Изображения страниц

No. 320.] Friday, March 7, 1711-12.

-non pronuba Juno, Non Hymenæus adest, non illi gratia lecto: Eumenides stravere torum

Ovid. Met. Lib. 6. 428.
Nor Hymen, nor the Graces here preside,
Nor Juno to befriend the blooming bride;
But fiends with fun'ral brands the process led,
And furies waited at the genial bed.-Crotal.

riages have as constant and regular a correspondence as the funeral-men have with vintners and apothecaries. All bachelors are under their immediate inspection: and my friend produced to me a report given in to their board, wherein an old uncle of mine, who came to town with me, and myself, were inserted, and we stood thus: the uncle smoky, rotten, poor; the nephew raw, but no fool; sound at present, very rich. My information did not end here; but my friend's advices are so good, that he could show me a copy of the letter sent to the young lady who is to have me; which I enclose to you:

'MR. SPECTATOR, -You have given many hints in your papers to the disadvantage of persons of your own sex, who lay plots upon women. Among other hard words you have published the term "Male Coquettes," and have been very severe upon such as give themselves the liberty of a little dalliance of heart, and playing fast and loose between love and indifference, until perhaps an easy young girl is reduced to sighs, dreams, and tears, and languishes away her life for a careless coxcomb, who looks astonished, and wonders at such an effect from what in him was all but common civility. Thus you have treated the men who are irresolute in marriage; but if you design to be impartial, pray be so honest as to print the information I now give you of a certain set of women who never coquet for the matter, but, with a high hand, marry whom they please to whom they please. As for my part, I should not have concerned myself with them, but that I understand that I am pitched upon by them to be married, against my will, to one I never saw in my life. It has been my misfortune, sir, very innocently, to rejoice in a plentiful fortune, of which I am master, to bespeak a fine chariot, to give directions for two or three handsome snuff-boxes, and as many suits of fine clothes; but before any of these were ready I heard reports of my of the inquisition. They have their missabeing to be married to two or three differ-ries and substitutes in all parts of this united ent young women. Upon my taking notice kingdom. The first step they usually take, of it to a young gentleman who is often in is to find from a correspondence, by their my company, he told me smiling, I was in messengers and whisperers, with some dothe inquisition. You may believe I was not mestic of the bachelor, (who is to be hunted a little startled at what he meant, and into the toils they have laid for him,) what more so, when he asked me if I had be- are his manners, his familiarities, his good spoke any thing of late that was fine. I qualities, or vices; not as the good in him told him several; upon which he produced is a recommendation, or the ill a diminua description of my person, from the trades- tion, but as they affect to contribute to the men whom I had employed, and told me main inquiry, what estate he has in him. that they had certainly informed against When this point is well reported to the me. Mr. Spectator, whatever the world board, they can take in a wild roaring foxmay think of me, I am more coxcomb than hunter, as easily as a soft, gentle young fop fool, and I grew very inquisitive upon this of the town. The way is to make all places head, not a little pleased with the novelty. uneasy to him, but the scenes in which they My friend told me, there were a certain set have allotted him to act. His brother huntsof women of fashion, whereof the number men, bottle companions, his fraternity of of six made a committee, who sat thrice a fops, shall be brought into the conspiracy week, under the title of "The Inquisition against him. Then this matter is not laid

What makes my correspondent's case the more deplorable is, that, as I find by the report from my censor of marriages, the friend he speaks of is employed by the inquisition to take him in, as the phrase is. After all that is told him, he has information only of one woman that is laid for him, and that the wrong one; for the lady commissioners have devoted him to another than the person against whom they have employed their agent his friend to alarm him. The plot is laid so well about this young gentleman, that he has no friend to retire to, no place to appear in, or part of the kingdom to fly into, but he must fall into the notice, and be subject to the power

on Maids and Bachelors." It seems, when-in so barefaced a manner before him as to have it intimated, Mrs. Such-a-one would make him a very proper wife; but by the force of their correspondence, they shall make it (as Mr. Waller said of the marriage of the dwarfs,) as impracticable to have any woman besides her they design him, as it would have been in Adam to have refused Eve. The man named by

ever there comes such an unthinking gay thing as myself to town, he must want all manner of necessaries, or be put into the inquisition by the first tradesman he employs. They have constant intelligence with cane-shops, perfumers, toy-men, coachmakers, and china-houses. From these several places these undertakers for mar

"MADAM-This is to let you know that you are to be married to a beau that comes the Park. You cannot but know a virgin fop; out on Thursday, six in the evening. Be at they have a mind to look saucy, but are out

of countenance. The board has denied him
to several good families. I wish you joy.

the commission for Mrs. Such-a-one shall neither be in fashion, nor dare ever appear in company, should he attempt to evade their determination.

day at a neighbouring coffee-house, where
we have what I may call a lazy club. We
generally come in night-gowns, with our
stockings about our heels, and sometimes
but one on. Our salutation at entrance is a
yawn and a stretch, and then without more
ceremony we take our place at the lolling-
table, where our discourse is, what I fear
you would not read out, therefore shall not
insert. But I assure you, sir, I heartily
lament this loss of time, and am now re-
solved, (if possible, with double diligence,)
to retrieve it, being effectually awakened
by the arguments of Mr. Slack, out of the
senseless stupidity that has so long pos-
sessed me. And to demonstrate that peni-
tence accompanies my confessions, and con-
stancy my resolutions, I have locked my
door for a year, and desire you would let
my companions know I am not within. I
am with great respect, sir, your most obe-
dient servant,
'N. B.'

The female sex wholly govern domestic life; and by this means, when they think fit, they can sow dissensions between the dearest friends, nay, make father and son irreconcilable enemies, in spite of all the ties of gratitude on one part, and the duty of protection to be paid on the other. The ladies of the inquisition understand this perfectly well; and where love is not a motive to a man's choosing one whom they allot, they can with very much art insinuate stories to the disadvantage of his honesty or courage, until the creature is too much dispirited to bear up against a general ill reception, which he every where meets with, and in due time falls into their appointed wedlock for shelter. I have a long letter bearing date the fourth instant, which gives me a large account of the policies of this court; and find there is now before them a very refractory person who has

escaped all their machinations for two No. 321.] Saturday, March 8, 1711-12. years last past; but they have prevented two successive matches which were of his own inclination; the one by a report that his mistress was to be married, and the very day appointed, wedding-clothes bought, and all things ready for her being given to another; the second time by insinuating to all his mistress's friends and acquaintance, that he had been false to several other women, and the like. The poor man is now reduced to profess he designs to lead a single life; but the inquisition give out to all his acquaintance, that nothing is intended but the gentleman's own welfare and happiness. When this is urged, he talks still more humbly, and protests he aims only at a life without pain or reproach; pleasure, honour, and riches, are things for which he has no taste. But notwithstanding all this, and what else he may defend himself with, as that the lady is too old or too young, of a suitable humour, or the quite contrary, and that it is impossible they can ever do other than wrangle from June to January, every body tells him all this is spleen, and he must have a wife; while all the members of the inquisition are unanimous in a certain woman for him, and they think they altogether are better able to judge than he, or any other private person whatsoever.

'Temple, March 3, 1711. 'SIR,-Your speculation this day on the subject of idleness has employed me ever since I read it, in sorrowful reflections on my having loitered away the term (or rather the vacation) of ten years in this place, and unhappily suffered good chamber and study to lie idle as long. My books (except those I have taken to sleep upon,) have been totally neglected, and my Lord Coke and other venerable authors were never so slighted in their lives. I spend most of the

Nec satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. Hor. Ars Poet. v. 99. Tis not enough a poem's finely writ; It must affect and captivate the soul.-Roscommon. THOSE Who know how many volumes have been written on the poems of Homer and Virgil will easily pardon the length of my discourse upon Milton. The Paradise Lost is looked upon by the best judges, as the greatest production, or at least the noblest work of genius in our language, and therefore deserves to be set before an English reader in its full beauty. For this reason, though I have endeavoured to give a general idea of its graces and imperfections in my first six papers, I thought myself obliged to bestow one upon every book in particular. The first three books I have already despatched, and am now entering upon the fourth. I need not acquaint my reader that there are multitudes of beauties in this great author, especially in the descriptive parts of this poem, which I have not touched upon; it being my intention to point out those only which appear to me the most exquisite, or those which are not so obvious to ordinary readers. Every one that has read the critics who have written upon the Odyssey, the Iliad, and the Æneid, knows very well, that though they agree in their opinions of the great beauties in those poems, they have nevertheless each of them discovered several master-strokes, which have escaped the observation of the rest. In the same manner, I question not but any writer, who shall treat of this subject after me may find several beauties in Milton, which I have not taken notice of. I must likewise observe, that as the greatest masters of critical learning differ among one another, as to some particular points in an epic poem, I have

not bound myself scrupulously to the rules | forth into speech that is softened with
which any one of them has laid down upon several transient touches of remorse and
that art, but have taken the liberty some- self-accusation: but at length he confirms
times to join with one, and sometimes with himself in impenitence, and in his design
another, and sometimes to differ from all of of drawing man into his own state of guilt
them, when I have thought that the reason and misery. This conflict of passions is
of the thing was on my side.
raised with a great deal of art, as the open-
ing of his speech to the sun is very bold
and noble:

We may conclude the beauties of the fourth book under three heads. In the first are those pictures of still-life, which we meet with in the description of Eden, Paradise, Adam's bower, &c. In the next are the machines, which comprehend the speeches and behaviour of the good and bad angels. In the last is the conduct of Adam and Eve, who are the principal actors in the poem.

In the description of Paradise, the poet has observed Aristotle's rule of lavishing all the ornaments of diction on the weak unactive parts of the fable, which are not supported by the beauty of sentiments and characters. Accordingly the reader may observe, that the expressions are more florid and elaborate in these descriptions, than in most other parts of the poem. I must further add, that though the drawings of gardens, rivers, rainbows, and the like dead pieces of nature, are justly censured in an heroic poem, when they run out into an unnecessary length-the description of Paradise would have been faulty, had not the poet been very particular in it, not only as it is the scene of the principal action, but as it is requisite to give us an idea of that happiness from which our first parents fell. The plan of it is wonderfully beautiful, and formed upon the short sketch which we have of it in holy writ. Milton's exuberance of imagination has poured forth such a redundancy of ornaments on this seat of happiness and innocence, that it would be endless to point out each par-shape of vultures. ticular.

'O thou, that with surpassing glory crown'd,
Look'st from thy sole dominion like the god
Of this new world; at whose sight all the stars
Hide their diminish'd heads; to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice; and add thy name,
O sun! to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.'

This speech is, I think, the finest that is ascribed to Satan in the whole poem. The evil spirit afterwards proceeds to make his discoveries concerning cur first parents, and to learn after what manner they may be best attacked. His bounding over the walls of Paradise: his sitting in the shape of a cormorant upon the tree of life, which stood in the centre of it, and overtopped all the other trees of the garden; his alighting among the herd of animals, which are so beautifully represented as playing about Adam and Eve; together with his transforming himself into different shapes, in order to hear their conversation; are circumstances that give an agreeable surprise to the reader, and are devised with great art, to connect that series of adventures in which the poet has engaged this artificer of fraud.

The thought of Satan's transformation into a cormorant, and placing himself on the tree of life, seems raised upon that passage in the Iliad, where two deities are described as perching on the top of an oak in the

His planting himself at the ear of Eve under the form of a toad, in order to produce vain dreams and imaginations, is a circumstance of the same nature; as his starting up in his own form is wonderfully fine, both in the literal description, and in the moral which is concealed under it. His answer upon his being discovered, and demanded to give an account of himself, is conformable to the pride and intrepidity of of his character:

I must not quit this head without further observing, that there is scarce a speech of Adam or Eve in the whole poem, wherein the sentiments and allusions are not taken from this their delightful habitation. The reader, during their whole course of action always finds himself in the walks of Paradise. In short, as the critics have remarked, that in those poems wherein shepherds are the actors, the thoughts ought always to take a tincture from the woods, fields, and rivers; so we may observe, that our first parents seldom lose sight of their happy station in any thing they speak or do; and, if the reader will give me leave to use the expression, that their thoughts are always "paradisaical.'

We are in the next place to consider the machines of the fourth book. Satan being Gabriel, the chief of the guardian angels, now within the prospect of Eden, and look-who kept watch in Paradise. His disdainful ing round upon the glories of the creation, behaviour on this occasion is so remarkable is filled with sentiments different from those a beauty, that the most ordinary reader which he discovered whilst he was in hell. cannot but take notice of it. Gabriel's disThe place inspires him with thoughts more covering his approach at a distance is drawn adapted to it. He reflects upon the happy with great strength and liveliness of imagicondition from whence he fell, and breaks nation:

Know ye not, then,' said Satan, fill'd with scorn,
Know ye not me! Ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where you durst not soar:
Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng-

Zephon's rebuke, with the influence it had on Satan, is exquisitely graceful and moral. Satan is afterwards led away to

O friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade, And with them comes a third of regal port, But faded splendour wan; who by his gait And fierce demeanour seems the prince of Hell: Not likely to part hence without contest; Stand firm, for in his look defiance low'rs.'

The conference between Gabriel and Satan abounds with sentiments proper for the occasion, and suitable to the persons of the two speakers. Satan clothing himself with terror when he prepares for the combat is truly sublime, and at least equal to Homer's description of Discord, celebrated by Longinus, or to that of Fame in Virgil, who are both represented with their feet standing upon the earth, and their heads reaching above the clouds:

While thus he spake, th' angelic squadron bright
Turn'd fiery red, sharp'ning in mooned horns
Their phalanx, and began to hem him round
With ported spears, &c.

-On th' other side Satan alarm'd,
Collecting all his might, dilated stood
Like Teneriffe, or Atlas, unremoved:
His stature reach'd the sky, and on his crest
Sat Horror plum'd.--

I must here take notice, that Milton is every where full of hints, and sometimes literal translations, taken from the greatest of the Greek and Latin poets. But this I may reserve for a discourse by itself, because I would not break the thread of these speculations, that are designed for English readers, with such reflections as would be of no use but to the learned.

below the genius of Milton. The description of the host of armed angels walking their nightly round in Paradise is of another spirit:

I must, however, observe in this place, that the breaking off the combat between Gabriel and Satan, by the hanging out of the golden scales in heaven, is a refinement upon Homer's thought, who tells us, that before the battle between Hector and Achilles, Jupiter weighed the event of it in a pair of scales. The reader may see the whole passage in the 22d Iliad.

Virgil, before the last decisive combat describes Jupiter in the same manner, as weighing the fates of Turnus and Æneas. Milton, though he fetched this beautiful circumstance from the Iliad and Æneid, does not only insert it as a poetical embellishment, like the author's above-mentioned, but makes an artful use of it for the proper carrying on of his fable, and for the breaking off the combat between the two warriors, who were upon the point of engaging. To this we may further add, that Milton is the more justified in this passage, as we find the same noble allegory in holy writ, where a wicked prince, some few hours before he was assaulted and slain, is said to have been weighed in the scales, and to have been found wanting.'


I must here take notice, under the head of the machines, that Uriel's gliding down to the earth upon a sun-beam, with the poet's device to make him descend, as well in his return to the sun as in his coming from it, is a prettiness that might have been admired in a little fanciful poet, but seems

So saying on he led his radiant files, Dazzling the moon ;

as that account of the hymns which our first parents used to hear them sing in these their midnight walks is altogether divine, and inexpressibly amusing to the imagination.

We are in the last place, to consider the parts which Adam and Eve act in the fourth book. The description of them, as they first appeared to Satan, is exquisitely drawn, and sufficient to make the fallen angel gaze upon them with all that astonishment, and those emotions of envy in which he is represented:

Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
God-like erect, with native honour clad
In naked majesty, seem'd lords of all;
And worthy seem'd; for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious maker shone,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure;
Severe, but in true filial freedom plac'd:
For contemplation he and valour form'd,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him.

His fair large front, and eye sublime declar'd
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clust'ring, but not beneath his shoulders broad.
She, as a veil, down to her slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevell'd, but in wanton ringlets way'd.
So pass'd they naked on, nor shunn'd the sight
Of God or angels, for they thought no ill:
So hand in hand they pass'd, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love's embraces met.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

-When Adam first of men

*Sole partner and sole part of all these joys,
Dearer thyself than all:-

But let us ever praise Him, and extol
His bounty, following our delightful task,

To prune these growing plants, and tend these flow'rs Which were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet.” To whom thus Eve reply'd. O thou, for whom And from whom I was form'd, flesh of thy flesh, And without whom am to no end, my guide And head, what thou hast said is just and right. For we to him indeed all praises owe And daily thanks; I chiefly, who enjoy So far the happier lot, enjoying thee, Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou Like consort to thyself canst no where find.' &c. The remaining part of Eve's speech, in which she gives an account of herself upon her first creation, and the manner in which she was brought to Adam, is, I think, as beautiful a passage as any in Milton, or perhaps in any other poet whatsoever. These passages are all worked off with so much art, that they are capable of pleasing the most delicate reader, without offending the most severe.

'That day I of remember, when from sleep,' &c.

A poet of less judgment and invention is a very good one, if it be true:' but as for than this great author, would have found the following relation, I should be glad were it very difficult to have filled these tender I sure it were false. It is told with such parts of the poem with sentiments proper simplicity, and there are so many artless for a state of innocence; to have described touches of distress in it, that I fear it comes the warmth of love, and the professions of too much from the heart. it, without artifice or hyperbole; to have made the man speak the most endearing things without descending from his natural dignity, and the woman receiving them without departing from the modesty of her character: in a word, to adjust the prerogatives of wisdom and beauty, and make each appear to the other in its proper force and loveliness. This mutual subordination of the two sexes is wonderfully kept up in the whole poem, as particularly in the speech of Eve I have before mentioned, and upon the conclusion of it in the following lines:

So spake our general mother, and with eyes
Of conjugal attraction unreprov'd,
And meek surrender, half embracing lean'd
On our first father; half her swelling breast
Naked met his, under the flowing gold
Of her loose tresses hid; he in delight
Both of her beauty and submissive charms
Smil'd with superior love.-

The poet adds, that the devil turned away with envy at the sight of so much happiness.

We have another view of our first parents in their evening discourses, which is full of pleasing images and sentiments suitable to their condition and characters. The speech of Eve in particular, is dressed up in such a soft and natural turn of words and sentiments, as cannot be sufficiently


I shall close my reflections upon this book with observing the masterly transition which the poet makes to their evening worship in the following lines:

[blocks in formation]

'MR. SPECTATOR,-Some years ago it happened that I lived in the same house with a young gentleman of merit, with whose good qualities I was so much taken, as to make it my endeavour to show as many as I was able in myself. Familiar converse improved general civilities into an unfeigned passion on both sides. He watched an opportunity to declare himself to me; and I, who could not expect a man of so great an estate as his, received his addresses in such terms, as gave him no reason to believe I was displeased with them, though I did nothing to make him think me more easy than was decent. His father was a very hard worldly man, and proud; so that there was no reason to believe he would easily be brought to think there was any thing in any woman's person, or character, that could balance the disadvantage of an unequal fortune. In the mean time the son continued his application to me, and omitted no occasion of demonstrating the most disinterested passion imaginable to me; and in plain direct terms offered to marry me privately, and keep it so till he should be so happy as to gain his father's approbation, or become possessed of his estate. I passionately loved him, and you will believe I did not deny such a one what was my interest also to grant. However, I was not so young as not to take the precaution of carrying with me a faithful servant, who had been also my mother's maid, to be present at the ceremony. When that was over, I demanded a certificate to be signed by the minister, my husband, and the servant I just now spoke of. After our nuptials, we conversed together very familiarly in the same house; but the restraints we

were generally under, and the interviews we had being stolen and interrupted, made our behaviour to each other have rather the impatient fondness which is visible in lovers, than the regular and gratified affection, which is to be observed in man and wife. This observation made the father very anxious for his son, and press him to a match he had in his eye for him. To reand conceal the secret of our marriage, lieve my husband from this importunity, which I had reason to know would not be long in my power in town, it was resolved that I should retire into a remote place in the country, and converse under feigned names by letter. We long continued this way of commerce; and I with my needle, a few books, and reading over and over my husband's letters, passed my time in a resigned expectation of better days. Be pleased to take notice, that within four months after I left my husband I was deli

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »