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The Lioness and the Fox


The Lioness and the Fox meeting together fell into discourse; and the conversation turning upon the breeding and the fruitfulness of some living creatures above others, the Fox could not forbear taking the opportunity of observing to the Lioness, that, for her part, she thought Foxes were as happy in that respect as almost any other creatures; for that they bred constantly once a year, if not oftener, and always had a good litter of cubs at every birth: 'and yet,' says she, 'there are those who are never delivered of more than one at a time, and that perhaps not above once or twice through their whole life, who hold up their noses, and value themselves so much upon it, that they think all other creatures beneath them, and scarce worthy to be spoken to.' The Lioness, who all the while perceived at whom this reflection pointed, was fired with resentment, and with a good deal of vehemence replied—'What you have observed may be true, and that not without reason. You produce a great many at a litter, and often; but what are they?—Foxes. I indeed have but one at a time; but you should remember that this one is a Lion.'


Our productions, of whatsoever kind, are not to be esteemed so much by the quantity as the quality of them. It is not being employed much, but well, and to the purpose, which makes us useful to the age we live in, and celebrated by those which are to come. As it is a misfortune to the countries which are infested with them, for Foxes and other vermin to multiply; so one cannot help throwing out a melancholy reflection, when one sees some particulars of the humankind increase so fast as they do. But the most obvious meaning of this fable, is the hint it gives us in relation to authors. These gentlemen should never attempt to raise themselves a reputation, by enumerating a catalogue of their productions; since there is more glory in having written one tolerable piece, than a thousand indifferent ones. And whoever has had the good fortune to please in one performance of this kind, should be very cautious how he ventures his reputation in a second.