Nicole in his "Essais de Morale," written after two or three thousand
volumes of ethics ("Treatise on Charity," Chap. II), says that "by means
of the wheels and gibbets which people establish in common are repressed
the tyrannous thoughts and designs of each individual's self-esteem."
I shall not examine whether people have gibbets in common, as they have
meadows and woods in common, and a common purse, and if one represses
ideas with wheels; but it seems very strange to me that Nicole should
take highway robbery and assassination for self-esteem. One should
distinguish shades of difference a little better. The man who said that
Nero had his mother assassinated through self-esteem, that Cartouche had
much self-esteem, would not be expressing himself very correctly.
Self-esteem is not wickedness, it is a sentiment that is natural to all
men; it is much nearer vanity than crime.
A beggar in the suburbs of Madrid nobly begged charity; a passer-by says
to him: "Are you not ashamed to practise this infamous calling when you
are able to work?"
"Sir," answered the beggar, "I ask for money, not advice." And he turned
on his heel with full Castillian dignity.
This gentleman was a proud beggar, his vanity was wounded by a trifle.
He asked charity out of love for himself, and could not tolerate the
reprimand out of further love for himself.
A missionary travelling in India met a fakir laden with chains, naked as
a monkey, lying on his stomach, and having himself whipped for the sins
of his compatriots, the Indians, who gave him a few farthings.
"What self-denial!" said one of the lookers-on.
"Self-denial!" answered the fakir. "Learn that I have myself flogged in
this world in order to return it in another, when you will be horses and
Those who have said that love of ourselves is the basis of all our
opinions and all our actions, have therefore been quite right in India,
Spain, and all the habitable world: and as one does not write to prove
to men that they have faces, it is not necessary to prove to them that
they have self-esteem. Self-esteem is the instrument of our
conservation; it resembles the instrument of the perpetuity of the
species: it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and it
has to be hidden.