Thursday, March 22, 1711. Steele.
‘Dii benefecerunt, inopis me quodque pusilli
Finxerunt animi, rari et perpauca loquentis.’
Observing one Person behold another, who was an utter Stranger to him, with a Cast of his Eye which, methought, expressed an Emotion of Heart very different from what could be raised by an Object so agreeable as the Gentleman he looked at, I began to consider, not without some secret Sorrow, the Condition of an Envious Man. Some have fancied that Envy has a certain Magical Force in it, and that the Eyes of the Envious have by their Fascination blasted the Enjoyments of the Happy. Sir Francis Bacon says,  Some have been so curious as to remark the Times and Seasons when the Stroke of an Envious Eye is most effectually pernicious, and have observed that it has been when the Person envied has been in any Circumstance of Glory and Triumph. At such a time the Mind of the Prosperous Man goes, as it were, abroad, among things without him, and is more exposed to the Malignity. But I shall not dwell upon Speculations so abstracted as this, or repeat the many excellent Things which one might collect out of Authors upon this miserable Affection; but keeping in the road of common Life, consider the Envious Man with relation to these three Heads, His Pains, His Reliefs, and His Happiness.
The Envious Man is in Pain upon all Occasions which ought to give him Pleasure. The Relish of his Life is inverted, and the Objects which administer the highest Satisfaction to those who are exempt from this Passion, give the quickest Pangs to Persons who are subject to it. All the Perfections of their Fellow-Creatures are odious: Youth, Beauty, Valour and Wisdom are Provocations of their Displeasure. What a Wretched and Apostate State is this! To be offended with Excellence, and to hate a Man because we Approve him! The Condition of the Envious Man is the most Emphatically miserable; he is not only incapable of rejoicing in another’s Merit or Success, but lives in a World wherein all Mankind are in a Plot against his Quiet, by studying their own Happiness and Advantage. Will. Prosper is an honest Tale-bearer, he makes it his business to join in Conversation with Envious Men. He points to such an handsom Young Fellow, and whispers that he is secretly married to a Great Fortune: When they doubt, he adds Circumstances to prove it; and never fails to aggravate their Distress, by assuring ’em that to his knowledge he has an Uncle will leave him some Thousands. Will. has many Arts of this kind to torture this sort of Temper, and delights in it. When he finds them change colour, and say faintly They wish such a Piece of News is true, he has the Malice to speak some good or other of every Man of their Acquaintance.
The Reliefs of the Envious Man are those little Blemishes and Imperfections, that discover themselves in an Illustrious Character. It is matter of great Consolation to an Envious Person, when a Man of Known Honour does a thing Unworthy himself: Or when any Action which was well executed, upon better Information appears so alter’d in its Circumstances, that the Fame of it is divided among many, instead of being attributed to One. This is a secret Satisfaction to these Malignants; for the Person whom they before could not but admire, they fancy is nearer their own Condition as soon as his Merit is shared among others. I remember some Years ago there came out an Excellent Poem, without the Name of the Author. The little Wits, who were incapable of Writing it, began to pull in Pieces the supposed Writer. When that would not do, they took great Pains to suppress the Opinion that it was his. That again failed. The next Refuge was to say it was overlook’d by one Man, and many Pages wholly written by another. An honest Fellow, who sate among a Cluster of them in debate on this Subject, cryed out,