THE ORDINARY GROUNDS AND OCCASIONS OF ANGER

There is no surer argument of a great mind than not to be transported
to anger by any accident; the clouds and the tempests are formed below,
but all above is quiet and serene; which is the emblem of a brave man,
that suppresses all provocations, and lives within himself, modest,
venerable, and composed: whereas anger is a turbulent humor, which, at
first dash, casts off all shame, without any regard to order, measure,
or good manners; transporting a man into misbecoming violences with his
tongue, his hands, and every part of his body. And whoever considers
the foulness and the brutality of this vice, must acknowledge that
there is no such monster in Nature as one man raging against another,
and laboring to sink that which can never be drowned but with himself
for company. It renders us incapable either of discourse or of other
common duties. It is of all passions the most powerful; for it makes a
man that is in love to kill his mistress, the ambitious man to trample
upon his honors, and the covetous to throw away his fortune.

There is not any mortal that lives free from the danger of it; for it
makes even the heavy and the good-natured to be fierce and outrageous:
it invades us like a pestilence, the lusty as well as the weak; and
it is not either strength of body, or a good diet, that can secure
us against it; nay, the most learned, and men otherwise of exemplary
sobriety, are infected with it. It is so potent a passion that Socrates
durst not trust himself with it. “Sirrah,” says he to his man, “now
would I beat you, if I were not angry with you!” There is no age or
sect of men that escapes it. Other vices take us one by one; but this,
like an _epidemical contagion_, sweeps all: men, women, and children,
princes and beggars, are carried away with it in shoals and troops as
one man.

It was never seen that a whole nation was in love with one woman, or
unanimously bent upon one vice: but here and there some particular men
are tainted with some particular crimes; whereas in anger, a single
word many times inflames the whole multitude, and men betake themselves
presently to fire and sword upon it; the rabble take upon them to give
laws to their governors; the common soldiers to their officers, to the
ruin, not only of private families, but of kingdoms: turning their arms
against their own leaders, and choosing their own generals. There is
no public council, no putting things to the vote; but in a rage the
mutineers divide from the senate, name their head, force the nobility
in their own houses, and put them to death with their own hands.
The laws of nations are violated, the persons of public ministers
affronted, whole cities infected with a general madness, and no
respite allowed for the abatement or discussing of this public tumor.
The ships are crowded with tumultuary soldiers; and in this rude and
ill-boding manner they march, and act under the conduct only of their
own passions. Whatever comes next serves them for arms, until at last
they pay for their licentious rashness with the slaughter of the whole
party: this is the event of a heady and inconsiderate war.

When men’s minds are struck with the opinion of an injury, they fall on
immediately wheresoever their passion leads them, without either order,
fear, or caution: provoking their own mischief; never at rest till they
come to blows; and pursuing their revenge, even with their bodies,
upon the points of their enemies’ weapons. So that the anger itself is
much more hurtful for us than the injury that provokes it; for the one
is bounded, but where the other will stop, no man living knows. There
are no greater slaves certainly, than those that serve anger; for they
improve their misfortunes by an impatience more insupportable than the
calamity that causes it.

Nor does it rise by degrees, as other passions, but flashes like
gunpowder, blowing up all in a moment. Neither does it only press to
the mark, but overbears everything in the way to it. Other vices drive
us, but this hurries us headlong; other passions stand firm themselves,
though perhaps we cannot resist them; but this consumes and destroys
itself: it falls like thunder or a tempest, with an irrevocable
violence, that gathers strength in the passage, and then evaporates in
the conclusion. Other vices are unreasonable, but this is unhealthful
too; other distempers have their intervals and degrees, but in this
we are thrown down as from a precipice: there is not anything so
amazing to others, or so destructive to itself; so proud and insolent
if it succeeds, or so extravagant if it be disappointed. No repulse
discourages it, and, for want of other matter to work upon, it falls
foul upon itself; and, let the ground be never so trivial, it is
sufficient for the wildest outrage imaginable. It spares neither age,
sex, nor quality.

Some people would be luxurious perchance, but that they are poor; and
others lazy, if they were not perpetually kept at work. The simplicity
of a country life, keeps many men in ignorance of the frauds and
impieties of courts and camps: but no nation or condition of men is
exempt from the impressions of anger; and it is equally dangerous, as
well in war as in peace. We find that elephants will be made familiar;
bulls will suffer children to ride upon their backs, and play with
their horns; bears and lions, by good usage, will be brought to fawn
upon their masters; how desperate a madness is it then for men, after
the reclaiming of the fiercest of beasts, and the bringing of them
to be tractable and domestic, to become yet worse than beasts one to
another! Alexander had two friends, Clytus and Lysimachus; the one he
exposed to a lion, the other to himself; and he that was turned loose
to the beast escaped. Why do we not rather make the best of a short
life, and render ourselves amiable to all while we live, and desirable
when we die?

Let us bethink ourselves of our mortality, and not squander away the
little time that we have upon animosities and feuds, as if it were
never to be at an end. Had we not better enjoy the pleasure of our own
life than to be still contriving how to gall and torment another’s?
in all our brawlings and contentions never so much as dreaming of our
weakness. Do we not know that these implacable enmities of ours lie
at the mercy of a fever, or any petty accident, to disappoint? Our
fate is at hand, and the very hour that we have set for another man’s
death may peradventure be prevented by our own. What is it that we
make all this bustle for, and so needlessly disquiet our minds? We are
offended with our servants, our masters, our princes, our clients: it
is but a little patience, and we shall be all of us equal; so that
there is no need either of ambushes or of combats. Our wrath cannot
go beyond death; and death will most undoubtedly come whether we be
peevish or quiet. It is time lost to take pains to do that which will
infallibly be done without us. But suppose that we would only have our
enemy banished, disgraced, or damaged, let his punishment be more or
less, it is yet too long, either for him to be inhumanly tormented,
or for us ourselves to be most barbarously pleased with it. It holds
in anger as in mourning, it must and it will at last fall of itself;
let us look to it then betimes, for when it is once come to an ill
habit, we shall never want matter to feed it; and it is much better to
overcome our passions than to be overcome by them. Some way or other,
either our parents, children, servants, acquaintance, or strangers,
will be continually vexing us. We are tossed hither and thither by our
affections, like a feather in a storm, and by fresh provocations the
madness becomes perpetual. Miserable creatures! that ever our precious
hours should be so ill employed! How prone and eager are we in our
hatred, and how backward in our love! Were it not much better now to
be making of friendships, pacifying of enemies, doing of good offices
both public and private, than to be still meditating of mischief, and
designing how to wound one man in his fame, another in his fortune, a
third in his person? the one being so easy, innocent, and safe, and the
other so difficult, impious, and hazardous. Nay, take a man in chains,
and at the foot of his oppressor; how many are there, who, even in this
case, have maimed themselves in the heat of their violence upon others.

This untractable passion is much more easily kept out than governed
when it is once admitted; for the stronger will give laws to the
weaker; and make reason a slave to the appetite. It carries us
headlong; and in the course of our fury, we have no more command of
our minds, than we have of our bodies down a precipice: when they are
once in motion, there is no stop until they come to the bottom. Not but
that it is possible for a man to be warm in winter, and not to sweat
in the summer, either by the benefit of the place, or the hardiness of
the body: and in like manner we may provide against anger. But certain
it is, that virtue and vice can never agree in the same subject; and
one may as well be a sick man and a sound at the same time, as a good
man, and an angry. Besides, if we will needs be quarrelsome, it must
be either with our superior, our equal, or inferior. To contend with
our superior is folly and madness: with our equals, it is doubtful and
dangerous: and with our inferiors, it is base. For does any man know
but that he that is now our enemy may come hereafter to be our friend,
over and above the reputation of clemency and good nature? And what
can be more honorable or comfortable, than to exchange a feud for a
friendship? The people of Rome never had more faithful allies than
those that were at first the most obstinate enemies; neither had the
_Roman Empire_ ever arrived at that height of power, if Providence had
not mingled the vanquished with the conquerors.

There is an end of the contest when one side deserts it; so that
the paying of anger with benefits puts a period to the controversy.
But, however, if it be our fortune to transgress, let not our anger
descend to the children, friends or relations, even of our bitterest
enemies. The very cruelty of Sylla was heightened by that instance of
incapacitating the issue of the proscribed. It is inhuman to entail the
hatred we have for the father upon his posterity.

A good and a wise man is not to be an _enemy_ of wicked men, but a
_reprover_ of them; and he is to look upon all the drunkards, the
lustful, the thankless, covetous, and ambitious, that he meets with,
not otherwise than as a physician looks upon his patients; for he that
will be angry with _any man_ must be displeased with _all_; which were
as ridiculous as to quarrel with a body for stumbling in the dark; with
one that is deaf, for not doing as you bid him; or with a school-boy
for loving his play better than his book. Democritus _laughed_, and
Heraclitus _wept_, at the folly and wickedness of the world, but we
never read of any _angry philosopher_.

This is undoubtedly the most detestable of vices, even compared with
the worst of them. Avarice scrapes and gathers together that which
somebody may be the better for: but anger lashes out, and no man comes
_off_ gratis. An angry master makes one servant run away, and another
hang himself; and his choler causes him a much greater loss than he
suffered in the occasion of it. It is the cause of mourning to the
father, and of divorce to the husband: it makes the magistrate odious,
and gives the candidate a repulse. And it is worse than luxury too,
which only aims at its proper pleasure; whereas the other is bent upon
another body’s pain.

The malevolent and the envious content themselves only to _wish_
another man miserable; but it is the business of anger to _make_ him
so, and to wreck the mischief itself; not so much desiring the hurt
of another, as to inflict it. Among the powerful, it breaks out into
open war, and into a private one with the common people, but without
force or arms. It engages us in treacheries, perpetual troubles and
contentions: it alters the very nature of a man, and punishes itself in
the persecution of others. Humanity excites us to love, this to hatred;
that to be beneficial to others, this to hurt them: beside, that,
though it proceeds from too high a conceit of ourselves, it is yet, in
effect, but a narrow and contemptible affection; especially when it
meets with a mind that is hard and impenetrable, and returns the dart
upon the head of him that casts it.

To take a farther view, now, of the miserable consequences and
sanguinary effects of this hideous distemper; from hence come
slaughters and poisons, wars, and desolations, the razing and burning
of cities; the unpeopling of nations, and the turning of populous
countries into deserts, public massacres and regicides; princes led in
triumph; some murdered in their bed-chambers; others stabbed in the
senate or cut off in the security of their spectacles and pleasures.
Some there are that take anger for a princely quality; as Darius,
who, in his expedition against the Scythians, being besought by a
nobleman, that had three sons, that he would vouchsafe to accept
of two of them into his service, and leave the third at home for a
comfort to his father. “I will do more for you than that,” says Darius,
“for you shall have them all three again;” so he ordered them to be
slain before his face, and left him their bodies. But Xerxes dealt a
little better with Pythius, who had five sons, and desired only one of
them for himself. Xerxes bade him take his choice, and he named the
_eldest_, whom he immediately commanded to be cut in halves; and one
half of the body to be laid on each side of the way when his army was
to pass betwixt them; undoubtedly a most auspicious sacrifice; but he
came afterward to the end that he deserved; for he lived to see that
prodigious power scattered and broken: and instead of military and
victorious troops, to be encompassed with carcasses. But these, you
will say, were only barbarous princes that knew neither civility nor
letters; and these savage cruelties will be imputed perchance to their
rudeness of manners, and want of discipline. But what will you say then
of Alexander the Great, that was trained up under the institution of
Aristotle himself, and killed Clytus, his favorite and schoolfellow,
with his _own hand_, under his _own roof_, and _over the freedom of a
cup of wine_? And what was his crime? He was loth to degenerate from a
Macedonian _liberty_ into a Persian _slavery_; that is to say, he could
not _flatter_.

Lysimachus, another of his friends, he exposed to a lion; and this
very Lysimachus, after he had escaped this danger, was never the more
merciful when he came to reign himself; for he cut off the ears and
nose of his friend Telesphorous; and when he had so disfigured him
that he had no longer the face of a man, he threw him into a dungeon,
and there kept him to be showed for a monster, as a strange sight.
The place was so low that he was fain to creep upon all fours, and
his sides were galled too with the straitness of it. In this misery
he lay half-famished in his own filth; so odious, so terrible, and
so loathsome a spectacle, that the horror of his condition had even
extinguished all pity for him. “Nothing was ever so unlike a mar as the
poor wretch that suffered this, saving the tyrant that acted it.”

Nor did this merciless hardness only exercise itself among foreigners,
but the fierceness of their outrages and punishments, as well as their
vices, brake in upon the Romans. C. Marius, that had his statue set up
everywhere, and was adored as a God, L. Sylla commanded his bones to be
broken, his eyes to be pulled out, his hands to be cut off; and, as if
every wound had been a several death, his body to be torn to pieces,
and Catiline was the executioner. A _cruelty_ that was only fit for
Marius to _suffer_, Sylla to _command_, and Catiline to _act_; but most
dishonorable and fatal to the commonwealth, to fall indifferently upon
the sword’s point both of citizens and of enemies.

It was a severe instance, that of Piso too. A soldier that had leave
to go abroad with his comrade, came back to the camp at his time,
but without his companion. Piso condemned him to die, as if he had
killed him, and appoints a centurion to see the execution. Just as the
headsman was ready to do his office, the other soldier appeared, to the
great joy of the whole field, and the centurion bade the executioner
hold his hand. Hereupon Piso, in a rage, mounts the _tribunal_, and
sentences all three to death: the one because he was _condemned_,
the _other_ because it was for _his sake_ that his fellow-soldier
was _condemned_, the _centurion_ for not obeying the _order_ of his
_superior_. An ingenious piece of inhumanity, to contrive how to make
three criminals, where effectively there were none.

There was a Persian king that caused the noses of a whole nation to
be cut off, and they were to thank him that he spared their heads.
And this, perhaps, would have been the fate of the Macrobii, (if
Providence had not hindered it,) for the freedom they used to Cambyses’
ambassadors, in not accepting the slavish terms that were offered
them. This put Cambyses into such a rage, that he presently listed
into his service every man that was able to bear arms; and, without
either provisions or guides, marched immediately through dry and barren
deserts, and where never any man had passed before him, to take his
revenge. Before he was a third part of the way, his provisions failed
him. His men, at first, made shift with the buds of trees, boiled
leather, and the like; but soon after there was not so much as a root
or a plant to be gotten, nor a living creature to be seen; and then by
lot every tenth man was to die for a nourishment to the rest, which was
still worse than the famine. But yet this passionate king went on so
far, until one part of his army was lost, and the other devoured, and
until he feared that he himself might come to be served with the same
sauce. So that at last he ordered a retreat, wanting no delicates all
this while for himself, while his soldiers were taking their chance who
should die miserably, or live worse. Here was an anger taken up against
a whole nation, that neither deserved any ill from him, nor was so much
as known to him.

In this wandering state of life we meet with many occasions of trouble
and displeasure, both great and trivial; and not a day passes but, from
men or things, we have some cause or other for offense; as a man must
expect to be jostled, dashed, and crowded, in a populous city. One
man deceives our expectation; another delays it; and a third crosses
it; and if everything does not succeed to our wish, we presently fall
out either with the person, the business, the place, our fortune, or
ourselves. Some men value themselves upon their wit, and will never
forgive anyone that pretends to lessen it; others are inflamed by wine:
and some are distempered by sickness, weariness, watchings, love, care,
etc. Some are prone to it, by heat of constitution; but moist, dry, and
cold complexions are more liable to other affections; as suspicion,
despair, fear, jealousy, etc. But most of our quarrels are of our own
contriving. One while we suspect upon mistake; and another while we
make a great matter of trifles. To say the truth, most of those things
that exasperate us are rather subjects of disgust than of mischief:
there is a large difference betwixt opposing a man’s satisfaction
and not assisting it: betwixt _taking away_ and _not giving_; but we
reckon upon _denying_ and _deferring_ as the same thing; and interpret
another’s being _for himself_ as if he were _against us_. Nay, we do
many times entertain an ill opinion of well doing, and a good one of
the contrary: and we hate a man for doing that very thing which we
should hate him for on the other side, if he did not do it.

We take it ill to be opposed when there is a father perhaps, a brother,
or a friend, in the case against us; when we should rather love a
man for it; and only wish that he could be honestly of our party. We
approve of the fact, and detest the doer of it. It is a base thing to
hate the person whom we cannot but commend; but it is a great deal
worse yet if we hate him for the very thing that deserves commendation.
The things that we desire, if they be such as cannot be given to one
without being taken away from another, must needs set those people
together by the ears that desire the same thing. One man has a design
upon my mistress, another upon mine inheritance; and that which should
make friends makes enemies, our being all of a mind. The general cause
of anger is the sense or opinion of an _injury_; that is, the opinion
either of an injury simply done, or of an injury done, which we have
not deserved. Some are naturally given to anger, others are provoked
to it by occasion; the anger of women and children is commonly sharp,
but not lasting: old men are rather querulous and peevish. Hard labor,
diseases, anxiety of thought, and whatsoever hurts the body or the
mind, disposes a man to be froward, but we must not add fire to fire.

He that duly considers the subject-matter of all our controversies
and quarrels, will find them low and mean, not worth the thought of
a generous mind; but the greatest noise of all is about _money_. This
is it that sets fathers and children together by the ears, husbands
and wives; and makes way for sword and poison. This is it that tires
out courts of justice, enrages princes, and lays cities in the dust,
to seek for gold and silver in the ruins of them. This is it that
finds work for the judge to determine which side is least in the
wrong; and whose is the more plausible avarice, the plaintiff’s or the
defendant’s. And what is it that we contend for all this while, but
those baubles that make us cry when we should laugh? To see a rich
old cuff, that has nobody to leave his estate to, break his heart
for a handful of dirt; and a gouty usurer, that has no other use of
his fingers left him but to count withal; to see him, I say in the
extremity of his fit, wrangling for the odd money in his interest. If
all that is precious in Nature were gathered into one mass, it were
not worth the trouble of a sober mind. It were endless to run over all
those ridiculous passions that are moved about meats and drinks, and
the matter of our luxury; nay, about words, looks, actions, jealousies,
mistakes, which are all of them as contemptible fooleries as those very
baubles that children scratch and cry for. There is nothing great or
serious in all that which we keep such a clutter about; the madness
of it is, that we set too great a value upon trifles. One man flies
out upon a salute, a letter, a speech, a question, a gesture, a wink,
a look. An action moves one man; a word affects another; one man is
tender of his family; another of his person; one sets up for an orator,
another for a philosopher: this man will not bear pride, nor that man
opposition. He that plays the tyrant at home, is gentle as a lamb
abroad. Some take offense if a man ask a favor of them, and others, if
he does not. Every man has his weak side; let us learn which that is,
and take a care of it; for the same thing does not work upon all men
alike. We are moved like beasts at the idle appearances of things, and
the fiercer the creature, the more is it startled. The sight of a red
coat enrages a bull; a shadow provokes the asp; nay, so unreasonable
are some men, that they take moderate benefits for injuries, and
squabble about it with their nearest relations: “They have done this
and that for others,” they cry; “and they might have dealt better with
us if they had pleased.” Very good! and if it be less than we looked
for, it may be yet more than we deserve. Of all unquiet humors this
is the worst, that will never suffer any man to be happy, so long as
he sees a happier man than himself. I have known some men so weak as
to think themselves contemned if a horse did but play the jade with
_them_, that is yet obedient to _another rider_. A brutal folly to be
offended at a mute animal; for no injury can be done us without the
concurrence of reason. A beast may hurt us, as a sword or a stone, and
no otherwise. Nay, there are that will complain of “foul weather, a
raging sea, a biting winter,” as if it were expressly directed to them;
and this they charge upon Providence, whose operations are all of them
so far from being injurious, that they are beneficial to us.

How vain and idle are many of those things that make us stark mad! A
resty horse, the overturning of a glass, the falling of a key, the
dragging of a chair, a jealousy, a misconstruction. How shall that
man endure the extremities of hunger and thirst that flies out into a
rage for putting of a little too much water in his wine? What haste
is there to lay a servant by the heels, or break a leg or an arm
immediately for it, as if he were not to have the same power over him
an hour after, that he has at that instant? The answer of a servant, a
wife, a tenant, puts some people out of all patience; and yet they can
quarrel with the government, for not allowing them the same liberty in
public, which they themselves deny to their own families. If they say
nothing, it is contumacy: if they speak or laugh, it is insolence. As
if a man had his ears given him only for music; whereas we must suffer
all sorts of noises, good and bad, both of man and beast. How idle
is it to start at the tinkling of a bell, or the creaking of a door,
when, for all this delicacy, we must endure thunder! Neither are our
eyes less curious and fantastical than our ears. When we are abroad, we
can bear well enough with foul ways, nasty streets, noisome ditches;
but a spot upon a dish at home, or an unswept hearth, absolutely
distracts us. And what is the reason, but that we are patient in the
one place, and fantastically peevish in the other? Nothing makes us
more intemperate than luxury, that shrinks at every stroke, and starts
at every shadow. It is death to some to have another sit above them,
as if a body were ever the more or the less honest for the cushion.
But they are only weak creatures that think themselves wounded if they
be but touched. One of the Sybarites, that saw a fellow hard at work a
digging, desired him to give over, for it made him weary to see him:
and it was an ordinary complaint with him, that “he could take no
rest because the rose-leaves lay double under him.” When we are once
weakened with our pleasures, everything grows intolerable. And we are
angry as well with those things that cannot hurt us as with those that
do. We tear a book because it is blotted; and our clothes, because
they are not well made: things that neither deserve our anger nor feel
it: the tailor, perchance, did his best, or, however, had no intent to
displease us: if so, first, why should we be angry at all? Secondly,
why should we be angry with the thing for the man’s sake? Nay, our
anger extends even to dogs, horses, and other beasts.

It was a blasphemous and a sottish extravagance, that of Caius Cæsar,
who challenged Jupiter for making such a noise with his _thunder_, that
he could not hear his mimics, and so invented a machine in imitation
of it to oppose _thunder_ to _thunder_; a brutal conceit, to imagine,
either that he could reach the Almighty, or that the Almighty could not
reach him!

And every jot as ridiculous, though not so impious, was that of Cyrus;
who, in his design upon Babylon, found a river in his way that put a
stop to his march: the current was strong, and carried away one of the
horses that belonged to his own chariot: upon this he swore, that since
it had obstructed _his_ passage, it should never hinder any body’s
else; and presently set his whole army to work upon it, which diverted
it into a hundred and fourscore channels, and laid it dry. In this
ignoble and unprofitable employment he lost his time, and the soldiers
their courage, and gave his adversaries an opportunity of providing
themselves, while he was waging war with a river instead of an enemy.

Of provocations to anger there are two sorts; there is an _injury_,
and there is a _contumely_. The former in its own nature is the
heavier; the other slight in itself, and only troublesome to a wounded
imagination. And yet some there are that will bear blows, and death
itself, rather than contumelious words. A contumely is an indignity
below the consideration of the very law; and not worthy either of
a revenge, or so much as a complaint. It is only the vexation and
infirmity of a weak mind, as well as the practice of a haughty and
insolent nature, and signifies no more to a wise and sober man than
an idle dream, that is no sooner past than forgotten. It is true, it
implies contempt; but what needs any man care for being contemptible
to others, if he be not so to himself? For a child in the arms to
strike the mother, tear her hair, claw the face of her, and call her
names, that goes for nothing with us, because the child knows not what
he does. Neither are we moved at the impudence and bitterness of a
_buffoon_, though he fall upon his own master as well as the guests;
but, on the contrary, we encourage and entertain the freedom.

Are we not mad then, to be delighted and displeased with the same
thing, and to take that as an _injury_ from one man, which passes only
for a _raillery_ from another? He that is wise will behave himself
toward all men as we do to our children; for they are but children
too, though they have gray hairs: they are indeed of a larger size,
and their errors are grown up with them; they live without rule, they
covet without choice, they are timorous and unsteady; and if at any
time they happen to be quiet, it is more out of fear than reason. It
is a wretched condition to stand in awe of everybody’s tongue; and
whosoever is vexed at a reproach would be proud if he were commended.
We should look upon contumelies, slanders, and ill words, only as the
clamor of enemies, or arrows shot at a distance, that make a clattering
upon our arms, but do no execution. A man makes himself less than his
adversary by fancying that he is contemned. Things are only ill that
are ill taken; and it is not for a man of worth to think himself better
or worse for the opinion of others. He that thinks himself injured, let
him say, “Either I have deserved this, or I have not. If I have, it is
a judgment; if I have not, it is an injustice: and the doer of it has
more reason to be ashamed than the sufferers.”

Nature has assigned every man his post, which he is bound in honor to
maintain, let him be never so much pressed. Diogenes was disputing of
anger, and an insolent young fellow, to try if he could put him beside
his philosophy, spit in his face: “Young man,” says Diogenes, “this
does not make me angry yet; but I am in some doubt whether I should be
so or not.” Some are so impatient that they cannot bear a contumely,
even from a woman; whose very beauty, greatness, and ornaments, are all
of them little enough to vindicate her from any indecencies, without
much modesty and discretion; nay, they will lay it to heart even from
the meanest of servants. How wretched is that man whose peace lies at
the mercy of the people?

A physician is not angry at the intemperance of a mad patient; nor does
he take it ill to be railed at by a man in a fever; just so should a
wise man treat all mankind as a physician does his patient; and looking
upon them only as sick and extravagant, let their words and actions,
whether good or bad, go equally for nothing, attending still his duty
even in the coarsest offices that may conduce to their recovery. Men
that are proud, froward, and powerful, he values their scorn as little
as their quality, and looks upon them no otherwise than as people in
the excess of a fever. If a beggar worships him, or if he takes no
notice of him, it is all one to him; and with a rich man he makes it
the same case. Their honors and their injuries he accounts much alike;
without rejoicing at the one, or grieving at the other.

In these cases, the rule is to pardon all offenses, where there is any
sign of repentance, or hope of amendment. It does not hold in injuries
as in benefits, the requiting of the one with the other; for it is
a shame to overcome in the one, and in the other to be overcome. It
is the part of a great mind to despise injuries; and it is one kind
of revenge to neglect a man as not worth it: for it makes the first
aggressor too considerable. Our philosophy, methinks, might carry us
up to the bravery of a generous mastiff, that can hear the barking of
a thousand curs without taking any notice of them. He that receives
an injury from his superior, it is not enough for him to bear it with
patience, and without any thought of revenge, but he must receive it
with a cheerful countenance, and look as if he did not understand it
too; for if he appear too sensible, he shall be sure to have more of
it. “It is a damned humor in great men, that whom they wrong they will
hate.”

It is well answered of an old courtier, that was asked how he kept
so long in favor? “Why,” says he, “by receiving injuries, and crying
your humble servant for them.” Some men take it for an argument of
greatness to have revenge in their power; but so far is he that is
under the dominion of anger from being great, that he is not so much
as free. Not but that anger is a kind of pleasure to some in the act
of revenge; but the very _word_ is _inhuman_, though it may pass for
_honest_. “Virtue,” in short, “is impenetrable, and revenge is only the
confession of an infirmity.”

It is a fantastical humor, that the same jest in private should make us
merry, and yet enrage us in public; nay, we will not allow the liberty
that we take. Some railleries we account pleasant, others bitter: a
conceit upon a _squint-eye_, a _hunch-back_, or any personal defect,
passes for a reproach. And why may we not as well hear it as see it?
Nay, if a man imitates our gait, speech, or any natural imperfection,
it puts us out of all patience; as if the counterfeit were more
grievous than the doing of the thing itself. Some cannot endure to
hear of their age, nor others of their poverty; and they make the
thing the more taken notice of the more they desire to hide it. Some
bitter jest (for the purpose) was broken upon you at the table: keep
better company then. In the freedom of cups, a sober man will hardly
contain himself within bounds. It sticks with us extremely sometimes,
that the porter will not let us in to his great master. Will any but a
madman quarrel with a cur for barking, when he may pacify him with a
crust? What have we to do but to keep further off, and laugh at him?
Fidus Cornelius (a tall slim fellow) fell downright a-crying in the
senate-house at Corbulo’s saying that “he looked like an ostrich.”
He was a man that made nothing of a lash upon his life and manners;
but it was worse than death to him a reflection upon his person. No
man was ever ridiculous to others that laughed at himself first: it
prevents mischief, and it is a spiteful disappointment of those that
take pleasure in such abuses. Vatinius, (a man that was made up for
scorn and hatred, scurrilous and impudent to the highest degree, but
most abusively witty and with all this he was diseased, and deformed to
extremity), his way, was always to make sport with himself, and so he
prevented the mockeries of other people. There are none more abusive
to others than they that lie most open to it themselves; but the humor
goes round, and he that laughs at me to-day will have somebody to laugh
at him to-morrow, and revenge my quarrel. But, however, there are some
liberties that will never go down with some men.

Asiaticus Valerius, (one of Caligula’s particular friends, and a man of
stomach, that would not easily digest an affront) Caligula told him in
public what kind of bedfellow his wife was. Good God! that ever any man
should hear this, or a prince speak it, especially to a man of consular
authority, a friend, and a husband: and in such a manner too as at once
to own his disgust and his adultery. The tribune Chæreas had a weak
broken voice, like an hermaphrodite; when he came to Caligula for the
_word_, he would give him sometimes _Venus_, otherwhiles _Priapus_,
as a slur upon him both ways. Valerius was afterwards the principal
instrument in the conspiracy against him; and Chæreas, to convince him
of his manhood, at one blow cleft him down the chin with his sword.
No man was so forward as Caligula to _break_ a jest, and no man so
unwilling to _bear_ it.

Share