« AnteriorContinuar »
The next disagreeable person to the outrageous gentleman, is one of a much lower order of anger, and he is what we commonly call a peevish fellow. A peevish fellow is one who has some reason in himself for being out of humour, or has a natural incapacity for delight, and therefore disturbs all who are happier than himself with pishes and pshaws, or other well-bred interjections, at every thing that is said or done in his presence. There should be physic mixed in the food of all which these fellows eat in good company. This degree of anger passes, forsooth, for a delicacy of judgment, that won't admit of being easily pleased; but none above the character of wearing a peevish man's livery ought to bear with his ill manners. All things among men of sense and condition should pass the censure, and have the protection of the eye of reason.
No man ought to be tolerated in an habitual humour, whim, or particularity of behaviour, by any who do not wait upon him for bread. Next to the peevish fellow is the snarler. This gentleman deals mightily in what we call the irony; and as those sort of people exert themselves most against those below them, you see their humour best in their talk to their servants. "That is so like you; you are a fine fellow; thou art the quickest head-piece; and the like.' One would think the hectoring, the storming, the sullen, and all the different species and subordinations of the angry should be cured, by knowing they live only as pardoned men ; and how pitiful is the condition of being only suffered! But I am interrupted by the pleasantest scene of anger and the disappointment of it that I have ever known, which happened while I was yet writing, and I overheard as I sat in the back-room at a French bookseller's. There came into the shop a very learned man, with
an erect solemn air; and, though a person of great parts otherwise, slow in understanding any thing which makes against himself. The composure of the faulty man, and the whimsical perplexity of him that was justly angry, is perfectly new. After turning over many volumes, said the seller to the buyer, • Sir, you know I have long asked you to send me back the first volume of French sermons I formerly lent you.'-- Sir,' said the chapman, I have often looked for it, but cannot find it; it is certainly lost, and I know not to whom I lent it, it is so many years ago,'-" Then, Sir, here is the other volume; I'll send you home that, and please to pay for both.' - My friend,' replied he, canst thou be so senseless as not to know that one volume is as imperfect in my library as in your shop?'--'Yes, Sir, but it is you have lost the first volume; and, to be short, I will be paid.'— Sir,' answered the chapman, ‘ you are a young man, your book is lost; and learn by this little loss to bear much greater adversities, which you must expect to meet with.'— Yes, Sir, I'll bear when I must, but I have not lost now, for I say you have it, and shall pay me.'- Friend, you grow warm; I tell you the book is lost; and I foresee, in the course even of a prosperous life, that you will meet afflictions to make you mad, if you cannot bear this trifle.'-'Sir, there is, in this case, no need of bearing, for you have the book.'-—' I say, Sir, I have not the book; but your passion will not let you hear enough to be informed that I have it not. Learn resignation of yourself to the distresses of this life : nay, do not fret and fume; it is iny duty to tell you, that you are of an impatient spirit, and an impatient spirit is never without woe.'- Was ever any thing like this?'-'Yes, Sir, there have been many things like this: the loss is but a trifle, but your temper is wanton, and incapable of the least pain; therefore let me advise you, be patient; the book is lost, but do not you for that reason lose yourself.'
Hi narrata ferunt aliò: mensuraque ficti
OVID. Met. xii. ver. 57.
Ovid describes the palace of Fame as situated in the very centre of the universe, and perforated with so many windows and avenues as gave her the sight of every thing that was done in the heavens, in the earth, and in the sea. The structure of it was contrived in so admirable a manner, that it echoed every word which was spoken in the whole compass of nature; so that the palace, says the poet, was always filled with a confused hubbub of low, dying sounds, the voices being almost spent and worn out before they arrived at this general rendezvous of speeches and whispers.
I consider courts with the same regard to the governments which they superintend, as Ovid's palace of Fame with regard to the universe. The eyes of a watchful minister run through the whole people. There is scarce a murmur or complaint that does not reach his ears. They have news-gatherers and intelligencers distributed into their several walks and quarters, who bring in their respective quotas, and make them acquainted with the discourse and conversation of the whole kingdom or commonwealth where they are employed. The wisest of kings, al. luding to these invisible and unsuspected spies, who are planted by kings and rulers over their fellowcitizens, as well as to those voluntary informers that are buzzing about the ears of a great man, and making their court by such secret methods of intelligence, has given us a very prudent caution : ‘Curse not the king, no not in thy thought, and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter !!!
As it is absolutely necessary for rulers to make use of other people's eyes and ears, they should take particular care to do it in such a manner, that it may not beartoo hard on the person whose life and conversation are inquired into. A man who is capable of so infamous a calling as that of a spy, is not very much to be relied upon. He can have no great ties of honour, or checks of conscience, to restrain him in those covert evidences, where the person accused has no opportunity of vindicating himself. He will be more industrious to carry that which is grateful than that which is true. There will be no occasion for him if he does not hear and see things worth discovery ; so that he naturally inflames every word and circumstance, aggravates what is faulty, perverts what is good, and misrepresents what is indifferent. Nor is it to be doubted but that such ignominious wretches let their private passions into these their clandestine informations, and often wreak their par
ticular spite and malice against the person whom they are set to watch. It is a pleasant scene enough, which an Italian author describes between a spy and a cardinal who employed him. The cardinal is represented as minuting down every thing that is told him. The spy begins with a low voice, ‘Such an one, the advocate, whispered to one of his friends, within my hearing, that your eminence was a very great poltron ;' and, after having given his patron time to take it down, adds that another called him a mercenary rascal in a public conversation. The cardinal replies, · Very well,' and bids him go on. The spy proceeds, and loads him with reports of the same nature, till the cardinal rises in great wrath, calls him an impudent scoundrel, and kicks him out of the room.
It is observed of great and heroic minds, that they have not only shewn a particular disregard to those uns merited reproaches which have been cast upon them, but have been altogether free from that impertinent curiosity of inquiring after them, or the poor revenge of resenting them. The histories of Alexander and Cæsar are full of this kind of instances. Vulgar souls are of a quite contrary character. Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, had a dungeon which was a very curious piece of architecture; and of which, as I am informed, there are still to be seen some remains in that island. It was called Dionysius's Ear, and built with several little windings and labyrinths, in the form of a real ear. The structure of it made it a kind of whispering place, but such a one as gathered the voice of him who spoke into a funnel which was placed at the very top of it. The tyrant used to lodge all his state criminals, or those whom he supposed to be engaged together in any evil designs upon