Good heavens, how much one man excels another! What a difference between a fool and a man with brains! Thats a reflection suggested to me by this incident: I met to-day in the street a man of my station and rank here, not a bad sort of man, one who like me had guzzled and gobbled away all his inheritance: a sorry sight he was, dirty, sick, a mass of rags and antiquity. Whats the meaning of this figure? say I. A poor devil, says he, who have spent all I had: see what Im reduced to. All my friends and acquaintances cut me. I was full of contempt for him by the side of myself. What? I said, you spiritless wretch, have you managed things so as to have no hope left in you? Did your wits vanish with your property? Do you see me, a man born in the same station? Heres a complexion, heres sleekness! What of this for dress and appearance? I have everything though I havent a shilling, Ive no property and I want for nothing. But, says he, its my ill luck that I cant bring myself to be a butt for ridicule or blows. What? do you think thats what does it? Youre quite on the wrong road. Once that stamp of man drove a trade, a generation or so ago. Mine is a new way of bird-catching, yes and Im the original inventor of it. There is a class of men who set up for being the head in everything and arent. Its them I track: I dont aim at making them laugh at me; no, no, I smile on them and stand agape at their intellects. Whatever they say I praise; if again they say the opposite, I praise that too. If one says no, I say no; if one says yes, I say yes. In fact I have given orders to myself to agree with them in everything. Thats the trade that pays far the best nowadays.
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Our conversation lasted till we came to the market. Up run all the tradesmen delighted to meet me, fishmongers, butchers, pastrycooks, sausagemakers, spratsellers, men who profited by me while I had money and now that Ive none profit by me still. They greet me, ask me to dinner, bid me welcome. When that wretched starveling saw me complimented in this way and getting a living so easily, the fellow at once fell to begging me give him lessons in the business. I told him to become my disciple in the hope that, as schools of philosophers have their names from their masters, so hangers-on may be called Gnathonists.