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ON EGOTISM.

EGOTIsm is not always connected with pure selfishness, or an arrogant over-estimate of our own merit in opposition to the claims of others. Self-love is not essentially exclusive. А man may have a very high regard for himself, without having less for others. The vain are often warm-hearted. What is called egotism is sometimes nothing more than that almost unconscious overflow of mingled cordiality and self-content which are remarkable in men of great fervour and vivacity of feeling. When people are in good humour with themselves they are generally disposed to be well satisfied with others, and in that

open confidence in which even reserved men will occasionally indulge in moments of hilarity and cheerfulness, egotism is the reverse of all that is exclusive or unsocial. The French are great egotists, but they are at the same time the most agreeable, the most polite and the most considerate people in the world. If they do not conceal their talents under a veil of false humility, they at all events contrive that their own pretensions shall not materially interfere with the comfort and self-complacency of their associates. They do not seek to elevate themselves at the expense of others.

Egotism is especially offensive to egotists. We always hate to see our own faults in other men. The really selfish man is not always he who talks most about himself, for reserve under the mask of modesty often conceals a heartless exclusiveness that is utterly unknown to the garrulous and self-laudatory. We usually judge of our fellow-creatures by ourselves, and as an egotist of the worst species is impatient of the claims of others, he naturally preserves a cautious silence, as he does not expect that sympathy from his companions which they never obtain from him. He thinks that all men will view his pretensions with the same invidious

eye

with which he looks on theirs. The frank and candid egotist, on the other hand, who

pours out all as plain
As downright Shippen or as old Montaigne,”

not having experienced any uneasy sensation at the pretensions of others, anticipates no want of a generous reciprocity of feeling towards himself. The silent egotist is a far less amiable character than the talkative one. The one is cold, intolerant and splenetic; the other frank, cordial and confiding. Women are undoubtedly greater egotists than men, and yet they are far more social and less selfish. They will run on for ever about their own children or relatives or their own domestic affairs, but then they are equally ready to attend to the concerns of others. They never dream of giving offence by making their own little interests the topics of conversation, because they do not grow impatient when it is their turn to listen. That women are not egotists in the worst sense of the term, is clear from the generous devotion with which they will undergo any pain, or trouble or fatigue for those whom they love, or even for strangers who may stand in need of their sympathy and assistance.

It is a sad affectation to pretend an utter indifference to one's own fame, or to speak with extreme disparagement of one's own powers. Mock-modesty is more disgusting than extravagant self-praise, because the last is at least sincere, while the first is hypocritical. The one is a mere weakness, the other borders upon crime, as all deceit and falsehood must do. Self-love is so much a law of our nature that it is idle to affect a superiority to it. A man might as well attempt to persuade us that he deliberately prefers pain to pleasure, as that he has no partiality to himself. Without this feeling he can scarcely have a sense of his own identity. It is only in modern times, and in very courtly and insincere societies, that men have found it necessary to conceal their self-approbation. The ancients publicly applauded their own actions and boasted of their fame, and savages, who have not learned to conceal their nature, record their own personal exploits in the presence of their assembled countrymen. If you desire glory," says Epicurus, writing to a friend,“ nothing can bestow it more than the letters which I write to you ;” and Seneca, observes D’Israeli, in quoting these words, adds,

- what Epicurus promised to his friend, that, my Lucilius, I promise to you.” Lucan has not hesitated to speak of his own immortality. In the following passage from the ninth book of the Pharsalia (as translated by Rowe) he thus proudly asserts his own merits.

Nor Cæsar thou disdain, that I rehearse
Thee and thy wars in no ignoble verse ;
Since if in aught the Latian muse excel,
My name and thine immortal I foretel;
Eternity our labours shall reward,
And Lucan flourish, like the Grecian bard ;
My numbers shall to latent times convey
The tyrant Cæsar, and Pharsalia’s day.

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, has expressed a similar sentiment with equal boldness.

Come, soon or late, death's undetermined day,
This mortal being only can decay ;
My nobler part, my fame, shall reach the skies,
And to late times with blooming honors rise ;
Whate'er the unbounded Roman power obeys,
All climes and nations shall record my praise :
If ’tis allowed to poets to divine,

One half of round eternity is mine." Perhaps if men could really know themselves, and only take credit for their actual merits, the world would be less impatient of their self-laudations. What raises our indignation is the feeling that their claims exceed their deserts, or that the latter are at least doubtful and require confirmation. Nobody is offended at the self-consciousness of indisputable genius, when it does not exceed the limits of strict truth and justice. When a man speaks correctly and with a modest pride of his own capacity, no one hos either a right or an inclination to complain. There is a natural sense of justice in the human mind. A real claim is always willingly conceded as soon as it is fairly proved. It is only when, like the fly upon the chariot-wheel, some insignificant human insect imagines he raises all the dust and turmoil of the world, that we feel disposed to be angry at his folly and presumption. We are not so much vexed at a man's turning his own trumpeter, as at his giving himself titles which are not his due.

It occasionally happens that what we take for an overweening self-conceit is quite the reverse. A man will sometimes talk of his talents and acquirements from a painful mistrust, both of his own judgment and of the feelings of others. He craves their sympathy and support. In the same way individuals of a certain fixed rank in society never trouble themselves about it, while those whose station is more equivocal are for ever talking of their rights of precedency and distinction. Noblemen think and speak less of their titles than tradesmen of their gentility. A man of mere wealth is jealous of hereditary rank or the claims of genius, and when he rings his purse in our ears it is only to conceal his real uneasiness with respect to the doubtful nature of his position.

The most offensive kind of egotism is, “the pride that apes humility.” There are authors and eminent men who mince their greatness, and make themselves small in company, from a dread of exciting too much envy, or of throwing all their associates into a disheartening shade. They talk on trifling matters only, and with an affectation of simplicity, as men, let themselves down to children. They will not “ turn their silver lining" on the sight of their ordinary acquaintance. They wish not to dazzle their admirers with excess of brightness. They check the expression of their sublimer thoughts, and look mild and gracious. They are modest in their triumphs.

“ And of their port as meek as is a maid.”

Such proud condescension is insufferably disgusting, and is sufficient to irritate a saint. It cannot be denied that there is a slight touch of this species of egotism in Addison's Spectator. His affectation of lowering himself to the understanding of the ladies is a very bad compliment to his fair readers, and not very creditable to himself. Allowances, however, must be made for the low standard of female accomplishments at the period at which he wrote ; and we must also admit that the extreme elegance, the benevolent feeling, and the vein of quiet humour which characterize his essays make us disposed to forget a little too much self-complacency and pretension. But still Addison was not altogether an amiable egotist. He was too apt to give his little senate laws, and to look askance at the best efforts of his rivals. His celebrated quarrel with Pope and the latter's exquisite satire upon the occasion, have placed the ungenerous nature of his egotism in a light as strong as it is unfavourable. Pope was no less an egotist than Addison, but his egotism took a more generous turn. Addison's authorial egotism, however, was not generally offensive, for he had too nice a sense of his own reputation and influence as a writer to betray any unworthy jealousies to the public. It was in private life, that his uneasy reserve, his impatience of equality, and his love of small flatterers and sycophants, gave so much real cause of regret to the better order of his admirers.

It is a hard and nice subject,” says Cowley, " for a man to speak of himself; it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any praise from him." Cowley, however, was himself an egotist, and ventured

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