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No. 114 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 114.
Wednesday, July 11, 1711.

‘… Paupertatis pudor et fuga …’


Oeconomy in our Affairs has the same Effect upon our Fortunes which Good Breeding has upon our Conversations. There is a pretending Behaviour in both Cases, which, instead of making Men esteemed, renders them both miserable and contemptible. We had Yesterday at SIR ROGER’S a Set of Country Gentlemen who dined with him; and after Dinner the Glass was taken, by those who pleased, pretty plentifully. Among others I observed a Person of a tolerable good Aspect, who seemed to be more greedy of Liquor than any of the Company, and yet, methought, he did not taste it with Delight. As he grew warm, he was suspicious of every thing that was said; and as he advanced towards being fudled, his Humour grew worse. At the same time his Bitterness seem’d to be rather an inward Dissatisfaction in his own Mind, than any Dislike he had taken at the Company. Upon hearing his Name, I knew him to be a Gentle man of a considerable Fortune in this County, but greatly in Debt. What gives the unhappy Man this Peevishness of Spirit is, that his Estate is dipped, and is eating out with Usury; and yet he has not the Heart to sell any Part of it. His proud Stomach, at the Cost of restless Nights, constant Inquietudes, Danger of Affronts, and a thousand nameless Inconveniences, preserves this Canker in his Fortune, rather than it shall be said he is a Man of fewer Hundreds a Year than he has been commonly reputed. Thus he endures the Torment of Poverty, to avoid the Name of being less rich. If you go to his House you see great Plenty; but served in a Manner that shews it is all unnatural, and that the Master’s Mind is not at home. There is a certain Waste and Carelessness in the Air of every thing, and the whole appears but a covered Indigence, a magnificent Poverty. That Neatness and Chearfulness, which attends the Table of him who lives within Compass, is wanting, and exchanged for a Libertine Way of Service in all about him.

This Gentleman’s Conduct, tho’ a very common way of Management, is as ridiculous as that Officer’s would be, who had but few Men under his Command, and should take the Charge of an Extent of Country rather than of a small Pass. To pay for, personate, and keep in a Man’s Hands, a greater Estate than he really has, is of all others the most unpardonable Vanity, and must in the End reduce the Man who is guilty of it to Dishonour. Yet if we look round us in any County of Great Britain, we shall see many in this fatal Error; if that may be called by so soft a Name, which proceeds from a false Shame of appearing what they really are, when the contrary Behaviour would in a short Time advance them to the Condition which they pretend to.

Laertes has fifteen hundred Pounds a Year; which is mortgaged for six thousand Pounds; but it is impossible to convince him that if he sold as much as would pay off that Debt, he would save four Shillings in the Pound, [1] which he gives for the Vanity of being the reputed Master of it. [Yet [2]] if Laertes did this, he would, perhaps, be easier in his own Fortune; but then Irus, a Fellow of Yesterday, who has but twelve hundred a Year, would be his Equal. Rather than this shall be, Laertes goes on to bring well-born Beggars into the World, and every Twelvemonth charges, his Estate with at least one Year’s Rent more by the Birth of a Child.

Laertes and Irus are Neighbours, whose Way of living are an Abomination to each other. Irus is moved by the Fear of Poverty, and Laertes by the Shame of it. Though the Motive of Action is of so near Affinity in both, and may be resolved into this, ‘That to each of them Poverty is the greatest of all Evils,’ yet are their Manners very widely different. Shame of Poverty makes Laertes launch into unnecessary Equipage, vain Expense, and lavish Entertainments; Fear of Poverty makes Irus allow himself only plain Necessaries, appear without a Servant, sell his own Corn, attend his Labourers, and be himself a Labourer. Shame of Poverty makes Laertes go every Day a step nearer to it; and Fear of Poverty stirs up Irus to make every Day some further Progress from it.