Friday, October 5, 1711.
‘Loetus sum Laudari a te Laudato viro.’
He is a very unhappy Man who sets his Heart upon being admired by the Multitude, or affects a general and undistinguishing Applause among Men. What pious Men call the Testimony of a good Conscience, should be the Measure of our Ambition in this Kind; that is to say, a Man of Spirit should contemn the Praise of the Ignorant, and like being applauded for nothing but what he knows in his own Heart he deserves. Besides which the Character of the Person who commends you is to be considered, before you set a Value upon his Esteem. The Praise of an ignorant Man is only Good-will, and you should receive his Kindness as he is a good Neighbour in Society, and not as a good Judge of your Actions in Point of Fame and Reputation. The Satyrist said very well of popular Praise and Acclamations, Give the Tinkers and Coblers their Presents again, and learn to live of your self.  It is an Argument of a loose and ungoverned Mind to be affected with the promiscuous Approbation of the Generality of Mankind; and a Man of Virtue should be too delicate for so coarse an Appetite of Fame. Men of Honour should endeavour only to please the Worthy, and the Man of Merit should desire to be tried only by his Peers. I thought it a noble Sentiment which I heard Yesterday uttered in Conversation; I know, said a Gentleman, a Way to be greater than any Man: If he has Worth in him, I can rejoice in his Superiority to me; and that Satisfaction is a greater Act of the Soul in me, than any in him which can possibly appear to me. This Thought could not proceed but from a candid and generous Spirit; and the Approbation of such Minds is what may be esteemed true Praise. For with the common Rate of Men there is nothing commendable but what they themselves may hope to be Partakers of, or arrive at; but the Motive truly glorious is, when the Mind is set rather to do Things laudable, than to purchase Reputation. Where there is that Sincerity as the Foundation of a good Name, the kind Opinion of virtuous Men will be an unsought but a necessary Consequence. The Lacedemonians, tho’ a plain People, and no Pretenders to Politeness, had a certain Delicacy in their Sense of Glory, and sacrificed to the Muses when they entered upon any great Enterprise.  They would have the Commemoration of their Actions be transmitted by the purest and most untainted Memorialists. The Din which attends Victories and publick Triumphs is by far less eligible, than the Recital of the Actions of great Men by honest and wise Historians. It is a frivolous Pleasure to be the Admiration of gaping Crowds; but to have the Approbation of a good Man in the cool Reflections of his Closet, is a Gratification worthy an heroick Spirit. The Applause of the Crowd makes the Head giddy, but the Attestation of a reasonable Man makes the Heart glad.
What makes the Love of popular or general Praise still more ridiculous, is, that it is usually given for Circumstances which are foreign to the Persons admired. Thus they are the ordinary Attendants on Power and Riches, which may be taken out of one Man’s Hands, and put into another’s: The Application only, and not the Possession, makes those outward things honourable. The Vulgar and Men of Sense agree in admiring Men for having what they themselves would rather be possessed of; the wise Man applauds him whom he thinks most virtuous; the rest of the World, him who is most wealthy.
When a Man is in this way of Thinking, I do not know what can occur to one more monstrous, than to see Persons of Ingenuity address their Services and Performances to Men no way addicted to Liberal Arts: In these Cases, the Praise on one hand, and the Patronage on the other, are equally the Objects of Ridicule. Dedications to ignorant Men are as absurd as any of the Speeches of Bulfinch in the Droll: Such an Address one is apt to translate into other Words; and when the Different Parties are thoroughly considered, the Panegyrick generally implies no more than if the Author should say to the Patron; My very good Lord, You and I can never understand one another, therefore I humbly desire we may be intimate Friends for the future.