"Curse on his virtues, they've undone his country."
By which he means those lesser, but engaging virtues of gentleness, affability, complaisance, and good humor. The knowledge of a scholar, the courage of a hero, and the virtue of a Stoic, will be admired; but if the knowledge be accompanied with arrogance, the courage with ferocity, and the virtue with inflexible severity, the man will never be loved. The heroism of Charles XII. of Sweden (if his brutal courage deserves that name) was universally admired, but the man nowhere beloved. Whereas Henry IV. of France, who had full as much courage, and was much longer engaged in wars, was generally beloved upon account of his lesser and social virtues. We are all so formed, that our understandings are generally the DUPES of our hearts, that is, of our passions; and the surest way to the former is through the latter, which must be engaged by the 'leniores virtutes' alone, and the manner of exerting them. The insolent civility of a proud man is (for example) if possible, more shocking than his rudeness could be; because he shows you by his manner that he thinks it mere condescension in him; and that his goodness alone bestows upon you what you have no pretense to claim. He intimates his protection, instead of his friendship, by a gracious nod, instead of a usual bow; and rather signifies his consent that you may, than his invitation that you should sit, walk, eat, or drink with him.
The costive liberality of a purse-proud man insults the distresses it sometimes relieves; he takes care to make you feel your own misfortunes, and the difference between your situation and his; both which he insinuates to be justly merited: yours, by your folly; his, by his wisdom. The arrogant pedant does not communicate, but promulgates his knowledge. He does not give it you, but he inflicts it upon you; and is (if possible) more desirous to show you your own ignorance than his own learning. Such manners as these, not only in the particular instances which I have mentioned, but likewise in all others, shock and revolt that little pride and vanity which every man has in his heart; and obliterate in us the obligation for the favor conferred, by reminding us of the motive which produced, and the manner which accompanied it.
These faults point out their opposite perfections, and your own good sense will naturally suggest them to you.
But besides these lesser virtues, there are what may be called the lesser talents, or accomplishments, which are of great use to adorn and recommend all the greater; and the more so, as all people are judges of the one, and but few are of the other. Everybody feels the impression, which an engaging address, an agreeable manner of speaking, and an easy politeness, makes upon them; and they prepare the way for the favorable reception of their betters. Adieu.
LONDON, December 26, O. S. 1749.
MY DEAR FRIEND: The new year is the season in which custom seems more particularly to authorize civil and harmless lies, under the name of compliments. People reciprocally profess wishes which they seldom form; and concern, which they seldom feel. This is not the case between you and me, where truth leaves no room for compliments.
'Dii tibi dent annos, de to nam caetera sumes', was said formerly to one by a man who certainly did not think it. With the variation of one word only, I will with great truth say it to you. I will make the first part conditional by changing, in the second, the 'nam' into 'si'. May you live as long as you are fit to live, but no longer! or may you rather die before you cease to be fit to live, than after! My true tenderness for you makes me think more of the manner than of the length of your life, and forbids me to wish it prolonged, by a single day, that should bring guilt, reproach, and shame upon you. I have not malice enough in my nature, to wish that to my greatest enemy. You are the principal object of all my cares, the only object of all my hopes; I have now reason to believe, that you will reward the former, and answer the latter; in that case, may you live long, for you must live happy; 'de te nam caetera sumes'. Conscious virtue is the only solid foundation of all happiness; for riches, power, rank, or whatever, in the common acceptation of the word, is supposed to constitute happiness, will never quiet, much less cure, the inward pangs of guilt. To that main wish, I will add those of the good old nurse of Horace, in his epistle to Tibullus: 'Sapere', you have it in a good degree already. 'Et fari ut possit quae sentiat'. Have you that? More, much more is meant by it, than common speech or mere articulation. I fear that still remains to be wished for, and I earnestly wish it to you. 'Gratia and Fama' will inevitably accompany the above-mentioned qualifications. The 'Valetudo' is the only one that is not in your own power; Heaven alone can grant it you, and may it do so abundantly! As for the 'mundus victus, non deficiente crumena', do you deserve, and I will provide them.
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