« PreviousContinue »
admirable remarks are made on the envy that attends a sudden rise:—
'The man who, by some sudden revolution of fortune, is lifted up all at once into a condition of life greatly above what he had formerly lived in, may be assured that the congratulations of his best friends are not all of them perfectly sincere. An upstart, though of the greatest merit, is generally disagreeable, and a sentiment of envy commonly prevents us from heartily sympathizing with his joy. If he has any judgment, he is sensible of this, and instead of appearing to be elated with his good fortune, he endeavours, as much as he can, to smother his joy, and keep down that elevation of mind with which his new circumstances naturally inspire him. He affects the same plainness of dress, and the same modesty of behaviour, which became him in his former station. He redoubles his attention to his old friends, and endeavours more than ever to be humble, assiduous, and complaisant. And this is the behaviour which in his situation we must approve of; because, we expect, it seems, that he should have more sympathy with our envy and aversion to his happiness, than we have with his happiness. It is seldom that with all this he succeeds. We suspect the sincerity of his humility, and he grows weary of this constraint. In a little time, therefore, he generally leaves all his old friends behind him, some of the meanest of them excepted, who may, perhaps, condescend to become his dependents: nor does he always acquire any new ones; the pride of his new connections is as much affronted at finding him their equal, as that of his old ones had been by his becoming their superior: and it requires the most obstinate and persevering modesty to atone for this mortification to either. He generally grows weary too soon, and is provoked, by the sullen and suspicious pride of the one, and by the saucy contempt of the other, to treat the first with neglect, and the second with petulance, till at last he grows habitually insolent, and forfeits the esteem of all. If the chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved, as I believe it does, those sudden changes of fortune seldom contribute much to happiness. He is happiest who advances more gradually to greatness; whom the Public destines to every step of his preferment long before he arrives at it; in whom, upon that account, when it comes, it can excite no extravagant joy, and with regard to whom it cannot reasonably create either any jealousy in those he overtakes, or any envy in those he leaves behind.'1
'Persons of eminent virtue, when they are advanced, are less
Bacon might have remarked that, in one respect a rise by merit exposes a man to more envy than that by personal favour, through family connection, private friendship, &c. For, in this latter case, the system itself of preferring private considerations to public, is chiefly blamed, but the individual thus advanced is regarded much in the same way as one who is born to an estate or a title. But when any one is advanced on the score of desert and qualifications, the system is approved, but the individual is more envied, because his advancement is felt as an affront to all who think themselves or their own friends more worthy. 'It is quite right to advance men of great merit; but by this rule, it is I, or my friend So-and-so that should have been preferred.' When, on the other hand, a bishop or a minister appoints his own son or private friend to some office, every one else is left free to think ' If it had gone by merit, I should have been the man.'
When any person of really eminent virtue becomes the object of envy, the clamour and abuse by which he is assailed, is but the sign and accompaniment of his success in doing service to the Public. And if he is a truly wise man, he will take no more notice of it than the moon does of the howling of the dogs. Her only answer to them is ' to shine on.'
'This public envy seemeth to bear chiefly upon principal officers or ministers, rather than upon kings'
This is a very just remark, and it might have suggested an excellent argument (touched on in the Lessons on the British Constitution2) in favour of hereditary Royalty. It is surely a good thing that there should be some feeling of loyalty unalloyed by envy, towards something in the Government. And this
1 Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, chap. v.
feeling concentrates itself among us, upon the Sovereign. But in a pure Republic, the abstract idea of the State—the Commonwealth itself—is too vague for the vulgar mind to take hold of with any loyal affection. The President, and every one of the public officers, has been raised from the ranks; and the very circumstance of their having been so raised on the score of supposed fitness, makes them (as was observed above) the more obnoxious to envy, because their elevation is felt as an affront to their rivals.
An hereditary Sovereign, on the other hand, if believed to possess personal merit, is regarded as a Godsend; but he does not hold his place by that tenure.
In Aristotle's Rhetoric, there is a Dissertation on Envy, Emulation, and Indignation (Nemesis), well worthy of Bacon; who certainly was carried away into an undue neglect and disparagement of Aristotle by the absurd idolatry of which he had been made the object.
'Conculcatur enim cupidc mmis ante metutom.'
ESSAY X. OF LOVE.
THE stage is more beholding1 to love than the life of Man; for as to the stage, love is even matter of comedies, and now and then of tragedies; but in life it doth much mischief, sometimes like a syren, sometimes like a fury. You may observe, that amongst all the great and worthy persons (whereof the memory remaineth, either ancient or recent), there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love; which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion. You must except, nevertheless, Marcus Antonius, the half-partner of the empire of Rome, and Appius Claudius, the decemvir and lawgiver; whereof the former was indeed a voluptuous man, and inordinate, but the latter was an austere and wise man: and therefore it seems (though rarely) that love can find entrance, not only in an open heart, but also into a heart well fortified, if watch be not well kept. It is a poor saying of Epicurus,' Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus," —as if a Man, made for the contemplation of heaven, and all noble objects, should do nothing but kneel before a little idol, and make himself a subject, though not of the mouth (as beasts are), yet of the eye, which was given him for higher purposes. It is a strange thing to note the excess of this passion, and how it braves the nature and value of things by this, that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love; neither is it merely in the phrase; for whereas it hath been well said,' That the arch flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man's self:' certainly the lover is more; for there was never a proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, 'That it is impossible to love and be wise.'3 Neither doth this weakness appear to others only, and not to the party loved, but to the loved most of all, except the love be reciprocal; for it is a true rule, that love is ever rewarded either with the reciprocal, or with an inward or secret contempt; by how much more then, men ought to beware of this passion, which looseth not only other things, but itself. As for the other losses, the poet's relation doth well figure them: 'That he that preferreth Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas;' for whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection, quitteth both riches and wisdom. This passion hath its floods in the very times of weakness, which are great prosperity and great adversity; though this latter hath been less observed; both which times kindle love, and make it more fervent, and therefore show it to be the child of folly. They do best who, if they cannot but admit love, yet make it keep quarter,1 and sever it wholly from their serious affairs and actions of life; for if it check2 once with business, it troubleth men's fortunes, and maketh men that they can no ways3 be true to their own ends. I know not how, but martial men are given to love: I think it is, but as they are given to wine, for perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures.4 There is in man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable, as it is seen sometimes in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth and embaseth* it.
1 Beholding. Beholden.
'Thanks, lovely Virgins, now might we but know To whom we had been beholden for this love.'—Ford. 3 ' We are a sufficiently great spectacle to each other.' 3 'Amare et sapere vix Deo conceditur.'—Pub. Syr. Sent. ig.
1 Quarter. Proper place (rarely used in the singular).
'Swift to their several quarters hasted then
* Check with. To interfere with; to clasJi with. 'It was not comely or fitting that in prayers we should make a God or Saviour of any Saint in heaven; neither was it fitting to make them check with our Saviour.'—Slrype, 1535.
3 No ways. In any wise; by no means. 'And being no ways a match for the fleet, we set sail to Athens.'—Swift.
* It is remarked by Aristotle in his Politics that warlike nations are those who pay the highest regard to women. And this he suggests may have given rise to the fable of the love of Mars and Venus.
6 Embase. Degrade.
'Love did embase him