There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public. There are worse things than these miniature betrayals, committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things than not being able to sleep for thinking about them. It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.
What the expression is intended to mean, I think, is that there is a better and a worse element in the character of each individual, and that when the naturally better element controls the worse then the man is said to be "master of himself", as a term of praise. But when - as a result of bad upbringing or bad company one s better element is overpowered by the numerical superiority of one s worse impulses, then one is criticized for not being master of oneself and for lack of self control.
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