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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Poor But Proud

     "Jack Spindle and I were old acquaintance;  but he's gone.  Jack was bred in a compting-house, and his father dying just as he was out of his time, left him a handsome fortune, and many friends to advise with.  The restraint in which he had been brought up had thrown a gloom upon his temper, which some regarded as habitual prudence, and from such considerations he had every day repeated offers of friendship.  Those who had money were ready to offer him their assistance that way;  and they who had daughters frequently, in the warmth of affection, advised him to marry.  Jack, however, was in good circumstances;  he wanted neither money, friends, nor a wife, and therefore modestly declined their proposals.
       Some errors in the management of his affairs and several losses in trade soon brought Jack to a different way of thinking;  and he at last thought it his best way to let his friends know, that their offers were at length acceptable.  His first address was, therefore, to a scrivener who had formerly made him frequent offers of money and friendship at a time when, perhaps, he knew those offers would have been refused.
       Jack, therefore, thought he might use his old friend without any ceremony;  and, as a man confident of not being refused, requested the use of an hundred guineas for a few days, as he just then had an occasion for money.  'And pray, Mr. Spindle,' replied the scrivener, 'do you want all this money?'  'Want it, sir,' says the other;  'if I did not want it, I should not have asked it.'  'I am sorry for that, ' says the friend;  'for those who want money when they come to borrow, will want money when they should come to pay.  To say the truth, Mr. Spindle, money is money now-a-days.  I believe it is all sunk in the bottom of the sea, for my part;  and he that has got a little is a fool if he does not keep what he has got.'
       Not quite disconcerted by this refusal, our adventurer was resolved to apply to another, whom he knew to be the very best friend he had in the world.  The gentleman whom he now addressed received his proposal with all the affability that could be expected from generous friendship.  'Let me see, --you want an hundred guineas;  and pray, dear Jack, would not fifty answer?'  'If you have but fifty to spare, sir, I must be contented.'  'Fifty to spare!  I do not say that, for I believe I have but twenty about me.'  'Then I must borrow the other thirty from some other friend.'  'And pray,' replied the friend, 'would it not be the best way to borrow the whole money from that other friend?  then one note will serve for all, you know?  Lord, Mr. Spindle, make no ceremony with me at any time;  you know I'm your friend, when you choose a bit of dinner or so.  You, Tom, see the gentleman down.  You won't forget to dine with us now and then?  Your very humble servant.'
       Distressed, but not discouraged at this treatment, he was at last resolved to find that assistance from love which he could not have from friendship.  Miss Jenny Dismal had a fortune in her own hands, and she had already made all the advances that her sex's modesty would permit.  He made his proposal, therefore, with confidence, but soon perceived 'No bankrupt ever found the fair one kind.'  Miss Jenny and Master Billy Galoon were lately fallen deeply in love with each other, and the whole neighbourhood thought it would soon be a match.
       Every day now began to strip Jack of his former finery;  his clothes flew piece by piece to the pawnbrokers;  and he seemed at length equipped in the genuine mourning of antiquity.  But still he thought himself secure from starving;  the numberless invitations he had received to dine, even after his losses, were yet unanswered:  he was, therefore, now resolved to accept of a dinner, because he wanted one;  and in this manner he actually lived among his friends a whole week without being openly affronted.  The last place I saw poor Jack was at the Reverend Dr. Gosling's.  He had, as he fancied, just nicked the time, for he came in just as the cloth was laying.  He took a chair without being desired, and talked for some time without being attended to.  He assured the company, that nothing procured so good an appetite as a walk to the White Conduit House, where he had been that morning.  He looked at the tablecloth, and praised the figure of the damask;  talked of a feast where he had been the day before, but that the venison was overdone.  All this, however, procured the poor creature no invitation, and he was not yet sufficiently hardened to stay without being asked;  wherefore, finding the gentleman of the house insensible to all his fetches, he thought proper at last to retire, and mend his appetite by a walk in the Park.
       You then, O ye beggars of my acquaintance, whether in rags or lace--whether in Kent Street or at the Mall--whether at Smyrna or St. Giles's,--might I advise you as a friend, never seem in want of the favour which you solicit.  Apply to every passion but pity for redress.  You may find relief from vanity, from self-interest, or from avarice, but seldom from compassion.  The very eloquence of a poor man is disgusting;  and that mouth which is opened, even for flattery, is seldom expected to close without a petition.
       If, then, you would ward off the gripe of poverty, pretend to be a stranger to her, and she will at least use you with ceremony.  Hear not my advice, but that of Ofellus.  If you be caught dining upon a halfpenny porringer of pease soup and potatoes, praise the wholesomeness of your frugal repast.  You may observe that Dr. Cheyne has prescribed pease broth for the gravel;  hint that you are not one of those who are always making a god of your belly.  If you are obliged to wear a flimsy stuff in the midst of winter, be the first to remark that stuffs are very much worn at Paris.  If there be some irreparable defects in any part of your equipage, which cannot be concealed by all the arts of sitting cross-legged, coaxing, or darning, say that neither you nor Sampson Gideon were ever very fond of dress.  Or if you be a philosopher, hint that Plato and Seneca are the tailors you choose to employ;  assure the company, that men ought to be content with a bare covering, since what is now so much the pride of some, was formerly our shame. . . .In short, however caught, do not give up, but ascribe to the frugality of your dispostion what others might be apt to attribute to the narrowness of your circumstances, and appear rather to be a miser than a beggar.  To be poor, and to seem poor, is a certain method never to rise.  Pride in the great is hateful, in the wise it is ridiculous;  beggarly pride is the only sort of vanity I can excuse."  The Bee No.III by Oliver Goldsmith

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