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What can be more natural, or more moving, than the circumstances in which he describes the behaviour of those women who had lost their husbands on this fatal day?
Next day did many widows come
They wash'd their wounds in brinish tears,
But all would not prevail.
Their bodies bath'd in purple blood,
They kiss'd them dead a thousand times,
Thus we see how the thoughts of this poem, which naturally arise from the subject, are always simple, and sometimes exquisitely noble; that the language is often very sounding, and that the whole is written with a true poetical spirit.
If this song had been written in the Gothic manner, which is the delight of all our little wits, whether writers or readers, it would not have hit the taste of so many ages, and have pleased the readers of all ranks and conditions. I shall only beg pardon for such a profusion of Latin quotations; which I should not have made use of, but that I feared my own judgment would have looked too singular on such a subject, had not I supported it by the practice and authority of Virgil.
N° 75. SATURDAY, MAY 26, 1711.
Omnis Aristippum decuit color, et status, et res.
HOR. 1 Ep. xvii. 23.
All fortune fitted Aristippus well.
IT is with some mortification that I suffered the raillery of a fine lady of my acquaintance, for calling, in one of my papers,* Dorimant a clown. She was so unmerciful as to take advantage of my invincible taciturnity, and on that occasion with great freedom to consider the air, the height, the face, the gesture of him, who could pretend to judge so arrogantly of gallantry. She is full of motion, janty and lively in her impertinence, and one of those that commonly pass, among the ignorant, for persons who have a great deal of humour. She had the play of Sir Fopling in her hand, and after she had said it was happy for her there was not so charming a creature as Dorimant now living, she began with a theatrical air and tone of voice to read, by way of triumph over me, some of his speeches. "Tis she! that lovely air, that easy shape, those wanton eyes, and all those melting charms about her mouth, which Medley spoke of; I'll follow the lottery, and put in for a prize with my friend Bellair.'
In love the victors from the vanquish'd fly;
* Spect. No. 65.
Then turning over the leaves, she reads alternately, and speaks,
And you and Loveit to her cost shall find
Oh the fine gentleman! But here, continues she, is the passage I admire most, where he begins to tease Loveit, and mimic Sir Fopling. Oh, the pretty satire, in his resolving to be a coxcomb to please, since noise and nonsense have such powerful charms.
I, that I may successful prove,
Then how like a man of the town, so wild and gay is that!
The wise will find a diff'rence in our fate,
It would have been a very wild endeavour for a man of my temper to offer any opposition to so nimble a speaker as my fair enemy is; but her discourse gave me very many reflections, when I had left her company. Among others, I could not but consider with some attention, the false impressions the generality (the fair sex more especially) have of what should be intended, when they say a fine gentleman;' and could not help revolving that subject in my thoughts, and settling, as it were, an idea of that character in my own imagination.
No man ought to have the esteem of the rest of the world, for any actions which are disagreeable to those maxims which prevail, as the standards of behaviour, in the country wherein he lives. What is opposite to the eternal rules of reason and good sense, must be excluded from any place in the car
riage of a well-bred man. I did not, I confess, explain myself enough on this subject, when I called Dorimant a clown, and made it an instance of it, that he called the orange wench, Double Tripe: I should have shewn, that humanity obliges a gentleman to give no part of human-kind reproach, for what they, whom they reproach, may possibly have in common with the most virtuous and worthy amongst us. When a gentleman speaks coarsely, he has dressed himself clean to no purpose. The clothing of our minds certainly ought to be regarded before that of our bodies. To betray in a man's talk a corrupt imagination, is a much greater offence against the conversation of gentlemen, than any negligence of dress imaginable. But this sense of the matter is so far from being received among people even of condition, that Vocifer even passes for a fine gentleman. He is loud, haughty, gentle, soft, lewd, and obsequious by turns, just as a little understanding and great impudence prompt him at the present moment. He passes among the silly part of our women for a man of wit, because he is generally in doubt. He contradicts with a shrug, and confutes with a certain sufficiency, in professing such and such a thing is above his capacity. What makes his character the pleasanter is, that he is a professed deluder of women; and because the empty coxcomb has no regard to any thing that is of itself sacred and inviolable, I have heard an unmarried lady of fortune say, it is a pity so fine a gentleman as Vocifer is so great an atheist. The crowds of such inconsiderable creatures, that infest all places of assembling, every reader will have in his eye from his own observation; but would it not be worth considering what sort of figure a man who formed himself upon those principles among us, which are agreeable to the dictates of honour and religion,
would make in the familiar and ordinary occurrences of life?
I hardly have observed any one fill his several duties of life better than Ignotus. All the under parts of his behaviour, and such as are exposed to common observation, have their rise in him from great and noble motives. A firm and unshaken expectation of another life makes him become this; humanity and good-nature, fortified by the sense of virtue, has the same effect upon him, as the neglect of all goodness has upon many others. Being firmly established in all matters of importance, that certain inattention which makes men's actions look easy, appears in him with greater beauty: by a thorough contempt of little excellencies, he is perfectly master of them. This temper of mind leaves him under no necessity of studying his air, and he has this peculiar distinction, that his negligence is unaffected.
He that can work himself into a pleasure in considering this being as an uncertain one, and think to reap an advantage by its discontinuance, is in a fair way of doing all things with a graceful unconcern, and a gentleman-like ease. Such a one does not behold his life as a short, transient, perplexing state, made up of trifling pleasures and great anxieties; but sees it in quite another light; his griefs are momentary and his joys immortal. Reflection upon death is not a gloomy and sad thought of resigning every thing that he delights in, but it is a short night followed by an endless day. What I would here contend for is, that the more virtuous the man is, the nearer he will naturally be to the character of genteel and agreeable. A man whose fortune is plentiful, shews an ease in his countenance, and confidence in his behaviour, which he that is under wants and difficulties cannot assume. It is thus with the