Part 2 out of 9
without appearing to intend any interruption, drew my audience away to
the other part of the room, to which I had not the courage to follow
them. Soon after came in the lawyer, not indeed with the same attraction
of mien, but with greater powers of language: and by one or other the
company was so happily amused, that I was neither heard nor seen, nor
was able to give any other proof of my existence than that I put round
the glass, and was in my turn permitted to name the toast.
My mother, indeed, endeavoured to comfort me in my vexation, by telling
me, that perhaps these showy talkers were hardly able to pay every one
his own; that he who has money in his pocket need not care what any man
says of him; that, if I minded my trade, the time will come when lawyers
and soldiers would be glad to borrow out of my purse; and that it is
fine, when a man can set his hands to his sides, and say he is worth
forty thousand pounds every day of the year. These and many more such
consolations and encouragements, I received from my good mother, which,
however, did not much allay my uneasiness; for having by some accident
heard, that the country ladies despised her as a cit, I had therefore no
longer much reverence for her opinions, but considered her as one whose
ignorance and prejudice had hurried me, though without ill intentions,
into a state of meanness and ignominy, from which I could not find any
possibility of rising to the rank which my ancestors had always held.
I returned, however, to my master, and busied myself among thread, and
silks, and laces, but without my former cheerfulness and alacrity. I had
now no longer any felicity in contemplating the exact disposition of my
powdered curls, the equal plaits of my ruffles, or the glossy blackness
of my shoes; nor heard with my former elevation those compliments which
ladies sometimes condescended to pay me upon my readiness in twisting a
paper, or counting out the change. The term of Young Man, with which I
was sometimes honoured, as I carried a parcel to the door of a coach,
tortured my imagination; I grew negligent of my person, and sullen in my
temper; often mistook the demands of the customers, treated their
caprices and objections with contempt, and received and dismissed them
with surly silence.
My master was afraid lest the shop should suffer by this change of my
behaviour; and, therefore, after some expostulations, posted me in the
warehouse, and preserved me from the danger and reproach of desertion,
to which my discontent would certainly have urged me, had I continued
any longer behind the counter.
In the sixth year of my servitude my brother died of drunken joy, for
having run down a fox that had baffled all the packs in the province. I
was now heir, and with the hearty consent of my master commenced
gentleman. The adventures in which my new character engaged me shall be
communicated in another letter, by, Sir,
No. 117. TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 1751.
[Greek: Hossan ep Oulumpo memasan Themen autar ep Ossae
Paelion einosiphullon, in ouranos ambatos eiae.] HOMER, Od.
[Greek: L] 314.
The gods they challenge, and affect the skies:
Heav'd on Olympus tott'ring Ossa stood;
On Ossa, Pelion nods with all his wood. POPE.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Nothing has more retarded the advancement of learning than the
disposition of vulgar minds to ridicule and vilify what they cannot
comprehend. All industry must be excited by hope; and as the student
often proposes no other reward to himself than praise, he is easily
discouraged by contempt and insult. He who brings with him into a
clamorous multitude the timidity of recluse speculation, and has never
hardened his front in publick life, or accustomed his passions to the
vicissitudes and accidents, the triumphs and defeats of mixed
conversation, will blush at the stare of petulant incredulity, and
suffer himself to be driven by a burst of laughter, from the fortresses
of demonstration. The mechanist will be afraid to assert before hardy
contradiction, the possibility of tearing down bulwarks with a
silk-worm's thread; and the astronomer of relating the rapidity of
light, the distance of the fixed stars, and the height of the lunar
If I could by any efforts have shaken off this cowardice, I had not
sheltered myself under a borrowed name, nor applied to you for the means
of communicating to the publick the theory of a garret; a subject which,
except some slight and transient strictures, has been hitherto neglected
by those who were best qualified to adorn it, either for want of leisure
to prosecute the various researches in which a nice discussion must
engage them, or because it requires such diversity of knowledge, and
such extent of curiosity, as is scarcely to be found in any single
intellect: or perhaps others foresaw the tumults which would be raised
against them, and confined their knowledge to their own breasts, and
abandoned prejudice and folly to the direction of chance.
That the professors of literature generally reside in the highest
stories, has been immemorially observed. The wisdom of the ancients was
well acquainted with the intellectual advantages of an elevated
situation: why else were the Muses stationed on Olympus or Parnassus, by
those who could with equal right have raised them bowers in the vale of
Tempe, or erected their altars among the flexures of Meander? Why was
Jove himself nursed upon a mountain? or why did the goddesses, when the
prize of beauty was contested, try the cause upon the top of Ida? Such
were the fictions by which the great masters of the earlier ages
endeavoured to inculcate to posterity the importance of a garret, which,
though they had been long obscured by the negligence and ignorance of
succeeding times, were well enforced by the celebrated symbol of
Pythagoras, [Greek: anemon pneonton taen aecho proskunei]; "when the
wind blows, worship its echo." This could not but be understood by his
disciples as an inviolable injunction to live in a garret, which I have
found frequently visited by the echo and the wind. Nor was the tradition
wholly obliterated in the age of Augustus, for Tibullus evidently
congratulates himself upon his garret, not without some allusion to the
_Quam juvat immites ventos audire cubantem--
Aut, gelidas hibernus aquas quum fuderit Auster,
Securum somnos imbre juvante sequi_! Lib. i. El. i. 45.
How sweet in sleep to pass the careless hours,
Lull'd by the beating winds and dashing show'rs!
And it is impossible not to discover the fondness of Lucretius, an
earlier writer, for a garret, in his description of the lofty towers of
serene learning, and of the pleasure with which a wise man looks down
upon the confused and erratick state of the world moving below him:
_Sed nil dulcius est, bene quam munita tenere
Edita doctrina Sapientum templa serena;
Despicere unde queas alios, passimque videre
Errare, atque viam palanteis quaerere vitae_. Lib. ii. 7.
--'Tis sweet thy lab'ring steps to guide
To virtue's heights, with wisdom well supplied,
And all the magazines of learning fortified:
From thence to look below on human kind,
Bewilder'd in the maze of life, and blind. DRYDEN.
The institution has, indeed, continued to our own time; the garret is
still the usual receptacle of the philosopher and poet; but this, like
many ancient customs, is perpetuated only by an accidental imitation,
without knowledge of the original reason for which it was established.
_Causa latet; res est notissima_.
The cause is secret, but th' effect is known. ADDISON.
Conjectures have, indeed, been advanced concerning these habitations of
literature, but without much satisfaction to the judicious inquirer.
Some have imagined, that the garret is generally chosen by the wits as
most easily rented; and concluded that no man rejoices in his aerial
abode, but on the days of payment. Others suspect, that a garret is
chiefly convenient, as it is remoter than any other part of the house
from the outer door, which is often observed to be infested by
visitants, who talk incessantly of beer, or linen, or a coat, and repeat
the same sounds every morning, and sometimes again in the afternoon,
without any variation, except that they grow daily more importunate and
clamorous, and raise their voices in time from mournful murmurs to
raging vociferations. This eternal monotony is always detestable to a
man whose chief pleasure is to enlarge his knowledge, and vary his
ideas. Others talk of freedom from noise, and abstraction from common
business or amusements; and some, yet more visionary, tell us, that the
faculties are enlarged by open prospects, and that the fancy is at more
liberty, when the eye ranges without confinement.
These conveniences may perhaps all be found in a well-chosen garret; but
surely they cannot be supposed sufficiently important to have operated
unvariably upon different climates, distant ages, and separate nations.
Of an universal practice, there must still be presumed an universal
cause, which, however recondite and abstruse, may be perhaps reserved to
make me illustrious by its discovery, and you by its promulgation.
It is universally known that the faculties of the mind are invigorated
or weakened by the state of the body, and that the body is in a great
measure regulated by the various compressions of the ambient element.
The effects of the air in the production or cure of corporeal maladies
have been acknowledged from the time of Hippocrates; but no man has yet
sufficiently considered how far it may influence the operations of the
genius, though every day affords instances of local understanding, of
wits and reasoners, whose faculties are adapted to some single spot, and
who, when they are removed to any other place, sink at once into silence
and stupidity. I have discovered, by a long series of observations, that
invention and elocution suffer great impediments from dense and impure
vapours, and that the tenuity of a defecated air at a proper distance
from the surface of the earth, accelerates the fancy, and sets at
liberty those intellectual powers which were before shackled by too
strong attraction, and unable to expand themselves under the pressure of
a gross atmosphere. I have found dulness to quicken into sentiment in a
thin ether, as water, though not very hot, boils in a receiver partly
exhausted; and heads, in appearance empty, have teemed with notions upon
rising ground, as the flaccid sides of a football would have swelled out
into stiffness and extension.
For this reason I never think myself qualified to judge decisively of
any man's faculties, whom I have only known in one degree of elevation;
but take some opportunity of attending him from the cellar to the
garret, and try upon him all the various degrees of rarefaction and
condensation, tension and laxity. If he is neither vivacious aloft, nor
serious below, I then consider him as hopeless; but as it seldom
happens, that I do not find the temper to which the texture of his brain
is fitted, I accommodate him in time with a tube of mercury, first
marking the points most favourable to his intellects, according to rules
which I have long studied, and which I may, perhaps, reveal to mankind
in a complete treatise of barometrical pneumatology.
Another cause of the gaiety and sprightliness of the dwellers in garrets
is probably the increase of that vertiginous motion, with which we are
carried round by the diurnal revolution of the earth. The power of
agitation upon the spirits is well known; every man has felt his heart
lightened in a rapid vehicle, or on a galloping horse; and nothing is
plainer, than that he who towers to the fifth story, is whirled through
more space by every circumrotation, than another that grovels upon the
ground-floor. The nations between the topicks are known to be fiery,
inconstant, inventive, and fanciful; because, living at the utmost
length of the earth's diameter, they are carried about with more
swiftness than those whom nature has placed nearer to the poles; and
therefore, as it becomes a wise man to struggle with the inconveniencies
of his country, whenever celerity and acuteness are requisite, we must
actuate our languor by taking a few turns round the centre in a garret.
If you imagine that I ascribe to air and motion effects which they
cannot produce, I desire you to consult your own memory, and consider
whether you have never known a man acquire reputation in his garret,
which, when fortune or a patron had placed him upon the first floor, he
was unable to maintain; and who never recovered his former vigour of
understanding, till he was restored to his original situation. That a
garret will make every man a wit, I am very far from supposing; I know
there are some who would continue blockheads even on the summit of the
Andes, or on the peak of Teneriffe. But let not any man be considered as
unimprovable till this potent remedy has been tried; for perhaps he was
formed to be great only in a garret, as the joiner of Aretaeus was
rational in no other place but his own shop.
I think a frequent removal to various distances from the centre, so
necessary to a just estimate of intellectual abilities, and consequently
of so great use in education, that if I hoped that the publick could be
persuaded to so expensive an experiment, I would propose, that there
should be a cavern dug, and a tower erected, like those which Bacon
describes in Solomon's house, for the expansion and concentration of
understanding, according to the exigence of different employments, or
constitutions. Perhaps some that fume away in meditations upon time and
space in the tower, might compose tables of interest at a certain depth;
and he that upon level ground stagnates in silence, or creeps in
narrative, might at the height of half a mile, ferment into merriment,
sparkle with repartee, and froth with declamation.
Addison observes, that we may find the heat of Virgil's climate, in some
lines of his Georgick: so, when I read a composition, I immediately
determine the height of the author's habitation. As an elaborate
performance is commonly said to smell of the lamp, my commendation of a
noble thought, a sprightly sally, or a bold figure, is to pronounce it
fresh from the garret; an expression which would break from me upon the
perusal of most of your papers, did I not believe, that you sometimes
quit the garret, and ascend into the cock-loft.
No. 118. SATURDAY, MAY 4, 1751.
Urgentur, ignotique longa
Nocte. Hon. Lib. iv. Ode ix. 26.
In endless night they sleep, unwept, unknown. FRANCIS.
Cicero has, with his usual elegance and magnificence of language,
attempted, in his relation of the dream of Scipio, to depreciate those
honours for which he himself appears to have panted with restless
solicitude, by shewing within what narrow limits all that fame and
celebrity which man can hope for from men is circumscribed.
"You see," says Africanus, pointing at the earth, from the celestial
regions, "that the globe assigned to the residence and habitation of
human beings is of small dimensions: how then can you obtain from the
praise of men, any glory worthy of a wish? Of this little world the
inhabited parts are neither numerous nor wide; even the spots where men
are to be found are broken by intervening deserts, and the nations are
so separated as that nothing can be transmitted from one to another.
With the people of the south, by whom the opposite part of the earth is
possessed, you have no intercourse; and by how small a tract do you
communicate with the countries of the north? The territory which you
inhabit is no more than a scanty island, inclosed by a small body of
water, to which you give the name of the great sea and the Atlantick
ocean. And even in this known and frequented continent, what hope can
you entertain, that your renown will pass the stream of Ganges, or the
cliffs of Caucasus? or by whom will your name be uttered in the
extremities of the north or south, towards the rising or the setting
sun? So narrow is the space to which your fame can be propagated; and
even there how long will it remain?"
He then proceeds to assign natural causes why fame is not only narrow in
its extent, but short in its duration; he observes the difference
between the computation of time in earth and heaven, and declares, that
according to the celestial chronology, no human honours can last a
Such are the objections by which Tully has made a shew of discouraging
the pursuit of fame; objections which sufficiently discover his
tenderness and regard for his darling phantom. Homer, when the plan of
his poem made the death of Patroclus necessary, resolved, at least, that
he should die with honour; and therefore brought down against him the
patron god of Troy, and left to Hector only the mean task of giving the
last blow to an enemy whom a divine hand had disabled from resistance.
Thus Tully ennobles fame, which he professes to degrade, by opposing it
to celestial happiness; he confines not its extent but by the boundaries
of nature, nor contracts its duration but by representing it small in
the estimation of superior beings. He still admits it the highest and
noblest of terrestrial objects, and alleges little more against it, than
that it is neither without end, nor without limits.
What might be the effect of these observations conveyed in Ciceronian
eloquence to Roman understandings, cannot be determined; but few of
those who shall in the present age read my humble version will find
themselves much depressed in their hopes, or retarded in their designs;
for I am not inclined to believe, that they who among us pass their
lives in the cultivation of knowledge, or acquisition of power, have
very anxiously inquired what opinions prevail on the further banks of
the Ganges, or invigorated any effort by the desire of spreading their
renown among the clans of Caucasus. The hopes and fears of modern minds
are content to range in a narrower compass; a single nation, and a few
years, have generally sufficient amplitude to fill our imaginations.
A little consideration will indeed teach us, that fame has other limits
than mountains and oceans; and that he who places happiness in the
frequent repetition of his name, may spend his life in propagating it,
without any danger of weeping for new worlds, or necessity of passing
the Atlantick sea.
The numbers to whom any real and perceptible good or evil can be derived
by the greatest power, or most active diligence, are inconsiderable; and
where neither benefit nor mischief operate, the only motive to the
mention or remembrance of others is curiosity; a passion, which, though
in some degree universally associated to reason, is easily confined,
overborne, or diverted from any particular object.
Among the lower classes of mankind, there will be found very little
desire of any other knowledge, than what may contribute immediately to
the relief of some pressing uneasiness, or the attainment of some near
advantage. The Turks are said to hear with wonder a proposal to walk
out, only that they may walk back; and inquire why any man should labour
for nothing: so those whose condition has always restrained them to the
contemplation of their own necessities, and who have been accustomed to
look forward only to a small distance, will scarcely understand, why
nights and days should be spent in studies, which end in new studies,
and which, according to Malherbe's observation, do not tend to lessen
the price of bread; nor will the trader or manufacturer easily be
persuaded, that much pleasure can arise from the mere knowledge of
actions, performed in remote regions, or in distant times; or that any
thing can deserve their inquiry, of which, [Greek: kleos oion akouomen,
oide ti idmen], we can only hear the report, but which cannot influence
our lives by any consequences.
The truth is, that very few have leisure from indispensable business, to
employ their thoughts upon narrative or characters; and among those to
whom fortune has given the liberty of living more by their own choice,
many create to themselves engagements, by the indulgence of some petty
ambition, the admission of some insatiable desire, or the toleration of
some predominant passion. The man whose whole wish is to accumulate
money, has no other care than to collect interest, to estimate
securities, and to engage for mortgages: the lover disdains to turn his
ear to any other name than that of Corinna; and the courtier thinks the
hour lost which is not spent in promoting his interest, and facilitating
his advancement. The adventures of valour, and the discoveries of
science, will find a cold reception, when they are obtruded upon an
attention thus busy with its favourite amusement, and impatient of
interruption or disturbance.
But not only such employments as seduce attention by appearances of
dignity, or promises of happiness, may restrain the mind from excursion
and inquiry; curiosity may be equally destroyed by less formidable
enemies; it may be dissipated in trifles, or congealed by indolence. The
sportsman and the man of dress have their heads filled with a fox or a
horse-race, a feather or a ball; and live in ignorance of every thing
beside, with as much content as he that heaps up gold, or solicits
preferment, digs the field, or beats the anvil; and some yet lower in
the ranks of intellect, dream out their days without pleasure or
business, without joy or sorrow, nor ever rouse from their lethargy to
hear or think.
Even of those who have dedicated themselves to knowledge, the far
greater part have confined their curiosity to a few objects, and have
very little inclination to promote any fame, but that which their own
studies entitle them to partake. The naturalist has no desire to know
the opinions or conjectures of the philologer: the botanist looks upon
the astronomer as a being unworthy of his regard: the lawyer scarcely
hears the name of a physician without contempt; and he that is growing
great and happy by electrifying a bottle, wonders how the world can be
engaged by trifling prattle about war or peace.
If, therefore, he that imagines the world filled with his actions and
praises, shall subduct from the number of his encomiasts, all those who
are placed below the flight of fame, and who hear in the valleys of life
no voice but that of necessity; all those who imagine themselves too
important to regard him, and consider the mention of his name as an
usurpation of their time; all who are too much or too little pleased
with themselves, to attend to any thing external; all who are attracted
by pleasure, or chained down by pain, to unvaried ideas; all who are
withheld from attending his triumph by different pursuits; and all who
slumber in universal negligence; he will find his renown straitened by
nearer bounds than the rocks of Caucasus, and perceive that no man can
be venerable or formidable, but to a small part of his fellow-creatures.
That we may not languish in our endeavours after excellence, it is
necessary, that, as Africanus counsels his descendant, "we raise our
eyes to higher prospects, and contemplate our future and eternal state,
without giving up our hearts to the praise of crowds, or fixing our
hopes on such rewards as human power can bestow."
No. 119. TUESDAY, MAY 7, 1751.
_Iliacos intra muros peccatur, et extra_. HOR. Lib. i. Ep. ii, 16.
Faults lay on either side the Trojan tow'rs. ELPHINSTON.
TO THE RAMBLER.
As, notwithstanding all that wit, or malice, or pride, or prudence will
be able to suggest, men and women must at last pass their lives
together, I have never therefore thought those writers friends to human
happiness, who endeavour to excite in either sex a general contempt or
suspicion of the other. To persuade them who are entering the world, and
looking abroad for a suitable associate, that all are equally vicious,
or equally ridiculous; that they who trust are certainly betrayed, and
they who esteem are always disappointed; is not to awaken judgment, but
to inflame temerity. Without hope there can be no caution. Those who are
convinced, that no reason for preference can be found, will never harass
their thoughts with doubt and deliberation; they will resolve, since
they are doomed to misery, that no needless anxiety shall disturb their
quiet; they will plunge at hazard into the crowd, and snatch the first
hand that shall be held toward them.
That the world is over-run with vice, cannot be denied; but vice,
however predominant, has not yet gained an unlimited dominion. Simple
and unmingled good is not in our power, but we may generally escape a
greater evil by suffering a less; and therefore, those who undertake to
initiate the young and ignorant in the knowledge of life, should be
careful to inculcate the possibility of virtue and happiness, and to
encourage endeavours by prospects of success.
You, perhaps, do not suspect, that these are the sentiments of one who
has been subject for many years to all the hardships of antiquated
virginity; has been long accustomed to the coldness of neglect, and the
petulance of insult; has been mortified in full assemblies by inquiries
after forgotten fashions, games long disused, and wits and beauties of
ancient renown; has been invited, with malicious importunity, to the
second wedding of many acquaintances; has been ridiculed by two
generations of coquets in whispers intended to be heard; and been long
considered by the airy and gay, as too venerable for familiarity, and
too wise for pleasure. It is indeed natural for injury to provoke anger,
and by continual repetition to produce an habitual asperity; yet I have
hitherto struggled with so much vigilance against my pride and my
resentment, that I have preserved my temper uncorrupted. I have not yet
made it any part of my employment to collect sentences against marriage;
nor am inclined to lessen the number of the few friends whom time has
left me, by obstructing that happiness which I cannot partake, and
venting my vexation in censures of the forwardness and indiscretion of
girls, or the inconstancy, tastelessness, and perfidy of men.
It is, indeed, not very difficult to bear that condition to which we are
not condemned by necessity, but induced by observation and choice; and
therefore I, perhaps, have never yet felt all the malignity with which a
reproach, edged with the appellation of old maid, swells some of those
hearts in which it is infixed. I was not condemned in my youth to
solitude, either by indigence or deformity, nor passed the earlier part
of life without the flattery of courtship, and the joys of triumph. I
have danced the round of gaiety amidst the murmurs of envy, and
gratulations of applause; been attended from pleasure to pleasure by the
great, the sprightly, and the vain; and seen my regard solicited by the
obsequiousness of gallantry, the gaiety of wit, and the timidity of
love. If, therefore, I am yet a stranger to nuptial happiness, I suffer
only the consequences of my own resolves, and can look back upon the
succession of lovers, whose addresses I have rejected, without grief,
and without malice.
When my name first began to be inscribed upon glasses, I was honoured
with the amorous professions of the gay Venustulus, a gentleman, who,
being the only son of a wealthy family, had been educated in all the
wantonness of expense, and softness of effeminacy. He was beautiful in
his person, and easy in his address, and, therefore, soon gained upon my
eye at an age when the sight is very little over-ruled by the
understanding. He had not any power in himself of gladdening or amusing;
but supplied his want of conversation by treats and diversions; and his
chief art of courtship was to fill the mind of his mistress with
parties, rambles, musick, and shows. We were often engaged in short
excursions to gardens and seats, and I was for a while pleased with the
care which Venustulus discovered in securing me from any appearance of
danger, or possibility of mischance. He never failed to recommend
caution to his coachman, or to promise the waterman a reward if he
landed us safe; and always contrived to return by daylight, for fear of
robbers. This extraordinary solicitude was represented for a time as the
effect of his tenderness for me; but fear is too strong for continued
hypocrisy. I soon discovered that Venustulus had the cowardice as well
as elegance of a female. His imagination was perpetually clouded with
terrours, and he could scarcely refrain from screams and outcries at any
accidental surprise. He durst not enter a room if a rat was heard behind
the wainscot, nor cross a field where the cattle were frisking in the
sunshine; the least breeze that waved upon the river was a storm, and
every clamour in the street was a cry of fire. I have seen him lose his
colour when my squirrel had broke his chain; and was forced to throw
water in his face on the sudden entrance of a black cat. Compassion once
obliged me to drive away with my fan, a beetle that kept him in
distress, and chide off a dog that yelped at his heels, to which he
would gladly have given up me to facilitate his own escape. Women
naturally expect defence and protection from a lover or a husband, and,
therefore, you will not think me culpable in refusing a wretch, who
would have burdened life with unnecessary fears, and flown to me for
that succour which it was his duty to have given.
My next lover was Fungoso, the son of a stockjobber, whose visits my
friends, by the importunity of persuasion, prevailed upon me to allow.
Fungoso was no very suitable companion; for having been bred in a
counting-house, he spoke a language unintelligible in any other place.
He had no desire of any reputation but that of an acute prognosticator
of the changes in the funds; nor had any means of raising merriment, but
by telling how somebody was overreached in a bargain by his father. He
was, however, a youth of great sobriety and prudence, and frequently
informed us how carefully he would improve my fortune. I was not in
haste to conclude the match, but was so much awed by my parents, that I
durst not dismiss him, and might, perhaps, have been doomed for ever to
the grossness of pedlary, and the jargon of usury, had not a fraud been
discovered in the settlement, which set me free from the persecution of
grovelling pride, and pecuniary impudence. I was afterwards six months
without any particular notice but at last became the idol of the
glittering Flosculus, who prescribed the mode of embroidery to all the
fops of his time, and varied at pleasure the cock of every hat, and the
sleeve of every coat that appeared in fashionable assemblies. Flosculus
made some impression upon my heart by a compliment which few ladies can
hear without emotion; he commended my skill in dress, my judgment in
suiting colours, and my art in disposing ornaments. But Flosculus was
too much engaged by his own elegance, to be sufficiently attentive to
the duties of a lover, or to please with varied praise an ear made
delicate by riot of adulation. He expected to be repaid part of his
tribute, and staid away three days, because I neglected to take notice
of a new coat. I quickly found, that Flosculus was rather a rival than
an admirer; and that we should probably live in a perpetual struggle of
emulous finery, and spend our lives in stratagems to be first in the
I had soon after the honour at a feast of attracting the eyes of
Dentatus, one of those human beings whose only happiness is to dine.
Dentatus regaled me with foreign varieties, told me of measures that he
had laid for procuring the best cook in France, and entertained me with
bills of fare, prescribed the arrangement of dishes, and taught me two
sauces invented by himself. At length, such is the uncertainty of human
happiness, I declared my opinion too hastily upon a pie made under his
own direction; after which he grew so cold and negligent, that he was
Many other lovers, or pretended lovers, I have had the honour to lead
awhile in triumph. But two of them I drove from me, by discovering that
they had no taste or knowledge in musick; three I dismissed, because
they were drunkards; two, because they paid their addresses at the same
time to other ladies; and six, because they attempted to influence my
choice by bribing my maid. Two more I discarded at the second visit for
obscene allusions; and five for drollery on religion. In the latter part
of my reign, I sentenced two to perpetual exile, for offering me
settlements, by which the children of a former marriage would have been
injured; four, for representing falsely the value of their estates;
three for concealing their debts; and one, for raising the rent of a
I have now sent you a narrative, which the ladies may oppose, to the
tale of Hymenaeus. I mean not to depreciate the sex which has produced
poets and philosophers, heroes and martyrs; but will not suffer the
rising generation of beauties to be dejected by partial satire; or to
imagine that those who censured them have not likewise their follies,
and their vices. I do not yet believe happiness unattainable in
marriage, though I have never yet been able to find a man, with whom I
could prudently venture an inseparable union. It is necessary to expose
faults, that their deformity may be seen; but the reproach ought not to
be extended beyond the crime, nor either sex to be contemned, because
some women, or men, are indelicate or dishonest.
I am, &c.
No. 120. SATURDAY, MAY 11, 1751.
Redditum Cyri solio Phraaten.
Dissidens plebi, numero beatorum
Eiimit virtus, populumque falsis
Vocibus.--HOR. Lib. ii. Od. ii. 17.
True virtue can the crowd unteach
Their false mistaken forms of speech;
Virtue, to crowds a foe profest,
Disdains to number with the blest
Phraates, by his slaves ador'd,
And to the Parthian crown restor'd. FRANCIS.
In the reign of Jenghiz Can, conqueror of the east, in the city of
Samarcand, lived Nouradin the merchant, renowned throughout all the
regions of India, for the extent of his commerce, and the integrity of
his dealings. His warehouses were filled with all the commodities of the
remotest nations; every rarity of nature, every curiosity of art,
whatever was valuable, whatever was useful, hasted to his hand. The
streets were crowded with his carriages; the sea was covered with his
ships; the streams of Oxus were wearied with conveyance, and every
breeze of the sky wafted wealth to Nouradin.
At length Nouradin felt himself seized with a slow malady, which he
first endeavoured to divert by application, and afterwards to relieve by
luxury and indulgence; but finding his strength every day less, he was
at last terrified, and called for help upon the sages of physick; they
filled his apartments with alexipharmicks, restoratives, and essential
virtues; the pearls of the ocean were dissolved, the spices of Arabia
were distilled, and all the powers of nature were employed to give new
spirits to his nerves, and new balsam to his blood. Nouradin was for
some time amused with promises, invigorated with cordials, or soothed
with anodynes; but the disease preyed upon his vitals, and he soon
discovered with indignation, that health was not to be bought. He was
confined to his chamber, deserted by his physicians, and rarely visited
by his friends; but his unwillingness to die flattered him long with
hopes of life.
At length, having passed the night in tedious languor, he called to him
Almamoulin, his only son, and dismissing his attendants, "My son," says
he, "behold here the weakness and fragility of man; look backward a few
days, thy father was great and happy, fresh as the vernal rose, and
strong as the cedar of the mountain; the nations of Asia drank his dews,
and art and commerce delighted in his shade. Malevolence beheld me, and
sighed: 'His root,' she cried, 'is fixed in the depths; it is watered by
the fountains of Oxus; it sends out branches afar, and bids defiance to
the blast; prudence reclines against his trunk, and prosperity dances on
his top.' Now, Almamoulin, look upon me withering and prostrate; look
upon me, and attend. I have trafficked, I have prospered, I have rioted
in gain; my house is splendid, my servants are numerous; yet I displayed
only a small part of my riches; the rest, which I was hindered from
enjoying by the fear of raising envy, or tempting rapacity, I have piled
in towers, I have buried in caverns, I have hidden in secret
repositories, which this scroll will discover. My purpose was, after ten
months more spent in commerce, to have withdrawn my wealth to a safer
country; to have given seven years to delight and festivity, and the
remaining part of my days to solitude and repentance; but the hand of
death is upon me; a frigorifick torpor encroaches upon my veins; I am
now leaving the produce of my toil, which it must be thy business to
enjoy with wisdom." The thought of leaving his wealth filled Nouradin
with such grief, that he fell into convulsions, became delirious, and
Almamoulin, who loved his father, was touched a while with honest
sorrow, and sat two hours in profound meditation, without perusing the
paper which he held in his hand. He then retired to his own chamber, as
overborne with affliction, and there read the inventory of his new
possessions, which swelled his heart with such transports, that he no
longer lamented his father's death. He was now sufficiently composed to
order a funeral of modest magnificence, suitable at once to the rank of
Nouradin's profession, and the reputation of his wealth. The two next
nights he spent in visiting the tower and the caverns, and found the
treasures greater to his eye than to his imagination.
Almamoulin had been bred to the practice of exact frugality, and had
often looked with envy on the finery and expenses of other young men: he
therefore believed, that happiness was now in his power, since he could
obtain all of which he had hitherto been accustomed to regret the want.
He resolved to give a loose to his desires, to revel in enjoyment, and
feel pain or uneasiness no more.
He immediately procured a splendid equipage, dressed his servants in
rich embroidery, and covered his horses with golden caparisons. He
showered down silver on the populace, and suffered their acclamations to
swell him with insolence. The nobles saw him with anger, the wise men of
the state combined against him, the leaders of armies threatened his
destruction. Almamoulin was informed of his danger: he put on the robe
of mourning in the presence of his enemies, and appeased them with gold,
and gems, and supplication.
He then sought to strengthen himself by an alliance with the princes of
Tartary, and offered the price of kingdoms for a wife of noble birth.
His suit was generally rejected, and his presents refused; but the
princess of Astracan once condescended to admit him to her presence. She
received him, sitting on a throne, attired in the robe of royalty, and
shining with the jewels of Golconda; command sparkled in her eyes, and
dignity towered on her forehead. Almamoulin approached and trembled. She
saw his confusion and disdained him: "How," says she, "dares the wretch
hope my obedience, who thus shrinks at my glance? Retire, and enjoy thy
riches in sordid ostentation; thou wast born to be wealthy, but never
canst be great."
He then contracted his desires to more private and domestick pleasures.
He built palaces, he laid out gardens[d], he changed the face of the
land, he transplanted forests, he levelled mountains, opened prospects
into distant regions, poured fountains from the tops of turrets, and
rolled rivers through new channels.
These amusements pleased him for a time; but languor and weariness soon
invaded him. His bowers lost their fragrance, and the waters murmured
without notice. He purchased large tracts of land in distant provinces,
adorned them with houses of pleasure, and diversified them with
accommodations for different seasons. Change of place at first relieved
his satiety, but all the novelties of situation were soon exhausted; he
found his heart vacant, and his desires, for want of external objects,
He therefore returned to Samarcand, and set open his doors to those whom
idleness sends out in search of pleasure. His tables were always covered
with delicacies; wines of every vintage sparkled in his bowls, and his
lamps scattered perfumes. The sound of the lute, and the voice of the
singer, chased away sadness; every hour was crowded with pleasure; and
the day ended and began with feasts and dances, and revelry and
merriment. Almamoulin cried out, "I have at last found the use of
riches; I am surrounded by companions, who view my greatness without
envy; and I enjoy at once the raptures of popularity, and the safety of
an obscure station. What trouble can he feel, whom all are studious to
please, that they may be repaid with pleasure? What danger can he dread,
to whom every man is a friend?"
Such were the thoughts of Almamoulin, as he looked down from a gallery
upon the gay assembly regaling at his expense; but, in the midst of this
soliloquy, an officer of justice entered the house, and in the form of
legal citation, summoned Almamoulin to appear before the emperor. The
guests stood awhile aghast, then stole imperceptibly away, and he was
led off without a single voice to witness his integrity. He now found
one of his most frequent visitants accusing him of treason, in hopes of
sharing his confiscation; yet, unpatronized and unsupported, he cleared
himself by the openness of innocence, and the consistence of truth; he
was dismissed with honour, and his accuser perished in prison.
Almamoulin now perceived with how little reason he had hoped for justice
or fidelity from those who live only to gratify their senses; and, being
now weary with vain experiments upon life and fruitless researches after
felicity, he had recourse to a sage, who, after spending his youth in
travel and observation, had retired from all human cares, to a small
habitation on the banks of Oxus, where he conversed only with such as
solicited his counsel. "Brother," said the philosopher, "thou hast
suffered thy reason to be deluded by idle hopes, and fallacious
appearances. Having long looked with desire upon riches, thou hadst
taught thyself to think them more valuable than nature designed them,
and to expect from them, what experience has now taught thee, that they
cannot give. That they do not confer wisdom, thou mayest be convinced,
by considering at how dear a price they tempted thee, upon thy first
entrance into the world, to purchase the empty sound of vulgar
acclamation. That they cannot bestow fortitude or magnanimity, that man
may be certain, who stood trembling at Astracan, before a being not
naturally superior to himself. That they will not supply unexhausted
pleasure, the recollection of forsaken palaces, and neglected gardens,
will easily inform thee. That they rarely purchase friends, thou didst
soon discover, when thou wert left to stand thy trial uncountenanced and
alone. Yet think not riches useless; there are purposes to which a wise
man may be delighted to apply them; they may, by a rational distribution
to those who want them, ease the pains of helpless disease, still the
throbs of restless anxiety, relieve innocence from oppression, and raise
imbecility to cheerfulness and vigour. This they will enable thee to
perform, and this will afford the only happiness ordained for our
present state, the confidence of Divine favour, and the hope of future
[Footnote d: See Vathek.]
No. 121. TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1751.
O imitatores, servum pecus! Hor. Lib. i. Ep. xix. 19.
Away, ye imitators, servile herd! ELPHINSTON.
I have been informed by a letter from one of the universities, that
among the youth from whom the next swarm of reasoners is to learn
philosophy, and the next flight of beauties to hear elegies and sonnets,
there are many, who, instead of endeavouring by books and meditation to
form their own opinions, content themselves with the secondary
knowledge, which a convenient bench in a coffee-house can supply; and
without any examination or distinction, adopt the criticisms and
remarks, which happen to drop from those who have risen, by merit or
fortune, to reputation and authority.
These humble retailers of knowledge my correspondent stigmatises with
the name of Echoes; and seems desirous that they should be made ashamed
of lazy submission, and animated to attempts after new discoveries and
It is very natural for young men to be vehement, acrimonious, and
severe. For, as they seldom comprehend at once all the consequences of a
position, or perceive the difficulties by which cooler and more
experienced reasoners are restrained from confidence, they form their
conclusions with great precipitance. Seeing nothing that can darken or
embarrass the question, they expect to find their own opinion
universally prevalent, and are inclined to impute uncertainty and
hesitation to want of honesty, rather than of knowledge. I may, perhaps,
therefore, be reproached by my lively correspondent, when it shall be
found, that I have no inclination to persecute these collectors of
fortuitous knowledge with the severity required; yet, as I am now too
old to be much pained by hasty censure, I shall not be afraid of taking
into protection those whom I think condemned without a sufficient
knowledge of their cause.
He that adopts the sentiments of another, whom he has reason to believe
wiser than himself, is only to be blamed when he claims the honours
which are not due but to the author, and endeavours to deceive the world
into praise and veneration; for, to learn, is the proper business of
youth; and whether we increase our knowledge by books or by
conversation, we are equally indebted to foreign assistance.
The greater part of students are not born with abilities to construct
systems, or advance knowledge; nor can have any hope beyond that of
becoming intelligent hearers in the schools of art, of being able to
comprehend what others discover, and to remember what others teach. Even
those to whom Providence hath allotted greater strength of
understanding, can expect only to improve a single science. In every
other part of learning, they must be content to follow opinions, which
they are not able to examine; and, even in that which they claim as
peculiarly their own, can seldom add more than some small particle of
knowledge, to the hereditary stock devolved to them from ancient times,
the collective labour of a thousand intellects.
In science, which, being fixed and limited, admits of no other variety
than such as arises from new methods of distribution, or new arts of
illustration, the necessity of following the traces of our predecessors
is indisputably evident; but there appears no reason, why imagination
should be subject to the same restraint. It might be conceived, that of
those who profess to forsake the narrow paths of truth, every one may
deviate towards a different point, since, though rectitude is uniform
and fixed, obliquity may be infinitely diversified. The roads of science
are narrow, so that they who travel them, must either follow or meet one
another; but in the boundless regions of possibility, which fiction
claims for her dominion, there are surely a thousand recesses
unexplored, a thousand flowers unplucked, a thousand fountains
unexhausted, combinations of imagery yet unobserved, and races of ideal
inhabitants not hitherto described.
Yet, whatever hope may persuade, or reason evince, experience can boast
of very few additions to ancient fable. The wars of Troy, and the
travels of Ulysses, have furnished almost all succeeding poets with
incidents, characters, and sentiments. The Romans are confessed to have
attempted little more than to display in their own tongue the inventions
of the Greeks. There is, in all their writings, such a perpetual
recurrence of allusions to the tales of the fabulous age, that they must
be confessed often to want that power of giving pleasure which novelty
supplies; nor can we wonder that they excelled so much in the graces of
diction, when we consider how rarely they were employed in search of new
The warmest admirers of the great Mantuan poet can extol him for little
more than the skill with which he has, by making his hero both a
traveller and a warrior, united the beauties of the Iliad and the
Odyssey in one composition: yet his judgment was perhaps sometimes
overborne by his avarice of the Homeric treasures; and, for fear of
suffering a sparkling ornament to be lost, he has inserted it where it
cannot shine with its original splendour.
When Ulysses visited the infernal regions, he found among the heroes
that perished at Troy, his competitor, Ajax, who, when the arms of
Achilles were adjudged to Ulysses, died by his own hand in the madness
of disappointment. He still appeared to resent, as on earth, his loss
and disgrace, Ulysses endeavoured to pacify him with praises and
submission; but Ajax walked away without reply. This passage has always
been considered as eminently beautiful; because Ajax, the haughty chief,
the unlettered soldier, of unshaken courage, of immovable constancy, but
without the power of recommending his own virtues by eloquence, or
enforcing his assertions by any other argument than the sword, had no
way of making his anger known, but by gloomy sullenness and dumb
ferocity. His hatred of a man whom he conceived to have defeated him
only by volubility of tongue, was therefore naturally shewn by silence
more contemptuous and piercing than any words that so rude an orator
could have found, and by which he gave his enemy no opportunity of
exerting the only power in which he was superior.
When AEneas is sent by Virgil to the shades, he meets Dido the queen of
Carthage, whom his perfidy had hurried to the grave; he accosts her with
tenderness and excuses; but the lady turns away like Ajax in mute
disdain. She turns away like Ajax; but she resembles him in none of
those qualities which give either dignity or propriety to silence. She
might, without any departure from the tenour of her conduct, have burst
out like other injured women into clamour, reproach, and denunciation;
but Virgil had his imagination full of Ajax, and therefore could not
prevail on himself to teach Dido any other mode of resentment.
If Virgil could be thus seduced by imitation, there will be little hope,
that common wits should escape; and accordingly we find, that besides
the universal and acknowledged practice of copying the ancients, there
has prevailed in every age a particular species of fiction. At one time
all truth was conveyed in allegory; at another, nothing was seen but in
a vision; at one period all the poets followed sheep, and every event
produced a pastoral; at another they busied themselves wholly in giving
directions to a painter.
It is indeed easy to conceive why any fashion should become popular, by
which idleness is favoured, and imbecility assisted; but surely no man
of genius can much applaud himself for repeating a tale with which the
audience is already tired, and which could bring no honour to any but
There are, I think, two schemes of writing, on which the laborious wits
of the present time employ their faculties. One is the adaptation of
sense to all the rhymes which our language can supply to some word, that
makes the burden of the stanza; but this, as it has been only used in a
kind of amorous burlesque, can scarcely be censured with much acrimony.
The other is the imitation of Spenser, which, by the influence of some
men of learning and genius, seems likely to gain upon the age, and
therefore deserves to be more attentively considered.
To imitate the fictions and sentiments of Spenser can incur no reproach,
for allegory is perhaps one of the most pleasing vehicles of
instruction. But I am very far from extending the same respect to his
diction or his stanza. His style was in his own time allowed to be
vicious, so darkened with old words and peculiarities of phrase, and so
remote from common use, that Jonson boldly pronounces him _to have
written no language_. His stanza is at once difficult and unpleasing;
tiresome to the ear by its uniformity, and to the attention by its
length. It was at first formed in imitation of the Italian poets,
without due regard to the genius of our language. The Italians have
little variety of termination, and were forced to contrive such a stanza
as might admit the greatest number of similar rhymes; but our words end
with so much diversity, that it is seldom convenient for us to bring
more than two of the same sound together. If it be justly observed by
Milton, that rhyme obliges poets to express their thoughts in improper
terms, these improprieties must always be multiplied, as the difficulty
of rhyme is increased by long concatenations.
The imitators of Spenser are indeed not very rigid censors of
themselves, for they seem to conclude, that when they have disfigured
their lines with a few obsolete syllables, they have accomplished their
design, without considering that they ought not only to admit old words,
but to avoid new. The laws of imitation are broken by every word
introduced since the time of Spenser, as the character of Hector is
violated by quoting Aristotle in the play. It would, indeed, be
difficult to exclude from a long poem all modern phrases, though it is
easy to sprinkle it with gleanings of antiquity. Perhaps, however, the
style of Spenser might by long labour be justly copied; but life is
surely given us for higher purposes than to gather what our ancestors
have wisely thrown away, and to learn what is of no value, but because
it has been forgotten.
No. 122. SATURDAY, MAY 18, 1751.
Nescio qua natale solum dulcedine captos
Ducit. OVID, Ex Pon. Lib. i. Ep. iii. 35.
By secret charms our native land attracts.
Nothing is more subject to mistake and disappointment than anticipated
judgment concerning the easiness or difficulty of any undertaking,
whether we form our opinion from the performances of others, or from
abstracted contemplation of the thing to be attempted.
Whatever is done skilfully appears to be done with ease; and art, when
it is once matured to habit, vanishes from observation. We are therefore
more powerfully excited to emulation, by those who have attained the
highest degree of excellence, and whom we can therefore with least
reason hope to equal.
In adjusting the probability of success by a previous consideration of
the undertaking, we are equally in danger of deceiving ourselves. It is
never easy, nor often possible, to comprise the series of any process
with all its circumstances, incidents, and variations, in a speculative
scheme. Experience soon shows us the tortuosities of imaginary
rectitude, the complications of simplicity, and the asperities of
smoothness. Sudden difficulties often start up from the ambushes of art,
stop the career of activity, repress the gaiety of confidence, and when
we imagine ourselves almost at the end of our labours, drive us back to
new plans and different measures.
There are many things which we every day see others unable to perform,
and perhaps have even ourselves miscarried in attempting; and yet can
hardly allow to be difficult; nor can we forbear to wonder afresh at
every new failure, or to promise certainty of success to our next essay;
but when we try, the same hindrances recur, the same inability is
perceived, and the vexation of disappointment must again be suffered.
Of the various kinds of speaking or writing, which serve necessity, or
promote pleasure, none appears so artless or easy as simple narration;
for what should make him that knows the whole order and progress of an
affair unable to relate it? Yet we hourly find such as endeavour to
entertain or instruct us by recitals, clouding the facts which they
intend to illustrate, and losing themselves and their auditors in wilds
and mazes, in digression and confusion. When we have congratulated
ourselves upon a new opportunity of inquiry, and new means of
information, it often happens, that without designing either deceit or
concealment, without ignorance of the fact, or unwillingness to disclose
it, the relator fills the ear with empty sounds, harasses the attention
with fruitless impatience, and disturbs the imagination by a tumult of
events, without order of time, or train of consequence.
It is natural to believe, upon the same principle, that no writer has a
more easy task than the historian. The philosopher has the works of
omniscience to examine; and is therefore engaged in disquisitions, to
which finite intellects are utterly unequal. The poet trusts to his
invention, and is not only in danger of those inconsistencies, to which
every one is exposed by departure from truth; but may be censured as
well for deficiencies of matter, as for irregularity of disposition, or
impropriety of ornament. But the happy historian has no other labour
than of gathering what tradition pours down before him, or records
treasure for his use. He has only the actions and designs of men like
himself to conceive and to relate; he is not to form, but copy
characters, and therefore is not blamed for the inconsistency of
statesmen, the injustice of tyrants, or the cowardice of commanders. The
difficulty of making variety consistent, or uniting probability with
surprise, needs not to disturb him; the manners and actions of his
personages are already fixed; his materials are provided and put into
his hands, and he is at leisure to employ all his powers in arranging
and displaying them.
Yet, even with these advantages, very few in any age have been able to
raise themselves to reputation by writing histories; and among the
innumerable authors, who fill every nation with accounts of their
ancestors, or undertake to transmit to futurity the events of their own
time, the greater part, when fashion and novelty have ceased to
recommend them, are of no other use than chronological memorials, which
necessity may sometimes require to be consulted, but which fright away
curiosity, and disgust delicacy.
It is observed, that our nation, which has produced so many authors
eminent for almost every other species of literary excellence, has been
hitherto remarkably barren of historical genius; and so far has this
defect raised prejudices against us, that some have doubted whether an
Englishman can stop at that mediocrity of style, or confine his mind to
that even tenour of imagination, which narrative requires.
They who can believe that nature has so capriciously distributed
understanding, have surely no claim to the honour of serious
confutation. The inhabitants of the same country have opposite
characters in different ages; the prevalence or neglect of any
particular study can proceed only from the accidental influence of some
temporary cause; and if we have failed in history, we can have failed
only because history has not hitherto been diligently cultivated.
But how is it evident, that we have not historians among us, whom we may
venture to place in comparison with any that the neighbouring nations
can produce? The attempt of Raleigh is deservedly celebrated for the
labour of his researches, and the elegance of his style; but he has
endeavoured to exert his judgment more than his genius, to select facts,
rather than adorn them; and has produced an historical dissertation, but
seldom risen to the majesty of history.
The works of Clarendon deserve more regard. His diction is indeed
neither exact in itself, nor suited to the purpose of history. It is the
effusion of a mind crowded with ideas, and desirous of imparting them;
and therefore always accumulating words, and involving one clause and
sentence in another. But there is in his negligence a rude inartificial
majesty, which, without the nicety of laboured elegance, swells the mind
by its plenitude and diffusion. His narration is not perhaps
sufficiently rapid, being stopped too frequently by particularities,
which, though they might strike the author who was present at the
transactions, will not equally detain the attention of posterity. But
his ignorance or carelessness of the art of writing is amply compensated
by his knowledge of nature and of policy; the wisdom of his maxims, the
justness of his reasonings, and the variety, distinctness, and strength
of his characters.
But none of our writers can, in my opinion, justly contest the
superiority of Knolles, who, in his history of the Turks, has displayed
all the excellencies that narration can admit. His style, though
somewhat obscured by time, and sometimes vitiated by false wit, is pure,
nervous, elevated, and clear. A wonderful multiplicity of events is so
artfully arranged, and so distinctly explained, that each facilitates
the knowledge of the next. Whenever a new personage is introduced, the
reader is prepared by his character for his actions; when a nation is
first attacked, or city besieged, he is made acquainted with its
history, or situation; so that a great part of the world is brought into
view. The descriptions of this author are without minuteness, and the
digressions without ostentation. Collateral events are so artfully woven
into the contexture of his principal story, that they cannot be
disjoined without leaving it lacerated and broken. There is nothing
turgid in his dignity, nor superfluous in his copiousness. His orations
only, which he feigns, like the ancient historians, to have been
pronounced on remarkable occasions, are tedious and languid; and since
they are merely the voluntary sports of imagination, prove how much the
most judicious and skilful may be mistaken in the estimate of their own
Nothing could have sunk this author in obscurity, but the remoteness and
barbarity of the people, whose story he relates. It seldom happens, that
all circumstances concur to happiness or fame. The nation which produced
this great historian, has the grief of seeing his genius employed upon a
foreign and uninteresting subject; and that writer who might have
secured perpetuity to his name, by a history of his own country, has
exposed himself to the danger of oblivion, by recounting enterprises and
revolutions, of which none desire to be informed.
No. 123. TUESDAY, MAY 21, 1751.
_Quo semet est imbuta recens, servabit odorem
Testa din_.--HOR. Lib. i. Ep. ii. 69.
What season'd first the vessel, keeps the taste. CREECH.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Though I have so long found myself deluded by projects of honour and
distinction, that I often resolve to admit them no more into my heart;
yet how determinately soever excluded, they always recover their
dominion by force or stratagem; and whenever, after the shortest
relaxation of vigilance, reason and caution return to their charge, they
find hope again in possession, with all her train of pleasures dancing
Even while I am preparing to write a history of disappointed
expectations, I cannot forbear to flatter myself, that you and your
readers are impatient for my performance; and that the sons of learning
have laid down several of your late papers with discontent, when they
found that Misocapelus had delayed to continue his narrative.
But the desire of gratifying the expectations that I have raised, is not
the only motive of this relation, which, having once promised it, I
think myself no longer at liberty to forbear. For, however I may have
wished to clear myself from every other adhesion of trade, I hope I
shall be always wise enough to retain my punctuality, and amidst all my
new arts of politeness, continue to despise negligence, and detest
When the death of my brother had dismissed me from the duties of a shop,
I considered myself as restored to the rights of my birth, and entitled
to the rank and reception which my ancestors obtained. I was, however,
embarrassed with many difficulties at my first re-entrance into the
world; for my haste to be a gentleman inclined me to precipitate
measures; and every accident that forced me back towards my old station,
was considered by me as an obstruction of my happiness.
It was with no common grief and indignation, that I found my former
companions still daring to claim my notice, and the journeymen and
apprentices sometimes pulling me by the sleeve as I was walking in the
street, and without any terrour of my new sword, which was,
notwithstanding, of an uncommon size, inviting me to partake of a bottle
at the old house, and entertaining me with histories of the girls in the
neighbourhood. I had always, in my officinal state, been kept in awe by
lace and embroidery; and imagined that, to fright away these unwelcome
familiarities, nothing was necessary, but that I should, by splendour of
dress, proclaim my re-union with a higher rank. I, therefore, sent for
my tailor; ordered a suit with twice the usual quantity of lace; and
that I might not let my persecutors increase their confidence, by the
habit of accosting me, staid at home till it was made.
This week of confinement I passed in practising a forbidding frown, a
smile of condescension, a slight salutation, and an abrupt departure;
and in four mornings was able to turn upon my heel, with so much levity
and sprightliness, that I made no doubt of discouraging all publick
attempts upon my dignity. I therefore issued forth in my new coat, with
a resolution of dazzling intimacy to a fitter distance; and pleased
myself with the timidity and reverence, which I should impress upon all
who had hitherto presumed to harass me with their freedoms. But,
whatever was the cause, I did not find myself received with any new
degree of respect; those whom I intended to drive from me, ventured to
advance with their usual phrases of benevolence; and those whose
acquaintance I solicited, grew more supercilious and reserved. I began
soon to repent the expense, by which I had procured no advantage, and to
suspect that a shining dress, like a weighty weapon, has no force in
itself, but owes all its efficacy to him that wears it.
Many were the mortifications and calamities which I was condemned to
suffer in my initiation to politeness. I was so much tortured by the
incessant civilities of my companions, that I never passed through that
region of the city but in a chair with the curtains drawn; and at last
left my lodgings, and fixed myself in the verge of the court. Here I
endeavoured to be thought a gentleman just returned from his travels,
and was pleased to have my landlord believe that I was in some danger
from importunate creditors; but this scheme was quickly defeated by a
formal deputation sent to offer me, though I had now retired from
business, the freedom of my company.
I was now detected in trade, and therefore resolved to stay no longer. I
hired another apartment, and changed my servants. Here I lived very
happily for three months, and, with secret satisfaction, often overheard
the family celebrating the greatness and felicity of the esquire; though
the conversation seldom ended without some complaint of my covetousness,
or some remark upon my language, or my gait. I now began to venture in
the publick walks, and to know the faces of nobles and beauties; but
could not observe, without wonder, as I passed by them, how frequently
they were talking of a tailor. I longed, however, to be admitted to
conversation, and was somewhat weary of walking in crowds without a
companion, yet continued to come and go with the rest, till a lady whom
I endeavoured to protect in a crowded passage, as she was about to step
into her chariot, thanked me for my civility, and told me, that, as she
had often distinguished me for my modest and respectful behaviour,
whenever I set up for myself, I might expect to see her among my first
Here was an end of all my ambulatory projects. I indeed sometimes
entered the walks again, but was always blasted by this destructive
lady, whose mischievous generosity recommended me to her acquaintance.
Being therefore forced to practise my adscititious character upon
another stage, I betook myself to a coffee-house frequented by wits,
among whom I learned in a short time the cant of criticism, and talked
so loudly and volubly of nature, and manners, and sentiment, and
diction, and similies, and contrasts, and action, and pronunciation,
that I was often desired to lead the hiss and clap, and was feared and
hated by the players and the poets. Many a sentence have I hissed, which
I did not understand, and many a groan have I uttered, when the ladies
were weeping in the boxes. At last a malignant author, whose performance
I had persecuted through the nine nights, wrote an epigram upon Tape the
critick, which drove me from the pit for ever.
My desire to be a fine gentleman still continued: I therefore, after a
short suspense, chose a new set of friends at the gaming-table, and was
for some time pleased with the civility and openness with which I found
myself treated. I was indeed obliged to play; but being naturally
timorous and vigilant, was never surprised into large sums. What might
have been the consequence of long familiarity with these plunderers, I
had not an opportunity of knowing; for one night the constables entered
and seized us, and I was once more compelled to sink into my former
condition, by sending for my old master to attest my character.
When I was deliberating to what new qualifications I should aspire, I
was summoned into the country, by an account of my father's death. Here
I had hopes of being able to distinguish myself, and to support the
honour of my family. I therefore bought guns and horses, and, contrary
to the expectation of the tenants, increased the salary of the huntsman.
But when I entered the field, it was soon discovered, that I was not
destined to the glories of the chase. I was afraid of thorns in the
thicket, and of dirt in the marsh; I shivered on the brink of a river
while the sportsmen crossed it, and trembled at the sight of a five-bar
gate. When the sport and danger were over, I was still equally
disconcerted; for I was effeminate, though not delicate, and could only
join a feeble whispering voice in the clamours of their triumph.
A fall, by which my ribs were broken, soon recalled me to domestick
pleasures, and I exerted all my art to obtain the favour of the
neighbouring ladies; but wherever I came, there was always some unlucky
conversation upon ribands, fillets, pins, or thread, which drove all my
stock of compliments out of my memory, and overwhelmed me with shame and
Thus I passed the ten first years after the death of my brother, in
which I have learned at last to repress that ambition, which I could
never gratify; and, instead of wasting more of my life in vain
endeavours after accomplishments, which, if not early acquired, no
endeavours can obtain, I shall confine my care to those higher
excellencies which are in every man's power, and though I cannot enchant
affection by elegance and ease, hope to secure esteem by honesty and
I am, &c.
No. 124. SATURDAY, MAY 25, 1751.
--Taciturn sylvas inter reptare salubres,
Curantem quicquid dignim sapiente bonoque est?
HOR. Lib. i. Ep. iv. 4.
To range in silence through each healthful wood,
And muse what's worthy of the wise and good. ELPHINSTON.
The season of the year is now come, in which the theatres are shut, and
the card-tables forsaken; the regions of luxury are for a while
unpeopled, and pleasure leads out her votaries to groves and gardens, to
still scenes and erratick gratifications. Those who have passed many
months in a continual tumult of diversion; who have never opened their
eyes in the morning, but upon some new appointment; nor slept at night
without a dream of dances, musick, and good hands, or of soft sighs and
humble supplications; must now retire to distant provinces, where the
syrens of flattery are scarcely to be heard, where beauty sparkles
without praise or envy, and wit is repeated only by the echo.
As I think it one of the most important duties of social benevolence to
give warning of the approach of calamity, when by timely prevention it
may be turned aside, or by preparatory measures be more easily endured,
I cannot feel the increasing warmth, or observe the lengthening days,
without considering the condition of my fair readers, who are now
preparing to leave all that has so long filled up their hours, all from
which they have been accustomed to hope for delight; and who, till
fashion proclaims the liberty of returning to the seats of mirth and
elegance, must endure the rugged 'squire, the sober housewife, the loud
huntsman, or the formal parson, the roar of obstreperous jollity, or the
dulness of prudential instruction; without any retreat, but to the gloom
of solitude, where they will yet find greater inconveniencies, and must
learn, however unwillingly, to endure themselves.
In winter, the life of the polite and gay may be said to roll on with a
strong and rapid current; they float along from pleasure to pleasure,
without the trouble of regulating their own motions, and pursue the
course of the stream in all the felicity of inattention; content that
they find themselves in progression, and careless whither they are
going. But the months of summer are a kind of sleeping stagnation
without wind or tide, where they are left to force themselves forward by
their own labour, and to direct their passage by their own skill; and
where, if they have not some internal principle of activity, they must
be stranded upon shallows, or lie torpid in a perpetual calm.
There are, indeed, some to whom this universal dissolution of gay
societies affords a welcome opportunity of quitting, without disgrace,
the post which they have found themselves unable to maintain; and of
seeming to retreat only at the call of nature, from assemblies where,
after a short triumph of uncontested superiority, they are overpowered
by some new intruder of softer elegance or sprightlier vivacity. By
these, hopeless of victory, and yet ashamed to confess a conquest, the
summer is regarded as a release from the fatiguing service of celebrity,
a dismission to more certain joys and a safer empire. They now solace
themselves with the influence which they shall obtain, where they have
no rival to fear; and with the lustre which they shall effuse, when
nothing can be seen of brighter splendour. They imagine, while they are
preparing for their journey, the admiration with which the rusticks will
crowd about them; plan the laws of a new assembly; or contrive to delude
provincial ignorance with a fictitious mode. A thousand pleasing
expectations swarm in the fancy; and all the approaching weeks are
filled with distinctions, honours, and authority.
But others, who have lately entered the world, or have yet had no proofs
of its inconstancy and desertion, are cut off, by this cruel
interruption, from the enjoyment of their prerogatives, and doomed to
lose four months in inactive obscurity. Many complaints do vexation and
desire extort from those exiled tyrants of the town, against the
inexorable sun, who pursues his course without any regard to love or
beauty; and visits either tropick at the stated time, whether shunned or
courted, deprecated or implored.
To them who leave the places of publick resort in the full bloom of
reputation, and withdraw from admiration, courtship, submission, and
applause, a rural triumph can give nothing equivalent. The praise of
ignorance, and the subjection of weakness, are little regarded by
beauties who have been accustomed to more important conquests, and more
valuable panegyricks. Nor indeed should the powers which have made
havock in the theatres, or borne down rivalry in courts, be degraded to
a mean attack upon the untravelled heir, or ignoble contest with the
How then must four long months be worn away? Four months, in which there
will be no routes, no shows, no ridottos; in which visits must be
regulated by the weather, and assemblies will depend upon the moon! The
Platonists imagine, that the future punishment of those who have in this
life debased their reason by subjection to their senses, and have
preferred the gross gratifications of lewdness and luxury, to the pure
and sublime felicity of virtue and contemplation, will arise from the
predominance and solicitations of the same appetites, in a state which
can furnish no means of appeasing them. I cannot but suspect that this
month, bright with sunshine, and fragrant with perfumes; this month,
which covers the meadow with verdure, and decks the gardens with all the
mixtures of colorifick radiance; this month, from which the man of fancy
expects new infusions of imagery, and the naturalist new scenes of
observation; this month will chain down multitudes to the Platonick
penance of desire without enjoyment, and hurry them from the highest
satisfactions, which they have yet learned to conceive, into a state of
hopeless wishes and pining recollection, where the eye of vanity will
look round for admiration to no purpose, and the hand of avarice shuffle
cards in a bower with ineffectual dexterity.
From the tediousness of this melancholy suspension of life, I would
willingly preserve those who are exposed to it, only by inexperience;
who want not inclination to wisdom or virtue, though they have been
dissipated by negligence, or misled by example; and who would gladly
find the way to rational happiness, though it should be necessary to
struggle with habit, and abandon fashion. To these many arts of spending
time might be recommended, which would neither sadden the present hour
with weariness, nor the future with repentance.
It would seem impossible to a solitary speculatist, that a human being
can want employment. To be born in ignorance with a capacity of
knowledge, and to be placed in the midst of a world filled with variety,
perpetually pressing upon the senses and irritating curiosity, is surely
a sufficient security against the languishment of inattention. Novelty
is indeed necessary to preserve eagerness and alacrity; but art and
nature have stores inexhaustible by human intellects; and every moment
produces something new to him, who has quickened his faculties by
Some studies, for which the country and the summer afford peculiar
opportunities, I shall perhaps endeavour to recommend in a future essay;
but if there be any apprehension not apt to admit unaccustomed ideas, or
any attention so stubborn and inflexible, as not easily to comply with
new directions, even these obstructions cannot exclude the pleasure of
application; for there is a higher and nobler employment, to which all
faculties are adapted by Him who gave them. The duties of religion,
sincerely and regularly performed, will always be sufficient to exalt
the meanest, and to exercise the highest understanding. That mind will
never be vacant, which is frequently recalled by stated duties to
meditations on eternal interests; nor can any hour be long, which is
spent in obtaining some new qualification for celestial happiness.
No. 125. TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1751.
_Descriptas servare vices, operumque colores,
Cur ego, si nequeo ignoroque, poeta salutor?_ HOR. De Ar. Poet. 86.
But if, through weakness, or my want of art,
I can't to every different style impart
The proper strokes and colours it may claim,
Why am I honour'd with a poet's name? FRANCIS.
It is one of the maxims of the civil law, that _definitions are
hazardous_. Things modified by human understandings, subject to
varieties of complication, and changeable as experience advances
knowledge, or accident influences caprice, are scarcely to be included
in any standing form of expression, because they are always suffering
some alteration of their state. Definition is, indeed, not the province
of man; every thing is set above or below our faculties. The works and
operations of nature are too great in their extent, or too much diffused
in their relations, and the performances of art too inconstant and
uncertain, to be reduced to any determinate idea. It is impossible to
impress upon our minds an adequate and just representation of an object
so great that we can never take it into our view, or so mutable that it
is always changing under our eye, and has already lost its form while we
are labouring to conceive it.
Definitions have been no less difficult or uncertain in criticisms than
in law. Imagination, a licentious and vagrant faculty, unsusceptible of
limitations, and impatient of restraint, has always endeavoured to
baffle the logician, to perplex the confines of distinction, and burst
the inclosures of regularity. There is therefore scarcely any species of
writing, of which we can tell what is its essence, and what are its
constituents; every new genius produces some innovation, which, when
invented and approved, subverts the rules which the practice of
foregoing authors had established.
Comedy has been particularly unpropitious to definers; for though
perhaps they might properly have contented themselves, with declaring it
to be _such a dramatick representation of human life, as may excite
mirth_, they have embarrassed their definition with the means by which
the comick writers attain their end, without considering that the
various methods of exhilarating their audience, not being limited by
nature, cannot be comprised in precept. Thus, some make comedy a
representation of mean and others of bad men; some think that its
essence consists in the unimportance, others in the fictitiousness of
the transaction. But any man's reflections will inform him, that every
dramatick composition which raises mirth, is comick; and that, to raise
mirth, it is by no means universally necessary, that the personages
should be either mean or corrupt, nor always requisite, that the action
should be trivial, nor ever, that it should be fictitious.
If the two kinds of dramatick poetry had been defined only by their
effects upon the mind, some absurdities might have been prevented, with
which the compositions of our greatest poets are disgraced, who, for
want of some settled ideas and accurate distinctions, have unhappily
confounded tragick with comick sentiments. They seem to have thought,
that as the meanest of personages constituted comedy, their greatness
was sufficient to form a tragedy; and that nothing was necessary but
that they should crowd the scene with monarchs, and generals, and
guards; and make them talk, at certain intervals, of the downfall of
kingdoms, and the rout of armies. They have not considered, that
thoughts or incidents, in themselves ridiculous, grow still more
grotesque by the solemnity of such characters; that reason and nature
are uniform and inflexible: and that what is despicable and absurd, will
not, by any association with splendid titles, become rational or great;
that the most important affairs, by an intermixture of an unseasonable
levity, may be made contemptible; and that the robes of royalty can give
no dignity to nonsense or to folly.
"Comedy," says Horace, "sometimes raises her voice;" and Tragedy may
likewise on proper occasions abate her dignity; but as the comick
personages can only depart from their familiarity of style, when the
more violent passions are put in motion, the heroes and queens of
tragedy should never descend to trifle, but in the hours of ease, and
intermissions of danger. Yet in the tragedy of Don Sebastian, when the
king of Portugal is in the hands of his enemy, and having just drawn the
lot, by which he is condemned to die, breaks out into a wild boast that
his dust shall take possession of Africk, the dialogue proceeds thus
between the captive and his conqueror:
_Muley Moluch_. What shall I do to conquer thee?
Souls know no conquerors.
_M. Mol_. I'll shew thee for a monster thro' my Afric.
_Seb_. No, thou canst only shew me for a man:
Afric is stored with monsters; man's a prodigy
Thy subjects have not seen.
_M. Mol_. Thou talk'st as if
Still at the head of battle.
_Seb_. Thou mistak'st,
For there I would not talk.
_Benducar, the Minister_. Sure he would sleep.
This conversation, with the sly remark of the minister, can only be
found not to be comick, because it wants the probability necessary to
representations of common life, and degenerates too much towards
buffoonery and farce.
The same play affords a smart return of the general to to the emperor,
who, enforcing his orders for the death of Sebastian, vents his
impatience in this abrupt threat:
--No more replies,
But see thou dost it: Or--
To which Dorax answers,
Choak in that threat: I can say Or as loud.
A thousand instances of such impropriety might be produced, were not one
scene in Aureng-Zebe sufficient to exemplify it. Indamora, a captive
queen, having Aureng-Zebe for her lover, employs Arimant, to whose
charge she had been entrusted, and whom she had made sensible of her
charms, to carry her message to his rival.
ARIMANT, _with a letter in his hand_: INDAMORA.
_Arim_. And I the messenger to him from you?
Your empire you to tyranny pursue:
You lay commands both cruel and unjust,
To serve my rival, and betray my trust.
_Ind_. You first betray'd your trust in loving me:
And should not I my own advantage see?
Serving my love, you may my friendship gain;
You know the rest of your pretences vain.
You must, my Arimant, you must be kind:
'Tis in your nature, and your noble mind.
_Arim_. I'll to the king, and straight my trust resign.
_Ind_. His trust you may, but you shall never mine.
Heaven made you love me for no other end,
But to become my confidant and friend:
As such, I keep no secret from your sight,
And therefore make you judge how ill I write:
Read it, and tell me freely then your mind,
If 'tis indited, as I meant it, kind.
Arim. _I ask not heaven my freedom to restore_--[Reading.
_But only for your sake_--I'll read no more.
And yet I must--
_Less for my own, than for your sorrow sad_--[Reading.
Another line like this, would make me mad--
Heav'n! she goes on--yet more--and yet more kind!
Each sentence is a dagger to my mind.
_See me this night_--[Reading.
_Thank fortune who did such a friend provide;
For faithful Arimant shall be your guide_.
Not only to be made an instrument,
But pre-engaged without my own consent!
_Ind_. Unknown to engage you still augments my score,
And gives you scope of meriting the more.
_Arim_. The best of men
Some int'rest in their actions must confess;
None merit, but in hope they may possess:
The fatal paper rather let me tear,
Than, like Bellerophon, my own sentence hear.
_Ind_. You may; but 'twill not be your best advice:
'Twill only give me pains of writing twice.
You know you must obey me, soon or late:
Why should you vainly struggle with your fate?
_Arim_. I thank thee, heav'n! thou hast been wondrous kind!
Why am I thus to slavery design'd,
And yet am cheated with a free-born mind!
Or make thy orders with my reason suit,
Or let me live by sense, a glorious brute--[_She frowns_.
You frown, and I obey with speed, before
That dreadful sentence comes, _See me no more_.
In this scene, every circumstance concurs to turn tragedy to farce. The
wild absurdity of the expedient; the contemptible subjection of the
lover; the folly of obliging him to read the letter, only because it
ought to have been concealed from him; the frequent interruptions of
amorous impatience; the faint expostulations of a voluntary slave; the
imperious haughtiness of a tyrant without power; the deep reflection of
the yielding rebel upon fate and free-will; and his wise wish to lose
his reason as soon as he finds himself about to do what he cannot
persuade his reason to approve, are sufficient to awaken the most torpid
There is scarce a tragedy of the last century which has not debased its
most important incidents, and polluted its most serious interlocutions,
with buffoonery and meanness; but though, perhaps, it cannot be
pretended that the present age has added much to the force and efficacy
of the drama, it has at least been able to escape many faults, which
either ignorance had overlooked, or indulgence had licensed. The later
tragedies, indeed, have faults of another kind, perhaps more destructive
to delight, though less open to censure. That perpetual tumour of phrase
with which every thought is now expressed by every personage, the
paucity of adventures which regularity admits, and the unvaried equality
of flowing dialogue, has taken away from our present writers almost all
that dominion over the passions which was the boast of their
predecessors. Yet they may at least claim this commendation, that they
avoid gross faults, and that if they cannot often move terrour or pity,
they are always careful not to provoke laughter.
No. 126. SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 1751.
_--Nihil est aliud magnum quam multa minuta_. VET. AUCT.
Sands form the mountain, moments make the year. YOUNG.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Among other topicks of conversation which your papers supply, I was
lately engaged in a discussion of the character given by Tranquilla of
her lover Venustulus, whom, notwithstanding the severity of his
mistress, the greater number seemed inclined to acquit of unmanly or
One of the company remarked that prudence ought to be distinguished from
fear; and that if Venustulus was afraid of nocturnal adventures, no man
who considered how much every avenue of the town was infested with
robbers could think him blameable; for why should life be hazarded
without prospect of honour or advantage? Another was of opinion, that a
brave man might be afraid of crossing the river in the calmest weather,
and declared, that, for his part, while there were coaches and a bridge,
he would never be seen tottering in a wooden case, out of which he might
be thrown by any irregular agitation, or which might be overset by
accident, or negligence, or by the force of a sudden gust, or the rush
of a larger vessel. It was his custom, he said, to keep the security of
daylight, and dry ground; for it was a maxim with him, that no wise man
ever perished by water, or was lost in the dark.
The next was humbly of opinion, that if Tranquilla had seen, like him,
the cattle run roaring about the meadows in the hot months, she would
not have thought meanly of her lover for not venturing his safety among
them. His neighbour then told us, that for his part he was not ashamed
to confess, that he could not see a rat, though it was dead, without
palpitation; that he had been driven six times out of his lodgings
either by rats or mice; and that he always had a bed in the closet for
his servant, whom he called up whenever the enemy was in motion. Another
wondered that any man should think himself disgraced by a precipitate
retreat from a dog; for there was always a possibility that a dog might
be mad; and that surely, though there was no danger but of being bit by
a fierce animal, there was more wisdom in flight than contest. By all
these declarations another was encouraged to confess, that if he had
been admitted to the honour of paying his addresses to Tranquilla, he
should have been likely to incur the same censure; for, among all the
animals upon which nature has impressed deformity and horrour, there is
none whom he durst not encounter rather than a beetle.
Thus, Sir, though cowardice is universally defined too close and anxious
an attention to personal safety, there will be found scarcely any fear,
however excessive in its degree, or unreasonable in its object, which
will be allowed to characterise a coward. Fear is a passion which every
man feels so frequently predominant in his own breast, that he is
unwilling to hear it censured with great asperity; and, perhaps, if we
confess the truth, the same restraint which would hinder a man from
declaiming against the frauds of any employment among those who profess
it, should withhold him from treating fear with contempt among human
Yet, since fortitude is one of those virtues which the condition of our
nature makes hourly necessary, I think you cannot better direct your
admonitions than against superfluous and panick terrours. Fear is
implanted in us as a preservative from evil; but its duty, like that of
other passions, is not to overbear reason, but to assist it; nor should
it be suffered to tyrannize in the imagination, to raise phantoms of
horrour, or beset life with supernumerary distresses.
To be always afraid of losing life is, indeed, scarcely to enjoy a life
that can deserve the care of preservation. He that once indulges idle
fears will never be at rest. Our present state admits only of a kind of
negative security; we must conclude ourselves safe when we see no
danger, or none inadequate to our powers of opposition. Death, indeed,
continually hovers about us, but hovers commonly unseen, unless we
sharpen our sight by useless curiosity.
There is always a point at which caution, however solicitous, must limit
its preservatives, because one terrour often counteracts another. I once
knew one of the speculatists of cowardice, whose reigning disturbance
was the dread of housebreakers. His inquiries were for nine years
employed upon the best method of barring a window, or a door; and many
an hour has he spent in establishing the preference of a bolt to a lock.
He had at last, by the daily superaddition of new expedients, contrived
a door which could never be forced; for one bar was secured by another
with such intricacy of subordination, that he was himself not always
able to disengage them in the proper method. He was happy in this
fortification, till being asked how he would escape if he was threatened
by fire, he discovered, that with all his care and expense, he had only
been assisting his own destruction. He then immediately tore off his
bolts, and now leaves at night his outer door half-locked, that he may
not by his own folly perish in the flames.
There is one species of terrour which those who are unwilling to suffer
the reproach of cowardice have wisely dignified with the name of
_antipathy_. A man who talks with intrepidity of the monsters of the
wilderness while they are out of sight, will readily confess his
antipathy to a mole, a weasel, or a frog. He has indeed no dread of harm
from an insect or a worm, but his antipathy turns him pale whenever they
approach him. He believes that a boat will transport him with as much
safety as his neighbours, but he cannot conquer his antipathy to the
water. Thus he goes on without any reproach from his own reflections,
and every day multiplies antipathies, till he becomes contemptible to
others, and burdensome to himself. It is indeed certain, that
impressions of dread may sometimes be unluckily made by objects not in
themselves justly formidable; but when fear is discovered to be
groundless, it is to be eradicated like other false opinions, and
antipathies are generally superable by a single effort. He that has been
taught to shudder at a mouse, if he can persuade himself to risk one
encounter, will find his own superiority, and exchange his terrours for
the pride of conquest.
I am, Sir, &c.
SIR, As you profess to extend your regard to the minuteness of decency,
as well as to the dignity of science, I cannot forbear to lay before you
a mode of persecution by which I have been exiled to taverns and
coffee-houses, and deterred from entering the doors of my friends. Among
the ladies who please themselves with splendid furniture, or elegant
entertainment, it is a practice very common, to ask every guest how he
likes the carved work of the cornice, or the figures of the tapestry;
the china at the table, or the plate on the side-board: and on all
occasions to inquire his opinion of their judgment and their choice.
Melania has laid her new watch in the window nineteen times, that she
may desire me to look upon it. Calista has an art of dropping her
snuff-box by drawing out her handkerchief, that when I pick it up I may
admire it; and Fulgentia has conducted me, by mistake, into the wrong
room, at every visit I have paid since her picture was put into a new
I hope, Mr. Rambler, you will inform them, that no man should be denied
the privilege of silence, or tortured to false declarations; and that
though ladies may justly claim to be exempt from rudeness, they have no
right to force unwilling civilities. To please is a laudable and elegant
ambition, and is properly rewarded with honest praise; but to seize
applause by violence, and call out for commendation, without knowing, or
caring to know, whether it be given from conviction, is a species of
tyranny by which modesty is oppressed, and sincerity corrupted. The
tribute of admiration, thus exacted by impudence and importunity,
differs from the respect paid to silent merit, as the plunder of a
pirate from the merchant's profit.
I am, &c.
Your great predecessor, the Spectator, endeavoured to diffuse among his
female readers a desire of knowledge; nor can I charge you, though you
do not seem equally attentive to the ladies, with endeavouring to
discourage them from any laudable pursuit. But however either he or you
may excite our curiosity, you have not yet informed us how it may be
gratified. The world seems to have formed an universal conspiracy
against our understandings; our questions are supposed not to expect
answers, our arguments are confuted with a jest, and we are treated like
beings who transgress the limits of our nature whenever we aspire to
seriousness or improvement.
I inquired yesterday of a gentleman eminent for astronomical skill, what
made the day long in summer, and short in winter; and was told that
nature protracted the days in summer, lest ladies should want time to
walk in the park; and the nights in winter, lest they should not have
hours sufficient to spend at the card-table.
I hope you do not doubt but I heard such information with just contempt,
and I desire you to discover to this great master of ridicule, that I
was far from wanting any intelligence which he could have given me. I
asked the question with no other intention than to set him free from the
necessity of silence, and give him an opportunity of mingling on equal
terms with a polite assembly, from which, however uneasy, he could not
then escape, by a kind introduction of the only subject on which I
believed him able to speak with propriety.
I am, &c.
No. 127. TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 1751.
_Capisti meliust, quam desinis. Ultima primis
Cedunt: dissimiles hic vir et ille puer_. Ovid. Ep. ix. 24.
Succeeding years thy early fame destroy;
Thou, who began'st a man, wilt end a boy.
Politian, a name eminent among the restorers of polite literature, when
he published a collection of epigrams, prefixed to many of them the year
of his age at which they were composed. He might design, by this
information, either to boast the early maturity of his genius, or to
conciliate indulgence to the puerility of his performances. But whatever
was his intent, it is remarked by Scaliger, that he very little promoted
his own reputation, because he fell below the promise which his first
productions had given, and, in the latter part of his life, seldom
equalled the sallies of his youth.
It is not uncommon for those who, at their first entrance into the
world, were distinguished for attainments or abilities, to disappoint
the hopes which they had raised, and to end in neglect and obscurity
that life which they began in celebrity and honour. To the long
catalogue of the inconveniencies of old age, which moral and satirical
writers have so copiously displayed, may be often added the loss of
The advance of the human mind towards any object of laudable pursuit,
may be compared to the progress of a body driven by a blow. It moves,
for a time, with great velocity and vigour, but the force of the first
impulse is perpetually decreasing, and though it should encounter no
obstacle capable of quelling it by a sudden stop, the resistance of the
medium through which it passes, and the latent inequalities of the
smoothest surface, will, in a short time, by continued retardation,
wholly overpower it. Some hindrances will be found in every road of
life, but he that fixes his eyes upon any thing at a distance,
necessarily loses sight of all that fills up the intermediate space, and
therefore sets forward with alacrity and confidence, nor suspects a
thousand obstacles, by which he afterwards finds his passage embarrassed
and obstructed. Some are indeed stopt at once in their career by a
sudden shock of calamity, or diverted to a different direction by the
cross impulse of some violent passion; but far the greater part languish
by slow degrees, deviate at first into slight obliquities, and
themselves scarcely perceive at what time their ardour forsook them, or
when they lost sight of their original design.
Weariness and negligence are perpetually prevailing by silent
encroachments, assisted by different causes, and not observed till they
cannot, without great difficulty, be opposed. Labour necessarily
requires pauses of ease and relaxation, and the deliciousness of ease
commonly makes us unwilling to return to labour. We, perhaps, prevail
upon ourselves to renew our attempts, but eagerly listen to every
argument for frequent interpositions of amusement; for, when indolence
has once entered upon the mind, it can scarcely be dispossessed but by
such efforts as very few are willing to exert.
It is the fate of industry to be equally endangered by miscarriage and
success, by confidence and despondency. He that engages in a great
undertaking, with a false opinion of its facility, or too high
conceptions of his own strength, is easily discouraged by the first
hindrance of his advances, because he had promised himself an equal and
perpetual progression without impediment or disturbance; when unexpected
interruptions break in upon him, he is in the state of a man surprised
by a tempest, where he purposed only to bask in the calm, or sport in
It is not only common to find the difficulty of an enterprize greater,
but the profit less, than hope had pictured it. Youth enters the world
with very happy prejudices in her own favour. She imagines herself not
only certain of accomplishing every adventure, but of obtaining those
rewards which the accomplishment may deserve. She is not easily
persuaded to believe that the force of merit can be resisted by
obstinacy and avarice, or its lustre darkened by envy and malignity. She
has not yet learned that the most evident claims to praise or preferment
may be rejected by malice against conviction, or by indolence without
examination; that they may be sometimes defeated by artifices, and
sometimes overborne by clamour; that, in the mingled numbers of mankind,
many need no other provocation to enmity than that they find themselves
excelled; that others have ceased their curiosity, and consider every
man who fills the mouth of report with a new name, as an intruder upon
their retreat, and disturber of their repose; that some are engaged in
complications of interest which they imagine endangered by every
innovation; that many yield themselves up implicitly to every report
which hatred disseminates or folly scatters; and that whoever aspires to
the notice of the publick, has in almost every man an enemy and a rival;
and must struggle with the opposition of the daring, and elude the
stratagems of the timorous, must quicken the frigid and soften the
obdurate, must reclaim perverseness and inform stupidity.
It is no wonder that when the prospect of reward has vanished, the zeal
of enterprize should cease; for who would persevere to cultivate the
soil which he has, after long labour, discovered to be barren? He who
hath pleased himself with anticipated praises, and expected that he
should meet in every place with patronage or friendship, will soon remit
his vigour, when he finds that, from those who desire to be considered
as his admirers, nothing can be hoped but cold civility, and that many
refuse to own his excellence, lest they should be too justly expected to
A man, thus cut off from the prospect of that port to which his address
and fortitude had been employed to steer him, often abandons himself to
chance and to the wind, and glides careless and idle down the current of
life, without resolution to make another effort, till he is swallowed up
by the gulph of mortality.
Others are betrayed to the same desertion of themselves by a contrary
fallacy. It was said of Hannibal, that he wanted nothing to the
completion of his martial virtues, but that when he had gained a victory
he should know how to use it. The folly of desisting too soon from
successful labours, and the haste of enjoying advantages before they are
secured, are often fatal to men of impetuous desire, to men whose
consciousness of uncommon powers fills them with presumption, and who,
having borne opposition down before them, and left emulation panting
behind, are early persuaded to imagine that they have reached the
heights of perfection, and that now, being no longer in danger from
competitors, they may pass the rest of their days in the enjoyment of
their acquisitions, in contemplation of their own superiority, and in
attention to their own praises, and look unconcerned from their eminence
upon the toils and contentions of meaner beings.
It is not sufficiently considered in the hour of exultation, that all
human excellence is comparative; that no man performs much but in
proportion to what others accomplish, or to the time and opportunities
which have been allowed him; and that he who stops at any point of
excellence is every day sinking in estimation, because his improvement
grows continually more incommensurate to his life. Yet, as no man
willingly quits opinions favourable to himself, they who have once been
justly celebrated, imagine that they still have the same pretensions to
regard, and seldom perceive the diminution of their character while
there is time to recover it. Nothing then remains but murmurs and
remorse; for if the spendthrift's poverty be embittered by the
reflection that he once was rich, how must the idler's obscurity be
clouded by remembering that he once had lustre!
These errours all arise from an original mistake of the true motives of
action. He that never extends his view beyond the praises or rewards of
men will be dejected by neglect and envy, or infatuated by honours and
applause. But the consideration that life is only deposited in his hands
to be employed in obedience to a Master who will regard his endeavours,
not his success, would have preserved him from trivial elations and
discouragements, and enabled him to proceed with constancy and
cheerfulness, neither enervated by commendation, nor intimidated by
No. 128. SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 1751.
Aion d asphalaes
Ouk egent, out Aiakida para Paelei,
Oute par antitheo
Kadmo legontai man broton
Olbon hupertaton hoi
Schein.] PIND. Py. iii. 153.
For not the brave, or wise, or great,
E'er yet had happiness complete:
Nor Peleus, grandson of the sky,
Nor Cadmus, scap'd the shafts of pain,
Though favour'd by the Pow'rs on high,
With every bliss that man can gain.
The writers who have undertaken the task of reconciling mankind to their
present state, and relieving the discontent produced by the various
distribution of terrestrial advantages, frequently remind us that we
judge too hastily of good and evil, that we view only the superfices of
life, and determine of the whole by a very small part; and that in the
condition of men it frequently happens, that grief and anxiety lie hid
under the golden robes of prosperity, and the gloom of calamity is
cheered by secret radiations of hope and comfort; as in the works of
nature the bog is sometimes covered with flowers, and the mine concealed
in the barren crags.
None but those who have learned the art of subjecting their senses as
well as reason to hypothetical systems, can be persuaded by the most
specious rhetorician that the lots of life are equal; yet it cannot be
denied that every one has his peculiar pleasures and vexations, that
external accidents operate variously upon different minds, and that no
man can exactly judge from his own sensations, what another would feel
in the same circumstances.
If the general disposition of things be estimated by the representation
which every one makes of his own estate, the world must be considered as
the abode of sorrow and misery; for how few can forbear to relate their
troubles and distresses? If we judge by the account which may be
obtained of every man's fortune from others, it may be concluded, that
we all are placed in an elysian region, overspread with the luxuriance
of plenty, and fanned by the breezes of felicity; since scarcely any
complaint is uttered without censure from those that hear it, and almost
all are allowed to have obtained a provision at least adequate to their
virtue or their understanding, to possess either more than they deserve,
or more than they enjoy.
We are either born with such dissimilitude of temper and inclination, or
receive so many of our ideas and opinions from the state of life in
which we are engaged, that the griefs and cares of one part of mankind
seem to the other hypocrisy, folly, and affectation. Every class of
society has its cant of lamentation, which is understood or regarded by
none but themselves; and every part of life has its uneasiness, which
those who do not feel them will not commiserate. An event which spreads
distraction over half the commercial world, assembles the trading
companies in councils and committees, and shakes the nerves of a
thousand stockjobbers, is read by the landlord and the farmer with
frigid indifference. An affair of love, which fills the young breast
with incessant alternations of hope and fear, and steals away the night
and day from every other pleasure or employment, is regarded by them
whose passions time has extinguished, as an amusement, which can
properly raise neither joy nor sorrow, and, though it may be suffered to
fill the vacuity of an idle moment, should always give way to prudence
He that never had any other desire than to fill a chest with money, or
to add another manor to his estate, who never grieved but at a bad
mortgage, or entered a company but to make a bargain, would be
astonished to hear of beings known among the polite and gay by the
denomination of wits. How would he gape with curiosity, or grin with
contempt, at the mention of beings who have no wish but to speak what
was never spoken before; who, if they happen to inherit wealth, often
exhaust their patrimonies in treating those who will hear them talk; and
if they are poor, neglect opportunities of improving their fortunes, for
the pleasure of making others laugh? How slowly would he believe that
there are men who would rather lose a legacy than the reputation of a
distich; who think it less disgrace to want money than repartee; whom
the vexation of having been foiled in a contest of raillery is sometimes
sufficient to deprive of sleep; and who would esteem it a lighter evil
to miss a profitable bargain by some accidental delay, than not to have
thought of a smart reply till the time of producing it was past? How
little would he suspect that this child of idleness and frolick enters
every assembly with a beating bosom, like a litigant on the day of
decision, and revolves the probability of applause with the anxiety of a
conspirator, whose fate depends upon the next night; that at the hour of