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Let Rufus weep, rejoice, stand, sit, or walk,
The CoverLEY ECONOMY.
Paupertatis pudor & fuga. Hor.
ECONO 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 fuddled, his Humour grew worse.
At the same time his Bitterness seemed to be rather an inward Dissatisfaction in his own Mind, than any Dislike he had taken to the
Company. Upon hearing his Name, I knew him to be a Gentleman 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 shows 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, though 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 im. possible to convince him that if he sold as much as would pay off that Debt, he would save four Shillings in the Pound, which he gives for the Vanity of being the reputed Master of it. Yet 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 Beg. gars 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 • Evils,' yet are their Manners very widely different. Shame of Poverty makes Laertes lanch into unnecessary Equipage, vain Expence, 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.
These different Motives produce the Excesses which Men are guilty of, in the Negligence of and Provision for themselves. Usury, Stock-jobbing, Extortion, and Oppression, have their Seed in the Dread of Want ; and Vanity, Riot, and Prodigality, from the Shame of it : But both these Excesses are infinitely below the Pursuit of a reasonable Creature. After we have taken Care to command so much as is necessary for maintaining ourselves in the Order of Men suitable to our Character, the Care of Superfluities is a Vice no less extravagant, than the Neglect of Necessaries would have been before.