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No. 355. THURSDAY, APRIL 17.
Non ego mordaci distrinxi carmine quenquam,
Ovid. Trist. ii. 563.
I have been very often tempted to write invectives upon those who have detracted from my works, or spoken in derogation of my person; but I look upon it as a particular happiness, that I have always hindered my resentments from proceeding to this extremity. I once had gone through half a satire, but found so many motions of humanity rising in me towards the persons whom I had severely treated, that I threw it into the fire without ever finishing it. I have been angry enough to make several little epigrams and lampoons; and after having admired them a day or two, have likewise committed them to the flames. These I look upon as so many sacrifices to humanity, and have received much greater satisfaction from the suppressing. such performances, than I could have done from any reputation they might have procured me, or from any mortification they might have given my enemies, in case I had made them public. If a man has any talent in writing, it shews a good mind to forbear answering calumnies and reproaches in the same spirit of bitterness with which they are offered : but when a man has been at some pains in making suitable returns to an enemy, and has the instruments of revenge in his hands, to let drop his wrath, and stifle his resentments, seems to have something in it great and heroical. There is a particular merit in such a way of forgiving an enemy; and the more violent and unprovoked the offence has heen, the greater still is the merit of him who thus forgives it.
a From the suppressing. Dele the, or add of after suppressing.–
I never met with a consideration that is more finely spun, and what has better pleased me, than one in Epictetus,' which places an enemy in a new light, and gives us a view of him altogether different from that in which we are used to regard him. The sense of it is as follows : ' Does a man reproach thee for being proud or ill-natured, envious or conceited, ignorant or detracting? consider with thyself whether his reproaches are true; if they are not, consider that thou art not the person whom he reproaches, but that he reviles an imaginary being, and perhaps loves what thou really art, though he hates what thou appearest to be. If his reproaches are true, if thou art the envious ill. natured man he takes thee for, give thyself another turn, become mild, affable and obliging, and his reproaches of thee naturally ceasc: his reproaches may indeed continue, but thod art no longer the person whom he reproaches.'
I often apply this rule to myself; and when I hear of a satirical speech or writing that is aimed at me, I examine my own heart, whether I deserve it or not. If I bring in a verdict against myself, I endeavour to rectify my conduct for the future in those particulars which have drawn the censure upon me; but if the whole invective be grounded upon a falsehood, I trouble myself no further about it, and look upon my name at the head of it to signify no more than one of those fictitious names made use of by an author to introduce an imaginary character. Why should a man be sensible of the sting of a reproach, who is a stranger to the guilt that is implied in it ? or subject himself to the penalty, when he knows he has never committed the crime ? This is a piece of fortitude, which every one owes to his own innocence, and without which it is impossible for a man of any merit or figure to live at peace with himself in a country that abounds with wit and liberty.
• Epict. Ench. cap. 48 and 64, ed. Birk, 1670, 8 vo.-C.
The famous Monsieur Balzac, in a letter to the chancellor of France, who had prevented the publication of a book against him, has the following words, which are a lively picture of the greatness of mind so visible in the works of that author. 'If it was a new thing, it may be I should not be displeased with the -suppression of the first libel that should abuse me; but since there are enough of them to make a small library, I am secretly pleased to see the number increased, and take delight in raising a heap of stones that envy has cast at me without doing me any harm.'
The author here alludes to those monuments of the eastern nations, which were mountains of stones raised upon the dead body by travellers, that used to cast every one his stone upon it as they passed by.' It is certain that no monument is so glorious as one which is thus raised by the hands of envy. For my part, I admire an author for such a temper of mind as enables him to bear an undeserved reproach without resentment, more than for all the wit of any the finest satirical reply.
Thus far I thought necessary to explain myself in relation to those who have animadverted on this paper, and to shew the reasons why I have not thought fit to return them any formal
I must further add, that the work would have been of very little use to the public, had it been filled with personal reflections and debates ; for which reason I have never once turned out of my way to observe those little cavils which have been made against it by envy or ignorance. The common fry of scribblers, who have no other way of being taken notice of but by attacking what has gained some reputation in the world, would have furnished me with business enough, had they found me disposed to enter the lists with them.
* There are abundant monuments of the same kind in North Britain, where they are called cairns.-C.
I shall conclude with the fable of Boccalini's traveller, who was so pestered with the noise of grasshoppers in his ears, that he alighted from his horse in great wrath to kill them all. This, says the author, was troubling himself to no manner of purpose : had he pursued his journey without taking notice of them, the troublesome insects would have died of themselves in a very few weeks, and he would have suffered nothing from them. L.
No. 361. THURSDAY, APRIL 24.
Tartaream intendit vocem, qua protinus omnis
VIRG. Æn, vii. 514.
I have lately received the following letter from a country gentleman.
“ MR. SPECTATOR, “ The night before I left London I went to see a play, called, The Humorous Lieutenant.' Upon the rising of the curtain I was very much surprised with the great concert of cat-calls which was exhibited that evening, and began to think with myself that I had made a mistake, and gone to a music-meeting, instead of the play-house. It appeared, indeed, a little odd to me, to sce so many persons of quality of both sexes assembled together at a kind of caterwauling; for I cannot look upon that performance to have been any thing better, whatever the musicians themselves might think of it. As I had no acquaintance in the house to ask questions of, and was forced to go out of town early the
*A tragi-comedy by Beaumont and Fletcher.-G.
next morning, I could not learn the secret of this matter. What I would therefore desire of you, is, to give some account of this strange instrument, which I found the company called a cat-call; and particularly to let me know whether it be a piece of music lately come from Italy. For my own part, to be free with you, I would rather hear an English fiddle; though I durst not shew my dislike whilst I was in the play-house, it being my chance to sit the very next man to one of the performers.
“ I am, sir,
“ Your most affectionate friend and servant,
“ John Shallow, Esq.”
In compliance with 'Squire Shallow's request, I design this paper as a dissertation upon the cat-call. In order to make myself a master of the subject, I purchased one the beginning of last week, though not without great difficulty, being informed at two or three toy-shops that the players had lately bought them all up. I have since consulted many learned antiquaries in relation to its original, and find them very much divided among themselves upou that particular. A Fellow of the Royal Society, who is my good friend, and a great proficient in the mathe. matical part of music, concludes from the simplicity of its make, and the uniformity of its sound, that the cat-call is older than any of the inventions of Jubal. He observes very well, that musical instruments took their first rise from the notes of birds, and other melodious animals; and what, says he, was more natural than for the first ages of mankind to imitate the voice of a cat that lived under the same roof with them ? he added, that the cat had contributed more to harmony than any other animal; as we are not only beholden to her for this wind-instrument, but for our string music in general.
Another virtuoso of my acquaintanoe will not allow the cat