30 Jun Why envious wretch, with such a piercing ray, Blind to thine own, dost others’ faults survey? (PLUTARCH) | Part B’
It was smartly said by the Egyptian, who, being asked what it was he carried so closely, replied, it was therefore covered that it might be secret.
Which answer will serve to check the curiosity of those impertinent men who will be always peeping into the privacies of others. Without knocking at the door, it is great rudeness to enter another’s house, and therefore in former times were rappers fitted to the gates.
It was therefore well said by Philippides the comedian, who, being asked by King Lysimachus what he desired might be imparted to him, replied, Anything but a secret.
But such harmless speculations will perchance affect thee little, and it may be thou hast that malignity in thy temper which, like venomous beasts that cannot live out of stink and putrefaction, must be ever preying upon the follies and miseries of mankind.
Peruse therefore the histories of the world, wherein thou shalt find such vast heaps of wickedness and mischiefs, made up of the downfalls and sudden deaths of great men,† the rapes and defilements of women, the treacheries of servants, the falseness of friends, the arts of poisoning, the fatal effects of envy and jealousy, the ruin of families, dethroning of princes, with many other such direful occurrences as may not only delight and satisfy, but even cloy and nauseate thy ill-natured curiosity.
With ears pricked up, he listens. What, and when,
And how, he asks; pray say, let’s hear’t again!
For their ears, like cupping-glasses that attract the most noxious humors in the body, are ever sucking in the most spiteful and malicious reports.
This noise is to them like the Sirens’ song and the sweetest melody, the most pleasant hearing in the world. Now this curiosity, being an affectation of knowledge in things concealed, must needs proceed from a great degree of spite and envy. For men do not usually hide, but ambitiously proclaim whatever is for their honor or interest to be known; and therefore to pry into what is industriously covered can be for no other purpose than that secret delight curious persons enjoy in the discovery of other men’s ills, — which is spite, — and the relief they gather thence, to ease themselves under their tormenting resentment at another’s prosperity, — which is envy; — both which spring from that savage and brutal disposition which we call ill-nature.
And indeed princes themselves — who are concerned to have as particular knowledge of all things as they can, and to whom it is in some sort necessary for the ends of government to maintain spies and intelligencers about them — are yet usually hated for nothing more than their retaining this lewd sort of people in quality of eavesdroppers of state and public informers.
The first that employed this kind of officers was Darius in his younger years, when he could not confide in himself nor durst trust anyone else. The Sicilian tyrants afterwards planted them in Syracuse; but upon a revolution that happened there, the people first fell upon these informers, and destroyed them without mercy. Of near affinity with these are common accusers, which, from a particular occasion imported in the word, were called sycophants, fig-blabbers; because, upon the prohibited exportation of that fruit, they became informers against those that broke this order. Much the like sort of people were those at Athens, where a dearth of grain happened and the corn-sellers were commanded to bring out their stores for public sale; and those that went about listening at the mills and prying into granaries, that they might find matter of information against offenders, were thence called aliterians or (if you please) mill-clackers.
Which consideration, superadded to the rest that has been said, is enough to render this sort of malignant curiosity extremely execrable, and to be highly abhorred and most carefully avoided by every man who would desire, for mere reputation’s sake, not to be ranked among that profligate crew of villains which are looked upon as the most detestable of all mankind.