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THE PORT FOLIO.
CONDUCTED BY OLIVER OLDSCHOOL, ESQ.
Variors, that the mind
ART. I.---Pleasant and Unpleasant People.
Are there balance here to weigh the flesh ?--Merchant of Venice. I have no desire to jostle people out of their good self-opinion, or the good opinion of others, but to ascertain their real worth, to separate their vices from their virtues, and to have a little more equal dealing in our ordinary judgment of men. Steele, I think, in the Tatler, has in his brief way, given an able judgment on this very subject; and Mr. Hazlitt, some years since, wrote an Essay expressly on it. Possibly little more was wanting; but two blows are always better than one; and as in a question of morality, or any other, where men's interests do not compel them to act or decide, twenty are often insufficient, the second, though infinitely weaker, may have some consequence.
By a pleasant fellow, I mean a man universally accounted so; for in certain moods of the mind, and in particular societies, we all answer to the description :-where opinions are all in agreement-where a mad speculation is kept in decent countenance, or one common-place seconded by another-where our prejudices are humoured, our likes and dislikes nursed and cherished, -where men clap hands to the same song, and join in the same chorus,—there is a nest of pleasant fellows, though they may be wise men or madmen, honest men or knaves.
But the pleasant fellow I mean is equally a pleasant fellow in all companies, and on all occasions; has a spare bed in every other man's house, a knife and fork at their table, a good welVOL. II.-NO. 3
come, go when and where he will, and a good word after he is gone.
There are many shades and distinctions in this class, as in all others, but these are the distinguishing features of them. Some give you a most fearful shake of the hand on meeting, and hold you by it with a sort of tremulous enjoyment, as if loth to part so soon ;-have a boyish joyousness about them, that puts you constantly off your guard, and are delighted to see a friend any where, but at their own house or in jail, and therefore never subject their feelings to the latter unpleasantness. Another variety are only pleasant on fresh acquaintance, or where it serves their purpose; but this last is a contemptible mongrel breed.
A really pleasant fellow is neither a hateful, nor a contemptible one ; but is generally a very unpretending person, full of an easy sympathy, active, zealous in a degree, with a quiet self-enjoyment, an enlarged humanity that includes all mankind, and woman kind too, for it knows neither distinction nor preference; taking all things pleasantly that concern him not individually, and thereby making all things pleasant; even sacrificing personal considerations, and always personal consequence and self-respect, in trifles, to the enjoyment of others; setting up no system, nor pulling down any : having no theories, no dreams, no visions, no opinions that he holds worth wrangling or disputing about; and, indeed, few opinions at all. He has always a dash more of the animal than of the intellectual about him; and is too mercurial minded to be easily fixed, or fixed upon. He lives only in the present; for the past is immediately forgotten, because it has no farther consequence, and the future is a blank, because it has no perceptible influence. As he can be delighted with a straw, so is he depressed with its shadow; prick him and he will bleed; tickle him and he will laugh; poison him and he will die; for he has none of the fervency of imagination to carry him out of himself or beyond immediate circumstances. He is fitted neither for the goodly fellowship of the prophets, nor for the noble army of martyrs. If prophets or martyrs have ever been pleasant fellows, as some are reported, it was that from the vast height whence they looked down on the common and ordinary passion and turmoil of the world it seemed too puny and insignificant to interest or excite them. Who that is intent on an immortal life, and holds communion, even in thought, with those beatified spirits that
time, can have much regard for its polish, or sympathy with our childish excitement?
Pleasant people are never “ backbone" men; they are never heart and hand with you. Their acquaintances are usually of long standing, because quarrelling is not “their cue;" but separate them by any circumstance, and they are indifferent to it. Their hand is not against, neither is it for any man. It is not found in the sheriff's books,—this bond hath it not! They do good, I admit, well measured and doled out; but in this they have the advantage of the world, both in opinion and return.
Laying aside, for the present, whatever may personally affect either, for then it is often the reverse of true, I should
that pleasant and unpleasant people differ most in this, that the one is without imagination, and looks to the naked reality; the other, with imagination," aggravates" either joy or sorrow.
Unpleasant people have the larger sympathy and more universal humanity. This, it may be said, is contradictory, and opposed to what I have before observed of pleasant people. But if it be a contradiction, it is in human nature ; and, to use an apology of Fielding's, “ I am not writing a system, but a history, and am not obliged to reconcile every matter.” But I think it is not a contradiction. The pleasant man sympathizes with the world in its ordinary and every day feelings; the man of more questionable temper is roused only by extraordinary circumstances. But he is then awakened to some purpose. He makes common cause with you, in sorrow or suffering; he will needs bear his share of your burthen; for if a portion will be oppressive to him, he sees you sinking under the whole. The pleasant fellow, on the contrary, measures his own shoulders and not your load; he will not lend a hand, and give the groan to your
« three man beetle” labour; he is content that you should sit down and rest, but has no fancy to “bear the logs the while."
The great majority of these pleasant fellows are indebted to their negative rather than their positive qualities; they have no deep feeling, no engrossing sympathy, no universal fellowship; the establishments of the Holy Alliance, and the Abolition of the Inquisition, were the same to them; “let the gall'd jade wince, their withers are unwrung;” “let the world go whistle,” they have their toast and coffee. I would wager my existence that the man, mentioned by Clarendon, as out hunting in the neighbourhood of Edge-hill on the very morning of the fight, was one of them.
The two subjects on which men feel most intensely, politics and religion, are shut out from the conversation of a pleasant fellow; for there is no sure common-place that will suit all sects and parties on either subject; and to hazard an opinion is to speculate with his character, and put his amiability in jeopardy. Yet these men are the soul of mixed company, becanse their souls are in it;