Part 4 out of 9
method of continued dialogues; this play having none of those
descriptions, similies, or splendid sentences, with which other
tragedies are so lavishly adorned. Yet some passages may be selected
which seem to deserve particular notice, either as containing sentiments
of passion, representations of life, precepts of conduct, or sallies of
imagination. It is not easy to give a stronger representation of the
weariness of despondency, than in the words of Samson to his father:
--I feel my genial spirits droop,
My hopes all flat, Nature within me seems
In all her functions weary of herself,
My race of glory run, and race of shame,
And I shall shortly be with them that rest.
The reply of Samson to the flattering Dalila affords a just and striking
description of the stratagems and allurements of feminine hypocrisy:
--These are thy wonted arts,
And arts of every woman false like thee,
To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray,
Then as repentant to submit, beseech,
And reconcilement move with feign'd remorse,
Confess and promise wonders in her change;
Not truly penitent, but chief to try
Her husband, how far urg'd his patience bears,
His virtue or weakness which way to assail:
Then with more cautious and instructed skill
Again transgresses, and again submits.
When Samson has refused to make himself a spectacle at the feast of
Dagon, he first justifies his behaviour to the chorus, who charge him
with having served the Philistines, by a very just distinction: and then
destroys the common excuse of cowardice and servility, which always
confound temptation with compulsion:
_Chor_. Yet with thy strength thou serv'st the Philistines.
_Sams_. Not in their idol worship, but by labour
Honest and lawful to deserve my food
Of those, who have me in their civil power.
_Chor_. Where the heart joins not, outward acts defile not.
_Sams_. Where outward force constrains, the sentence holds.
But who constrains me to the temple of Dagon,
Not dragging? The Philistine lords command.
Commands are no constraints. If I obey them,
I do it freely, venturing to displease
God for the fear of Man, and Man prefer,
Set God behind.
The complaint of blindness which Samson pours out at the beginning of
the tragedy is equally addressed to the passions and the fancy. The
enumeration of his miseries is succeeded by a very pleasing train of
poetical images, and concluded by such expostulation and wishes, as
reason too often submits to learn from despair:
O first created Beam, and thou great Word
"Let there be light, and light was over all;"
Why am I thus bereav'd thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark
And silent as the moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,
She all in every part; why was the sight
To such a tender hall as the eye confin'd,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd?
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffus'd,
That she may look at will through every pore?
Such are the faults and such the beauties of Samson Agonistes, which I
have shown with no other purpose than to promote the knowledge of true
criticism. The everlasting verdure of Milton's laurels has nothing to
fear from the blasts of malignity; nor can my attempt produce any other
effect, than to strengthen their shoots by lopping their luxuriance[g].
[Footnote g: This is not the language of an accomplice in Lauder's
No. 141. TUESDAY, JULY 23, 1751.
_Hilarisque, tamen cum pondere, virtus_. STAT.
Greatness with ease, and gay severity.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Politicians have long observed, that the greatest events may be
often traced back to slender causes. Petty competition or casual
friendship, the prudence of a slave, or the garrulity of a woman, have
hindered or promoted the most important schemes, and hastened or
retarded the revolutions of empire.
Whoever shall review his life will generally find, that the whole tenour
of his conduct has been determined by some accident of no apparent
moment, or by a combination of inconsiderable circumstances, acting when
his imagination was unoccupied, and his judgment unsettled; and that his
principles and actions have taken their colour from some secret
infusion, mingled without design in the current of his ideas. The
desires that predominate in our hearts, are instilled by imperceptible
communications at the time when we look upon the various scenes of the
world, and the different employments of men, with the neutrality of
inexperience; and we come forth from the nursery or the school,
invariably destined to the pursuit of great acquisitions, or petty
Such was the impulse by which I have been kept in motion from my
earliest years. I was born to an inheritance which gave my childhood a
claim to distinction and caresses, and was accustomed to hear applauses,
before they had much influence on my thoughts. The first praise of which
I remember myself sensible was that of good-humour, which, whether I
deserved it or not when it was bestowed, I have since made it my whole
business to propagate and maintain.
When I was sent to school, the gaiety of my look, and the liveliness of
my loquacity, soon gained me admission to hearts not yet fortified
against affection by artifice or interest. I was entrusted with every
stratagem, and associated in every sport; my company gave alacrity to a
frolick, and gladness to a holiday. I was indeed so much employed in
adjusting or executing schemes of diversion, that I had no leisure for
my tasks, but was furnished with exercises, and instructed in my
lessons, by some kind patron of the higher classes. My master, not
suspecting my deficiency, or unwilling to detect what his kindness would
not punish nor his impartiality excuse, allowed me to escape with a
slight examination, laughed at the pertness of my ignorance, and the
sprightliness of my absurdities, and could not forbear to show that he
regarded me with such tenderness, as genius and learning can seldom
From school I was dismissed to the university, where I soon drew upon me
the notice of the younger students, and was the constant partner of
their morning walks, and evening compotations. I was not indeed much
celebrated for literature, but was looked on with indulgence as a man of
parts, who wanted nothing but the dulness of a scholar, and might become
eminent whenever he should condescend to labour and attention. My tutor
a while reproached me with negligence, and repressed my sallies with
supercilious gravity; yet, having natural good-humour lurking in his
heart, he could not long hold out against the power of hilarity, but
after a few months began to relax the muscles of disciplinarian
moroseness, received me with smiles after an elopement, and, that he
might not betray his trust to his fondness, was content to spare my
diligence by increasing his own.
Thus I continued to dissipate the gloom of collegiate austerity, to
waste my own life in idleness, and lure others from their studies, till
the happy hour arrived, when I was sent to London. I soon discovered the
town to be the proper element of youth and gaiety, and was quickly
distinguished as a wit by the ladies, a species of beings only heard of
at the university, whom I had no sooner the happiness of approaching
than I devoted all my faculties to the ambition of pleasing them.
A wit, Mr. Rambler, in the dialect of ladies, is not always a man who,
by the action of a vigorous fancy upon comprehensive knowledge, brings
distant ideas unexpectedly together, who, by some peculiar acuteness,
discovers resemblance in objects dissimilar to common eyes, or, by
mixing heterogeneous notions, dazzles the attention with sudden
scintillations of conceit. A lady's wit is a man who can make ladies
laugh, to which, however easy it may seem, many gifts of nature, and
attainments of art, must commonly concur. He that hopes to be received
as a wit in female assemblies, should have a form neither so amiable as
to strike with admiration, nor so coarse as to raise disgust, with an
understanding too feeble to be dreaded, and too forcible to be despised.
The other parts of the character are more subject to variation; it was
formerly essential to a wit, that half his back should be covered with a
snowy fleece, and, at a time yet more remote, no man was a wit without
his boots. In the days of the _Spectator_ a snuff-box seems to have been
indispensable; but in my time an embroidered coat was sufficient,
without any precise regulation of the rest of his dress.
But wigs and boots and snuff-boxes are vain, without a perpetual
resolution to be merry, and who can always find supplies of mirth?
Juvenal indeed, in his comparison of the two opposite philosophers,
wonders only whence an unexhausted fountain of tears could be
discharged: but had Juvenal, with all his spirit, undertaken my
province, he would have found constant gaiety equally difficult to be
supported. Consider, Mr. Rambler, and compassionate the condition of a
man, who has taught every company to expect from him a continual feast
of laughter, an unintermitted stream of jocularity. The task of every
other slave has an end. The rower in time reaches the port; the
lexicographer at last finds the conclusion of his alphabet; only the
hapless wit has his labour always to begin, the call for novelty is
never satisfied, and one jest only raises expectation of another.
I know that among men of learning and asperity the retainers to the
female world are not much regarded: yet I cannot but hope that if you
knew at how dear a rate our honours are purchased, you would look with
some gratulation on our success, and with some pity on our miscarriages.
Think on the misery of him who is condemned to cultivate barrenness and
ransack vacuity; who is obliged to continue his talk when his meaning is
spent, to raise merriment without images, to harass his imagination in
quest of thoughts which he cannot start, and his memory in pursuit of
narratives which he cannot overtake; observe the effort with which he
strains to conceal despondency by a smile, and the distress in which he
sits while the eyes of the company are fixed upon him as the last refuge
from silence and dejection.
It were endless to recount the shifts to which I have been reduced, or
to enumerate the different species of artificial wit. I regularly
frequented coffee-houses, and have often lived a week upon an
expression, of which he who dropped it did not know the value. When
fortune did not favour my erratick industry, I gleaned jests at home
from obsolete farces. To collect wit was indeed safe, for I consorted
with none that looked much into books, but to disperse it was the
difficulty. A seeming negligence was often useful, and I have very
successfully made a reply not to what the lady had said, but to what it
was convenient for me to hear; for very few were so perverse as to
rectify a mistake which had given occasion to a burst of merriment.
Sometimes I drew the conversation up by degrees to a proper point, and
produced a conceit which I had treasured up, like sportsmen who boast of
killing the foxes which they lodge in the covert. Eminence is, however,
in some happy moments, gained at less expense; I have delighted a whole
circle at one time with a series of quibbles, and made myself good
company at another, by scalding my fingers, or mistaking a lady's lap
for my own chair.
These are artful deceits and useful expedients; but expedients are at
length exhausted, and deceits detected. Time itself, among other
injuries, diminishes the power of pleasing, and I now find, in my
forty-fifth year, many pranks and pleasantries very coldly received,
which had formerly filled a whole room with jollity and acclamation.
I am under the melancholy necessity of supporting that character by study,
which I gained by levity, having learned too late that gaiety must be
recommended by higher qualities, and that mirth can never please long
but as the efflorescence of a mind loved for its luxuriance, but
esteemed for its usefulness.
I am, &c.
No. 142. SATURDAY, JULY 27, 1751.
[Greek: Entha d aner eniaue pelorios--
--oude, met allous
Poleit, all apaneuthen eon athemistia ede.
Kai gar Oaum etetukto pelorion oude epskei
Andri ge sitophagps.] HOMER. Od. [Greek: I'.] 187.
A giant shepherd here his flock maintains
Far from the rest, and solitary reigns,
In shelter thick of horrid shade reclin'd;
And gloomy mischiefs labour in the mind.
A form enormous! far unlike the race
Of human birth, in stature or in face. POPE.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Having been accustomed to retire annually from the town, I lately
accepted the invitation of Eugenio, who has an estate and seat in a
distant county. As we were unwilling to travel without improvement, we
turned often from the direct road to please ourselves with the view of
nature or of art; we examined every wild mountain and medicinal spring,
criticised every edifice, contemplated every ruin, and compared every
scene of action with the narratives of historians. By this succession of
amusements we enjoyed the exercise of a journey without suffering the
fatigue, and had nothing to regret but that, by a progress so leisurely
and gentle, we missed the adventures of a post-chaise, and the pleasure
of alarming villages with the tumult of our passage, and of disguising
our insignificancy by the dignity of hurry.
The first week after our arrival at Eugenio's house was passed in
receiving visits from his neighbours, who crowded about him with all the
eagerness of benevolence; some impatient to learn the news of the court
and town, that they might be qualified by authentick information to
dictate to the rural politicians on the next bowling day; others
desirous of his interest to accommodate disputes, or his advice in the
settlement of their fortunes and the marriage of their children.
The civilities which he had received were soon to be returned; and I
passed sometime with great satisfaction in roving through the country,
and viewing the seats, gardens, and plantations, which are scattered
over it. My pleasure would indeed have been greater had I been sometimes
allowed to wander in a park or wilderness alone; but to appear as a
friend of Eugenio was an honour not to be enjoyed without some
inconveniencies: so much was every one solicitous for my regard, that I
could seldom escape to solitude, or steal a moment from the emulation of
complaisance, and the vigilance of officiousness.
In these rambles of good neighbourhood, we frequently passed by a house
of unusual magnificence. While I had my curiosity yet distracted among
many novelties, it did not much attract my observation; but in a short
time I could not forbear surveying it with particular notice; for the
length of the wall which inclosed the gardens, the disposition of the
shades that waved over it, and the canals of which I could obtain some
glimpses through the trees from our own windows, gave me reason to
expect more grandeur and beauty than I had yet seen in that province. I
therefore inquired, as we rode by it, why we never, amongst our
excursions, spent an hour where there was such an appearance of
splendour and affluence? Eugenio told me that the seat which I so much
admired, was commonly called in the country the _haunted house_, and
that no visits were paid there by any of the gentlemen whom I had yet
seen. As the haunts of incorporeal beings are generally ruinous,
neglected, and desolate, I easily conceived that there was something to
be explained, and told him that I supposed it only fairy ground, on
which we might venture by day-light without danger. The danger, says he,
is indeed only that of appearing to solicit the acquaintance of a man,
with whom it is not possible to converse without infamy, and who has
driven from him, by his insolence or malignity, every human being who
can live without him.
Our conversation was then accidentally interrupted; but my inquisitive
humour being now in motion, could not rest without a full account of
this newly discovered prodigy. I was soon informed that the fine house
and spacious gardens were haunted by squire Bluster, of whom it was very
easy to learn the character, since nobody had regard for him sufficient
to hinder them from telling whatever they could discover.
Squire Bluster is descended of an ancient family. The estate which his
ancestors had immemorially possessed was much augmented by captain
Bluster, who served under Drake in the reign of Elizabeth; and the
Blusters, who were before only petty gentlemen, have from that time
frequently represented the shire in parliament, been chosen to present
addresses, and given laws at hunting-matches and races. They were
eminently hospitable and popular, till the father of this gentleman died
of an election. His lady went to the grave soon after him, and left the
heir, then only ten years old, to the care of his grandmother, who would
not suffer him to be controlled, because she could not bear to hear him
cry; and never sent him to school, because she was not able to live
without his company. She taught him however very early to inspect the
steward's accounts, to dog the butler from the cellar, and to catch the
servants at a junket; so that he was at the age of eighteen a complete
master of all the lower arts of domestick policy, had often on the road
detected combinations between the coachman and the ostler, and procured
the discharge of nineteen maids for illicit correspondence with
cottagers and charwomen.
By the opportunities of parsimony which minority affords, and which the
probity of his guardians had diligently improved, a very large sum of
money was accumulated, and he found himself, when he took his affairs
into his own hands, the richest man in the county. It has been long the
custom of this family to celebrate the heir's completion of his
twenty-first year, by an entertainment, at which the house is thrown
open to all that are inclined to enter it, and the whole province flocks
together as to a general festivity. On this occasion young Bluster
exhibited the first tokens of his future eminence, by shaking his purse
at an old gentleman who had been the intimate friend of his father, and
offering to wager a greater sum than he could afford to venture; a
practice with which he has, at one time or other, insulted every
freeholder within ten miles round him.
His next acts of offence were committed in a contentious and spiteful
vindication of the privileges of his manours, and a rigorous and
relentless prosecution of every man that presumed to violate his game.
As he happens to have no estate adjoining equal to his own, his
oppressions are often borne without resistance, for fear of a long suit,
of which he delights to count the expenses without the least solicitude
about the event; for he knows, that where nothing but an honorary right
is contested, the poorer antagonist must always suffer, whatever shall
be the last decision of the law.
By the success of some of these disputes, he has so elated his
insolence, and, by reflection upon the general hatred which they have
brought upon him, so irritated his virulence, that his whole life is
spent in meditating or executing mischief. It is his common practice to
procure his hedges to be broken in the night, and then to demand
satisfaction for damages which his grounds have suffered from his
neighbour's cattle. An old widow was yesterday soliciting Eugenio to
enable her to replevin her only cow, then in the pound by squire
Bluster's order, who had sent one of his agents to take advantage of her
calamity, and persuade her to sell the cow at an under rate. He has
driven a day-labourer from his cottage, for gathering blackberries in a
hedge for his children, and has now an old woman in the county-gaol for
a trespass which she committed, by coming into his ground to pick up
acorns for her hog.
Money, in whatever hands, will confer power. Distress will fly to
immediate refuge, without much consideration of remote consequences.
Bluster has therefore a despotick authority in many families, whom he
has assisted, on pressing occasions, with larger sums than they can
easily repay. The only visits that he makes are to these houses of
misfortune, where he enters with the insolence of absolute command,
enjoys the terrours of the family, exacts their obedience, riots at
their charge, and in the height of his joy insults the father with
menaces, and the daughters with obscenity.
He is of late somewhat less offensive; for one of his debtors, after
gentle expostulations, by which he was only irritated to grosser
outrage, seized him by the sleeve, led him trembling into the
court-yard, and closed the door upon him in a stormy night. He took his
usual revenge next morning by a writ; but the debt was discharged by the
assistance of Eugenio.
It is his rule to suffer his tenants to owe him rent, because by this
indulgence he secures to himself the power of seizure whenever he has an
inclination to amuse himself with calamity, and feast his ears with
entreaties and lamentations. Yet as he is sometimes capriciously liberal
to those whom he happens to adopt as favourites, and lets his lands at a
cheap rate, his farms are never long unoccupied; and when one is ruined
by oppression, the possibility of better fortune quickly lures another
to supply his place.
Such is the life of squire Bluster; a man in whose power fortune has
liberally placed the means of happiness, but who has defeated all her
gifts of their end by the depravity of his mind. He is wealthy without
followers; he is magnificent without witnesses; he has birth without
alliance, and influence without dignity. His neighbours scorn him as a
brute; his dependants dread him as an oppressor; and he has only the
gloomy comfort of reflecting, that if he is hated, he is likewise
I am, Sir, &c.
No. 143. TUESDAY, JULY 30, 1751.
_--Moveat cornicula risum
Furtivis nudata coloribus.--_ HOR. Lib. i. Ep. i. 19.
Lest when the birds their various colours claim,
Stripp'd of his stolen pride, the crow forlorn
Should stand the laughter of the publick scorn. FRANCIS.
Among the innumerable practices by which interest or envy have taught
those who live upon literary fame to disturb each other at their airy
banquets, one of the most common is the charge of plagiarism. When the
excellence of a new composition can no longer be contested, and malice
is compelled to give way to the unanimity of applause, there is yet this
one expedient to be tried, by which the author may be degraded, though
his work be reverenced; and the excellence which we cannot obscure, may
be set at such a distance as not to overpower our fainter lustre.
This accusation is dangerous, because, even when it is false, it may be
sometimes urged with probability. Bruyere declares, that we are come
into the world too late to produce any thing new, that nature and life
are preoccupied, and that description and sentiment have been long
exhausted. It is indeed certain, that whoever attempts any common
topick, will find unexpected coincidences of his thoughts with those of
other writers; nor can the nicest judgment always distinguish accidental
similitude from artful imitation. There is likewise a common stock of
images, a settled mode of arrangement, and a beaten track of transition,
which all authors suppose themselves at liberty to use, and which
produce the resemblance generally observable among contemporaries. So
that in books which best deserve the name of originals, there is little
new beyond the disposition of materials already provided; the same ideas
and combinations of ideas have been long in the possession of other
hands; and, by restoring to every man his own, as the Romans must have
returned to their cots from the possession of the world, so the most
inventive and fertile genius would reduce his folios to a few pages. Yet
the author who imitates his predecessors only by furnishing himself with
thoughts and elegancies out of the same general magazine of literature,
can with little more propriety be reproached as a plagiary, than the
architect can be censured as a mean copier of Angelo or Wren, because he
digs his marble from the same quarry, squares his stones by the same
art, and unites them in the columns of the same orders.
Many subjects fall under the consideration of an author, which, being
limited by nature, can admit only of slight and accidental diversities.
All definitions of the same thing must be nearly the same; and
descriptions, which are definitions of a more lax and fanciful kind,
must always have in some degree that resemblance to each other which
they all have to their object. Different poets describing the spring or
the sea would mention the zephyrs and the flowers, the billows and the
rocks; reflecting on human life, they would, without any communication
of opinions, lament the deceitfulness of hope, the fugacity of pleasure,
the fragility of beauty, and the frequency of calamity; and for
palliatives of these incurable miseries, they would concur in
recommending kindness, temperance, caution, and fortitude.
When therefore there are found in Virgil and Horace two similar
_Hae tibi erunt artes--
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos_. VIRG.
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free:
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee. DRYDEN.
_Imperet bellante prior, jacentem
Lenis in hostem_. HOR.
Let Caesar spread his conquests far,
Less pleas'd to triumph than to spare--
it is surely not necessary to suppose with a late critick, that one is
copied from the other, since neither Virgil nor Horace can be supposed
ignorant of the common duties of humanity, and the virtue of moderation
Cicero and Ovid have on very different occasions remarked how little of
the honour of a victory belongs to the general, when his soldiers and
his fortune have made their deductions; yet why should Ovid be suspected
to have owed to Tully an observation which perhaps occurs to every man
that sees or hears of military glories?
Tully observes of Achilles, that had not Homer written, his valour had
been without praise:
_Nisi Ilias illa extitisset, idem tumulus qui corpus ejus contexerat,
nomen ejus obruisset_.
Unless the Iliad had been published, his name had been lost in the
tomb that covered his body.
Horace tells us with more energy that there were brave men before the
wars of Troy, but they were lost in oblivion for want of a poet:
_Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Multi; sed omnes illachrymabiles
Urgentur, ignotique longa
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro_.
Before great Agamemnon reign'd,
Reign'd kings as great as he, and brave,
Whose huge ambition's now contain'd
In the small compass of a grave:
In endless night they sleep, unwept, unknown:
No bard had they to make all time their own. FRANCIS.
Tully inquires, in the same oration, why, but for fame, we disturb a
short life with so many fatigues?
_Quid est quod in hoc tam exiguo vitae curriculo et tam brevi, tantis
nos in laboribus exerceamus?_
Why in so small a circuit of life should we employ ourselves in so
Horace inquires in the same manner,
_Quid brevi fortes jaculamur aevo
Why do we aim, with eager strife,
At things beyond the mark of life? FRANCIS.
when our life is of so short duration, why we form such numerous
designs? But Horace, as well as Tully, might discover that records are
needful to preserve the memory of actions, and that no records were so
durable as poems; either of them might find out that life is short, and
that we consume it in unnecessary labour.
There are other flowers of fiction so widely scattered and so easily
cropped, that it is scarcely just to tax the use of them as an act by
which any particular writer is despoiled of his garland; for they may be
said to have been planted by the ancients in the open road of poetry for
the accommodation of their successors, and to be the right of every one
that has art to pluck them without injuring their colours or their
fragrance. The passage of Orpheus to hell, with the recovery and second
loss of Eurydice, have been described after Boetius by Pope, in such a
manner as might justly leave him suspected of imitation, were not the
images such as they might both have derived from more ancient writers.
_Quae sontes agitant metu,
Ultrices scelerum deae
Jam masta: lacrymis madent,
Non Ixionium caput
Velox praecipitat rota_.
The pow'rs of vengeance, while they hear,
Touch'd with compassion, drop a tear:
Ixion's rapid wheel is bound,
Fix'd in attention to the sound. F. LEWIS.
Thy stone, O Sysiphus, stands still,
Ixion rests upon the wheel,
And the pale spectres dance!
The furies sink upon their iron beds. POPE
_Tandem, vincimur, arbiter
Umbrarum, miserans, ait--
Donemus, comitem viro,
Emtam carmine, conjugem_.
Subdu'd at length, Hell's pitying monarch cry'd,
The song rewarding, let us yield the bride. F. LEWIS.
He sung; and hell consented
To hear the poet's prayer;
Stern Proserpine relented,
And gave him back the fair. POPE
_Heu, noctis prope terminos
Orpheus Eurydicen suam
Vidit, perdidit, occidit_.
Nor yet the golden verge of day begun,
When Orpheus, her unhappy lord,
Eurydice to life restor'd,
At once beheld, and lost, and was undone. F. LEWIS.
But soon, too soon, the lover turns his eyes:
Again she falls, again she dies, she dies! POPE.
No writer can be fully convicted of imitation, except there is a
concurrence of more resemblance than can be imagined to have happened by
chance; as where the same ideas are conjoined without any natural series
or necessary coherence, or where not only the thought but the words are
copied. Thus it can scarcely be doubted, that in the first of the
following passages Pope remembered Ovid, and that in the second he
_Saepe pater dixit, studium quid inutile tentas?
Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes--
Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos,
Et quod conabar scribere, versus erat_. OVID.
Quit, quit this barren trade, my father cry'd:
Ev'n Homer left no riches when he dy'd--
In verse spontaneous flow'd my native strain,
Forc'd by no sweat or labour of the brain. F. LEWIS.
I left no calling for this idle trade;
No duty broke, no father disobey'd;
While yet a child, ere yet a fool to fame,
I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came. POPE.
--This plain floor,
Believe me, reader, can say more
Than many a braver marble can,
Here lies a truly honest man. CRASHAW.
This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
May truly say, Here lies an honest man. POPE.
Conceits, or thoughts not immediately impressed by sensible objects, or
necessarily arising from the coalition or comparison of common
sentiments, may be with great justice suspected whenever they are found
a second time. Thus Wallar probably owed to Grotius an elegant
Here lies the learned Savil's heir,
So early wise, and lasting fair,
That none, except her years they told,
Thought her a child, or thought her old. WALLER.
[Transcriber's note: Inconsistency in spelling Waller/Wallar in
_Unica lux saecli, genitoris gloria, nemo
Quem puerum, nemo credidit esse senem_. GROT.
The age's miracle, his father's joy!
Nor old you would pronounce him, nor a boy. F. LEWIS.
And Prior was indebted for a pretty illustration to Alleyne's poetical
history of Henry the Seventh:
For nought but light itself, itself can shew,
And only kings can write, what kings can do. ALLEYNE.
Your musick's pow'r, your musick must disclose,
For what light is, 'tis only light that shews. PRIOR.
And with yet more certainty may the same writer be censured, for
endeavouring the clandestine appropriation of a thought which he
borrowed, surely without thinking himself disgraced, from an epigram of
[Greek: Tae Paphiae to katoptron, epei toiae men orasthai
Ouk ethelo, oiae d' aen paros, ou dunamai.]
Venus, take my votive glass,
Since I am not what I was;
What from this day I shall be,
Venus, let me never see.
As not every instance of similitude can be considered as a proof of
imitation, so not every imitation ought to be stigmatized as plagiarism.
The adoption of a noble sentiment, or the insertion of a borrowed
ornament, may sometimes display so much judgment as will almost
compensate for invention: and an inferior genius may, without any
imputation of servility, pursue the path of the ancients, provided he
declines to tread in their footsteps.
No. 144. SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 1751.
Fregisti et calamos: quae tu, perverse Menalea,
Et quum vidisti puero donata, dolebas;
Et si non aliqua nocuisses, mortuus esses._ VIRG. EC. iii. 12.
The bow of Daphnis and the shafts you broke;
When the fair boy receiv'd the gift of right;
And but for mischief, you had dy'd for spite. DRYDEN.
It is impossible to mingle in conversation without observing the
difficulty with which a new name makes its way into the world. The first
appearance of excellence unites multitudes against it; unexpected
opposition rises up on every side; the celebrated and the obscure join
in the confederacy; subtlety furnishes arms to impudence, and invention
leads on credulity.
The strength and unanimity of this alliance is not easily conceived. It
might be expected that no man should suffer his heart to be inflamed
with malice, but by injuries; that none should busy himself in
contesting the pretensions of another, but when some right of his own
was involved in the question; that at least hostilities, commenced
without cause, should quickly cease; that the armies of malignity should
soon disperse, when no common interest could be found to hold them
together; and that the attack upon a rising character should be left to
those who had something to hope or fear from the event.
The hazards of those that aspire to eminence, would be much diminished
if they had none but acknowledged rivals to encounter. Their enemies
would then be few, and, what is yet of greater importance, would be
known. But what caution is sufficient to ward off the blows of invisible
assailants, or what force can stand against uninterrupted attacks, and a
continual succession of enemies? Yet such is the state of the world,
that no sooner can any man emerge from the crowd, and fix the eyes of
the publick upon him, than he stands as a mark to the arrows of lurking
calumny, and receives in the tumult of hostility, from distant and from
nameless hands, wounds not always easy to be cured.
It is probable that the onset against the candidates for renown, is
originally incited by those who imagine themselves in danger of
suffering by their success; but, when war is once declared, volunteers
flock to the standard, multitudes follow the camp only for want of
employment, and flying squadrons are dispersed to every part, so pleased
with an opportunity of mischief, that they toil without prospect of
praise, and pillage without hope of profit.
When any man has endeavoured to deserve distinction, he will be
surprised to hear himself censured where he could not expect to have
been named; he will find the utmost acrimony of malice among those whom
he never could have offended.
As there are to be found in the service of envy men of every diversity
of temper and degree of understanding, calumny is diffused by all arts
and methods of propagation. Nothing is too gross or too refined, too
cruel or too trifling, to be practised; very little regard is had to the
rules of honourable hostility, but every weapon is accounted lawful, and
those that cannot make a thrust at life are content to keep themselves
in play with petty malevolence, to tease with feeble blows and impotent
But as the industry of observation has divided the most miscellaneous
and confused assemblages into proper classes, and ranged the insects of
the summer, that torment us with their drones or stings, by their
several tribes; the persecutors of merit, notwithstanding their numbers,
may be likewise commodiously distinguished into Roarers, Whisperers, and
The Roarer is an enemy rather terrible than dangerous. He has no other
qualification for a champion of controversy than a hardened front and
strong voice. Having seldom so much desire to confute as to silence, he
depends rather upon vociferation than argument, and has very little care
to adjust one part of his accusation to another, to preserve decency in
his language, or probability in his narratives.
He has always a store of reproachful epithets and contemptuous
appellations, ready to be produced as occasion may require, which by
constant use he pours out with resistless volubility. If the wealth of a
trader is mentioned, he without hesitation devotes him to bankruptcy; if
the beauty and elegance of a lady be commended, he wonders how the town
can fall in love with rustick deformity; if a new performance of genius
happens to be celebrated, he pronounces the writer a hopeless idiot,
without knowledge of books or life, and without the understanding by
which it must be acquired. His exaggerations are generally without
effect upon those whom he compels to hear them; and though it will
sometimes happen that the timorous are awed by his violence, and the
credulous mistake his confidence for knowledge, yet the opinions which
he endeavours to suppress soon recover their former strength, as the
trees that bend to the tempest erect themselves again when its force is
The Whisperer is more dangerous. He easily gains attention by a soft
address, and excites curiosity by an air of importance. As secrets are
not to be made cheap by promiscuous publication, he calls a select
audience about him, and gratifies their vanity with an appearance of
trust by communicating his intelligence in a low voice. Of the trader he
can tell that, though he seems to manage an extensive commerce, and
talks in high terms of the funds, yet his wealth is not equal to his
reputation; he has lately suffered much by an expensive project, and had
a greater share than is acknowledged in the rich ship that perished by
the storm. Of the beauty he has little to say, but that they who see her
in a morning do not discover all those graces which are admired in the
Park. Of the writer he affirms with great certainty, that though the
excellence of the work be incontestible, he can claim but a small part
of the reputation; that he owed most of the images and sentiments to a
secret friend; and that the accuracy and equality of the style was
produced by the successive correction of the chief criticks of the age.
As every one is pleased with imagining that he knows something not yet
commonly divulged, secret history easily gains credit; but it is for the
most part believed only while it circulates in whispers; and when once
it is openly told, is openly confuted.
The most pernicious enemy is the man of Moderation. Without interest in
the question, or any motive but honest curiosity, this impartial and
zealous inquirer after truth is ready to hear either side, and always
disposed to kind interpretations and favourable opinions. He hath heard
the trader's affairs reported with great variation, and, after a
diligent comparison of the evidence, concludes it probable that the
splendid superstructure of business being originally built upon a narrow
basis, has lately been found to totter; but between dilatory payment and
bankruptcy there is a great distance; many merchants have supported
themselves by expedients for a time, without any final injury to their
creditors; and what is lost by one adventure may be recovered by
another. He believes that a young lady pleased with admiration, and
desirous to make perfect what is already excellent, may heighten her
charms by artificial improvements, but surely most of her beauties must
be genuine, and who can say that he is wholly what he endeavours to
appear? The author he knows to be a man of diligence, who perhaps does
not sparkle with the fire of Homer, but has the judgment to discover his
own deficiencies, and to supply them by the help of others; and, in his
opinion, modesty is a quality so amiable and rare, that it ought to find
a patron wherever it appears, and may justly be preferred by the publick
suffrage to petulant wit and ostentatious literature.
He who thus discovers failings with unwillingness, and extenuates the
faults which cannot be denied, puts an end at once to doubt or
vindication; his hearers repose upon his candour and veracity, and admit
the charge without allowing the excuse.
Such are the arts by which the envious, the idle, the peevish, and the
thoughtless, obstruct that worth which they cannot equal, and, by
artifices thus easy, sordid, and detestable, is industry defeated,
beauty blasted, and genius depressed.
No. 145. TUESDAY, AUGUST 6, 1751.
_Non, si priores Maeonius tenet
Sedes Homerus, Pindaricae latent,
Ceaeque, et Alcaei minaces,
Stesichorique graves Camoenae_. HOR. Lib. iv. Od. ix. 5.
What though the muse her Homer thrones
High above all the immortal quire;
Nor Pindar's raptures she disowns,
Nor hides the plaintive Caean lyre;
Alcaeus strikes the tyrant soul with dread,
Nor yet is grave Stesichorus unread. FRANCIS.
It is allowed that vocations and employments of least dignity are of the
most apparent use; that the meanest artizan or manufacturer contributes
more to the accommodation of life, than the profound scholar and
argumentative theorist; and that the publick would suffer less present
inconvenience from the banishment of philosophers than from the
extinction of any common trade.
Some have been so forcibly struck with this observation, that they have,
in the first warmth of their discovery, thought it reasonable to alter
the common distribution of dignity, and ventured to condemn mankind of
universal ingratitude. For justice exacts, that those by whom we are
most benefited should be most honoured. And what labour can be more
useful than that which procures to families and communities those
necessaries which supply the wants of nature, or those conveniencies by
which ease, security, and elegance, are conferred?
This is one of the innumerable theories which the first attempt to
reduce them into practice certainly destroys. If we estimate dignity by
immediate usefulness, agriculture is undoubtedly the first and noblest
science; yet we see the plough driven, the clod broken, the manure
spread, the seeds scattered, and the harvest reaped, by men whom those
that feed upon their industry will never be persuaded to admit into the
same rank with heroes, or with sages; and who, after all the confessions
which truth may extort in favour of their occupation, must be content to
fill up the lowest class of the commonwealth, to form the base of the
pyramid of subordination, and lie buried in obscurity themselves, while
they support all that is splendid, conspicuous, or exalted.
It will be found upon a closer inspection, that this part of the conduct
of mankind is by no means contrary to reason or equity. Remuneratory
honours are proportioned at once to the usefulness and difficulty of
performances, and are properly adjusted by comparison of the mental and
corporeal abilities, which they appear to employ. That work, however
necessary, which is carried on only by muscular strength and manual
dexterity, is not of equal esteem, in the consideration of rational
beings, with the tasks that exercise the intellectual powers, and
require the active vigour of imagination or the gradual and laborious
investigations of reason.
The merit of all manual occupations seems to terminate in the inventor;
and surely the first ages cannot be charged with ingratitude; since
those who civilized barbarians, and taught them how to secure themselves
from cold and hunger, were numbered amongst their deities. But these
arts once discovered by philosophy, and facilitated by experience, are
afterwards practised with very little assistance from the faculties of
the soul; nor is any thing necessary to the regular discharge of these
inferior duties, beyond that rude observation which the most sluggish
intellect may practise, and that industry which the stimulations of
necessity naturally enforce.
Yet though the refusal of statues and panegyrick to those who employ
only their hands and feet in the service of mankind may be easily
justified, I am far from intending to incite the petulance of pride, to
justify the superciliousness of grandeur, or to intercept any part of
that tenderness and benevolence which, by the privilege of their common
nature, one may claim from another.
That it would be neither wise nor equitable to discourage the
husbandman, the labourer, the miner, or the smith, is generally granted;
but there is another race of beings equally obscure and equally
indigent, who, because their usefulness is less obvious to vulgar
apprehensions, live unrewarded and die unpitied, and who have been long
exposed to insult without a defender, and to censure without an
The authors of London were formerly computed by Swift at several
thousands, and there is not any reason for suspecting that their number
has decreased. Of these only a very few can be said to produce, or
endeavour to produce, new ideas, to extend any principle of science, or
gratify the imagination with any uncommon train of images or contexture
of events; the rest, however laborious, however arrogant, can only be
considered as the drudges of the pen, the manufacturers of literature,
who have set up for authors, either with or without a regular
initiation, and, like other artificers, have no other care than to
deliver their tale of wares at the stated time.
It has been formerly imagined, that he who intends the entertainment or
instruction of others, must feel in himself some peculiar impulse of
genius; that he must watch the happy minute in which his natural fire is
excited, in which his mind is elevated with nobler sentiments,
enlightened with clearer views, and invigorated with stronger
comprehension; that he must carefully select his thoughts and polish his
expressions; and animate his efforts with the hope of raising a monument
of learning, which neither time nor envy shall be able to destroy.
But the authors whom I am now endeavouring to recommend have been too
long _hackneyed in the ways of men_ to indulge the chimerical ambition
of immortality; they have seldom any claim to the trade of writing, but
that they have tried some other without success; they perceive no
particular summons to composition, except the sound of the clock; they
have no other rule than the law or the fashion for admitting their
thoughts or rejecting them; and about the opinion of posterity they have
little solicitude, for their productions are seldom intended to remain
in the world longer than a week.
That such authors are not to be rewarded with praise is evident, since
nothing can be admired when it ceases to exist; but surely, though they
cannot aspire to honour, they may be exempted from ignominy, and adopted
in that order of men which deserves our kindness, though not our
reverence. These papers of the day, the _Ephemerae_ of learning, have
uses more adequate to the purposes of common life than more pompous and
durable volumes. If it is necessary for every man to be more acquainted
with his contemporaries than with past generations, and to rather know
the events which may immediately affect his fortune or quiet, than the
revolutions of ancient kingdoms, in which he has neither possessions nor
expectations; if it be pleasing to hear of the preferment and dismission
of statesmen, the birth of heirs, and the marriage of beauties, the
humble author of journals and gazettes must be considered as a liberal
dispenser of beneficial knowledge.
Even the abridger, compiler, and translator, though their labours cannot
be ranked with those of the diurnal historiographer, yet must not be
rashly doomed to annihilation. Every size of readers requires a genius
of correspondent capacity; some delight in abstracts and epitomes,
because they want room in their memory for long details, and content
themselves with effects, without inquiry after causes; some minds are
overpowered by splendour of sentiment, as some eyes are offended by a
glaring light; such will gladly contemplate an author in an humble
imitation, as we look without pain upon the sun in the water.
As every writer has his use, every writer ought to have his patrons; and
since no man, however high he may now stand, can be certain that he
shall not be soon thrown down from his elevation by criticism or
caprice, the common interest of learning requires that her sons should
cease from intestine hostilities, and, instead of sacrificing each other
to malice and contempt, endeavour to avert persecution from the meanest
of their fraternity.
No. 146. SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 1751.
_Sunt illic duo, tresve, qui revolvant
Nostrarum tineas ineptiarum;
Sed cum sponsio, fabultaeque lassae
De scarpo fuerint incitato_. MART.
'Tis possible that one or two
These fooleries of mine may view;
But then the bettings must be o'er,
Nor Crab or Childers talk'd of more. F. LEWIS.
None of the projects or designs which exercise the mind of man are
equally subject to obstructions and disappointments with the pursuit of
fame. Riches cannot easily be denied to them who have something of
greater value to offer in exchange; he whose fortune is endangered by
litigation, will not refuse to augment the wealth of the lawyer; he
whose days are darkened by langour, or whose nerves are excruciated by
pain, is compelled to pay tribute to the science of healing. But praise
may be always omitted without inconvenience. When once a man has made
celebrity necessary to his happiness, he has put it in the power of the
weakest and most timorous malignity, if not to take away his
satisfaction, at least to withhold it. His enemies may indulge their
pride by airy negligence, and gratify their malice by quiet neutrality.
They that could never have injured a character by invectives, may
combine to annihilate it by silence; as the women of Rome threatened to
put an end to conquest and dominion, by supplying no children to the
When a writer has with long toil produced a work intended to burst upon
mankind with unexpected lustre, and withdraw the attention of the
learned world from every other controversy or inquiry, he is seldom
contented to wait long without the enjoyment of his new praises. With an
imagination full of his own importance, he walks out like a monarch in
disguise to learn the various opinions of his readers. Prepared to feast
upon admiration; composed to encounter censures without emotion; and
determined not to suffer his quiet to be injured by a sensibility too
exquisite of praise or blame, but to laugh with equal contempt at vain
objections and injudicious commendations, he enters the places of
mingled conversation, sits down to his tea in an obscure corner, and,
while he appears to examine a file of antiquated journals, catches the
conversation of the whole room. He listens, but hears no mention of his
book, and therefore supposes that he has disappointed his curiosity by
delay; and that as men of learning would naturally begin their
conversation with such a wonderful novelty, they had digressed to other
subjects before his arrival. The company disperses, and their places are
supplied by others equally ignorant, or equally careless. The same
expectation hurries him to another place, from which the same
disappointment drives him soon away. His impatience then grows violent
and tumultuous; he ranges over the town with restless curiosity, and
hears in one quarter of a cricket-match, in another of a pick-pocket; is
told by some of an unexpected bankruptcy; by others of a turtle feast;
is sometimes provoked by importunate inquiries after the white bear, and
sometimes with praises of the dancing dog; he is afterwards entreated to
give his judgment upon a wager about the height of the Monument; invited
to see a foot-race in the adjacent villages; desired to read a ludicrous
advertisement; or consulted about the most effectual method of making
inquiry after a favourite cat. The whole world is busied in affairs
which he thinks below the notice of reasonable creatures, and which are
nevertheless sufficient to withdraw all regard from his labours and his
He resolves at last to violate his own modesty, and to recall the
talkers from their folly by an inquiry after himself. He finds every one
provided with an answer; one has seen the work advertised, but never met
with any that had read it; another has been so often imposed upon by
specious titles, that he never buys a book till its character is
established; a third wonders what any man can hope to produce after so
many writers of greater eminence; the next has inquired after the
author, but can hear no account of him, and therefore suspects the name
to be fictitious; and another knows him to be a man condemned by
indigence to write too frequently what he does not understand.
Many are the consolations with which the unhappy author endeavours to
allay his vexation, and fortify his patience. He has written with too
little indulgence to the understanding of common readers; he has fallen
upon an age in which solid knowledge, and delicate refinement, have
given way to a low merriment, and idle buffoonery, and therefore no
writer can hope for distinction, who has any higher purpose than to
raise laughter. He finds that his enemies, such as superiority will
always raise, have been industrious, while his performance was in the
press, to vilify and blast it; and that the bookseller, whom he had
resolved to enrich, has rivals that obstruct the circulation of the
copies. He at last reposes upon the consideration, that the noblest
works of learning and genius have always made their way slowly against
ignorance and prejudice; and that reputation, which is never to be lost,
must be gradually obtained, as animals of longest life are observed not
soon to attain their full stature and strength.
By such arts of voluntary delusion does every man endeavour to conceal
his own unimportance from himself. It is long before we are convinced of
the small proportion which every individual bears to the collective body
of mankind; or learn how few can be interested in the fortune of any
single man; how little vacancy is left in the world for any new object
of attention; to how small extent the brightest blaze of merit can be
spread amidst the mists of business and of folly; and how soon it is
clouded by the intervention of other novelties. Not only the writer of
books, but the commander of armies, and the deliverer of nations, will
easily outlive all noisy and popular reputation; he may be celebrated
for a time by the publick voice, but his actions and his name will soon
be considered as remote and unaffecting, and be rarely mentioned but by
those whose alliance gives them some vanity to gratify by frequent
It seems not to be sufficiently considered how little renown can be
admitted in the world. Mankind are kept perpetually busy by their fears
or desires, and have not more leisure from their own affairs, than to
acquaint themselves with the accidents of the current day. Engaged in
contriving some refuge from calamity, or in shortening the way to some
new possession, they seldom suffer their thoughts to wander to the past
or future; none but a few solitary students have leisure to inquire into
the claims of ancient heroes or sages; and names which hoped to range
over kingdoms and continents, shrink at last into cloisters or colleges.
Nor is it certain, that even of these dark and narrow habitations, these
last retreats of fame, the possession will be long kept. Of men devoted
to literature, very few extend their views beyond some particular
science, and the greater part seldom inquire, even in their own
profession, for any authors but those whom the present mode of study
happens to force upon their notice; they desire not to fill their minds
with unfashionable knowledge, but contentedly resign to oblivion those
books which they now find censured or neglected.
The hope of fame is necessarily connected with such considerations as
must abate the ardour of confidence, and repress the vigour of pursuit.
Whoever claims renown from any kind of excellence, expects to fill the
place which is now possessed by another; for there are already names of
every class sufficient to employ all that will desire to remember them;
and surely he that is pushing his predecessors into the gulph of
obscurity, cannot but sometimes suspect, that he must himself sink in
like manner, and, as he stands upon the same precipice, be swept away
with the same violence.
It sometimes happens, that fame begins when life is at an end; but far
the greater number of candidates for applause have owed their reception
in the world to some favourable casualties, and have therefore
immediately sunk into neglect, when death stripped them of their casual
influence, and neither fortune nor patronage operated in their favour.
Among those who have better claims to regard, the honour paid to their
memory is commonly proportionate to the reputation which they enjoyed in
their lives, though still growing fainter, as it is at a greater
distance from the first emission; and since it is so difficult to obtain
the notice of contemporaries, how little is to be hoped from future
times? What can merit effect by its own force, when the help of art or
friendship can scarcely support it?
No. 147. TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 1751.
Tu nihil invita dices faciesve Minerva. Hon. Ar. Poet. 385.
--You are of too quick a sight,
Not to discern which way your talent lies. ROSCOMMON.
TO THE RAMBLER.
As little things grow great by continual accumulation, I hope you will
not think the dignity of your character impaired by an account of a
ludicrous persecution, which, though it produced no scenes of horrour or
of ruin, yet, by incessant importunity of vexation, wears away my
happiness, and consumes those years which nature seems particularly to
have assigned to cheerfulness, in silent anxiety and helpless
I am the eldest son of a gentleman, who having inherited a large estate
from his ancestors, and feeling no desire either to increase or lessen
it, has from the time of his marriage generally resided at his own seat;
where, by dividing his time among the duties of a father, a master, and
a magistrate, the study of literature, and the offices of civility, he
finds means to rid himself of the day, without any of those amusements,
which all those with whom my residence in this place has made me
acquainted, think necessary to lighten the burthen of existence.
When my age made me capable of instruction, my father prevailed upon a
gentleman, long known at Oxford for the extent of his learning and the
purity of his manners, to undertake my education. The regard with which
I saw him treated, disposed me to consider his instructions as
important, and I therefore soon formed a habit of attention, by which I
made very quick advances in different kinds of learning, and heard,
perhaps too often, very flattering comparisons of my own proficiency
with that of others, either less docile by nature, or less happily
forwarded by instruction. I was caressed by all that exchanged visits
with my father; and as young men are with little difficulty taught to
judge favourably of themselves, began to think that close application
was no longer necessary, and that the time was now come when I was at
liberty to read only for amusement, and was to receive the reward of my
fatigues in praise and admiration.
While I was thus banqueting upon my own perfections, and longing in
secret to escape from tutorage, my father's brother came from London to
pass a summer at his native place. A lucrative employment which he
possessed, and a fondness for the conversation and diversions of the gay
part of mankind, had so long kept him from rural excursions, that I had
never seen him since my infancy. My curiosity was therefore strongly
excited by the hope of observing a character more nearly, which I had
hitherto reverenced only at a distance.
From all private and intimate conversation, I was long withheld by the
perpetual confluence of visitants with whom the first news of my uncle's
arrival crowded the house; but was amply recompensed by seeing an exact
and punctilious practice of the arts of a courtier, in all the
stratagems of endearment, the gradations of respect, and variations of
courtesy. I remarked with what justice of distribution he divided his
talk to a wide circle; with what address he offered to every man an
occasion of indulging some favourite topick, or displaying some
particular attainment; the judgment with which he regulated his
inquiries after the absent; and the care with which he shewed all the
companions of his early years how strongly they were infixed in his
memory, by the mention of past incidents and the recital of puerile
kindnesses, dangers, and frolicks. I soon discovered that he possessed
some science of graciousness and attraction which books had not taught,
and of which neither I nor my father had any knowledge; that he had the
power of obliging those whom he did not benefit; that he diffused, upon
his cursory behaviour and most trifling actions, a gloss of softness and
delicacy by which every one was dazzled; and that, by some occult method
of captivation, he animated the timorous, softened the supercilious, and
opened the reserved. I could not but repine at the inelegance of my own
manners, which left me no hopes but not to offend, and at the inefficacy
of rustick benevolence, which gained no friends but by real service.
My uncle saw the veneration with which I caught every accent of his
voice, and watched every motion of his hand; and the awkward diligence
with which I endeavoured to imitate his embrace of fondness, and his bow
of respect. He was, like others, easily flattered by an imitator by whom
he could not fear ever to be rivalled, and repaid my assiduities with
compliments and professions. Our fondness was so increased by a mutual
endeavour to please each other, that when he returned to London, he
declared himself unable to leave a nephew so amiable and so accomplished
behind him; and obtained my father's permission to enjoy my company for
a few months, by a promise to initiate me in the arts of politeness, and
introduce me into publick life.
The courtier had little inclination to fatigue, and therefore, by
travelling very slowly, afforded me time for more loose and familiar
conversation; but I soon found, that by a few inquiries which he was not
well prepared to satisfy, I had made him weary of his young companion.
His element was a mixed assembly, where ceremony and healths,
compliments and common topicks, kept the tongue employed with very
little assistance from memory or reflection; but in the chariot, where
he was necessitated to support a regular tenour of conversation, without
any relief from a new comer, or any power of starting into gay
digressions, or destroying argument by a jest, he soon discovered that
poverty of ideas which had been hitherto concealed under the tinsel of
politeness. The first day he entertained me with the novelties and
wonders with which I should be astonished at my entrance into London,
and cautioned me with apparent admiration of his own wisdom against the
arts by which rusticity is frequently deluded. The same detail and the
same advice he would have repeated on the second day; but as I every
moment diverted the discourse to the history of the towns by which we
passed, or some other subject of learning or of reason, he soon lost his
vivacity, grew peevish and silent, wrapped his cloak about him, composed
himself to slumber, and reserved his gaiety for fitter auditors.
At length I entered London, and my uncle was reinstated in his
superiority. He awaked at once to loquacity as soon as our wheels
rattled on the pavement, and told me the name of every street as we
crossed it, and owner of every house as we passed by. He presented me to
my aunt, a lady of great eminence for the number of her acquaintances,
and splendour of her assemblies, and either in kindness or revenge
consulted with her, in my presence, how I might be most advantageously
dressed for my first appearance, and most expeditiously disencumbered
from my villatick bashfulness. My indignation at familiarity thus
contemptuous flushed in my face; they mistook anger for shame, and
alternately exerted their eloquence upon the benefits of publick
education, and the happiness of an assurance early acquired.
Assurance is, indeed, the only qualification to which they seem to have
annexed merit, and assurance, therefore, is perpetually recommended to
me as the supply of every defect, and the ornament of every excellence.
I never sit silent in company when secret history is circulating, but I
am reproached for want of assurance. If I fail to return the stated
answer to a compliment; if I am disconcerted by unexpected raillery; if
I blush when I am discovered gazing on a beauty, or hesitate when I find
myself embarrassed in an argument; if I am unwilling to talk of what I
do not understand, or timorous in undertaking offices which I cannot
gracefully perform; if I suffer a more lively tatler to recount the
casualties of a game, or a nimbler fop to pick up a fan, I am censured
between pity and contempt, as a wretch doomed to grovel in obscurity for
want of assurance.
I have found many young persons harassed in the same manner, by those to
whom age has given nothing but the assurance which they recommend; and
therefore cannot but think it useful to inform them, that cowardice and
delicacy are not to be confounded; and that he whose stupidity has armed
him against the shafts of ridicule, will always act and speak with
greater audacity, than they whose sensibility represses their ardour,
and who dare never let their confidence outgrow their abilities.
No. 148. SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 1751.
_Me pater saevis oneret catenis,
Quod viro clemens misero peperci:
Me vel extremis Numidarum in agros
Classe releget._ HOR. Lib. iii. Od. xi. 45.
Me let my father load with chains,
Or banish to Numidia's farthest plains!
My crime, that I, a loyal wife,
In kind compassion sav'd my husband's life. FRANCIS.
Politicians remark, that no oppression is so heavy or lasting as that
which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority.
The robber may be seized, and the invader repelled, whenever they are
found; they who pretend no right but that of force, may by force be
punished or suppressed. But when plunder bears the name of impost, and
murder is perpetrated by a judicial sentence, fortitude is intimidated,
and wisdom confounded: resistance shrinks from an alliance with
rebellion, and the villain remains secure in the robes of the
Equally dangerous and equally detestable are the cruelties often
exercised in private families, under the venerable sanction of parental
authority; the power which we are taught to honour from the first
moments of reason; which is guarded from insult and violation by all
that can impress awe upon the mind of man; and which therefore may
wanton in cruelty without control, and trample the bounds of right with
innumerable transgressions, before duty and piety will dare to seek
redress, or think themselves at liberty to recur to any other means of
deliverance than supplications by which insolence is elated, and tears
by which cruelty is gratified.
It was for a long time imagined by the Romans, that no son could be the
murderer of his father; and they had therefore no punishment
appropriated to parricide. They seem likewise to have believed with
equal confidence, that no father could be cruel to his child; and
therefore they allowed every man the supreme judicature in his own
house, and put the lives of his offspring into his hands. But experience
informed them by degrees, that they determined too hastily in favour of
human nature; they found that instinct and habit were not able to
contend with avarice or malice; that the nearest relation might be
violated; and that power, to whomsoever intrusted, might be ill
employed. They were therefore obliged to supply and to change their
institutions; to deter the parricide by a new law, and to transfer
capital punishments from the parent to the magistrate.
There are indeed many houses which it is impossible to enter familiarly,
without discovering that parents are by no means exempt from the
intoxications of dominion; and that he who is in no danger of hearing
remonstrances but from his own conscience, will seldom be long without
the art of controling his convictions, and modifying justice by his own
If in any situation the heart were inaccessible to malignity, it might
be supposed to be sufficiently secured by parental relation. To have
voluntarily become to any being the occasion of its existence, produces
an obligation to make that existence happy. To see helpless infancy
stretching out her hands, and pouring out her cries in testimony of
dependence, without any powers to alarm jealousy, or any guilt to
alienate affection, must surely awaken tenderness in every human mind;
and tenderness once excited will be hourly increased by the natural
contagion of felicity, by the repercussion of communicated pleasure, by
the consciousness of the dignity of benefaction. I believe no generous
or benevolent man can see the vilest animal courting his regard, and
shrinking at his anger, playing his gambols of delight before him,
calling on him in distress, and flying to him in danger, without more
kindness than he can persuade himself to feel for the wild and unsocial
inhabitants of the air and water. We naturally endear to ourselves those
to whom we impart any kind of pleasure, because we imagine their
affection and esteem secured to us by the benefits which they receive.
There is, indeed, another method by which the pride of superiority may
be likewise gratified. He that has extinguished all the sensations of
humanity, and has no longer any satisfaction in the reflection that he
is loved as the distributor of happiness, may please himself with
exciting terrour as the inflictor of pain: he may delight his solitude
with contemplating the extent of his power and the force of his
commands; in imagining the desires that flutter on the tongue which is
forbidden to utter them, or the discontent which preys on the heart in
which fear confines it: he may amuse himself with new contrivances of
detection, multiplications of prohibition, and varieties of punishment;
and swell with exultation when he considers how little of the homage
that he receives he owes to choice.
That princes of this character have been known, the history of all
absolute kingdoms will inform us; and since, as Aristotle observes,
_[Greek: hae oikonomikae monarchia], the government of a family is
naturally monarchical_, it is, like other monarchies, too often
arbitrarily administered. The regal and parental tyrant differ only in
the extent of their dominions, and the number of their slaves. The same
passions cause the same miseries; except that seldom any prince, however
despotick, has so far shaken off all awe of the publick eye, as to
venture upon those freaks of injustice, which are sometimes indulged
under the secrecy of a private dwelling. Capricious injunctions, partial
decisions, unequal allotments, distributions of reward, not by merit,
but by fancy, and punishments, regulated not by the degree of the
offence, but by the humour of the judge, are too frequent where no power
is known but that of a father.
That he delights in the misery of others, no man will confess, and yet
what other motive can make a father cruel? The king may be instigated by
one man to the destruction of another; he may sometimes think himself
endangered by the virtues of a subject; he may dread the successful
general or the popular orator; his avarice may point out golden
confiscations; and his guilt may whisper that he can only be secure by
cutting off all power of revenge.
But what can a parent hope from the oppression of those who were born to
his protection, of those who can disturb him with no competition, who
can enrich him with no spoils? Why cowards are cruel may be easily
discovered; but for what reason, not more infamous than cowardice, can
that man delight in oppression who has nothing to fear?
The unjustifiable severity of a parent is loaded with this aggravation,
that those whom he injures are always in his sight. The injustice of a
prince is often exercised upon those of whom he never had any personal
or particular knowledge; and the sentence which he pronounces, whether
of banishment, imprisonment, or death, removes from his view the man
whom he condemns. But the domestick oppressor dooms himself to gaze upon
those faces which he clouds with terrour and with sorrow; and beholds
every moment the effects of his own barbarities. He that can bear to
give continual pain to those who surround him, and can walk with
satisfaction in the gloom of his own presence; he that can see
submissive misery without relenting, and meet without emotion the eye
that implores mercy, or demands justice, will scarcely be amended by
remonstrance or admonition; he has found means of stopping the avenues
of tenderness, and arming his heart against the force of reason.
Even though no consideration should be paid to the great law of social
beings, by which every individual is commanded to consult the happiness
of others, yet the harsh parent is less to be vindicated than any other
criminal, because he less provides for the happiness of himself. Every
man, however little he loves others, would willingly be loved; every man
hopes to live long, and therefore hopes for that time at which he shall
sink back to imbecility, and must depend for ease and cheerfulness upon
the officiousness of others. But how has he obviated the inconveniencies
of old age, who alienates from him the assistance of his children, and
whose bed must be surrounded in the last hours, in the hours of languor
and dejection, of impatience and of pain, by strangers to whom his life
is indifferent, or by enemies to whom his death is desirable?
Piety will, indeed, in good minds overcome provocation, and those who
have been harassed by brutality will forget the injuries which they have
suffered, so far as to perform the last duties with alacrity and zeal.
But surely no resentment can be equally painful with kindness thus
undeserved, nor can severer punishment be imprecated upon a man not
wholly lost in meanness and stupidity, than, through the tediousness of
decrepitude, to be reproached by the kindness of his own children, to
receive not the tribute but the alms of attendance, and to owe every
relief of his miseries, not to gratitude but to mercy.
No. 149. TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 1751.
_Quod non sit Pylades hoc tempore, non sit Orestes,
Miraris? Pylades, Marce, bibebat idem.
Nec melior panis, turdusve dabatur Oresti:
Sed par, atque eadem coena duobus erat.--
Te Cadmea Tyrus, me pinguis Gallia vestit:
Vis te purpureum, Marce, sagatus amem?
Ut praestem Pyladen, aliquis mihi praestet Orestem.
Hoc non fit verbis, Marce: ut ameris, ama_. MART. Lib. vi. Ep. xi.
You wonder now that no man sees
Such friends as those of ancient Greece.
Here lay the point--Orestes' meat
Was just the same his friend did eat;
Nor can it yet be found, his wine
Was better, Pylades, than thine.
In home-spun russet, I am drest,
Your cloth is always of the best;
But, honest Marcus, if you please
To chuse me for your Pylades,
Remember, words alone are vain;
Love--if you would be lov'd again. F. LEWIS.
TO THE RAMBLER.
No depravity of the mind has been more frequently or justly censured
than ingratitude. There is indeed sufficient reason for looking on those
that can return evil for good, and repay kindness and assistance with
hatred or neglect, as corrupted beyond the common degrees of wickedness;
nor will he, who has once been clearly detected in acts of injury to his
benefactor, deserve to be numbered among social beings; he has
endeavoured to destroy confidence, to intercept sympathy, and to turn
every man's attention wholly on himself.
There is always danger lest the honest abhorrence of a crime should
raise the passions with too much violence against the man to whom it is
imputed. In proportion as guilt is more enormous, it ought to be
ascertained by stronger evidence. The charge against ingratitude is very
general; almost every man can tell what favours he has conferred upon
insensibility, and how much happiness he has bestowed without return;
but perhaps, if these patrons and protectors were confronted with any
whom they boast of having befriended, it would often appear that they
consulted only their pleasure or vanity, and repaid themselves their
petty donatives by gratifications of insolence and indulgence of
It has happened that much of my time has been passed in a dependent
state, and consequently I have received many favours in the opinion of
those at whose expense I have been maintained; yet I do not feel in my
heart any burning gratitude or tumultuous affection; and, as I would not
willingly suppose myself less susceptible of virtuous passions than the
rest of mankind, I shall lay the history of my life before you, that you
may, by your judgment of my conduct, either reform, or confirm, my
present sentiments. My father was the second son of a very ancient and
wealthy family. He married a lady of equal birth, whose fortune, joined
to his own, might have supported his posterity in honour; but being gay
and ambitious, he prevailed on his friends to procure him a post, which
gave him an opportunity of displaying his elegance and politeness. My
mother was equally pleased with splendour, and equally careless of
expense; they both justified their profusion to themselves, by
endeavouring to believe it necessary to the extension of their
acquaintance, and improvement of their interest; and whenever any place
became vacant, they expected to be repaid. In the midst of these hopes
my father was snatched away by an apoplexy; and my mother, who had no
pleasure but in dress, equipage, assemblies, and compliments, finding
that she could live no longer in her accustomed rank, sunk into
dejection, and in two years wore out her life with envy and discontent.
I was sent with a sister, one year younger than myself, to the elder
brother of my father. We were not yet capable of observing how much
fortune influences affection, but flattered ourselves on the road with
the tenderness and regard with which we should be treated by our uncle.
Our reception was rather frigid than malignant; we were introduced to
our young cousins, and for the first month more frequently consoled than
upbraided; but in a short time we found our prattle repressed, our dress
neglected, our endearments unregarded, and our requests referred to the
The forms of decency were now violated, and every day produced new
insults. We were soon brought to the necessity of receding from our
imagined equality with our cousins, to whom we sunk into humble
companions without choice or influence, expected only to echo their
opinions, facilitate their desires, and accompany their rambles. It was
unfortunate that our early introduction into polite company, and
habitual knowledge of the arts of civility, had given us such an
appearance of superiority to the awkward bashfulness of our relations,
as naturally drew respect and preference from every stranger; and my
aunt was forced to assert the dignity of her own children, while they
were sculking in corners for fear of notice, and hanging down their
heads in silent confusion, by relating the indiscretion of our father,
displaying her own kindness, lamenting the misery of birth without
estate, and declaring her anxiety for our future provision, and the
expedients which she had formed to secure us from those follies or
crimes, to which the conjunction of pride and want often gives occasion.
In a short time care was taken to prevent such vexatious mistakes; we
were told, that fine clothes would only fill our heads with false
expectations, and our dress was therefore accommodated to our fortune.
Childhood is not easily dejected or mortified. We felt no lasting pain
from insolence or neglect; but finding that we were favoured and
commended by all whose interest did not prompt them to discountenance
us, preserved our vivacity and spirit to years of greater sensibility.
It then became irksome and disgusting to live without any principle of
action but the will of another, and we often met privately in the garden
to lament our condition, and to ease our hearts with mutual narratives
of caprice, peevishness, and affront.
There are innumerable modes of insult and tokens of contempt, for which
it is not easy to find a name, which vanish to nothing in an attempt to
describe them, and yet may, by continual repetition, make day pass after
day in sorrow and in terrour. Phrases of cursory compliment and
established salutation may, by a different modulation of the voice, or
cast of the countenance, convey contrary meanings, and be changed from
indications of respect to expressions of scorn. The dependant who
cultivates delicacy in himself, very little consults his own
tranquillity. My unhappy vigilance is every moment discovering some
petulance of accent, or arrogance of mien, some vehemence of
interrogation, or quickness of reply, that recals my poverty to my mind,
and which I feel more acutely, as I know not how to resent it.
You are not, however, to imagine, that I think myself discharged from
the duties of gratitude, only because my relations do not adjust their
looks, or tune their voices to my expectation. The insolence of
benefaction terminates not in negative rudeness or obliquities of
insult. I am often told in express terms of the miseries from which
charity has snatched me, while multitudes are suffered by relations
equally near to devolve upon the parish; and have more than once heard
it numbered among other favours, that I am admitted to the same table
with my cousins.
That I sit at the first table I must acknowledge, but I sit there only
that I may feel the stings of inferiority. My inquiries are neglected,
my opinion is overborne, my assertions are controverted, and, as
insolence always propagates itself, the servants overlook me, in
imitation of their master; if I call modestly, I am not heard; if
loudly, my usurpation of authority is checked by a general frown. I am
often obliged to look uninvited upon delicacies, and sometimes desired
to rise upon very slight pretences.
The incivilities to which I am exposed would give me less pain, were
they not aggravated by the tears of my sister, whom the young ladies are
hourly tormenting with every art of feminine persecution. As it is said
of the supreme magistrate of Venice, that he is a prince in one place
and a slave in another, my sister is a servant to her cousins in their
apartments, and a companion only at the table. Her wit and beauty drew
so much regard away from them, that they never suffer her to appear with
them in any place where they solicit notice, or expect admiration; and
when they are visited by neighbouring ladies and pass their hours in
domestick amusements, she is sometimes called to fill a vacancy,
insulted with contemptuous freedoms, and dismissed to her needle, when
her place is supplied. The heir has of late, by the instigation of his
sisters, begun to harass her with clownish jocularity; he seems inclined
to make his first rude essays of waggery upon her; and by the
connivance, if not encouragement, of his father, treats her with such
licentious brutality, as I cannot bear, though I cannot punish it.
I beg to be informed, Mr. Rambler, how much we can be supposed to owe to
beneficence, exerted on terms like these? to beneficence which pollutes
its gifts with contumely, and may be truly said to pander to pride? I
would willingly be told, whether insolence does not reward its own
liberalities, and whether he that exacts servility can, with justice, at
the same time, expect affection?
I am, Sir, &c.
No. 150. SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 1751.
--_O munera nondum
Intellecta Deum!_ LUCAN.
--Thou chiefest good!
Bestow'd by Heav'n, but seldom understood. ROWE.
As daily experience makes it evident that misfortunes are unavoidably
incident to human life, that calamity will neither be repelled by
fortitude, nor escaped by flight; neither awed by greatness, nor eluded
by obscurity; philosophers have endeavoured to reconcile us to that
condition which they cannot teach us to mend, by persuading us that most
of our evils are made afflictive only by ignorance or perverseness, and
that nature has annexed to every vicissitude of external circumstances
some advantage sufficient to over-balance all its inconveniencies.
This attempt may, perhaps, be justly suspected of resemblance to the
practice of physicians, who, when they cannot mitigate pain, destroy
sensibility, and endeavour to conceal, by opiates, the inefficacy of
their other medicines. The panegyrists of calamity have more frequently
gained applause to their wit, than acquiescence to their arguments; nor
has it appeared that the most musical oratory, or subtle ratiocination,
has been able long to overpower the anguish of oppression, the
tediousness of languor, or the longings of want.
Yet, it may be generally remarked, that, where much has been attempted,
something has been performed; though the discoveries or acquisitions of
man are not always adequate to the expectations of his pride, they are
at least sufficient to animate his industry. The antidotes with which
philosophy has medicated the cup of life, though they cannot give it
salubrity and sweetness, have at least allayed its bitterness, and
contempered its malignity; the balm which she drops upon the wounds of
the mind abates their pain, though it cannot heal them.
By suffering willingly what we cannot avoid, we secure ourselves from
vain and immoderate disquiet; we preserve for better purposes that
strength which would be unprofitably wasted in wild efforts of
desperation, and maintain that circumspection which may enable us to
seize every support, and improve every alleviation. This calmness will
be more easily obtained, as the attention is more powerfully withdrawn
from the contemplation of unmingled unabated evil, and diverted to those
accidental benefits which prudence may confer on every state.
Seneca has attempted, not only to pacify us in misfortune, but almost to
allure us to it, by representing it as necessary to the pleasures of the
mind. _He that never was acquainted with adversity_, says he, _has seen
the world but on one side, and is ignorant of half the scenes of
nature_. He invites his pupil to calamity, as the Syrens allured the
passenger to their coasts, by promising that he shall return [Greek:
pleiona eidos], with increase of knowledge, with enlarged views, and
Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the
last; and perhaps always predominates in proportion to the strength of
the contemplative faculties. He who easily comprehends all that is
before him, and soon exhausts any single subject, is always eager for
new inquiries; and, in proportion as the intellectual eye takes in a
wider prospect, it must be gratified with variety by more rapid flights,
and bolder excursions; nor perhaps can there be proposed to those who
have been accustomed to the pleasures of thought, a more powerful
incitement to any undertaking, than the hope of filling their fancy with
new images, of clearing their doubts, and enlightening their reason.
When Jason, in Valerius Flaccus, would incline the young prince Acastus
to accompany him in the first essay of navigation, he disperses his
apprehensions of danger by representations of the new tracts of earth
and heaven, which the expedition would spread before their eyes; and
tells him with what grief he will hear, at their return, of the
countries which they shall have seen, and the toils which they have
_O quantum terrae, quantum cognoscere coeli
Permissum est! pelagus quantos aperimus in usus!
Nunc forsan grave reris opus: sed laeta recurret
Cum ratis, et caram cum jam mihi reddet Iolcon;
Quis pudor heu nostros tibi tunc audire labores!
Quam referam visas tua per suspiria gentes!_ ARG. Lib. i. 168.
Led by our stars, what tracts immense we trace!
From seas remote, what funds of science raise!
A pain to thought! but when the heroick band
Returns applauded to their native land,
A life domestick you will then deplore,
And sigh while I describe the various, shore. EDW. CAVE.
Acastus was soon prevailed upon by his curiosity to set rocks and
hardships at defiance, and commit his life to the winds; and the same
motives have in all ages had the same effect upon those whom the desire
of fame or wisdom has distinguished from the lower orders of mankind.
If, therefore, it can be proved that distress is necessary to the
attainment of knowledge, and that a happy situation hides from us so
large a part of the field of meditation, the envy of many who repine at
the sight of affluence and splendour will be much diminished; for such
is the delight of mental superiority, that none on whom nature or study
have conferred it, would purchase the gifts of fortune by its loss.
It is certain, that however the rhetorick of Seneca may have dressed
adversity with extrinsick ornaments, he has justly represented it as
affording some opportunities of observation, which cannot be found in
continual success; he has truly asserted, that to escape misfortune is
to want instruction, and that to live at ease is to live in ignorance.
As no man can enjoy happiness without thinking that he enjoys it, the
experience of calamity is necessary to a just sense of better fortune:
for the good of our present state is merely comparative, and the evil
which every man feels will be sufficient to disturb and harass him, if
he does not know how much he escapes. The lustre of diamonds is
invigorated by the interposition of darker bodies; the lights of a
picture are created by the shades. The highest pleasure which nature has
indulged to sensitive perception, is that of rest after fatigue; yet,
that state which labour heightens into delight, is of itself only ease,
and is incapable of satisfying the mind without the superaddition of
Prosperity, as is truly asserted by Seneca, very much obstructs the
knowledge of ourselves. No man can form a just estimate of his own
powers by unactive speculation. That fortitude which has encountered no
dangers, that prudence which has surmounted no difficulties, that
integrity which has been attacked by no temptations, can at best be
considered but as gold not yet brought to the test, of which therefore
the true value cannot be assigned. _He that traverses the lists without
an adversary, may receive_, says the philosopher, _the reward of
victory, but he has no pretensions to the honour_. If it be the highest
happiness of man to contemplate himself with satisfaction, and to
receive the gratulations of his own conscience; he whose courage has
made way amidst the turbulence of opposition, and whose vigour has
broken through the snares of distress, has many advantages over those
that have slept in the shades of indolence, and whose retrospect of time
can entertain them with nothing but day rising upon day, and year
gliding after year.
Equally necessary is some variety of fortune to a nearer inspection of
the manners, principles, and affections of mankind. Princes, when they
would know the opinions or grievances of their subjects, find it
necessary to steal away from guards and attendants, and mingle on equal
terms among the people. To him who is known to have the power of doing
good or harm, nothing is shewn in its natural form. The behaviour of all
that approach him is regulated by his humour, their narratives are
adapted to his inclination, and their reasonings determined by his
opinions; whatever can alarm suspicion, or excite resentment, is
carefully suppressed, and nothing appears but uniformity of sentiments,
and ardour of affection. It may be observed, that the unvaried
complaisance which ladies have the right of exacting, keeps them
generally unskilled in human nature; prosperity will always enjoy the
female prerogatives, and therefore must be always in danger of female
ignorance. Truth is scarcely to be heard, but by those from whom it can
serve no interest to conceal it.
No. 151. TUESDAY, AUGUST 27, 1751.
[Greek:--Amphi d anthro-
pon phresin amplakiai
Touto d amachanon eurein,
O ti nun, kai en teleu-
ta, phertaton andri tuchein.] PINDAR, Ol. vii. 43.
[Transcriber's note: line breaks and hyphenation in original.]
But wrapt in error is the human mind,
And human bliss is ever insecure:
Know we what fortune yet remains behind?
Know we how long the present shall endure? WEST.
The writers of medicine and physiology have traced, with great
appearance of accuracy, the effects of time upon the human body, by
marking the various periods of the constitution, and the several stages
by which animal life makes its progress from infancy to decrepitude.
Though their observations have not enabled them to discover how manhood
may be accelerated, or old age retarded, yet surely, if they be
considered only as the amusements of curiosity, they are of equal
importance with conjectures on things more remote, with catalogues of
the fixed stars, and calculations of the bulk of planets.
It had been a task worthy of the moral philosophers to have considered
with equal care the climactericks of the mind; to have pointed out the
time at which every passion begins and ceases to predominate, and noted
the regular variations of desire, and the succession of one appetite to
The periods of mental change are not to be stated with equal certainty;
our bodies grow up under the care of nature, and depend so little on our
own management, that something more than negligence is necessary to
discompose their structure, or impede their vigour. But our minds are
committed in a great measure first to the direction of others, and
afterwards of ourselves. It would be difficult to protract the weakness
of infancy beyond the usual time, but the mind may be very easily
hindered from its share of improvement, and the bulk and strength of
manhood must, without the assistance of education and instruction, be
informed only with the understanding of a child.
Yet, amidst all the disorder and inequality which variety of discipline,
example, conversation, and employment, produce in the intellectual
advances of different men, there is still discovered, by a vigilant
spectator, such a general and remote similitude, as may be expected in
the same common nature affected by external circumstances indefinitely
varied. We all enter the world in equal ignorance, gaze round about us
on the same objects, and have our first pains and pleasures, our first
hopes and fears, our first aversions and desires, from the same causes;
and though, as we proceed farther, life opens wider prospects to our
view, and accidental impulses determine us to different paths, yet as
every mind, however vigorous or abstracted, is necessitated, in its
present state of union, to receive its informations, and execute its
purposes, by the intervention of the body, the uniformity of our
corporeal nature communicates itself to our intellectual operations; and
those whose abilities or knowledge incline them most to deviate from the
general round of life, are recalled from eccentricity by the laws of
If we consider the exercises of the mind, it will be found that in each
part of life some particular faculty is more eminently employed. When
the treasures of knowledge are first opened before us, while novelty
blooms alike on either hand, and every thing equally unknown and
unexamined seems of equal value, the power of the soul is principally
exerted in a vivacious and desultory curiosity. She applies by turns to
every object, enjoys it for a short time, and flies with equal ardour to
another. She delights to catch up loose and unconnected ideas, but
starts away from systems and complications, which would obstruct the
rapidity of her transitions, and detain her long in the same pursuit.
When a number of distinct images are collected by these erratick and
hasty surveys, the fancy is busied in arranging them; and combines them
into pleasing pictures with more resemblance to the realities of life as
experience advances, and new observations rectify the former. While the
judgment is yet uninformed, and unable to compare the draughts of
fiction with their originals, we are delighted with improbable
adventures, impracticable virtues, and inimitable characters: but, in
proportion as we have more opportunities of acquainting ourselves with
living nature, we are sooner disgusted with copies in which there
appears no resemblance. We first discard absurdity and impossibility,
then exact greater and greater degrees of probability, but at last
become cold and insensible to the charms of falsehood, however specious,
and, from the imitations of truth, which are never perfect, transfer our
affection to truth itself.
Now commences the reign of judgment or reason; we begin to find little
pleasure but in comparing arguments, stating propositions, disentangling
perplexities, clearing ambiguities, and deducing consequences. The
painted vales of imagination are deserted, and our intellectual activity
is exercised in winding through the labyrinths of fallacy, and toiling
with firm and cautious steps up the narrow tracks of demonstration.
Whatever may lull vigilance, or mislead attention, is contemptuously
rejected, and every disguise in which errour may be concealed, is
carefully observed, till, by degrees, a certain number of incontestable
or unsuspected propositions are established, and at last concatenated
into arguments, or compacted into systems.
At length weariness succeeds to labour, and the mind lies at ease in the
contemplation of her own attainments, without any desire of new
conquests or excursions. This is the age of recollection and narrative;
the opinions are settled, and the avenues of apprehension shut against
any new intelligence; the days that are to follow must pass in the
inculcation of precepts already collected, and assertion of tenets
already received; nothing is henceforward so odious as opposition, so
insolent as doubt, or so dangerous as novelty.
In like manner the passions usurp the separate command of the successive
periods of life. To the happiness of our first years nothing more seems
necessary than freedom from restraint: every man may remember that if he
was left to himself, and indulged in the disposal of his own time, he
was once content without the superaddition of any actual pleasure. The
new world is itself a banquet; and, till we have exhausted the freshness
of life, we have always about us sufficient gratifications: the sunshine
quickens us to play, and the shade invites us to sleep.
But we soon become unsatisfied with negative felicity, and are solicited
by our senses and appetites to more powerful delights, as the taste of
him who has satisfied his hunger must be excited by artificial
stimulations. The simplicity of natural amusement is now past, and art
and contrivance must improve our pleasures; but, in time, art, like
nature, is exhausted, and the senses can no longer supply the cravings
of the intellect.
The attention is then transferred from pleasure to interest, in which
pleasure is perhaps included, though diffused to a wider extent, and
protracted through new gradations. Nothing now dances before the eyes
but wealth and power, nor rings in the ear, but the voice of fame;
wealth, to which, however variously denominated, every man at some time
or other aspires; power, which all wish to obtain within their circle of
action; and fame, which no man, however high or mean, however wise or
ignorant, was yet able to despise. Now prudence and foresight exert
their influence: no hour is devoted wholly to any present enjoyment, no
act or purpose terminates in itself, but every motion is referred to
some distant end; the accomplishment of one design begins another, and
the ultimate wish is always pushed off to its former distance.
At length fame is observed to be uncertain, and power to be dangerous;
the man whose vigour and alacrity begin to forsake him, by degrees
contracts his designs, remits his former multiplicity of pursuits, and
extends no longer his regard to any other honour than the reputation of
wealth, or any other influence than his power. Avarice is generally the
last passion of those lives of which the first part has been squandered
in pleasure, and the second devoted to ambition. He that sinks under the
fatigue of getting wealth, lulls his age with the milder business of
I have in this view of life considered man as actuated only by natural
desires, and yielding to their own inclinations, without regard to
superior principles, by which the force of external agents may be
counteracted, and the temporary prevalence of passions restrained.
Nature will indeed always operate, human desires will be always ranging;
but these motions, though very powerful, are not resistless; nature may
be regulated, and desires governed; and, to contend with the
predominance of successive passions, to be endangered first by one
affection, and then by another, is the condition upon which we are to
pass our time, the time of our preparation for that state which shall
put an end to experiment, to disappointment, and to change.
No. 152. SATURDAY, AUGUST 31, 1751.
Vullum verba decent, iratum plena minarum. HOR. De Ar. Poet. 105.
Disastrous words can best disaster shew;
In angry phrase the angry passions glow. ELPHINSTON.
"It was the wisdom," says Seneca, "of ancient times, to consider what is
most useful as most illustrious." If this rule be applied to works of
genius, scarcely any species of composition deserves more to be
cultivated than the epistolary style, since none is of more various or
frequent use through the whole subordination of human life.
It has yet happened that, among the numerous writers which our nation
has produced, equal, perhaps, always in force and genius, and of late in
elegance and accuracy, to those of any other country, very few have
endeavoured to distinguish themselves by the publication of letters,
except such as were written in the discharge of publick trusts, and
during the transaction of great affairs; which, though they afford
precedents to the minister, and memorials to the historian, are of no
use as examples of the familiar style, or models of private
If it be inquired by foreigners, how this deficiency has happened in the
literature of a country, where all indulge themselves with so little
danger in speaking and writing, may we not without either bigotry or
arrogance inform them, that it must be imputed to our contempt of
trifles, and our due sense of the dignity of the publick? We do not
think it reasonable to fill the world with volumes from which nothing
can be learned, nor expect that the employments of the busy, or the
amusements of the gay, should give way to narratives of our private
affairs, complaints of absence, expressions of fondness, or declarations
A slight perusal of the innumerable letters by which the wits of France
have signalized their names, will prove that other nations need not be
discouraged from the like attempts by the consciousness of inability;
for surely it is not very difficult to aggravate trifling misfortunes,
to magnify familiar incidents, repeat adulatory professions, accumulate
servile hyperboles, and produce all that can be found in the despicable
remains of Voiture and Scarron.
Yet, as much of life must be passed in affairs considerable only by
their frequent occurrence, and much of the pleasure which our condition
allows, must be produced by giving elegance to trifles, it is necessary
to learn how to become little without becoming mean, to maintain the
necessary intercourse of civility, and fill up the vacuities of actions
by agreeable appearances. It had therefore been of advantage, if such of
our writers as have excelled in the art of decorating insignificance,
had supplied us with a few sallies of innocent gaiety, effusions of
honest tenderness, or exclamations of unimportant hurry.
Precept has generally been posterior to performance. The art of
composing works of genius has never been taught but by the example of
those who performed it by natural vigour of imagination, and rectitude
of judgment. As we have few letters, we have likewise few criticisms
upon the epistolary style. The observations with which Walsh has
introduced his pages of inanity, are such as give him little claim to
the rank assigned him by Dryden among the criticks. _Letters_, says he,
_are intended as resemblances of conversation, and the chief
excellencies of conversation are good humour and good breeding_. This
remark, equally valuable for its novelty and propriety, he dilates and
enforces with an appearance of complete acquiescence in his own
No man was ever in doubt about the moral qualities of a letter. It has
been always known that he who endeavours to please must appear pleased,
and he who would not provoke rudeness must not practise it. But the
question among those who establish rules for an epistolary performance
is how gaiety or civility may be properly expressed; as among the
criticks in history it is not contested whether truth ought to be
preserved, but by what mode of diction it is best adorned.
As letters are written on all subjects, in all states of mind, they
cannot be properly reduced to settled rules, or described by any single
characteristick; and we may safely disentangle our minds from critical
embarrassments, by determining that a letter has no peculiarity but its
form, and that nothing is to be refused admission, which would be proper
in any other method of treating the same subject. The qualities of the
epistolary style most frequently required, are ease and simplicity, an
even flow of unlaboured diction, and an artless arrangement of obvious
sentiments. But these directions are no sooner applied to use, than
their scantiness and imperfection become evident. Letters are written to
the great and to the mean, to the learned and the ignorant, at rest and
in distress, in sport and in passion. Nothing can be more improper than
ease and laxity of expression, when the importance of the subject
impresses solicitude, or the dignity of the person exacts reverence.
That letters should be written with strict conformity to nature is true,
because nothing but conformity to nature can make any composition
beautiful or just. But it is natural to depart from familiarity of
language upon occasions not familiar. Whatever elevates the sentiments
will consequently raise the expression; whatever fills us with hope or
terrour, will produce some perturbation of images and some figurative
distortions of phrase. Wherever we are studious to please, we are afraid
of trusting our first thoughts, and endeavour to recommend our opinion
by studied ornaments, accuracy of method, and elegance of style.