Wednesday, March 26, 1712. Steele.
–Clament periisse pudorem
Cuncti pene patres, ea cum reprehendere coner,
Quae gravis AEsopus, quae doctus Roscius egit:
Vel quia nil rectum, nisi quod placuit sibi, ducunt;
Vel quia turpe putant parere minoribus, et, quae
Imberbes didicere, senes perdenda fateri.
As you are the daily Endeavourer to promote Learning and good Sense, I think myself obliged to suggest to your Consideration whatever may promote or prejudice them.. There is an Evil which has prevailed from Generation to Generation, which grey Hairs and tyrannical Custom continue to support; I hope your Spectatorial Authority will give a seasonable Check to the Spread of the Infection; I mean old Mens overbearing the strongest Sense of their Juniors by the mere Force of Seniority; so that for a young Man in the Bloom of Life and Vigour of Age to give a reasonable Contradiction to his Elders, is esteemed an unpardonable Insolence, and regarded as a reversing the Decrees of Nature. I am a young Man, I confess, yet I honour the grey Head as much as any one; however, when in Company with old Men, I hear them speak obscurely, or reason preposterously (into which Absurdities, Prejudice, Pride, or Interest, will sometimes throw the wisest) I count it no Crime to rectifie their Reasoning, unless Conscience must truckle to Ceremony, and Truth fall a Sacrifice to Complaisance. The strongest Arguments are enervated, and the brightest Evidence disappears, before those tremendous Reasonings and dazling Discoveries of venerable old Age: You are young giddy-headed Fellows, you have not yet had Experience of the World. Thus we young Folks find our Ambition cramp’d, and our Laziness indulged, since, while young, we have little room to display our selves; and, when old, the Weakness of Nature must pass for Strength of Sense, and we hope that hoary Heads will raise us above the Attacks of Contradiction. Now, Sir, as you would enliven our Activity in the pursuit of Learning, take our Case into Consideration; and, with a Gloss on brave Elihus Sentiments, assert the Rights of Youth, and prevent the pernicious Incroachments of Age. The generous Reasonings of that gallant Youth would adorn your Paper; and I beg you would insert them, not doubting but that they will give good Entertainment to the most intelligent of your Readers.
So these three Men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own Eyes. Then was kindled the Wrath of Elihu the Son of Barachel the Buzite, of the Kindred of Ram: Against Job was his Wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three Friends was his Wrath kindled, because they had found no Answer, and yet had condemned Job. Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. When Elihu saw there was no Answer in the Mouth of these three Men, then his Wrath was kindled. And Elihu the Son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old, wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine Opinion. I said, Days should speak, and Multitude of Years should teach Wisdom. But there is a Spirit in Man; and the Inspiration of the Almighty giveth them Understanding. Great Men are not always wise: Neither do the Aged understand Judgment. Therefore I said, hearken to me, I also will shew mine Opinion. Behold, I waited for your Words; I gave ear to your Reasons, whilst you searched out what to say. Yea, I attended unto you: And behold there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his Words; lest ye should say, we have found out Wisdom: God thrusteth him down, not Man. Now he hath not directed his Words against me: Neither will I answer him with your Speeches. They were amazed, they answered no more: They left off speaking. When I had waited (for they spake not, but stood still and answered no more) I said, I will answer also my Part, I also will shew mine Opinion. For I am full of Matter, the Spirit within me constraineth me. Behold my Belly is as Wine which hath no vent, it is ready to burst like new Bottles. I will speak that I may be refreshed: I will open my Lips, and answer. Let me not, I pray you, accept any Man’s Person, neither let me give flattering Titles unto Man. For I know not to give flattering Titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away.