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OF IMPUDENCE AND MODESTY.
I HAVE always been of opinion, that the common complaints against Providence are ill-grounded, and that the good or bad qualities of men are the causes of their good or bad fortune more than what is generally imagined. There are, no doubt, in. stances to the contrary, and these too pretty nu. merous; but few in comparison of the instances we havę of a right distribution of prosperity and adversity: nor, indeed, could it be otherwise from the common course of human affairs. To be endowed with a benevolent disposition, and to love others, will almost infallibly procure love and efteem, which is the chief circumstance in life, and facilitates every enterprize and undertaking ; befides the fatisfa&tion which immediately results from it. The case is much the same with the other vira tues. Prosperity is naturally, though not necessarily attached to virtue and merit; and adversity, in like manner; to vice and folly.
I must, I must, however, confess, that this rule admits of an exception with regard to one moral quality; and that modesty has a natural tendency to conceal a man's talents, as impudence displays them to the utmost, and has been the only cause why many have risen in the world, under all the disadvantages of low birth and little merit. Such indolence and incapacity is there in the generality of mankind, that they are apt to receive a man for whatever he has a mind to put himself off for; and admit his overbearing airs as proofs of that merit which he affumes to himself. A decent affurance seems to be the natural attendant on virtue, and few men can distinguish impudence from it: as, on the other hand, diffidence, being the natural result of vice and folly, has drawn disgrace upon modelly, which in outward appearance so nearly resembles it.
[I was lately lamenting to a friend of mine, who loves a conceit, tliat popular applause should be bestowed with so little judgment, and that fo many empty forward coxcombs should rise up to a figure in the world: upon which he said there was nothing surprising in the case. Popular fame, says he, is nothing but breath or air; and air very naturally preffes into a vacuum *. ]
As impudence, though really a vice, has the fame effects upon a man's fortune, as if it were a virtue; fo we may observe, that it is almost as diffi,
* This paragraph is not in the edition of 1760.
cult to be attained, and is, in that respect, distinguished from all the other vices, which are acquired with little pains, and continually increafe upon indulgence. Many a man, being sensible that modesty is extremely prejudicial to him in making his fortune, has resolved to be impudent, and to put a bold face upon the matter ; but it is observable, that such people have feldom succeeded in the attempt, but have been obliged to relapfe into their primitive modesty. Nothing carries a man through the world like a true genuine natural impudence. Its counterfeit is good for nothing, nor can ever support itself. In any other attempt, whatever faults a man commits and is sensible of, he is so much the nearer his end. But when he endeavours at impudence, if he ever failed in the attempt, the remembrance of that failure will make him blush, and will infallibly disconcert him; after which every blush is a cause for new blushes, till he be found out to be an arrant cheat, and a vain pretender to impudence.
If any thing can give a modest man more affur, ance, it must be some advantages of fortune, which chance procures to him. Riches naturally gain a man a favourable reception in the world, and give merit a double luftre, when a person is endowed with it; and they supply its place, in a great measure when it is absent. It is wonderful to obferve, what airs of superiority fools. and knaves, with large pofleflions, give themselves above men of the greatest merit in poverty. Nor do the mer
of merit make any strong opposition to these usurpations ; or rather seem to favour them by the modesty of their behaviour. Their good sense and experience make them diffident of their judgment, and cause them to examine every thing with the greatest accuracy. As, on the other hand, the delicacy of their fentiments makes them timorous lest they commit faults, and lose in the practice of the world that integrity of virtue, fo to speak, of which they are so jealous. To make wisdom agree with conkdence, is as difficult as to reconcile vice and modesty.
These are the reflections, which have occurred upon this subject of impudence and modesty: and I hope the reader will not be displeased to see them wrought into the following allegory:
Jupiter, in the beginning, joined Virtue, Wisdom, and Confidence together; and Vice, Folly and Diffidence; and thus connected, fent them into the world. But though he thought that he had matched them with great judgment, and faid that Confidence was the natural companion of Virtue, and that Vice deferved to be attended with Diffidence, they had not gone far before diffention arose among them. Wisdon, who was the guide of the one company, was always accustomed, before she ventured upon any road, however beaten, to examine it carefully, to inquire whither it led, what dan. gers, difficulties, and hindrances might possibly or probably occur in it. In thefe deliberations the usually consumed some time; which delay was
very displeasing to Confidence, who was always in. clined to hurry on, without much forethought or deliberation, in the first road he met. Wisdom and Virtue were inseparable: but Confidence one day, following his impetuous nature, advanced a confiderable way before his guides and companions ; and not feeling any want of their company, he never enquired after them, nor ever met with them
In like manner, the other society, though joined by Jupiter, disagreed and separated. As Folly saw very little way before her, she had nothing to determine concerning the goodness of roads, nor could give the preference to one above. another; and this want of resolution was increased by Diffidence, who, with her doubts and scruples, always retarded the journey. This was a great annoyance to Vice, who loved not to hear of difficulties and delays, and was never satisfied without his full career, in whatever his inclinations led him to. Folly, he knew, though she hearkened to Diffidence, would be easily managed when alone; and, therefore, as a vicious horse throws his rider, he openly beat away this controller of all his pleasures, and proceeded in his journey with Folly, from whom he is inseparable. Confidence and Diffidence being, after this manner, both thrown lafe from their respective companies, wandered for some time; till at last chance led them at the same time to one village. Confidence went directly up to the great house, which belonged to Wealth, the lord of the village; and, without staying for a porter, intruded himself immediately into the innermost