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Before thy partial sight
THE SUBJECT RESUMED.
I SHALL now return to my subject. As competition is always great, as I have said before, in proportion to its closeness, contemporaries, that is, those who are of the same age and standing in society, come into the most immediate competition, and are therefore likely to yield to the temptations consequent on rivalry. I have often heard both nen and women, who have readily admitted the worldly prosperity, the charms, the talents, and virtues, of those who were avowedly older or younger than themselves, speak doubtfully of the asserted pretensions of their immediate contemporaries; and if it is remarked that they are very young looking for their age, the respondents have hesitatingly said, “ Do you think so? I can not say I am of that opinion;" adding, “ No, I think they look full as old as they are. Let me see! we were at school together, and I know I was at least by two or three years the youngest.”
There is also an obvious jealousy amongst persons of talent and acquirement residing in a country town. Those who are accustomed to
be the oracles of their own circle, “ bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,” (though there are sometimes honourable exceptions to this general rule,) and are apt to judge with harshness, and deny the claims of any new competition for listeners and admirers. But, with what severity, and even contempt, do men and women, who pique themselves on their reasoning faculties and powers of argumentative conversation, regard those amongst their acquaintance, whose talents are of a different nature, especially if the exertion of their talents has given them any reputation in the world, while they are unconscious, probably, that their low estimation of the merit of their associates is caused by a feeling of rivalry “ How can that be?” they might indignantly exclaim, our abilities are not of the same kind.” No, but in the narrow circle in which they meet, they are competing for notice, ad. miration, and importance, and much of Dr. Goldsmith's feeling, mentioned in the preceding pages, is at work in them; they, therefore, are under the influence of particular competition.
“ Two of a trade can not agree,” says the proverb; but it is equally true, though not generally felt, and therefore not sufficiently guarded against, that we are as liable to feel envy. and jealousy of those whose abilities are wholly different to our own, as of those who possess the same gifts as ourselves; only in this latter case the jealousy is stronger and conscious, in the other it is often unconscious; but, unconscious it would not continue to be, heart.""
if we were all in the salutary habit of ferreting out our secret motives, and could bear to contemplate “that ugly thing, a naked human
Competition for the attribute called feeling or sensibility, leads as constantly to ungenerous detraction as any other. This is a quality which all persons arrogate to themselves, but rarely allow their relatives, friends, or acquaintances, to possess in an equal degree.
How common are the following observations:. “ Yes-she is a worthy woman, but I am sure she has but very little feeling;” and “ Yes! I dare say he is a good man, but his sensibility will never hurt him.” “How differently I should have behaved or felt under such circumstances.” Here the detraction is evidently the result of the speaker's entering into competition with the party spoken of on the score of feeling. And this is an openly avowed species of competitionship. Yet surely, there is as much vanity displayed by the assumption of superior sensibility, as if one declared one's belief of being wiser or handsomer than one's neighbours; and to assert our superiority in any thing is a proof of self-conceit; still, there is an injustice commonly committed, on which I must observe, namely, that of considering persons of literary gifts and attainments as more vain and conceited than any other description of persons. But is this censure just? I will put this case. If an author were to talk of his own works in company, and speak of them and their usefulness with
high commendation, he would deserve to be called offensively vain; but suppose another gentleman present should say, how shocked he had been at such a person's want of feeling, adding, “how differently I should have behaved under such a trial, but then, few persons feel acutely as I do!” would it not be very unfair to say the author was more vain than he was the objects of their vanity were certainly different, but its degree the same. Again, suppose an authoress were to commend her own writings while with a party of friends, and boast of her own superiority, and that another lady should soon after depreciate the notability and domestic knowledge of some woman of her acquaintance, and describe her own superior cleverness in all domestic arrangements, asserting what a manager, what a nurse, what a physician also, she was upon occasions! more than insinuating that she was a paragon of perfection, in what, I admit, is the best knowledge of woman. Í beg leave to ask whether, in such a case, the company present would be justified in saying that the authoress was the vainer of the two, and that the vanity of authors and authoresses was of the superlative degree; and whether truth would not demand, that the man of assumed superior feeling, and the woman of assumed superior notability, were not quite as conceited as the author and authoress; and yet it is probable, that the company present would only be conscious of the vanity of the two latter, and that the two former would be the