« PreviousContinue »
seem to want them least, are the very persons who most liberally share them. There is something so attractive in riches, that the large heap generally collects from the smaller; and the poor find as much pleasure in increasing the enormous mass, as the miser, who owns it, sees happiness in its increase.
Nor is there in this any thing repugnant to the laws of true morality. Seneca himself allows, that in conferring benefits, the present should always be suited to the dignity of the receiver. Thus the rich receive large presents, and are thanked for accepting them. Men of middling stations are obliged to be content with presents something less ; while the beggar, who may be truly said to want indeed, is well paid if a farthing rewards his warmest solicitations.
Every man who has seen the world, and has had his ups and downs in life, as the expression is, must have frequently experienced the truth of this doctrine, and must know, that to have much, or to seem to have it, is the only way to have more. Ovid finely compares a man of broken fortune to a falling column; the lower it sinks, the greater weight it is obliged to sustain. Thus, when a man has no occasion to borrow, he finds numbers willing to lend him. Should he ask his friend to lend him a hundred pounds, it is possible, from the largeness of his demand, he may find credit for twenty; but should he humbly only sue for a trifle, it is two to one whether he might be trusted for twopence. A certain young fellow at George's, whenever he had occasion to ask his friend for a guinea, used to prelude his request as if he wanted two hundred, and talked so familiarly of large sums, that none could ever think he wanted a small one. The same gentleman, whenever he wanted credit for a new suit from his tailor,
always made a proposal in laced clothes ; for he found by experience, that if he appeared shabby on these occasions, Mr Lynch had taken an oath against trusting; or, what was every bit as bad, his foreman was out of the way, and would not be at home these two days.
There can be no inducement to reveal our wants, except to find pity, and by this means relief; but before a poor man opens his mind in such circumstances, he should first consider whether he is contented to lose the esteem of the person he solicits, and whether he is willing to give up friendship only to excite compassion. Pity and friendship are passions incompatible with each other, and it is impossible that both can reside in any breast for the smallest space, without impairing each other. Friendship is made up of esteem and pleasure; pity is composed of sorrow and contempt; the mind may for some time fluctuate between them, but it never can entertain both together.
Yet, let it not be thought that I would exclude pity from the human mind. There are scarcely any who are not, in some degree, possessed of this pleasing softness; but it is at best but a short-lived passion, and seldom affords distress more than transitory assistance: with some it scarcely lasts from the first impulse till the hand can be put into the pocket; with others it may continue for twice that space, and on some extraordinary sensibility I have seen it operate for half an hour. But, however, last as it will, it generally produces but beggarly effects: and where, from this motive, we give a halfpenny, from others we give always pounds. In great distress, we sometimes, it is true, feel the influence of tenderness strongly; when the same distress solicits a second time, we then feel with diminished sensibility, but, like the repetition of an echo,
every new impulse becomes weaker, till at last our sensations lose every mixture of sorrow, and degenerate into downright contempt.
Jack Spindle and I were old acquaintance; but he's gone. Jack was bred in a counting-house, and his father dying just as he was out of his time, left him a handsome fortune, and many friends to advise with. The restraint in which he had been brought up had thrown a gloom upon his temper, which some regarded as a habitual prudence, and from such considerations, he had every day repeated offers of friendship. Those who had money were ready to offer him their assistance that way; and they who had daughters, frequently in the warmth of affection advised him to marry. Jack, however, was in good circumstances; he wanted neither money, friends, nor a wife, and therefore modestly declined their proposals.
Some errors in the management of his affairs, and several losses in trade, soon brought Jack to a different way of thinking; and he at last thought it his best way to let his friends know, that their offers were at length acceptable. His first address was, therefore, to a scrivener, who had formerly made him frequent offers of money and friendship, at a time when, perhaps, he knew those offers would have been refused.
Jack, therefore, thought he might use his old friend without any ceremony; and, as a man confident of not being refused, requested the use of a hundred guineas for a few days, as he just then had an occasion for money. « And pray, Mr Spindle,» replied the scrivener, want all this money ?»—« Want it, sir,» says the other,
if I did not want it, I should not have asked it. I am sorry for that,» says the friend; « for those who want money when they come to borrow, will want money when
« do you
they should come to pay. To say the truth, Mr Spindle, money is money now-a-days. I believe it is all sunk in the bottom of the sea, for my part; and he that has got a little, is a fool if he does not keep what he has got.»
Not quite disconcerted by this refusal, our adventurer was resolved to apply to another, whom he knew to be the very best friend he had in the world. The gentleman whom he now addressed, received his proposal with all the affability that could be expected from generous friendship. :-« Let me see, you want a hundred guineas; and pray, dear Jack, would not fifty answer?»-« If you have but fifty to spare, sir, I must be contented.»—« Fifty to spare! I do not say that, for I believe I have but twenty about me.»—« Then I must borrow the other thirty from some other friend. » — « And pray,» replied the friend, « would it not be the best way to borrow the whole money from that other friend, and then one note will serve for all, you know? Lord, Mr Spindle, make no ceremony with me at any time; you know I'm your friend, when you choose a bit of dinner or so. You, Tom, see the gentleman down. You won't forget to dine with us now and then ? Your
humble servant.» Distressed, but not discouraged at this treatment, he was at last resolved to find that assistance from love, which he could not have from friendship. Miss Jenny Dismal had a fortune in her own hands, and she had already made all the advances that her sex's modesty would permit. He made his proposal, therefore, with confidence, but soon perceived, « No bankrupt ever found the fair one kind. » Miss Jenny and Master Billy Galloon were lately fallen deeply in love with each other, and the whole neighbourhood thought it would soon be a match. Every day now began to strip Jack of his former finery; his clothes flew piece by piece to the pawnbrokers; and he seemed at length equipped in the genuine mourning of antiquity. But still he thought himself secure from starving; the numberless invitations he had received to dine, even after his losses, were yet unanswered; he was, therefore, now resolved to accept of a dinner because he wanted one; and in this manner he actually lived among his friends a whole week without being openly affronted. The last place I saw poor Jack was at the Rev. Dr Gosling's. He had, as he fańcied, just nicked the time, for he came in as the cloth was laying. He took a chair without being desired, and talked for some time without being attended to. He assured the company, that nothing procured so good an appetite as a walk to White-ConduitHouse, where he had been that morning. He looked at the table-cloth, and praised the figure of the damask, talked of a feast where he had been the day before, but that the venison was overdone. All this, however, procured the poor creature no invitation, and he was not yet sufficiently hardened to stay without being asked; wherefore, finding the gentleman of the house insensible to all his fetches, he thought proper, at last, to retire, and mend his appetite by a walk in the Park.
You then, O ye beggars of my acquaintance, whether in rags or lace; whether in Kent-street or the Mall; whether at Smyrna or St Giles's; might I advise you as a friend, never seem in want of the favour which you solicit. Apply to every passion but pity for redress. You may find relief from vanity, from self-interest, or from avarice, but seldom from compassion. The very eloquence of a poor man is disgusting; and that mouth which is opened even for flattery, is seldom expected to close without a petition.
If then you would ward off the gripe of poverty, pretend