An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 8/Modern

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Envy is the Parent of Calumny, and the Daughter of Jealousy. Men seldom envy others, till they fear being out stripped by them in Fortune or Reputation. It is the most criminal, because the most injurious to Virtue, and worth of all our natural Failings, against which its Malice is generally bent. This vice and Jealousy seem to be more particularly hated of Providence than any other; For they carry their Punishment inseparably along with them, The Envious and the Jealous need no other Tormentors than their own Thoughts. The Envious Man ruins his own to disturb another’s Tranquillity, and sacrifices his own Happiness and Repose to a perverse Desire of troubling his Neighbours. He feeds like Toads upon the Venom of the Earth, and sucks in Scandal greedily, that he may at Pleasure disgorge it to the greater annoyance of other Men. His mind has the Vapours, a Sweet Report of any one throws it into Convulsions, and Agonies, and a foul one is the Relief and Refreshment of it. A wholesome Air free from the Blasts of Detraction and Slander is as certainly pernicious to him, as Ireland to Frogs and Toads. This Vice is generally disclaimed by both Sexes, yet generally practised by both. Men love as little to have their Reputation as their Chimneys over-topped by their Neighbours; For they think by that means their names become dark, as their Houses do smoky by the other: Yet through a lazy Malignity had rather pull the other’s down to their Level, than build their own up higher. This Humour prevails indeed, yet not in equal Measure in both Sexes. For as we have confessedly less Ambition, so have we apparently less of this Poison which usually attends it, and arises from a self Interested Principle, which makes them endeavour by base sinister means to level that Merit which they think stands in their way to Preferment, and which they despair of being able to surmount by honourable attempts. For what need any one use base Sleights to stop the Man, whom by fair Speed he thought he could overtake. No sooner is any Man raised to any Eminence in the World, but half the Sex at least join in Confederacy to raise a Battery of Scandal against him, to bring him down again. Honour is the Pillory of great Desert, whither a Man is no sooner raised, but the vile Rascally inferior Crowd gather immediately together, to throw Dirt at him, and make that which was intended as a Grace, and Reward, but a more honourable Punishment. Our Sex seldom arrive to this Pitch of Envy, our Ambition is more bounded, and our Desires sooner satisfied. Hence it is that we are les troubled at the Prosperity of others; for not giving our selves the Liberty of aiming at things far out of our Power, they are the sooner compassed, and we the sooner at Ease. He, that thinks himself Happy, is incapable of Envying another’s Felicity, since he sees him possessed of nothing which either he has not or despises not. Yet it must be confessed that the lesser Piques and Grudgings are daily to be met with among us, but no less among Men. What is it that spawns daily such Fries of Satirists without Wit, and Critics without Judgment, but this humour of carping, and nibbling at the Reputation of others? But they are generally abundantly furnished with Impudence, a good Quality that commonly supplies largely the want of all other.
Character of a City Critic.
A Critick of this sort is one that for want of Wit sets up for Judgment; yet he has so much Ambition to be thought a Wit, that he lets his Spleen prevail against Nature, and turns Poet. In this Capacity he is as just to the World as in the other Injurious. For as the Critick wronged every Body in his Censure, and snarled and grinned at their Writings, the Poet gives them Opportunity to do themselves Justice, to return the Compliment and laugh at or despise his. He wants nothing but Wit to fit him for a Satirist, yet he has Gall and Vanity enough to dispense with that Want, and write without it. His works are Libels upon others, but Satires upon himself, and while they Bark at Men of Wit, call him Fool that writ them. He takes his Malice for a Muse, and thinks himself inspired when he is only Possessed, and blown up with a Flatus of Envy and Vanity. His great helps to Poetry are Crambo, and Arithmetic, by which he aspires to Chime, and Numbers, yet mistakes frequently in the tale of his Fingers. He has a very great Antipathy to his own Species, and hates to see a Fool any where but in his Glass.
7th. Satire of Boylean Eng.
For (as he says) they Provoke him And offend his Eyes: He Follows them in his way: He knows, to say no more that Whit is scarce, to jingle out a Rhyme, or tag a Verse: Or Cobble wretched Prose to numerous Lines: There if he has a Genius there it shines. His Fund of Criticism is a Set of Terms of Art picked out of the French Critics, or their Translators; and his Poetical stock is a Common Place of certain Forms and Manners of Expression. He writes better in Verse than Prose; For in that there is Rhyme, in this neither Rhyme nor Reason. He talks much of the Naivete of his Thoughts, which appears sufficiently in the Dullness of them; yet nothing but the Phlegmatic, Spiritless Air is his own. He rails at Mr. Oldham for want of Breeding and good Manners without a grain of either, and steals his own Wit to bespatter him with, but like an ill Chemist, he lets the Spirit fly off in the drawing over, and retains only the Phlegm. He censures Mr. Cowley for too much Wit, and corrects him with none. The difference between Mr. Cowley and him is this; the one has too much Wit, and too fine for the Standard; the other not enough to blanch his base Metal, or cover the Brass of his Counterfeits. To complete himself in the Formalities of Parnassus, he falls in love and tells the World, it is obliged to his Passion for his Poetry; but if his Mistress prove no more indulgent than his Muse, his Amour is like to conclude but unluckily. For if his Love be no warmer than in his Lines, his Corinna may play with his Flame without danger of Burning. He pretends to have written only his sincerest Thoughts; I don’t know how well his Mistress may take that from the Lover, but I dare swear the World did not expect it from the Poet. He is happiest at the Picture of a Rhyming Fool, for he need only to look in his Glass, and he may Copy a Country Wit from the City Original. If this Rhyming Humour lasts, there’s a good Sugar-Jobber spoiled for an ill Poet; yet for his comfort, Time, Improvement, and two or three Books more may raise him to Rival ES and sing London’s Triumphs, to the Envy of Tom Jordan of happy Memory.
You may wonder, Madam, why I should give you the trouble of this Character, after I had given you my word to trouble you with no more of this Nature. I must confess, I am sorry that so foolish an Occasion could make me forget my self; but a Book newly publish’d happening just at this Juncture unluckily to fall into my Hands, I could not without Indignation see the Scurrility and Insolence, with which Mr. Oldham, and Mr. Cowley are treated; and could not but resent a little the Wrongs done to the Memory of Men whom the rest of the World with Justice admire; and could not help taking Notice upon so fair an Opportunity, that they are not, though dead, to be so rudely played with, and made the May-Game of every Splenetic Boy. There are some yet living, whose Wit and Performances deserve a more respectful treatment, than they have met with from him. But they are able to revenge their own Quarrel, if they think he deserves the honour to be Scourged by them. Nothing but Envy and a Vain Conceit of himself could move him to attack the Reputation of Men, whose Verse will always command Admiration, while his own raise nothing but Scorn and Indignation. If his Bookseller were but blessed with half a dozen such Authors, he would in a short time infallibly be Stationer general to all the Grocers and Tobacconists in the Town.