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Well, but after all, who is this flatterer then, whom we ought so industriously to avoid?

I answer: He who neither professes nor seems to flatter; who never haunts your kitchen, is never observed to watch the dial that he may nick your supper-time; who won't drink to excess, but will keep his brains about him; who is prying and inquisitive, would mix in your business, and wind himself into your secrets: in short, he who acts the friend, not with the air of a comedian or a satirist, but with the port and gravity of a tragedian. For, as Plato says, It is the height of injustice to appear just and be really a knave. So are we to look upon those flatterers as most dangerous who walk not barefaced but in disguise, who make no sport but mind their. business; for these often personate the true and sincere friend so exactly, that it is enough to make him fall under the like suspicion of a cheat, unless we be extremely curious in remarking the difference betwixt them. It is storied of Gobryas (one of the Persian nobility, who joined with Darius against the Magi), that he pursued one of them into a dark room, and there fell upon him; during the scuffle Darius came in and drew upon the enemy, but durst not push at him, lest perhaps he might wound his confederate Gobryas with the thrust; whereupon Gobryas bade him, rather than fail, run both through together. But since we can by no means admit of that vulgar saying, Let my friend perish, so my enemy perish with him, but had rather still endeavor at the discovery of a parasite from a friend, notwithstanding the nearness of the resemblance, we ought to use our utmost care, lest at any time we indifferently reject the good with the bad, or unadvisedly retain the bad with the good, the friend and flatterer [p. 105] together. For as those wild grains which usually grow up with wheat, and are of the same figure and bigness with it, are not easily winnowed from it,—for they either cannot pass through the holes of the sieve, if narrow, or pass together with the wheat, if larger,—so is it infinitely difficult to distinguish flattery from friendship, because the one so exquisitely mixes with all the passions, humors, interests, and inclinations of the other.

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load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1927)
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