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No. 340 (from The Spectator) Post by :ksuth Category :Essays Author :Richard Steele Date :September 2011 Read :917

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No. 340 (from The Spectator)

No. 340
Monday, March 31, 1712. Steele.

Quis novus hic nostris successit sedibus Hospes?
Quem sese Ore ferens! quam forti Pectore et Armis!

Virg.


I take it to be the highest Instance of a noble Mind, to bear great Qualities without discovering in a Man's Behaviour any Consciousness that he is superior to the rest of the World. Or, to say it otherwise, it is the Duty of a great Person so to demean himself, as that whatever Endowments he may have, he may appear to value himself upon no Qualities but such as any Man may arrive at: He ought to think no Man valuable but for his publick Spirit, Justice and Integrity; and all other Endowments to be esteemed only as they contribute to the exerting those Virtues. Such a Man, if he is Wise or Valiant, knows it is of no Consideration to other Men that he is so, but as he employs those high Talents for their Use and Service. He who affects the Applauses and Addresses of a Multitude, or assumes to himself a Pre-eminence upon any other Consideration, must soon turn Admiration into Contempt. It is certain, that there can be no Merit in any Man who is not conscious of it; but the Sense that it is valuable only according to the Application of it, makes that Superiority amiable, which would otherwise be invidious. In this Light it is considered as a Thing in which every Man bears a Share: It annexes the Ideas of Dignity, Power, and Fame, in an agreeable and familiar manner, to him who is Possessor of it; and all Men who are Strangers to him are naturally incited to indulge a Curiosity in beholding the Person, Behaviour, Feature, and Shape of him, in whose Character, perhaps, each Man had formed something in common with himself. Whether such, or any other, are the Causes, all Men have (a yearning (1)) Curiosity to behold a Man of heroick Worth; and I have had many Letters from all Parts of this Kingdom, that request I would give them an exact Account of the Stature, the Mein, the Aspect of the Prince (2) who lately visited England, and has done such Wonders for the Liberty of Europe. It would puzzle the most Curious to form to himself the sort of Man my several Correspondents expect to hear of, by the Action mentioned when they desire a Description of him: There is always something that concerns themselves, and growing out of their own Circumstances, in all their Enquiries. A Friend of mine in Wales beseeches me to be very exact in my Account of that wonderful Man, who had marched an Army and all its Baggage over the Alps; and, if possible, to learn whether the Peasant who shew'd him the Way, and is drawn in the Map, be yet living. A Gentleman from the University, who is deeply intent on the Study of Humanity, desires me to be as particular, if I had Opportunity, in observing the whole Interview between his Highness and our late General. Thus do Mens Fancies work according to their several Educations and Circumstances; but all pay a Respect, mixed with Admiration, to this illustrious Character. I have waited for his Arrival in Holland, before I would let my Correspondents know, that I have not been so uncurious a Spectator, as not to have seen Prince Eugene. It would be very difficult, as I said just now, to answer every Expectation of those who have writ to me on that Head; nor is it possible for me to find Words to let one know what an artful Glance there is in his Countenance who surprized Cremona; how daring he appears who forced the Trenches of Turin; But in general I can say, that he who beholds him, will easily expect from him any thing that is to be imagined or executed by the Wit or Force of Man. The Prince is of that Stature which makes a Man most easily become all Parts of Exercise, has Height to be graceful on Occasions of State and Ceremony, and no less adapted for Agility and Dispatch: his Aspect is erect and compos'd; his Eye lively and thoughtful, yet rather vigilant than sparkling; his Action and Address the most easy imaginable, and his Behaviour in an Assembly peculiarly graceful in a certain Art of mixing insensibly with the rest, and becoming one of the Company, instead of receiving the Courtship of it. The Shape of his Person, and Composure of his Limbs, are remarkably exact and beautiful. There is in his Look something sublime, which does not seem to arise from his Quality or Character, but the innate Disposition of his Mind. It is apparent that he suffers the Presence of much Company, instead of taking Delight in it; and he appeared in Publick while with us, rather to return Good-will, or satisfy Curiosity, than to gratify any Taste he himself had of being popular. As his Thoughts are never tumultuous in Danger, they are as little discomposed on Occasions of Pomp and Magnificence: A great Soul is affected in either Case, no further than in considering the properest Methods to extricate it self from them. If this Hero has the strong Incentives to uncommon Enterprizes that were remarkable in Alexander, he prosecutes and enjoys the Fame of them with the Justness, Propriety, and good Sense of Caesar. It is easy to observe in him a Mind as capable of being entertained with Contemplation as Enterprize; a Mind ready for great Exploits, but not impatient for Occasions to exert itself. The Prince has Wisdom and Valour in as high Perfection as Man can enjoy it; which noble Faculties in conjunction, banish all Vain-Glory, Ostentation, Ambition, and all other Vices which might intrude upon his Mind to make it unequal. These Habits and Qualities of Soul and Body render this Personage so extraordinary, that he appears to have nothing in him but what every Man should have in him, the Exertion of his very self, abstracted from the Circumstances in which Fortune has placed him. Thus were you to see Prince Eugene, and were told he was a private Gentleman, you would say he is a Man of Modesty and Merit: Should you be told That was Prince Eugene, he would be diminished no otherwise, than that part of your distant Admiration would turn into familiar Good-will. This I thought fit to entertain my Reader with, concerning an Hero who never was equalled but by one Man; (3) over whom also he has this Advantage, that he has had an Opportunity to manifest an Esteem for him in his Adversity.

T.


(Footnote 1: (an earning))

(Footnote 2: Prince Eugene of Savoy, grandson of a duke of Savoy, and son of Eugene Maurice, general of the Swiss, and Olympia Mancini, a niece of Mazarin, was born at Paris in 1663, and intended for the church, but had so strong a bent towards a military life, that when refused a regiment in the French army he served the Emperor as volunteer against the Turks. He stopped the march of the French into Italy when Louis XIV. declared war with Austria, and refused afterwards from Louis a Marshals staff, a pension, and the Government of Champagne. Afterwards in Italy, by the surprise of Cremona he made Marshal Villeroi his prisoner, and he was Marlborough's companion in arms at Blenheim and in other victories. It was he who saved Turin, and expelled the French from Italy. He was 49 years old in 1712, and had come in that year to England to induce the court to continue the war, but found Marlborough in disgrace and the war very unpopular. He had been feasted by the city, and received from Queen Anne a sword worth L5000, which he wore at her birthday reception. He had also stood as godfather to Steele's third son, who was named after him.)

(Footnote 3: Marlborough.)


(The end)
Richard Steele's essay: No. 340 (from The Spectator)

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