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men. But he was more proud than vain; and so far may be taken as no exception to Adam Smith's distinction between the vain man who courts his superiors, that the reflection of their splendour may glorify him, and the proud man who, as he does not always feel himself at his ease in the company of his equals, still less does he in that of his superiors. “He has recourse to humbler company, for which he has little respect, which he would not willingly choose, and which is by no means agreeable to him—that of his inferiors, his flatterers, and dependents.” Dr. Moore's analysis of the self conceit of Zeluco includes this characteristic, that, detesting all whom he suspected of having sufficient penetration to see into his real character, he could support the company of those only upon whose understandings he imagined he imposed by giving them a much better idea of his character than it deserved. “This accounts for his constant preference of ignorant society”; a preference tending to the same result as Gay sets forth in the prelude to one of his fables :
“How fond are men of rule and place,
A clerical essayist asks if we have not all of us known a man who, if not allowed to be the first man in some little company, the only talker, the only singer, the only philosopher, or the only jackpudding, would "give up” and sit entirely silent. “In his own small way he must be aut Cæsar aut nullus. A rival talker, singer, or mountebank turns him pale with envy and wrath.” Peter Pindar makes his pretentious knight exclaim,
“ To circles of pure ignorance conduct me ;
I hate the company that can instruct me !".
The pride of being first of the company, Chesterfield cautions his son is but too common; “but it is very silly and very prejudicial. Nothing in the world lets down a character more than that wrong turn.” In a long-subsequent epistle the noble lord, not without reason, iterates the warning : “ Choose the company of your superiors, wherever you can have it; that is the right and true pride. The mistaken and silly pride is to primer among inferiors.” Now primer is clearly the French for φιλοπρωτεύειν.
Brown the elder again, one of Mr. Thackeray's masks, warns his nephew that there is no more dangerous or stupefying position for a man in life than to be cock of small society, that it prevents his ideas from growing, and renders him intolerably conceited. He may come to exemplify Hazlitt's description of those who cannot brook the slightest shadow of opposition, who resent the very offer of resistance to their supposed authority, and are as angry as if they had sustained some premeditated injury. “To such persons nothing appears of any moment but the indulgence of a domineering intellectual superiority, to the disregard and discomfiture of their own and everybody else's comfort.” Goldsmith's travelled Chinese, invited to an entertainment which should consist of a haunch of venison, a turtle, and a great man, accepts, keeps his engagement, and pronounces the venison fine, the turtle good, but the great man insupportable. “The moment I ventured to speak I was at once contradicted with a snap." The mandarin, after repeated snubs and snaps, turns the conversation upon the government of China ; “ but even here he asserted, snapped, and contradicted as before.” Lien Chi Altangi looks round to see who is on his side, but every eye is fixed in admiration on the great man. It is as with La
1 “A twopenny-halfpenny Cæsar, a coterie philosopher or wit, is pretty sure to be an ass; and, in fine, I set it down as a maxim that it is good for a man to live where he can meet his betters, intellectual and social.”—Brown's Letters: On Friendship.
? The autocrat of the dinner table has been more recently described, much in the same spirit, in an essay on Social Tyrants. He is said to succeed because he does not mind trampling on the conventional barriers
Bruyère's Giton: “Tous se reglent sur lui : il interrompt, il redresse ceux qui ont la parole: on ne l'interrompt pas, on l'écoute aussi long temps qu'il veut parler." Or as with Crabbe's imperious Justice Ball, when
... “now into the vale of years declined,
of politeness and etiquette. Too often he has all of the womankind that are present, with him, because they believe the tyrant to be a person of intellectual distinction. “If to this presumption in his favour he unites a commanding presence and the dogmatic air of an inspired lawgiver, his victory will certainly be complete.” The chances, in the event of a collision in controversy, are all on the tyrant's side. “After a contest of five minutes or so, you drive him to an issue of plain fact.” For instance, you remind him that his assertion about the details of the Treaty of Paris, or Napoleon's departure from Fontainebleau, is historically incorrect, and you are perfectly right in impeaching its accuracy. “If the tyrant would only give in, as he ought, there would be some hopes of ultimately crushing him. But he merely looks round with a serene smile to the lady next him, and observes that some people evidently do not mind misquoting historical authors whom they have never read.” And then he is off again on another subject; and to follow him to fresh ground, “however ridiculously he may be mangling it, would be to incur the suspicion of being a quarrelsome and ill conditioned person.” It is accordingly affirmed to be not on the weakness so much as on the courtesy and good temper of his equals that the autocrat of the dinner table builds his throne.
A companion picture might be cited of the man who is always illustrating subjects by his personal experience, and in whom we detect struggles to keep the hold he has got in having been the hero of the moment, and if he has voice and resolution enough he succeeds in putting a stop to all conversation that deserves the name in the circle where he reigns ; for many a quiet thinker he snubs into silence. He will even simulate a hundred violent, strong, and startling opinions “for the sole purpose of establishing a predominance for the hour.”
Then again, in an essay on human pumpkins, those beings of imposing presence and loud self assertion who get themselves believed in by the simple, the pumpkin of the Prince Regent cut is said to be generally notorious for laying down the law on all points. “His voice is loud, his manner of speech dictatorial, so that no one dreams of doubting, still less of contradicting, him, but everybody takes him as he represents himself to be, a man of prompt decision, of boundless resources, to be leaned against in all emergencies without the slightest fear of failure.” Ignominious in such cases is the collapse of the pricked windbag.
The peremptory man in Goldsmith's essay on National Prejudices, not satisfied that his opinion should pass without contradiction, is determined to have it ratified by the suffrage of every one in the company; wherever, therefore, he descries a seeming look of disaffection, he addresses himself to the possible doubter with an air of inexpressible confidence, desiring to know if he is not of the same way of thinking. He can brook no opposition, and must be recognised monarch of all he surveys and master of all he discusses.
as if monarch jure divino ; or like the same poet's Jonas Kindred, who "ruled unquestion'd and alone”: “Himself he viewed with undisguised respect, and never pardoned freedom or neglect.” Or like Mr. Vigors, in A Strange Story, whose dignity of station being not sufficiently recognised by the merchants of Low Town, nor his superiority of intellect by the exclusives of the Hill, chiefly confined his visits to the houses of neighbouring squires, to whom his reputation as a J.P., conjoined with his solemn exterior, made him one of those oracles by which men consent to be awed on condition that the awe is not often inflicted. Scott marks his Templar with a predominant air of exacting domination, “easily acquired by the exercise of unresisted authority,” and elsewhere describes him “raising his voice with the presumptuous and authoritative tone which he used on all occasions.” It is the favourite boast of one of Mrs. Gore's exacting seniors that he don't care about the world; he declares, at every fresh invitation, that he hates large parties; which being interpreted means that he is snugger in his own house, where he can engross the whole fireside and lay down the law, than in a more extended circle, where he must share with other people his consequence and right of domineering. It is pleasant, observes Mr. Disraeli, to be “made much of,” even by very dull or very doubtful characters; to be king of your company is a poor ambition, yet homage is homage, and smoke is smoke, whether it come out of the chimney of a palace or of a workhouse.
Bentham said of James Mill, who by his account would never willingly enter into discourse with him : “He expects to subdue everybody by his domineering tone, to convince everybody by his positiveness. His manner of speaking is oppressive and overbearing.” Jeremy would probably have referred him to the category or limbo of what a social essayist calls “contemptuous minds,” men without deference, who are accustomed to lean upon themselves and do not expect to find much in other people; who are not found appealing to others, or wishing to know their thoughts, or willing to follow out their speculations, or listening to their suggestions; who live and think alone, impatient of interference and interruption, and nourish some notion of themselves which practically, though it may not take the form of vulgar arrogance, sets them "above the possibility of benefit from the crude, unformed, untaught intelligences around them.” Elia's typical schoolmaster is awkward and out of place in the society of his equals, coming as he does, like Gulliver, from among his little people, and unable as he is to fit the stature of his understanding to yours. “He cannot meet you on the square. He is so used to teaching that he wants to be teaching you.” Ce caractère d'oracle is, by a master in criticism, said to be thoroughly natural in all masterly critics. Grimm could not help affecting it in his language and manners, notwithstanding his polished tone: “Il aimait à donner le ton.” Bentley, as described by a congenial and admiring biographer, was overbearing, impatient of opposition, insolent, sometimes tyrannical. “He had, and deservedly," writes De Quincey,“ a very lofty opinion of himself; he either had or affected too mean a one of his antagonists.” The man of strong intellect and firm will is apt, as Professor Spalding says, to degenerate into dogmatism, and reasons with his fellow men in the same spirit in which the Jews built the second temple, where every man worked with one hand and with the other hand held a weapon. What insolent familiar, asks Lamb in his notes on the old Benchers of the Inner Temple, durst have mated Thomas Coventry ?whose person was a quadrate, his step massy and elephantine, his face square as the lion's, his gait peremptory and path keeping, indivertible from his way as a moving column, the scarecrow of his inferiors, the browbeater of equals and superiors. Duclos wrote his memoirs more than five-andthirty years after last entering a café; but the flavour of the cafés he had haunted stuck to him to the last : “Il en garda toujours le ton ; il y avait contracté son pli, l'habitude de crier, d'imposer son opinion d'une voix de gourdin.” Sainte-Beuve says of him, il avait le ton trop despotique. He was accustomed to have the last word, and practically insisted on having it, and