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But to proceed. As some have defined painting to be mute poetry, so there is a sort of silent flattery which has its peculiar commendation. For as hunters are then surest of their game when they pass under the disguise of travellers, shepherds or husbandmen, and seem not at all intent upon their sport; so the eulogies of a parasite never take more effectually than when he seems least of all to commend you. For he who rises up to a rich man when he comes in company, or who, having begun a motion in the Senate, suddenly breaks off and gives some leading man the liberty of speaking his sense first in the point, such a man's silence more effectually slows the deference he pays the other's judgment than if he had avowedly proclaimed it. And hereupon you shall have them always [p. 122] placed in the boxes at the play-house, and perched upon the highest seats at other public entertainments; not that they think them suitable to their quality, but merely for the opportunity of gratifying great men by giving them place. Hence it is likewise, that they open first in all solemn and public assemblies, only that they may give place to another as an abler speaker, and they retract their opinion immediately, if any person of authority, riches, or quality contradict them. So that you may perceive all their concessions, cringes, and respects to be but mere courtship and complaisance, by this easy observation, that they are usually paid to riches, honor, or the like, rather than to age, art, virtue, or other personal endowments.

Thus dealt not Apelles with Megabyzus (one of the Persian nobility), who pretending once to talk I know not what about lines, shades, and other things peculiar to his art, the painter could not but take him up, telling him that his apprentices yonder, who were grinding colors, gazed strangely upon him, admiring his gold and purple ornaments, while he held his tongue, but now could not choose but titter to hear him offer at a discourse upon an argument so much out of his sphere. And when Croesus asked Solon his opinion of felicity, he told him flatly, that he looked upon Tellus, an honest though obscure Athenian, and Biton and Cleobis, as happier than he. But the flatterer will have kings, governors, and men of estates, not only the most signally happy, but the most eminently knowing, the most virtuous, and the most prudent of mankind.

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load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1927)
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