« ZurückWeiter »
the common right. It would be endless for me to enumerate all the particular instances in which a well-bred man shows his good breeding in good company; and it would be injurious to you to suppose, that your own good sense will not point them out to you; and then your own good nature will recommend, and your self-interest enforce the practice.
There is a third sort of good breeding, in which people are the most apt to fail, from a very mistaken notion that they cannot fail at all. I mean with regard to one's most familiar friends and acquaintances, or those who really are our inferiors; and there, undoubtedly, a greater degree of ease is not only allowed, but proper, and contributes much to the comforts of a private, social life. But ease and freedom have their bounds, which must by no means be violated. A certain degree of negligence and carelessness becomes injurious and insulting, from the real or supposed inferiority of the persons; and that delightful liberty of conversation among a few friends is soon destroyed, as liberty often has been, by being carried to licentiousness. But example explains things best, and I will put a pretty strong case. Suppose you and me alone together; I believe you will allow that I have as good a right to unlimited freedom in your company, as either you or I can possibly have in any other; and I am apt to believe, too, that you would indulge me in that freedom as far as anybody would. But, notwithstanding this, do you imagine I should think there were no bounds to that freedom ? I assure you, I should not think so; and I take myself to be as much tied down by a certain degree of good manners to you, as by other degrees of them to other people. The most familiar and intimate habitudes, connexions, and friendships, require a degree of good breeding, both to preserve and cement them. The best of us have our bad sides; and it is as imprudent as it is ill bred, to exhibit them. I shall not use ceremony
you; it would be misplaced between us: but I shall certainly observe that degree of good breeding with you, which is, in the first place, decent, and which, I am sure, is absolutely necessary to make us like one another's company long.
XIV.-GENTLENESS OF MANNERS WITH FIRMNESS OF MIND.
I MENTIONED to you some time ago a sentence, which I would most earnestly wish you always to retain in your thoughts, and observe in your conduct; it is suavitèr in modo, fortiter
I do not know any one rule so unexceptionably useful and necessary in every part of life.
The suavitèr in modo alone would degenerate and sink into a mean, timid complaisance and passiveness, if not supported and dignified by the fortitèr in re; which would also run into impetuosity and brutality, if not tempered and softened by the suuvitèr in modo : however, they are seldom united. The warm choleric inan, with strong animal spirits, despises the suavitèr in modo, and thinks to carry all before him by the fortitèr in re. He may possibly, by great accident, now and then succeed, when he has only weak and timid people to deal with ; but his general fate will be, to shock, offend, be hated, and fail. On the other hand, the cunning crafty man thinks to gain all his ends by the suavitèr in modo only; he becomes all things to all men; he seems to have no opinion of his own, and servilely adopts the present opinion of the present person ; he insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools, but is soon detected, and surely despised by everybody else. The wise man (who differs as much from the cunning as from the choleric man) alone joins the suavitèr in modo with the fortitèr in re.
If you are in authority, and have a right to command, your commands delivered suavitér in modo will be willingly, cheerfully, and consequently well obeyed; whereas, if given only fortitèr, that is brutally, they will rather, as Tacitus says, be interpreted than executed. For my own part, if I bade my footman bring me a glass of wine in a rough insult
ing manner, I should expect, that in obeying me, he would contrive to spill some of it upon me; and I am sure I should deserve it. A cool steady resolution should show, that where you have a right to command, you will be obeyed ; but at the same time, a gentleness in the manner of enforcing that obedience should make it a cheerful one, and soften, as much as possible, the mortifying consciousness of inferiority. If you are to ask a favour, or even to solicit your due, you must do it suavitèr in modo, or you will give those who have a mind to refuse you either, a pretence to do it, by resenting the manner; but, on the other hand, you must, by a steady perseverance and decent tenaciousness, show the fortiter
In short, this precept is the only way I know in the world of being loved without being despised, and feared without being hated. It constitutes the dignity of character, which every wise man must endeavour to establish. If therefore you find that you
ave a hastiness in your temper, which unguardedly breaks out into indiscreet sallies, or rough expressions, to either your superiors, your equals, or your inferiors, watch it narrowly, check it carefully, and call the suavitèr in modo to your assistance: at the first impulse of passion be silent, till you can be soft. Labour even to get the command of your countenance so well, that those emotions may not be read in it—a most unspeakable advantage in business! On the other hand, let no compliance, no gentleness of temper, no weak desire of pleasing on your part, no wheedling, coaxing, nor flattery on other people's, make you recede one jot from any point that reason and prudence have bid you pursue ; but return to the charge, persist, persevere, and you will find most things attainable that are possible. A yielding, timid meekness, is always abused and insulted by the unjust and unfeeling; but meekness, when sustained by the fortitèr in re, is always respected, commonly successful. In your friendships and connexions, as well as in your enmities, this rule is particularly useful: let your firmness and vigour preserve and invite attachments to you; but, at the same time, let your manner hinder the enemies of your friends and dependents from becoming yours ; let your enemies be disarmed by the gentleness of your manner, but let them feel, at the same time, the steadiness of your just resentment; for there is a great difference between bearing malice, which is always ungenerous, and
resolute self-defence, which is always prudent and justifiable.
I conclude with this observation, that gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind, is a short, but full description of human perfection, on this side of religious and moral duties.
STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. The chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse ; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots, and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience; for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by duty; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use, but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read,
but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that should be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sorts of books; else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not.
When I am in a serious humour, I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey, where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable. I yesterday passed the whole afternoon in the churchyard, the cloisters, and the church, amusing myself with the tombstones and inscriptions that I met with in those several regions of the dead. Most of them recorded nothing else of the buried person, but that he was born upon one day, and died
upon another; the whole history of his life being comprehended in those two circumstances, that are common to all mankind. I could not but look upon these registers of existence, whether of brass or marble, as a kind of satire upon the departed persons, who had left no other memorial of them, but that they were born, and that they died.
Upon my going into the church, I entertained myself with the digging of a grave, and saw in every shovelful of it that was thrown up, the fragment of a bune or skull, intermixed with a kind of fresh mouldering earth, that some time or other had a place in the composition of a human body.