Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Of Detraction.

In some dispositions there is such an envious kind of pride; that they cannot endure that any but thenselves should be set forth as excellent: so that when they hear one justly praised, they will either openly detract from his virtues : or, if those virtues be like a clear and shining light, eminent and distinguished, so that he cannot be safely traduced by the tongue, they 'will then raise a suspicion against him by a mysteri-, ous silence, as if there were something remaining to be told, which over-clouded even his brightest glory. Surely, if we considered detraction to proceed, as it đoes, from envy, and to belong only to deficient minds, we should find, that to applaud virtue would procure us far more honour, than underhandedly seeking to disparage her.

The former would shew that we loved what we commended, while the latter tells the world, we grudge that in others which we want in ourselves. It is one of the basest offices of man, to make his tongue the lash of the worthy. Even if we do know of faults in others, I think we can scarcely shew ourselves more nobly virtuous, than in having the charity to conceal them; so that we do not flatter or encourage them in their failings. But to relate any thing we may know against our neighbour, in his absence, is most unbeseeming conduct. And who will not condemn him as a traitor to reputation and society, who tells the private fault of his friend to the public and ill-natured world? When two friends part, they should lock up one another's secrets, and exchange their keys. The honest man will rather be a grave to his neighbour's errors, than in any way expose them. The counsel in the satire I much approve :

Absentem qui redit amicum ; Qui non defendit, alio culpante; solutos Qui captat risus hominum, famamque dicacis ; Fingere qui non visa potest ; commissa tacere Qui nequil ; hic niger est ; hunc tu, Romane, caveto.

HOR. Sat. i. 44

He who malignant, tears an absent friend,
Or when attack'd by others, don't defend;
Who trivial bursts of laughter strives to raise,
And courts of prating petulance the praise ;
Of things he never saw, who tells his tale;
And friendship’s secrets knows not to conceal :
This man is vile; here fix your mark ;
His soil is black, as his complexion's dark.

And for the most part, he is as dangerous in another vice as in this. He that can detract unworthily, when thou can’st not answer him, can flatter thee as unworthily when thou must hear him. It is usual

[ocr errors]

with him to smooth it in the chamber, who keeps a railing tongue for the hall : besides, it implies a kind of cowardice to speak against another when he is not present to defend himself.

The valiant man's tongue, though it never boasteth vainly, yet is ever the greatest coward in absence; but the coward is never valiant but then. There is nothing argues nature more degenerate, than her secretly repining at another's merits. Indeed, it is difficult to speak of a man truly as he is : but, at any rate, I would not detract from the fame of the absent: it is then a time for praise, rather than for reprehension. Let praise be sounded to the spreading air ; but chidings whispered in the kissed ear: which teaches us, even while we chide, to love.

That Virtue and Vice generate after their Kind.

Virtue begets virtue ; vice begets vice. , It is as natural for a man to expect a return of virtue out of virtue, and a return of vice out of vice, as it is for him to expect an elephant should beget an elephant, or a serpent beget a serpent. Nay, it not only holds of the genus, but also of the very species ; and oftentimes, the proportion of that species too. High actions beget a return of actions that are so; and poor

1

low ones beget a return of the like. The echo is aca cording to the voice that speaks ; the report of the piece is proportionable to its magnitude; if it be but by reftection only, the beams are reverberated bright, as is the sun that shines them; and clouds cast a shade according to their blackness. The Romans bestowed on Attalus the kingdom of Pergamus, on account of his friendship and munificence; and he, to express his gratitude, not having any children of his own, left the city of Rome the heir of his wealth. The virtues of Terentius, and his being one of the Roman senate, made so deep an impression on Scipio's manly heart, that when the Carthaginians came to sue to him for peace, he would not hear them till they brought Terentius forth, discharged of his imprisonment; whom he placed on the throne with himself. And this again so prevailed with Terentius, that when Scipio had his triumph, Terentius, though a senator, put himself into Scipio's livery, and as his freedman, waited on his pompous chariot. He teaches me to be good, who does me good: he prompts me to enlarge my heart to him (unless my virtue be totally dried up and withered,) who first enlarges his own to me. And the same effect hath vice. With the froward thou shalt learn frowardness. Passion enkindles passion; and pride begets pride. How many are calm and quiet till they meet with one who is choleric ! He who sows iniquity must look to reap it. Did not David's murder and adultery bring the sword and incest into his family? How fatally and strikingly was the massacre at Paris marked by the massacre of the chief actors and contrivers of it! Charles the king, before the twenty-fifth year of his age, died bathed in blood; and Anjou, his successor, was assassinated, and slain in the same room that the massacre was plotted in. Guise was murdered by the king's order; the queen was consumed with grief; and with succeeding civil war, both Paris and the nation torn. It is a remarkable instance of retaliation, which is afforded in the story of Valentinian and Maximus. Valentinian by fraud and force seduced the wife of Maximus : for which Maximus by fraud and force murdered him and married his wife; who, from disdain at being forced into the marriage, and a desire to revenge her husband's death, plotted the destruction of Maximus and Rome. No proverb is more true than the saying of the satirist :

Ad generum Cereris sine cæde et sanguine, pauci
Descendunt reges, et siccâ morte tyranni.

Juv. Sat. X.

Few tyrants find death natural, calm, or good; But, broach'd with slaughter, roll to hell in blood.

There is in vices not only a natural production of evil in general, but there is a proportion of parts VOL. II.

Bb

« ElőzőTovább »