ページの画像
PDF
ePub

often what the Latins call, the Sardinian laughter,
a distortion of the face without gladness of heart.
For this reason, no style of conversation is more
extensively acceptable than the narrative. He who
has stored his memory with slight anecdotes, pri-
vate incidents, and personal peculiarities, seldom
fails to find his audience favourable. Almost every
man listens with eagerness to contemporary history;
for almost every man has some real or imaginary
connexion with a celebrated character, some desire
to advance or oppose a rising name. Vanity often
co-operates with curiosity. He that is a hearer in
one place, qualifies himself to become a speaker in
another; for though he cannot comprehend a series
of argument, or transport the volatile spirit of wit
without evaporation, he yet thinks himself able to
treasure up the various incidents of a story, and
please his hopes with the information which he shall
give to some inferior society.
Narratives are for the most part heard without
envy, because they are not supposed to imply any
intellectual qualities above the common rate. To be
acquainted with facts not yet echoed by plebeian
mouths, may happen to one man as well as to
another; and to relate them when they are known,
has in appearance so little difficulty, that every one
concludes himself equal to the task.
But it is not easy, and in some situations of life
not possible, to accumulate such a stock of ma-
terials as may support the expense of continual
narration; and it frequently happens, that they who

:

[graphic][graphic]
[graphic]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

attempt this method of ingratiating themselves,
please only at the first interview; and, for want of
new supplies of intelligence, wear out their stories
by continual repetition.
There would be, therefore, little hope of obtain-
ing the praise of a good companion, were it not
to be gained by more compendious methods; but
Such is the kindness of mankind to all, except
those who aspire to real merit and rational dignity,
that every understanding may find some way to
excite benevolence; and whoever is not envied may
learn the art of procuring love. We are willing to be
pleased, but are not willing to admire: we favour the
mirth or officiousness that solicits our regard, but op-
pose the worth or spirit that enforces it.
The first place among those that please, because
they desire only to please, is due to the merry fellow,
whose laugh is loud, and whose voice is strong; who
is ready to echo every jest with obstreperous appro-
bation, and countenance every frolick with vocif-
erations of applause. It is not necessary to a merry
fellow to have in himself any fund of jocularity, or
force of conception; it is sufficient that he always
appears in the highest exaltation of gladness, for
the greater part of mankind are gay or serious by
infection, and follow without resistance the attrac-
tion of example.
Next to the merry fellow is the good-natured
man, a being generally without benevolence, or any
other virtue, than such as indolence and insensi-

bility confer. The characteristick of a good-natured man is to bear a joke; to sit unmoved and unaffected amidst noise and turbulence, profaneness and obscenity; to hear every tale without contradiction; to endure insult without reply; and to follow the stream of folly, whatever course it shall happen to take. The good-natured man is commonly the darling of the petty wits, with whom they exercise themselves in the rudiments of raillery; for he never takes advantage of failings, nor disconcerts a puny satirist with unexpected sarcasms; but while the glass continues to circulate, contentedly bears the expense of an uninterrupted laughter, and retires rejoicing at his own importance. The modest man is a companion of a yet lower rank, whose only power of giving pleasure is not to interrupt it. The modest man satisfies himself with peaceful silence, which all his companions are candid enough to consider as proceeding not from inability to speak, but willingness to hear. Many, without being able to attain any general character of excellence, have some single art of entertainment which serves them as a passport through the world. One I have known for fifteen years the darling of a weekly club, because every night, precisely at eleven, he begins his favourite song, and during the vocal performance, by corresponding motions of his hand, chalks out a giant upon the wall. Another has endeared himself to a long succession of acquaintances by sitting among them with his wig reversed; another by contriving to smut the nose of any stranger who was to be initiated insons casually meet, but one is offended or diverted by the ostentation of the other, Of these pretenders it is fit to distinguish those who endeavour to deceive from them who are deceived; those who by designed impostures promote their interest, or gratify their pride, from them who mean only to force into regard their latent excellencies and neglected virtues; who believe themselves qualified to instruct or please, and therefore invite the notice of mankind. The artful and fraudulent usurpers of distinction deserve greater severities than ridicule and contempt, since they are seldom content with empty praise, but are instigated by passions more pernicious than vanity. They consider the reputation which they endeavour to establish as necessary to the accomplishment of some subsequent design, and value praise only as it may conduce to the success of avarice or ambition. The commercial world is very frequently put into confusion by the bankruptcy of merchants, that assumed the splendour of wealth only to obtain the privilege of trading with the stock of other men, and of contracting debts which nothing but lucky casualties could enable them to pay; till after having supported their appearance a while by tumultuous magnifience of boundless traffick, they sink at once, and drag down into poverty those whom their equipages had induced to trust them. Among wretches that place their happiness in the favour of the great, of beings whom only high titles

[graphic]
[graphic]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

* Mrs. Piozzi, in her Anecdotes, informs us, that the man who sung, and, by corresponding motions of his arm, chalked out a giant on the wall, was one Richardson, an attorney: the ingenious imitator of a cat, was one Busby, a proctor in the Commons: and the father of Dr. Salter, of the Charter-House, a friend of Johnson's, and a member of the IvyLane Club, was the person who yelped like a hound, and perplexed the distracted waiters.-Mr. Chalmers, in his preface to the Rambler, observes, that the above-quoted lively writer was the only authority for these assignments. She is certainly far too hasty and negligent to be relied on, when unsupported by other testimony.—See Preface.

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
« 前へ次へ »