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virtues and talents, vices and defects; and should explain the reason and origin of that distinction. But in order to excuse myself from this undertaking, which would, at last, prove only a grammatical enquiry, I shall subjoin the four following reflections, which shall contain all that I intend to say on the present subject. ;
First, I do not find that in the English, or any other modern tongue, the boundaries are exactly fixed between' virtues and talents, vices and defects, or that a precise definition can be given of the one as contradistinguished from the other. Were we to say, for instance, that the esteemable qualities alone, which are voluntary, are entitled to the appellation of virtues; we should soon recollect the qualities of couragé, équanimity, pâtience, self-command; with many others, which almost every language claffes under this appellation, though they depend little or not at all on our choice. Should we'affirm, that the qualities alone, which prompt us to act our part in society, are entitled to that honourable distinction; it must immediately occur, that these are indeed the most valuable qualities, and are commonly denominated the rocial virtues ; but that this very epithet supposes, that there are also virtues of another species. Should we lay hold of the distinction between intellektual and moral endowments, and affirin the last alone to be the real and genuine virtues, because they alone lead to action; we should find, that many of those qualities, usually called intellectual virtues, such as prudence, penetration, discernment, discretion, had also à considerable influence on conduct. The distinction between the heart and the bead inay also be adopted: The qualities of the first may be defined such as in their immediate exertion are accoinpanied with a feeling or sentiment; and these alone may be called the genuine virtues: But industry, frugality, temperance, secrecy, perseve
rance, rance, and many other laudable powers or habits, generally stiled virtues, are exerted without any immediate sentiment in the person possessed of them; and are only known to hiin by their effects. It is fortunate, amidst all this seeming perplexity, that the question, being merely verbal, cannot possibly be of any importance. A moral, philosophical discourse needs not enter into all these caprices of language, which are fo variable in different dialects, and in different ages of the same dialect. But on the whole, it seems to me, that, though it is always allowed, that there are virtues of many different kinds, yet when a man is called virtuous, or is denominated a man of virtue, we chiefly regard his social qualities, which are, indeed, the most valuable. It is, at the same time, certain, that any remarkable defect in courage, temperance, economy, industry, understanding, dignity of mind, would bereave even a very good-natured, honest man of this honourable appellation. Who did ever say, except by way of irony, that such a one was a man of great virtue, but an egregious blockhead? - Buti, secondly, it is no wonder, that languages should not be very precise in marking the boundaries between virtues and talents, vices and defects; since there is little distinction made in our internal eftimation of them. It seems indeed certain, that the sentiment of conscious worth, the self-satisfaction proceeding from a review of a man's own conduct and character; it seems certain, I say, that this sentiment, which, though the moft common of all others, has no proper name in our language *, arises from the endowments of courage and capacity, industry and ingenuity, as well as from any other mental excellencies. Who, on the other hand, is not deeply mortified with reflecting on his own folly and diffoluteness, and feels not a secret sting
or compunction, whenever his memory presents any past occurrence, where he behaved with stupidity or ill-manners ? No time can efface the cruel ideas of a man's own foolish conduct, or of affronts, which cowardice or impudence has brought upon him. They still haunt his folitary hours, damp his most aspiring thoughts, and shew him, even to himself, in the most conteinptible and inost odious colours imaginable.
What is there too we are more anxious to conceal from others than such blunders, infirmities, and meannesses, or more dread to have exposed by raillery and satire ? And is not the chief object of vanity, our bravery or learning, our wit or breeding, our eloquence or address, our taste or abilities? These we display with care, if not with oftentation, and we commonly show more ambition of excelling in them, than even in the social virtues themselves, which are, in reality, of such superior excellence. Good-nature and honesty, especially the latter, are so indispensably required, that, though the greatest censure attends any violation of these duties, no eminent praise follows such common instances of thein, as seem effential to the support of human society. And hence the reason, in my opinion, why, though men often extol so liberally the qualities of their heart; they are shy in commending the endowments of their head: Because the latter virtues, being supposed more rare and extraordinary, are observed to be the more usual objects of pride and self-conceit; and when boasted of, beget a strong suspicion of these sentiments.
It is hard to tell, whether you hurt a man's character most by calling him a knave or a coward, and whether a beastly glutton or drunkard be not as odious and contemptible, as a selfish, ungenerous miser. Give me my choice, and I would rather, for my own happiness and self-enjoyinent, have a
friendly, humane heart, than possess all the other virtues of Demosthenes and Philip united : But I would rather pass with the world for one endowed with extensive genius and intrepid courage, and should thence expect stronger instances of general applause and admiration. The figure which a man makes in life, the reception which he meets with in company, the esteem paid him by his acquaintance; all these advantages depend as much upon his good sense and judgment, as upon any other part of his character. Had a man the best intentions in the world, and were the farthest removed from all injustice and violence, he would never be able to make himself be much regarded, without a moderate share, at least, of parts and understanding. :'
What is it then we can here dispute about? If sense and courage, temperance and industry, wisdom and knowledge, confeffedly form a considerable part of personal merit: if a man, possessed of these qualities, is both better satisfied with himself, and better entitled to the good-will, esteem, and services of others, than one entirely destitute of thein; if, in short, the sentiments are similar, which arise from these endowments and from the social virtues ; is there any reason for being fo extremely scrupulous about a word, or difputing whether they be entitled to the denomination of virtues ? It may, indeed, be pretended, that the sentiment of approbation, which those accomplishments produce, besides its being inferior, is also somewhat different from that, which attends the virtues of justice and humanity. But this seems not fufficient reason for ranking them entirely under different classes and appellations. The character of Cæsar and that of Cato, as drawn by Sallust, are both of them virtuous, in the strictest and most limited sense of the word; but in a different way: Nor are the sentiments entirely the fame, which arise from them. The one is amiVol. II.
ables able; the other awful : We should wish to meet the one character in a friend; the other we should be ambitious of in ourselves. In like manner the approbation, which attends teimperance or industry or frugality, may be foinewhat different from that which is paid to the social virtues, without making them entirely of a different species. And, indeed, we may observe, that these endowments, more than the other virtues, produce not, all of them, the same kind of approbation. Good sense and genius. beget esteem and regard: Wit and humour excite love and affection *
Most people, I believe, will naturally, without premeditation, assent to the definition of the elegant and judicious poet.
Virtue (for mere good-nature is a fool) · Is fenfe and spirit with humanity t. What pretensions has a man to our generous affilance or good offices, who has diffipated his wealth in profuse expences, ide vanities, chimerical projects, diffolute pleasures, or extravagant gaming? These vices (for we scruple not to call them such) bring misery unpitied, and contempt on every one addicted to them.
Achæus, a wife and prudent prince, fell into a fatal snare, which cost him his crown and life, after having used every reasonable precaution to guard himself againft it. On that account, says the hiftorian, he is a just object of regard and compassion: His betrayers alone of hatred and contempt I.
The precipitate flight and improvident negligence of Pompey, at the beginning of the civil wars, appeared such notorious blunders to Cicero, as quite palled his friendship towards that great man. In the same manner, says he, as want of cleanliness, decency, or discretion in a mistress are found to alienate our af
: fections. * See NOTE [TT).
+ The Art of preserving Health, Book 4. . ." POLYBIUS, lib. viii. cap. 2.