Page images
[blocks in formation]

These studies improve youth; delight old age; are the ornament of prosperity, and refuge of adversity; please at home; are no incumbrance abroad; lodge with us; travel with us, and retire into the country with us.

THE following letters bear a pleasing image of the joys and satisfactions of a private life. The first is from a gentleman to a friend, for whom he has a very great respect, and to whom he communicates the satisfaction he takes in retirement; the other is a letter to nie, occasioned by an ode written by my Lapland lover +: this correspondent is so kind as to translate another of Scheffer's songs in a very agreeable manner. I publish them together, that the young and old may find something in the same paper which may be suitable to their respective tastes in solitude; for I know no fault in the description of ardent desires, provided they

are honourable.


deration of this would make me very well con tented with the possession only of that quiet which Cowley calls the companion of obscurity; but whoever has the muses too for his companions, can never be idle enough to be uneasy. Thus, sir, you see I would flatter myself into a good opinion of my own way of living: Plutarch just now told me, that it is in human life as in a game at tables, one may wish he had the highest cast, but if his chance be otherwise, he is even to play it as well as he can, and make the best of it.

'I am, SIR,
"Your most obliged,

' and most humble servant.'

MR. SPECTATOR, "THE town being so well pleased with the fine pic. ture of artless love, which Nature inspired the Laplander to paint in the ode you lately printed *; we were in hopes that the ingenious transator would have obliged it with the other also which inferior band has ventured to send you this. Scheffer has given us; but since he has not, a much

It is a custom with the northern lovers to d

vert themselves with a song, whilst they journey
through the fenny moors to pay a visit to their ne
deer, which is the creature that in that country
tresses. This is addressed by the lover to his rein
supplies the want of horses. The circumstances
which successively present themselves to him in his
terwoven. The anxiety of absence, the gloomi
way, are, I believe you will think, naturally in
only those, since those only can carry him to the ob
ness of the roads, and his resolution of frequenting
ject of his desires; the dissatisfaction he express
even at the greatest swiftness with which he is car-
ried, and his joyful surprise at an unexpected
tifully described in the original.
sight of his mistress as she is bathing, seem bea-

"Haste, my rein-deer, and let us nimbly go

Our am'rous journey through this dreary waste; Haste, my rein-deer! still, still thou art too slow, Impetuous love demands the lightning's haste.

You have obliged me with a very kind letter; by which I find you shift the scene of your life from 'If all those pretty images of rural nature are the town to the country, and enjoy that mixed state which wise men both delight in, and are qualified to let this supply the place of a long letter, whes lost in the imitation, yet possibly you may think fi for. Methinks most of the philosophers and moralists have run too much into extremes, in praising not permit our being entertained by your ow want of leisure or indisposition for writing w entirely either solitude or public life; in the for-hand. I propose such a time, because, though it mer men generally grow useless by too much rest, is natural to have a fondness for what one don and in the latter are destroyed by too much preci-one's self, yet I assure you I would not have any pitation as waters lying still, putrify and are good thing of mine displace a single line of yours. for nothing; and running violently on, do but the more mischief in their passage to others, and are swallowed up and lost the sooner themselves. Those who, like you, can make themselves useful to all states, should be like gentle streams, that not only glide through lonely vales and forests amidst the flocks and shepherds, but visit populous towns in their course, and are at once of ornament and service to them. But there is another sort of people who seem designed for solitude, those I mean who have more to hide than to show. As for my own part, I am one of those of whom Seneca says, "Tam umbratiles sunt, ut putent in turbido esse quicquid in luce est." Some men, like pictures, are fitter for a corner than a full light; and I believe such as have a natural bent to solitude are like waters which may be forced into fountains, and exalted to a great height, may make a much nobler figure, and a much louder noise, but after all run more smoothly, equally and plentifully, in their own natural course upon the ground. The consi

The letter O is supposed to have been used by Addison, as the signature to such of these papers as were sent from his office; or perhaps this signature marked those which had been sketched at Oxford.

+ See N° 366.

"Around us far the rushy moors are spread:
Soon will the sun withdraw his cheerful ray:
Darkling and tir'd we shall the marshes tread,
No lay unsung to cheat the tedious way.
"The watry length of these unjoyous moors
Does all the flow'ry meadows pride excel;
Through these I fly to her my soul adores;
Ye flow'ry meadows, empty pride, farewell.
"Each moment from the charmer I'm confin'd,
My breast is tortur'd with impatient fires;
Fly, my rein-deer, fly swifter than the wind,
Thy tardy feet wing with my fierce desires.

"Our pleasing toil will then be soon o'erpaid,
And thou, in wonder lost, slalt view my fair,
Admire each feature of the lovely maid,

Her artless charms, her bloom, ber sprightly ain

"But lo! with graceful motion there she swin
Gently removing each ambitious wave;
The crowding waves transported clasp ber limbs:
When, when, oh when shall I such freedoms have

• See N° 366.

[blocks in formation]

deliver himself, The Greek orator was likewise so very famous for this particular in rhetoric, that one of his antagonists, whom he had banished from Athens, reading over the oration which had procured his banishment, and seeing his friends admire it, could not forbear asking them, if they were so much affected by the bare reading of it, how much more they would have been alarmed, had they heard him actually throwing out such a storm of eloquence?

How cold and dead a figure, in comparison of these two great men, does an orator often make at the British bar, holding up his head with the most insipid serenity, and stroking the sides of a long wig that reaches down to his middle! The truth of it is, there is often nothing more ridiculous than the gestures of an English speaker; you see some of them running their hands into their pockets as far as ever they can thrust them, and others looking with great attention on a piece of paper that has nothing written in it; you may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes the lining of it, and sometimes the button, during the whole course of his harangue, A deaf man would think he was cheapening a beaver, when perhaps he is talking of the fate of the British nation. I remember, when I was a young man, and used to frequent Westminster-hall, there was a counsellor who never pleaded without a piece of packthread in his hand, which he used to twist about a thumb or a finger all the while he was speaking: the wags of those days used to call it the thread of his discourse,' for he was unable to utter a word without it. One of his clients, who was more merry than wise, stole it from him one day in the midst of his pleading; but he had better have let it alone, for he lost his cause by his jest.

Most foreign writers, who have given any character of the English nation, whatever vices they ascribe to it, allow, in general, that the people are naturally modest. It proceeds perhaps from this our national virtue, that our orators are observed to make use of less gesture or action than those of other countries. Our preachers stand stock still in the pulpit, and will not so much as move a finger to set off the best sermons in the world. We meet with the same speaking statues at our bars, and in all public places of debate. Our words flow from us in a smooth continued stream, without those strainings of the voice, motions of the body, and majesty of the hand, which are so much celebrated in the orators of Greece and Rome. We can talk of life and death in cold blood, and keep our temper in a discourse which turns upon every thing that is dear to us. Though our zeal breaks out in the finest tropes and figures, it is not able to stir a limb about us. I have heard it observed more than once, by those who have seen Italy, that an untravelled Englishman cannot relish all the beauties of Italian pictures, because the postures which are expressed in them are often such as are peculiar to that country. One who has not seen an Italian in the pulpit, will not know what to make I have all along acknowledged myself to be a of that noble gesture in Raphael's picture of St. dumb man, and therefore may be thought a very Paul preaching at Athens, where the apostle is re-improper person to give rules for oratory; but I presented as lifting up both his arms, and pouring out the thunder of his rhetoric amidst an audience of pagan philosophers.

It is certain, that proper gestures and vehement exertions of the voice cannot be too much studied by a public orator. They are a kind of comment to what he utters, and enforce every thing he says, with weak hearers, better than the strongest argument he can make use of. They keep the audience awake, and fix their attention to what is delivered to them, at the same time that they show the speaker is in earnest, and affected himself with what he so passionately recommends to others. Violent gesture and vociferation naturally shake the hearts of the ignorant, and fill them with a kind of religious horror. Nothing is more frequent than to see women weep and tremble at the sight of a moving preacher, though he is placed quite out of their hearing; as in England we very frequently see people lulled asleep with solid and elaborate discourses of piety, who would be warmed and transported out of themselves by the bellowing and distortions of enthusiasm.

If nonsense, when accompanied with such an emotion of voice and body, has such an influence on men's minds, what might we not expect from many of those admirable discourses which are printed in our tongue, were they delivered with a becoming fervour, and with the most agreeable graces of voice and gesture?

We are told that the great Latin orator very much impaired his health by this laterum contentio, this vehemence of action, with which he used to

believe every one will agree with me in this, that we ought either to lay aside all kinds of gesture (which seems to be very suitable to the genius of our nation), or at least to make use of such only as are graceful and expressive.

[blocks in formation]

I HAVE always been a very great lover of your speculations, as well in regard to the subject, as to your manner of treating it. Human nature I always thought the most useful object of human reason, and to make the consideration of it pleasant and entertaining, I always thought the best employment of human wit: other parts of philosophy may perhaps make us wiser, but this not only answers that end, but makes us better too. Hence it was that the oracle pronounced Socrates the wisest of all men living, because he judiciously made choice of human nature for the object of his thoughts; an inquiry into which as much exceeds all other learning, as it is of more consequence to adjust the true nature and measures of right and

wrong, than to settle the distance of the planets and compute the times of their circumvolutions.

'One good effect that will immediately arise from a near observation of human nature, is, that we shall cease to wonder at those actions which men are used to reckon wholly unaccountable; for, as nothing is produced without a cause, so, by observing the nature and course of the passions, we shall be able to trace every action from its first conception to its death. We shall no more admire at the proceedings of Catiline or Tiberius, when we know the one was actuated by a cruel jealousy, the other by a furious ambition; for the actions of men follow their passions as naturally as light does beat, or as any other effect flows from its cause; reason must be employed in adjusting the passions, but they must ever remain the principles of action.

* The strange and absurd variety that is so apparent in men's actions, shows plainly they can never proceed immediately from reason; so pure a fountain emits no such troubled waters. They must necessarily arise from the passions, which are to the mind as the winds to a ship; they only can move it, and they too often destroy it: if fair and gentle, they guide it into the harbour; if contrary and furious, they overset it in the waves. In the same manner is the mind assisted or endangered by the passions; reason must then take the place of pilot, and can never fail of securing her charge if she be not wanting to herself. The strength of the passions will never be accepted as an excuse for complying with them; they were designed for subjection; and if a man suffers them to get the upper hand, he then betrays the liberty of his own soul.

the reason be perpetually on its guard against the passions, and never suffer them to carry on any design that may be destructive of its security; yet at the same time it must be careful, that it don't so far break their strength as to render them contemptible, and consequently itself unguarded.

The understanding being of itself too slow and lazy to exert itself into action, it is necessary if should be put in motion by the gentle gales of the passions, which may preserve it from stagnating and corruption; for they are necessary to the health of the mind, as the circulation of the an mal spirits is to the health of the body; they keep it in life, and strength, and vigour; nor is it pos sible for the mind to perform its offices without their assistance. These motions are given us with our being; they are little spirits that are born and die with us; to some they are mild, easy, and gentle; to others, wayward and unruly, yet never too strong for the reins of reason, and the guidance of judgment.

We may generally observe a pretty nice proportion between the strength of reason and pas sion; the greatest geniuses have commonly a strongest affections, as, on the other hand, the weaker understandings have generally the weaker passions; and it is fit the fury of the coursers should not be too great for the strength of the chariotert, Young men, whose passions are not a little unruis, give small hopes of their ever being considerable; the fire of youth will of course abate, and is a fault, if it be a fault, that mends every day; but surely, unless a man has fire in youth, he can hardly have warmth in old age. We must therefore be very cautious lest, while we think to regulate the passions, we should quite extinguish them, whic As nature has framed the several species of is putting out the light of the soul; for to be with beings as it were in a chain, so man seems to be out passion, or to be hurried away with it, makes placed as the middle link between angels and a man equally blind. The extraordinary seventy brutes. Hence he participates both of flesh and used in most of our schools has this fatal effect, t spirit by an admirable tie, which in him occasions breaks the spring of the mind, and most certainly perpetual war of passions; and as a man inclines to destroys more good geniuses than it can possibly the angelic or brute part of his constitution, he is improve. And surely it is a mighty mistake that then denominated good or bad, virtuous or wicked: the passions should be so entirely subdued: fut if love, mercy, and good-nature prevail, they speak|little irregularities are sometimes not only to be him of the angel; if hatred, cruelty, and envy pre-borne with, but to be cultivated too, since they dominate, they declare his kindred to the brute, are frequently attended with the greatest perfec Hence it was that some of the ancients imagined, tions. All great geniuses have faults mixed with that as men in this life inclined more to the angel their virtues, and resemble the flaming bush which or the brute, so after their death they should trans- has thorns amongst lights. inigrate into the one or the other; and it would be no unpleasant notion to consider the several species of brutes, into which we may imagine that tyrants, misers, the proud, malicious, and ill-natured, might bc changed.


'Since therefore the passions are the principles of human actions, we must endeavour to manage them so as to retain their vigour, yet keep them under strict command; we must govern them rather like free subjects than slaves, lest, while we As a consequence of this original, all passions intend to make them obedient, they become abject, are in all men, but appear not in all: constitution, and unfit for those great purposes to which they education, custom of the country, reason, and the were designed. For my part, I must confess ! like causes, may improve or abate the strength of could never have any regard to that sect of phila them; but still the seeds remain, which are ever sophers, who so much insisted upon an ab-oiste ready to sprout forth upon the least encourage-indifference and vacancy from all passion; for a I have heard a story of a good religious seems to me a thing very inconsistent, for a mu man, who, having been bred with the milk of a to divest himself of humanity, in order to acquire goat, was very modest in public by a careful re-tranquillity of mind; and to eradicate the very flection he made on his actions; but he frequently principles of action, because it is possible they had an hour in secret, wherein he had his frisks may produce ill effects. and capers; and if we had an opportunity of examining the retirement of the strictest philosophers, no doubt but we shouid find perpetual returns of those passions they so artfully conceal from the public. I remember Machiavel observes, that every state should entertain a perpetual jealousy of its neighbours, that so it should never be unprovided when an emergency happens; in Ake manner, should

[ocr errors]

'I am, SIR, "Your affectionate admirer,

[Supposed to be by POPE.]

No 409. THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 1712.

Museo contingere cuncta lepore,
LUCR. lib. i. ver. 933.

To grace each subject with enliv'ning wit.

GRATIAN * very often recommends 'the fine taste' as the utmost perfection of an accomplished man. As this word arises very often in conversation, I shall endeavour to give some account of it, and to lay down rules how we may know whether we are possessed of it, and how we may acquire that fine taste of writing, which is so much talked of among the polite world.

Most languages make use of this metaphor, to express that faculty of the mind which distinguishes all the most concealed faults and nicest perfections in writing. We may be sure this metaphor would not have been so general in all tongues, had there not been a very great conformity between that mental taste, which is the subject of this paper, and that sensitive taste, which gives us a relish of every different flavour that affects the palate. Accordingly we find, there are as many degrees of refinement in the intellectual faculty, as in the sense, which is marked out by this common denomination.

the specific qualities of the author whom he peruses; whether he is particularly pleased with Livy for his manner of telling a story, with Sallust for his entering into those internal principles of action which arise from the characters and manners of the persons he describes, or with Tacitus for his displaying those outward motives of safety and interest, which give birth to the whole series of transactions which he relates.

He may likewise consider, how differently he is affected by the same thought, which presents itself in a great writer, from what he is when he finds it delivered by a person of an ordinary genius; for there is as much difference in apprehending a thought clothed in Cicero's language, and that of a common author, as in seeing an object by the light of a taper, or by the light of the sun. It is very difficult to lay down rules for the acquirement of such a taste as that I am here speaking of. The faculty must in some degree be born with us, and it very often happens, that those who have other qualities in perfection are wholly void of this. One of the most eminent mathematicians of the age has assured me, that the greatest pleasure he took in reading Virgil, was in examining Æneas his voyage by the map; as I question not but many a modern compiler of history would be delighted with little more in that divine author than the bare matters of fact.

But, notwithstanding this faculty must in some measure be born with us, there are several methods for cultivating and improving it, and without which it will be very uncertain, and of little use to the person that possesses it. The most natural method for this purpose is, to be conversant among the writings of the most polite authors. A man who has any relish for fine writing, either discovers new beauties, or receives stronger impressions, from the masterly strokes of a great author every time he peruses him; besides that he naturally wears himself into the same manner of speaking and thinking.

I knew a person who possessed the one in so great a perfection, that after having tasted ten different kinds of tea, he would distinguish, without seeing the colour of it, the particular sort which was offered him; and not only so, but any two sorts of them that were mixed together in an equal proportion; nay, he has carried the experiment so far, as, upon tasting the composition of three different sorts, to name the parcels from whence the several ingredients were taken. A man of a fine taste in writing will discern, after the same manner, not only the general beauties and imperfections of an author, but discover the several ways of thinking and expressing himself, which diversify him from all other authors, with the several foreign infusions of thought and language, and the particular authors from whom they were bor-its variety of lights. Every man, besides those rowed.

After having thus far explained what is generally meant by a fine taste in writing, and shown the propriety of the metaphor which is used on this occasion, I think I may define it to be that faculty of the soul, which discerns the beauties of an author with pleasure, and the imperfections with dislike. If a man would know whether he is possessed of this faculty, I would have him read over the celebrated works of antiquity, which have stood the test of so many different ages and countries, or those works among the moderns which have the sanction of the politer part of our contemporaries. If, upon the perusal of such writings, de does not find himself delighted in an extraordinary manner, or if, upon reading the admired passages in such authors, he finds a coldness and indifference in his thoughts, he ought to conclude, not (as is too usual among tasteless readers) that the author wants those perfections which have been admired in him, but that he himself wants the faculty of discovering


He should, in the second place, be very careful to observe, whether he tastes the distinguishing perfections, or, if I may be allowed to call them so,

See Nos. 293 and 379.

Conversation with men of a polite genius is another method for improving our natural taste. It is impossible for a man of the greatest parts to consider any thing in its whole extent, and in all

general observations which are to be made upon an author, forms several reflections that are peculiar to his own manner of thinking; so that conversation will naturally furnish us with hints which we did not attend to, and make us enjoy other men's parts and reflections as well as our own. This is the best reason I can give for the observation which several have made, that men of great genius in the same way of writing seldom rise up singly, but at certain periods of time appear together, and in a body; as they did at Rome in the reign of Augustus, and in Greece about the age of Socrates. I cannot think that Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Boileau, La Fontaine, Bruyere, Bossu, or the Daciers, would have written so well as they have done, had they not been friends and contemporaries.

It is likewise necessary for a man who would form to himself a finished taste of good writing, to be well versed in the works of the best critics both ancient and modern. I must confess that I could wish there were authors of this kind, who beside the mechanical rules, which a man of very little taste may discourse upon, would enter into the very spirit and soul of fine writing, and show us the several sources of that pleasure which rises in the mind upon the perusal of a noble work. Thus although in poetry it be absolutely necessary that the

unities of time, place, and action, with other points of the same nature, should be thoroughly explained and understood; there is still something more essential to the art, something that elevates and astonishes the fancy, and gives a greatness of mind to the reader, which few of the critics besides Longinus have considered.

Our general taste in England is for epigram, turns of wit, and forced conceits, which have no manner of influence, either for the bettering or enlarging the mind of him who reads them, and have been carefully avoided by the greatest writers, both among the ancients and moderns. I have endeavoured, in several of my speculations, to banish this Gothic taste, which has taken possession among us. I entertained the town for a week together with an essay upon wit*, in which I endeavoured to detect several of those false kinds which have been admired in the different ages of the world, and at the same time to show wherein the nature of true wit consists. I afterwards gave an instance of the great force which lies in a natural simplicity of thought to affect the mind of the reader, from such vulgar pieces as have little else besides this single qualification to recommend them. I have likewise examined the works of the greatest poet which our nation, or perhaps any other, has produced, and particularised most of those rational and manly beauties, which give a value to that divine work +. I shall next Saturday enter upon an essay on 'The Pleasures of the Imagination,' which, though it shall consider that subject at large, will perhaps suggest to the reader what it is that gives a beauty to many passages of the finest writers both in prose and verse. As an undertaking of this nature is entirely new, I question not but it will be received with candour.

[blocks in formation]

WILL HONEYCOMB, who disguises his present decay by visiting the wenches of the town only by way of humour, told us, that the last rainy night he, with Sir Roger de Coverley, was driven into the Temple cloister, whither had escaped also a lady most exactly dressed from head to foot. Will made no scruple to acquaint us, that she saluted him very familiarly by his name, and, turning immediately to the knight, she said, she supposed that was his good friend Sir Roger de Coverley: upon which nothing less could follow than Sir Roger's approach to salutation, with Madam, the same, at your service.' She was dressed in a black tabby mantna and petticoat, without ribbons; her linen

See No 58-63.

[ocr errors]

+ See the critique upon Milton, N° 967, and the subsequent Saturday papers.

striped muslin, and in the whole an agreeable s cond mourning; decent dresses being often affected by the creatures of the town, at once consulting cheapness and the pretensions to modesty. She went on with a familiar easy air, Your friend, Mr. Honeycomb,' is a little surprised to see a woman here alone and unattended; but I dismissed my coach at the gate, and tripped it down to my counsel's chambers; for lawyers' fees take up too much of a small disputed jointure to admit any other expenses but mere necessaries.' Mr. Honey comb begged they might have the honour of setting her down, for Sir Roger's servant was gone to ca a coach. In the interim the footman returned, with no coach to be had;' and there appeared nothing to be done but trusting herself with Mr. Honeycomb and his friend, to wait at the tavern at the gate for a coach, or to be subjected to all the in pertinence she must meet with in that public place. Mr. Honeycomb being a man of honour determined the choice of the first, and Sir Roger, as the better man, took the lady by the hand, leading he through all the shower, covering her with his but, and gallanting a familiar acquaintance throug rows of young fellows, who winked at Sukey i the state she marched off, Will Honeycomb bringing up the rear.

[ocr errors]

Much importunity prevailed upon the fair one to admit of a collation, where, after declaring had no stomach, and having eaten a couple chickens, devoured a truss of salad, and drunk : full bottle to her share, she sung the Old Mas Wish to Sir Roger. The knight left the room for some time after supper, and writ the followig billet, which he conveyed to Sukey, and Sukey to her friend Will Honeycomb. Will has gives to Sir Andrew Freeport, who read it last night to the club.


'I AM not so mere a country gentleman, but I ca guess at the law-business you had at the Tempie If you would go down to the country, and leave off all your vanities but your singing, let me know at my lodgings in Bow-street, Covent-garden, and you shall be encouraged by Your humble servant, 'BOGER DE COVERLEY.'

My good friend could not well stand the raillery which was rising upon him; but, to put a stop to 3. I delivered Will Honeycomb the following letter, and desired him to read it to the board:

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »