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No. 169,177: Good Nature [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Part One.

Sic vita erat: facile omnes perferre ac pati:
Cum quibus erat cunque una, his sese dedere,
Eorum obsequi studiis: advorsus nemini;
Nunquam praeponens se aliis. Ita facillime
Sine invidia invenias laudem.–

TER., Andr., Act i. se. 1.

His manner of life was this: to bear with everybody’s humours; to comply with the inclinations and pursuits of those he conversed with; to contradict nobody; never to assume a superiority over others. This is the ready way to gain applause without exciting envy.

Man is subject to innumerable pains and sorrows by the very condition of humanity, and yet, as if Nature had not sown evils enough in life, we are continually adding grief to grief, and aggravating the common calamity by our cruel treatment of one another. Every man’s natural weight of affliction is still made more heavy by the envy, malice, treachery, or injustice of his neighbour. At the same time that the storm beats on the whole species, we are falling foul upon one another.

Half the misery of human life might be extinguished, would men alleviate the general curse they lie under, by mutual offices of compassion, benevolence, and humanity. There is nothing, therefore, which we ought more to encourage in ourselves and others, than that disposition of mind which in our language goes under the title of good nature, and which I shall choose for the subject of this day’s speculation.

Good-nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty. It shows virtue in the fairest light, takes off in some measure from the deformity of vice, and makes even folly and impertinence supportable.

There is no society or conversation to be kept up in the world without good nature, or something which must bear its appearance, and supply its place. For this reason, mankind have been forced to invent a kind of artificial humanity, which is what we express by the word good-breeding. For if we examine thoroughly the idea of what we call so, we shall find it to be nothing else but an imitation and mimicry of good nature, or, in other terms, affability, complaisance, and easiness of temper, reduced into an art. These exterior shows and appearances of humanity render a man wonderfully popular and beloved, when they are founded upon a real good nature; but, without it, are like hypocrisy in religion, or a bare form of holiness, which, when it is discovered, makes a man more detestable than professed impiety.

Good-nature is generally born with us: health, prosperity, and kind treatment from the world, are great cherishers of it where they find it; but nothing is capable of forcing it up, where it does not grow of itself. It is one of the blessings of a happy constitution, which education may improve, but not produce.

Xenophon, in the life of his imaginary prince whom he describes as a pattern for real ones, is always celebrating the philanthropy and good nature of his hero, which he tells us he brought into the world with him; and gives many remarkable instances of it in his childhood, as well as in all the several parts of his life. Nay, on his death-bed, he describes him as being pleased, that while his soul returned to Him who made it, his body should incorporate with the great mother of all things, and by that means become beneficial to mankind. For which reason, he gives his sons a positive order not to enshrine it in gold or silver, but to lay it in the earth as soon as the life was gone out of it.

An instance of such an overflowing of humanity, such an exuberant love to mankind, could not have entered into the imagination of a writer who had not a soul filled with great ideas, and a general benevolence to mankind.