Monday, April 14, 1712. Steele.
Si ad honestatem nati sumus, ea aut sola expetenda est, aut certe omni pondere gravior est habenda quam reliqua omnia.
Will. Honeycomb was complaining to me yesterday, that the Conversation of the Town is so altered of late Years, that a fine Gentleman is at a loss for Matter to start Discourse, as well as unable to fall in with the Talk he generally meets with. WILL. takes notice, that there is now an Evil under the Sun which he supposes to be entirely new, because not mentioned by any Satyrist or Moralist in any Age: Men, said he, grow Knaves sooner than they ever did since the Creation of the World before. If you read the Tragedies of the last Age, you find the artful Men and Persons of Intrigue, are advanced very far in Years, and beyond the Pleasures and Sallies of Youth; but now WILL. observes, that the Young have taken in the Vices of the Aged, and you shall have a Man of Five and Twenty crafty, false, and intriguing, not ashamed to over-reach, cozen, and beguile. My Friend adds, that till about the latter end of King Charles’s Reign, there was not a Rascal of any Eminence under Forty: In the Places of Resort for Conversation, you now hear nothing but what relates to the improving Mens Fortunes, without regard to the Methods toward it. This is so fashionable, that young Men form themselves upon a certain Neglect of every thing that is candid, simple, and worthy of true Esteem; and affect being yet worse than they are, by acknowledging in their general turn of Mind and Discourse, that they have not any remaining Value for true Honour and Honesty; preferring the Capacity of being Artful to gain their Ends, to the Merit of despising those Ends when they come in competition with their Honesty. All this is due to the very silly Pride that generally prevails, of being valued for the Ability of carrying their Point; in a word, from the Opinion that shallow and inexperienced People entertain of the short-liv’d Force of Cunning. But I shall, before I enter upon the various Faces which Folly cover’d with Artifice puts on to impose upon the Unthinking, produce a great Authority  for asserting, that nothing but Truth and Ingenuity has any lasting good Effect, even upon a Man’s Fortune and Interest.
Truth and Reality have all the Advantages of Appearance, and many more. If the Shew of any thing be good for any thing, I am sure Sincerity is better: For why does any Man dissemble, or seem to be that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have such a Quality as he pretends to? for to counterfeit and dissemble, is to put on the Appearance of some real Excellency. Now the best way in the World for a Man to seem to be any thing, is really to be what he would seem to be. Besides that it is many times as troublesome to make good the Pretence of a good Quality, as to have it; and if a Man have it not, it is ten to one but he is discover’d to want it, and then all his Pains and Labour to seem to have it is lost. There is something unnatural in Painting, which a skillful Eye will easily discern from native Beauty and Complexion.
It is hard to personate and act a Part long; for where Truth is not at the bottom, Nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will peep out and betray her self one time or other. Therefore if any Man think it convenient to seem good, let him be so indeed, and then his Goodness will appear to every body’s Satisfaction; so that upon all accounts Sincerity is true Wisdom. Particularly as to the Affairs of this World, Integrity hath many Advantages over all the fine and artificial ways of Dissimulation and Deceit; it is much the plainer and easier, much the safer and more secure way of dealing in the World; it has less of Trouble and Difficulty, of Entanglement and Perplexity, of Danger and Hazard in it; it is the shortest and nearest way to our End, carrying us thither in a straight line, and will hold out and last longest. The Arts of Deceit and Cunning do continually grow weaker and less effectual and serviceable to them that use them; whereas Integrity gains Strength by use, and the more and longer any Man practiseth it, the greater Service it does him, by confirming his Reputation and encouraging those with whom he hath to do, to repose the greatest Trust and Confidence in him, which is an unspeakable Advantage in the Business and Affairs of Life.