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Concerning such as are too communicative

When any one appears to us to discourse frankly of his own affairs, we too are somehow tempted to disclose our secrets to him; and we consider this to be acting with frankness, - first, because it seems unfair that when we have heard the affairs of our neighbor, we should not in return communicate ours to him; and besides, we think that we shall not appear of a frank character, in concealing what belongs to ourselves. Indeed it is often said, " I have told you all my affairs; and will you tell me none of yours? How happens this? " Lastly, it is supposed that we may safely trust him who has already trusted us; for we imagine that he will never discover our affairs, for fear we should in turn discover his. It is thus that the inconsiderate are caught by the soldiers at Rome. A soldier sits by you in a civilian's dress, and begins to speak ill of Caesar. Then you, as if you had received a pledge of his fidelity, by his first beginning the abuse, say likewise what you think; and so you are led away in chains to execution.

Something like this is the case with us in general. But when one has safely intrusted his secrets to me, shall I, in imitation of him, trust mine to any one who [p. 2210] comes in my way? The case is different. I indeed hold my tongue (supposing me to be of such a disposition); but he goes and discovers them to everybody; and then, when I come to find it out, if I happen to be like him, from a desire of revenge, I discover his, and asperse and am aspersed. But if I remember that one man does not hurt another, but that every one is hurt or profited by his own actions, I may indeed keep to this, not to do anything like him; yet, by my own talkative folly, I suffer what I do suffer.

"Ay; but it is unfair, when you have heard the secrets of your neighbor, not to communicate anything to him in return." Why, did I ask you to do it, sir? Did you tell me your affairs upon condition that I should tell you mine in return? If you are a gossip, and take all you meet for friends, would you have me too become like you? But what if the case be this; that you did right in trusting your affairs to me, but it is not right that I should trust you? Would you have me run headlong, and fall? This is just as if I had a sound barrel, and you a leaky one; and you should come and deposit your wine with me, to be put into my barrel; and then should take it ill that, in my turn, I did not trust you with my wine. No. You have a leaky barrel. How, then, are we any longer upon equal terms? You have intrusted your affairs to an honest man, and a man of honor; one who finds his help or harm in his own actions [p. 2211] alone, and in nothing external. Would you have me intrust mine to you, who have dishonored your own will, and who would get a paltry sum, or a post of power or preferment at court, even if it required you to kill your own children, like Medea? Where is the fairness in this? But show me that you are faithful, honorable, steady; show me that you have principles conducive to friendship; show me that your vessel is not leaky, and you shall see that I will not wait for you to intrust your affairs to me, but I will come and entreat you to hear mine. For who would not make use of a good vessel? Who despises a benevolent and friendly adviser? Who will not gladly receive one to share the burden, as it were, of his difficulties; and by sharing, to make it lighter? "Well, but I trust you, and you do not trust me." In the first place, you do not really trust me; but you are a gossip, and therefore can keep nothing in. For if the former be the case, trust only me. But now, whenever you see a man at leisure, you sit down by him and say: " My dear friend, there is not a man in th( world who wishes me better, or has more kindness for me, than you; I entreat you to hear my affairs." And this you do to those with whom you have not the least acquaintance. But if you do trust me, it is plainly as a man of fidelity and honor, and not because I have told you my affairs. Let me alone, then, till I reciprocate this opinion. Convince me that if a person has told his affairs to any one, it is a proof of [p. 2212] his being a man of fidelity and honor. For if this were the case, I would go about and tell my affairs to the whole world, if I could thus become a man of fidelity and honor. But that is no such matter; for it demands of a man to have no ordinary principles.

If, then, you see any one taking pains for things that belong to others, and subjecting his will to them, be assured that this man has a thousand things to compel and restrain him. He has no need of burning pitch, or the torturing wheel, to make him tell what he knows; but the nod of a girl, for instance, will shake his purpose; the good-will of a courtier; the desire of an office, of an inheritance; ten thousand other things of that sort. It must therefore be remembered, in general, that confidential discourses require fidelity and a certain sort of principles. And where, at this time, are these easily to be found? Pray let any one show me a person of such a disposition as to say, I concern myself only for those things which are my own, incapable of restraint, and by nature free. This I esteem the essence of good. Let the rest be as it may happen; it makes no difference to me. [p. 2213] [p. 2214] [p. 2215]


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