« AnteriorContinuar »
the grounds and causes of envy; and these are twofold.
1. Either on the part of the person envying; or, 2. On the part of the person envied.
And first for those of the first sort, we may reckon these.
1. Great malice and baseness of nature. In which I am forced to use a general word, not being able to give it a particular and more expressive name. But the thing which I mean and design by it, is such a temper of mind, as makes men for the most part love mischief for mischief's sake; and though they serve no real interest, and reap no advantage by the hurt they do, yet it is so peculiarly suitable to their ill nature and constitution to do and to wish it, that the work itself is its own wages and reward. Just as it is observed in some beasts of prey; which, having filled their ravenous appetites, so that hunger can prompt them to no further cruelty, yet out of mere savageness shall tear and destroy whatsoever they meet with, and take pains to kill, though they leave it presently, when they have done.
It is a common saying, that there is no disputing of the reason of facts; forasmuch as each man's particular fancy and humour determine him to like this and dislike that : and so it is in the pleasures of the mind; some men affect this, and wonder that others hate it; and they on the other side wonder as much, that any one can hate what they so much love. But as philosophy teaches that all wonder springs from an ignorance of the causes of things; so this proceeds from a particular inexperience, and want of observing matters of daily occurrence. In
which we shall see many things, of which we can give no clear account, or reason, from the common principles of human nature : but they seem to be some of those irregular, monstrous productions, which the general corruption of it preternaturally shoots out into; and which, not keeping the stated course and road of human nature, must not be measured by the usual actings and inclinations of it. Which being so, why should he, whose temper inclines him to be gentle, candid, and beneficial to all who come within his converse, be at all surprised to find another fierce, malicious, and shrewd to every one whom he has to do with ; any more than a dove, which feeds upon corn and other seeds, should wonder that a crow or a raven can feed so heartily upon carrion ? For every particular temperament has its particular pleasure. And the mind of a Nero will make him hiss, and sing, and play, and enjoy himself as much in beholding the bravest city in the world all in a flame, as others could rejoice at the sight of a triumph and the glories of a victory.
Now this is the reason that some dispositions do really delight themselves in mischief; and love to see all men about them miserable. It is that enxasperakia, as the Greeks call it, that vile quality that makes them laugh at a cross accident, and feast their eyes and their thoughts with the sight of any great calamity : and indeed, morally speaking, they cannot do otherwise. It is meat and drink to them to see others starve; and their own clothes seem then to sit warmest upon them, when they behold others ready to perish with nakedness and cold ; like Ætna, never hotter, than when surrounded with
Now this disposition, this blessed, human, Christian disposition, (to express a thing contrary to nature by words as contrary to itself,) is the very groundwork and first foundation-stone of envy.
2. The second ground or cause of envy is an unreasonable grasping ambition. For the design of the envious person is not only to obtain, but to engross all honour and greatness to himself. He thinks he can never trade to his advantage, unless he can have the monopoly of every thing he values. Other kinds of ambition indeed will hardly brook any thing above them, but this envious ambition will en-s dure nothing considerable about it. It is remarked
. of Alexander as a very great fault, and, in truth, of that nature, that one would wonder how it could fall upon so great a spirit; namely, that he would sometimes carp at the valorous achievements of his own captains. Suæ demptum laudi existimans, quicquid cessisset alienæ, says the historian : because he thought, that whatsoever praise was bestowed upon another, was took from him. A great meanness certainly; and enough to make the conqueror himself as much the object of men's pity, as his conquests could be of their envy. .
Now this is directly the temper of the envious person, whose ambition is not merely ambition, but an odd compound of ambition and covetousness too: for he would have all to himself, and not so much as a good word must fall beside him; so that whatsoever commendation is given to another, is looked upon as an invasion of his property, and a reproach to his person : and to do any thing excellent or praiseworthy, is to pass an affront upon him not to be put up. And therefore he bids the whole world, as it were, stand off, while he alone puts himself upon every public performance, catches at every occasion of popularity, and thrusts himself into every man's business ; he puffs, and he blows, and he swells, as if the whole world were not enough to afford him elbow-room ; for it will not content such an. one to be the prime, unless he be also the only man.
In a word, he would needs be every thing, did not the same ill quality certainly make him fit for nothing.
But then, if this temper comes also to be backed with interest and power, and the favour of great ones, how grievous and intolerable is it to all persons of modesty and sobriety? What a bluster does it make in all places? Such an one lives in the world like a continual storm, blowing down all before him: and men (better than himself) must be willing to lie prostrate under his feet, and account it an honour (forsooth) to be trampled upon, and made a pedestal only for him to get up by and ride.
But surely it concerns all wellwishers to society to oppose and pursue such an one, as they would a wild boar, for his design is the same, which is to waste and spoil and forage all that is about him. Society neither shall nor can be saved by the parts and virtues of others, till such an obstacle to both be stript of all power, and removed out of the way; who is to the body politic like an enormous excrescence or great wen to the natural; drawing the proper aliment and juice of all the parts to itself, and so feeding upon and supporting itself by the bane and ruin of the whole. Now this disposition may pass for a second ground of envy.
3. Another cause of envy is an inward sense of a man's own weakness and inability to attain what he desires and would aspire to. I do not say, that envy universally and always proceeds from hence, or supposes this for the cause of it, but generally and for the most part it does : nor does this carry in it the least contrariety to what I said before, in making ambition one of the causes of envy; for upon a due estimate of the qualities that affect the mind of man, we shall find that no minds are weaker than the haughty and ambitious; much like the uppermost branches of trees, lofty but slight, and much more easily broke, than those which they overtop.
Now nothing stirs up envy more than a despair of being what the envied person is; and that despair is founded upon a man's consciousness of his not being able to reach the same pitch of perfection : and this consciousness sticks so close to the mind, that for all a man's flattering himself, and his boasting to others, yet he can neither boast nor flatter it away; but that it is a perpetual check to his spirits, and will be sure to keep him under in the inmost judgment he passes upon himself. Some have observed, that there is no creature whatsoever but by a kind of natural instinct knows its match; and no doubt, by consequence, its superior and overmatch too. And when a man knows this by an impartial comparison of himself with his rival, (the inward apprehensions of the soul being generally impartial and true, what disguise soever they may put on in men's carriage and expressions,) upon such a comparison, I say, he sinks and sneaks inwardly; and weighing himself in the balance with the other, quickly sees which scale rises and which falls. Sight and sense are his conviction; and in such cases men seldom or never dissemble with themselves. And this inward intimate sense of a