« AnteriorContinuar »
No. CCLXXXIII. THURSDAY, JANUARY 24.
Magister artis & largitor ingenii
Necessity is the mother of Invention.
LUCIAN rallies the philosophers in his time, who could not agree whether they should admit riches into the number of real goods; the professors of the severer sects threw them quite out, while others as resolutely inserted them. I am apt to believe, that as the world grew more polite, the rigid doctrines of the first were wholly discarded ; and I do not find any one so hardy at present as to deny that there are very great advantages in the enjoyment of a plentiful fortune. Indeed the best and wisest of men, though they may possibly despise a good part of those things which the world calls pleasures, can, I think, hardly be insensible of that weight and dignity which a moderate share of wealth adds to their characters, counsels, and actions. We find it is a general complaint in professions and trades, that the richest members of them are chiefly encouraged, and this is falsely imputed to the ill-nature of mankind, who are ever bestowing their favours on such as least want them : whereas if we fairly consider their proceedings in this case, we shall find them founded on undoubted reason: since supposing both equal in their natural integrity, I ought, in common prudence, to fear foul play from an indigent person, rather than from one whose circumstances seem to have placed him above the bare temptation of money. This reason also makes the commonwealth regard her richest subjects, as those who are most concerned for her quiet and interest, and consequently fittest to VOL. IV- N
be intrusted with her highest employments. On the contrary, Catiline's saying to those men of desperate fortunes, who applied themselves to him, and of whom he afterwards composed his army, that “they had “nothing to hope for but a civil war,” was too true not to make the impressions he desired. I believe I need not fear but that what I have said in praise of money, will be more than sufficient with most of my readers, to excuse the subject of my present paper, which I intend as an essay on “the “ ways to raise a man’s fortune, or the art of grow“ing rich.” The first and most infallible method towards the attaining of this end is thrift: all men are not equally qualified for getting money, but it is in the power of every one alike to practise this virtue; and I believe there are few persons, who, if they please to reflect on their past lives, will not find that had they saved all those little sums which they have spent unnecessarily, they might at present have been masters of a competent fortune. Diligence justly claims the next place to thrift: I find both these excellently well recommended to common use in the three following Italian proverbs. “Never do that by proxy which yeu can do yourself.” “Never defer that until to-morrow which you can do to-day.” “Never neglect small matters and expences.” A third instrument in growing rich, is method in business, which, as well as the two former, is also attainable by persons of the meanest capacities. The famous De Wit, one of the greatest statesmen of the age in which he lived, being asked by a friend, how he was able to dispatch that multitude of affairs in which he was engaged replied, That his whole art consisted in doing one thing at once. If, says he, I have any necessary dispatches to make, I think of nothing else until those are finished; if any domestic affairs require my attention, I give myself up wholly to them until they are set in order. In short, we often see men of dull and phlegmatic tempers, arriving to great estates, by making a regular and orderly disposition of their business, and that without it the greatest parts and most lively imaginations rather puzzle their affairs, than bring them to an happy issue. From what has been said, I think I may lay it down as a maxim, that every man of good common sense may, if he pleases, in his particular station of life, most certainly be rich. The reason why we sometimes see that men of the greatest capacities are not so, is either because they despise wealth in comparison of something else; or at least are not content to be getting an estate, unless they may do it their own way, and at the same time enjoy all the pleasures and gratifications of life. But besides these ordinary forms of growing rich, it must be allowed that there is room for genius as well in this as in all other circumstances of life. Though the ways of getting money were long since very numerous, and though so many new ones have been found out of late years, there is certainly still remaining so large a field for invention, that a man of an indifferent head might easily sit down and draw up such a plan for the conduct and support of his life, as was never yet once thought of. We daily see methods put in practice by hungry and ingenious men, which demonstrate the power of invention in this particular. It is reported of Scaramouche, the first famous Italian comedian, that being at Paris and in great want, he bethought himself of constantly plying near the door of a noted perfumer in that city, and when any one came out who had been buying snuff, never failed to desire a taste of them: when he had by this means got together a quantity made up of several different sorts, he sold it again at a lower rate to the same perfumer, who finding out the trick, called it Tabac de mille fleurs, or “ snuff of a thousand “flowers.” The story farther tells us, that by this means he got a very comfortable subsistence, until making too much haste to grow rich, he one day took such an unreasonable pinch out of the box of a Swiss officer, as engaged him in a quarrel, and obliged him to quit this ingenious way of life. Nor can I in this place omit doing justice to a youth of my own country, who, though he is scarce yet twelve years old, has with great industry and application attained to the art of beating the grenadiers march on his chin. I am credibly informed that by this means he does not only maintain himself and his mother, but that he is laying up money every day, with a design, if the war continues, to purchase a drum at least, if not a pair of colours. I shall conclude these instances with the device of the famous Rabelais, when he was at a great distance from Paris, and without money to bear his expences thither. This ingenious author being thus sharp set, got together a convenient quantity of brick-dust, and having disposed of it into several papers, writ upon one, “poison for Monsieur,” upon a second, “poison “ for the Dauphin,” and on a third, “poison for the “ King.” Having made this provision for the royal family of France, he laid his papers so that his landlord, who was an inquisitive man, and a good subject, might get a sight of them. The plot succeeded as he desired: the host gave immediate intelligence to the secretary of state. The secretary presently sent down a special messenger, who brought up the traitor to court, and provided him at the king’s expence with proper accommodations on the road. As soon as he appeared, he was known to be the celebrated Rabelais, and his powder upon examination being found very innocent, the jest
was only laughed at; for which a less eminent droll would have been sent to the gallies. Trade and commerce might doubtless be still varied a thousand ways, out of which would arise such branches as have not yet been touched. The famous Doily is still fresh in every one's memory, who raised a fortune by finding out materials for such stuffs as might at once be cheap and genteel. I have heard it affirmed, that had not he discovered this frugal method of gratifying our pride, we should hardly have been so well able to carry on the last war. I regard trade not only as highly advantageous to the commonwealth in general, but as the most natural and likely method of making a man's fortune, having observed, since my being a Spectator in the world, greater estates got about 'Change, than at Whitehall or St. James's. I believe I may also add, that the first acquisitions are generally attended with more satisfaction, and as good a conscience. I must not however close this essay, without observing that what has been said is only intended for persons in the common ways of thriving, and is not designed for those men who from low beginnings push themselves up to the top of states, and the most considerable figures in life. My maxim of saving . is not designed for such as these, since nothing is more usual than for thrift to disappoint the ends of ambition ; it being almost impossible that the mind should be intent upon trifles, while it is at the same time forming some great design. I may therefore compare these men to a great poet, who, as Longinus says, while he is full of the most magnificent ideas, is not always at leisure to mind the little beauties and niceties of his art. I would however have all my readers take great care how they mistake themselves for uncommon
geniuses, and men above rule, since it is very easy
for them to be deceived in this particular. X