Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

N° 161. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 17 13.

- Incoctum generoso pectus honesto.

PERS. Sat. ii. 74%

A genuine virtue of a vigorous kind,
Pure in the last recesses of the mind.

DRYDEN.

EVERY principle that is a motive to good actions ought to be encouraged, since men are of so different a make, that the same principle does not work equally upon all minds. What some men are prompted to by conscience, duty, or religion, which are only different names for the same thing, others are prompted to by honour.

The sense of honour is of so fine and delicate a nature, that it is only to be met with in minds which are naturally noble, or in such as have been cultivated by good examples, or a refined education. This paper therefore is chiefly designed for those who by means of any of these advantages are, or ought to be actuated by this glorious principle.

But as nothing is more pernicious than a principle of action, when it is misunderstood, I shall consider honour with respect to three sorts of men. First of all, with regard to those who have a right notion of it. Secondly, with regard to those who have a mistaken notion of it. And thirdly, with regard to those who treat it as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule.

In the first place, true honour, though it be a different principle from religion, is that which pro

duces the same effects. The lines of action, though drawn from different parts, terminate in the same point. Religion embraces virtue, as it is enjoined by the laws of God; honour, as it is graceful to human nature. The religious man fears, the man of honour scorns to do an ill action. The latter . considers vice as something that is beneath him, the other as something that is offensive to the Divine Being. The one as what is unbecoming, the other as what is forbidden. Thus Seneca speaks in the natural and genuine language of a man of honour, when he declares that were there no God to see or punish vice, he would not commit it, because it is of so mean, so base, and so vile a

nature.

I shall conclude this head with the description of honour in the part of young Juba:

'Honour's a sacred tie, the law of kings,
The noble mind's distinguishing perfection,
That aids and strengthens virtue where it meets her,
And imitates her actions where she is not.
It ought not to be sported with -

CATO.

In the second place, we are to consider those who have mistaken notions of honour. And these are such as establish any thing to themselves for a point of honour, which is contrary either to the laws of God, or of their country; who think it more honourable to revenge than to forgive an in jury; who make no scruple of telling a lie, but would put any man to death that accuses them of it; who are more careful to guard their reputation by their courage, than by their virtue. True fortitude is indeed so becoming in human nature, that he who wants it scarce deserves the name of a man; but we find several who so much abuse this

notion, that they place the whole idea of honour in a kind of brutal courage; by which means we have had many among us who have called themselves men of honour, that would have been a disgrace to a gibbet. In a word, the man who sacrifices any duty of a reasonable creature to a prevailing mode or fashion, who looks upon any thing as honourable that is displeasing to his Maker, or destructive to society, who thinks himself obliged by this principle to the practice of some virtues and not of others, is by no means to be reckoned among true men of honour.

Timogenes was a lively instance of one actuated by false honour. Timogenes would smile at a man's jest who ridiculed his Maker, and at the same time run a man through the body that spoke ill of his friend. Timogenes would have scorned to have betrayed a secret, that was intrusted with him, though the fate of his country depended upon the discovery of it. Timogenes took away the life of a young fellow in a duel, for having spoken ill of Belinda, a lady whom he himself had seduced in her youth, and betrayed into want and ignominy. To close his character, Timogenes, after having ruined several poor tradesmen's families who had trusted him, sold his estate to satisfy his creditors; but, like a man of honour, disposed of all the money he could make of it, in the paying off his play debts, or, to speak in his own language, his debts of hononr.

In the third place, we are to consider those persons, who treat this principle as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule. Men who are professedly of no honour, are of a more profligate and abandoned nature than even those who are actuated by false notions of it, as there are more hopes of a heretic

6

than of an atheist. These sons of infamy consider honour with old Syphax, in the play before mentioned, as a fine imaginary notion that leads astray young unexperienced men, and draws them into real mischiefs, while they are engaged in the pursuits of a shadow. These are generally persons who, in Shakspeare's phrase, are worn and hackneyed in the ways of men;' whose imaginations are grown callous, and have lost all those delicate sentiments which are natural to minds that are innocent and undepraved. Such old battered miscreants ridicule every thing as romantic that comes in competition with their present interest, and treat those persons as visionaries, who dare stand up in a corrupt age for what has not its immediate reward joined to it. The talents, interest, or experience of such men, make them very often useful in all parties, and at all times. But whatever wealth and dignities they may arrive at, they ought to consider, that every one stands as a blot in the annals of his country who arrives at the temple of honour by any other way than through that of virtue.

N° 162. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 16, 1713.

Proprium hoc esse prudentiæ, conciliare sibi animos hominum, et ad usus suos adjungere. CICERO.

The art of prudence lies in gaining the esteem of the world, and turning it to a man's own advantage.

I WAS the other day in company at my lady Lizard's, when there came in among us their cousin Tom, who is one of those country squires that set up for plain honest gentlemen who speak their minds. Tom is in short a lively impudent clown, and has wit enough to have made him a pleasant companion, had it been polished and rectified by good manners. Tom had not been a quarter of an hour with us, before he set every one in the company a blushing, by some blunt question, or unlucky observation. He asked the Sparkler if her wit had yet got her a husband; and told her eldest sister she looked a little wan under the eyes, and that it was time for her to look about her, if she did not design to lead apes in the other world. The good lady Lizard, who suffers more than her daughters on such an occasion, desired her cousin Thomas with a smile, not to be so severe on his relations; to which the booby replied, with a rude country laugh, If I be not mistaken, aunt, you were a mother at fifteen, and why do you expect that your daughters should be maids till five and twenty!' I endeavoured to divert the discourse;

« AnteriorContinuar »