Your humble Servant, A.B.
[Footnote 1: See No. 209.]
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No. 218. Friday, November 9, 1711. Steele.
Quid de quoque viro et cui dicas saepe caveto.
I happened the other Day, as my Way is, to strole into a little Coffee-house beyond Aldgate; and as I sat there, two or three very plain sensible Men were talking of the SPECTATOR. One said, he had that Morning drawn the great Benefit Ticket; another wished he had; but a third shaked his Head and said, It was pity that the Writer of that Paper was such a sort of Man, that it was no great Matter whether he had it or no. He is, it seems, said the good Man, the most extravagant Creature in the World; has run through vast Sums, and yet been in continual Want; a Man, for all he talks so well of Oeconomy, unfit for any of the Offices of Life, by reason of his Profuseness. It would be an unhappy thing to be his Wife, his Child, or his Friend; and yet he talks as well of those Duties of Life as any one. Much Reflection has brought me to so easy a Contempt for every thing which is false, that this heavy Accusation gave me no manner of Uneasiness; but at the same Time it threw me into deep Thought upon the Subject of Fame in general; and I could not but pity such as were so weak, as to value what the common People say out of their own talkative Temper to the Advantage or Diminution of those whom they mention, without being moved either by Malice or Good-will. It will be too long to expatiate upon the Sense all Mankind have of Fame, and the inexpressible Pleasure which there is in the Approbation of worthy Men, to all who are capable of worthy Actions; but methinks one may divide the general Word Fame into three different Species, as it regards the different Orders of Mankind who have any Thing to do with it. Fame therefore may be divided into Glory, which respects the Hero; Reputation, which is preserved by every Gentleman; and Credit, which must be supported by every Tradesman. These Possessions in Fame are dearer than Life to these Characters of Men, or rather are the Life of those Characters. Glory, while the Hero pursues great and noble Enterprizes, is impregnable; and all the Assailants of his Renown do but shew their Pain and Impatience of its Brightness, without throwing the least Shade upon it. If the Foundation of an high Name be Virtue and Service, all that is offered against it is but Rumour, which is too short-liv’d to stand up in Competition with Glory, which is everlasting.
Reputation, which is the Portion of every Man who would live with the elegant and knowing Part of Mankind, is as stable as Glory, if it be as well founded; and the common Cause of human Society is thought concerned when we hear a Man of good Behaviour calumniated: Besides which, according to a prevailing Custom amongst us, every Man has his Defence in his own Arm; and Reproach is soon checked, put out of Countenance, and overtaken by Disgrace.