The Vain Glow-Worm

A Glow-worm was well respected in his group. A flatterer came up and said he should move up in society. Glow-worm said no; he would not be as important.

None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.


JN Fable 031

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: T. Moses (1828)

A certain Glow-worm had long been the object of admiration amongst his humble acquaintance, the insects of the hedge, where he made a figure; and every night would condescend to illumine them with the splendour of his light, and in return received the homage of his reptile court with a most gracious air of affected condescension. On one occasion a small-waisted flatterer obtruded himself on his notice, by observing “that his humility was wonderful, and advised him by all means to make himself more public, and to shine in a more exalted circle, that the great world might become the witnesses of such attractions!”—”No, no,” replied the groveling-spirited Glow-worm, “that is not to my taste; for between ourselves, my great delight is to be in company where I can preside, and be regarded as a wonder—no matter though it be from their inferiority or ignorance. Whereas, if I associate with those of higher endowments, I shall feel my pride mortified, and appear, even to myself, to be no better than a poor worm.”


There are certain dispositions of the mind, that incline men to a base and vulgar ambition, a desire of shining at any rate, and therefore they seek out for such companions only, as are confessedly their inferiors, where no improvement can be gained, where flattery and admiration are received by them with pleasure, although offered by the meanest of mortals; and prefered before the counsel of the wise, or the admonition of the good. But such egotists must ever remain in all their errors. Instruction gives them pain, because it lessens their self-importance, nor can they bear the shock of feeling themselves surpassed, and from that mean motive shun such opportunities as might render them fit for the highest society; for he who would become a master, must first submit to the humble station of a pupil. None are so empty as those who are full of themselves. J. N.

JN Fable 031a

Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)