Page images
PDF
EPUB

No. 262. MONDAY, DECEMBER 31.

Nulla venenato littera mista joco est.

OVID.

I THINK myself highly obliged to the public for their kind acceptance of a paper which visits them every morning, and has in it none of those seasonings that recommend so many of the writings which are in vogue among us.

[ocr errors]

As, on the one side, my paper has not in it a single word of news, a reflection in politics, nor a stroke of party; so, on the other, there are no fashionable touches of infidelity, no obscene ideas, no satires upon priesthood, marriage, and the like popular topics of ridicule; no private scandal, nor any thing that may tend to the defamation of particular persons, families, or societies.

There is not one of the above-mentioned subjects that would not sell a very indifferent paper, could I think of gratifying the public by such mean and base methods; but, notwithstanding I have rejected every thing that savours of party, every thing that is loose and immoral, and every thing that might create uneasiness in the minds of particular persons, I find that the demand of my papers has increased every month since their first appearance in the world. This does not perhaps reflect so much honour upon myself, as on my readers, who give a much greater attention to discourses of virtue and morality, than ever I expected, or indeed could hope.

When I broke loose from that great body of writers who have employed their wit and parts in propagating vice and irreligion, I did not question but I should be treated as an odd kind of fellow, that had a mind to appear singular in my way of writing: but the general reception I have found, convinces

me that the world is not so corrupt as we are apt to imagine; and that if those men of parts who have been employed in vitiating the age, had endeavoured to rectify and amend it, they needed not have sacrificed their good sense and virtue to their fame and reputation. No man is so sunk in vice and ignorance, but there are still some hidden seeds of goodness and knowledge in him; which give him a relish of such reflections and speculations as have an aptness to improve the mind, and make the heart better.

I have shewn in a former paper, with how much care I have avoided all such thoughts as are loose, obscene, or immoral; and I believe my reader would still think the better of me, if he knew the pains I am at in qualifying what I write after such a manner, that nothing may be interpreted as aimed at private persons. For this reason, when I draw any faulty character, I consider all those persons to whom the malice of the world may possibly apply it, and take care to dash it with such particular circumstances as may prevent all such ill-natured applications. If I write any thing on a black man, I run over in my mind all the eminent persons in the nation who are of that complexion: when I place an imaginary name at the head of a character, I examine every syllable and letter of it, that it may not bear any resemblance to one that is real. I know very well the value which every man sets upon his reputation, and how painful it is to be exposed to the mirth and derision of the public, and should therefore scorn to divert my reader at the expence of any private man.

As I have been thus tender of every particular person's reputation, so I have taken more than ordinary care not to give offence to those who appear in the higher figures of life. I would not make myself merry even with a piece of pasteboard that is invested with a public character; for which reason

I have never glanced upon the late designed procession of his Holiness and his attendants, notwithstanding it might have afforded matter to many ludicrous Speculations. Among those advantages which the public may reap from this paper, it is not the least, that it draws mens' minds off from the bitterness of party, and furnishes them with subjects of discourse that may be treated without warmth or passion. This is said to have been the first design of those gentlemen who set on foot the Royal Society; and had then a very good effect, as it turned many of the greatest geniuses of that age to the disquisitions of natural knowledge, who, if they had engaged in politics, with the same parts and application, might have set their country in a flame. The air-pump, the barometer, the quadrant, and the like inventions, were thrown out to those busy spirits, as tubs and barrels are to a whale, that he may let the ship sail on without disturbance, while he diverts himself with those innocent amusements.

I have been so very scrupulous in this particular of not hurting any man's reputation, that I have forborne mentioning even such authors as I could not name with honour. This I must confess to have been a piece of very great self-denial: for as the public relishes nothing better than the ridicule which turns upon a writer of any eminence, so there is nothing which a man, that has but a very ordinary talent in ridicule, may execute with greater ease. One might raise laughter for a quarter of a year together upon the works of a person who has published but a very few volumes. For which reason I am astonished, that those who have appeared against this paper have made so very little of it. The criticisms which I have hitherto published, have been made with an intention rather to discover beauties and excellencies in the writers of my own time, than to publish any of their faults and imperfections. In the mean while, I should take it for a very great favour from

some of my underhand detractors, if they would break all measures with me so far, as to give me a pretence for examining their performances with an impartial eye: nor shall I look upon it as a breach of charity to criticise the author, so long as I keep clear of the person.

In the mean while, till I am provoked to such hostilities, I shall from time to time endeavour to do justice to those who have distinguished themselves in the politer parts of learning, and to point out such beauties in their works as may have escaped the observation of others.

As the first place among our English poets is due to Milton, and as I have drawn more quotations out of him than from any other, I shall enter into a regular criticism upon his Paradise Lost, which I shall publish every Saturday, 'till I have given my thoughts upon that poem. I shall not, however, presume to impose upon others my own particular judgment on this author, but only deliver it as my private opinion. Criticism is of a large extent, and every particular master in this art has his favorite passages in an author, which do not equally strike the best judges. It will be sufficient for me if I discover many beauties or imperfections which others have not attended to, and I should be very glad to see any of our eminent writers publish their discoveries on the same subject. In short, I would always be understood to write my papers of criticism in the spirit which Horace has expressed in those two famous lines:

If

-Si quid novisti rectius istis,
Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.

you have made any better remarks of your own, communicate them with candor; if not, make use of these I present you with.

No. 265. THURSDAY, JANUARY 3.

Dixerit e multis aliquis, Quid virus in angues
Adjicis? et rabidae tradis ovile lupa?

OVID. DE ART. AM.

ONE of the Fathers, if I am rightly informed, has defined a woman to be ζῶον φιλοκόσμον, “An animal that delights in finery." I have already treated of the sex in two or three papers, conformably to this difini tion, and have in particular observed, that in all ages they have been more careful than the men to adorn that part of the head which we generally call the outside.

The observation is so very notorious, that when, in ordinary discourse, we say a man has a fine head, a long head, or a good head, we express ourselves metaphorically, and speak in relation to his understanding; whereas when we say of a woman, she has a fine, a long, or a good head, we speak only in relation to her commode.

It is observed among birds, that nature has lavished all her ornaments upon the male, who very often appears in a most beautiful head-dress; whether it be a crest, a comb, a tuft of feathers, or a natural little plume, erected like a kind of pinnacle on the very top of the head. As nature, on the contrary, has poured out her charms in the greatest abundance on the female part of our species, so they are very assiduous in bestowing upon themselves the finest garnitures of art. The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colours that appear in the garments of a British lady, when she is dressed either for a ball or a birth-day.

But to return to our female heads. The ladies have been for some time in a kind of moulting season, with regard to that part of their dress, having cast great quantities of ribbon, lace, and cambric,

« EelmineJätka »