Since on this Subject I have already admitted several Quotations which have occurred to my Memory upon writing this Paper, I will conclude it with a little Persian Fable. A Drop of Water fell out of a Cloud into the Sea, and finding it self lost in such an Immensity of fluid Matter, broke out into the following Reflection: Alas! What an [insignificant ] Creature am I in this prodigious Ocean of Waters; my Existence is of no [Concern ] to the Universe, I am reduced to a Kind of Nothing, and am less then the least of the Works of God. It so happened, that an Oyster, which lay in the Neighbourhood of this Drop, chanced to gape and swallow it up in the midst of this [its ] humble Soliloquy. The Drop, says the Fable, lay a great while hardning in the Shell, till by Degrees it was ripen’d into a Pearl, which falling into the Hands of a Diver, after a long Series of Adventures, is at present that famous Pearl which is fixed on the Top of the Persian Diadem.
[Footnote 1: Balthasar Gracian, a Spanish Jesuit, who died in 1658, rector of the Jesuits College of Tarragona, wrote many books in Spanish on Politics and Society, among others the one here referred to on the Courtier; which was known to Addison, doubtless, through the French translation by Amelot de la Houssaye.]
[Footnote 2: Corrected by an erratum to [you see in], but in reprint altered by the addition of [has represented].
[Footnote 3: Timotheus the Athenian.]
[Footnote 4: Altered by an erratum to [inconsiderable] to avoid the repetition insignificant, and insignificancy; but in the reprint the second word was changed.]
[Footnote 5: [significancy]]
[Footnote 6: [his]]
* * * * *
No. 294. Wednesday, February 6, 1712. Steele.
Difficile est plurimum virtutem revereri
qui semper secunda fortuna
Tull. ad Herennium.
Insolence is the Crime of all others which every Man is most apt to rail at; and yet is there one Respect in which almost all Men living are guilty of it, and that is in the Case of laying a greater Value upon the Gifts of Fortune than we ought. It is here in England come into our very Language, as a Propriety of Distinction, to say, when we would speak of Persons to their Advantage, they are People of Condition. There is no doubt but the proper Use of Riches implies that a Man should exert all the good Qualities imaginable; and if we mean by a Man of Condition or Quality, one who, according to the Wealth he is Master of, shews himself just, beneficent, and charitable, that Term ought very deservedly to be had in the highest Veneration; but when Wealth is used only as it is the Support of Pomp and Luxury, to be rich is very far from being a Recommendation to Honour and Respect. It is indeed the greatest Insolence imaginable, in a Creature