There is a Call upon Mankind to value and esteem those who set a moderate Price upon their own Merit; and Self-denial is frequently attended with unexpected Blessings, which in the End abundantly recompense such Losses as the Modest seem to suffer in the ordinary Occurrences of Life. The Curious tell us, a Determination in our Favour or to our Disadvantage is made upon our first Appearance, even before they know any thing of our Characters, but from the Intimations Men gather from our Aspect. A Man, they say, wears the Picture of his Mind in his Countenance; and one Man's Eyes are Spectacles to his who looks at him to read his Heart. But tho that Way of raising an Opinion of those we behold in Publick is very fallacious, certain it is, that those, who by their Words and Actions take as much upon themselves, as they can but barely demand in the strict Scrutiny of their Deserts, will find their Account lessen every Day. A modest Man preserves his Character, as a frugal Man does his Fortune; if either of them live to the Height of either, one will find Losses, the other Errors, which he has not Stock by him to make up. It were therefore a just Rule, to keep your Desires, your Words and Actions, within the Regard you observe your Friends have for you; and never, if it were in a Man's Power, to take as much as he possibly might either in Preferment or Reputation. My Walks have lately been among the mercantile Part of the World; and one gets Phrases naturally from those with whom one converses: I say then, he that in his Air, his Treatment of others, or an habitual Arrogance to himself, gives himself Credit for the least Article of more Wit, Wisdom, Goodness, or Valour than he can possibly produce if he is called upon, will find the World break in upon him, and consider him as one who has cheated them of all the Esteem they had before allowed him. This brings a Commission of Bankruptcy upon him; and he that might have gone on to his Lifes End in a prosperous Way, by aiming at more than he should, is no longer Proprietor of what he really had before, but his Pretensions fare as all Things do which are torn instead of being divided.
There is no one living would deny Cinna the Applause of an agreeable and facetious Wit; or could possibly pretend that there is not something inimitably unforced and diverting in his Manner of delivering all his Sentiments in Conversation, if he were able to conceal the strong Desire of Applause which he betrays in every Syllable he utters. But they who converse with him, see that all the Civilities they could do to him, or the kind Things they could say to him, would fall short of what he expects; and therefore instead of shewing him the Esteem they have for his Merit, their Reflections turn only upon that they observe he has of it himself.
If you go among the Women, and behold Gloriana trip into a Room with that theatrical Ostentation of her Charms, Mirtilla with that soft Regularity in her Motion, Chloe with such an indifferent Familiarity, Corinna with such a fond Approach, and Roxana with such a Demand of Respect in the great Gravity of her Entrance; you find all the Sex, who understand themselves and act naturally, wait only for their Absence, to tell you that all these Ladies would impose themselves upon you; and each of them carry in their Behaviour a Consciousness of so much more than they should pretend to, that they lose what would otherwise be given them.
I remember the last time I saw Macbeth, I was wonderfully taken with the Skill of the Poet, in making the Murderer form Fears to himself from the Moderation of the Prince whose Life he was going to take away. He says of the King, He bore his Faculties so meekly; and justly inferred from thence, That all divine and human Power would join to avenge his Death, who had made such an abstinent Use of Dominion. All that is in a Man's Power to do to advance his own Pomp and Glory, and forbears, is so much laid up against the Day of Distress; and Pity will always be his Portion in Adversity, who acted with Gentleness in Prosperity.
The great Officer who foregoes the Advantages he might take to himself, and renounces all prudential Regards to his own Person in Danger, has so far the Merit of a Volunteer; and all his Honours and Glories are unenvied, for sharing the common Fate with the same Frankness as they do who have no such endearing Circumstances to part with. But if there were no such Considerations as the good Effect which Self-denial has upon the Sense of other Men towards us, it is of all Qualities the most desirable for the agreeable Disposition in which it places our own Minds. I cannot tell what better to say of it, than that it is the very Contrary of Ambition; and that Modesty allays all those Passions and Inquietudes to which that Vice exposes us. He that is moderate in his Wishes from Reason and Choice, and not resigned from Sourness, Distaste, or Disappointment, doubles all the Pleasures of his Life. The Air, the Season, a [Sun-shiny ] Day, or a fair Prospect, are Instances of Happiness, and that which he enjoys in common with all the World, (by his Exemption from the Enchantments by which all the World are bewitched) are to him uncommon Benefits and new Acquisitions. Health is not eaten up with Care, nor Pleasure interrupted by Envy. It is not to him of any Consequence what this Man is famed for, or for what the other is preferred. He knows there is in such a Place an uninterrupted Walk; he can meet in such a Company an agreeable Conversation: He has no Emulation, he is no Man's Rival, but every Man's Well-wisher; can look at a prosperous Man, with a Pleasure in reflecting that he hopes he is as happy as himself; and has his Mind and his Fortune (as far as Prudence will allow) open to the Unhappy and to the Stranger.
Lucceius has Learning, Wit, Humour, Eloquence, but no ambitious Prospects to pursue with these Advantages; therefore to the ordinary World he is perhaps thought to want Spirit, but known among his Friends to have a Mind of the most consummate Greatness. He wants no Man's Admiration, is in no Need of Pomp. His Cloaths please him if they are fashionable and warm; his Companions are agreeable if they are civil and well-natured. There is with him no Occasion for Superfluity at Meals, for Jollity in Company, in a word, for any thing extraordinary to administer Delight to him. Want of Prejudice and Command of Appetite are the Companions which make his Journey of Life so easy, that he in all Places meets with more Wit, more good Cheer and more good Humour, than is necessary to make him enjoy himself with Pleasure and Satisfaction.
[Footnote 1: [Sun-shine], and in the first reprint.]