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To lessen that disdain with which scholars are inclined to look on the common business of the world, and the unwillingness with which they condescend to learn what is not to be found in any system of philosophy, it may be necessary to consider, that though admiration is excited by abstruse researches, and remote discoveries, yet pleasure is not given nor affection conciliated, but by softer accomplishments, and qualities more easily communicable to those about us. He that can only converse upon questions, about which only a small part of mankind has knowledge sufficient to make them curious, must lose his days in unsocial silence, and live in the croud of life without a companion. He that can only be useful on great occasions, may die without exerting his abilities, and stand a helpless spectator of a thousand vexations which fret away happiness, and which nothing is required to remove but a little dexterity of conduct and readiness of expedients.
No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance, or to extinguish the desire of fond endearments, and tender officiousness; and therefore no one should think it unnecessary to learn those arts by which friendship may be gained. Kindness is preserved by a constant reciprocation of benefits or interchange of pleasures; but such benefits only can be bestowed, as others are capable of receiving , and such pleasures only imparted, as others are qualified to enjoy.
By this descent from the pinnacles of art no honour will be lost : for the condescensions of learning are always overpaid by gratitude. An elevated genius employed in little things, appears, to use the simile of Longinus, like the sun in his evening declination; he remits his splendour but retains his magnitude ; and pleases more though he dazzles less.
On the Advantages of uniting Gentle
ness of Manners with Firmness of
Mind. I mentioned to you, some time ago, a sentence which I would most earnestly wish you always to retain in your thoughts, and observe in your conduct; it is suavitèr in modo , fortitèr in re, I do not know any one rule so unexceptionably useful and necessary in every part of life.
The suavitèr in modo alone would degenerate and sink into a mean, timid complaisance, and passiveness , if not supported and dignified by the fortitèr in re; which would also run into impetuosity and brutality, if not tempered and softened by the suavitèr in modo : however, they are seldom united. The warm choleric man, with strong animal spirits, despises the suavitèr in modo , and thinks to carry all before him by the fortitèr in re. He may possibly , by great accident, now and then succeed, when he has only weak and timid people to deal with ; but his general fate will be, to shock, offend , be hated, and fail. On the other hand, the cunning crafty man thinks to gain all his ends by the suavitèr in modo only; he becomes all things to all men ; he seems to have no opinion of his own, and servilely adopts the present opinion of the present person ; he insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools, but is soon detected, and surely despised by every body else. The wise
man who differs as much from the cunning, as from the choleric man ) alone joins the suaviter in modo with the fortitèr in re.
If you are in authority, and have a right to command , your commands delivered suaviter in modo will be willingly, cheerfully , and consequently well obeyed: whereas if given only fortiter, that is , brutally, they will rather, as Tacitus says, be interpreted than executed. For my own part, if I bade my footman bring me a glass of wine, in a rough insulting manner I should expect, that in obeying me, he would contrive to spill some of it upon me; and I am sure I should deserve it. A cool steady resolution should show, that where you have a right to command, you will be obeyed; but at the same time, a gentleness in the manner of enforcing that obedience, should make it a cheerful one, and soften as much as possible, the mortifying consciousness of inferiority. If you are to ask a favour, ore ven to solicit your due, you must do it suavitèr in modo, or you will give those, who have a mind to refuse you either, a pretence to do it , by resenting the manner ; but, on the other hand, you must, by a steady perseverance and decent tenaciousness, show the fortiter irt re. In short, this precept is the only way I know in the world, of being loved without being despised, and feared without being hated. It constitutes the dignity of character, which every wise man must endeavour to establish.
If therefore you find that you have a hastiness in your temper, which unguardedly breaks out into indiscreet sallies, or rough expressions, to either your superiors, your equals, or your inferiors, watch it narrowly , check it carefully and call the suavitèr in modo to your assistance: at the first impulse of passion be silent, till you can be soft. Labour even to get the command of your countenance so well, that those emotions may not be read in it: a most unspeakable advantage in business ! On the other hand, let no complaisance , no gentleness of temper , no weak desire of pleasing on your part , no wheedling, coaxing, nor flattery, on other people's, make you recede one jot from any point that reason and prudence have bid you pursue; but return to the charge , persist, persevere, and you will find most things attainable that are possible. A yielding, timid meekness is always abused and insulted by the unjust and the unfeeling ; but meekness, when sustained by the fortitèr in re, is always respected, commonly successful. In your friendships and connections, as well as in your enmities, this rule is particularly useful: let your firmness and vigour preserve and invite attachments to you ; but at the same time, let your manner hinder the enemies of your friends and dependants from becoming yours; let your enemies be disarmed by the gentleness of your manner, but let them feel, at the same time, the steadiness of your just resentment; for there is a great difference between bearing malice, which is always ungenerous, and a resolute self-defence, which is always prudent and justifiable.
I conclude with this observation, that gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind, is a short, but full description of human perfection, on this side of religious and moral duties.
LOAD CHESTERFIELD. CHA P. VI I I.
On good Sense. WERE I to explain what I understand by good sense , I should call it right reason ; but right reason that arises not from formal and logical deductions, but from a sort of intuitive faculty in the soul, which distinguishes by immediate perception: a kind of innate sagacity, that in many of its properties seems very much to resemble instinct. It would be improper, therefore, to say, that Sir Isaac Newton shewed his good sense , by those amasing discoveries which he made in natural philosophy; the operations of this gift of Heaven are rather instantanious than the result of any tedious process. Like Diomed, after Minerva had indued him with the power of discerning gods from mortals, the man of good sense discovers at once the truth of those objects he is most concerned to distinguish; and conducts himself with suitable caution and security.
It is for this reason, possibly, that this quality of the mind is not often found united with learning as one could wish; for good sense being accustomed to receive her discoveries without labour or study , she cannot so easily wait for those truths , which being placed at a distance, and lying concealed under numberless covers , require much pains and application to unfold.
But though good sense is not in the number nor always, it must be owned, in the company of the sciences; yet is it (as the most sensible of poets has justly observed)
'fairly worth the seven.' Rectitude of understanding is indeed the most