17 July 2012

The Surest Foundation

William Cobbett, Advice to Young Men (New York: John Doyle, 1846) p. 53:
This shame of being thought poor, is not only dishonourable in itself, and fatally injurious to men of talent; but it is ruinous even in a pecuniary point of view, and equally destructive to farmers, traders, and even gentlemen of landed estate. It leads to everlasting efforts to disguise one's poverty: the carriage, the servants, the wine, (oh, that fatal wine!) the spirits, the decanters, the glasses, all the table apparatus, the dress, the horses, the dinners, the parties, all must be kept up; not so much because he or she who keeps or gives them, has any pleasure arising therefrom, as because not to keep and give them, would give rise to a suspicion of the want of means so to give and keep; and thus thousands upon thousands are yearly brought into a state of real poverty by their great anxiety not to be thought poor. Look round you, mark well what you behold, and say if this be not the case. In how many instances have you seen most amiable and even most industrious families brought to ruin by nothing but this! Mark it well; resolve to set this false shame at defiance, and when you have done that, you have laid the first stone of the surest foundation of your future tranquillity of mind. There are thousands of families, at this very moment, who are thus struggling to keep up appearances.