
your own time in returning the rest. I have more than once borrowed a hundred pounds of a person whom no earthly power would have induced to lend me ten, had I limited my request to such a sum. This is an anomaly for which it is extremely difficult to account.
IX. “ What you please,” is commonly the language of imposture, and means, in fact, more than I know I deserve, or can have the face to require. This is the constant phrase of a stage coachman, who, having driven
you from ten to twelve miles, hopes to be “ remembered” by you ; or of a porter who lays hold of the corner of your travelling cloak, and affects to assist you in adjusting it on the box of the coach which is about to wheel you from the Babel din of the Swan-with-two-necks ; or, in short, of any and every body who wishes to be paid for a service for the performance of which the smallest piece of money ever coined in his Majesty's mint would be an adequate remuneration. With all their pretended modesty, however, you can never please them and yourself at the same time.
X. Do not continue to deal with a tradesman who has overcharged you, even though he should consent to “ rectify” his “ error;" for if he can afford to take less than the price he has attempted to make you pay, he is a rogue; and if he consents to take less than is really his due, you may lay your account in being cheated whenever he can make
Never buy either second-hand plate or second-hand books at a pawnbroker's shop; for you will find that articles so purchased will invariably cost you from twenty to thirty per cent. more than you may obtain them for at first hand from the regular silversmith or bookseller. It is a common practice with the purveyors of unredeemed pledges, to order large quantities of new books and plate for the express purpose of marking them up in their shops as second-hand goods. The reason is obvious. Honest John Bull knows, of course, that second-hand articles ought to be proportionably cheaper than those which are spic and span new; and having made up his mind that they are so, is easily drawn
into the trap.
If you are an old-picture fancier, and in the habit of rummaging the pawnbrokers' and curiosity shops, in the more obscure streets of London, in the hope of now and then picking up an old master for a few shillings, or at most a few pounds, a short rule or two to be observed on such occasions may not prove unacceptable. Never inquire the price of the painting you may, at a glance, be disposed to purchase, until you have led the owner to believe that you have another in your eye. If you do, and happen to have a decent coat upon your back, you will be taken for a gentleman collector, who will give any sum rather than relinquish a picture that may have attracted his notice. If your external man be not of a remarkably brilliant character, and you make a dead set at any particular subject, you will be taken for an artist, or picture-dealer, who knows what is what; and the price of the picture will, of course, be proportionably increased. The plan I have usually proceeded on in such emergencies, and with good effect, has been to walk into the shop, and glancing carelessly at one or two of the largest pieces of canvasses in sight, observe that I am in search of a few furniture pictures, and would wish to know their price. It is stated. I affect surprise at its exorbitance, as I want the things merely to cover my dilapidated walls. comely-looking dame, or familiar in attendance, will thereat grin superciliously, and remark, that there are cheaper articles at my service. I then venture, with the utmost nonchalance, affecting at the same time to leave the place, to inquire the price of that dirty daub next the door. The vender, supposing it to be my custom to buy pictures by the foot, rather than from any acquaintance with their merits, fixes the price that he or she really means to take, and, after some little haggling, the bargain is struck. If I feel satisfied that I have made a decided hit, I have only to put it under my arm, and slink off to the first coach-stand with it. You will, however, in the pursuit of this hobby, do well to remember, that the subject and age of the canvas afford no proof whatever of the value or genuineness of the picture, since there were in days of yore as many favourite ideas execrably