No. 248. Friday, December 14, 1711. Steele.

Hoc maximè Officii est, ut quisque maximè opis indigeat, ita ei potissimùm opitulari.

There are none who deserve Superiority over others in the Esteem of Mankind, who do not make it their Endeavour to be beneficial to Society; and who upon all Occasions which their Circumstances of Life can administer, do not take a certain unfeigned Pleasure in conferring Benefits of one kind or other. Those whose great Talents and high Birth have placed them in conspicuous Stations of Life, are indispensably obliged to exert some noble Inclinations for the Service of the World, or else such Advantages become Misfortunes, and Shade and Privacy are a more eligible Portion. Where Opportunities and Inclinations are given to the same Person, we sometimes see sublime Instances of Virtue, which so dazzle our Imaginations, that we look with Scorn on all which in lower Scenes of Life we may our selves be able to practise. But this is a vicious Way of Thinking; and it bears some Spice of romantick Madness, for a Man to imagine that he must grow ambitious, or seek Adventures, to be able to do great Actions. It is in every Man's Power in the World who is above meer Poverty, not only to do Things worthy but heroick. The great Foundation of civil Virtue is Self-Denial; and there is no one above the Necessities of Life, but has Opportunities of exercising that noble Quality, and doing as much as his Circumstances will bear for the Ease and Convenience of other Men; and he who does more than ordinarily Men practise upon such Occasions as occur in his Life, deserves the Value of his Friends as if he had done Enterprizes which are usually attended with the highest Glory. Men of publick Spirit differ rather in their Circumstances than their Virtue; and the Man who does all he can in a low Station, is more [a[1]] Hero than he who omits any worthy Action he is able to accomplish in a great one. It is not many Years ago since Lapirius, in Wrong of his elder Brother, came to a great Estate by Gift of his Father, by reason of the dissolute Behaviour of the First-born. Shame and Contrition reformed the Life of the disinherited Youth, and he became as remarkable for his good Qualities as formerly for his Errors. Lapirius, who observed his Brothers Amendment, sent him on a New-Years Day in the Morning the following Letter:

Honoured Brother,

I enclose to you the Deeds whereby my Father gave me this House and Land: Had he lived till now, he would not have bestowed it in that Manner; he took it from the Man you were, and I restore it to the Man you are. I am,

SIR, Your affectionate Brother, and humble Servant, P. T.

As great and exalted Spirits undertake the Pursuit of hazardous Actions for the Good of others, at the same Time gratifying their Passion for Glory; so do worthy Minds in the domestick Way of Life deny themselves many Advantages, to satisfy a generous Benevolence which they bear to their Friends oppressed with Distresses and Calamities. Such Natures one may call Stores of Providence, which are actuated by a secret Celestial Influence to undervalue the ordinary Gratifications of Wealth, to give Comfort to an Heart loaded with Affliction, to save a falling Family, to preserve a Branch of Trade in their Neighbourhood, and give Work to the Industrious, preserve the Portion of the helpless Infant, and raise the Head of the mourning Father. People whose Hearts are wholly bent towards Pleasure, or intent upon Gain, never hear of the noble Occurrences among Men of Industry and Humanity. It would look like a City Romance, to tell them of the generous Merchant who the other Day sent this Billet to an eminent Trader under Difficulties to support himself, in whose Fall many hundreds besides himself had perished; but because I think there is more Spirit and true Gallantry in it than in any Letter I have ever read from Strepkon to Phillis, I shall insert it even in the mercantile honest Stile in which it was sent.


I Have heard of the Casualties which have involved you in extreme Distress at this Time; and knowing you to be a Man of great Good-Nature, Industry and Probity, have resolved to stand by you. Be of good Chear, the Bearer brings with him five thousand Pounds, and has my Order to answer your drawing as much more on my Account. I did this in Haste, for fear I should come too late for your Relief; but you may value your self with me to the Sum of fifty thousand Pounds; for I can very chearfully run the Hazard of being so much less rich than I am now, to save an honest Man whom I love.

Your Friend and Servant, [W. S. [2]]

I think there is somewhere in Montaigne Mention made of a Family-book, wherein all the Occurrences that happened from one Generation of that House to another were recorded. Were there such a Method in the Families, which are concerned in this Generosity, it would be an hard Task for the greatest in Europe to give, in their own, an Instance of a Benefit better placed, or conferred with a more graceful Air. It has been heretofore urged, how barbarous and inhuman is any unjust Step made to the Disadvantage of a Trader; and by how much such an Act towards him is detestable, by so much an Act of Kindness towards him is laudable. I remember to have heard a Bencher of the Temple tell a Story of a Tradition in their House, where they had formerly a Custom of chusing Kings for such a Season, and allowing him his Expences at the Charge of the Society: One of our Kings, said my Friend, carried his Royal Inclination a little too far, and there was a Committee ordered to look into the Management of his Treasury. Among other Things it appeared, that his Majesty walking incog, in the Cloister, had overheard a poor Man say to another, Such a small Sum would make me the happiest Man in the World. The King out of his Royal Compassion privately inquired into his Character, and finding him a proper Object of Charity, sent him the Money. When the Committee read their Report, the House passed his Account with a Plaudite without further Examination, upon the Recital of this Article in them.

For making a Man happy £. : s. : d.:

10 : 00 : 00


[Footnote 1: [an]]

[Footnote 2: [W. P.] corrected by an Erratum in No. 152 to W.S.]

Translation of motto:
TULL. Off. i. 16.
'It is a principal point of duty, to assist another most when he
stands most in need of assistance.'