Изображения страниц

kind of hope unreasonable and absurd. The fellow, that would never set his hand grave lies unseen between us and the ob- any business during his father's life. Whe ject which we reach after. Where one his father died, he left him to the value man lives to enjoy the good he has in view, a hundred drachmas in Persian money ten thousand are cut off in the pursuit of it. Alnaschar, in order to make the best of i It happens likewise unluckily, that one laid it out in glasses, bottles, and the fine hope no sooner dies in us but another rises earthenware. These he piled up in a larg up in its stead. We are apt to fancy that open basket, and, having made choice of we shall be happy and satisfied if we pos- very little shop, placed the basket at b sess ourselves of such and such particular feet: and leaned his back upon the wall, enjoyments; but either by reason of their expectation of customers. As he sat in th emptiness, or the natural inquietude of the posture, with his eyes upon the basket, b mind, we have no sooner gained one point, fell into a most amusing train of though but we extend our hopes to another. We and was overheard by one of his neigh still find new inviting scenes and landscapes bours, as he talked to himself in the fo lying behind those which at a distance ter-lowing manner: This basket,' says h minated our view.

'cost me at the wholesale merchant's The natural consequences of such reflec- hundred drachmas, which is all I have tions are these, that we should take care the world. I shall quickly make two hur not to let our hopes run out into too great a dred of it, by selling it in retail. These tw length; that we should sufficiently weigh hundred drachmas will in a very little whil the objects of our hope, whether they be rise to four hundred, which of course wi such as we may reasonably expect from amount in time to four thousand. Fou them what we propose in their fruition, thousand drachmas cannot fail of makin and whether they are such as we are pretty eight thousand. As soon as by these mean sure of attaining, in case our life extend I am master of ten thousand, I will lay asid itself so far. If we hope for things which my trade of a glassman, and turn jewelle are at too great a distance from us, it is I shall then deal in diamonds, pearls, an possible that we may be intercepted by all sorts of rich stones. When I have go death in our progress towards them. If we together as much wealth as I well can de hope for things which we have not tho- sire, 1 will make a purchase of the fines roughly considered the value of, our disap-house I can find, with lands, slaves, eu pointment will be greater than our pleasure nuchs, and horses.. I shall then begin t in the fruition of them. If we hope for enjoy myself and make a noise in the world what we are not likely to possess, we act I will not however stop there, but still con and think in vain, and make life a greater tinue my traffic, until I have got togethe dream and shadow than it really is. a hundred thousand drachmas. When Many of the miseries and misfortunes of have thus made myself master of a hundre life proceed from our want of consideration, thousand drachmas I shall naturally se in one or all of these particulars. They are myself on the foot of a prince, and wi the rocks on which the sanguine tribe of demand the grand vizier's daughter in ma lovers daily split, and on which the bank-riage, after having represented to tha rupt, the politician, the alchymist, and projector, are cast away in every age. Men of warm imaginations and towering thoughts are apt to overlook the goods of fortune which are near them, for something that glitters in the sight at a distance; to neglect solid and substantial happiness for what is showy and superficial; and to contemn that good which lies within their reach, for that which they are not capable of attaining. Hope calculates its schemes for a long and durable life; presses forward to imaginary points of bliss; grasps at impossibilities; and conséquently very often ensnares men into beggary, ruin, and dishonour.

What I have here said may serve as a moral to an Arabian fable, which I find translated into French by Monsieur Galland. The fable has in it such a wild but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and that he will consider himself, if he reflects on the several amusements of hope which have sometimes passed in his mind, as a near relation to the Persian glassman.

Alnaschar, says the fable, was a very idle

minister the information which I have re ceived of the beauty, wit, discretion, an other high qualities which his daughte possesses. I will let him know at the sam time, that it is my intention to make him present of a thousand pieces of gold on ou marriage night. As soon as I have marrie the grand vizier's daughter, I will buy he ten black eunuchs, the youngest and th best that can be got for money. I must a terwards make my father-in-law a visi with a great train and equipage. And whe I am placed at his right hand, which h will do of course, if it be only to honour hi daughter, I will give him the thousan pieces of gold which I promised him; an afterwards to his great surprise, will pre sent him with another purse of the sam value, with some short speech: as, "Si you see I am a man of my word: I alway give more than I promise.'

"When I have brought the princess t my house, I shall take particular care t breed her in a due respect for me before give the reins to love and dalliance. T this end I shall confine her to her ow apartment, make her a short visit, and tall

[merged small][ocr errors]

but little to her. Her women will repre-sh
sent to me that she is inconsolable by reason
of my unkindness, and beg me with tears
to caress her, and let her sit down by me;
but I shall still remain inexorable, and will
turn my back upon her all the first night.
Her mother will then come and bring her
daughter to me, as I am seated upon my
sofa. The daughter, with tears in her eyes,
will fling herself at my feet, and beg of me
to receive her into my favour. Then will
1, to imprint in her a thorough veneration
for my person, draw up my legs and spurn
her from me with my foot, in such a man-
ner that she shall fall down several paces
from the sofa.'

Alnaschar was entirely swallowed up in
this chimerical vision, and could not forbear
acting with his foot what he had in his
thoughts; so that unluckily striking his
basket of brittle ware, which was the foun-
dation of all his grandeur, he kicked his
glasses to a great distance from him into
the street, and broke them into ten thou-
sand pieces.

[blocks in formation]

'London, Nov. 1712.

MR. SPECTATOR,-You are always ready to receive any useful hint or proposal, and such, I believe, you will think one that may put you in a way to employ the most idle part of the kingdom: I mean that part of mankind who are known by the name of the women's men, or beaux, &c. Mr. Spectator, you are sensible these pretty gentlemen are not made for any manly employments, and for want of business are often as much in the vapours as the ladies. Now what I propose is this, that since knotting is again in fashion, which has been found a very pretty amusement, that you will recommend it to these gentlemen as something that may make them useful to the ladies they admire. And since it is not inconsistent with any game, or other diversion, for it may be done in the play-house, in their coaches, at the tea-table, and in short, in all places where they come for the sake of the ladies, (except at church; be pleased to forbid it there to prevent mistakes,) it will be easily complied with. It is besides an employment that allows, as we see by the fair-sex, of many graces, which will make the beaux more readily come into it; it shows a white hand and a diamond ring to great advantage; it leaves the eyes at full liberty to be employed as before, as also the thoughts and the tongue. In short, it seems in every respect so proper, that it is needless to urge it farther, by speaking of the satisfaction these male knotters will find, when they see their work mixed up in a fringe, and worn by the fair lady for whom and with whom it was done. Truly, Mr. Spectator, I cannot but be pleased I have hit upon something that these gentlemen are capable of; for it is sad so considerable a part of the kingdom (I mean for numbers,) should be of no manner of use. I shall not trouble you farther at this time, but only to say, that I am always your reader, and generally you


'P. S. The sooner these fine gentlemen

As I was the other day standing in my bookseller's shop, a pretty young thing, about eighteen years of age, stepped out of her coach, and, brushing by me, beckoned the man of the shop to the farther end of his counter, where she whispered something to him, with an attentive look, and at the same time presented him with a letter: after which, pressing the end of her fan upon his hand, she delivered the remaining part of her message, and withdrew. I observed, in the midst of her discourse, that the flushed and cast an eye upon me over her shoulder, having been informed by my admirer. bookseller that I was the man with the short face whom she had so often read of. Upon her passing by me, the pretty bloom-are set to work the better; there being at ing creature smiled in my face, and drop- this time several fine fringes, that stay only ped me a courtesy. She scarce gave me for more hands.' time to return her salute, before she quitted the shop with an easy scuttle, and stepped again into her coach, giving the footmen directions to drive where they were bid. Upon her departure, my bookseller gave me a letter superscribed, To the ingenious Spectator,' which the young lady had desired him to deliver into my own hands, 'MR. SPECTATOR,-Since you have lateand to tell me, that the speedy publication ly, to so good purpose, enlarged upon conof it would not only oblige herself but a jugal love, it is to be hoped you will diswhole tea-table of my friends. I opened it courage every practice that rather proceeds therefore with a resolution to publish it, from a regard to interest than to happiness. whatever it should contain, and am sure Now you cannot but observe, that most of if any of my male readers will be so se- our fine young ladies readily fall in with verely critical as not to like it, they would the direction of the graver sort, to retain have been as well pleased with it as myself, in their service, by some small encouragehad they seen the face of the pretty scribe.ment, as great a number as they can of

I shall in the next place present my reader with the description of a set of men who are common enough in the world, though I do not remember that I have yet taken notice of them, as they are drawn in the following letter.

"It is for the like reason, I imagine, that you have in some of your speculations asserted to your readers the dignity of human nature. But you cannot be insensible that this is a controverted doctrine; there are authors who consider human nature in a very different view, and books of maxims have been written to show the falsity of all human virtues.* The reflections which are made on this subject usually take some tincture from the tempers and characters of those that make them. Politicians can resolve the most shining actions among men into artifice and design; others, who are soured by discontent, repulses, or ill-usage, are apt to mistake their spleen for philosophy; men of profligate lives, and such as find themselves incapable of rising to any distinction among their fellow-creatures, are for pulling down all appearances of merit which seem to upbraid them; and satirists 'describe nothing but deformity. From all these hands we have such draughts of mankind, as are represented in those burlesque pictures which the Italians call caricaturas; where the art consists in preserving, amidst distorted proportions and aggravated features, some likeness of the person, but in such a manner as to transform the most agreeable beauty into the most odious monster.

supernumerary and insignificant fellows, |pectations they were born: that by con-
which they use like whifflers, and com- sidering what is worthy of them, they may
monly call "shoeing-horns."-These are be withdrawn from mean pursuits, and en-
never designed to know the length of the couraged to laudable undertakings. This
foot, but only, when a good offer comes, to is turning nobility into a principle of virtue,
whet and spur him up to the point. Nay, and making it productive of merit, as it is
it is the opinion of that grave lady, madam understood to have been originally a reward
Matchwell, that it is absolutely convenient of it.
for every prudent family to have several of
these implements about the house to clap
on as occasion serves; and that every spark
ought to produce a certificate of his being
a shoeing-horn before he be admitted as a
shoe. A certain lady whom I could name,
if it was necessary, has at present more
shoeing-horns of all sizes, countries, and
colours in her service, than ever she had
new shoes in her life. I have known a wo-
man make use of a shoeing-horn for several
years, and finding him unsuccessful in that
function, convert him at length into a shoe.
I am mistaken if your friend, Mr. William
Honeycomb, was not a cast shoeing-horn
before his late marriage. As for myself, I
must frankly declare to you, that I have
been an errant shoeing-horn for above these
twenty years. I served my first mistress in
that capacity above five of the number, be-
fore she was shod. I confess, though she had
many who made their application to her, I
always thought myself the best shoe in her
shop; and it was not until a month before
her marriage that I discovered what I was.
This had like to have broke my heart,
and raised such suspicions in me, that I told
the next I made love to, upon receiving
some unkind usage from her, that I began
to look upon myself as no more than her
shoeing-horn. Upon which, my dear, who
was a coquette in her nature, told me I was
hypochondriacal, and I might as well look
upon myself to be an egg, or a pipkin. But
in a very short time after she gave me to
know that I was not mistaken in myself. It
would be tedious to you to recount the life
of an unfortunate shoeing-horn, or I might
entertain you with a very long and melan-
choly relation of my sufferings. Upon the
whole, I think, sir, it would very well be-
come a man in your post, to determine in
what cases a woman may be allowed with
honour to make use of a shoeing-horn, as
also to declare whether a maid on this side
five-and-twenty, or a widow, who has not
been three years in that state, may be
granted such a privilege, with other diffi-
culties which will naturally occur to you
upon that subject. I am, sir, with the most
profound veneration, yours, &c.' 0.

[blocks in formation]

'SIR,-It has been usual to remind persons of rank, on great occasions in life, of

It is very disingenuous to level the best of mankind with the worst, and for the faults of particulars to degrade the whole species. Such methods tend not only to remove a man's good opinion of others, but to destroy that reverence for himself, which is a great guard of innocence, and a spring of virtue.

[ocr errors]

'It is true indeed, that there are surprising mixtures of beauty and deformity, of wisdom and folly, virtue and vice, in the human make: such a disparity is found among numbers of the same kind; and every individual in some instances, or at some times, is so unequal to himself, that man seems to be the most wavering and inconsistent being in the whole creationSo that the question in morality concerning the dignity of our nature may at first sight appear like some difficult questions in natural philosophy, in which the arguments on both sides seem to be of equal strength. But, as I began with considering this point as it relates to action, I shall here borrow an admirable reflection from monsieur Paschal, which I think sets it in its proper light.

*This is an allusion to the Reflections et Maximes

their race and quality, and to what ex- Morales de M. le Duc de la Rochefoucault.


"It is of dangerous consequence," says he, "to represent to man how near he is to the level of beasts, without showing him at the same time his greatness. It is likewise dangerous to let him see his greatness without his meanness. It is more dangerous yet to leave him ignorant of either; but very beneficial that he should be made sensible of both." Whatever imperfections we may have in our nature, it is the business of religion and virtue to rectify them, as far as is consistent with our present state. In the mean time it is no small encouragement to generous minds to consider, that we shall put them all off with our mortality. That sublime manner of salutation with which the Jews approach their kings,

"O king, live for ever!"

may be addressed to the lowest and most despised mortal among us, under all the infirmities and distresses with which we see him surrounded. And whoever believes in the immortality of the soul, will not need a better argument for the dignity of his nature, nor a stronger incitement to actions suitable to it.

I am naturally led by this reflection to a subject I have already touched upon in a former letter, and cannot without pleasure call to mind the thought of Cicero to this purpose, in the close of his book concerning old age. Every one who is acquainted with his writings will remember that the elder Cato is introduced in that discourse as the speaker, and Scipio and Lelius as his auditors. This venerable person is represented looking forward as it were from the verge of extreme old age into a future state, and rising into a contemplation on the unperishable part of his nature, and its existence after death. I shall collect part of his discourse. And as you have formerly offered some arguments for the soul's immortality, greeable both to reason and the Christian doctrine, I believe your readers will not be displeased to see how the same great truth shines in the pomp of Roman eloquence. "This (says Cato) is my firm persuasion, that since the human soul exerts itself with 50 great activity; since it has such a remembrance of the past, such a concern for the future; since it is enriched with so many arts, sciences, and discoveries; it is impossible but the being which contains all these must be immortal."

the soul while in a mortal body lives, but when departed out of it dies: or that its consciousness is lost when it is discharged out of an unconscious habitation. But when it is freed from all corporeal alliance, then it truly exists. Farther, since the human frame is broken by death, tell us what becomes of its parts? It is visible whether the materials of other beings are translated; namely, to the source from whence they had their birth. The soul alone, neither present nor departed, is the object of our eyes.

[ocr errors]

'Thus Cyrus. But to proceed:-"No one shall persuade me, Scipio, that your worthy father or your grandfathers Paulus and Africanus, or Africanus his father or uncle, or many other excellent men whom I need not name, performed so many actions to be remembered by posterity, without being sensible that futurity was their right. And, if I may be allowed an old' man's privilege so to speak of myself, do you think I would have endured the fatigue of so many wearisome days and nights, both at home and abroad, if I imagined that the same boundary which is set to my life must terminate my glory? Were it not more desirable to have worn out my days in ease and tranquillity, free from labour and without emulation! But, I know not how, my soul has always raised itself, and looked forward on futurity, in this view and expectation, that when it shall depart out of life it shall then live for ever; and if this were not true, that the mind is immortal, the soul of the most worthy would not, above all others, have the strongest impulse to glory.

"What besides this is the cause that the wisest men die with the greatest equanimity, the ignorant with the greatest concern? Does it not seem that those minds which have the most extensive views foresee they are removing to a happier condition, which those of a narrow sight do not perceive? I, for my part, am transported with the hope of seeing your ancestors: whom I have honoured and loved; and am earnestly desirous of meeting not only those excellent persons whom I have known, but those too of whom I have heard and read, and of whom I my self have written; nor would I be detained from so pleasing a journey. O happy day, when I shall escape from this crowd, this heap of pollution, and be admitted to that The elder Cyrus, just before his death, divine assembly of exalted spirits! when I is represented by Xenophon speaking after shall go not only to those great persons this manner: Think not, my dearest chil- have named, but to my Cato, my son, than dren, that when depart from you I shall whom a better man was never born, and be no more: but remember, that my soul, whose funeral rites I myself performed, even while I lived among you, was invisible whereas he ought rather to have attended you: yet by my actions you were sensible mine. Yet has not his soul deserted me, texisted in this body. Believe it therefore but, seeming to cast back a look on me, is existing still, though it be still unseen. How gone before to those habitations to which it quickly would the honours of illustrious was sensible I should follow him. And men perish after death, if their souls per- though I might appear to have borne my formed nothing to preserve their fame! loss with courage, I was not unaffected with



[ocr errors]

that it would not be long before we should
meet again and be divorced no more.
am, sir, &c.'

No. 538.] Monday, November 17, 1712.

Finem tendere opus.-

Hor. Sat. i. Lib. 2. 1.

until we had worked up ourselves to suc I a pitch of complaisance, that when th dinner was to come in we inquired the name of every dish, and hoped it would b no offence to any in company, before it wa admitted. When we had sat down, thi civility among us turned the discourse from eatables to other sorts of aversions; and th eternal cat, which plagues every conversa tion of this nature, began then to engros the subject. One had sweated at the sigh 1 To launch beyond all bounds. of it, another had smelled it out as it la SURPRISE is so much the life of stories, concealed in a very distant cupboard; an that every one aims at it who endeavours to he who crowned the whole set of thes please by telling them. Smooth delivery, stories, reckoned up the number of time an elegant choice of words, and a sweet ar- in which it had occasioned him to swoo rangement, are all beautifying graces, but away. 'At last,' says he, that you ma not the particulars in this point of conversa- all be satisfied of my invincible aversion t tion which either long command the atten- a cat, I shall give an unanswerable instance tion, or strike with the violence of a sudden As I was going through a street of London passion, or occasion the burst of laughter where I never had been until then, I felt which accompanies humour. I have some- general damp and faintness all over me times fancied that the mind is in this case which I could not tell how to account for like a traveller who sees a fine seat in haste; until I chanced to cast my eyes upwards he acknowledges the delightfulness of a and found that I was passing under walk set with regularity, but would be un-sign-post on which the picture of a cat wa easy if he were obliged to pace it over, when the first view had let him into all its beauties from one end to the other. 'However, a knowledge of the success which stories will have when they are attended with a turn of surprise, as it has happily made the characters of some, so has it also been the ruin of the characters of others. There is a set of men who outrage truth, instead of affecting us with a manner in telling it; who overleap the line of probability that they may be seen to move out of the common road; and endeavour only to make their hearers stare by imposing upon them with a kind of nonsense against the philosophy of nature, or such a heap of wonders told upon their own knowledge, as it is not likely one man should have ever met with.

I have been led to this observation by a company into which I fell accidentally. The subject of antipathies was a proper field wherein such false surprisers might expatiate, and there were those present who appeared very fond to show it in its full extent of traditional history. Some of them, in a learned manner, offered to our consideration the miraculous powers which the effluviums of cheese have over bodies whose pores are disposed to receive them in a noxious manner; others gave an account of such who could indeed bear the sight of cheese, but not the taste; for which they brought a reason from the milk of their nurses. Others again discoursed, without endeavouring at reasons, concerning an unconquerable aversion which some stomachs have against a joint of meat when it is whole, and the eager inclination they have for it when, by its being cut up, the shape which had affected them is altered. From hence they passed to eels, then to parsnips, and so from one aversion to another,


The extravagance of this turn in the way of surprise, gave a stop to the talk we ha been carrying on. Some were silent be cause they doubted, and others becaus they were conquered in their own way; that the gentleman had an opportunity t press the belief of it upon us, and let us se that he was rather exposing himself tha ridiculing others.

I must freely own that I did not all thi while disbelieve every thing that was said but yet I thought some in the company ha been endeavouring who should pitch th bar farthest; that it had for some time bee a measuring cast, and at last my friend o the cat and sign-post had thrown beyon them all.

I then considered the manner in whic this story had been received, and the possi bility that it might have passed for a jes upon others, if he had not laboured agains himself. From hence, thought I, ther are two ways which the well-bred worl generally takes to correct such a practice when they do not think fit to contradict flatly.

The first of these is a general silence which I would not advise any one to inter pret in his own behalf. It is often the effec of prudence in avoiding a quarrel, whe they see another drive so fast that there no stopping him without being run against and but very seldom the effect of weaknes in believing suddenly. The generality o mankind are not so grossly ignorant, a some overbearing spirits would persuad themselves; and if the authority of a cha racter or a caution against danger make u suppress our opinions, yet neither of thes are of force enough to suppress our thought of them. If a man who has endeavoured to amuse his company with improbabilities


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »