Henry Knight Miller (ed.), The Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding: Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, Esq, Vol. 1
pg 119AN ESSAY ON CONVERSATION1
1Man is generally represented as an Animal formed for and 2delighting in Society:2 In this State alone, it is said, his various 3Talents can be exerted, his numberless Necessities relieved, the 4Dangers he is exposed to can be avoided, and many of the 5Pleasures he eagerly affects, enjoyed. If these Assertions be, as 6I think they are, undoubtedly and obviously certain, those few 7who have denied Man to be a social Animal,3 have left us these 8two Solutions of their Conduct: either that there are Men as bold 9in Denial as can be found in Assertion; and as Cicero says, there 10is no Absurdity which some Philosopher or other hath not 11asserted;4 so we may say, there is no Truth so glaring, that some 12have not denied it. Or else; that these Rejecters of Society borrow 13all their Information from their own savage Dispositions,5 and 14are indeed themselves the only Exceptions to the above general 15Rule.
16But to leave such Persons to those who have thought them 17more worthy of an Answer; there are others who are so seemingly 18fond of this social State, that they are understood absolutely to 19confine it to their own Species; and, entirely excluding the tamer 20and gentler, the herding and flocking Parts of the Creation, pg 1201from all Benefits of it, to set up this as one grand general Distinc-2tion, between the Human and the Brute Species.1
3Shall we conclude this Denial of all Society to the Nature of 4Brutes, which seems to be in Defiance of every Day's Observation, 5to be as bold, as the Denial of it to the Nature of Men? Or, 6may we not more justly derive the Error from an improper 7understanding of this Word Society in too confined and special 8a Sense? In a Word; Do those who utterly deny it to the Brutal 9Nature, mean any other by Society than Conversation?
10Now if we comprehend them in this Sense, as I think we very 11reasonably may, the Distinction appears to me to be truly just; 12for though other Animals are not without all Use of Society, yet 13this noble Branch of it seems, of all the Inhabitants of this Globe, 14confined to Man only;2 the narrow Power of communicating 15some few Ideas of Lust, or Fear, or Anger, which may be obser-16vable in Brutes, falling infinitely short of what is commonly 17meant by Conversation, as may be deduced from the Origina-18tion of the Word itself, the only accurate Guide to Knowledge. 19The primitive and literal Sense of this Word is, I apprehend, to 20Turn round together;3 and in its more copious Usage we intend 21by it, that reciprocal Interchange of Ideas, by which Truth is 22examined, Things are, in a manner, turned round, and sifted, and 23all our Knowledge communicated to each other.
24In this Respect Man stands, I conceive, distinguished from 25and superior to all other Earthly Creatures: it is this Privilege 26which, while he is inferior in Strength to some, in Swiftness to 27others; without Horns, or Claws, or Tusks to attack them, or 28even to defend himself against them, hath made him Master of 29them all. Indeed, in other Views, however vain Men may be of pg 1211their Abilities, they are greatly inferior to their animal Neigh-2bours.1 3With what Envy must a Swine, or a much less voracious 4Animal, be survey'd by a Glutton; and how contemptible must 5the Talents of other Sensualists appear, when oppos'd, perhaps, 6to some of the lowest and meanest of Brutes: But in Conversation 7Man stands alone, at least in this Part of the Creation;2 he leaves 8all others behind him at his first Start, and the greater Progress 9he makes, the greater Distance is between them.
10Conversation is of three Sorts. Men are said to converse with 11God, with themselves, and with one another.3 The two first of 12these have been so liberally and excellently spoken to by others, 13that I shall, at present, pass them by, and confine myself, in this 14Essay, to the third only: Since it seems to me amazing, that this 15grand Business of our Lives, the Foundation of every Thing, 16either useful or pleasant, should have been so slightly treated 17of;4 that while there is scarce a Profession or Handicraft in Life, 18however mean and contemptible, which is not abundantly 19furnished with proper Rules to the attaining its Perfection, 20Men should be left almost totally in the Dark, and without the 21least Light to direct, or any Guide to conduct them in the proper 22exerting of those Talents, which are the noblest Privilege of 23human Nature, and productive of all rational Happiness; and 24the rather as this Power is by no means self-instructed, and in 25the Possession of the artless and ignorant, is of so mean Use, 26that it raises them very little above those Animals who are void 27of it.
28As Conversation is a Branch of Society, it follows, that it can 29be proper to none who is not in his Nature social. Now Society 30is agreeable to no Creatures who are not inoffensive to each 31other; and we therefore observe in Animals who are entirely 32guided by Nature, that it is cultivated by such only, while those 33of more noxious Disposition addict themselves to Solitude, and, pg 1221unless when prompted by Lust, or that necessary Instinct 2implanted in them by Nature, for the Nurture of their Young, 3shun as much as possible the Society of their own Species. If 4therefore there should be found some human Individuals of 5so savage a Habit, it would seem they were not adapted to Society, 6and consequently, not to Conversation: nor would any Incon-7venience ensue the Admittance of such Exceptions, since it 8would by no means impeach the general Rule of Man's being 9a social Animal; especially when it appears (as is sufficiently 10and admirably proved by my Friend, the Author of An Enquiry 11into Happiness)1 that these Men live in a constant Opposition to 12their own Nature, and are no less Monsters than the most wanton 13Abortions, or extravagant Births.2
14Again; if Society requires that its Members should be inoffen-15sive, so the more useful and beneficial they are to each other, the 16more suitable are they to the social Nature, and more perfectly 17adapted to its Institution: for all Creatures seek their own 18Happiness,3 and Society is therefore natural to any, because it is 19naturally productive of this Happiness. To render therefore any 20Animal social is to render it inoffensive; an Instance of which is 21to be seen in those the Ferocity of whose Nature can be tamed 22by Man. And here the Reader may observe a double Distinction 23of Man from the more savage Animals by Society, and from the 24social by Conversation.
25But if Men were meerly inoffensive to each other, it seems as if 26Society and Conversation would be meerly indifferent; and that 27in order to make it desirable by a sensible Being, it is necessary 28we should go farther, and propose some positive Good to our-29selves from it; and this presupposes not only negatively, our 30not receiving any Hurt; but positively, our receiving some Good, pg 1231some Pleasure or Advantage from each other in it, something 2which we could not find in an unsocial and solitary State: other-3wise we might cry out with the Right Honourable Poet;
- 4Give us our Wildness and our Woods,
- 5Our Huts and Caves again.1
6The Art of pleasing or doing Good to one another is therefore 7the Art of Conversation.2 It is this Habit which gives it all its 8Value. And as Man's being a social Animal (the Truth of which 9is incontestably proved by that excellent Author of An Enquiry, 10&c. I have above cited) presupposes a natural Desire or Ten-11dency this Way, it will follow, that we can fail in attaining this 12truly desirable End from Ignorance only in the Means; and how 13general this Ignorance is, may be, with some Probability, inferred 14from our want of even a Word to express this Art by: that which 15comes the nearest to it, and by which, perhaps, we would some-16times intend it, being so horribly and barbarously corrupted, that 17it contains at present scarce a simple Ingredient of what it seems 18originally to have been designed to express.
19The Word I mean is Good Breeding; a Word, I apprehend, 20not at first confined to Externals, much less to any particular 21Dress or Attitude of the Body: nor were the Qualifications 22expressed by it to be furnished by a Milliner, a Taylor, or a 23Perriwig-maker; no, nor even by a Dancing-Master himself. 24According to the Idea I myself conceive from this Word, I should 25not have scrupled to call Socrates a well-bred Man, though I 26believe he was very little instructed by any of the Persons I have 27above enumerated. In short, by Good Breeding (notwithstanding 28the corrupt Use of the Word in a very different Sense) I mean 29the Art of pleasing, or contributing as much as possible to the 30Ease and Happiness of those with whom you converse.3 I shall pg 1241contend therefore no longer on this Head: for whilst my Reader 2clearly conceives the Sense in which I use this Word, it will not 3be very material whether I am right or wrong in its original 4Application.
5Good Breeding then, or the Art of pleasing in Conversation, is 6expressed two different Ways, viz. in our Actions and our Words, 7and our Conduct in both may be reduced to that concise, com-8prehensive Rule in Scripture; Do unto all Men as you would they 9should do unto you.1 Indeed, concise as this Rule is, and plain as 10it appears, what are all Treatises on Ethics, but Comments 11upon it? And whoever is well read in the Book of Nature, and 12hath made much Observation on the Actions of Men, will 13perceive so few capable of judging, or rightly pursuing their 14own Happiness, that he will be apt to conclude, that some 15Attention is necessary (and more than is commonly used) to 16enable Men to know truly, what they would have done unto them, 17or at least, what it would be their Interest to have done.2
18If therefore Men, through Weakness or Inattention, often err 19in their Conceptions of what would produce their own Happiness, 20no wonder they should miss in the Application of what will con21tribute to that of others; and thus we may, without too severe a 22Censure on their Inclinations, account for that frequent Failure in 23true Good Breeding, which daily Experience gives us Instances of.
24Besides, the Commentators have well paraphrased on the 25abovementioned divine Rule, that it is, to do unto Men what you 26would they, if they were in your Situation and Circum-27stances, and you in theirs, should do unto you:3 And as this 28Comment is necessary to be observed in Ethics, so is it particu-29larly useful in this our Art, where the Degree of the Person is 30always to be considered, as we shall explain more at large here-31after.
32We see then a Possibility for a Man well disposed to this 33Golden Rule, without some Precautions, to err in the Practice; 34nay, even Good-Nature itself, the very Habit of Mind most pg 1251essential to furnish us with true Good Breeding, the latter so 2nearly resembling the former, that it hath been called, and with 3the Appearance at least of Propriety, artificial Good Nature.1 4This excellent Quality itself sometimes shoots us beyond the 5Mark, and shews the Truth of those Lines in Horace:
- 6Insani sapiens nomen ferat, æquus iniqui
- 7Ultra quam satis est Virtutem si petat ipsam.2
8Instances of this will be naturally produced where we shew the 9Deviations from those Rules, which we shall now attempt to lay 10down.
11As this Good Breeding is the Art of pleasing, it will be first 12necessary, with the utmost Caution, to avoid hurting or giving 13any Offence to those with whom we converse. And here we are 14surely to shun any kind of actual Disrespect, or Affront to their 15Persons, by Insolence, which is the severest Attack that can be 16made on the Pride of Man, and of which Florus seems to have 17no inadequate Opinion, when speaking of the second Tarquin, 18he says; In omnes superbia (quæ Crudelitate gravior est bonis) 19grassatus; 'He trod on all with Insolence, which sits 20heavier on 21Men of great Minds than Cruelty itself.'3 If there is any Temper 22in Man, which more than all others disqualifies him for Society, 23it is this Insolence or Haughtiness, which, blinding a Man to 24his own Imperfections, and giving him a Hawk's Quick-sighted-25ness to those of others, raises in him that Contempt for his 26Species, which inflates the Cheeks, erects the Head, and stiffens 27the Gaite of those strutting Animals, who sometimes stalk in 28Assemblies, for no other Reason, but to shew in their Gesture 29and Behaviour the Disregard they have for the Company. 30Though to a truly great and philosophical Mind, it is not easy 31to conceive a more ridiculous Exhibition than this Puppet; yet 32to others he is little less than a Nusance; for Contempt is a mur-33therous Weapon, and there is this Difference only between the 34greatest and weakest Men, when attacked by it; that, in order 35to wound the former, it must be just; whereas without the Shields pg 1261of Wisdom and Philosophy, which God knows are in the Posses-2sion of very few, it wants no Justice to point it; but is certain 3to penetrate, from whatever Corner it comes. It is this Disposition 4which inspires the empty Cacus to deny his Acquaintance, and 5overlook Men of Merit in Distress; and the little, silly, pretty 6Phillida, or Foolida, to stare at the strange Creatures round her. 7It is this Temper which constitutes the supercilious Eye, the 8reserved Look, the distant Bowe, the scornful Leer, the affected 9Astonishment, the loud Whisper, ending in a Laugh directed 10full in the Teeth of another. Hence spring, in short, those 11numberless Offences given too frequently, in public and private 12Assemblies, by Persons of weak Understandings, indelicate 13Habits, and so hungry and foul-feeding a Vanity, that it wants to 14devour whatever comes in its Way. Now, if Good-Breeding be 15what we have endeavoured to prove it, how foreign, and indeed 16how opposite to it, must such a Behaviour be? And can any Man 17call a Duke or a Dutchess who wears it, well-bred? or are they 18not more justly entitled to those inhuman Names which they 19themselves allot to the lowest Vulgar? But behold a more pleasing 20Picture on the Reverse. See the Earl of C—1 noble in his Birth, 21splendid in his Fortune, and embellished with every Endow- 22ment of Mind; how affable, how condescending!2 himself the 23only one who seems ignorant that he is every Way the greatest 24Person in the Room.
25But it is not sufficient to be inoffensive, we must be profitable 26Servants to each other: we are, in the second Place, to proceed 27to the utmost Verge in paying the Respect due to others. We 28had better go a little too far than stop short in this Particular. 29My Lord Shaftsbury hath a pretty Observation, that the Beggar, 30in addressing to a Coach with, my Lord, is sure not to offend, 31even though there be no Lord there; but, on the contrary, 32should plain Sir fly in the Face of a Nobleman, what must be 33the Consequence?3 And indeed, whoever considers the Bustle pg 1271and Contention about Precedence, the Pains and Labours 2undertaken, and sometimes the Prices given for the smallest 3Title or Mark of Pre-eminence, and the visible Satisfaction be-4tray'd in its Enjoyment, may reasonably conclude this is a 5Matter of no small Consequence. The Truth is, we live in a 6World of common Men, and not of Philosophers; for one of 7these, when he appears (which is very seldom) among us, is 8distinguished, and very properly too, by the Name of an odd 9Fellow: for what is it less than extream Oddity to despise what 10the Generality of the World think the Labour of their whole 11Lives well employed in procuring: we are therefore to adapt 12our Behaviour to the Opinion of the Generality of Mankind, 13and not to that of a few odd Fellows.
14It would be tedious and perhaps impossible, to specify 15every Instance, or to lay down exact Rules for our Conduct in 16every minute Particular. However, I shall mention some of the 17chief which most ordinarily occur, after premising, that the 18Business of the whole is no more than to convey to others an 19Idea of your Esteem of them, which is indeed the Substance of 20all the Compliments, Ceremonies, Presents, and whatever 21passes between well-bred People.1 And here I shall lay down 22these Positions.
23First, that all meer Ceremonies exist in Form only, and have in 24them no Substance at all: but being imposed by the Laws of 25Custom, become essential to Good Breeding, from those high-26flown Compliments paid to the Eastern Monarchs, and which 27pass between Chinese Mandarines, to those coarser Ceremonials 28in use between English Farmers and Dutch 29Boors.2
30Secondly, That these Ceremonies, poor as they are, are of 31more Consequence than they at first appear,3 and, in Reality, 32constitute the only external Difference between Man and Man. 33Thus, His Grace, Right Honourable, My Lord, Right Reverend, 34Reverend, Honourable, Sir, Esquire, Mr. &c. have, in a Philoso-35phical Sense, no Meaning, yet are, perhaps, politically essential, 36and must be preserved by Good Breeding; because,
pg 1281Thirdly, They raise an Expectation in the Person by Law and 2Custom entitled to them, and who will consequently be displeased 3with the Disappointment.
4Now, in order to descend minutely into any Rules for Good 5Breeding, it will be necessary to lay some Scene, or to throw our 6Disciple into some particular Circumstance. We will begin then 7with a Visit in the Country; and as the principal Actor on this 8Occasion is the Person who receives it, we will, as briefly as 9possible, lay down some general Rules for his Conduct; marking, 10at the same Time, the principal Deviations we have observed 11on these Occasions.
12When an expected Guest arrives to Dinner at your House, if 13your Equal, or indeed not greatly your Inferior, he should be 14sure to find your Family in some Order, and yourself dress'd and 15ready to receive him at your Gate with a smiling Countenance. 16This infuses an immediate Cheerfulness into your Guest, and 17perswades him of your Esteem and Desire of his Company. 18Not so is the Behaviour of Polysperchon, at whose Gate you are 19obliged to knock a considerable Time before you gain Admit-20tance. At length, the Door being opened to you by a Maid, or 21some improper Servant, who wonders where the Devil all the 22Men are; and being asked if the Gentleman is at home, answers, 23She believes so; you are conducted into a Hall, or back Parlour, 24where you stay some Time, before the Gentleman, in Dishabille 25from his Study or his Garden, waits upon you, asks Pardon, and 26assures you he did not expect you so soon.
27Your Guest being introduced into a Drawing-Room, is, 28after the first Ceremonies, to be asked, whether he will refresh 29himself after his Journey, before Dinner, (for which he is never 30to stay longer than the usual or fixed Hour.) But this Request is 31never to be repeated oftner than twice, in Imitation of Chalepus, 32who, as if hired by a Physician, crams Wine in a Morning 33down the Throats of his most temperate Friends, their Con-34stitutions being not so dear to them as their present Quiet.
35When Dinner is on the Table, and the Ladies have taken their 36Places, the Gentlemen are to be introduced into the Eating-37Room, where they are to be seated with as much seeming Indiffer-38ence as possible, unless there be any present whose Degrees 39claim an undoubted Precedence. As to the rest, the general Rules 40of Precedence are by Marriage, Age, and Profession. Lastly; in pg 1291placing your Guests, Regard is rather to be had to Birth than 2Fortune: for though Purse-Pride is forward enough to exalt 3itself, it bears a Degradation with more secret Comfort and Ease 4than the former, as being more inwardly satisfied with itself, and 5less apprehensive of Neglect or Contempt.
6The Order in helping your Guests is to be regulated by that 7of placing them: but here I must with great Submission recom-8mend to the Lady at the upper End of the Table, to distribute 9her Favours as equally, and as impartially as she can. I have 10sometimes seen a large Dish of Fish extend no farther than to the 11fifth Person, and a Haunch of Venison lose all its Fat before half 12the Table had tasted it.
13A single Request to eat of any particular Dish, how elegant 14soever, is the utmost I allow. I strictly prohibit all earnest 15Solicitations, all Complaints that you have no Appetite, which 16are sometimes little less than Burlesque, and always impertinent 17and troublesome.
18And here, however low it may appear to some Readers, as 19I have known Omissions of this kind give Offence, and sometimes 20make the Offenders, who have been very well-meaning Persons, 21ridiculous, I cannot help mentioning the Ceremonial of drinking 22Healths at Table, which is always to begin with the Lady's, and 23next the Master's of the House.
24When Dinner is ended, and the Ladies retired, though I do 25not hold the Master of the Feast obliged to fuddle himself 26through Complacence; and indeed it is his own Fault generally, 27if his Company be such as would desire it, yet he is to see that 28the Bottle circulate sufficiently to afford every Person present 29a moderate Quantity of Wine, if he chuses it; at the same Time 30permitting those who desire it, either to pass the Bottle, or fill 31their Glass as they please. Indeed, the beastly Custom of besot-32ting, and ostentatious Contention for Pre-eminence in their Cups, 33seems at present pretty well abolished among the better sort of 34People. Yet Methus still remains, who measures the Honesty and 35Understanding of Mankind by the Capaciousness of their Swal-36low; who sings forth the Praises of a Bumper, and complains of 37the Light in your Glass; and at whose Table it is as difficult to 38preserve your Senses, as to preserve your Purse at a Gaming 39Table, or your Health at a B—y-House.1 On the other Side, pg 1301Sophronus eyes you carefully whilst you are filling out his Liquor. 2The Bottle as surely stops when it comes to him, as your Chariot 3at Temple-Bar;2 and it is almost as impossible to carry a Pint of 4Wine from his House, as to gain the Love of a reigning Beauty, 5or borrow a Shilling of P— W—.3
6But to proceed. After a reasonable Time, if your Guest intends 7staying with you the whole Evening, and declines the Bottle, you 8may propose Play, Walking, or any other Amusement; but 9these are to be but barely mentioned, and offered to his Choice 10with all Indifference on your Part. What Person can be so dull 11as not to perceive in Agyrtes a Longing to pick your Pockets? or 12in Alazon, a Desire to satisfy his own Vanity in shewing you the 13Rarities of his House and Gardens? When your Guest offers to 14go, there should be no Solicitations to stay, unless for the whole 15Night, and that no farther than to give him a moral Assurance 16of his being welcome so to do: no Assertions that he shan't go 17yet; no laying on violent Hands; no private Orders to Servants, 18to delay providing the Horses or Vehicles; like Desmophylax, 19who never suffers any one to depart from his House without 20entitling him to an Action of false Imprisonment.
21Let us now consider a little the Part which the Visitor himself 22is to act. And first, he is to avoid the two Extremes of being too 23early, or too late, so as neither to surprize his Friend unawares or 24unprovided, nor detain him too long in Expectation. Orthrius, 25who hath nothing to do, disturbs your Rest in a Morning; and 26the frugal Chronophidus, lest he should waste some Minutes of 27his precious Time, is sure to spoil your Dinner.
28The Address at your Arrival should be as short as possible, 29especially when you visit a Superior; not imitating Phlenaphius, 30who would stop his Friend in the Rain, rather than omit a single 31Bowe.
32Be not too observant of trifling Ceremonies, such as rising, 33sitting, walking first in or out of the Room, except with one 34greatly your Superior; but when such a one offers you Precedence, 35it is uncivil to refuse it: Of which I will give you the following pg 1311Instance. An English Nobleman being in France, was bid 2by 3Lewis XIV. to enter his Coach before him, which he excused 4himself from; the King then immediately mounted, and ordering 5the Door to be shut, drove on, leaving the Nobleman behind 6him.1
7Never refuse any Thing offered you out of Civility, unless in 8Preference of a Lady, and that no oftner than once; for nothing 9is more truly Good Breeding, than to avoid being troublesome. 10Though the Taste and Humour of the Visitor is to be chiefly 11considered, yet is some Regard likewise to be had to that of the 12Master of the House; for otherwise your Company will be 13rather a Penance than a Pleasure. Methusus plainly discovers 14his Visit to be paid to his sober Friend's Bottle; nor will 15Philopasus 16abstain from Cards, though he is certain they are agreeable only 17to himself; whilst the slender Leptines gives his fat 18Entertainer 19a Sweat, and makes him run the Hazard of breaking his Wind 20up his own Mounts.
21If Conveniency allows your staying longer than the Time 22proposed, it may be civil to offer to depart, lest your Stay may 23be incommodious to your Friend: but if you perceive the con24trary, by his Solicitations, they should be readily accepted; 25without tempting him to break these Rules we have above laid 26down for him; causing a Confusion in his Family, and among his 27Servants, by Preparations for your Departure. Lastly, when you 28are resolved to go, the same Method is to be observed which 29I have prescribed at your Arrival. No tedious Ceremonies of 30taking Leave: not like Hyperphylus, who bowes and kisses, and 31squeezes by the Hand as heartily, and wishes you as much 32Health and Happiness, when he is going a Journey home of ten 33Miles, from a common Acquaintance, as if he was leaving his 34nearest Friend or Relation on a Voyage to the East-Indies.
35Having thus briefly considered our Reader in the Circum-36stance of a private Visit, let us now take him into a public 37Assembly, where, as more Eyes will be on his Behaviour, it cannot 38be less his Interest to be instructed. We have indeed already 39formed a general Picture of the chief Enormities committed pg 1321on these Occasions, we shall here endeavour to explain more 2particularly the Rules of an opposite Demeanour, which we may 3divide into three Sorts, viz. our Behaviour to our 4Superiours, to 5our Equals, and to our Inferiours.1
6In our Behaviour to our Superiours, two Extremes are to be 7avoided, namely, an abject and base Servility, and an impudent 8and encroaching Freedom. When the well-born Hyperdulus 9approaches a Nobleman in any public Place, you would be per-10suaded he was one of the meanest of his Domestics: his Cringes 11fall little short of Prostration; and his whole Behaviour is so 12mean and servile, that an Eastern Monarch would not require 13more Humiliation from his Vassals.2 On the other Side; Anaschyn-14tus, whom fortunate Accidents, without any 15Pretensions from his 16Birth, have raised to associate with his Betters, shakes my Lord 17Duke by the Hand, with a Familiarity savouring not only of the 18most perfect Intimacy, but the closest Alliance. The former 19Behaviour properly raises our Contempt, the latter our Disgust. 20Hyperdulus seems worthy of wearing his Lordship's 21Livery; 22Anaschyntus deserves to be turned out of his Service for his 23Impudence. Between these two is that golden Mean, which 24declares a Man ready to acquiesce in allowing the Respect due 25to a Title by the Laws and Customs of his Country, but impatient 26of any Insult, and disdaining to purchase the Intimacy with, and 27Favour of a Superior, at the Expence of Conscience or 28Honour.3 29As to the Question, Who are our Superiours? I shall endeavour 30to ascertain them, when I come, in the second Place, to mention 31our Behaviour to our Equals. The first Instruction on this Head, 32being carefully to consider who are such: Every little Superiority 33of Fortune or Profession being too apt to intoxicate Men's 34Minds, and elevate them in their own Opinion, beyond their pg 1331Merit or Pretensions. Men are superior to each other in this our 2Country by Title, by Birth, by Rank in Profession, and by Age; 3very little, if any, being to be allowed to Fortune, though so 4much is generally exacted by it, and commonly paid to it. Man-5kind never appear to me in a more despicable Light, than when 6I see them, by a simple as well as mean Servility, voluntarily 7concurring in the Adoration of Riches, without the least Benefit 8or Prospect from them. Respect and Deference are perhaps 9justly demandable of the obliged, and may be, with some Reason 10at least, from Expectation, paid to the Rich and Liberal from 11the Necessitious: but that Men should be allured by the glittering 12of Wealth only, to feed the insolent Pride of those who will not 13in Return feed their Hunger; that the sordid Niggard should 14find any Sacrifices on the Altar of his Vanity, seems to arise from 15a blinder Idolatry, and a more bigotted and senseless Superstition, 16than any which the sharp Eyes of Priests have discovered in the 17human Mind.
18All Gentlemen, therefore, who are not raised above each other 19by Title, Birth, Rank in Profession, Age, or actual Obligation, 20being to be considered as Equals, let us take some Lessons for 21their Behaviour to each other in public, from the following 22Examples; in which we shall discern as well what we are to elect, 23as what we are to avoid. Authades is so absolutely abandoned 24to 25his own Humour, that he never gives it up on any Occasion. If 26Seraphina herself, whose Charms one would imagine should 27infuse Alacrity into the Limbs of a Cripple sooner than the 28Bath 29Waters, was to offer herself for his Partner, he would answer, 30He never danced, even though the Ladies lost their Ball by 31it. 32Nor doth this Denial arise from Incapacity; for he was in his 33Youth an excellent Dancer, and still retains sufficient Knowledge 34of the Art, and sufficient Abilities in his Limbs to practice it; 35but from an Affectation of Gravity, which he will not sacrifice 36to the eagerest Desire of others. Dyskolus hath the same 37Aversion 38to Cards; and though competently skilled in all Games, is by no 39Importunities to be prevailed on to make a third at Ombre, or 40a fourth at Whisk and Quadrille. He will suffer any Company 41to be disappointed of their Amusement, rather than submit to 42pass an Hour or two a little disagreeably to himself. The Refusal 43of Philautus is not so general: he is very ready to engage, pro-44vided you will indulge him in his favourite Game, but it is pg 1341impossible to perswade him to any other. I should add, both these 2are Men of Fortune, and the Consequences of Loss or Gain, at 3the Rate they are desired to engage, very trifling and inconsider-4able to them.
5The Rebukes these People sometimes meet with, are no more 6equal to their Deserts than the Honour paid to Charistus, the 7Benevolence of whose Mind scarce permits him to indulge his 8own Will, unless by Accident. Though neither his Age nor 9Understanding incline him to dance, nor will admit his receiving 10any Pleasure from it, yet would he caper a whole Evening, rather 11than a fine young Lady should lose an Opportunity of displaying 12her Charms by the several genteel and amiable Attitudes which 13this Exercise affords the skilful of that Sex. And though Cards 14are not adapted to his Temper, he never once baulked the In-15clinations of others on that Account.
16But as there are many who will not in the least Instance mortify 17their own Humour to purchase the Satisfaction of all Mankind, 18so there are some who make no Scruple of satisfying their own 19Pride and Vanity, at the Expence of the most cruel Mortification 20of others. Of this Kind is Agroicus, who seldom goes to an Assem-21bly, but he affronts half his Acquaintance, by overlooking, or 22disregarding them.
23As this is a very common Offence, and indeed much more 24criminal, both in its Cause and Effect, than is generally imagined, 25I shall examine it very minutely; and I doubt not but to make it 26appear, that there is no Behaviour (to speak like a Philosopher) 27more contemptible, nor, in a civil Sense, more detestable than 28this.1
29The first Ingredient in this Composition is Pride, which, 30according to the Doctrine of some, is the universal Passion.2 31There are others who consider it as the Foible of great Minds;3 32and others again, who will have it to be the very Foundation of 33Greatness;4 and perhaps it may of that Greatness which we have pg 1351endeavoured to expose in many Parts of these Works: but to 2real Greatness, which is the Union of a good Heart with a good 3Head, it is almost diametrically opposite, as it generally proceeds 4from the Depravity1 of both, and almost certainly from the 5Badness of the latter. Indeed, a little Observation will shew us, 6that Fools are the most addicted to this Vice; and a little Reflec-7tion will teach us, that it is incompatible with true Under-8standing. Accordingly we see, that while the wisest of Men 9have constantly lamented the Imbecility and Imperfection of 10their own Nature, the meanest and weakest have been trumpeting 11forth their own Excellencies, and triumphing in their own 12Sufficiency.
13Pride may, I think, be properly defined; the Pleasure we 14feel in contemplating our own superior Merit, on comparing it with 15that of others.2 That it arises from this supposed Superiority is 16evident: for however great you admit a Man's Merit to be, if all 17Men were equal to him, there would be no Room for Pride: 18now if it stop here, perhaps there is no enormous Harm in it, 19or at least, no more than is common to all other Folly; every 20Species of which is always liable to produce every Species of 21Mischief: Folly I fear it is; for should the Man estimate rightly 22on this Occasion, and the Ballance should fairly turn on his Side 23in this particular Instance; should he be indeed a greater Orator, 24Poet, General; should he be more wise, witty, learned, young, 25rich, healthy, or in whatever Instance he may excel one, or 26many, or all; yet, if he examine himself thoroughly, will he find 27no Reason to abate his Pride? Is the Quality, in which he is so 28eminent, so generally or justly esteemed; Is it so entirely his 29own? Doth he not rather owe his Superiority to the Defects of 30others, than to his own Perfection? Or, lastly, Can he find in no 31Part of his Character, a Weakness which may counterpoise this 32Merit, and which as justly, at least, threatens him with Shame, 33as this entices him to Pride? I fancy, if such a Scrutiny was made, pg 1361(and nothing so ready as good Sense to make it) a proud Man 2would be as rare, as in Reality he is a ridiculous Monster. But 3suppose a Man, on this Comparison, is (as may sometimes 4happen) a little partial to himself, the Harm is to himself, and 5he becomes only ridiculous from it. If I prefer my Excellence 6in Poetry to Pope or Young:1 if an inferior Actor should, in his 7Opinion, exceed Quin or Garrick;2 or a Sign-Post Painter set 8himself above the inimitable Hogarth;3 we become only ridiculous 9by our Vanity; and the Persons themselves, who are thus hum-10bled in the Comparison, would laugh with more Reason than 11any other. PRIDE therefore, hitherto, seems an inoffensive Weak-Critical Apparatus12ness only, and entitles a Man to no worse an Appellation than 13that of a FOOL: but it will not stop here; though FOOL be per-14haps no desirable Term, the proud Man will deserve worse: He 15is not contented with the Admiration he pays himself; he now 16becomes arrogant, and requires the same Respect and Pre-17ference from the World; for Pride, though the greatest of 18Flatterers, is by no means a profitable Servant to itself; it re-19sembles the Parson of the Parish more than the 'Squire, and 20lives rather on the Tithes, Oblations, and Contributions it 21collects from others, than on its own Demesne. As Pride there-22fore is seldom without Arrogance, so is this never to be found 23without Insolence. The arrogant Man must be insolent, in 24order to attain his own Ends: and to convince and remind Men 25of the Superiority he affects, will naturally, by ill Words, Actions, 26and Gestures, endeavour to throw the despised Person at as much 27Distance as possible from him. Hence proceeds that supercilious 28Look, and all those visible Indignities with which Men behave 29in public, to those whom they fancy their Inferiors. Hence the 30very notable Custom of deriding and often denying the nearest 31Relations, Friends, and Acquaintance, in Poverty and Distress; 32left we should anywise be levelled with the Wretches we despise, 33either in their own Imagination, or in the Conceit of any who 34should behold Familiarities pass between us.
35But besides Pride, Folly, Arrogance, and Insolence, there is 36another Simple (which Vice never willingly leaves out of any 37Composition) and that is Ill-nature. A Good-natured Man may pg 1371indeed (provided he is a Fool) be proud, but arrogant and insolent 2he cannot be; unless we will allow to such a still greater Degree 3of Folly, and Ignorance of human Nature; which may indeed 4entitle them to Forgiveness, in the benign Language of Scripture, 5because they know not what they do.1
6For when we come to consider the Effect of this Behaviour 7on the Person who suffers it, we may perhaps have Reason to 8conclude, that Murder is not a much more cruel Injury. What 9is the Consequence of this Contempt? or indeed, What is the 10Design of it, but to expose the Object of it to Shame? a Sensation 11as uneasy, and almost intolerable, as those which arise from the 12severest Pains inflicted on the Body: a Convulsion of the Mind 13(if I may so call it) which immediately produces Symptoms of 14universal Disorder in the whole Man; which hath sometimes 15been attended with Death itself, and to which Death hath, by 16great Multitudes, been with much Alacrity preferred.2 Now, 17what less than the highest Degree of Ill-nature can permit a Man 18to pamper his own Vanity at the Price of another's Shame? 19Is the Glutton, who, to raise the Flavour of his Dish, puts some 20Bird or Beast to exquisite Torment, more cruel to the Animal, Critical Apparatus21than this our proud Man to his own Species?3
22This Character then is a Composition made up of those odious 23contemptible Qualities, Pride, Folly, Arrogance, Insolence, and 24Ill-nature. I shall dismiss it with some general Observations, 25which will place it in so ridiculous a Light, that a Man must 26hereafter be possessed of a very considerable Portion, either 27of Folly or Impudence, to assume it.
28First, it proceeds on one grand Fallacy: for whereas this 29Wretch is endeavouring, by a supercilious Conduct, to lead the 30Beholder into an Opinion of his Superiority to the despised pg 1381Person, he inwardly flatters his own Vanity with a deceitful 2Presumption, that this his Conduct is founded on a general pre-3conceived Opinion of this Superiority.
4Secondly, This Caution to preserve it, plainly indicates a Doubt, 5that the Superiority of our own Character is very slightly estab-6lished;1 for which Reason we see it chiefly practiced by Men who 7have the weakest Pretensions to the Reputation they aim at: 8and indeed, none was ever freer from it than that noble Person 9whom we have already mentioned in this Essay,2 and who can 10never be mentioned but with Honour, by those who know him.
11Thirdly, This Opinion of our Superiority is commonly very 12erroneous. Who hath not seen a General behaving in this super-13cilious Manner to an Officer of lower Rank, who hath been 14greatly his Superior in that very Art, to his Excellence in which 15the General ascribes all his Merit. Parallel Instances occur in 16every other Art, Science, or Profession.
17Fourthly, Men who excel others in trifling Instances, fre-18quently cast a supercilious Eye on their Superiors in the highest. 19Thus the least Pretensions to Pre-eminence in Title, Birth, 20Riches, Equipage, Dress, &c. constantly overlook the most 21noble Endowments of Virtue, Honour, Wisdom, Sense, Wit, 22and every other Quality which can truly dignify and adorn a Man.3
23Lastly, The lowest and meanest of our Species are the most 24strongly addicted to this Vice. Men who are a Scandal to their 25Sex, and Women who disgrace Human Nature: for the basest 26Mechanic4 is so far from being exempt, that he is generally the 27most guilty of it. It visits Ale-Houses and Gin-Shops, and 28whistles in the empty Heads of Fidlers, Mountebanks, and 29Dancing-Masters.
30To conclude a Character, on which we have already dwelt 31longer than is consistent with the intended Measure of this 32Essay: This Contempt of others is the truest Symptom of a base 33and a bad Heart. While it suggests itself to the Mean and the 34Vile, and tickles their little Fancy on every Occasion, it never 35enters the great and good Mind, but on the strongest Motives; pg 1391nor is it then a welcome Guest, affording only an uneasy Sensa-2tion, and brings always with it a Mixture of Concern and Com-3passion.
4We will now proceed to inferior Criminals in Society. Theoretus 5conceiving that the Assembly is only met to see and admire him, 6is uneasy unless he engrosses the Eyes of the whole Company. 7The Giant doth not take more Pains to be view'd;1 and as he is 8unfortunately not so tall, he carefully deposits himself in the 9most conspicuous Place: nor will that suffice, he must walk about 10the Room, though to the great Disturbance of the Company; 11and if he can purchase general Observation, at no less Rate will 12condescend to be ridiculous; for he prefers being laughed at, 13to being taken little Notice of.
14On the other Side, Dusopius is so bashful, that he hides him-15self in a Corner; he hardly bears being looked at, and never 16quits the first Chair he lights upon, lest he should expose himself 17to public View. He trembles when you bowe to him at a Distance; 18is shocked at hearing his own Voice, and would almost swoon 19at the Repetition of his Name.
20The audacious Anedes, who is extremely amorous in his Inclina-21tions, never likes a Woman, but his Eyes ask her the Question; 22without considering the Confusion he often occasions to the 23Object: he ogles and languishes at every pretty Woman in the 24Room. As there is no Law of Morality which he would not 25break to satisfy his Desires, so is there no Form of Civility which 26he doth not violate to communicate them. When he gets Posses-27sion of a Woman's Hand, which those of stricter Decency never 28give him but with Reluctance, he considers himself as its Master. 29Indeed there is scarce a Familiarity which he will abstain from, 30on the slightest Acquaintance, and in the most publick Place. 31Seraphina herself can make no Impression on the rough Temper 32of Agroicus; neither her Quality, nor her Beauty, can exact the 33least Complacence from him; and he would let her lovely Limbs 34ach,2 rather than offer her his Chair: while the gentle Lyperus 35tumbles over Benches, and overthrows Tea-Tables, to take 36up a Fan or a Glove: he forces you as a good Parent doth his 37Child, for your own Good: he is absolute Master of a Lady's pg 1401Will, nor will allow her the Election of standing or sitting in his 2Company. In short, the impertinent Civility of Lyperus is as 3troublesome, tho' perhaps not so offensive as the brutish Rude-4ness of Agroicus.1
5Thus we have hinted at most of the common Enormities 6committed in publick Assemblies, to our Equals; for it would be 7tedious and difficult to enumerate all: nor is it needful; since from 8this Sketch we may trace all others, most of which, I believe, will be 9found to branch out from some of the Particulars here specified.
10I am now, in the last Place, to consider our Behaviour to our 11Inferiors: in which Condescension2 can never be too strongly 12recommended: for as a Deviation on this Side is much more 13innocent than on the other, so the Pride of Man renders us much 14less liable to it. For besides that we are apt to over-rate our own 15Perfections, and undervalue the Qualifications of our Neighbours, 16we likewise set too high an Esteem on the Things themselves, 17and consider them as constituting a more essential Difference 18between us than they really do. The Qualities of the Mind do, 19in reality, establish the truest Superiority over one another; yet 20should not these so far elevate our Pride, as to inflate us with 21Contempt, and make us look down on our Fellow Creatures, as 22on Animals of an inferior Order: but that the fortuitous Accident 23of Birth, the Acquisition of Wealth, with some outward Orna- 24ments of Dress, should inspire Men with an Insolence capable of 25treating the rest of Mankind with Disdain, is so preposterous, 26that nothing less than daily Experience could give it Credit.
27If Men were to be rightly estimated, and divided into sub-28ordinate Classes, according to the superior Excellence of their 29several Natures, perhaps the lowest Class of either Sex would be 30properly assigned to those two Disgracers of the human Species, 31common called3 a Beau, and a fine Lady: For if we rate Men by 32the Faculties of the Mind, in what Degree must these stand? 33Nay, admitting the Qualities of the Body were to give the Pre-34eminence, how many of those whom Fortune hath placed in the 35lowest Station, must be ranked above them? If Dress is their only 36Title, sure even the Monkey, if as well dressed, is on as high a pg 1411Footing as the Beau.—But perhaps I shall be told, they challenge 2their Dignity from Birth: That is a poor and mean Pretence to 3Honour, when supported with no other. Persons who have no 4better Claim to Superiority, should be ashamed of this; they are 5really a Disgrace to those very Ancestors from whom they would 6derive their Pride,1 and are chiefly happy in this, that they want 7the very moderate Portion of Understanding which would enable 8them to despise themselves.
9And yet, who so prone to a contemptuous Carriage as these! 10I have myself seen a little female Thing which they have called 11My Lady, of no greater Dignity in the order of Beings than a Cat, 12and of no more Use in Society than a Butterfly; whose Mien 13would not give even the Idea of a Gentlewoman, and whose 14Face would cool the loosest Libertine; with a Mind as empty of 15Ideas as an Opera, and a Body fuller of Diseases than an Hospital. 16I have seen this Thing express Contempt to a Woman who was 17an Honour to her Sex, and an Ornament to the Creation.
18To confess the Truth, there is little Danger of the Possessor's 19ever undervaluing this Titular Excellence. Not that I would 20withdraw from it that Deference which the Policy of Government 21hath assigned it. On the contrary, I have laid down the most 22exact Compliance with this Respect, as a Fundamental in Good-23Breeding; nay, I insist only that we may be admitted to pay it; 24and not treated with a Disdain even beyond what the Eastern 25Monarchs shew to their Slaves. Surely it is too high an Elevation, 26when instead of treating the lowest human Creature, in a Chris-27tian Sense, as our Brethren; we look down on such as are but 28one Rank, in the Civil Order, removed from us, as unworthy to 29breathe even the same Air, and regard the most distant Com-30munication with them as an Indignity and Disgrace offered to 31ourselves. This is considering the Difference not in the Individual, 32but in the very Species; a Height of Insolence impious in 33a Christian Society, and most absurd and ridiculous in a trad-34ing Nation.2
pg 1421I have now done with my first Head, in which I have treated 2of Good-Breeding, as it regards our Actions. I shall, in the next 3Place, consider it with respect to our Words; and shall endeavour 4to lay down some Rules, by observing which our well-bred Man 5may, in his Discourse as well as Actions, contribute to the 6Happiness and Well-being of Society.
7Certain it is, that the highest Pleasure which we are capable 8of enjoying in Conversation, is to be met with only in the Society 9of Persons whose Understanding is pretty near on an Equality 10with our own:1 nor is this Equality only necessary to enable 11Men of exalted Genius, and extensive Knowledge, to taste the 12sublimer Pleasures of communicating their refined Ideas to each 13other; but it is likewise necessary to the inferior Happiness of 14every subordinate Degree of Society, down to the very lowest. 15For Instance; we will suppose a Conversation betwen Socrates, 16Plato, Aristotle, and three Dancing-Masters. It will be acknow-17ledged, I believe, that the Heel Sophists would be as little pleased 18with the Company of the Philosophers, as the Philosophers with 19theirs.
20It would be greatly therefore for the Improvement and 21Happiness of Conversation, if Society could be formed on this 22Equality: but as Men are not ranked in this World by the 23different Degrees of their Understanding, but by other Methods, 24and consequently all Degrees of Understanding often meet 25in the same Class, and must ex necessitate frequently converse 26together, the Impossibility of accomplishing any such Utopian 27Scheme very plainly appears.2 Here therefore is a visible but 28unavoidable Imperfection in Society itself.
29But as we have laid it down as a Fundamental, that the Essence 30of Good-Breeding is to contribute as much as possible to the 31Ease and Happiness of Mankind, so will it be the Business of our 32well-bred Man to endeavour to lessen this Imperfection to his 33utmost, and to bring Society as near to a Level at least as he is able.
pg 1431Now there are but two Ways to compass this, viz. by raising 2the lower, and by lowering what is higher.
3Let us suppose then, that very unequal Company I have before 4mentioned met: the former of these is apparently impracticable. 5Let Socrates, for Instance, institute a Discourse on the Nature 6of the Soul, or Plato reason on the native Beauty of Virtue, and 7Aristotle on his occult Qualities.—1 What must become of our 8Dancing-Masters? Would they not stare at one another with 9Surprize? and, most probably, at our Philosophers with Con-10tempt? Would they have any Pleasure in such Society? or 11would they not rather wish themselves in a Dancing-School, or 12a Green-Room at the Play-House?2 What therefore have our 13Philosophers to do, but to lower themselves to those who cannot 14rise to them?
15And surely there are Subjects on which both can converse. 16Hath not Socrates heard of Harmony?3 Hath not Plato, who 17draws Virtue in the Person of a fine Woman,4 any Idea of the 18Gracefulness of Attitude? and hath not Aristotle himself written 19a Book on Motion?5 In short, to be a little serious, there are 20many Topics on which they can at least be intelligible to each 21other.
22How absurd then must appear the Conduct of Cenodoxus, who 23having had the Advantage of a liberal Education, and having 24made a pretty good Progress in Literature, is constantly advancing 25learned Subjects in common Conversation? He talks of the 26Classics before the Ladies; and of Greek Criticisms among fine 27Gentlemen. What is this less than an Insult on the Company, 28over whom he thus affects a Superiority, and whose Time he 29sacrifices to his Vanity?
pg 1441Wisely different is the amiable Conduct of Sophronus; who, 2though he exceeds the former in Knowledge, can submit to 3discourse on the most trivial Matters, rather than introduce such 4as his Company are utter Strangers to. He can talk of Fashions 5and Diversions among the Ladies; nay, can even condescend to 6Horses and Dogs with Country Gentlemen. This Gentleman, 7who is equal to dispute on the highest and abstrusest Points, 8can likewise talk on a Fan, or a Horse-Race; nor had ever any 9one, who was not himself a Man of Learning, the least Reason 10to conceive the vast Knowledge of Sophronus, unless from the 11Report of others.
12Let us compare these together. Cenodoxus proposes the Satis-13faction of his own Pride from the Admiration of others; Sophronus 14thinks of nothing but their Amusement. In the Company of 15Cenodoxus, every one is rendered uneasy, laments his own want 16of Knowledge, and longs for the End of the dull Assembly: With 17Sophronus all are pleased, and contented with themselves in their 18Knowledge of Matters which they find worthy the Consideration 19of a Man of Sense. Admiration is involuntarily paid the former; 20to the latter it is given joyfully. The former receives it with 21Envy and Hatred; the latter enjoys it as the sweet Fruit of Good-22Will. The former is shunned, the latter courted by all.
23This Behaviour in Cenodoxus may, in some Measure, account 24for an Observation we must have frequent Occasion to make: 25That the Conversation of Men of very moderate Capacities is 26often preferred to that with Men of superior Talents: In which 27the World act more wisely than at first they may seem; for 28besides that Backwardness in Mankind to give their Admiration, 29what can be duller, or more void of Pleasure than Discourses 30on Subjects above our Comprehension! It is like listning to an 31unknown Language; and if such Company is ever desired by us, 32it is a Sacrifice to our Vanity, which imposes on us to believe that 33we may by these Means raise the general Opinion of our own 34Parts and Knowledge, and not from that cheerful Delight which 35is the natural Result of an agreeable Conversation.
36There is another very common Fault, equally destructive of 37this Delight, by much the same Means; though it is far from 38owing its Original to any real Superiority of Parts and Know-39ledge: This is discoursing on the Mysteries of a particular 40Profession, to which all the rest of the Company, except one or pg 1451two, are utter Strangers. Lawyers are generally guilty of this 2Fault, as they are more confined to the Conversation of one 3another; and I have known a very agreeable Company spoilt, 4where there have been two of these Gentlemen present, who have 5seemed rather to think themselves in a Court of Justice, than in 6a mixed Assembly of Persons, met only for the Entertainment of 7each other.
8But it is not sufficient that the whole Company understand the 9Topic of their Conversation; they should be likewise equally 10interested in every Subject not tending to their general Informa-11tion or Amusement; for these are not to be postponed to the 12Relation of private Affairs, much less of the particular Grievance 13or Misfortune of a single Person. To bear a Share in the Afflic-14tions of another is a Degree of Friendship not to be expected in 15a common Acquaintance; nor hath any Man a Right to indulge 16the Satisfaction of a weak and mean Mind by the Comfort of 17Pity, at the Expence of the whole Company's Diversion. The 18inferior and unsuccessful Members of the several Professions 19are generally guilty of this Fault; for as they fail of the Reward 20due to their great Merit, they can seldom refrain from reviling 21their Superiors, and complaining of their own hard and unjust 22Fate.
23Farther; as a Man is not to make himself the Subject of the 24Conversation, so neither is he to engross the whole to himself.1 25As every Man had rather please others by what he says, than be 26himself pleased by what they say; or, in other Words, as every 27Man is best pleased with the Consciousness of pleasing; so 28should all have an equal Opportunity of aiming at it. This is 29a Right which we are so offended at being deprived of, that 30though I remember to have known a Man reputed a good 31Companion, who seldom opened his Mouth in Company, unless 32to swallow his Liquor; yet I have scarce ever heard that Appella- 33tion given to a very talkative Person, even when he hath been 34capable of entertaining, unless he hath done this with Buffoon'ry, 35and made the rest amends, by partaking of their Scorn, together 36with their Admiration and Applause.
37A well-bred Man therefore will not take more of the Discourse 38than falls to his Share: nor in this will he shew any violent pg 1461Impetuosity of Temper, or exert any Loudness of Voice, even 2in arguing: for the Information of the Company, and the Con-3viction of his Antagonist, are to be his apparent Motives; not 4the Indulgence of his own Pride, or an ambitious Desire of 5Victory; which latter if a wise Man should entertain, he will be 6sure to conceal with his utmost Endeavour: since he must know, 7that to lay open his Vanity in public, is no less absurd than to 8lay open his Bosom to an Enemy, whose drawn Sword is pointed 9against it: for every Man hath a Dagger in his Hand, ready to 10stab the Vanity of another, wherever he perceives it.1
11Having now shewn, that the Pleasure of Conversation must 12arise from the Discourse being on Subjects levelled to the Capacity 13of the whole Company; from being on such in which every 14Person is equally interested; from every one's being admitted to 15his Share in the Discourse; and lastly, from carefully avoiding 16all Noise, Violence, and Impetuosity; it might seem proper to 17lay down some particular Rules for the Choice of those Subjects 18which are most likely to conduce to the cheerful Delights proposed 19from this social Communication: but as such an Attempt might 20appear absurd, from the infinite Variety, and perhaps too dicta-21torial in its Nature, I shall confine myself to rejecting those Topics 22only which seem most foreign to this Delight, and which are 23most likely to be attended with Consequences rather tending to 24make Society an Evil, than to procure us any Good from it.2
25And First, I shall mention that which I have hitherto only 26endeavoured to restrain within certain Bounds, namely, Argu-27ments: but which if they were entirely banished out of Company, 28especially from mixed Assemblies, and where Ladies make Part 29of the Society, it would, I believe, promote their Happiness: they 30have been sometimes attended with Bloodshed, generally with 31Hatred from the conquered Party towards his Victor; and scarce 32ever with Conviction. Here I except jocose Arguments, which 33often produce much Mirth; and serious Disputes between Men 34of Learning (when none but such are present) which tend to the 35Propagation of Knowledge, and the Edification of the Company.
pg 1471Secondly, Slander; which, however frequently used, or how-2ever savory to the Palate of Ill-nature, is extremely pernicious. 3As it is often unjust, and highly injurious to the Person slandered; 4and always dangerous, especially in large and mixed Companies; 5where sometimes an undesigned Offence is given to an innocent 6Relation or Friend of such Person, who is thus exposed to Shame 7and Confusion, without having any Right to resent the Affront. 8Of this there have been very tragical Instances; and I have my-9self seen some very ridiculous ones, but which have given great 10Pain, as well to the Person offended, as to him who hath been 11the innocent Occasion of giving the Offence.
12Thirdly; all general Reflections on Countries,1 Religions, and 13Professions, which are always unjust. If these are ever tolerable, 14they are only from the Persons who with some Pleasantry 15ridicule their own Country. It is very common among us to cast 16Sarcasms on a neighbouring Nation,2 to which we have no other 17Reason to bear an Antipathy, than what is more usual than 18justifiable, because we have injured it: But sure such general 19Satire is not founded on Truth: for I have known Gentlemen of 20that Nation possessed with every good Quality which are to be 21wished in a Man, or required in a Friend. I remember a Repartee 22made by a Gentleman of this Country,3 which though it was full 23of the severest Wit, the Person to whom it was directed, could 24not resent, as he so plainly deserved it. He had with great 25Bitterness inveighed against this whole People; upon which, one 26of them who was present, very cooly answered, I don't know, Sir, 27whether I have not more Reason to be pleased with the Compliment you 28pay my Country, than to be angry with what you say against it; since 29by your abusing us all so heavily, you have plainly implied you are 30not of it. This exposed the other to so much Laughter, especially 31as he was not unexceptionable in his Character, that I believe 32he was sufficiently punished for his ill-manner'd Satire.
33Fourthly; Blasphemy, and irreverent mention of Religion. 34I will not here debate what Compliment a Man pays to his own 35Understanding, by the Profession of Infidelity; it is sufficient to pg 1481 3my Purpose, that he runs a Risque of giving the cruellest 4Offence to Persons of a different Temper: for if a Loyalist would 5be greatly affronted by hearing any Indecencies offered to the 6Person of a temporal Prince, how much more bitterly must 7a Man, who sincerely believes in such a Being as the Almighty, 8feel any Irreverence, or Insult shewn to his Name, his Honour, 9or his Institution? And notwithstanding the impious Character 10of the present Age, and especially of many among those whose 11more immediate Business it is to lead Men, as well by Example 12as Precept, into the Ways of Piety, there are still sufficient Num-13bers left, who pay so honest and sincere a Reverence to Religion, 14as may give us a reasonable Expectation of finding one at least 15of this Stamp in every large Company.
16A fifth Particular to be avoided is Indecency. We are not only 17to forbear the repeating such Words as would give an immediate 18Affront to a Lady of Reputation; but the raising any loose Ideas 19tending to the Offence of that Modesty, which if a young Woman 20hath not something more than the Affectation of, she is not 21worthy the Regard even of a Man of Pleasure, provided he hath 22any Delicacy in his Constitution. How inconsistent with Good-23Breeding it is to give Pain and Confusion to such, is sufficiently 24apparent; all Double-Entendres, and obscene Jests, are therefore 25carefully to be avoided before them. But suppose no Ladies 26present, nothing can be meaner, lower, and less productive of 27rational Mirth, than this loose Conversation. For my own Part, 28I cannot conceive how the Idea of Jest or Pleasantry came ever 29to be annexed to one of our highest and most serious Pleasures. 30Nor can I help observing, to the Discredit of such Merriment, 31that it is commonly the last Resource of impotent Wit, the weak 32Strainings of the lowest, silliest, and dullest Fellows in the 33World.
34Sixthly; You are to avoid knowingly mentioning any thing 35which may revive in any Person the Remembrance of some past 36Accident; or raise an uneasy Reflection on a present Misfortune, 37or corporeal Blemish. To maintain this Rule nicely, perhaps 38requires great Delicacy; but it is absolutely necessary to a well-39bred Man. I have observed numberless Breaches of it; many, 40I believe, proceeding from Negligence and Inadvertency; yet 41I am afraid some may be too justly imputed to a malicious Desire 42of triumphing in our own superior Happiness and Perfections: pg 1491now when it proceeds from this Motive, it is not easy to imagine 2any thing more criminal.
3Under this Head I shall caution my well-bred Reader against 4a common Fault, much of the same Nature; which is mentioning 5any particular Quality as absolutely essential to either Man or 6Woman, and exploding all those who want it. This renders every 7one uneasy, who is in the least self-conscious of the Defect. I have 8heard a Boor of Fashion declare in the Presence of Women remark-9ably plain, that Beauty was the chief Perfection of that Sex; and 10an Essential, without which no Woman was worth regarding. 11A certain Method of putting all those in the Room, who are but 12suspicious of their Defect that way, out of Countenance.
13I shall mention one Fault more, which is, not paying a proper 14Regard to the present Temper of the Company, or the Occasion 15of their meeting, in introducing a Topic of Conversation, by 16which as great an Absurdity is sometimes committed, as it would 17be to sing a Dirge at a Wedding, or an Epithalamium at a Funeral.
18Thus I have, I think, enumerated most of the principal Errors 19which we are apt to fall into in Conversation; and though perhaps 20some Particulars worthy of Remark may have escaped me, yet 21an Attention to what I have here said, may enable the Reader to 22discover them. At least I am persuaded, that if the Rules I have 23now laid down were strictly observed, our Conversation would 24be more perfect, and the Pleasure resulting from it purer, and 25more unsullied, than at present it is.
26But I must not dismiss this Subject without some Animadver-27sions on a particular Species of Pleasantry, which though I am 28far from being desirous of banishing from Conversation, requires, 29most certainly, some Reins to govern, and some Rule to direct it. 30The Reader may perhaps guess, I mean Raillery; to which I may 31apply the Fable of the Lap-Dog and the Ass:1 for while in some 32Hands it diverts and delights us with its Dexterity and Gentle-33ness; in others, it paws, dawbs, offends, and hurts.
34The End of Conversation being the Happiness of Mankind, 35and the chief Means to procure their Delight and Pleasure; it pg 1501follows, I think, that nothing can conduce to this End, which 2tends to make a Man uneasy and dissatisfied with himself, or 3which exposes him to the Scorn and Contempt of others. I here 4except that Kind of Raillery therefore, which is concerned in 5tossing Men out of their Chairs, tumbling them into Water,1 6or any of those handicraft Jokes which are exercised on those 7notable Persons, commonly known by the Name of Buffoons; 8who are contented to feed their Belly at the Price of their Br—ch, 9and to carry off the Wine and the P—ss of a Great Man together. 10This I pass by, as well as all Remarks on the Genius of the Great 11Men themselves, who are (to fetch a Phrase from School, a Place 12not improperly mentioned on this Occasion) great Dabs2 at this 13kind of Facetiousness.
14But leaving all such Persons to expose Human Nature among 15themselves, I shall recommend to my well-bred Man, who aims 16at Raillery, the excellent Character given of Horace by Persius.
- 17Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
- 18Tangit, et admissus circum Præcordia ludit.
- 19Callidus excusso Populum suspendere naso.3
20Thus excellently rendered by the late ingenious Translator of 21that obscure Author.
- 22Yet cou'd shrewd Horace, with disportive Wit,
- 23Rally his Friend, and tickle while he bit:
- 24Winning Access, he play d around the Heart,
- 25And gently touching, prick'd the tainted Part.
- 26The Crowd he sneer'd; but sneer'd with such a Grace,
- 27It pass'd for downright Innocence of Face.4
28The Raillery which is consistent with Good-Breeding, is 29a gentle Animadversion on some Foible; which while it raises 30a Laugh in the rest of the Company, doth not put the Person 31rallied out of Countenance, or expose him to Shame and Con-32tempt. On the contrary, the Jest should be so delicate, that the 33Object of it should be capable of joining in the Mirth it occasions.
pg 1511All great Vices therefore, Misfortunes, and notorious Blemishes 2of Mind or Body, are improper Subjects of Raillery. Indeed, 3a Hint at such is an Abuse and Affront is sure to give the Person 4(unless he be one shameless and abandoned) Pain and Uneasiness, 5and should be received with Contempt, instead of Applause, by 6all the rest of the Company.
7Again; the Nature and Quality of the Person are to be con-8sidered. As to the first, some Men will not bear any Raillery at 9all. I remember a Gentleman who declared, He never made a Jest, 10nor would ever take one.1 I do not indeed greatly recommend 11such a Person for a Companion; but at the same Time, a well-12bred Man, who is to consult the Pleasure and Happiness of the 13whole, is not at Liberty to make any one present uneasy. By the 14Quality, I mean the Sex, Degree, Profession, and Circumstances; 15on which Head I need not be very particular. With Regard to 16the two former, all Raillery on Ladies and Superiors should be 17extremely fine and gentle; and with respect to the latter, any of 18the Rules I have above laid down, most of which are to be 19applied to it, will afford sufficient Caution.
20Lastly. A Consideration is to be had of the Persons before 21whom we rally. A Man will be justly uneasy at being reminded 22of those Railleries in one Company, which he would very patiently 23bear the Imputation of in another. Instances on this Head are 24so obvious, that they need not be mentioned. In short, the whole 25Doctrine of Raillery is comprized in this famous Line.
- 26Quid de quoque viro et Cui dicas sæpe caveto.
- 27Be cautious what you say, of whom and to whom.2
28And now methinks I hear some one cry out, that such Restric-29tions are, in Effect, to exclude all Raillery from Conversation: 30and, to confess the Truth, it is a Weapon from which many 31Persons will do wisely in totally abstaining; for it is a Weapon 32which doth the more Mischief, by how much the blunter it is. 33The sharpest Wit therefore is only to be indulged the free Use 34of it; for no more than a very slight Touch is to be allowed; no 35hacking, nor bruising, as if they were to hew a Carcase for Hounds, 36as Shakespear phrases it.3
pg 1521Nor is it sufficient that it be sharp, it must be used likewise 2with the utmost Tenderness and Good-nature: and as the nicest 3Dexterity of a Gladiator is shewn in being able to hit without 4cutting deep,1 so is this of our Rallier, who is rather to tickle than 5wound.
6True Raillery indeed consists either in playing on Peccadillo's, 7which, however they may be censured by some, are not esteemed 8as really Blemishes in a Character in the Company where they 9are made the Subject of Mirth; as too much Freedom with the 10Bottle, or too much Indulgence with Women, &c.
11Or, Secondly, in pleasantly representing real good Qualities 12in a false Light of Shame, and bantering them as ill ones. So 13Generosity may be treated as Prodigality; Œconomy as Avarice; 14true Courage as Fool-Hardiness; and so of the rest.
15Lastly; in ridiculing Men for Vices and Faults which they 16are known to be free from. Thus the Cowardice of A—le, the 17Dulness of Ch—d, the Unpoliteness of D—ton, may be attacked 18without Danger of Offence; and thus Lyt—n may be censured 19for whatever Vice or Folly you please to impute to him.2
20And however limited these Bounds may appear to some, yet, 21in skilful and wittty Hands, I have known Raillery, thus con-22fined, afford a very diverting, as well as inoffensive Entertain-23ment to the whole Company.
24I shall conclude this Essay with these two Observations, which 25I think may be clearly deduced from what hath been said.
26First, That every Person who indulges his Ill-nature or 27Vanity, at the Expence of others; and in introducing Uneasiness, 28Vexation, and Confusion into Society, however exalted or high-29titled he may be, is thoroughly ill-bred.
30Secondly, That whoever, from the Goodness of his Disposition 31or Understanding, endeavours to his utmost to cultivate the 32Good-humour and Happiness of others, and to contribute to the 33Ease and Comfort of all his Acquaintance, however low in Rank 34Fortune may have placed him, or however clumsy he may be in 35his Figure or Demeanour, hath, in the truest Sense of the Word, 36a Claim to Good-Breeding.
- Oh! rather than be Slaves to bold imperious Men,
- Give us our Wildness, and our Woods, our Huts, and Caves again.