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sons indulge in violent praises of those whom they scarcely envy, in order that they may enjoy the detraction which they are well aware their praises will excite; nay, such is the obliquity of human nature, that praise is not always the tribute of a full heart, overflowing with sincere admiration, but the indulgence of a malignant desire to mortify the selflove of those who hear it.
I know persons who never praise any one, except in order to mortify such hearers as are no toriously in competition with the lauded object, and as might naturally be expected, the same persons have been seen to writhe almost in agony at hearing the just encomiums bestowed on competitors for fame, whether the rival be man or woman, and then give away, at length, into the most cruel detraction from the abilities and even moral qualities of the persons so commended. I have met, but I know not where, with the following anecdote. A gentleman was once so notorious amongst his companions for his envy, and his almost morbid dislike to hear any one praised, that they resolved to expose him by the following stratagem: They invented a person, a name, and a situation, and when they were next in company with the envious man, they talked of this imaginary being as the first of his species, and invested him with every grace, talent, and acquirement, till the envious auditor could bear no more, but, hastily interrupting the last eulogist, he exclaimed, “ All this is such romantic nonsense and exaggeration that I can be silent no longer! I was acquainted with the gentleman in question, a few years ago, and I pronounce him utterly unworthy of the praise you have bestowed; nay, if I were to tell you all I know of him, you would blush for having set up such an idol to worship.” This unprincipled effusion of jealous rage was received, at first, with an awful silence, such as is usually experienced when one hears of or witnesses some act of moral delinquency; but it was soon succeeded by a burst of indignation, ending in a sort of hooting and groaning interrupted only by the voice of him who was deputed to tell the truth to the still agitated offender; namely, that it was utterly impossible he should have ever known the gentleman in question, or aught against him, as he never had any existence, except in their invention, and that he and his perfection had only been imagined, in order to try the force of this hearer's besetting sin.
Whether the culprit was warned and taught by this disgraceful experience I do not remember to have heard, and the whole story may be a fiction; but I dare say there are few of us who have not felt at times as if extravagant and exaggerated praise of others was a sort of injustice to ourselves, and perhaps to those whom we tenderly love; and when hearing any one described to be the most delightful, most wise, most virtuous, most accomplished, and most superior of created beings, there are few hearers who have not experienced a desire to substitute the more reasonable, and probably
juster expression of one of the most delightful, wise, virtuous, accomplished, and superior, of created beings. The eulogists, who do not use this phrase, so much more balmy to selflove than the other, run the risk of calling forth the jealous feelings of all whom they address, and expose their idol to the risk of being instantly assailed. I have always considered such encomiasts as wholly deficient in that knowledge of the human heart, which is so necessary to keep our own hearts free from sin, and to prevent us from laying snares for the hearts of others. Such extravagant encomiasts appear to me the nursing mothers of DETRACTORS.
I shall now recapitulate what has been said in the present chapter.
I have stated that detraction is of two kinds, spoken and acted; that though all scandal is detraction, detraction is not always scandal, that scandal or defamation can not be as common as detraction, because the law in some measure defends reputation: that when education becomes so general, that women may venture to talk of books, and things of general utility, without the fear of being called blue stockings, the tone of conversation will be necessarily raised, and detracting discourses abolished.
That evil speaking has injurious effects on the utterer and the hearer, as well as the subject of it, and wherefore. That the only means by which to secure unalterable regard towards our friends, is never to talk of their failings.
That nothing is so likely to provoke detracting observations, as exaggerated eulogy.
That some persons indulge in extravagant praises of those whom they secretly envy, in order to enjoy the detraction which they are well aware their praises will excite.
That such is the obliquity of some individuals, they never praise but with a view to mortify the person whom they address, particularly when they know their auditor to be in rivalship with the person so eulogized.
Lastly, that extravagant eulogists are the nursing mothers of detractors.
ON THE DIFFERENT CLASSES OF DETRACTORS.
I SHALL now proceed to enumerate the different classes of detractors.
Detractors may be divided under the following heads:Gossips. Talkers-over. Laughers-at. Banterers. Nicknamers. Stingers. Scorners. Sneerers. Eye-inflictors. Mimicks. Caricaturists. Epigrammatists.
Gossips are first on my list, and I begin with them the more willingly, because I believe that all my readers will think of gossips when I first mention detractors.
Still there are worse detractors. than professed gossips, though there are none more incorrigible.
Gossips are not always malevolent, but they