No. 497. Tuesday, September 30, 1712. Steele.

[Greek: Houtós esti galeôtaes gérôn.]--Menander.

A favour well bestow'd, is almost as great an Honour to him who confers it, as to him who receives it. What indeed makes for the superior Reputation of the Patron in this case, is, that he is always surrounded with specious Pretences of unworthy Candidates, and is often alone in the kind Inclination he has towards the Well-deserving. Justice is the first Quality in the Man who is in a Post of Direction; and I remember to have heard an old Gentleman talk of the Civil Wars, and in his Relation give an Account of a General Officer, who with this one Quality, without any shining Endowments, became so peculiarly beloved and honoured, that all Decisions between Man and Man were laid before him by the Parties concerned in a private Way; and they would lay by their Animosities implicitly, if he bid them be Friends, or submit themselves in the Wrong without Reluctance, if he said it, without waiting the Judgment of Court-Martials. His Manner was to keep the Dates of all Commissions in his Closet, and wholly dismiss from the Service such who were deficient in their Duty; and after that, took Care to prefer according to the Order of Battel. His Familiars were his entire Friends, and could have no interested Views in courting his Acquaintance; for his Affection was no Step to their Preferment, tho' it was to their Reputation. By this means a kind Aspect, a Salutation, a Smile, and giving out his Hand, had the weight of what is esteem'd by vulgar Minds more substantial. His Business was very short, and he who had nothing to do but Justice, was never affronted with a Request of a familiar daily Visitant for what was due to a brave Man at a Distance. Extraordinary Merit he used to recommend to the King for some Distinction at home, till the Order of Battel made way for his rising in the Troops. Add to this, that he had an excellent Manner of getting rid of such whom he observed were good at an Halt, as his Phrase was. Under this Description he comprehended all those who were contented to live without Reproach, and had no Promptitude in their Minds towards Glory. These Fellows were also recommended to the King, and taken off of the General's hands into Posts wherein Diligence and common Honesty were all that were necessary. This General had no weak Part in his Line; but every Man had as much Care upon him, and as much Honour to lose as himself. Every Officer could answer for what pass'd where he was, and the General's Presence was never necessary any where, but where he had placed himself at the first Disposition, except that Accident happen'd from extraordinary Efforts of the Enemy which he could not foresee; but it was remarkable that it never fell out from Failure in his own Troops. It must be confess'd, the World is just so much out of order, as an unworthy Person possesses what should be in the Direction of him who has better Pretensions to it.

Instead of such a Conduct as this old Fellow us'd to describe in his General, all the Evils which have ever happen'd among Mankind have arose from the wanton Disposition of the Favours of the Powerful. It is generally all that Men of Modesty and Virtue can do, to fall in with some whimsical Turn in a Great Man, to make way for things of real and absolute Service. In the time of Don Sebastian of Portugal, or some time since, the first Minister would let nothing come near him but what bore the most profound Face of Wisdom and Gravity. They carry'd it so far, that, for the greater Shew of their profound Knowledge, a Pair of Spectacles tied on their Noses, with a black Ribband round their Heads, was what compleated the Dress of those who made their court at his Levee, and none with naked Noses were admitted to his Presence. A blunt honest Fellow, who had a Command in the Train of Artillery, had attempted to make an Impression upon the Porter day after day in vain, till at length he made his appearance in a very thoughtful dark sute of Clothes, and two Pair of Spectacles on at once. He was conducted from Room to Room with great deference, to the Minister; and carrying on the Farce of the Place, he told his Excellence, That he had pretended in this manner to be wiser than he really was, but with no ill Intention; but he was honest Such-a-one of the Train, and he came to tell him that they wanted Wheel-barrows and Pick-axes. The thing happened not to displease, the Great Man was seen to smile, and the successful Officer was reconducted with the same profound Ceremony out of the House.

When Leo X. reigned Pope of Rome, his Holiness, tho' a Man of Sense, and of an excellent Taste of Letters, of all things affected Fools, Buffoons, Humourists, and Coxcombs: Whether it were from Vanity, and that he enjoy'd no Talents in other Men but what were inferiour to him, or whatever it was, he carried it so far, that his whole Delight was in finding out new Fools, and, as our Phrase is, playing them off, and making them shew themselves to advantage. A Priest of his former Acquaintance suffered a great many Disappointments in attempting to find access to him in a regular Character, till at last in despair he retired from Rome, and returned in an Equipage so very fantastical, both as to the Dress of himself and Servants, that the whole Court were in an Emulation who should first introduce him to his Holiness. [1] What added to the Expectation his Holiness had of the Pleasure he should have in his Follies, was, that this Fellow, in a Dress the most exquisitely ridiculous, desired he might speak to him alone, for he had Matters of the highest Importance, upon which he wanted a Conference. Nothing could be denied to a Coxcomb of so great hope; but when they were apart, the Impostor revealed himself, and spoke as follows:

Do not be surprized, most holy Father, at seeing, instead of a Coxcomb to laugh at, your old Friend who has taken this way of Access to admonish you of your own Folly. Can any thing shew your Holiness how unworthily you treat Mankind, more than my being put upon this Difficulty to speak with you? It is a degree of Folly to delight to see it in others, and it is the greatest Insolence imaginable to rejoice in the Disgrace of human Nature. It is a criminal Humility in a Person of your Holiness's Understanding, to believe you cannot excel but in the Conversation of Half-wits, Humorists, Coxcombs, and Buffoons. If your Holiness has a mind to be diverted like a rational Man, you have a great opportunity for it, in disrobing all the Impertinents you have favour'd, of all their Riches and Trappings at once, and bestowing them on the Humble, the Virtuous, and the Meek. If your Holiness is not concerned for the sake of Virtue and Religion, be pleased to reflect, that for the sake of your own Safety it is not proper to be so very much in jest. When the Pope is thus merry, the People will in time begin to think many things, which they have hitherto beheld with great Veneration, are in themselves Objects of Scorn and Derision. If they once get a Trick of knowing how to laugh, your Holiness's saying this Sentence in one Night-Cap and t'other with the other, the change of your Slippers, bringing you your Staff in the midst of a Prayer, then stripping you of one Vest and clapping on a second during divine Service, will be found out to have nothing in it. Consider, Sir, that at this rate a Head will be reckoned never the wiser for being Bald; and the ignorant will be apt to say, that going bare-foot does not at all help on in the way to Heaven. The red Cap and the Coul will fall under the same Contempt; and the Vulgar will tell us to our Faces that we shall have no Authority over them, but from the Force of our Arguments, and the Sanctity of our Lives.


[Footnote 1: Founded on Note F to Bayle's account of Leo X.]

Translation of motto:
'A cunning old fox this!'