« AnteriorContinuar »
scurity in the terms they make use of, since, upon the fore-mentioned ground, he does not scruple to say, that he thinks morality is capable of demonstration, as well as the mathematies.
I know no two words that have been more abused by the different and wrong interpretations which are put upon them, than those two, modesty and assur
To say such-a-one is a modest man, sometimes indeed passes for a good character; but at present is very often used to signify a sheepish awkward fellow, who has neither good breeding, politeness, nor any knowledge of the world.
Again, of assurance, though at first it only denoted a person of a free and open carriage, is now very usually applied to a profligate wretch, who can break through all the rules of decency and morality without a blush.
I shall endeavour therefore in this essay to restore these words to their true meaning, to prevent the idea of modesty from being confounded with that of sheepishness, and to hinder impudcuce from passing for as
If I was put to define modesty, I would call it, The reflection of an ingenuous mind, either when a man has committed an action for which he censures him. self, or fancies that he is exposed to the censure of others.
For this reason a man truly modest is as much so when he is alone as in company, and as subject to a blush in his closet, as when the eyes of multitudes are
I do not remember to liave met with any iustance of modesty with which I am so well pleased, as that celebrated one of the young prince, whose father being a tributary king to the Romans, had several complaints laid against him before the senate, as a tyrant and oppressor of bis subjects. The prince went to Rome to defend his father, but coming into the se. VOL. II.
nate, and hearing a multitude of crimes proved upon him, was so oppressed when it came to his turn to speak, that he was unable to utter a word. The story tells us, that the fathers were more moved at this instance of modesty and ingenuity, than they could bave been by the most pathetic oration; and, in short, par. doned the guilty father for this early promise of virtue in the son.
I take assurance to be the faculty of possessing a mau's self, or of saying and doing indifferent things without any uneasiness or emotion in the mind. That which generally gives a man assurance is a moderate knowledge of tbe world, but, above all, a mind fixed and determined in itself to do nothing against the rules of honour and decency. An open and assured beha. viour is the natural consequence of such a resolution. A man thus armed, if his words or actions are at any time misinterpreted, retires within himself, and, from a consciousness of his own integrity, assumes force enough to despise the little censures of ignorance or malice.
Every one ought to cherish and encourage in himself the modesty and assurance I bave here mentioned.
A man without assurance is liable to be made oneasy by the folly or ill-nature of every one he converses with. A man without modesty is lost to all sense of honour and virtue.
It is more than probable, that the prince abovementioned possessed both these qualificatious in a very eminent degree. Without assurance he would never have undertaken to speak before the most august assem. bly in the world; without modesty he would have pleaded the cause he had taken upon him, though it bad appeared ever so scandalous.
From what has been said, it is plain, that modesty and assurance are both amiable, and may very well meet iu the same person. When they are thus mixed and blended together, they coinpose what we endeavour to express when we say modest assurance ; by
which we understand the just mean between bashfulness and impudence.
I shall conclude with observing, that as the same man may be both modest and assured, so it is also possible for the same person to be both impudent and bashful.
We have frequent instances of this odd kind of mix. ture in people of depraved minds and mean education; who, though they are not able to meet a man's eyes, or pronounce a sentence without confusion, can volun. tarily commit the greatest villanies, or most indecent actions.
Such a person seems to ave made a resolution to do ill even in spite of himself, and in defiance of all those checks and restraints his temper and complexion seem to have laid in his way.
Upon the whole, I would endeavour to establish this maxim, That the practice of virtue is the most proper method to give a man a becoming assurance iu his words and actions. Guilt always seeks to shelter itself in one of the extremes, and is sometimes attend. ed with both.
VANITY OF MOST MEN’S PRAYERS.
Non tu prece poscis emaci, Que nisi seductis nequeas committere divis: At bona pars procerum tacita libabit acerra. Haud cuivis promptum est, murmurque humi.
lesque susurros Tollere de templis; et aperto vivere voto. Mens bona, fama, fides, hæc clare, et ut audiat
hospes. Illa sibi introrsum, et sub lingua immurmurat :
O si Ebullit patrui præclarum funus! Et Osi Sub rastro crepet argenti mihi seria dextro, Hercule! pupillumte utinam, quem proximus
hares Impello expungam!
PERS. Thy pray'rs the test of heaven will bear: Nor need'st thou take the gods aside to hear: While others, even the mighty men of Rome, Big swell’d with mischief, to the temples come; And in low murmurs and with costly smoke, Heav'n's help, to prosper their black vows, invoke, So boldly to the gods mankind reveal What from each other they, for shame, conceal. Give me good fame, ye pow'rs, and make me just: Thus much the rogue to public ears will trust. In private then-when wilt thou, mighty Jove, My wealthy uncle from this world remove? Or,-0 thou thanderer's son, great Hercules, That once thy bounteous deity would please To guide my rake upon the chinking sound Of some vast treasure hidden under ground ! o were my pupil fairly knock'd o'th head! I should possess th' estate if he were dead.
WHERE Homer represents Phenix, the tutor of
Achilles, as persuading his pupil to lay aside his resentments, and give himself up to the intreaties of bis countrymen, the poet, in order to make him speak in character, ascribes to him a speech full of those fables and allegories, which old men take delight in relating, and which are very proper for instruction. “ The gods," says he, “suffer themselves to be prevailed upon by intreaties. When mortals have offend. ed them by their transgressions, they appease them by vows and sacrifices. You must know, Achilles, that Prayers are the daughters of Jupiter. They are crippled by freqnent kneeling, have their faces full of cares and wrinkles, and their eyes always cast towards heaven. They are constant attendants on the goddess Ate, and march behind her. This goddess walks for. ward with a bold and haughty air, and being very light of foot, runs through the whole earth, grieving and afflicting the sons of men. She gets the start of Prayers, who always follow her, in order to heal those persons whom she wounds. He who honours these daughters of Jupiter, when they draw near to him, receives great benefit from them; but as for him who rejects them, they intreat their father to give his orders to the goddess Ate to punish him for bis hardness of beart.” This noble allegory needs but little explanation ; for whether the goddess Ate signifies injury, as some have explained it; or guilt in general, as others; or divine justice, as I ain the more apt to think, the interpretation is obvious enough.
I shall produce another heathen fable relating to prayers, which is of a more diverting kind. One would think, by some passages in it, that it was composed by Lucian, or at least by some author who has endeavoured to imitate his way of writing; but as dissertations of this nature are more curious than useful, I shall give my reader the fable, without any further inquiries after the author.
“ Menippus the, philosopher was a second time taken up into heaven by Jupiter, when for bis entertainment he lifted up a trap.door that was placed by his footstool. At its rising, there issued through it such a din of cries as astonished the philosopher. Upon his asking what they meant, Jupiter told him they were the prayers that were sent up to him from