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No. 127. TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 1709-10.
Nimirum insanus paucis videatur, eò quòd
By few, forsooth, a madman he is thought,
FROM MY OWN APARTMENT, JANUARY 30. THERE is no affection of the mind so much blended in human nature, and wrought into our very constitution, as Pride. It appears under a multitude of disguises, and breaks out in ten thousand different symptoms. Every one feels it in himself, and yet wonders to see it in his neighbour. I must confess, I met with an instance of it the other day, where I should very little have expected it. Who would believe the proud person I am going to speak of is a cobbler upon Ludgate-hill? This artist being naturally a lover of respect, and considering that his circumstances are such that no man living will give it him, has contrived the figure of a beau in wood; who stands before him in a bending posture, with his hat under his left arm, and his right-hand extended in such a manner as to hold a thread, a piece of wax, or an awl, according to the particular service in which his master thinks fit to employ him. When I saw him he held a candle in this obsequious posture. I was very well pleased with the cobbler's invention, that had so ingeniously contrived an inferior, and stood a little while contemplating
this inverted idolatry, wherein the image did homage to the man. When we meet with such a fantastic vanity in one of this order, it is no wonder if we may trace it through all degrees above it, and particularly through all the steps of greatness. We easily see the absurdity of Pride, when it enters into the heart of a cobbler; though in reality it is altogether as ridiculous and unreasonable, wherever it takes possession of a human creature. There is no temptation to it from the reflection upon our being in general, or upon any comparative perfection, whereby one man may excel another. The greater a man's knowledge is, the greater motive he may seem to have for Pride; but in the same proportion as the one rises, the other sinks, it being the chief office of wisdom to discover to us our weaknesses and imperfections.
As folly is the foundation of Pride, the natural superstructure of it is madness. If there was an occasion for the experiment, I would not question to make a proud man a lunatic in three weeks time: provided I had it in my power to ripen his phrensy with proper applications. It is an admirable reflection in Terence, where it is said of a parasite, Hic homines ex stultis facit insanos. This fellow,' says he, has an art of converting fools into madmen.' When I was in France, the region of complaisance and vanity, I have often observed, that a great man who has entered a levee of flatterers humble and temperate, has grown so insensibly heated by the court which was paid him on all sides, that he has been quite distracted before he could get into his coach.
If we consult the collegiates of Moorfields, we shall find most of them are beholden to their Pride for their introduction into that magnificent palace. I had, some years ago, the curiosity to inquire into
the particular circumstances of these whimsical freeholders; and learned from their own mouths the condition and character of each of them. Indeed I found, that all I spoke to were persons of quality. There were at that time five duchesses, three earls, two heathen gods, an emperor, and a prophet. There were also a great number of such as were locked up from their estates, and others who concealed their titles. A leather-seller of Taunton whispered me in the ear, that he was 'the duke of Monmouth;' but begged me not to betray him. At a little distance from him sat a taylor's wife, who asked me, as I went by, if I had seen the swordbearer? upon which I presumed to ask her, who she was? and was answered, My Lady Mayoress.'
I was very sensibly touched with compassion towards these miserable people; and, indeed, extremely mortified to see human nature capable of being thus disfigured. However, I reaped this benefit from it, that I was resolved to guard myself against a passion which makes such havoc in the brain, and produces so much disorder in the imagination. For this reason I have endeavoured to keep down the secret swellings of resentment, and stifle the very first suggestions of self-esteem; to establish my mind in tranquillity, and over-value nothing in my own or in another's possession.
For the benefit of such whose heads are a little turned, though not to so great a degree as to qualify them for the place of which I have been now speaking, I shall assign one of the sides of the college which I am erecting, for the cure of this dangerous distemper.
The most remarkable of the persons, whose disturbance arises from Pride, and whom I shall use all possible diligence to cure, are such as are hidden in the appearance of quite contrary. habits and dis
positions. Among such, I shall, in the first place, take care of one who is under the most subtle species of Pride that I have observed in my whole experience.
This patient is a person for whom I have a great respect, as being an old courtier, and a friend of mine in my youth. The man has but a bare subsistence, just enough to pay his reckoning with us at the Trumpet: but by having spent the beginning of his life in the hearing of great men, and persons of power, he is always promising to do good offices, to introduce every man he converses with into the world; will desire one of ten times his substance to let him see him sometimes, and hints to him, that he does not forget him. He answers to matters of no consequence with great circumspection; but, however, maintains a general civility in his words and actions, and an insolent benevolence to all whom he has to do with. This he practises with a grave tone and air; and though I am his senior by twelve years, and richer by forty pounds per annum, he had yesterday the impudence to commend me to my face, and tell me, he should be always ready to encourage me.' In a word, he is a very insignificant fellow, but exceeding gracious. The best return I can make him for his favours is, to carry him myself to Bedlam, and see him well taken
The next person I shall provide for is of a quite contrary character; that has in him all the stiffness and insolence of quality, without a grain of sense or good-nature, to make it either respected or beloved. His Pride has infected every muscle of his face: and yet, after all his endeavours to show mankind that he contemns them, he is only neglected by all that see him, as not of consequence enough to be hated.
For the cure of this particular sort of madness, it will be necessary to break through all forms with him, and familiarize his carriage by the use of a good cudgel. It may likewise be of great benefit to make him jump over a stick half a dozen times every morning.
A third, whom I have in my eye, is a young fellow, whose lunacy is such, that he boasts of nothing but what he ought to be ashamed of. He is vain of being rotten, and talks publicly of having committed crimes which he ought to be hanged for by the laws of his country.
There are several others whose brains are hurt with Pride, and whom I may hereafter attempt to recover; but shall conclude my present list with an old woman, who is just dropping into her grave, that talks of nothing but her birth. Though she has not a tooth in her head, she expects to be valued for the blood in her veins; which she fancies is much better than that which glows in the cheeks of Belinda, and sets half the town on fire.