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posed to an honest sale, or the worth or impersection of the purchase is thoroughly considered? ‘We mightily want a demand for women in these parts. I am, sagacious sir, your most obeient and most humble servant, T. L.”
No. 58.] Monday, May 18, 1713.
Nec sibi, sed toti genitum se credere mundo. Lucan.
Not for himself, but for the world, he lives.
A PUBLIC spirit is so great and amiable a character, that most people pretend to it, and perhaps think they have it in the most ordinary occurrences of life. Mrs. Cornelia Lizard buys abundance of romances for the encouragement of learning ; and Mrs. Annabella squanders away her money in buying fine clothes, because it sets a great many poor people at work. I know a gentleman, who drinks vast quantities of ale and October to encourage our own manufactures; and another who takes his three bottles of French claret every night, because it brings a great custom to the crown.
I have been led into this chat, by reading some letters upon my paper of Thursday was se’nnight. Having there acquainted the world, that I have, by long contemplation and philosophy, attained to so great a strength of fancy, as to believe every thing to be my own, which other people possess only for ostentation; it seems that some persons have taken it in their heads, that they are public benefactors to the world, while they are only indulging their own ambition, or infirmities. My first letter is from an ingenious author, who is a great friend to his country, because he can get neither victuals nor clothes any other way.
“To Nestor Ironside, Esquire.
‘SIR,--Of all the precautions with which you have instructed the world, I like that best, which is upon natural and fantastical pleasure, because it falls in very much with my own way of thinking. As you receive real delight from what creates only imaginary satisfactions in others; so do I raise to myself all the conveniences of life by amusing the fancy of the world. I am, in a word, a member of that numerous tribe, who write for their daily bread, I flourish in a dearth of foreign news; and though I do not pretend to the spleen, I am never so well as in the time of a westerly wind. When it blows from that auspicious point, I raise to myself contributions from the British isle, by affrighting my superstitious countrymen with printed relations of murders, spirits, prodigies, or monsters. According as my necessities suggest to me, I hereby provide for my being. The last summer I paid a large debt for brandy and to. bacco, by a wonderful description of a fiery dragon, and lived for ten days together upon a whale and a mermaid. When winter draws near, I generally conjure up my spirits, and have my apparitions ready against long dark evenings. From November last to January, I
lived solely upon murders; and have, since that
time, had a comfortable subsistence from a plague and a famine. I made the pope pay for my beef and mutton last Lent, out of pure spite to the Romish religion; and at present my good friend the king of Sweden finds me in clean linen, and the mufti gets me credit at the tavern.
“The astonishing accounts that I record, I usually enliven with wooden cuts, and the like paltry embellishments. They administer to the curiosity of my fellow-subjects, and not only advance religion and virtue, but take restless spirits off from meddling with the public affairs. I therefore cannot think myself a useless burden upon earth; and that I may still do the more good in my generation, I shall give the world, in a short time, a history of my life, studies, maxims, and achievements, provided my bookseller advances a round sum for my copy. I am, sir, yours.”
The second is from an old friend of mine in the country, who fancies that he is perpetually doing good, because he cannot live without drinking.
“Old Inox,-We take thy papers in at the bowling-green, where the country gentlemen meet every Tuesday, and we look upon thee as a comical dog. Sir iñory was hugely pleased at thy fancy of growing rich at other folks' cost; and for my own part I like my own way of life the better since I find I do my neighbours as much good as myself. I now smoke my pipe with the greater pleasure, because my wife says she likes it well enough at second hand 2 and drink stale beer the more hardly, because, unless I will, nobody else does. I design to stand for our borough the next election, on purpose to
make the squire on t'other side, tap lustily for
the good of our town ; and have some thoughts of trying to get knighted, because our neighbours take a pride in saying, they have been with sir Such-a-one.
‘I have a pack of pure slow hounds against thou comest into the country, and Nanny, my fat doe, shall bleed when we have thee at Hawthorn-hall. Pr'ythee do not keep staring at gilt coaches, and stealing necklaces and trinkets from people with thy looks. Take my word for it, a gallon of my October will do thee more good than all thou canst get by fine sights at London, which I'll engage, thou may'st put in the shine of thine eye.—I am, old Iron, thine to command,
* NIC, IIAWTHORN."
The third is from a lady who is going to ruin her family by coaches and liveries, purely out of compassion to us poor people that cannot go to the price of them.
‘SIR,--I am a lady of birth and fortune, but never knew, till last Thursday, that the splendour of my equipage was so beneficial to my country. I will not deny that I have drest for some years out of the pride of my heart; but am very glad that you have so far settled my conscience in that particular, that I can now look upon my vanities as so many virtues. Since I am satisfied that my person and garb give pleasure to my fellow-creatures, I shall not think the three hours business I usually attend at my toi. lette, below the dignity of a rational soul. I am content to suffer great torment from my stays, that my shape may appear graceful to the eyes of others; and often mortify myself with fasting, rather than my fatness should give distaste to any man in England. ‘I am making up a rich brocade for the bene. fit of mankind, and design, in a little time, to treat the town with a thousand pounds worth of jewels. I have ordered my chariot to be new painted for your use, and the world's; and have prevailed upon my husband to present you with a pair of fine Flanders mares, by driving them every evening round the ring. Gay pendants for my ears, a costly cross for my neck, a dia. mond of the best water for my finger, shall be purchased at any rate to enrich you; and I am resolved to be a patriot in every limb. My husband will not scruple to oblige me in these trifles, since I have persuaded him from your scheme, that pin money is only so much set apart for charitable uses. You see, sir, how expensive you are to me, and I hope you will esteem me accordingly ; especially when I assure you that I am, as far as you can see me, entirely yours, CLEOR.A.”
the same time compliment me upon my know
ledge of the ancient poets. Perhaps you may not allow me to be a good judge of them, when I tell you, that the tragedy of Cato exceeds, in my opinion, any of the dramatic pieces of the ancients. But these are books I have some time since laid by ; being, as you know, engaged in the reading of divinity, and conversant chiefly in the poetry “ of the truly inspired writers.” I scarce thought any modern tragedy could have mixed suitably with such serious studies, and little imagined to have found such exquisite poetry, much less such exalted sentiments of virtue, in the dramatic performance of a contemporary.
‘How elegant, just, and virtuous is that reflection of Portius !
“The ways of heaven are dark and intricate,
‘Cato's soliloquy at the beginning of the fifth act is inimitable, as indeed is almost every thing in the whole play: but what I would observe, by particularly pointing at these places is, that such virtuous and moral sentiments were never before put into the mouth of a British actor; and I congratulate my countrymen on the virtue they have shown in giving them (as you tell me) such loud and repeated applauses. They have now cleared themselves of the imputation which a late writer had thrown upon them in his 502d speculation. Give me leave to transcribe his words:—
“In the first scene of Terence's play, the Self-Tormentor, when one of the old men accuses the other of impertinence for interposing in his affairs, he answers, “I am a man, and cannot help feeling any sorrow that can arrive at man.” It is said this sentence was received with universal applause. There cannot be a greater argument of the general good understanding of a people, than a sudden consent to give their approbation of a sentinent which has no emotion in it.
“If it were spoken with never so great skill in the actor, the manner of uttering that sentence could have nothing in it which could strike any but people of the greatest humanity, may people elegant and skilful in observations upon it. It is possible he might have laid his hand on his breast, and with a winning insinuation in his countenance, expressed to his neighbour, that he was a man who made his case his own; yet I will engage a player in Covent-garden might hit such an attitude a thousand times before he would have been regarded.” “These observations in favour of the Roman people, may now be very justly applied to our own nation.
“Here will I hold. If there's a power above us
“This will be allowed, I hope, to be as virtuous a sentiment as that which he quotes out of Terence; and the general applause with which (you say) it was received, must certainly make this writer (notwithstanding his great assurance in pronouncing upon our ill taste) alter his opinion of his countrymen.
‘Our poetry, I believe, and not our morals, has been generally worse than that of the Romans; for it is plain, when we can equal the best dramatic performance of that polite age, a British audience may vie with the Roman theatre in the virtue of their applauses.
‘However different in other things our opinions may be, all parties agree in doing honour to a man, who is an honour to our country. How are our hearts warmed by this excellent tragedy, with the love of liberty, and our constitution. How irresistible is virtue in the character of Cato' Who would not say with the Numidian prince to Marciu,
* I'll gaze for ever on thy godlike father,
Transplanting, one by one, into my life
His bright perfections, till I shine like him.” Rome herself received not so great advantages from her patriot, as Britain will from this ad. mirable representation of him. Our British Cato improves our language, as well as our morals, nor will it be in the power of tyrants to rob us of him, (or to use the last line of an epigram to the author)
“In vain your Cato stabs, he cannot die.”
“I am, sir, your most obliged humble servant, “WILLIAM LIZARD. “Oxon. All-souls Col. May 6.’
Oxon. Christ Church, May 7.
“Mr. Ironside,-You are, I perceive, a very wary old fellow, more cautious than a late brother-writer of yours, who at the rehearsal of a new play, would at the hazard of his judgment, endeavour to prepossess the town in its favour : whereas you very prudently waited till the tragedy of Cato had gained a universal and irresist. ible applause, and then with great boldness venture to pronounce your opinion of it to be the same with that of all mankind. I will leave you to consider whether such a conduct becomes a Guardian, who ought to point out to us proper entertainments, and instruct us when to bestow our applause. However, in so plain a case we did not wait for your directions; and I must tell you, that none here were earlier or louder in their praises of Cato, than we at Christ-church. This may, I hope, convince you, that, we don't deserve the character (which envious dull sel. lows give us) of allowing nobody to have wit or parts but those of our own body, especially when I let you know that we are many of us, your affectionate humble servants.'
“To Nestor Ironside, Esquire.
“MR. IRoxside,-Were the seat of the muses silent while London is so loud in their applause of Cato, the university's title to that name might very well be suspected;—in justice therefore to your alma mater, let the world know our opinion of that tragedy here.
“The author's other works had raised our expectation of it to a very great height, yet it exceeds whatever we could promise ourselves from so great a genius.
‘Caesar will no longer be a hero in our declamations. This tragedy has at once stripped him of all the flattery and false colours, which historians and the classic authors had thrown upon him, and we shall for the future treat him as a murderer of the best patriot of his age, and a destroyer of the liberties of his country. Cato, as represented in these scenes, will cast a blacker shade on the memory of that usurper, than the picture of him did upon his triumph. Had this finished dramatic piece appeared some hundred years ago, Caesar would have lost so many centuries of fame, and monarchs had dis. dained to let themselves be called by his name. However, it will be an honour to the times we live in, to have had such a work produced in them, and a pretty speculation for posterity to
observe, that the tragedy of Cato was acted with general applause in 1713. I am, sir, your most humble servant, &c. A. B.
“P. S. The French translation of Cato now in the press, will, I hope, be in usum Delphini.’ ~
No. 60.] Wednesday, May 20, 1713. Nihil legebat quod non excerperet. Plin. Epist. He pick’d something out of everything he read.
“To Nestor Ironside, Esquire.
‘SIR,-There is nothing in which men deceive themselves more ridiculously than in the point of reading, and which, as it is commonly practised under the notion of improvement, has less advantage. The generality of readers who are pleased with wandering over a number of books, almost at the same instant, or if confined to one, who pursue the author with much hurry and impatience to his last page, must, without doubt, be allowed to be notable digesters. This unsettled way of reading naturally seduces us into as undetermined a manner of thinking, which unprofitably fatigues the imagination, when a continued chain of thought would probably produce inestimable conclusions. All authors are eligible either for their matter, or style; if for the first, the elucidation and disposition of it into proper lights ought to employ a judicious reader : if for the last, he ought to observe how some common, words are started into a new signification, how such epithets are beautifully reconciled to things that seemed incompatible, and must often remember the whole structure of a period, because, by the least transposition, that assemblage of words which is called a style becomes utterly annihilated. The swift des. patch of common readers not only eludes their memory, but betrays their apprehension, when the turn of thought and expression would insensibly grow natural to them, would they but give themselves time to receive the impression. Suppose we fix one of these readers in his easy chair, and observe him passing through a book with a grave ruminating face, how ridiculously must he look, if we desire him to give an account of an author he has just read over ! and how unheeded must the general character of it be, when given by one of these serene unobservers : The common defence of these people is, that they have no design in reading but for pleasure, which I think should rather arise from the reflection and remembrance of what one has read, than from the transient satisfaction of what one does, and we should be pleased proportionably as we are profited. It is prodigious arrogance in any one to imagine, that by one hasty course through a book he can fully enter into the soul and secrets of a writer, whose life perhaps has been busied in the birth of such production. Books that do not immediately concern some profession or science, are generally run over as mere empty entertainments, rather than as matter of improvement s though, in my opinion, a refined speculation upon morality, or history, requires as innch
time and capacity to collect and digest, as the most abstruse treatise of any profession; and I think, besides, there can be no book well written, but what must necessarily improve the understanding of the reader, even in the very profession to which he applies himself. For to reason with strength, and express himself with propriety, must equally concern the divine, the physician, and the lawyer. My own course of looking into books has occasioned these reflections, and the following account may suggest in ore. - - * Having been bred up under a relation that had a pretty large study of books, it became my province once a-week to dust them. In the performance of this my duty, as I was obliged to take down every particular book, I thought there was no way to deceive the toil of my journey through the different abodes and habit. utions of these authors but by reading something in every one of them; and in this manner to make my passage easy from the comely folio in the upper shelf or region, even through the crowd of duodecinos in the lower. By frequent exercise I became so great a proficient in this transitory application to books, that I could hold open half a dozen small authors in a hand, grasping them with as secure a dexterity as a drawer doth his glasses, and feasting my curious eye with all of them at the same instant. Through these methods the natural irresolution of my youth was much strengthened, and having no leisure, if I had had inclination, to make pertinent observations in writing, I was thus confirmed a very early wanderer. When I was sent to Oxford, my chiefest expense run upon books, and my only consideration in such expense upon numbers, so that you may be sure I had what they call a choice collection, sometimes buying by the pound, sometimes by the dozen, at other times by the hundred. For the more pleasant use of a multitude of books, I had by frequent conferences with an ingenious joiner, contrived a machine of an orbicular structure, that had its particular receptions for a dozen authors, and which, with the least touch of the finger, would whirl round, and present the reader at once with a delicious view of its full furniture. Thrice a day did I change, not only the books, but the languages; and had used my eye to such a quick succession of objects, that in the most precipitate twirl I could catch a sentence out of each author, as it passed fleeting by me. Thus my hours, days, and years, flew unprofitably away, but yet were agreeably lengthened by being distinguished with this endearing variety; and I cannot but think myself very for. tunate in my contrivance of this engine, with its several new editions and amendments, which have contributed so initch to the delight of all studious vagabonds. When I had been resident the usual time at Oxford that gains one admission into the public library, I was the happiest creature on earth, promising to myself most delightful travels through this new world of literature. mounted upon a ladder, in search of some Arabian manuscripts, which had slept in a certain corner undisturbed for many years. Once I
Sometimes you might see me
had the misfortune to fall from this eminence,and catching at the chains of the books, was seen hanging in a very merry posture, with two or three large folios rattling about my neck, till the humanity of Mr. Crabo the librarian disentangled us. ‘As I always held it necessary to read in public places, by way of ostentation, but could not possibly travel with a library in my pockets, I took the following method to gratify this errant. ry of mine. I contrived a little pocket-book, each leaf of which was a different author, so that my wandering was indulged and concealed within the same inclosure. ‘This extravagant humour, which should seem to pronounce me irrecoverable, had the contrary effect; and my hand and eye being thus confined to a single book, in a little time reconciled me to the perusal of a single author. However, I chose such a one as had as little connexion as possible, turning to the Proverbs of Solomon, where the best instructions are thrown together in the most beautiful range imaginable, and where I found all that variety which I had before sought in so many different authors, and which was so necessary to beguile my attention. By these proper degrees, I have made so glorious a reformation in my studies, that I can keep company with Tully in his most extended periods, and work through the con. tinued narrations of the most prolix historian. I now read nothing without making exact collections, and shall shortly give the world an instance of this in the publication of the following discourses. The first is a learned controversy about the existence of griffins, in which I hope to convince the world, that notwithstand. ing such a mixt creature has been allowed by AElian, Solinus, Mela, and Herodotus, that they have been perfectly mistaken in that matter, and shall support myself by the authority of Albertus, Pliny, Aldrovandus, and Matthias Mi. chovius, which two last have clearly argued that animal out of the creation. “The second is a treatise of sternutation or sneezing, with the original custom of saluting or blessing upon that motion; as also with a problem from Aristotle, showing why sneezing from noon to night was innocent enough, from night to noon, extremely unfortunate. “The third and most curious is my discourse upon the nature of the lake Asphaltites, or the lake of Sodom, being a very careful inquiry whether brickbats and iron will swim in that lake, and feathers sink; as Pliny and Mandeville have averred. ‘'The discussing these difficulties without perplexity or prejudice, the labour in collecting and collating matters of this nature, will, I hope, in a great measure atone for the idle hours I have trifled away in matters of less importance, I am, sir, your humble servant.'
Th' essay of bloody feasts on brutes began, And after forg'd the sword to inunder nuan. Dryden.
I can Northink it extravagant to imagine, that mankind are no less in proportion accountable for the ill use of their dominion over creatures of the lower rank of beings, than for the excrcise of tyranny over their own species. The more entirely the inferior creation is submitted to our power, the more answerable we should seem for our mismanagement of it; and the rather, as the very condition of nature renders these creatures incapable of receiving any recompense in another sile for their ill treatment in this. It is observable of those noxious animals, which have qualities most powerful to injure us, that they naturally avoid mankind, and never hurt us unless provoked or necessitated by hunger. Man, on the other hand, seeks out and pursues even the most inoffensive animals, on purpose to persecute and destroy them. Montaigne thinks it some reflection upon human nature itself, that few people take delight in seeing beasts caress or play together, but al. most every one is pleased to see them lacerate and worry one another. I am sorry this temper is become almost a distinguishing character of our own nation, from the observation which is made by foreigners of our beloved pastimes, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and the like. We should find it hard to vindicate the destroying of any thing that has life, merely out of wantonness; yet in this principle our children are bred up, and one of the first pleasures we allow them is the license of inflicting pain upon poor animals; almost as soon as we are sensible what life is ourselves, we make it our sport to take it from other creatures. I cannot but believe a very good use might be made of the fancy which children have for birds and insects. Mr. Locke takes notice of a mother who permitted them to her children, but rewarded or punished them as they treated them well or ill. This was no other than entering them betimes into a daily exercise of humanity, and improving their very diversion to a virtue. I fancy too, some advantage might be taken of the common notion, that it is ominous or unlucky to destroy some sorts of birds, as swallows or martins; this opinion might possibly arise from the confidence these birds seem to put in us by building under our roofs, so that it is a kind of violation of the laws of hospitality to murder them. As for robin-redbreasts in particular, it is not improbable they owe their security to the old ballad of the Children in the Wood. However it be, I do not know, I say, why this prejudice, well improved and carried as far as it would go, might not be made to conduce to the preservation of many innocent creatures, which are now exposed to all the wanton. ness of an ignorant barbarity. There are other animals that have the misfortune, for no manner of reason, to be treated as common enemies, wherever found. The conceit that a cat has nine lives, has cost at least nine lives in ten of the whole race of them. Scarce a boy in the streets but has in this point
outdone Hercules himself, who was famous for killing a monster that had but three lives.— Whether the unaccountable animosity against this useful domestic may be any cause of the general persecution of owls, (who are a sort of feathered cats,) or whether it be only an unreasonable pique the moderns have taken to a serious countenance, I shall not determine, though I am inclined to believe the former; since I observe the sole reason alleged for the destruction of frogs, is because they are like toads. Yet amidst all the misfortunes of these unfriended creatures, it is some happiness that we have not yet taken a fancy to eat them: for should our countrymen refine upon the French never so little, it is not to be conceived to what unheardof torments owls, cats, and frogs may be yet reserved. When we grow up to men, we have another succession of sanguinary sports; in particular hunting. I dare not attack a diversion which has such authority and custom to support it; but must have leave to be of opinion, that the agitation of that exercise, with the example and number of the chasers, not a little contribute to resist those checks, which compassion would naturally suggest in behalf of the animal pur. sued. Nor shall I say with monsieur Fleury, that this sport is a remain of the Gothic bar. barity. But I must animadvert upon a certain custom yet in use with us, and barbarous enough to be derived from the Goths, or even the Scythians; I mean that savage compliment our huntsmen pass upon ladies of quality, who are present at the death of a stag, when they put the knife in their hands to cut the throat of a helpless, trembling, and weeping creature.
- – Questuque cruentus, Atque imploranti similis."
- — That lies beneath the knife, Looks up, and from her butcher begs her life."
But if our sports are destructive, our gluttony is more so, and in a more inhuman manner. Lobsters roasted alive, pigs whipt to death, fowls sewed up, are testimonies of our outrageous luxury. Those who (as Seneca expresses it) divide their lives betwixt an anxious conscience and a nauseated stomach, have a just reward of their gluttony in the diseases it brings with it; for human savages, like other wild beasts, find snares and poison in the provisions of life, and are allured by their appetite to their destruction. I know nothing more shocking or horrid than the prospect of one of their kitchens covered with blood, and filled with the cries of creatures expiring in tortures. It gives one an image of a giant's den in a romance, bestrewed with the scattered heads and mangled limbs of those who were slain by his cruelty.
The excellent Plutarch (who has more strokes of good-nature in his writings than I remember in any author) cites a saying of Cato to this ef. fect, “That it is no easy task to preach to the belly, which has no ears.” “Yet it,” says he, “we are ashamed to be so out of fashion as not to offend, let us at least offend with some discretion and measure. If we kill an animal for our provision, let us do it with the rueltings of