The Self-Important

A self-important Man railed at the Birds for pecking at his orchard fruit. The Birds reminded the Man that they were there first.

Self-importance is the origin of many vices.


JN Fable 003

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: C. Nesbit (1828)

A certain man of great opulence, one day taking a survey of his domain, was agitated to a fury of passion, on perceiving that the fruit on his favorite trees and vines had been pecked and devoured by the birds. He cursed them from his heart, as interlopers: “Hold,” said a thrush that had perched on a branch of a tree near him, and had witnessed his rage:—” Hold, voluptuous man, and know that it is the human race who are the real interlopers and usurpers of our rights. These covetous and lord1y tyrants of the creation, whose boards are daily spread with every delicacy the world can furnish, sauced with rarities from the east and from the west, and whose gluttonous appetites are able to devour them all, swelled with pride and self-importance, conceive that all things on earth are created and ordained solely for their gratification and pleasure, whilst our humble species are to be prohibited even the touch of any of them, although sent into the world by the same Almighty Power as themselves; but with appetites more limited, confined to a very few things, such as merely a small proportion of fruit and grain, which nature has provided for us, that we may not perish. Yet this small part of the abundance of creation the selfishness of mankind would deny us, and makes them greedily claim the whole as their own.


The pride. and self-importance found in man alone of the whole animal creation, if not checked in time, is the origin of many vices, particularly our cruelty to animals, our contempt for the major part even of our fellow-creatures, and our tyranny over those who are subject to us. And also that inordinate thirst for power, which we persuade ourselves we ought to possess, and, to gain it, scruple not to make use of the foulest means, is derived from the same source. It is this selfishness and pride that binds us so tenaciously to our own opinion, and fires us with such rage against those who do not coincide with us and will not submit to our arguments, that we are not satisfied till we see them burnt at a stake.

Pride, ambition, covetousness, and cruelty are the offspring of an inordinate degree of self-importance and conceit. J. N.

JN Fable 003a

Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)