PLATO is of opinion that it is very pardonable in a man to acknowledge that he has any extraordinary passion for himself; and yet the humor is attended with this ill consequent, besides several others, that it renders us incapable of making a right judgment of ourselves. For our affections usually blind our discerning faculties, unless we have learned to raise them above the sordid level of things congenial and familiar to us, to those which are truly noble and excellent in themselves. And hence it is that we are so frequently exposed to the attempts of a parasite, under the disguise and vizard of a friend. For self-love, that grand flatterer within, willingly entertains another from without, who will but soothe up and second the man in the good opinions he has conceived of himself. For he who deservedly lies under the character of one that loves to be flattered is doubtless sufficiently fond of himself: and through abundance of complaisance to his own person, not only wishes but thinks himself master of all those perfections which may recommend him to others. And though indeed it be laudable enough to covet such accomplishments, yet is it altogether unsafe for any man to fancy them inherent in him.

Now, if truth be a ray of the divinity, as Plato says it is, and the source of all the good that derives upon either Gods or men, then certainly the flatterer must be looked [p. 101] upon as a public enemy to all the Gods, and especially to Apollo; for he always acts counter to that celebrated oracle of his, Know thyself, endeavoring to make every man his own cheat, by keeping him ignorant of the good and ill qualities that are in him; whereupon the good never arrive at perfection, and the ill grow incorrigible.

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