« ZurückWeiter »
selves. The false die cannot be constantly produced, nor the packed cards always be placed upon the table. It is then our gamester is in the greatest danger. But even then, when he is in the power of fortune, and has nothing but mere luck and fair play on his side, he must stand the brunt, and perhaps give away his last guinea, as coolly as he would lend a nobleman a shilling.
Our hero is now going off the stage, and his catastrophe is very tragical. The next news we hear of him is his death, achieved by his own hand, and with his own pistol. An inquest is bribed, he is buried at midnight, and forgotten before sunrise.
These two portraits of a sharper, wherein I have endeavoured to show different likenesses in the same man, puts me in mind of an old print which I remember at Oxford, of count Guiscard. At first sight he was exhibited in a full bottom wig, a hat and feather, embroidered clothes, diamond buttons, and the full court dress of those days; but by pulling a string, the folds of the paper were shifted, the face only remained, a new body came forward, and count Guiscard appeared to be a devil.
ON HONOUR. Every principle that is a motive to good actions ought to be encouraged, since men are of so different a make, that the same principle does not work equally upon all minds. What some men are prompted to by conscience, duty, or religion, which are only different names for the same thing, others are prompted to by honour.
The sense of honour is of so fine and delicate a nature, that it is only to be met with in minds which are naturally noble, or in such as have been cultivated by great examples, or a refined educa. tion. This essay therefore is chiefly designed for those, who by means of any of these advantages are, or ought to be, actuated by this glorious principle.
But as nothing is more pernicious than a principle of action, when it is misunderstood, I shall consider honour with respect to three sorts of men. First of all, with regard to those who have a right notion of it. Secondly, with regard to those who have a mistaken notion of it. And thirdly, with regard to those who treat it as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule.
In the first place, true honour, though it be a different principle from religion, is that which produces the same effects. The lines of action, though drawn from different parts, terminate in the same point. Religion embraces virtue as it is enjoined by the laws of God; honour, as it is graceful and ornamental to human nature. The religious man fears, the man of honour scorns, to do an ill action. The latter considers vice as something that is beneath him ; the other, as something that is offensive to the Divine Being: the one, as what is unbecoming; the other, as what is forbidden. Thus Seneca speaks in the natural and genuine language of a man of honour, when he declares, that, were there no God to see or.
punish vice, he would not commit it, because it is of so mean, so base, and so vile a nature.
I shall conclude this bead with the description of honour in the part of young Juba :
Honour's a sacred tie, the law of kings,
In the second place, we are to consider those who have mistaken notions of honour. And these are such as establish any thing to themselves for a point of honour, which is contrary either to the laws of God, or of their country; who think it more honourable to revenge, than to forgive an injury; who make no scruple of telling a lie, but would put any man to death that accuses them of it: who are more careful to guard their reputation by their courage than by their virtue. True fortitude is indeed so becoming in human nature, that he who wants it scarce deserves the name of a man; but we find several who so much abuse this potion, that they place the whole idea of honour in a kind of brutal courage : by which means we have had many among us, who have called themselves men of honour, that would have been a disgrace to a gibbet. In a word, the man wiro sacrifices any duty of a reasonable creature to a prevailing mode or fashion ; who looks upon any thing as honourable that is displeasing to his Maker, or destructive to society; who thinks himself obliged by this principle to the practice of some virtues, and not of others, is by no means to be reckoned among true men of honour.
Timogenes was a lively instance of one actuated by false honour. Timogenes would smile at a man's jest who ridiculed his Maker, and at the same time run a man through the body that spoke ill of his friend. Timogenes would have scorned to have betrayed a secret that was intrusted with him, though the fate of his country depended upon the discovery of it. Timogenes took away the life of a young fellow in a duel, for having spoken ill of Belinda, a lady whom he himself had seduced in her youth, and betrayed into want and ignomjny. To close his character, Timogenes, after having ruined several poor tradesmen's families who had trusted him, sold his estate to satisfy his creditors; but, like a man of houour, disposed of all the money he could make of it, in paying off his play debts, or, to speak in bis own language, his debts of honour.
In the third place, we are to consider those persons, who treat this principle as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule. Men who are professedly of no honour, are of a more profligate and abandoned nature than even those who are actuated by false notions of it; as there is more hope of a heretic than of an atheist. These sons of infamy consider honour, with old Syphax in the play before mentioned, as a fine imaginary notion, that leads astray young inexperienced men, and draws them into real mischiefs, while they are engaged in the pursuit of a shadow. These are generally persons who, in Shakspeare's phrase, are worn and hackneyed in the ways of men ;' whose imaginations are grown callous, and have lost all those delicate sentiments which are natural to minds that are innocent and undepraved. Such old battered miscreants ridicule every thing as romantic, that comes in competition with their present interest, and treat those persons as visionaries, who dare to stand up, in a corrupt age, for what has not its immediate reward joined to it. The talents, interest, or experience of such men, make them very often useful in all parties, and at all times. But whatever wealth and dig, nities they may arrive at, they ought to consider that every one stands as a blot in the annals of his country, who arrives at the temple of honour by any other way, than through that of virtue.
ON DUELLING. Let us consider what may be said for and against duels. For them, little, I think, can be said, except that they promote polite behaviour, by making men afraid of one another; and that the abolition of them would be difficult, and might be attended with evil, by furnishing profligate men with a temptation to assassinate. But these are weak apologies. The Athenians and Romans were, in their better days, as polite as we; much more so, indeed, we must acknowledge them to have been, if we take into the account the grossness of their religion, and the purity of ours : yet they were strangers to duelling, as well as to those ridiculous notions of honour which give rise to it; and it is