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Plain-speaking, if we consider it simply as a mark of truth and honesty, is doubtless a very meritorious quality, but experience teaches that it is too frequently under bad management, and obtruded on society out of time and season in such a manner as to be highly inconvenient and offensive. People are not always in a fit humour to be told of their faults, and these plain-speaking friends sometimes perform their office so clumsily, that we are inclined to suspect they are more interested to bring us to present shame than future reformation : It is a common observation with them, when things turn out amiss, to put us in mind how they dissuaded us from such and such an undertaking, that they foressw what would happen, and that the event is neither more nor less than they expected and predicted.
These retorts, cast in our teeth in the very moment of vexation, are what few tempers, when galled with disappointment, can patiently put up with ; they may possibly be the result of zeal and sincerity, but they are so void of contrivance, and there is so little delicacy in the timing of them, that it is a very rare case indeed, when they happen to be well understood and kindly taken. The same want of sensibility towards human infirmities, that will not spare us in the moments of vexation, will make no allowances for the mind's debility in the hours of grief and sorrow: If a friend of this sort surprises us in the weakness of the soul, when death perhaps has robe bed us of some beloved object, it is not to contribute a tear, but to read us a lecture, that he comes; when the heart is agonised, the temper is irritable, and as a moraliser of this sort is almost sure to find his admonitions take the contrary effect from what he intended, he is apt to mistake an occasional impatience in us for a natural one, and leaves us with the impression that we are men, who are ill prepared
against the common vicissitudes of life, and endowed with a very small share of fortitude and resignation; this early misconception of our character, in the course of time leads him to another, for he no sooner finds us recovered to a proper temper of mind, than he calls to mind our former impatience, and comparing it with our present tranquillity concludes upon appearances, that we are men of light and trivial natures, subject indeed to fits and starts of passion, but incapable of retention, and as he has then a fine subject for displaying his powers of plain-speaking, he reminds us of our former inattention to his good advice, and takes credit for having told us over and over again that we ought not to give way to violent sorrow, and that we could not change the course of things by our complaining of them. Thus for want of calculating times and seasons he begins to think despisingly of us, and we in spite of all his sincerity grow tired of him and dread his company;
Before I quit this subject I must also have a word with the valetudinarians, and I wish from my heart I could cure them of their complaints,—that species I mean which comes under my notice as an Observer, without intruding upon the more important province of the physician. Now as this island of our's is most happily supplied with a large and learned body of professors under every medical description and character, whether operative or deliberative, and all these stand ready at the call and devoted to the service of the sick or maimed, whether it be on foot, on horseback, or on wheels, to resort to them in their distresses, it cannot be for want of help that the valetudinarian states his case to all companies so promiscuously. Let the whole family of death be arrayed on one side, and the whole army of physic, regulars and irregulars, be drawn out on the other, and I will venture to say that for every possible disease in the ranks of the besieger, there shall be a champion in the garrison ready to turn out and give him battle: Let all who are upon the sick list in the community be laid out between the camps, and let the respective combatants fight it out over the bodies, but let the forces of life and health have no share in the fray: Why should their peace be disturbed, or their society contaminated by the infectious communication? It is as much out of time and place for a man to be giving the diary of his disease in company, who are met for social purposes, as it is for a doctor to be talking politics or scandal in a sick man's chamber; yet so it is that each party are for ever out of character ; the chatterer disgusts his patient by an inattention to his complaints, and the valetudinarian disgusts his company by the enumeration of them, and both are equally out of
Every man's observation may furnish him with instances not here enumerated, but if what I have said shall seem to merit more consideration than I have been able to give it in the compass of this paper, my readers may improve upon the hint, and society cannot fail to profit by their reflections.
-Ω τρισάλθιοι Αιταντες οι φυσώντες έφ εαυτοις μέχα, 'Αυτοι γαρ εκ ίσασιν ανθρώσε φύσιν.
MENANDER. Gubernatoribus, Oh wretched mortals! by false pride betray'd,
Ye know not of what nature man is made." Though I think our nation can never be accused of want of charity, yet I have observed with much concern a poor unhappy set of men amongst us, whose case is not commiserated as it ought to be ; -and as I would gladly contribute any thing in my power towards their relief, the best proof I can give them of my good will is by endeavouring to convince them of a certain truth, which all the world except themselves has discovered long ago, viz. • That a proud man is the most contemptible being in nature. Now if these proud men to whom I address myself, and for whose miserable situation I have such compassion, shall once find a friend to convince them, that they are truly the most contemptible beings in nature, it can never be supposed they will persist to entertain a companion in their bosoms, who affords them so little pleasure, and yet involves them in so much disgrace. I must consider them therefore as mistaken rather than obstinate, and treat them accordingly; for how can I suppose there would be such an absurdity in the world as a proud man, if the poor creature was not behind hand with the rest of mankind in a discovery that concerns himself so materially? I admit indeed that pride is a very foolish thing, but I contend that wise men are sometimes surprized into very foolish things, and if a little friendly hint can rescue them, it would be an ill-natured action to with-hold the information: • If you are proud, you are a fool-says an old Greek author called Sotades-'Avåra louns, tot ανοίας έστι φρύαγμα-but I hope a little plain English, without the help of Sotades, will serve to open the eyes of a plain Englishman, and prevent him from strutting about the world merely to make sport for his neighbours; for I declare in truth, that so far from being annoyed and made splenetic as some folks are, when I fall into company with a proud fellow creature, I feel no other impulse than of pity, with now and then a small propensity to titter, for it would be downright rudeness to laugh in a man's face on such an occasion; and it hurts me to see an honest gentleman, who may have many more natural good qualities than he himself is aware of, run about from house to house only to make sport for the scoffers, and take a world of pains, and put on an air of gravity and importance, for no better purpose than to provoke ridicule and contempt~ Why is earth and ashes proud ?' says the Son of Sirach; • Pride was not made for men.'
As I am determined to put these poor men upon their guard in all points, I shall remind them of another error they are in, which sadly aggravates their misfortunes, and which arises from a circumstance of a mere local nature, viz. • That England is the worst country a proud man can exhibit himself in.'-I do really wish they would well consider the land they live in; if they do not know, they ought to be told, that we are a free people ; that freedom tends to make us independent of one another, fearless in our persons, warm in our resentments, bold of tongue, and vindictive against iöisult; England is the place upon earth, where a proud stomach finds