The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,418 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

Xenophon [1] in the Life of his Imaginary Prince, whom he describes as a Pattern for Real ones, is always celebrating the Philanthropy or Good-nature of his Hero, which he tells us he brought into the World with him, and gives many remarkable Instances of it in his Childhood, as well as in all the several Parts of his Life.  Nay, on his Death-bed, he describes him as being pleased, that while his Soul returned to him [who [2]] made it, his Body should incorporate with the great Mother of all things, and by that means become beneficial to Mankind.  For which Reason, he gives his Sons a positive Order not to enshrine it in Gold or Silver, but to lay it in the Earth as soon as the Life was gone out of it.

An Instance of such an Overflowing of Humanity, such an exuberant Love to Mankind, could not have entered into the Imagination of a Writer, who had not a Soul filled with great Ideas, and a general Benevolence to Mankind.

In that celebrated Passage of Salust, [3] where Caesar and Cato are placed in such beautiful, but opposite Lights; Caesar’s Character is chiefly made up of Good-nature, as it shewed itself in all its Forms towards his Friends or his Enemies, his Servants or Dependants, the Guilty or the Distressed.  As for Cato’s Character, it is rather awful than amiable.  Justice seems most agreeable to the Nature of God, and Mercy to that of Man.  A Being who has nothing to Pardon in himself, may reward every Man according to his Works; but he whose very best Actions must be seen with Grains of Allowance, cannot be too mild, moderate, and forgiving.  For this reason, among all the monstrous Characters in Human Nature, there is none so odious, nor indeed so exquisitely Ridiculous, as that of a rigid severe Temper in a Worthless Man.

This Part of Good-nature, however, which consists in the pardoning and overlooking of Faults, is to be exercised only in doing our selves Justice, and that too in the ordinary Commerce and Occurrences of Life; for in the publick Administrations of Justice, Mercy to one may be Cruelty to others.

It is grown almost into a Maxim, that Good-natured Men are not always Men of the most Wit.  This Observation, in my Opinion, has no Foundation in Nature.  The greatest Wits I have conversed with are Men eminent for their Humanity.  I take therefore this Remark to have been occasioned by two Reasons.  First, Because Ill-nature among ordinary Observers passes for Wit.  A spiteful Saying gratifies so many little Passions in those who hear it, that it generally meets with a good Reception.  The Laugh rises upon it, and the Man who utters it is looked upon as a shrewd Satyrist.  This may be one Reason, why a great many pleasant Companions appear so surprisingly dull, when they have endeavoured to be Merry in Print; the Publick being more just than Private Clubs or Assemblies, in distinguishing between what is Wit and what is Ill-nature.

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The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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