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No 112. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1753.
To be courteous to all, but familiar with few, is a maxim which I once despised, as originally proceeding from a mean and contracted mind, the frigid caution of weakness and timidity. A tame and indiscriminate servility I imputed to a dread of the contempt or the petulance of others, to fears from which the wit and the gentleman are exempted by a consciousness of their own dignity, by their power to repress insolence and silence ridicule; and a general shyness and reserve I considered as the reproach of our country, as the effect of an illiberal education, by which neither a polite address, an easy confidence, or a general acquaintance with public life, is to be ac. quired. This opinion, which continued to flatter the lèvity and pride that produced it, was strengthened by the example of those whose manner in the diffidence of youth I wished to imitate, who entered a mixed company with an air of serene familiarity, ac. costed every man like an old acquaintance, and thought only of making sport for the rest of any with whom their caprice should happen to be offended, without regard to their age, character, or condition.
But I now wish, that I had regulated my conduct by the maxim which I despised, for I should then have escaped a misfortune which I can never retrieve; and the sense of which I am now endeavouring to suspend, by relating it to you as a lesson to others, and considering my loss of happiness as an acquisition of wisdom.
While I was in France with a travelling tutor, I re. ceived a letter which acquainted me, that my father who had been long declining, was dead; and that it was necessary I should immediately return to Eng. land to take possession of his estate, which was not inconsiderable, though there were mortgages upon it to near half its value.
When I arrived, I found a letter which the old gentleman had written and directed to me with his own hand. It contained some general rules for my conduct, and some animadversions upon his own : he took notice of the incumbrance under which he left me the paternal inheritance, which had descended through many generations, and expressed the most earnest desire, that it might yet be transmitted intire to posterity : with this view, he said, he had negoci. ated a marriage between me and the only daughter of his old friend, Sir George Homestead, of the North, an amiable young lady, whose alliance would be an honour to my family, and whose fortune would much more than redeem my estate.
He had given the knight a faithful account of his affairs, who, after having taken some time to consider the proposal and consult his friends, had consent. ed to the match, upon condition that his daughter and I should be agreeable to each other, and my behaviour should confirm the character which had been given of me. My father added, that he hoped to have lived till this alliance had taken place ; but as Providence had otherwise determined, be intreated, as his last