The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, by Bernard Mandeville

Remarks.

(A.) Whilst others follow’d Mysteries, To which few Folks bind ’Prentices: Page 3. Line 15.

IN the Education of Youth, in order to their getting of a Livelihood when they shall be arrived at Maturity, most People look out for some warrantable Employment or other, of which there are whole Bodies or Companies, in every large Society of Men. By this means all Arts and Sciences, as well as Trades and Handicrafts, are perpetuated in the Commonwealth, as long as they are found useful; the Young ones that are daily brought up to ’em, continually supplying the loss of the Old Ones that die. But some of these Employments being vastly more Creditable than others, according to the great difference of the Charges required to set up in each of them, all prudent Parents in the Choice of them chiefly consult their own Abilities and the Circumstances they are in. A Man that gives Three or Four Hundred Pounds with his Son to a great Merchant, and has not Two or Three Thousand Pounds to spare against he is out of his Time to begin the World with, is much to blame not to have brought his Child up to something that might be follow’d with less Money.

There are abundance of Men of a Genteel Education, that have but very small Revenues, and yet are forced, by their Reputable Callings, to make a greater Figure than ordinary People of twice their Income. If these have any Children, it often happens, that as their Indigence renders them incapable of bringing them up to Creditable Occupations, so their Pride makes ’em unwilling to put them out to any of the mean laborious Trades, and then, in hopes either of an Alteration in their Fortune, or that some Friends, or favourable Opportunity shall offer, they from time to time put off the disposing of them, ’till insensibly they come to be of Age, and are at last brought up to nothing. Whether this Neglect be more barbarous to the Children, or prejudicial to the Society, I shall not determine. At Athens all Children were forced to assist their Parents, if they came to Want: But Solon made a Law, that no Son should be oblig’d to relieve his Father, who had not bred him up to any Calling.1

Some Parents put out their Sons to good Trades very suitable to their then present Abilities, but happen to dy, or fail in the World, before their Children have finish’d their Apprenticeships, or are made fit for the Business they are to follow: A great many Young Men again on the other hand are handsomely provided for and set up for themselves, that yet (some for want of Industry or else a sufficient Knowledge in their Callings, others by indulging their Pleasures, and some few by Misfortunes) are reduced to Poverty, and altogether unable to maintain themselves by the Business they were brought up to. It is impossible but that the Neglects, Mismanagements and Misfortunes I named, must very frequently happen in Populous Places, and consequently great Numbers of People be daily flung unprovided for into the wide World, how Rich and Potent a Commonwealth may be, or what Care soever a Government may take to hinder it. How must these People be disposed of? The Sea, I know, and Armies, which the World is seldom without, will take off some. Those that are honest Drudges, and of a laborious Temper, will become Journey-men to the Trades they are of, or enter into some other Service: Such of them as study’d and were sent to the University, may become Schoolmasters, Tutors, and some few of them get into some Office or other: But what must become of the Lazy that care for no manner of working, and the Fickle that hate to be confin’d to any Thing?

Those that ever took Delight in Plays and Romances, and have a spice of Gentility, will, in all probability, throw their Eyes upon the Stage, and if they have a good Elocution with tolerable Mien, turn Actors. Some that love their Bellies above anya thing else, if they have a good Palate, and a little Knack at Cookery, will strive to get in with Gluttons and Epicures, learn to cringe and bear all manner of Usage, and so turn Parasites, ever flattering the Master, and making Mischief among the rest of the Family. Others, who by their own and Companions Lewdness judge of People’s Incontinence, will naturally fall to Intriguing, and endeavour to live by Pimping for such as either want Leisure or Address to speak for themselves. Those of the most abandon’d Principles of all, if they are sly and dextrous, turn Sharpers, Pick-pockets, or Coiners, if their Skill and Ingenuity give them leave. Others again, that have observ’d the Credulity of simple Women, and other foolish People, if they have Impudence and a little Cunning, either set up for Doctors, or else pretend to tell Fortunes; and every one turning the Vices and Frailties of others to his own Advantage, endeavours to pick up a Living the easiest and shortest way his Talent and Abilities will let him.

These are certainly the Bane of Civil Society; but they are Fools, who not considering what has been said, storm at the Remisness of the Laws that suffer them to live, while wise Men content themselves with taking all imaginable Care not to be circumvented by them, without quarrelling at what no human Prudence can prevent.

1 See Plutarch’s Lives (Dryden’s, 1683) i. 306, in the life of Solon.

a every 14, 23

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:00