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No. 386 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 386
Friday, May 23, 1712. Steele.

‘Cum Tristibus severe, cum Remissis jucunde, cum Senibus graviter, cum

Juventute comiter vivere.’


The piece of Latin on the Head of this Paper is part of a Character
extremely vicious, but I have set down no more than may fall in with the
Rules of Justice and Honour. Cicero spoke it of Catiline, who, he said,
lived with the Sad severely, with the Chearful agreeably, with the Old
gravely, with the Young pleasantly; he added, with the Wicked boldly,
with the Wanton lasciviously. The two last Instances of his Complaisance
I forbear to consider, having it in my thoughts at present only to speak
of obsequious Behaviour as it sits upon a Companion in Pleasure, not a
Man of Design and Intrigue. To vary with every Humour in this Manner,
cannot be agreeable, except it comes from a Man’s own Temper and natural
Complection; to do it out of an Ambition to excel that Way, is the most
fruitless and unbecoming Prostitution imaginable. To put on an artful
Part to obtain no other End but an unjust Praise from the Undiscerning,
is of all Endeavours the most despicable. A Man must be sincerely
pleased to become Pleasure, or not to interrupt that of others: For this
Reason it is a most calamitous Circumstance, that many People who want
to be alone or should be so, will come into Conversation. It is certain,
that all Men who are the least given to Reflection, are seized with an
Inclination that Way; when, perhaps, they had rather be inclined to
Company: but indeed they had better go home, and be tired with
themselves, than force themselves upon others to recover their good
Humour. In all this the Cases of communicating to a Friend a sad Thought
or Difficulty, in order to relieve [a [1]] heavy Heart, stands excepted;
but what is here meant, is, that a Man should always go with Inclination
to the Turn of the Company he is going into, or not pretend to be of the
Party. It is certainly a very happy Temper to be able to live with all
kinds of Dispositions, because it argues a Mind that lies open to
receive what is pleasing to others, and not obstinately bent on any
Particularity of its own.

This is that which makes me pleased with the Character of my good
Acquaintance Acasto. You meet him at the Tables and Conversations of the
Wise, the Impertinent, the Grave, the Frolick, and the Witty; and yet
his own Character has nothing in it that can make him particularly
agreeable to any one Sect of Men; but Acasto has natural good Sense,
good Nature and Discretion, so that every Man enjoys himself in his
company; and tho’ Acasto contributes nothing to the Entertainment, he
never was at a Place where he was not welcome a second time. Without
these subordinate good Qualities of Acasto, a Man of Wit and Learning
would be painful to the Generality of Mankind, instead of being
pleasing. Witty Men are apt to imagine they are agreeable as such, and
by that means grow the worst Companions imaginable; they deride the
Absent or rally the Present in a wrong manner, not knowing that if you
pinch or tickle a Man till he is uneasy in his Seat, or ungracefully
distinguished from the rest of the Company, you equally hurt him.

I was going to say, the true Art of being agreeable in Company, (but
there can be no such thing as Art in it) is to appear well pleased with
those you are engaged with, and rather to seem well entertained, than to
bring Entertainment to others. A Man thus disposed is not indeed what we
ordinarily call a good Companion, but essentially is such, and in all
the Parts of his Conversation has something friendly in his Behaviour,
which conciliates Men’s Minds more than the highest Sallies of Wit or
Starts of Humour can possibly do. The Feebleness of Age in a Man of this
Turn, has something which should be treated with respect even in a Man
no otherwise venerable. The Forwardness of Youth, when it proceeds from
Alacrity and not Insolence, has also its Allowances. The Companion who
is formed for such by Nature, gives to every Character of Life its due
Regards, and is ready to account for their Imperfections, and receive
their Accomplishments as if they were his own. It must appear that you
receive Law from, and not give it to your Company, to make you