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might well be, and yet Xanthus had a kind of hankering for her still; beside that, there was a matter of interest in the case : and a pestilent tongue she had, that the poor husband dreaded above all things under the sun.
But the man was willing, however, to make the best of a bad game, and so his wits and his friends were set at work, in the fairest manner that might be, to get her home again. But there was no good to be done in it, it seems; and Xanthus was so visibly out of humour upon it, that Æsop in pure pity bethought himself immediately how to comfort him. “Come, master," says he, “pluck up a good heart, for I have a project in my noddle, that shall bring my mistress to you back again, with as good a will as ever she went from you." What does my Æsop, but away immediately to the market among the butchers, poulterers, fishmongers, confectioners, &c., for the best of everything that was in season. Nay, he takes private people in his way too, and chops into the very house of his mistress's relations, as by mistake.
This way of proceeding set the whole town agog to know the meaning of all this bustle ; and Æsop innocently told everybody that his master's wife was run away from him, and he had married another; his friends up and down were all invited to come and make merry with him, and this was to be the wedding feast. The news flew like lightning, and happy were they that could carry the first tidings of it to the run-away lady (for everybody knew Æsop to be a servant in that family). It gathered in the rolling, as all other stories do in the telling, especially where women's tongues and passions have the spreading of
them. The wife, that was in her nature violent and unsteady, ordered her chariot to be made ready immediately, and away she posts back to her husband, falls upon him with outrages of looks and language; and after the easing of her mind a little, “ No, Xanthus,” says she, “ do not you flatter yourself with the hopes of enjoying another woman while I am alive." Xanthus looked upon this as one of Æsop's masterpieces; and for that bout all was well again betwixt master and mistress.
The principal causes of ingratitude are pride and self-conceit, avarice, envy, &c. It is a familiar exclamation, “ 'Tis true, he did this or that for me, but it came so late, and it was so little, I had e'en as good have been without it: If he had not given it to me, he must have given it to somebody else; it was nothing out of his own pocket.” Nay, we are so ungrateful, that he that gives us all we have, if he leaves anything to himself, we reckon that he does us an injury. It cost Julius Cæsar his life the disappointment of his unsatiable companions; and yet he reserved nothing of all that he got to himself, but the liberty of disposing it. There is no benefit so large, but malignity will still lessen it: none so narrow, which a good interpretation will not enlarge. No man shall ever be grateful that views a benefit on the wrong side, or takes a good office by the wrong handle. The avaricious man is naturally ungrateful, for he never thinks he has enough, but without considering what he has, only minds what he covets. Some pretend want of power to make a competent return, and you shall find in others a kind of graceless modesty, that makes a man ashamed of requiting an obligation, because 't is a confession that he has received one.
Not to return one good office for another is inhuman; but to return evil for good is diabolical. There are too many even of this sort, who, the more they owe, the more they hate. There's nothing more dangerous than to oblige those people; for when they are conscious of not paying the debt, they wish the creditor out of the way. It is a mortal hatred that which arises from the shame of an abused benefit. When we are on the asking side, what a deal of cringing there is, and profession. “Well, I shall never forget this favour, it will be an eternal obligation to me.” But, within a while the note is changed, and we hear no more words on't, till by little and little it is all quite forgotten. So long as we stand in need of a benefit, there is nothing dearer to us; nor anything cheaper when we have received it. And yet a man may as well refuse to deliver up a sum of money that's left him in trust, without a suit, as not to return a good office without asking; and when we have no value any further for the benefit, we do commonly care as little for the author. People follow their interest; one man is grateful for his convenience, and another man is ungrateful for the same reason.
(1630 – 1677.)
[It is difficult to say whether Dr. BARROW was more distinguished as a mathematician, a theologian, or a scholar. He was the immediate predecessor of Sir Isaac Newton in the chair of mathematics in Cambridge University. He left behind several mathematical treatises, all of them in the Latin tongue. It is, however, chiefly by his theological works that he is known to coinmon readers. These consist of Sermons, Expositions of the Creed, Lord's Prayer, Decalogue, Sacraments, &c., and were published soon after his death, in three folio volumes. “As a writer," says Mr. Stewart, “he is equally distinguished by the redundancy of his matter, and by the pregnant brevity of his expression; but what more peculiarly characterizes his inanner, is a certain air of powerful and conscious facility in the execution of whatever he undertakes. Whether the subject be mathematical, metaphysical, or theological, he seems always to bring to it a mind which feels itself superior to the occasion; and which, in contending with the greatest difficulties, puts forth but half its strength.”
What is Wit?
First it may be demanded what the thing is we speak of, or what this facetiousness doth import? To which question I might reply as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a man; “'T is that which we all see and know.” Any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air.
Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale ; sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the am. biguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound. Sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection. Sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense: sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture passeth for it. Sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being; sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose; often it consists in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how.
Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a mavner of speaking out of the simple and plain way (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by), which by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto. It raiseth admira