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No. 262. MONDAY, DECEMBER 31.
Nulla venenato littera mista joco est.
OVID. Trist. ii. 566.
Satirical reflections I avoid.
I THINK myself highly obliged to the public for their kind acceptance of a paper which visits them every morning, and has in it none of those seasonings that recommend so many of the writings which are in vogue among us.
As, on the one side, my paper has not in it a single word of news, a reflection in politics, nor a stroke of party; so, on the other, there are no fashionable touches of infidelity, no obscene ideas, no satires upon priesthood, marriage, and the like popular topics of ridicule ; no private scandal, nor any thing that may tend to the defamation of particular persons, families, or societies.
There is not one of these above-mentioned subjects that would not sell a very indifferent paper, could I think of gratifying the public by such mean and base methods; but, notwithstanding I have rejected every thing that savours of party, every thing that is loose and immoral, and every thing that might create uneasiness in the minds of particular persons, I find that the demand of my papers has increased every month since their first
appearance in the world. This does not, perhaps, reflect so much honour upon myself, as on my readers, who give a much greater attention to discourses of virtue and morality, than ever I expected, or indeed could hope.
When I broke loose from that great body of writers who have cmployed their wit and parts in propagating" of vice and irreligion, I did not question but I should be treated as an odd kind of fellow that had a mind to appear singular in my way of writing: but the general reception I have found, convinces me that the world is not so corrupt as we are apt to imagine; and that if those men of parts who have been employed in vitiating the age, had endeavoured to rectify and amend it, they needed not have sacrificed their good sense and virtue to their fame and reputation. No man is so sunk in vice and ignorance, but there are still some hidden seeds of goodness and knowledge in him; which give him a relish of such reflections and speculations as have an aptness to improve the mind, and to make the heart better.
* When a participle is used instead of a substantive, the particle the should precede it. 'We may either say-in propagating vice, or, in the propagating of vice; but not, in propagating of vice.—H.
I have shewn in a former paper, with how much care I have avoided all such thoughts as are loose, obscene, or immoral; and I believe my reader would still think the better of me, if he knew the pains I am at in qualifying what I write after such a manner, that nothing may be interpreted as aimed at private persons. For this reason, when I draw any faulty character, I consider all those persons to whom the malice of the world may possibly apply it, and take care to dash it with such particular circumstances as may prevent all such ill-natured applications. If I write any thing on a black man, I run over in my mind all the eminent persons in the nation who are of that complexion : when I place an imaginary name at the head of a character, I examine every syllable and letter of it, that it may not bear any resemblance to one that is real. I know very well the value which every man sets upon his reputation, and how painful it is to be exposed to the mirth and derision of the public, and should therefore scorn to divert my reader at the expence
any private man.
As I have been thus tender of every particular person's reputation, so I have taken more than ordinary care not to give of: fence to those who appear in the higher figures of life. I would
not make myself merry even with a piece of pasteboard that is invested with a public character; for which reason I have never glanced upon the late designed procession of his Holiness and his attendants, notwithstanding it might have afforded matter to many ludicrous speculations. Among those advantages which the public may reap from this paper, it is not the least, that it draws men's mindsoff from the bitterness of party, and furnishes them with subjects of discourse that may be treated without warmth or passion. This is said to have been the first design of those gentlemen who set on foot the Royal Society; and had then a very good effect, as it turned many of the greatest geniuses of that age to the disquisitions of natural knowledge, who, if they had engaged in politics, with the same parts and application, might have set their country in a flame. The air-pump, the barometer, the quadrant, and the like inventions, were thrown out to these busy spirits, as tubs and barrels are to a whale, that he may let the ship sail on without disturbance, while he diverts himself with those innocent amusements.' b
I have been so very scrupulous in this particular, of not hurting any man's reputation, that I have forborn mentioning even such authors as I could not name with honour. This I must confess to have been a piece of very great self-denial: for as the public relishes nothing better than the ridicule which turns upon a writer of any eminence, so there is nothing which a man that has but a very ordinary talent in ridicule may execute with greater ease. One might raise laughter for a quarter of a year together upon the works of a person who has published but a very few volumes. For which reason I am astonished, that those who have appeared against this paper have made so very little of it. The criticisms which I have hitherto published, have been made with an intention rather to discover beauties and excellencies in the writers of my own time, than to publish any of their faults and imperfections. In the mean while, I should take it for a very great favour from some of my underhand detractors, if they would break all measures with me so far, as to give me a pretence for examining their performances with an impartial eye; nor shall I look upon it as a breach of charity to criticise the author, so long as I keep clear of the person.
1“This is Queen Elizabeth's birth-day, usually kept in this town by apprentices, &c.; but the Whigs designed a mighty procession by midnight, and had laid out a thousand pounds to dress up the pope, devil, cardinals, Sachverel, &c., and carry them with torches about and burn them. They did it by contribution. Garth gave five guineas.—But they were seized last night by order of the Secretary.—They had some very foolish and mischievous designs, &c., &c." V. Swift's Journal to Stella ; Lett. 35.-G.
* Johnson's Lives of English Poets, vol. ii. p. 364: 8vo. 1781.-C.
* Men's minds. Men’s for the genitive plural of man, is not allowable. We say, a man's mind, but we can only say, the minds of men, as Jr. Addison should have done here.-II.
b This looks as if the author had a political aim, even in this moral raper. But it is to be remembered, that the party in power could only profit by this expedient: and not the party in opposition, whose cause he favoured; which sets the purity of his intentions, and the merit of his work, in the clearest light.-H.
In the mean while, till I am provoked to such hostilities, I shall from time to time endeavour to do justice to those who have distinguished themselves in the politer parts of learning, and to point out such beauties in their works as may have escaped the observation of others.
As the first place among our English poets is due to Milton, and as I have drawn more quotations out of him than from any other, I shall enter into a regular criticism upon his Paradise Lost, which I shall publish every Saturday, 'till I have given my thoughts upon that poem. I shall not, however, presume to impose upon others my own particular judgment on this author, but only deliver it as my private opinion. Criticism is of a large extent, and every particular master in this art has his favourite pas. sages in an author, which do not equally strike the best judges.
It will be sufficient for me if I discover many beauties or imperfections which others have not attended to, and I should be
very glad to see any of our eminent writers publish their discoveries on the same subject. In short, I would always be understood to write my papers of criticism in the spirit which Horace has expressed in those two famous lines;
-Si quid novisti rectius istis,
1 Ep. vi. ult.
'If you have made any better remarks of your own, communicate them with candour; if not, make use of these I present you with.'? C.
No. 265. THURSDAY, JANUARY 3.
Diserit e multis aliquis, Quid virus in angues
OVID. DE ART. AM, ili. 7.
One of the fathers, if I am rightly informed, has defined a woman to be wov Pokóo pov, 'An animal that delights in finery. I have already treated of the sex in two or three papers, conformably to this definition, and have in particular observed, that in all ages they have been more careful than the men to adorn that part of the head, which we generally call the qutside.
This observation is so very notorious, that when in ordinary
* The note at the end of No. 261 applies to this also.-G.