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knows it.' He did not perceive that he had established the very point he was controverting; for if there had been, in his view, nothing indecent in the display of poverty, he would have worn the coat without turning. He might have had it scoured if needful; but though clean, it would still have looked threadbare; and he did not like to make this display of poverty.
'Ordinary expense ought to be limited by a man's estate.'
It is of course a great folly—and a very common one,—for a man to impoverish himself by a showy expenditure beyond his means. And it is a minor folly, for him—without outrunning—to make a display beyond his station, and to waste money on show such as was not expected of him, when he might, obviously, have found many better uses for it: but when to chuse the time as to each point, would of course be no easy matter.
Perhaps it may be laid down in reference to what may be called ornamental expense—anything that is not so strictly required as a decency, that you would be censured and ridiculed for being without it,—that you should have such articles only as you can afford, not only to buy, but to replace; supposing them of a perishable nature.
For, the' honour/ as Bacon calls it, of any display of wealth, consists, surely, in not only having such and such articles, but having them without uneasiness;—without any very anxious care about them. If you have a very fine set of china-ware, and are in a continual apprehension of its being broken, you had better, in point of respectability as well as of comfort, have been content with plain Worcester. If a lady is in a perpetual fever lest some costly veil or gown should be soiled or torn, this indicates that she would have done better to wear a less costly dress. There is something in what is said by little Sandford in the 'Tale/ who preferred a horn cup to one of silver, 'because it never made him uneasy.'
Of course it is not meant that a man should not live in a house such as he could not afford with perfect ease to rebuild if it were burnt down; or that he ought to be thus prepared to meet with other such extraordinary calamities. But he should be prepared to meet each kind of accident that each kind of article respectively is commonly liable to: e. g. glass and porcelain to be broken, trinkets to be dropped and lost, horses to be lamed, &c. If you cannot face the ordinary and average amount of accidents with respect to any such article, or if it is a matter of anxious care and uneasiness, you are better without it. For, this anxious care and uneasiness proves that the expense is a great one to you. You may indeed conceal this anxious care, and show, externally, a feigned composure and indifference. But then you are undergoing all this uneasiness, —and also all this labour to hide this uneasiness,—for the sake of appearing richer than you are. But to one who has no wish of this kind, the proper measure is, with a view to respectability, as well as peace of mind, not what expenses he can afford, but what he can habitually afford without feeling them a grievous care.
Of course higher motives come in, when one considers the good that may be done, to our friends and to the poor, by curtailing showy expenditure.
It is wonderful how some people fail to perceive what an absurd and ridiculous figure a man makes who is continually bemoaning the narrowness of his means, and setting forth the hardship of his case in not having a better income, while he is sitting in a room full of inlaid tables, splendid inkstands and boxes, and other costly gewgaws, which it is no discredit at all to be without, and which are thought desirable chiefly as a display of wealth.
'It is no baseness for the greatest to descend and look into their own estate.'
It is worth remarking, as a curious circumstance, and the reverse of what many would expect, that the expenses called for by a real or imagined necessity, of those who have large incomes, are greater in proportion than those of persons with slender means; and that consequently a larger proportion of what are called the rich, are in embarrassed circumstances, than of the poorer. This is often overlooked, because the absolute number of those with large incomes is so much less, that, of course, the absolute number of persons under pecuniary difficulties, in the poorer classes, must form a very great majority. But if you look to the proportions, it is quite the reverse. Take the numbers of persons of each amount of income, divided into classes, from £100 per annum up to £100,000 per annum, and you will find the per centage of those who are under pecuniary difficulties continually augmenting as you go upwards. And when you come to sovereign States, whose revenue is reckoned by millions, you will hardly find one that is not deeply involved in debt! So that it would appear that the larger the income, the harder it is to live within it.
Bacon himself affords a most deplorable instance of this. With a very large income, he was involved by his extravagance in such pecuniary difficulties as drove him to practice shameful corruption.
When men of great revenues, whether civil or ecclesiastical, live in the splendour and sensuality of Sardanapalus, they are apt to plead that this is expected of them; which may be, perhaps, sometimes true, in the sense that such conduct is anticipated as probable; not true, as implying that it is required or approved. I have elsewhere l remarked upon this ambiguity in the word 'expect:' but it is worth noticing as sometimes leading, in conjunction with other causes, to a practical bad effect upon this point of expenses as well as upon many others. It is sometimes used in the sense of 'anticipate/ 'calculate on,' &c. (IXniZw), in short, 'consider as probable,' sometimes for 'require or demand as reasonable/—'consider as right' ((is'w). Thus, I may fairly 'expect' (a&w) that one who has received kindness from me, should protect me in distress; yet I may have reason to expect (tXin'&iv) that he will not. 'England expects every man to do his duty •' but it would be chimerical to expect, that is, anticipate a universal performance of duty. What may reasonably be expected (in one sense of the word), must be precisely the practice of the majority: since it is the majority of instances that constitutes probability: what may reasonably be expected (in the other sense), is something much beyond the practice of the generality: as long, at least, as it shall be true, that 'narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.'
1 Elements of Logic, Appendix.
'He that is plentiful in expenses of all kinds will hardly be preserved from decay.'
Obviously true as this is, yet it is apparently completely overlooked by the imprudent spendthrift, who, finding that he is able to afford this, or that, or the other, expense, forgets that all of them together will ruin him. This is what, in logical language, is called the ' Fallacy of Composition.'
ESSAY XXIX. OF THE TRUE GREATNESS OF KINGDOMS AND ESTATES.1
THE speech of Themistocles, the Athenian, which was haughty and arrogant, in taking so much to himself, had been a grave and wise observation and censure, applied at large to others. Desired at a feast to touch a lute, he said, 'he could not fiddle, but yet he could make a small town a great city." These words (holpen3 a little with a metaphor) may express two differing abilities in those that deal in business of estate; for, if a true survey be taken of counsellors and statesmen, there may be found (though rarely) those which can make a small State great, and yet cannot fiddle,—as, on the other side, there will be found a great many that can fiddle very cunningly,4 but yet are so far from being able to make a small State great, ass their gift lieth the other way—to bring a great and flourishing estate to ruin and decay. And, certainly, those degenerate arts and shifts, whereby many counsellors and governors gain both favour with their masters and estimation with the vulgar, deserve no better name than fiddling, being things rather pleasing for the time, and graceful to themselves only, than tending to the weal and advancement of the State which they serve. There are also (no doubt) counsellors and governors which may be held sufficient, negotiis pares [able to manage affairs], and to keep them from precipices and manifest inconveniences, which, nevertheless, are far from the ability to raise and amplify an estate in power, means, and fortune. But be the workmen what they may be, let us speak of the work—that is, the true greatness of kingdoms and estates, and the means thereof. An argument6 fit for great and mighty princes to
1 Estates. States. See page 135. s Hut. Vit. Themtet. ad. init.
3 Holpen. See page 212.
* Cunningly. Skilfully.
'And many bards that to the trembling chord
* As. That. See page 23.
'Sad task! yet argument Not less, but more, heroic than the wrath Of stern Achilles.'—Millon.