We may be assured there is nothing so ill-bred, so annoying, so little entertaining, so absolutely impertinent, as this habit of talking always with reference to ourselves; for every body has a self of their own, to which they attach as much importance as we to ours, and see all others’ matters small in the comparison. The lady of rank has her castles and her ancestors—they are the foreground of her picture. There they stood when she came into being; and there they are still, in all the magnitude of near perspective; and, if her estimate of their real size be not corrected by experience and good sense, she expects that others will see them as large as she does. But that will not be so. The lady of wealth has gotten her houses and lands in the foreground. These are the larger features in her landscape; titles and the castles are seen at a smaller angle. Neither lady will admire the proportions of her neighbor’s drawing, should they chance to discover themselves in each other’s conversation. She, again—whether rich or poor—whose world is her own domesticity, sees nothing so prominent as the affairs of her nursery or her household; and perceives not that, in the eyes of others, her children are a set of diminutives, undistinguishable in the mass of humanity, in which that they ever existed, or that they cease to exist, is matter of equal indifference.
It is thus, that each one attributes to the objects around him, not their true and actual proportion, but a magnitude proportioned to their nearness to himself. We say not that he draws ill who does so: for, to each one, things are important, more or less, in proportion to his own interest in them. But hence is the mischief. We forget that every one has a self of his own; and that the constant setting forth of ours is, to others, preposterous, obtrusive, and ridiculous. The painter who draws a folio in the front of his picture, and a castle in the distance, properly draws the book the larger of the two: but he must be a fool, if he therefore thinks the folio is the larger, and expects every body else to think so too. Yet, nothing wiser are we, when we suffer ourselves to be perpetually pointing to ourselves, our affairs, and our possessions, as if they were as interesting to others as they are important to us.