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Thank heav'n that made me of an humble mind;
OBSERVING one person behold another, who was an utter stranger to him, with a cast of his eye, which, methought, expressed an emotion of heart very different from what could be raised by an object so agreeable as the gentleman he looked at, I began to consider, not without some secret sorrow, the condition of an envious man. Some have fancied that envy has a certain magical force in it, and that the eyes of the envious have by their fascination blasted the enjoyments of the happy. Sir Francis Bacon says, some have been so curious as to remark the times and seasons when the stroke of an envious eye is most effectually pernicious, and have observed that it has been when the person envied has been in any circumstance of glory and triumph. At such a time the mind of the prosperous man goes, as it were, abroad, among things without him, and is more exposed to the malignity. But I shall not dwell upon speculations so abstracted as this, or repeat the
many excellent things which one might collect out of authors upon this miserable affection; but, keeping in the road of common life, consider the envious man with relation to these three heads, his pains, his reliefs, and his happiness.
The envious man is in pain upon all occasions which ought to give him pleasure. The relish of his life is inverted; and the objects which administer the highest satisfaction to those who are exempt from this passion, give the quickest pangs to persons who are subject to it. All the perfections of their fellow-creatures are odious. Youth, beauty, valour, and wisdom are provocations of their displeasure. What a wretched and apostate state is this! to be offended with excellence, and to hate a man because we approve him! The condition of the envious man is the most emphatically miserable; he is not only incapable of rejoicing in another's merit or success, but lives in a world wherein all mankind are in a plot against his quiet, by studying their own happiness and advantage. Will Prosper* is an honest tale-bearer." He makes it his business to join in conversation with envious men. He points to such an handsome young fellow, and whispers that he is secretly married to a great fortune. When they doubt, he adds circum: stances to prove it; and never fails to aggravate their distress, by assuring them, that, to his knowledge, he has an uncle will leave him some thousands. Will has many arts of this kind to torture this sort of temper, and delights in it. When he finds them change colour, and say faintly they wish such a piece of news is true, ho
* See No. 20.
has the malice to speak some good or other of every man of their acquaintance.
The reliefs of the envious man are those little blemishes and imperfections that discover themselves in an illustrious character. It is matter of great consolation to an envious person, when a man of known honour does a thing unworthy himself; or when any action which was well executed, upon better information appears 50 altered in its circumstances, that the fame of it is divided among many, instead of being attributed to one. This is a secret satisfaction to these malignants; for the person whom they before could not but admire, they fancy is nearer their own condition as soon as his merit is shared among others. I remember some Fears ago there came out an excellent poem without the name of the author. The little wits, who were incapable of writing it, be. gan to pull in pieces the supposed writer. When that would not do, they took great pains to suppress the opinion that it was his. That again failed. The next refuge was, to say it was overlooked by one man, and many pages wholly written by another. An honest fellow who sat among a cluster of them in debate on this subject, cried out, “Gentlemen, if you are sure none of you your: selves had a hand in it, you are but where you were, whoever writ it." But the most usual succour to the envious, in cases of nameless merit in this kind, is to keep the property, if possible, unfixed, and by that means to hinder the reputation of it from falling upon any particular person. You see an envious man clear up his countenance, if in the relation of any man's great happiness in one point
, you mention his uneasiness in another. When he hears such a one is very rich he turns pale, but recovers when you add that he has many children. In a word, the only sure way to an curious man's favour is not to deserve it. But if we consider the envious man in delight, it is like reading of the seat of a giant in a romance; the magnificence of his house consists in the many limbs of men whom he has slain. If any who promised themselves success in any uncommon undertaking miscarry in the attempt, or he that aimed at what would have been niseful and laudable, meets with contempt and derision, the envious Dan, under the colour of hating vain-glory, can smile with an inward wantonness of heart at the ill effect it may have upon an honest ambition for the future.
Having thoroughly considered the nature of this passion, I have made it my study how to avoid the envy that may accrue to me from these my speculations; and if I am not mistaken in myself, I think I have a genius to escape it. Upon hearing in a coffeehouse one of my papers commended, I immediately apprehended the envy that would spring from that applause ; and therefore
gave a description of my face the next day; being resolved, as I grew in reputation for wit, to resign my pretensions to beauty. This, I hope, may give some ease to those unhappy gentlemen who do me the honour to torment themselves upon the account of this my paper. As their case is very deplorable, and deserves compas sion, I shall sometimes be dull, in pity to them, and will from time to time administer consolations to them by further discoveries of my person. In the meanwhile, if any one says the SPECTATOR has wit, it may be some relief to them to think that he does not show it in company. And if any one praises his morality, they may comfort themselves by considering that his face is none of the longest.
No. 20. FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 1710-11.
Κύνος όμματ' έχων.
HOM. IL. i. 225.
POPB. Among the other hardy undertakings which I have proposed to my. self, that of the correction of impudence is what I have very much at heart. This in a particular manner is my province as SPECTATOR'; for it is generally an offence committed by the eyes, and that against such as the offenders would perhaps never have an opportunity of injuring any other way. The following letter is a complaint of a young lady, who sets forth a trespass of this kind, with that command of herself as befits beauty and innocence, and yet with so much spirit as sufficiently expresses her indignation. The whole transaction is performed with the eyes; and the crime is no less than employing them in such a manner, as to divert the eyes of others from the best use they can make of them, even looking up to heaven:
“SIR, "There never was (I believe) an acceptable man but had some awkward imitators. Ever since the Spectator appeared, I have remarked a kind of men, whom I choose to call Starers; that without any regard to time, place, or modesty, disturb a large company with their impertinent eyes. Spectators make up a proper assem
bly for a puppet show or a bear.garden ; but devout supplicants and attentive hearers, are the audience one ought to expect in churches. I am, sir, member of a small pious congregation near one of the north gates of this city; much the greater part of us indeed are females, and used to behave ourselves in a regular attentive manner, till very lately one whole aisle has been disturbed by one of these monstrous starers; he is the head taller than any one in the church ; but for the greater advantage of exposing himself, stands upon a hassock, and commands the whole congregation, to the great annoyance of the devoutest part of the auditory; for what with blushing, confusion, and vexation, we can neither mind the prayers nor sermon, Your animadversion upon this insolence would be a great favour to,
“ Your most humble servant,
“ S. C.”
I have frequently seen of this sort of fellows, and do think there cannot be a greater aggravation of an offence, than that it is committed where the criminal is protected by the sacredness of the place which he violates. Many reflections of this sort might be very justly made upon this kind of behaviour, but a Starer is not usually a person to be convinced by the reason of the thing; and a fellow that is capable of showing an impudent front before a whole congregation, and can bear being a public spectacle, is not so easily rebuked as to amend by admonitions. If, therefore, my correspondent does not inform me, that within seven days after this date the barbarian does not at least stand upon his own legs only, without an eminence, my friend Will Prosper* has promised to take an hassock opposite to him, and stare against him in defence of the ladies. I have given him directions, according to the most exact rules of optics, to place himself in such a manner that he shall meet his eyes wherever he throws them. I have hopes, that when Will confronts him and all the ladies, in whose behalf he engages him, cast kind looks and wishes of success at their champion, he will have some shame, and feel a little of the pain he has so often put others to, of being out of countenance.
It has indeed been, time out of mind, generally remarked, and as often lamented, that this family of Starers have infested public assemblies: and I know no other way to obviate so great an evil, except, in the case of fixing their eyes upon women, some male friend will take the part of such as are under the oppression of impudence, and encounter the eyes of the Starers wherever they
See No. 19;
meet them. While we suffer our women to be thus impudently attacked they have no defence, but in the end to cast yielding glances at the Starers. In this case, a man who has no sense of shame, has the same advantage over his mistress, as he who has no regard for his own life has over his adversary. While the generality of the world are fettered by rules, and move by proper and just methods; he who has no respect to any of them, carries away the reward due to that propriety of behaviour, with no other merit but that of having neglected it.
I take an impudent fellow to be a sort of outlaw in good breeding, and therefore what is said of him no nation or person can be concerned for. For this reason one may be free upon bim. I have put myself to great pains in considering this prevailing quality which we call impudence, and have taken notice that it exerts itself in a different manner, according to the different soils wherein such subjects of these dominions as are masters of it, were born. Impudence in an Englishman is sullen and insolent; in a Scotsman it is untractable and rapacious; in an Irishman absurd and fawning: as the course of the world now runs, the impudent En. glishman behaves like a surly landlord, the Scot, like an ill received guest, and the Irishman like a stranger, who knows he is not welcome. There is seldom anything entertaining either in the impudence of a South or North Britain ; but that of an Irishman is always comic. A true and genuine impudence is ever the effect of ignorance without the least sense of it. The best and most successful Starers now in this town are of that nation; they have usually the advantage of the stature mentioned in the above letter of my correspondent, and generally take their stands in the eye of women of fortune; insomuch that I have known one of them, three months after he came from plough, with a tolerable good air, lead out a woman from a play, which one of our own breed, after four years at Oxford and two at the Temple, would have been afraid to look at.
I cannot tell how to account for it, but these people have usually the preference to our own fools, in the opinion of the sillier part of womankind. Perhaps it is that an English coxcomb is seldom so obsequious as an Irish one; and when the design of pleasing is visible, an absurdity in the way toward it is easily forgiven.
But those who are downright impudent, and go on without reflection that they are such, are more to be tolerated, than a set of fellows among us who profess impudence with an air of hunour, and think to carry off the most inexcusable of all faults in the world, with no other apology than saying in a gay tone, " I put an impudent face upon the matter.” No; no man shall be allowed the advantage of impudence, who is conscious that he is such. If