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We may see in this instance the strength of female modesty, which was able to avercome the violence even of madness and despair. The fear of shame in the fair sex was in those days more prevalent than that of death.
If modesty has so great an influence over our actions, and is in many cases so impregnable a fence to virtue, what can more undermine morality than that politeness which reigns among the unthinking part of mankind, and treats as unfashionable the most ingenuous part of our behaviour, which recommends impudence as good breeding, and keeps a man always in countenance, not because he is innocent, but because he is shameless?
Seneca thought modesty so great a check to vice, that he prescribes to us the practice of it in secret, and advises us to raise it in ourselves upon imaginary occasions, when such as are real do not offer themselves; for this is the meaning of his precept, that when we are by ourselves, and in our greatest solitudes, we should fancy that Cato stands before us, and sees every thing we do. In short, if you banish modesty out of the world, she carries away with her half the virtue that is in it.
After these reflections on modesty, as it is a virtue, I must observe, that there is a vicious modesty, which justly deserves to be ridiculed, and which those persons very often discover who value themselves most upon a well-bred confidence. This happens when a man is ashamed to act up, to his reason, and would not, upon any. consideration, be surprised in the practice of those duties, for the performance of which he
was sent into the world. Many an impudent libertine would blush to be caught in a serious discourse, and would scarce be able to show his head, after having disclosed a religious thought. --Decency of behaviour, all outward show of virtue and abhorrence of vice, are carefully avoided by this set of shame-faced people, as what would disparage their gaiety of temper, and infallibly bring them to dishonour. This is such a poorness of spirit, such a despicable cowardice, such a degenerate, abject state of mind, as one would think human nature incapable of, did we not meet with frequent instances of it in ordinary conversation.
There is another kind of vicious modesty which makes a man ashamed of his person, his birth, his profession, his poverty, or the like misfortunes, which it was not in his choice to prevent, and is not in his power to rectify. If a man appears ridiculous by any of the afore-mentioned circumstances, he becomes much more so by being out of countenance for them. They should rather give him occasion to exert a noble spirit, and to palliate those imperfections which are not in his power, by those perfections which are; or, to use a very witty allusion of an eminent author, he should imitate Cæsar, who, because his head was bald, covered that defect with laurels.
No. 232. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26.
Nihil largiundo gloriam adeptus est. SALLUST.
My wise and good friend, Sir Andrew Freeport, divides himself almost equally between the town and the country; his time in town is given up to the public, and the management of his private fortune, and after every three or four days spent in this manner, he retires for as many to his seat, within a few miles of the town, to the enjoyment of himself, his family and his friend. Thus business and pleasure, or rather in Sir Andrew, labour and rest, recommend each other: they take their turns, with so quick a vicissitude, that neither becomes a habit, or takes possession of the whole man, nor is it possible he should be surfeited with either. I often see him at our club in good humour; and yet sometimes too with an air of care in his looks; but in his country retreat he is always unbent, and such a companion as I would desire; and therefore I seldom fail to make one with him when he is pleased to invite me.
The other day, as soon as we were got into his chariot, two or three beggars on each side hung upon the doors, and solicited our charity with the usual rhetoric of a sick wife or husband at home, three or four helpless little children, all starving with cold and hunger. We were forced to part with some money to get rid of their importunity; and then we proceeded on our jour
ney, with the blessings and acclamations of these people.
Well then (says Sir Andrew,) we go off with the prayers and good wishes of the beggars, and perhaps too our healths will be drunk at the next ale-house: so all we shall be able to value ourselves upon is that we have promoted the trade of the victualler and the excises of the government. But how few ounces of wool do we see upon the backs of these poor creatures? And when they shall next fall in our way, they will hardly be better drest; they must always live in rags to look like objects of compassion. If their families too are such as they are represented, it is certain they can not be better clothed, and must be a great deal worse fed; one would think potatoes should be all their bread, and their drink the
pure element; and then what goodly customers are the farmers like to have for their wool, corn and cattle? Such customers, and such a consumption, can not choose but advance the landed interest, and hold up the rents of the gentlemen!
But of all men living, we merchants, who live by buying
and selling, ought never to encourage beggars. The goods which we export are indeed the product of the lands; but much the greatest part of their value is the labour of the people: but how much of these people's labour shall we export whilst we hire them to sit still? The very alms they receive from us are the wages of idleness. I have often thought that no man should be permitted to take relief from the parish, or to ask it in the street, till he has first purchased as much as possible of his own livelihood by the upon
labour of his own hands; and then the public ought only to be taxed to make good the deficiency. If this rule was strictly observed, we should see every where such a multitude of new labourers as would, in all probability, reduce the prices of all our manufactures. It is the very life of merchandise to buy cheap and sell dear. The merchant ought to make his outset as cheap as possible, that he may find the greater profit upon his returns; and nothing will enable him to do this like the reduction of the price of labour
all our manufactures, This too would be the ready way to increase the number of our foreign markets: the abatement of the price of the manufacture would pay for the carriage of it to more distant countries; and this consequence would be equally beneficial both to the landed and trading interests. As so great an addition of labouring hands would produce this happy consequence both to the merchant and the gentleman, our liberality to common beggars, and every other obstruction to the increase of labourers, must be equally pernicious to both.'
Sir Andrew then went on to affirm, That the reduction of the prices of our manufactures by the addition of so many new hands, would be no inconvenience to any man:' but observing I was something startled at the assertion, he made a short pause, and then resumed the discourse. It may seem (says he) a paradox, that the price of labour should be reduced without an abatement of wages, or that wages can be abated without any inconvenience to the labourer, and yet nothing is more certain than that both these things may happen. The wages of the labourers make