« AnteriorContinuar »
No. 480. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10.
From the Letter-Box.
Responsare cupidinibus, contemnere honores,
The other day, looking over those old manuscripts of which I have formerly given some account, and which relate to the character of the mighty Pharamond of France, and the close friendship between him and his friend Eucrate, (See No. 76, 84, and 97) I found among the letters which had been in the custody of the latter, an epistle from a country gentleman to Pharamond, wherein he excuses himself from coming to court. The gentleman it seems, was contented with his condition, had formerly been in the king's service; but at the writing the following letter, had, from leisure and reflection, quite another sense of things than that which he had in the more active part of his life.
Monsieur Chezluy to Pharamond. DREAD SIR,
l have from your own hand (enclosed under the cover of Mr. Eucrate, of your majesty's bedchamber,) a letter which invites me to court. I understand this great honour to be done me out of respect and inclination to me, rather than regard to your own service: for which reasons I beg leave to lay before your majesty my reasons for declining to depart from home; and will not doubt, but as your motive in desiring my attendance was to make me a happier man, when you think that will not be effected by my remove, you will permit me to stay where I am. Those who have an ambition to appear in courts, have either an opinion that their persons or their talents are particularly formed for the service or ornament of that place; or else are hurried by downright desire of gain, or what they call honour, to take upon themselves whatever the generosity of their master can give them opportunities to grasp at. But your goodness shall not be thus imposed upon by me. I will therefore confess to you, that frequent solitude, and long conversation with such who know no such arts which polish life, have made me the plainest creature in your dominions. Those less capacities of moving with a good grace, bearing a ready affability to all around me, and acting with ease before many, have quite left me. I am come to that, with regard to my person, that I consider it only as a machine I am obliged to take care of, in order to enjoy my soul in its faculties with alacrity; well remembering that this habitation of clay will in a few years be a meaner piece of earth than any utensil about my house. When this is, as it really is, the most frequent reflection I have, you will easily imagine how well I should become a drawing-room: add to this, what shall, a man without desires do about the generous Pharamond: Monsieur Eucrate has hinted to me, that you have thoughts of distinguishing me with titles. As for myself, in the temper of my present
mind, appellations of honour would but embar. rass discourse, and new behaviour towards me perplex me in every habitude of life. I am also to acknowledge to you that my children, of whom your majesty condescends to inquire, are all of them mean, both in their persons and genius. The estate my eldest son is heir to is more than he can enjoy with a good grace. My self-love will not carry me so far as to impose upon mankind the advancement of persons (merely for their being related to me) into high distinctions, who ought for their own sakes, as well as that of the public, to affect obscurity. I wish, my generous prince, as it is in your power to give honours and offices, it were also to give talents suitable to them: were it so, the noble Pharamond would reward the zeal of my youth with abilities to do him service in my age.
• Those who accept of favour without merit, support themselves in it at the
your majesty. Give me leave to tell you, sir, this is the reason that we in the country, hear so often repeated the word prerogative. That part of your law which is reserved in yourself, for the readier service and good of the public, slight men are eternally buzzing in our ears to cover their own follies and miscarriages. It would be an addition to the high favour you have done me, if you would let Eucrate send me word how often and in what cases you allow a constable to insist upon the prerogative. From the highest to the lowest officer in your dominions, something of their own carriage they would exempt from examination under the shelter of the word prerogative. I would fain, most noble Pharamond, see one of
your officers, assert your prerogative by good and gracious actions. When is it used to help the afflicted, to rescue the innocent, to comfort the stranger? Uncommon methods, apparently undertaken to attain worthy ends, would never make power invidious. You see, sir, I talk to you with the freedom your noble nature approves in all whom you admit to your conversation.
But to return to your majesty's letter, I humbly conceive that all distinctions are useful to men only as they are to act in public; and it would be a romantic madness for a man to be a lord in his closet. Nothing can be honourable to a man apart from the world but the reflection upon worthy actions; and he that places honour in a consciousness of well doing, will have but little relish for any outward homage that is paid him, since what gives him distinction to himself, can not come within the observation of his beholders. Thus all the words of lordship, honour, and grace, are only repetitions to a man, that the king has ordered him to be called so; but no evi
dences that there is any thing in himself that • would give the man who-applies to him, those ideas, without the creation of his master. :
I have, most noble Pharamond, all honours and all titles in your own approbation: I triumph in them as they are your gift. I refuse them as they are to give me the observation of others. Indulge me, my noble master, in this chastity of renown; let me know myself in the favour of Pharamond; and look down upon the applause of the people. I am, in all duty and loyalty, your majesty's most obedient subject and servant,
"I need not tell with what disadvantages men of low modesty and great fortunes come into the world; what wrong measures their diffidence of themselves, and fear of offending, often obliges them to take; and what a pity it is that their greatest virtues and qualities, that should soonest recommend them, are the main obstacles in the way of their preferment.
• This, sir, is my case; I was bred at a country-school, where I learned Latin and Greek. The misfortunes of my family forced me up to town, where a profession of the politer sort has protected me against infamy and want. now clerk to a lawyer, and in times of vacancy and recess from business have made myself master of Italian and French, and though the progress I have made in my business has gained me reputation enough for one of my standing, yet my mind suggests to me every day that it is not upon that foundation I am". to build my fortune.
• The person I have my present dependence upon, has it in his nature, as well as in his
power, to advance me, by recommending me to a gentleman that is going beyond sea in a public employment. I know the printing this letter would point me out to those I want confidence to speak to; and I hope it is not in your power to refuse making any body happy,
? Yours, &c. September 9, 1712.