Read POPULAR FALLACIES : V.—­THAT THE POOR COPY THE VICES OF THE RICH of The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb‚ Volume 2, free online book, by Charles Lamb, on ReadCentral.com.

A smooth text to the latter; and, preached from the pulpit, is sure of a docile audience from the pews lined with satin.  It is twice sitting upon velvet to a foolish squire to be told, that he ­and not perverse nature, as the homilies would make us imagine, is the true cause of all the irregularities in his parish.  This is striking at the root of free-will indeed, and denying the originality of sin in any sense.  But men are not such implicit sheep as this comes to.  If the abstinence from evil on the part of the upper classes is to derive itself from no higher principle, than the apprehension of setting ill patterns to the lower, we beg leave to discharge them from all squeamishness on that score:  they may even take their fill of pleasures, where they can find them.  The Genius of Poverty, hampered and straitened as it is, is not so barren of invention but it can trade upon the staple of its own vice, without drawing upon their capital.  The poor are not quite such servile imitators as they take them for.  Some of them are very clever artists in their way.  Here and there we find an original.  Who taught the poor to steal, to pilfer?  They did not go to the great for schoolmasters in these faculties surely.  It is well if in some vices they allow us to be ­no copyists.  In no other sense is it true that the poor copy them, than as servants may be said to take after their masters and mistresses, when they succeed to their reversionary cold meats.  If the master, from indisposition or some other cause, neglect his food, the servant dines notwithstanding.

“O, but (some will say) the force of example is great.”  We knew a lady who was so scrupulous on this head, that she would put up with the calls of the most impertinent visitor, rather than let her servant say she was not at home, for fear of teaching her maid to tell an untruth; and this in the very face of the fact, which she knew well enough, that the wench was one of the greatest liars upon the earth without teaching; so much so, that her mistress possibly never heard two words of consecutive truth from her in her life.  But nature must go for nothing:  example must be every thing.  This liar in grain, who never opened her mouth without a lie, must be guarded against a remote inference, which she (pretty casuist!) might possibly draw from a form of words ­literally false, but essentially deceiving no one ­that under some circumstances a fib might not be so exceedingly sinful ­a fiction, too, not at all in her own way, or one that she could be suspected of adopting, for few servant-wenches care to be denied to visitors.

This word example reminds us of another fine word which is in use upon these occasions ­encouragement.  “People in our sphere must not be thought to give encouragement to such proceedings.”  To such a frantic height is this principle capable of being carried, that we have known individuals who have thought it within the scope of their influence to sanction despair, and give eclat to ­suicide.  A domestic in the family of a county member lately deceased, for love, or some unknown cause, cut his throat, but not successfully.  The poor fellow was otherwise much loved and respected; and great interest was used in his behalf, upon his recovery, that he might be permitted to retain his place; his word being first pledged, not without some substantial sponsors to promise for him, than the like should never happen again.  His master was inclinable to keep him, but his mistress thought otherwise; and John in the end was dismissed, her ladyship declaring that she “could not think of encouraging any such doings in the county.”