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and after having given his patron time to take it down, adds, that another called him a mercenary rascal in a public conversation. The cardinal replies, very well, and bids him go on. The spy proceeds, and loads him with reports of the same nature, till the cardinal rises in great wrath, calls him an impudent scoundrel, and kicks him out of the room.
It is observed of great and heroic minds, that they have not only shewed a particular disregard to those unmerited reproaches which have been cast upon them, but have been altogether free from that impertinent curiosity of inquiring after them, or the poor revenge of resenting them. The histories of Alexander and Cæsar are full of this kind of instances. Vulgar souls are of a quite contrary character. Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, had a dungeon which was a very curious piece of architecture; and of which, as I am informed, there are still to be seen some remains in that island. It was called Dionysius's Ear, and built with several little windings and labyrinths in the form of a real ear. The structure of it made it a kind of whispering place, but such a one as gathered the voice of him who spoke into a funnel, which was placed at the very top of it. The tyrant used to lodge all his state criminals, or those whom he supposed to be engaged together in any evil designs upon him, in this dungeon. He had at the same time an apartment over it, where he used to apply himself to the funnel, and by that means over-hear every thing that was whispered in the dungeon. I believe one may venture to affirm, that a Cæsar or an Alexander would rather have died by the treason, than have used such disingenuous means for the detecting of it.
A man, who in ordinary life is very inquisitive after every thing which is spoken ill of him, passes his time but very indifferently. He is wounded by every arrow that is shot at him, and puts it in the power of every insignificant enemy to disquiet him.
Nay, he will suffer from what has been said of him, when it is forgotten by those who said or lieard it. For this reason I could never bear one of those officious friends, that would be telling every malicious report, every idle censure that passed upon me. The tongue of man is so petulant, and his thoughts so variable, that one should not lay too great a stress upon any present speeches or opinions. Praise and obloquy proceed very frequently out of the same mouth upon the same person, and upon the same occasion. A generous enemy will sometimes bestow commendations, as the dearest friend cannot sometimes refrain from speaking ill. The man who is indifferent in either of these respects, gives his opinion at random, and praises or disapproves as he finds himself in humour.
I shall conclude this essay with part of a character, which is finely drawn by the Earl of Clarendon, in the first book of his history, and which gives us the lively picture of a great man teazing himself with an absurd curiosity.
“ He had not that application, and submission, and reverence for the queen, as might have been expected from his wisdom and breeding; and often crossed her pretences and desires with more rudeness than was natural to him. Yet he was impertinently solicitous to know what her majesty said of him in private, and what resentments she had towards him. And when by some confidents, who had their ends upon him from those offices, he was informed of some bitter expressions fallen from her majesty, he was so exceedingly afflicted and tormented with the sense of it, that sometimes by passionate complaints and representations to the king; sometimes by more dutiful addresses and expostulations with the queen, in bewailing his misfortune; he frequently exposed himself, and left his condition worse than it was before, and the eclaircissement commonly ended in the discovery of the persons from whom he had received his most secret intelligence."
No. 440. FRIDAY, JULY 25.
Vivere si rectè nescis, disce de peritis.
Hor. 11. Ep. ii. 218.
I have already given my reader an account of a set of merry fellows, who are passing their summer together in the country, being provided of a great house, where there is not only a convenient apartment for every particular person, but a large infirmary for the reception of such of them as are any way indisposed, or out of humour. Having lately received a letter from the secretary of this society, by order of the whole fraternity, which acquaints me with their behaviour during the last week, I shall here make a present of it to the public.
"Mr. SPECTATOR, “ We are glad to find that you approve the establishment which we have here made for the retrieving of good manners and agreeable conversation, and shall use our best endeavours so to improve ourselves in this our summer retirement, that we may next winter serve as patterns to the town. But to the end that this our institution may be no less advantageous to the public than to ourselves, we shall communicate to you one week of our proceedings, desiring you at the same time, if you see any thing faulty in them, to favour us with your admonitions. For you must know, sir, that it has been proposed among us to chuse you for our visitor, to which I must further add, that one of the college having declared last week, he did not like the Spectator of the day, and not being able to assign any just reasons for such his dislike, he was sent to the infirmary, Nemine contradicente.
" On Monday the assembly was in very good humour, having received some recruits of French claret that morning; when unluckily, towards the middle of the dinner, one of the company swore at his servant in a very rough manner, for having put too much water in his wine. Upon which the president of the day, who is always the mouth of the company, after having convinced him of the impertinence of his passion, and the insult it had made upon the company, ordered his man to take him from the table, and convey him to the infirmary. There was but one more sent away that day; this was a gentleman who is reckoned by some persons one of the greatest wits, and by others one of the greatest boobies about town. This you will say is a strange character, but what makes it stranger yet, it is a very true one, for he is perpetually the reverse of himself, being always merry or dull to
We brought him hither to divert us, which he did very well upon the road, having lavished away as much wit and laughter upon the hackney coachman, as might have served him during his whole stay here, had it been duly managed. He had been lumpish for two or three days, but was so far connived at, in hopes of recovery, that we dispatched one of the briskest fellows among the brotherhood into the infirmary, for having told him at table he was not merry. But our president observing that he indulged himself in this long fit of stupidity, and construing it as a contempt of the college, ordered him to retire into the place prepared for such companions. He was no sooner got into it, but his wit and mirth returned upon him in so violent a manner, that he shook the whole infirmary with the noise of it, and had so good an effect upon the rest of the patients, that he brought them all out to dinner with him the next day.
“On Tuesday we were no sooner sat down, but one of the company complained that his head ached; upon which another asked him, in an insolent manner, what he did there then; this
insensibly grew into some warm words; so that the president, in order to keep the peace, gave directions to take them both from the table, and lodge them in the infirmary. Not long after, another of the company tellirig us, he knew by a pain in his shoulder that we should have some rain, the president ordered him to be removed, and placed as a weather-glass in the apartment above. mentioned.
“ On Wednesday a gentleman having received a letter written in a woman's hand, and changing colour twice or thrice as he read it, desired leave to retire into the infirmary. The president consented, but denied him the use of pen, ink, and paper, till such time as he had slept upon it. One of the company being seated at the lower end of the table, and discovering his secret discontent by finding fault with every dish that was served up, and refusing to laugh at any thing that was said, the president told him, that he found he was in an uneasy seat, and desired him to accommodate himself better in the infirmary. After dinner a very honest fellow chancing to let a pun fall from him, his neighbour cried out,' to the infirmary;' at the same time pretending to be sick at it, as having the same natural antipathy to a pun, which some have to a cat. This produced a long debate. Upon the whole the punster was acquitted, and his neighbour sent off.
On Thursday there was but one delinquent. This was a gentleman of strong voice, but weak understanding. He had unluckily engaged himself in a dispute with a man of excellent sense, but of a modest elocution. The man of heat replied to every answer of his antagonist with a louder note than ordinary, and only raised his voice when he should have enforced his argument. Finding himself at length driven to an absurdity, he still reasoned in a more clamorous and confused manner, and to make the greater impression upon his hearers, concluded with a loud