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Others again, like painters who enhance the lustre and beauty of a curious piece by the shades which surround it, slyly extol and encourage men in their vices by deriding and railing at their contrary virtues. Thus, in the company of the debauched. the covetous, and the extortioner, they run down temperance and modesty as mere rusticity; and justice and contentment with our present condition argue nothing in their phrase but a dastardly spirit and an impotence to action. If they fall into the [p. 120] acquaintance of lubbers who love laziness and ease, they stick not to explode the necessary administration of public affairs as a troublesome intermeddling in other men's business, and a desire to bear office as an useless empty thirst after a name. To wheedle in with an orator, they scout a philosopher; and who so gracious as they with the jilts of the town, by laughing at wives who are faithful to their husbands' beds as impotent and country-bred? And, what is the most egregious stratagem of all the rest, the flatterer shall traduce himself rather than want a fair opportunity to commend another; as wrestlers put their body in a low posture, that they may the better worst their adversaries. I am a very coward at sea, says he, impatient of any fatigue, and cannot digest the least ill language; but my good friend here fears no colors, can endure all hardness, is an admirable good man, bears all things with great patience and evenness of temper. If he meets with one who abounds in his own sense and affects to appear rigid and singular in his judgment, and, as an argument of the rectitude and steadiness thereof, is always telling you of that of Homer,
Let not your praise or dispraise lavish be,
Good Diomedes, when you speak of me,

he applies a new engine to move this great weight. To such a one he imparts some of his private concerns, as being willing to advise with the ablest counsel: he has indeed a more intimate acquaintance with others, but he was forced to trouble him at present: for to whom should we poor witless men have recourse (says he) when we stand in need of advice Or whom else should we trust? And as soon as he has delivered his opinion, whether it be to the purpose or not, he takes his leave of him with a seeming satisfaction, as if he had received an answer from an oracle. Again, if he perceives a man pretends to be master [p. 121] of a style, he presently presents him with something of his own composing, requesting him to peruse and correct it. Thus Mithridates could no sooner set up for a physician, than some of his acquaintance desired to be cut and cauterized by him,—a piece of flattery that extended beyond the fallacy of bare words,—they imagining that he must needs take it as an argument of their great opinion of his skill, that they durst trust themselves in his hands.

For things divine take many shapes.2

Now to discover the cheat which these insinuations of our own worth might put upon us (a thing that requires no ordinary circumspection), the best way will be to give him a very absurd advice, and to animadvert as impertinently as may be upon his works when he submits them to your censure. For if he makes no reply, but grants and approves of all you assert, and applauds every period with the eulogy of Very right! Incomparably well!—then you have trepanned him, and it is plain that, though

He counsel asked, he played another game,
To swell you with the opinion of a name.

1 Il. X. 249.

2 Eurip. Alcestis, 1159, and elsewhere in Euripides.

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