No. 19.

Thursday, March 22, 1711. [Steele.

Dii benefecerant, inopis me quodque pusilli

Finxerunt animi, rarò et perpauca loquentis. -Hor.

Observing one Person behold another, who was an utter Stranger to him, with a Cast of his Eye which, methought, expressed an Emotion of Heart very different from what could be raised by an Object so agreeable as the Gentleman he looked at, I began to consider, not without some secret Sorrow, the Condition of an Envious Man. Some have fancied that Envy has a certain Magical Force in it, and that the Eyes of the Envious have by their Fascination blasted the Enjoyments of the Happy. Sir Francis Bacon says, Some have been so curious as to remark the Times and Seasons when the Stroke of an Envious Eye is most effectually pernicious, and have observed that it has been when the Person envied has been in any Circumstance of Glory and Triumph. At such a time the Mind of the Prosperous Man goes, as it were, abroad, among things without him, and is more exposed to the Malignity. But I shall not dwell upon Speculations so abstracted as this, or repeat the many excellent Things which one might collect out of Authors upon this miserable Affection; but keeping in the road of common Life, consider the Envious Man with relation to these three Heads, His Pains, His Reliefs, and His Happiness.

The Envious Man is in Pain upon all Occasions which ought to give him Pleasure. The Relish of his Life is inverted, and the Objects which administer the highest Satisfaction to those who are exempt from this Passion, give the quickest Pangs to Persons who are subject to it, All the Perfections of their Fellow-Creatures are odious: Youth, Beauty, Valour and Wisdom are Provocations of their Displeasure. What a Wretched and Apostate State is this! To be offended with Excellence, and to hate a Man because we Approve him! The Condition of the Envious Man is the most Emphatically miserable; he is not only incapable of rejoicing in another's Merit or Success, but lives in a World wherein all Mankind are in a Plot against his Quiet, by studying their own Happiness and Advantage. Will. Prosper is an honest Tale-bearer, he makes it his business to join in Conversation with Envious Men. He points to such an handsom Young Fellow, and whispers that he is secretly married to a Great Fortune: When they doubt, he adds Circumstances to prove it; and never fails to aggravate their Distress, by assuring 'em that to his knowledge he has an Uncle will leave him some Thousands. Will. has many Arts of this kind to torture this sort of Temper, and delights in it. When he finds them change colour, and say faintly They wish such a Piece of News is true, he has the Malice to speak some good or other of every Man of their Acquaintance.

The Reliefs of the Envious Man are those little Blemishes and Imperfections, that discover themselves in an Illustrious Character. It is matter of great Consolation to an Envious Person, when a Man of Known Honour does a thing Unworthy himself: Or when any Action which was well executed, upon better Information appears so alter'd in its Circumstances, that the Fame of it is divided among many, instead of being attributed to One. This is a secret Satisfaction to these Malignants; for the Person whom they before could not but admire, they fancy is nearer their own Condition as soon as his Merit is shared among others. I remember some Years ago there came out an Excellent Poem, without the Name of the Author. The little Wits, who were incapable of Writing it, began to pull in Pieces the supposed Writer. When that would not do, they took great Pains to suppress the Opinion that it was his. That again failed. The next Refuge was to say it was overlook'd by one Man, and many Pages wholly written by another. An honest Fellow, who sate among a Cluster of them in debate on this Subject, cryed out, Gentlemen, if you are sure none of you yourselves had an hand in it, you are but where you were, whoever writ it. But the most usual Succour to the Envious, in cases of nameless Merit in this kind, is to keep the Property, if possible, unfixed, and by that means to hinder the Reputation of it from falling upon any particular Person. You see an Envious Man clear up his Countenance, if in the Relation of any Man's Great Happiness in one Point, you mention his Uneasiness in another. When he hears such a one is very rich he turns Pale, but recovers when you add that he has many Children. In a Word, the only sure Way to an Envious Man's Favour, is not to deserve it.

But if we consider the Envious Man in Delight, it is like reading the Seat of a Giant in a Romance; the Magnificence of his House consists in the many Limbs of Men whom he has slain. If any who promised themselves Success in any Uncommon Undertaking miscarry in the Attempt, or he that aimed at what would have been Useful and Laudable, meets with Contempt and Derision, the Envious Man, under the Colour of hating Vainglory, can smile with an inward Wantonness of Heart at the ill Effect it may have upon an honest Ambition for the future.

Having thoroughly considered the Nature of this Passion, I have made it my Study how to avoid the Envy that may acrue to me from these my Speculations; and if I am not mistaken in my self, I think I have a Genius to escape it. Upon hearing in a Coffee-house one of my Papers commended, I immediately apprehended the Envy that would spring from that Applause; and therefore gave a Description of my Face the next Day ; being resolved as I grow in Reputation for Wit, to resign my Pretensions to Beauty. This, I hope, may give some Ease to those unhappy Gentlemen, who do me the Honour to torment themselves upon the Account of this my Paper. As their Case is very deplorable, and deserves Compassion, I shall sometimes be dull, in Pity to them, and will from time to time administer Consolations to them by further Discoveries of my Person. In the meanwhile, if any one says the Spectator has Wit, it may be some Relief to them, to think that he does not show it in Company. And if any one praises his Morality they may comfort themselves by considering that his Face is none of the longest.


1 'We see likewise, the Scripture calleth Envy an Evil Eye: And the Astrologers call the evil influences of the stars, Evil Aspects; so that still there seemeth to be acknowledged, in the act of envy, an ejaculation or irradiation of the eye. Nay some have been so curious as to note that the times when the stroke or percussion of an envious eye doth most hurt, are, when the party envied is beheld in glory or triumph; for that sets an edge upon Envy; And besides, at such times, the spirits of the persons envied do come forth most into outward parts, and so meet the blow.' Bacon's Essays, IX, Of Envy.

2. In No. 17.