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to the rich, or those whom they call people at their ease, are your persons of no consequence. I have known some of them, by the help of a little cunning, make delicious flatterers. They know the course of the town, and the general characters of persons ; by this means they will sometimes tell the most agreeable falsehoods imaginable. They will acquaint you, that such a one of a quite contrary party said, That though you were engaged in different interests, yet he had the greatest respect for your good sense and address. When one of these has a little cunning, he passes his time in the utmost satisfaction to himself and his friends ; for his position is never to report or speak a displeasing thing to his friend. As for letting him go on in an error, he knows advice against them is the office of persons of greater talents and less discretion.
The Latin word for a flatterer, assentator, implies no more than a person that barely consents; and indeed such a one, if a man were able to purchase or maintain him, cannot be bought too dear. Such a one never contradicts you ; but gains upon you, not by a fulsome way of commending you in broad terms, but liking whatever you propose or utter ; at the same time, is ready to beg your pardon, and gainsay you, if you chance to speak ill of yourself. An old lady is very seldom without such a companion as this, who can recite the names of all her lovers, and the matches refused by her in the days when she minded such vanities, as she is pleased to call them, though she so much approves the mention of them. It is to be noted that a woman's flatterer is generally elder than herself; her years serving at once to recommend her
patroness's age, and to add weight to her complaisance in all other particulars.
We gentlemen of small fortunes are extremely necessitous in this particular. I have indeed one who smokes with me often ; but his parts are so low, that all the incense he does me is to fill his pipe with me, and to be out at just as many whiffs as I take. This is all the praise or assent that he is capable of; yet there are more hours when I would rather be in his company than in that of the brightest man I know. It would be a hard matter to give an account of this inclination to be flattered ; but if we go to the bottom of it, we shall find, that the pleasure in it is something like that of receiving money which we lay out. Every man thinks he has an estate of reputation, and is glad to see one that will bring any of it home to him. no matter how dirty a bag it is conveyed to him in, or by how clownish a messenger, so the money be good. All that we want, to be pleased with flattery, is to believe that the man is sincere who gives it us. It is by this one accident, that absurd creatures often outrun the most skilful in this art. Their want of ability is here an advantage ; and their bluntness, as it is the seeming effect of sincerity, is the best cover to artifice.
Terence introduces a flatterer talking to a coxcomb, whom he cheats out of a livelihood; and a third person on the stage makes on him this pleasant remark, ‘This fellow has an art of making fools madmen.' The love of flattery is, indeed, sometimes the weakness of a great mind; but you see it also in persons, who otherwise discover no manner of relish of anything above mere sensuality. These latter it
sometimes improves ; but always debases the former. A fool is in himself the object of pity, until he is flattered. By the force of that, his stupidity is raised into affectation, and he becomes of dignity enough to be ridiculous. I remember a droll, that upon one's saying, “The times are so ticklish, that there must great care be taken what one says in conversation'; answered with an air of surliness and honesty, 'If people will be free, let them be so in the manner that I am, who never abuse a man but to his face. He had no reputation for saying dangerous truths; therefore when it was repeated, “You abuse a man but to his face?' 'Yes,' says he, 'I flatter him.'
It is indeed the greatest of injuries to flatter any but the unhappy, or such as are displeased with themselves for some infirmity. In this latter case we have a member of our club, who, when Sir Jeffrey falls asleep, wakens him with snoring. This makes Sir Jeffrey hold up for some moments the longer, to see there are men younger than himself among us, who are more lethargic than he is.
When flattery is practised upon any other consideration, it is the most abject thing in nature ; nay, I cannot think of any character below the flatterer, except he that envies him. You meet with fellows prepared to be as mean as possible in their condescensions and expressions ; but they want persons and talents to rise up to such a baseness. As a coxcomb is a fool of parts, so is a flatterer a knave of parts.
The best of this order, that I know, is one who disguises it under a spirit of contradiction or reproof. He told an arrant driveller the other day, that he did not care for being in company with him, because he
heard he turned his absent friends into ridicule. And upon Lady Autumn's disputing with him about something that happened at the Revolution, he replied with a very angry tone, “Pray, madam, give me leave to know more of a thing in which I was actually concerned, than you who were then in your nurse's arms.'
[Tatler, No. 208.
It is an unreasonable thing some men expect of their acquaintance. They are ever complaining that they are out of order, or displeased, or they know not how, and are so far from letting that be a reason for retiring to their own homes, that they make it their argument for coming into company. What has anybody to do with accounts of a man's being indisposed but his physician? If a man laments in company, where the rest are in humour enough to enjoy themselves, he should not take it ill if a servant is ordered to present him with a porringer of caudle or posset-drink, by way of admonition that he go home to bed. That part of life which we ordinarily understand by the word conversation, is an indulgence to the sociable part of our make ; and should incline us to bring our proportion of good-will or good-humour among the friends we meet with, and not to trouble them with relations which must of necessity oblige them to a real or feigned affliction. Cares, distresses, diseases, uneasinesses, and dislikes of our own, are by no means to be obtruded upon our friends. If we would consider how little of this vicissitude of motion and rest, which we call life, is spent with satisfaction, we should be more tender of our friends, than to bring them little