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ment, that knows how to use every opportunity of exercising it, and to proportion the instances of it to every character and situation. It is a restraint laid by reason and benevolence, upon every irregularity of the temper, which, in obedience to them, is forced to accommodate itself even to the fantastic laws which custom and fashion have established, if, by that means it can procure, in any degree, the satisfaction or good opinion of any part of mankind : thus paying an obliging deference to their judgment, so far as it is not inconsistent with the higher obligations of virtue and religion.
This must be accompanied with an elegance of taste, and a delicacy observant of the least trifles which tend to please or to oblige; and though its foundation must be rooted in the heart, it can <scarce be perfected without a complete knowledge of the world.
In society it is the medium that blends alt different tempers into the most pleasing harmony, while it imposes silence on the loquacious, and inclines the most reserved to furnish their share of the conversation : it represses the ambition of shining alone, and increases the desire of being mutually agreeable: it takes off the edge of raillery, and gives delicacy to wit : it preserves a proper
subordination amongst all ranks of people, and can reconcile a perfect ease with the most exact propriety
To superiors it appears in a respectful freedom;
po greatness can awe it into servility, and no intimacy can sink it into a regardless familiarity.
To inferiors it shows itself in an unassuming good nature : its aim is to raise them to you, not to let you down to thein : it at once inaintains the dignity of your station, and expresses the goodness of your heart.
To equals it is every thing that is charming : it studies their inclinations, prevents their desires, attends to every little exactness of behaviour, and all the time appears perfectly disengaged and careless.
Such, and so amiable is true politeness, by people of wrong heads and unworthy hearts disgraced in its two extremes; and, by the generality of mankind, confined within the narrow bounds of mere good breeding, which, in truth, is only one instance of it.
There is a kind of character, which does not in the least deserve to be reckoned polite, though it is exact in every punctilio of behaviour ; such as would not, for the world, ouit paying you the ci. vility of a bow, or fail in the least circumstance of decorum : but then, these people do this so merely for their own sake, that whether you are pleased or embarrassed with it, is little of their care; they bave performed their own parts and are satisfied. One there is, who says more civil things than half mankind besides, and yet, is “ so obliging that he never obliged :" for while he is paying the highesi
court to some one person of the company, he must, of course, neglect the rest, which is ill made up by a forced recollection at last, and some lame civility, which, however it may be worded, does, in effect, express only this : “ I protest I had quite forgot you; but, as insignificant as you are, I must not, for my own sake, let you go home out of humour.” Thus, every one, in their turn, finding his civility to be just as variable as his interest, no one thinks himself obliged to him for it.
This, then, is a proof, that true politeness, whose great end is giving real pleasure, can have its source only in a virtuous and benevolent heart : yet this is not all; it must observe propriety too. There is a character of perfect good nature, that loves to have every thing about it happy or merry: this is a character greatly to be beloved, but has little claim to the title of politeness : such persons have uo notion of freedom without noise and tumult; aud by taking off every proper restraint, and sinking themselves to the level of their companions, even lessen the pleasure these would have in the company of their superiors.
Cleanthes too loved to have every body about him pleased and easy ; but in his family, freedom went hand in hand with order, while his experience of the world, in an age of more real accomplishments, preserved his whole behaviour agreeable to his company, and becoming his station.
Certainly, this regard to the different stations of life is too much neglected by all ranks of people : a few reflections will show this but too plainly. That the government of states and kingdoms should be placed in a few hands, was, in the earliest ages of the world, found necessary to the well-being of society. Power gave a kind of sanction to the persons in whose hands it was vested; and when the people's minds were awed into obedience, there was the less need of punishments to restrain their actions : each various rank of them viewed, with profound respect, that which was most regularly beautiful; and the pile of government rose in due proportion, with harmony in all its parts.
Very different is the present scene, where all sorts of people put themselves upon a level ; where the meanest and most ignorant censure without reserve the greatest and the wisest; where the sublimest subjects are scanned without reve. rence, the softest treated without delicacy.
There was a time, when, from this principle of politeness, our sex received a thousand delicate distinctions, which made us, as it were, amends for our exclusion from the more shining and tu. inultuous scenes of life. Perhaps it is a good deal our own fault, that within some years, the manner of treating us has been entirely altered. When the fine lady becomes a hoyden, no wonder if the fine gentleman behaves to her like a clown. When people go out of their own proper character, it is like what silly folks imagine about going out of the conjurer's circle ; beyond those limits you must expect no mercy.
It would be endless to reckon up the various errors on each side of true politeness, which formi humourists and flatterers, characters of blunt or ceremonious impertinence. But, that I may give as true a standard of the thing itself, as I am capa. ble of doing, I will conclude my paper with the character of Cynthio, froni whose conversation and behaviour I have possibly collected most of the hints which form it. Cynthio has added to his natural sense a thorough knowledge of the world; by which he has attained that masterly ease in behaviour, and that graceful carelessness of manner, that nobody ! know possesses in so high a degree. You may see that his politeness flows from something superior to the little forms of custom; from a humane and benevolent heart, directed by a judgment that always seizes what is just and proper, and formed into such an habitual good breeding, that no forced attention even puts you in mind, at the time, that Cynthio is taking pains to entertain you, though, upon recollection, you find him to be, for that very reason, a man of the completest politeness.
His conversation is always suited to the company he is in, yet so as never to depart from the propriety of his own character. As he is naturally indolent, he is generally the least talkative of the set; but he makes up for this by expressing more in a few words than the generality of people do in a great many sentences. He is formed, indeed, for making conversation agreeable; since he has good nature, which makes him place every thing that can have a share in it in the most favourable light