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No. 055 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

When a Government flourishes in Conquests, and is secure from foreign Attacks, it naturally falls into all the Pleasures of Luxury; and as these Pleasures are very expensive, they put those who are addicted to them upon raising fresh Supplies of Mony, by all the Methods of Rapaciousness and Corruption; so that Avarice and Luxury very often become one complicated Principle of Action, in those whose Hearts are wholly set upon Ease, Magnificence, and Pleasure. The most Elegant and Correct of all the Latin Historians observes, that in his time, when the most formidable States of the World were subdued by the Romans, the Republick sunk into those two Vices of a quite different Nature, Luxury and Avarice: [1] And accordingly describes Catiline as one who coveted the Wealth of other Men, at the same time that he squander’d away his own. This Observation on the Commonwealth, when it was in its height of Power and Riches, holds good of all Governments that are settled in a State of Ease and Prosperity. At such times Men naturally endeavour to outshine one another in Pomp and Splendor, and having no Fears to alarm them from abroad, indulge themselves in the Enjoyment of all the Pleasures they can get into their Possession; which naturally produces Avarice, and an immoderate Pursuit after Wealth and Riches.

As I was humouring my self in the Speculation of these two great Principles of Action, I could not forbear throwing my Thoughts into a little kind of Allegory or Fable, with which I shall here present my Reader.

There were two very powerful Tyrants engaged in a perpetual War against each other: The Name of the first was Luxury, and of the second Avarice. The Aim of each of them was no less than Universal Monarchy over the Hearts of Mankind. Luxury had many Generals under him, who did him great Service, as Pleasure, Mirth, Pomp and Fashion. Avarice was likewise very strong in his Officers, being faithfully served by Hunger, Industry, Care and Watchfulness: He had likewise a Privy-Counsellor who was always at his Elbow, and whispering something or other in his Ear: The Name of this Privy-Counsellor was Poverty. As Avarice conducted himself by the Counsels of Poverty, his Antagonist was entirely guided by the Dictates and Advice of Plenty, who was his first Counsellor and Minister of State, that concerted all his Measures for him, and never departed out of his Sight. While these two great Rivals were thus contending for Empire, their Conquests were very various. Luxury got Possession of one Heart, and Avarice of another. The Father of a Family would often range himself under the Banners of Avarice, and the Son under those of Luxury. The Wife and Husband would often declare themselves on the two different Parties; nay, the same Person would very often side with one in his Youth, and revolt to the other in his old Age. Indeed the Wise Men of the World stood Neuter; but alas! their Numbers were not considerable. At length, when these two Potentates had wearied themselves with waging War upon one another, they agreed upon an Interview, at which neither of their Counsellors were to be present. It is said that Luxury began the Parley, and after having represented the endless State of War in which they were engaged, told his Enemy, with a Frankness of Heart which is natural to him, that he believed they two should be very good Friends, were it not for the Instigations of Poverty, that pernicious Counsellor, who made an ill use of his Ear, and filled him with groundless Apprehensions and Prejudices. To this Avarice replied, that he looked upon Plenty (the first Minister of his Antagonist) to be a much more destructive Counsellor than Poverty, for that he was perpetually suggesting Pleasures, banishing all the necessary Cautions against Want, and consequently undermining those Principles on which the Government of Avarice was founded. At last, in order to an Accommodation, they agreed upon this Preliminary; That each of them should immediately dismiss his Privy-Counsellor. When things were thus far adjusted towards a Peace, all other differences were soon accommodated, insomuch that for the future they resolved to live as good Friends and Confederates, and to share between them whatever Conquests were made on either side. For this Reason, we now find Luxury and Avarice taking Possession of the same Heart, and dividing the same Person between them. To which I shall only add, that since the discarding of the Counsellors above-mentioned, Avarice supplies Luxury in the room of Plenty, as Luxury prompts Avarice in the place of Poverty.


[Footnote 1:

Alieni appetens, sui profusus.