Most Worthy SIR, &c.
[Footnote 1: [that]]
[Footnote 2: [giving]]
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No. 458. Friday, August 15, 1712. Addison.
[Greek: ’Lidos ouk agathae—Hes.]
I could not Smile at the Account that was Yesterday given me of a modest young Gentleman, who being invited to an Entertainment, though he was not used to drink, had not the Confidence to refuse his Glass in his Turn, when on a sudden he grew so flustered that he took all the Talk of the Table into his own Hands, abused every one of the Company, and flung a Bottle at the Gentleman’s Head who treated him. This has given me Occasion to reflect upon the ill Effects of a vicious Modesty, and to remember the Saying of Brutus, as it is quoted by Plutarch, that the Person has had but an ill Education, who has not been taught to deny any thing. This false kind of Modesty has, perhaps, betrayed both Sexes into as many Vices as the most abandoned Impudence, and is the more inexcusable to Reason, because it acts to gratify others rather than it self, and is punished with a kind of Remorse, not only like other vicious Habits when the Crime is over, but even at the very time that it is committed.
Nothing is more amiable than true Modesty, and nothing is more contemptible than the false. The one guards Virtue, the other betrays it. True Modesty is ashamed to do any thing that is repugnant to the Rules of right Reason: False Modesty is ashamed to do any thing that is opposite to the Humour of the Company. True Modesty avoids every thing that is criminal, false Modesty every thing that is unfashionable. The latter is only a general undetermined Instinct; the former is that Instinct, limited and circumscribed by the Rules of Prudence and Religion.
We may conclude that Modesty to be false and vicious, which engages a Man to do any thing that is ill or indiscreet, or which restrains him from doing any thing that is of a contrary Nature. How many Men, in the common Concerns of Life, lend Sums of Money which they are not able to spare, are bound for Persons whom they have but little Friendship for, give Recommendatory Characters of Men whom they are not acquainted with, bestow Places on those whom they do not esteem, live in such a Manner as they themselves do not approve, and all this meerly because they have not the Confidence to resist Solicitation, Importunity or Example?