Friday, April 11, 1712. Steele.
Ea animi elatio quae cernitur in periculis, si Justitia vacat pugnatque pro suis commodis, in vitio est.
CAPTAIN SENTREY was last Night at the Club, and produced a Letter from Ipswich, which his Correspondent desired him to communicate to his Friend the SPECTATOR. It contained an Account of an Engagement between a French Privateer, commanded by one Dominick Pottiere, and a little Vessel of that Place laden with Corn, the Master whereof, as I remember, was one Goodwin. The Englishman defended himself with incredible Bravery, and beat off the French, after having been boarded three or four times. The Enemy still came on with greater Fury, and hoped by his Number of Men to carry the Prize, till at last the Englishman finding himself sink apace, and ready to perish, struck: But the Effect which this singular Gallantry had upon the Captain of the Privateer, was no other than an unmanly Desire of Vengeance for the Loss he had sustained in his several Attacks. He told the Ipswich Man in a speaking-Trumpet, that he would not take him aboard, and that he stayed to see him sink. The Englishman at the same time observed a Disorder in the Vessel, which he rightly judged to proceed from the Disdain which the Ships Crew had of their Captains Inhumanity: With this Hope he went into his Boat, and approached the Enemy. He was taken in by the Sailors in spite of their Commander; but though they received him against his Command, they treated him when he was in the Ship in the manner he directed. Pottiere caused his Men to hold Goodwin, while he beat him with a Stick till he fainted with Loss of Blood, and Rage of Heart: after which he ordered him into Irons without allowing him any Food, but such as one or two of the Men stole to him under peril of the like Usage: After having kept him several Days overwhelmed with the Misery of Stench, Hunger, and Soreness, he brought him into Calais. The Governour of the Place was soon acquainted with all that had passed, dismissed Pottiere from his Charge with Ignominy, and gave Goodwin all the Relief which a Man of Honour would bestow upon an Enemy barbarously treated, to recover the Imputation of Cruelty upon his Prince and Country.
When Mr. SENTREY had read his Letter, full of many other circumstances which aggravate the Barbarity, he fell into a sort of Criticism upon Magnanimity and Courage, and argued that they were inseparable; and that Courage, without regard to Justice and Humanity, was no other than the Fierceness of a wild Beast. A good and truly bold Spirit, continued he, is ever actuated by Reason and a Sense of Honour and Duty: The Affectation of such a Spirit exerts it self in an Impudent Aspect, an over-bearing Confidence, and a certain Negligence of giving Offence. This is visible in all the cocking Youths you see about this Town, who are noisy in Assemblies, unawed by the Presence of wise and virtuous Men; in a word, insensible of all the Honours and Decencies of human Life. A shameless Fellow takes advantage of Merit clothed with Modesty and Magnanimity, and in the Eyes of little People appears sprightly and agreeable; while the Man of Resolution and true Gallantry is overlooked and disregarded, if not despised. There is a Propriety in all things; and I believe what you Scholars call just and sublime, in opposition to turgid and bombast Expression, may give you an Idea of what I mean, when I say Modesty is the certain Indication of a great Spirit, and Impudence the Affectation of it. He that writes with Judgment, and never rises into improper Warmths, manifests the true Force of Genius; in like manner, he who is quiet and equal in all his Behaviour, is supported in that Deportment by what we may call true Courage. Alas, it is not so easy a thing to be a brave Man as the unthinking part of Mankind imagine: To dare, is not all that there is in it. The Privateer we were just now talking of, had boldness enough to attack his Enemy, but not Greatness of Mind enough to admire the same Quality exerted by that Enemy in defending himself. Thus his base and little Mind was wholly taken up in the sordid regard to the Prize, of which he failed, and the damage done to his own Vessel; and therefore he used an honest Man, who defended his own from him, in the Manner as he would a Thief that should rob him.
He was equally disappointed, and had not Spirit enough to consider that one Case would be Laudable and the other Criminal. Malice, Rancour, Hatred, Vengeance, are what tear the Breasts of mean Men in Fight; but Fame, Glory, Conquests, Desires of Opportunities to pardon and oblige their Opposers, are what glow in the Minds of the Gallant. The Captain ended his Discourse with a Specimen of his Book-Learning; and gave us to understand that he had read a French Author on the Subject of Justness in point of Gallantry. I love, said Mr. SENTREY, a Critick who mixes the Rules of Life with Annotations upon Writers. My Author, added he, in his Discourse upon Epick Poem, takes occasion to speak of the same Quality of Courage drawn in the two different Characters of Turnus and AEneas: He makes Courage the chief and greatest Ornament of Turnus; but in AEneas there are many others which out-shine it, amongst the rest that of Piety. Turnus is therefore all along painted by the Poet full of Ostentation, his Language haughty and vain glorious, as placing his Honour in the Manifestation of his Valour; AEneas speaks little, is slow to Action; and shows only a sort of defensive Courage. If Equipage and Address make Turnus appear more couragious than AEneas, Conduct and Success prove AEneas more valiant than Turnus.