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 M - Mandeville


Bernard Mandeville: 1670-1733. Originally Dutch doctor of medicine, who lived most of his adult life in London, where he practised medicine and wrote satirical pamphlets, of which 'The Fable of the Bees - or Private Vices, Publick Benefits' is best known.

The Fable of the Bees is a long poem with a long prose-exposition, clarification and defense, all very well-written, and taken together one of the greatest and truest satires every written. The point of it all was, in Mandeville's own words:

to expose the Unreasonableness and Folly of those, that desirous of being an opulent and flourishing People, and wonderfully greedy after all the Benefits they can receive as such, are yet always murmuring at and exclaiming against those Vices and Inconveniencies, that from the beginning of the World to this present Day, have been inseperable from all Kingdoms and States that ever were fam'd for Strength, Riches and Politeness at the same time.

That is: Mandeville's general point was in his own poetical terms

As Sharpers, Parasites, Pimps, Players,
Pick-Pockets, Coiners, Quacks, Sooth-Sayers, [50]
And all those, that, in Enmity
With down-right Working, cunningly
Convert to their own Use the Labour
Of their good-natur'd heedless Neighbour:
These were called Knaves; but, bar the Name, [55]
The grave Industrious were the Same.
All Trades and Places knew some Cheat,
No Calling was without Deceit.

Or also

Such were the Blessings of that State;
Their Crimes conspired to make 'em Great;
And Vertue, who from Politicks
Had learn'd a Thousand cunning Tricks,
Was, by their happy Influence,
Made Friends with Vice: And ever since
The worst of all the Multitude
Did something for the common Good.

The text of the Poem is on this site; to read Mandeville's comments and expositions there is a fine edition of all of it - poem + comments - in Penguin Classics.

See: Mandeville - Fable of the Bees



 Original: Apr 6, 2005                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top