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manner. What these encroachments have been, and the particular causes which have contributed to them, shall be the subject of my next Saturday's paper:
NUMB. 48, TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 1752.
"Ω μεγίση των θεών
thou greatest of all the deities,
Modern Impudence ! THERE is a certain quality which, though universal consent hath not enrolled it among the cardinal virtues, is often found sufficient, of itself, not only to carry its possessor through the world, but even to carry him to the top of it. It is almost perhaps unnecessary to inform my reader, that the quality I mean is impudence ; so dear is this to one female at least, that it effectually recommends a man to fortune without the assistance of qualification. She seems indeed to think, with the
-He who hath but impudence,
To all things hath fair pretence, and accordingly provides that those who want madesty shall want nothing else.
What are the particular ingredients of which this quality is composed, or what temper of mind is best fitted to produce it, is perhaps difficult to ascertain; so far I think experience may convince us, that, like some vegetables, it will flourish best in the most barren soil. To say truth, I am almost inclined to an opinion, that it never arrives at any
great degree of perfection unless in a mind totally unincumbered with any virtue, or with any great or good quality whatever. It would indeed seem that nature had agreed with fortune in setting a high value on impudence, and had accordingly decreed, that those of her children who had received this rich gift at her hands were amply provided for without any farther portion.
And surely it is not without reason that I call this the gift of nature ; indeed, genius itself is not
We may here apply a phrase which the French use on an occasion not so proper to be mentioned, and affirm, That it is not in the
every man to be impudent who would be so.' A man born without any genius may as reasonably hope to become such a poet as Homer, or such a critic as Longinus, as one born without impudence can pretend, without any merit, to aspire to these characters.
Though nature however must give the seeds, art may cultivate them.
To improve or to depress their growth is greatly within the power of education. To lay down the proper precept for this purpose would require a large treatise, and such I may possibly publish hereafter. In the mean time it shall suffice to mention only two rules, which may be partly collected from what I have above asserted, and which are of universal use. This is with the utmost care to suppress and eradicatę every seed or principle of what is any wise praiseworthy out of the mind; and, secondly, to preserve this in the purest state of ignorance, than which nothing more contributes to the highest perfection and consummation of impudence; che more a man knows the more inclined is he to be modest ; it is indeed within the province only of the highest human knowledge to survey its own narrow compass,
may, I think, be predicated in favour of impudence, that it is the quality which, of all others, we are capable of carrying to the greatest height; so far, indeed, that did not the strongest force of evidence convince us of the truth of some examples, we should be apt to doubt the possibility of their existence. What but the concurrent testimony of historians, and the indubitable veracity of records, could impel us to believe, that there have been men in the world of such astonishing impudence, as, in opposition to the certain knowledge of many thousands, to take upon themselves to personate kings and princes as well in their life-time as after their death and yet our own, as well as foreign annals, afford us such instances.
But the greatest hero in impudence, whom, per-. haps the world ever produced, appeared in France at the end of the last century.
His name was Peter Mege, and he was a common soldier in the marines. This fellow had the assistance only of one who had been a footman to a certain man of quality, called Scipion le Brun de Castelane, Seigneur de Caille et de Rougon, a nobleman who had fled from France to Switzerland, to avoid a religious persecution. With this confederate alone, Peter Mege had the amazing impudence to personate the young Seigneur de Caille, who was at that time dead; and this in the life-time of the father, in defiance of ail his noble relations then in possession of his forfeited estate, upon the spot where the young gentleman had lived to the age of twenty-one; and all this without the least resemblance of features, shape, or stature ; without being acquainted with any part of the history of him whom he was to represent, or being able to give the least account of any of his family; indeed, without being able to write and read.
But how much more will the reader be surprised to hear, that this most impudent of all attempts
succeeded so far as to obtain a sentence in the parliament of Provence in favour of the soldier ? And this success would have been final, had not the canton of Berne interposed, and obtained an appeal to the parliament of Paris, where at last the impostor was defeated.
To account for all this, and to assuage hiş reader's astonishment, the very ingenious author of the trial, when he informs us that this impostor was confronted with twenty witnesses, who swore to the identity of Peter Mege, and as înany more who had been fellow students with the young nobleman, and who, on their oaths, declared that this Peter was not the person, goes on thus : " But what was most strange,
was the steady countenance of the soldier, which never once betrayed him, nor gave the least symptom of any doubt of his success. It is in vain to form a project of usurping the name of another, to lay your plan ever so regularly and systematically, if you do not provide yourself with a stock of impuz dence to support every attack to which you may • be exposed.
In such an attempt the forehead must be furnished as well without as within ;
more indeed will depend on the outside: for it is the steadiness of the front, hardiness, or down
right audacity, which impose on mankind the most, and make amends for all defects in the understanding.
The soldier had made many blunders; but his invincible assurance repaired
all, and brought over even his enemies to his side. And to say truth, I know scarce any thing to which such a degree of assurance is not equal.
This attempt, indeed, of personating who you are not, seems to be attended with too great difficulties: and to succeed in it, is, perhaps, beyond the power of impudence; we are not therefore to wonder, that all the heroes in this way have been unsuccessful. In fact, we ought to fix our whole attention on the undaunted impụdence of engaging
in such a design, and not to suffer the defeat to lessen our admiration ; but to say of such a hero, with Ovid,
-Si non tenuit, magnis tamen eçcidit ausis. But if, in personating the who, impudence is found unequal to the task ; in personating what we are not, it is almost sure to come off triumphant. Here I believe the undertaker seldom fails, but through his own fault; that is, by not being impudent enough.
My lord Bacon advises a modest man to shelter his vices under those virtues to which they are the nearest allied. The avaricious man, he would have to affect frugality; the extravagant, liberality; and so of the rest. Now the reverse of this should be the rule of our impudent man. --- If you are a blockhead, my friend, be sure to commence writer; and if entirely illiterate, be sure to pretend to learning. If you are a coward, be a bully, and always talk of feats of bravery; if again you are a beggár, boast of your riches. In short, whatever vice or defecţ you have, set up for its opposite virtue or endowment. "And if you are possessed of every ill quality, you may assert your title to every good one.
The last species of impudence which I shall mention, is to assert openly and boldly what you really are, let this be ever so bad. Own your vices, and be proud of them; and in time, perhaps, you may laugh virtue out of countenance, and bring your vices into fashion. This, however, is a little unsafe to attenpt, unless you are very sure of yourself, and of the degree of impudence which you possess. A modest woman may be a w-we; but to behave with indecency in publick, indeed, to throw off all that would recommend a woman to a vicious man of sense and taste ; to shew, as De Roty says of a