S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
[Irus] seriously considered he was poor, and the general horror which most men have of all who are in that condition. Irus judged, very rightly, that while he could keep his poverty a secret he should not feel the weight of it: he improved this thought into an affectation of closeness and covetousness . Irus has, ever since he came into this neighborhood, given all the intimations he could of being a close hunks worth money.
The Christian statesmen of this land would, indeed, first provide for the multitude, because it is the multitude, and is therefore, as such, the first object in the ecclesiastical institution, and in all institutions. They have been taught that the circumstance of the Gospels being preached to the poor was one of the great tests of its true mission. They think, therefore, that those do not believe it who do not take care it should be preached to the poor.
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.
I do not call a healthy young man, cheerful in his mind and vigorous in his arms, I cannot call such a man poor; I cannot pity my kind as a kind, merely because they are men. This affected pity only tends to dissatisfy them with their condition, and to teach them to seek resources where no resources are to be found, in something else than their own industry and frugality and sobriety.
Edmund Burke: Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter III., 1797.
Oh, poverty! or what is called a reverse of fortune! Among the many bitter ingredients that thou hast in thy most bitter cup, thou hast not one so insupportably bitter as that which brings us in close and hourly contact with the earthenware and huckaback beings of the nether world. Even the vulgarity of inanimate things it requires time to get accustomed to; but living, breathing, bustling, plotting, planning, human vulgarity, is a species of moral ipecacuanha, enough to destroy any comfort.
When I compare together different classes, as existing at this moment in the civilized world, I cannot think the difference between the rich and poor, in regard to mere physical suffering, so great as is sometimes imagined. That some of the indigent among us die of scanty food is undoubtedly true; but vastly more in this community die from eating too much than from eating too little,vastly more from excess than starvation. So as to clothing: many shiver from want of defence against the cold; but there is vastly more suffering among the rich from absurd and criminal modes of dress which fashion has sanctioned, than among the poor from deficiency of raiment. Our daughters are oftener brought to the grave by their rich attire than our beggars by their nakedness. So the poor are often overworked; but they suffer less than many among the rich, who have no work to do, no interesting object to fill up life, to satisfy the infinite cravings of man for action. According to our present modes of education, how many of our daughters are subject to an ennuia misery unknown to the poor, and more intolerable than the weariness of excessive toil! The idle young man, spending the day in exhibiting his person in the street, ought not to excite the envy of the over-tasked poor; and this cumberer of the ground is found exclusively among the rich.
If rich, it is easy enough to conceal our wealth; but if poor, it is not quite so easy to conceal our poverty. We shall find that it is less difficult to hide a thousand guineas than one hole in our coat.
To be scantily provided with the necessaries of life, to endure cold, hunger, and nakedness, is a great calamity at all seasons; it is almost unnecessary to observe how much these evils are aggravated by the pressure of disease, when exhausted nature demands whatever the most tender assiduity can supply to cheer its languor and support its sufferings. It is the peculiar misfortune of the afflicted poor that the very circumstance which increases their wants cuts off, by disqualifying them for labour, the means of their supply. Bodily affliction, therefore, falls upon them with an accumulated weight. Poor at best, when seized with sickness they become utterly destitute. Incapable even of presenting themselves to the eye of pity, nothing remains for them but silently to yield themselves up to sorrow and despair.
It is but the old story of the many punished for the faults of a few. You, I, thousands, are coerced, stinted in our enjoyments, comforts, amusements, liberties, rights, and are defamed and vilified as drunkards and ruffians, because one bull-necked, thick-lipped, scowling beast of a fellow drinks himself mad with alcohol, beats his wife, breaks windows, and roams about Drury Lane with a life-preserver. Thousandswhose only crime it is to have no money, no friends, no clothes, no place of refuge equal even to the holes that the foxes have in Gods wide worldsee the hand of charity closed, and the door of mercy shut, because Alice Grey is an impostor, and Bamfylde Moore Carew a cheat; and because there have been such places as the Cour des Miracles, and Rats Castle. Go there and be merry, you rogue, says Mr. Sharplynx, facetiously. So the destitute go into the streets and die. They do die; although you may continue talking and tabulating till Doomsday.
I abide by the assertion, that men and women die nightly in our golden streets, because they have no bread to put into their miserable mouths, no roofs to shelter their wretched heads. It is no less a God-known man-neglected fact, that in any state of society in which such things can be, there must be something essentially bad and rotten.
I grant the workhouses, relieving officers, hospitals, infirmaries, station-houses, boards, minutes and schedules, the Mendicity Society, and the Guildhall Solomons. But I stand with Galileo; Si muove! and asseverate that, in the city paved with gold, there are people who are destitute, and die on door-steps, in the streets, on staircases, under dark arches, in ditches, and under the lees of walls. The police know it. Some day, perhaps, the government will condescend to know it too, and instruct a gentleman at a thousand a year to see about it.
Against other evils the heart is often hardened by true or by false notions of dignity and reputation: thus we see dangers of every kind faced with willingness, because bravery, in a good or bad cause, is never without its encomiasts and admirers. But in the prospect of poverty there is nothing but gloom and melancholy; the mind and body suffer together; its miseries bring no alleviation; it is a state in which every virtue is obscured, and in which no conduct can avoid reproach: a state in which cheerfulness is insensibility, and dejection sullenness; of which the hardships are without honour, and the labours without reward.
If there are any who do not dread poverty as dangerous to virtue, yet mankind seems unanimous enough in abhorring it as destructive to happiness; and all to whom want is terrible, upon whatever principle, ought to think themselves obliged to learn the sage maxims of our parsimonious ancestors, and attain the salutary arts of contracting expense; for without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor.
Their arguments have been, indeed, so unsuccessful, that I know not whether it can be shown that by all the wit and reason which this favourite cause has called forth, a single convert was ever made; that even one man has refused to be rich when to be rich was in his power, from the conviction of the greater happiness of a narrow fortune; or disburdened himself of wealth, when he had tried its inquietudes, merely to enjoy the peace, and leisure, and security of a mean and unenvied state.
Was he not a man of wisdom? Yes, but he was poor: But was he not also successful? True, but still he was poor: Grant this, and you cannot keep off that unavoidable sequel in the next verse, the poor mans wisdom is despised.
It is not barely a mans abridgment in his external accommodations which makes him miserable; but when his conscience shall tell him that it was his sin and his folly which brought him under that abridgment.
Though people censure any one for making a display beyond his station, if he falls below it in what are considered the decencies of his station, he is considered as either absurdly penurious or else very poor.
And why, it may be asked, should any one be at all ashamed of this latter,supposing his poverty is not the result of any misconduct? The answer is, that though poverty is not accounted disgraceful, the exposure of it is felt to be a thing indecent; and though, accordingly, a right-minded man does not seek to make a secret of it, he does not like to expose it, any more than he would to go without clothes.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Expense.