« PreviousContinue »
a piece which should please the whole world. When, therefore, he had drawn a picture, in which his utmost skill was exhausted, it was exposed in the public market-place, with directions at the bottom for every spectator to mark with a brush, that lay by, every limb and feature which seemed erroneous. The spectators came, and in general applauded; but each, willing to show his talent at criticism, stigmatized whatever he thought proper. At evening, when the painter came, he was morti. fied to find the picture one universal blot, not a single stroke that had not the marks of disapprobation. Not satisfied with this trial, the next day he was resolved to try them in a different manner; and exposing his picture as before, desired that every spectator would mark those beauties he approved or admired. The peopie complied, and the artist returning, found his picture covered with the marks of beauty ; every stroke that had been yes. terday condemned, now received the character of approbation Well,' cries the painter, 'I now find, that the best way to please all the world, is to attempt pleasing one half of it.'
ON MAD DOGS.
INDULGENT nature seems to have exempted
this island from many of those epidemic evils which are so fatal in other parts of the world. A want of rain for a few days beyond the expected season, in some parts of the globe, spreads famine, desolation, and terror, over the whole country; but, in this fortunate island of Britain, the inhabi
tant courts health in every breeze, and the hus. bandman ever sows in joyful expectation.
But, though the nation be exempt from real evils, it is not more happy on this account than others. The people are afflicted, it is true, with neither fa. mine nor pestilence; but then there is a disorder peculiar to the country, which every season makes strange ravages among them; it spreads with pestilential rapidity, and infects almost every rank of people; what is still more strange, the natives have no name for this peculiar malady, thongh well known to foreign physicians by the appellation of Epidemic Terror.
A season is never known to pass in wbich the people are not visited by this cruel calamity in one shape or another, seemingly different, though ever the same ; one year it issues from a baker's shop in the shape of a sixpenny loaf, the next it takes tbe appearance of a comet with a fiery tail, the third it threatens like a flat-bottomed boat, and the fourth it carries consternation in the bite of á mad dog. The people, when once infected, lose their relish for happiness, saunter about with looks of despondence, ask after the calamities of the day, and receive' no comfort but in heightening each other's distress. It is insignificant how remote or near, how weak or powerful, the object of terror may be, when once they resolve to fright and be frighted ; the merest trifles sow consternation and dismay; each proportions his fears, not to the object, but to the dread he discovers in the countenance of others; for, when once the fermentation is begun, it goes on of itself, though the original canse be discontinued which first set it in motion.
A dread of mad dogs is the epidemic terror which now prevails, and the whole nation is at
present actually groaning under the malignity of its infuence. The people sally from their houses with that circumspection which is prudent in such as expect a mad dog at every turning. The physician publishes his prescription, the beadle prepares his halter, and a few of unusual bravery arm themselves with boots and buff gloves, in order to face the enemy, if he should offer to attack them. In short, the whole people stand bravely upon their defence, and seem, by their present spirit, to show a resolution of being tamely bit by mad dogs no longer.
Their manner of knowing whether a dog be mad or no, somewhat resembles the ancient Gothic custom of trying witches. The old woman suspected was tied hand and foot, and thrown into the water. If she swam, then she was instantly carried off to be burnt for a witch ; if she sunk, then indeed she was acquitted of the charge, but drowned in the experiment. In the same manner a crowd gather round a dog suspected of madness, and they begin by teasing the devoted animal on every side. If he attempts to stand upon the defensive, and bite, then he is unanimously found guilty, for ' a mad dog always snaps at every thing.' If, on the contrary, be strives to escape by running away, thea he can expect no compassion, for ‘mad dogs always run straight forward before them.'
It is pleasant enough for a neutral being like me, who have no share in those ideal calamities, to mark the stages of this national disease. The ter. ror at first feebly enters with a disregarded story of a little dog that liad gone through a neighbouring village, which was thought to be mad by several who had seen liim. The next account comes, that a mastiff ran throngh a certain town, and had bit five geese, which immediately ran mad, foamed at the bill, and died in great agonies soon after. Then comes an affecting story of a little boy bit in the leg, and gone down to be dipped in the salt water. When the people have sufficiently shud. dered at that, they are next congealed with a fright. ful account of a man wbo was said lately to have died from a bite he had received some years before. I'his relation only prepares the way for another, still more hideous; as how the master of a family, with seven small children, were all bit by a mad lap-dog; and how the poor father first perceived the infection, by calling for a draught of water, where he saw the lap-dog swimming in the cup.
When epidemic terror is thus once excited, every morning comes loaded with some new disaster: as in stories of ghosts each loves to hear the account, though it only serves to make him uneasy ; so here each listens with eagerness, and adds to the tidings with new circumstances of peculiar horror. A lady, for instance, in the country, of very weak nerves, has been frighted by the barking of a dog; and this, alas! too frequently happens. The story soon is improved, and spreads, that a mad dog had frighted a lady of distinction. These circumstances begin to grow terrible before they have reached the neighbouring village, and there the report is, that a lady of quality was bit by a mad mastiff. This account every moment gathers new strength, and grows more dismal as it approaches the capital; and, by the time it has arrived in town, the lady is described, with wild eyes, foaming mouth, running mad upon all four, barking like a dog, biting her servants, and at last smothered between two beds by the advice of ber doctors; wbile the mad mastiff is, in the mean time, ranging the whole country over, slavering at the mouth, and seeking whom he
My landlady, a good-natured woman, but a little credulous, waked me some mornings ago before the usual hour, with horror and astonishment in her looks. She desired me, if I had any regard for my safety, to keep within; for a few days ago, so dismal an accident had happened, as to put all the world upon their guard. A mad dog down in the country, she assured me, had bit a farmer, who soon becoming mad, ran into his own yard and bit a fine brindled cow; the cow quickly became as mad as the man, began to foam at the mouth, and raising herself up, walked about on her hind legs, sometimes barking like a dog, and sometimes attempting to taļk like the farmer. Upon examining the grounds of this story, 1 found my landlady had it from one neighbour, who had it from another neighbour, who heard it from very guod authority,
Were most stories of this nature well examined, it would be found that numbers of such as have been said to suffer were no way injured : and that of those who have been actually bitten, not one in a hundred was bit by a mad dog. Such accounts, in general, therefore, only serve to make the people miserable by false terrors; and sometimes fright the patient into actual phrenzy, by creating those very symptoms they pretended to deplore.
But even allowing three or four to die in a season of this terrible death (and four is probably too large a concession), yet still it is not considered how many are preserved in their health and in their pro. perty by this devoted animal's services. The midnight robber is kept at a distance; the insidious thief is often detected; the healthful chase repairs many a worn constitution: and the poor man finds