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the claims of self-love in others, and exacts it in return from them. Politeness and the pretensions to the character in question have reference almost entirely to this reciprocal manifestation of goodwill and good opinion towards each other in casual society. Morality regulates our sentiments and conduct as they have a connection with ultimate and important consequences :Manners, properly speaking, regulate our words and actions in the routine of personal intercourse. They have little to do with real kinde ness of intention, or practical services, or disinterested sacrifices; but they put on the garb, and mock the appearance of these, in order to prevent a breach of the peace, and to smooth and varnish over the discordant materials, when any number of individuals are brought in contact together. The conventional compact of good manners does not reach beyond the moment and the company. Say, for instance, that the rabble, the labouring and industrious part of the community, are taken up with supplying their own wants, and pining over their own hardships,-scrambling for what they can get, and not refining on any of their pleasures, or troubling themselves about the fastidious pretensions of others : again, there are philosophers who are busied in the pursuit of truth,
or patriots who are active for the good of their country; but here, we will suppose, are a knot of people got together, who, having no serious wants of their own, with leisure and independence, and caring little about abstract truth or practical utility, are met for no mortal purpose but to say, and to do all manner of obliging things, to pay the greatest possible respect, and shew the most delicate and flattering attentions to one another. The politest set of gentlemen and ladies in the world can do no more than this. The laws that regulate this species of select and fantastic society are conformable to its ends and origin. The fine gentleman or lady must not, on any account, say a rude thing to the persons present, but you may turn them into the utmost ridicule the instant they are gone: nay, not to do so is sometimes considered as an indirect slight to the party that remains. You must compliment your bitterest foe to his face, and may slander
dearest friend behind his back. The last may be immoral, but it is not unmannerly. The gallant maintains his title to this character by treating every woman he meets with the same marked and unremitting attention as if she was his mistress: the courtier treats every man with the same professions of esteem and kindness as if he were an accomplice
with him in some plot against mankind. Of course, these professions, made only to please, go for nothing in practice. To insist on them afterwards as literal obligations, would be to betray an ignorance of this kind of interlude, or masquerading in real life. To ruin your friend at play is not inconsistent with the character of a gentleman and a man of honour, if it is done with civility; though to warn him of his danger, so as to imply a doubt of his judgment, or interference with his will, would be to subject yourself to be run through the body with a sword. It is that which wounds the self-love of the individual that is offensive—that which flatters it that is welcome-however salutary the one, or however fatal the other may be. A habit of plain-speaking is totally contrary to the tone of good-breeding. You must prefer the opinion of the company to your own, and even to truth. I doubt whether a gentleman must not be of the Established Church, and a Tory. A true cavalier can only be a martyr to prejudice or fashion. A Whig lord appears to me as great an anomaly as a patriot king. A sectary is sour and unsociable. A philosopher is quite out of the question. He is in the clouds, and had better not be let down on the floor in a basket, to play the blockhead. He is sure to commit
himself in good company-and by dealing always in abstractions, and driving at generalities, to offend against the three proprieties of time, place, and person. Authors are angry, loud, and vehement in argument: the man of more refined breeding, who has been “all tranquillity and smiles,” goes away, and tries to ruin the antagonist, whom he could not vanquish in a dispute. The manners of a court and of polished life are by no means downright, straightforward, but the contrary. They have something dramatic in them ; each person plays an assumed part; the affected, overstrained politeness and suppression of real sentiment lead to concealed irony, and the spirit of satire and raillery; and hence we may account for the perfection of the genteel comedy of the century before the last, when poets were allowed to mingle in the court-circles, and took their cue from the splendid ring
Of mimic statesmen and their merry king.
The essence of this sort of conversation and intercourse, both on and off the stage, has some how since evaporated; the disguises of royalty, nobility, gentry have been in some measure seen through : we have become individually of little importance, compared with greater ob..
jects, in the eyes of our neighbours, and even in our own : abstract topics, not personal pretensions, are the order of the day; so that what remains of the character we have been talking of, is chiefly exotic and provincial, and may be seen still flourishing in country-places, in a wholesome state of vegetable decay !
A man may have the manners of a gentleman without having the look, and he may have the character of a gentleman, in a more abstracted point of view, without the manners. The feelings of a gentleman, in this higher sense, only denote a more refined humanity—a spirit delicate in itself, and unwilling to offend, either in the greatest or the smallest things. This may be coupled with absence of mind, with ig. norance of forms, and frequent blunders. But the will is good. The spring of gentle offices and true regards is untainted. A person of this stamp blushes at an impropriety he was guilty of twenty years before, though he is, perhaps, liable to repeat it to-morrow. He never forgives himself for even a slip of the tongue, that implies an assumption of superiority over any one. In proportion to the concessions made to him, he lowers his demands. He gives the wall to a beggar *: but does not always bow to great
* The writer of this Essay once saw a Prince of the