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is evident from what has been said, that the higher our nature is carried, the less form we need.
But though we may deservedly congratulate society on being able to dispense with this or that ceremony, do not let us be in a hurry to do so, till we are sure we can do without it. It is taking away crutches, to cure the gout. The opposite extreme of substituting the external form for the thing signified, is not more dangerous or more common than the neglect of that form. It is all very well to say, "There is no use in bidding goodmorrow or good-night, to those who know I wish it; of sending one's love, in a letter, to those who do not doubt it,' &c. All this sounds very well in theory, but it will not do for practice. Scarce any friendship, or any politeness, is so strong as to be able to subsist without any external supports of this kind; and it is even better to have too much form than too little.
It is worth observing, in reference to conventional forms, that the ' vernacular tongue,' in which the forms of civility are expressed, differs in different times and places. For instance, in Spain it is a common form of civility to ask a man to dinner, and for the other to reply, 'Sure you would not think of such a thing. To accept a first or second invitation would be as great a blunder as if, among us, any one who signed himself ‘your obedient servant' should be taken literally, and desired to perform some menial office. If a Spanish gentleman really means to ask you to dinner, he repeats the invitation a third time; and then he is to be understood literally.
Serious errors may, of course, arise in opposite ways, by not understanding aright what is and is not to be taken as a mere complimentary form.
ESSAY LIII. OF PRAISE.
DRAISE is the reflection of virtue: but it is as the glass, or I body, which giveth the reflection; if it be from the common people, it is commonly false and naught, and rather followeth vain persons than virtuous : for the common people understand not many excellent virtues: the lowest virtues draw praise from them, the middle virtues work in them astonishment or admiration; but of the highest virtues they have no sense or perceiving? at all; but shows, and species virtutibus similes '3 serve best with them. Certainly, fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid; but if persons of quality and judgment concur, then it is (as the scripture saith) •Nomen bonum instar unguenti fragrantis ;'* it filleth all round about, and will not easily away ;5 for the odours of ointments are more durable than those of flowers.
There be so many false points of praise, that a man may justly hold it in suspect. Some praises proceed merely of flattery; and if it be an ordinary flatterer, he will have certain common attributes, which may serve every man; if he be a cunning flatterer, he will follow the arch-flatterer, which is a man's self, and wherein a man thinketh best of himself, therein the flatterer will uphold him most: but if he be an impudent flatterer, look wherein a man is conscious to himself that he is most defective, and is most out of countenance in bimself, that will the flatterer entitle him to, perforce, .Spreta conscientia.'? Some praises come of good wishes and respects, which is a form due in civility to kings and great persons, ‘laudando præcipere ;' 8 when by telling them what they are, they represent to them
1 Naught. Worthless ; despicable. See page 394. 2 Perceiving. Perception,
3. Appearances like virtues.' 4.A good name is like a fragrant ointment.'—Eccles. vii. 1. 5 Away. Pass away. . I have a pain upon my forehead here.
Why that's with watching; 'twill away again.'--Shakespere. 6 Suspect. Suspicion.
7 . Despising conscience.' $ • To instruct by praising.'
what they should be. Some men are praised maliciously to their hurt, thereby to stir envy and jealousy towards them ; 'pessimum genus inimicorum laudantium ;' insomuch as it was a proverb amongst the Grecians, that .He that was praised to his hurt, should have a push? rise upon his nose;' as we say, that a blister will rise upon one's tongue that tells a lie. Certainly moderate praise, used with opportunity, and not vulgar, is that which doeth the good. Solomon saith, 'He that praiseth his friend aloud, rising early, it shall be to him no better than a curse.'s Too much magnifying of man or matter doth irritate contradiction, and procure envy and scorn. To praise a man's self, cannot be decent, except it be in rare cases; but to praise a man's office or profession, he may do it with good grace, and with a kind of magnanimity. The cardinals of Rome, which are theologues," and friars, and schoolmen, have a phrase of notable contempt and scorn towards civil business : for they call all temporal business of wars, embassages, judicature, and other employments, sherrerie, which is under-sheriffries, as if they were but matters for under-sheriffs and catch-poles ; though many times those under-sheriffries do more good than their high speculations. St. Paul, when he boasts of himself, doth oft interlace, “I speak like a fool;'6 but speaking of his calling, he saith, “Magnificabo apostolatum meum.'
ANTITHETA ON PRAISE.
• Fama deterior judex, quam nuncia. • Praises are the reflected rays of Common fame is a bad messenger, virtue.'
but a worse judge.'
1. The worst kind of enemies are those who praise.' Push. A pustule ; a pimple.
3 Proverbs xxvii, 14. * Theologue. A theologian; a Divine.
“A theologue more by need than genial bent.'— Dryden. 5 Notable. Remarkable. “And they had then a notable prisoner.' -- Matt. xxvii. 16. 6 2 Cor. xi. 23.
7.I magnify mine office.'-Romans xi. 13.
conferuntur; sed laudes ubique sunt libertatis.
· Honors are conferred differently in different governments ; but praises everywhere by popular suffrage.
laus est, mediarum admiratio, suprema- .' rum sensus nullus.
· The lowest of the virtues the vulgar praise ; the middle ones they admire; of the highest they have no perception.'
• Ne mireris, si vulgus verius loquatur, quam honoratiores; quia etiam tutius loquitur.
. It is no wonder that the vulgar sometimes speak more truly than those of high place, because they speak more safely.'
• If it be from the common people, it is commonly false and
naught.' It was remarked by a sensible man, that any one who has been raised from the ranks' (as the phrase is about middle life, to a high station, is in danger of being over-sensitive to public opinion ;—too anxiously watchful of what is said of him by this, that, and t'other set of men, and thence liable to be blown about to and fro, by the breath of popular applause and censure, from various quarters. A man, on the contrary, who has, from his youth up, occupied a high station, will have been hardened,—sometimes perhaps even too much hardened, against all this; and having been always used to live, as it were, in public, and to have all his movements commented on with praise or dispraise, will have acquired a habit of regarding public opinion with something of the indifference which is the proverbial effect of long familiarity.
The one of these needs to be warned against too much attention, the other, against too much inattention, to what is said of him. (See the Annotation on 'Nobility.']
• The common people understand not many excellent virtues: the
lowest virtues draw praise from them, the middle virtues work in them astonishment or admiration, but of the highest virtues they have no sense or perceiving at all.' What a pregnant remark is this ! By the lowest of the virtues he means probably such as hospitality, liberality, gratitude, good-humoured courtesy, and the like; and these he says the common run of mankind are accustomed to praise. Those which they admire, such as daring courage, and firm fidelity to friends, or to the cause or party one has espoused, are what he ranks in the next highest place. But the most elevated virtues of all, such as disinterested and devoted public spirit, thoroughgoing even-handed justice, and disregard of unpopularity when duty requires, of these he says the vulgar have usually no notion. And he might have gone further; for it often happens that a large portion of mankind not only do not praise or admire the highest qualities, but even censure and despise them. Cases may occur in which, though you may obtain the high approbation of a very few persons of the most refined and exalted moral sentiments, you must be prepared to find the majority (even of such as are not altogether bad men) condemning you as unnatural, unkind, faithless, and not to be depended on; or deriding you as eccentric, crotchety, fanciful, or absurdly scrupulous.
Mr. Pitt, it is reported, said of the celebrated Mr. Wilberforce, that he was always to be had, except when he was wanted. Whether this particular anecdote is true or not, there can be no doubt that many a Statesman will think lightly of the support afforded to measures, or to persons, that are sufficiently recommended by their intrinsic goodness ; but when the object is to screen the guilty, or (as Thucydides expresses it) to 'carry through by a plausible speech some objectionable measure,”? then it is that the support of a man of high character is much 'wanted;' and the scruples which prevent his affording it, are likely to cause much vexation. Heaven forbid, Sir,' (says Davy to Justice Shallow), but a