Saturday, October 16, 1711.
‘Alter rixatur de lana saepe caprina,
Propugnat nugis armatus: scilicet, ut non
Sit mihi prima fides; et vere quod placet, ut non
Acriter elatrem, pretium aetas altera sordet.
Ambigitur quid enim? Castor sciat an Docilis plus,
Brundusium Numici melius via ducat an Appi.’
Every Age a Man passes through, and Way of Life he engages in, has some particular Vice or Imperfection naturally cleaving to it, which it wil require his nicest Care to avoid. The several Weaknesses, to which Youth, Old Age and Manhood are exposed, have long since been set down by many both of the Poets and Philosophers; but I do not remember to have met with any Author who has treated of those ill Habits Men are subject to, not so much by reason of their different Ages and Tempers, as the particular Profession or Business in which they were educated and brought up.
I am the more surprised to find this Subject so little touched on, since what I am here speaking of is so apparent as not to escape the most vulgar Observation. The Business Men are chiefly conversant in, does not only give a certain Cast or Turn to their Minds, but is very often apparent in their outward Behaviour, and some of the most indifferent Actions of their Lives. It is this Air diffusing itself over the whole Man, which helps us to find out a Person at his first Appearance; so that the most careless Observer fancies he can scarce be mistaken in the Carriage of a Seaman or the Gaite of a Taylor.
The liberal Arts, though they may possibly have less Effect on our external Mein and Behaviour, make so deep an Impression on the Mind, as is very apt to bend it wholly one Way.
The Mathematician will take little less than Demonstration in the most common Discourse, and the Schoolman is as great a Friend to Definitions and Syllogisms. The Physician and Divine are often heard to dictate in private Companies with the same Authority which they exercise over their Patients and Disciples; while the Lawyer is putting Cases and raising Matter for Disputation out of every thing that occurs.
I may possibly some time or other animadvert more at large on the particular Fault each Profession is most infected with; but shall at present wholly apply my self to the Cure of what I last mentioned, namely, That Spirit of Strife and Contention in the Conversations of Gentlemen of the Long Robe.
This is the more ordinary, because these Gentlemen regarding Argument as their own proper Province, and very often making ready Money of it, think it unsafe to yield before Company. They are shewing in common Talk how zealously they could defend a Cause in Court, and therefore frequently forget to keep that Temper which is absolutely requisite to render Conversation pleasant and instructive.
CAPTAIN SENTRY pushes this Matter so far, that I have heard him say, He has known but few Pleaders that were tolerable Company.
The Captain, who is a Man of good Sense, but dry Conversation, was last Night giving me an Account of a Discourse, in which he had lately been engaged with a young Wrangler in the Law. I was giving my Opinion, says the Captain, without apprehending any Debate that might arise from it, of a General’s Behaviour in a Battle that was fought some Years before either the Templer or my self were born. The young Lawyer immediately took me up, and by reasoning above a Quarter of an Hour upon a Subject which I saw he understood nothing of, endeavoured to shew me that my Opinions were ill grounded. Upon which, says the Captain, to avoid any farther Contests, I told him, That truly I had not consider’d those several Arguments which he had brought against me; and that there might be a great deal in them. Ay, but says my Antagonist, who would not let me escape so, there are several Things to be urged in favour of your Opinion which you have omitted, and thereupon begun to shine on the other Side of the Question. Upon this, says the Captain, I came over to my first Sentiments, and entirely acquiesced in his Reasons for my so doing. Upon which the Templer again recovered his former Posture, and confuted both himself and me a third Time. In short, says my Friend, I found he was resolved to keep me at Sword’s Length, and never let me close with him, so that I had nothing left but to hold my tongue, and give my Antagonist free leave to smile at his Victory, who I found, like Hudibras, could still change Sides, and still confute.