Read POPULAR FALLACIES : XVI.—­THAT A SULKY TEMPER IS A MISFORTUNE of The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb‚ Volume 2, free online book, by Charles Lamb, on ReadCentral.com.

We grant that it is, and a very serious one ­to a man’s friends, and to all that have to do with him; but whether the condition of the man himself is so much to be deplored, may admit of a question.  We can speak a little to it, being ourself but lately recovered ­we whisper it in confidence, reader ­out of a long and desperate fit of the sullens.  Was the cure a blessing?  The conviction which wrought it, came too clearly to leave a scruple of the fanciful injuries ­for they were mere fancies ­which had provoked the humour.  But the humour itself was too self-pleasing, while it lasted ­we know how bare we lay ourself in the confession ­to be abandoned all at once with the grounds of it.  We still brood over wrongs which we know to have been imaginary; and for our old acquaintance, N ­, whom we find to have been a truer friend than we took him for, we substitute some phantom ­a Caius or a Titius ­as like him as we dare to form it, to wreak our yet unsatisfied resentments on.  It is mortifying to fall at once from the pinnacle of neglect; to forego the idea of having been ill-used and contumaciously treated by an old friend.  The first thing to aggrandise a man in his own conceit, is to conceive of himself as neglected.  There let him fix if he can.  To undeceive him is to deprive him of the most tickling morsel within the range of self-complacency.  No flattery can come near it.  Happy is he who suspects his friend of an injustice; but supremely blest, who thinks all his friends in a conspiracy to depress and undervalue him.  There is a pleasure (we sing not to the profane) far beyond the reach of all that the world counts joy ­a deep, enduring satisfaction in the depths, where the superficial seek it not, of discontent.  Were we to recite one half of this mystery, which we were let into by our late dissatisfaction, all the world would be in love with disrespect; we should wear a slight for a bracelet, and neglects and contumacies would be the only matter for courtship.  Unlike to that mysterious book in the Apocalypse, the study of this mystery is unpalatable only in the commencement.  The first sting of a suspicion is grievous; but wait ­out of that wound, which to flesh and blood seemed so difficult, there is balm and honey to be extracted.  Your friend passed you on such or such a day, ­having in his company one that you conceived worse than ambiguously disposed towards you, ­passed you in the street without notice.  To be sure he is something shortsighted; and it was in your power to have accosted him.  But facts and sane inferences are trifles to a true adept in the science of dissatisfaction.  He must have seen you; and S ­, who was with him, must have been the cause of the contempt.  It galls you, and well it may.  But have patience.  Go home, and make the worst of it, and you are a made man from this time.  Shut yourself up, and ­rejecting, as an enemy to your peace, every whispering suggestion that but insinuates there may be a mistake ­reflect seriously upon the many lesser instances which you had begun to perceive, in proof of your friend’s disaffection towards you.  None of them singly was much to the purpose, but the aggregate weight is positive; and you have this last affront to clench them.  Thus far the process is any thing but agreeable.  But now to your relief comes in the comparative faculty.  You conjure up all the kind feelings you have had for your friend; what you have been to him, and what you would have been to him, if he would have suffered you; how you defended him in this or that place; and his good name ­his literary reputation, and so forth, was always dearer to you than your own!  Your heart, spite of itself, yearns towards him.  You could weep tears of blood but for a restraining pride.  How say you? do you not yet begin to apprehend a comfort? some allay of sweetness in the bitter waters?  Stop not here, nor penuriously cheat yourself of your reversions.  You are on vantage ground.  Enlarge your speculations, and take in the rest of your friends, as a spark kindles more sparks.  Was there one among them, who has not to you proved hollow, false, slippery as water?  Begin to think that the relation itself is inconsistent with mortality.  That the very idea of friendship, with its component parts, as honour, fidelity, steadiness, exists but in your single bosom.  Image yourself to yourself, as the only possible friend in a world incapable of that communion.  Now the gloom thickens.  The little star of self-love twinkles, that is to encourage you through deeper glooms than this.  You are not yet at the half point of your elevation.  You are not yet, believe me, half sulky enough.  Adverting to the world in general, (as these circles in the mind will spread to infinity) reflect with what strange injustice you have been treated in quarters where, (setting gratitude and the expectation of friendly returns aside as chimeras,) you pretended no claim beyond justice, the naked due of all men.  Think the very idea of right and fit fled from the earth, or your breast the solitary receptacle of it, till you have swelled yourself into at least one hemisphere; the other being the vast Arabia Stony of your friends and the world aforesaid.  To grow bigger every moment in your own conceit, and the world to lessen:  to deify yourself at the expense of your species; to judge the world ­this is the acme and supreme point of your mystery ­these the true PLEASURES of SULKINESS.  We profess no more of this grand secret than what ourself experimented on one rainy afternoon in the last week, sulking in our study.  We had proceeded to the penultimate point, at which the true adept seldom stops, where the consideration of benefit forgot is about to merge in the meditation of general injustice ­when a knock at the door was followed by the entrance of the very friend, whose not seeing of us in the morning, (for we will now confess the case our own), an accidental oversight, had given rise to so much agreeable generalization!  To mortify us still more, and take down the whole flattering superstructure which pride had piled upon neglect, he had brought in his hand the identical S ­, in whose favour we had suspected him of the contumacy.  Asseverations were needless, where the frank manner of them both was convictive of the injurious nature of the suspicion.  We fancied that they perceived our embarrassment; but were too proud, or something else, to confess to the secret of it.  We had been but too lately in the condition of the noble patient in Argos: 

  Qui se credebat miros audire tragoedos. 
  In vacuo laetus sessor plausorque theatro ­

and could have exclaimed with equal reason against the friendly hands that cured us ­

  Pol me occidistis, amici,
  Non servastis, ait; cui sic extorta voluptas,
  Et demptus per vim mentis gratissimus error.