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Such artifices as these, I confess, are not very pernicious, but there remains one of a most dangerous consequence to weak men; and that is when a flatterer fastens those vices upon them which are directly contrary to those they are really guilty of. As Himerius, an Athenian parasite, upbraided one of the most miserable and stingy misers of the whole town with carelessness and prodigality, tell ing him he was afraid he should live to see the day when both he and his children should go a begging. Or, on the contrary, when they object niggardliness and parsimony to one that is lavish and profuse, as Titus Petronius did to Nero. Or when they advise arbitrary and tyrannical princes to lay aside their too much moderation and their unprofitable and unseasonable clemency. And like to these are they who shall pretend to be afraid of a [p. 127] half-witted idiot, as of some notable shrewd fellow; and shall tax an ill-natured censorious man, if at any time he speak honorably of a person of worth, of being too lavish in his commendations. You are always, say they, praising men that deserve it not; for who is he, or what remarkable thing did he ever say or do? But they have yet a more signal opportunity of exercising their talent, when they meet with any difference betwixt lovers or friends ; for if they see brothers quarrel, or children despise their parents, or husbands jealous of their wives, they neither admonish them nor blame them for it, but inflame the difference. You don't understand yourself, say they; you are the occasion of all this clutter by your own soft and submissive behavior. If there chance to have happened some little love-skirmish betwixt a miss and her gallant, then the flatterer interposes boldly and adds fresh fuel to the expiring flame, taking the gentleman to task, and telling' him how many things he has done which looked a little hard, were not kind, and deserved a chiding.
Ungrateful man ! can you forget her charms,
And former soft embraces in her arms

Thus Antony's friends persuaded him, when he was smitten with his beloved Cleopatra, that she doted on him, still calling him haughty and hard-hearted man. She, said they, has stripped herself of the glories of a crown and former grandeur, and now languishes with the love of you, attending the motion of your camp in the poor sordid figure of a concubine.

But you have steeled your heart, and can unmoved
Behold her grief, whom once you so much loved.

Now he was strangely pleased to hear of his little unkindness to his mistress, and was more taken with such a chiding than with the highest character they could have given him; but was not sensible that, under the color of [p. 128] a friendly admonition, they really corrupted and debauched him. For such a rebuke as this is just like the bites of a lecherous woman, for it only tickles and provokes, and pleases even whilst it pains you. And as pure wine taken singly is an excellent antidote against hemlock, but if mixed with it renders the poison incurable, because the heat of the wine quickens its circulation to the heart; so some rascally fellows, knowing very well that the liberty of reproving a friend is a quality very hardly compatible with flattery, and, as I may say, the best remedy against it, mix them both together, and flatter you under the very color and pretext of reprimanding you.

Upon the whole thereof, Bias seems not to have answered him very pertinently, who asked him which he thought was the most hurtful animal, when he replied, Of wild creatures a tyrant, and of tame ones a flatterer. For he might have answered more accurately, that some flatterers indeed are tame creatures, those shirks who ply about your bath and your table; but they whose calumnies, malignity, and inquisitive meddling humor, like so many gins and snares, reach the ladies' very closets and bed-chambers, are wild, savage, and untractable.

1 From the Myrmidons of Aeschylus, Frag. 131.

2 Odyss. X. 329.

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