HE that talks big and arrogantly of himself, Herculanus, is universally condemned as a troublesome and ill-bred companion. But the most, even of those who in words mightily declaim against him, seem to applaud him in their actions. Euripides could say,
If speech grew scarce, and at great rates were sold,
Commend himself what lavish fellow would?
But since the infinite treasure of the air
Praise gratis yields, none truth or falsehood spare;
Suffering no damage, though they give their ware.

Yet he often brings in his heroes intolerably boasting, and stuffs their most tragical adventures and passions with improper discourses of themselves. So Pindar declares,

Unseasonably to glory
Makes harmony with fury;

but he forbears not to extol his own raptures, which indeed, by the confession of all men, are worthy of the noblest praise.

But those who are crowned for mastery in the games or in the learned combats have others to celebrate their victories, that the people's ears be not grated with the harsh noises of self-applause. And Timotheus is justly censured as unskilfully and irregularly setting forth his conquest of [p. 307] Phrynis, when he thus proudly boasted it in writing: Happy man wast thou, Timotheus, when the crier proclaimed, 'The Milesian Timotheus hath vanquished the son of Carbo, the soft Ionian poet.'

It is true then, as Xenophon says, The most pleasant sound that a man can hear is his own praise in another's mouth; but the most odious thing unto others is a man commending himself. For we brand them as impudent who commend themselves, it becoming them to be modest though they were praised by others; and we account them unjust in arrogating that to themselves which another has the sole propriety of bestowing on them. Besides, if we then are silent, we seem either angry or envious; but if we second their discourse, we are presently entangled and forced to contribute more than we intended, speaking to men's faces what sounds well only behind their backs; and so we undertake rather the base work of drudging flattery than any real offices of true honor.

1 Pindar, Olymp. IX. 58.

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