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Flattery, cut him short with this rough sensible Rebuke, Pr'ythee Ned, faid he, let us have no more of this Stuff. That is, in my Opinion, the most honourable Family, that has the fewest R—gues and Wh—res in it. It would, doubtless, be a very entertaining Sight, to see the Progenitors of any one Family in the World, for two or three thoufand Years backward, passing in Review, with all their proper Ensigns of Dignity, or Marks of Infamy, all the proper Distinctions of Honour or Dishonour, Virtue or Vice, Riches or Poverty. How many Knaves and Fools, as well as Heroes and Philosophers, would appear in so long a Descent! How many different Scenes of Riches and Poverty, Scythes and Sceptres, Rags and Ribbands, Swords, Spades, and Pick-axes, &c. would diversify the motley Procession!
I was t'other Day to visit my honoured Friend and Kinsman Leoline ap Rhees, ap Shenken, ap How ell, ap Tudor, ap Gurgoin, Esq; who, like a primitive Hero and Philosopher, supports the Dignity of the most antient Family in the World upon a pretty patrimonial Estate of 15L per Annum, which he boasts has never been increased by Usury or Trade, by Rapine or Fraud,, or diminished by Luxury, for above seven hundred Years last past. His chies Riches and Gfcry consist in a large Roll of Parchment, that will almost cover one Quarter of his Estate, in which he boasts a Pedigree, rising up to near an hundred Years after the Flood, though my good Cousin verily believes it might be proved, that he descended in a direct Line from. Noah himself, and if that could be fairly made out, it would follow that he was lineally descended from Mam; and though any reasonable Man would think
that that as much as, in Conscience, he could expect of desire; yet, as my Cousin never makes any boast of this great Ancestor, he plainly insinuates that his Family subsisted long besore that pretended Father of Mankind was so much as thought of. As this Parchment-tree is very antient, and the Rats have made some Depredations upon the Family, which have occasioned many Breaks and Mutilations in the Pedigree, Care has been taken, from time to time, to supply the several Vacancies with such Characters as may be supposed to do most Honour to the venerable Stock, and are most sit to appear in a Genealogy of Heroes. My Cousin, to fay the Truth, is a complete Person of Honour. He knows how to support tbe Dignity of his Character, and, at the fame time, to shew, upon proper Occasions, all that Humility and Condescension that are inseparable from good Sense and true Honour •> so that, though he scorns to foul his Fingers with the dirty Business of Trade, or puzzle his Brains with the Pedantry of Learning, nor give place to any little, up-start, Post-diluvian Mushroom, who may have raised an Estate by his Hands, or his Brains; yet he will sometimes humble himself so far as to honour them with a Visit, to accept of a Dinner, or sometimes Half a Crown, only to shew his Goodnature, and that he is no more above the receiving the Homage and Service of his Inseriors, than the richest Landlord from the poorest Tenant, or the greatest Prince from the meanest Subject; though perhaps he quickly forgets the Favour, and bescoundrels the Man that bestowed it. As he was one Day indulging the Vanity of his Heart among his honourable Ancestors, a Wag in the Company put him in mind
os- his Grandfather, who had been hanged for SbeepJlealing. My Cousin, with a Sigh and a Shrug, acknowledged the Fact; but not without a hearty Curse upon the Memory of the then reigning Minister, who, whilst he was lavishing away Honours and Titles, Posts and Pensions, upon some that better deserved his Fate, took no Care to prevent the untimely Fall of a truly great Man, by making him at least an Admiral, a General, a Judge, or a PrivyCounsellor.
Now, that there is no real, intrinsic, and substantial Good in all the Advantages of Birth and Fortune, even Folly itself must consess. But suppose there were; yet, considering the uncertain Duration, the precarious Tenure, that they may be forfeited, even in this Lise, to the Sentence of Justice, or the Breath of the People, which alone can keep the Bubble in Play, and prevent its sinking into nothing; or if not that, yet we are sure it will die with us; it will then fail us, whenjwe shall have most Occasion for Comfort, I mean in the Agonies of Path and Sickness, and the Hour of Death; no wise Man can think there is any thing valuable in it but the Opportunities and Interest it may give us to do more Good in the World, and promote the Benesit and Happiness of Mankind. Now, whether a Man that doats upon an imaginary Treasure, that only seems to stuff out an imaginary Idea of human Greatness, but which can neither make him wiser, nor better; that can neither give Health to his Body, nor Peace to his Mind; that can neither prolong his Lise, nor give him Comfort at the Hour of Death, can have any better Pretensions to Vol. I. I true true Greatness of Mind than Children, or Lunatics, diverted with Play-things, and delighted with Baubles. —Let themselves be Judges.
I cannot dismiss this Article without a sew melancholyReflections upon the Vanity of worldly Greatness, and the Infatuation that generally attends it even beyond the Grave. I particularly mean that solemn mortifying Farce of Grandeur, that, by the Custom of many Nations, is acted over the Graves of great Men. There cannot (I think) be a severer Satire upon human Weakness and Folly, than to see a Herald, dressed in all his Habiliments, breaking the white Rod, and making solemn Proclamation, that, Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to take out of this miserable World the Soul of the mojf noble, mighty, and puissant Prince, &c. What pompous Epithets are these for a poor breathless Sinner, whose Body is condemned to be Food for Worms and creeping Things, and his Soul perhaps—! Better, methinks, it would be to proclaim aloud to the Audience all the virtuous, memorable, and righteous Actions of the Deceased, to which all the People should give their solemn Attestation, and bless the Memory, whilst they bewail the Death of the departed Saint, or Hero; to challenge them to make full and due Proof of any unjust or dishonourable Action, with a Promise, in the Name of the Successor, of full and ample Reparation. This would be putting the Character upon a right Foot of Honour, and giving public Proof that he was determined to support and maintain the Honour of his Family, by making honourable Reparation for all the Injuries which the Ignorance or Iniquity of his Predecessor might have committed.—Like that solemn
and glorious Appeal, which the good and great Prophet Samuel made, in his own Person, to the Multitude, when he was resigning the Sovereignty, which he had so long and so gloriously executed among them. I Sam. Xii. 3. Behold, here I am, witness against me, before the Lord, and before his Anointed. Whose Ox have I taken, or whose Ass have I taken? Whom have I defrauded, or whom have I oppressed? or of whose Hand have I received any Bribe to blind mine Eyes therewith? and I •will restore it.—Blessed and truly honourable would the Memory of that Man be, to whom the univerfal Voice of the People could give the fame solemn Attestation that was then given: And they said, Thou hast not defrauded nor oppressed us; neither hast thou taken aught of any Maris Hand. And he said unto them, The Lord is Witness against you, and his Anointed is Witness against you, this Day, that ye have not found aught in my Hands. And they said, HE IS WITNESS.
I Think I have sufficiently shewn the Vanity os being proud of any of the outward Advantages of Fortune, Birth, or Station, from this single Consideration, that nothing accidental or external can add any real Excellency to our Natures; can make us wiser or better, or more truly honourable; they add Oiothing to the Man, they communicate nothing to the Soul, which is the only Seat of true Greatness and Honour. Let us now examine whether those Things, that are more properly our own, be able to I 2 furnish