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in Virgil." He then told me all the secret history in the commonwealth of learning; of modern pieces that had the names of ancient authors annexed to them; of all the books that were now writing or printing in the several parts of Europe; of many amendments which are made, and not yet published; and a thousand other particulars, which I would not have my memory burthened with for a Vatican.
At length, being fully persuaded that I thoroughly admired him, and looked upon him as a prodigy of learning, he took his leave. I know several of Tom's class who are professed admirers of Tasso without understanding a word of Italian ; and one in particular, that carries a Pastor Fido in his pocket, in which I am sure he is acquainted with no other beauty but the clearness of the character.
There is another kind of pedant, who, with all Tom Folio's impertinencies, hath greater superstructures and embellishments of Greek and Latin, and is still more insupportable than the other, in the same degree as he is more learned. Of this kind very often are editors, commentators, interpreters, scholiasts, and critics; and in short, all men of deep learning without common sense. These persons set a greater value on themselves for having found out the meaning of a passage in Greek, than upon the author for having written it; nay, will allow the passage itself not to have any beauty in it, at the same time that they would be considered as the greatest men in the age for having interpreted it. They will look with contempt upon the most beautiful poems that have been composed by any of their contemporaries; but will lock themselves up in their studies for a twelvemonth together, to correct, publish, and expound, such trifles of antiquity as a modern author would be contemned for. Men of the strictest morals, severest lives, and the gravest professions, will write volumes upon an idle sonnet that is originally in Greek or Latin; give editions of the most immoral authors, and spin out whole pages upon the various readings of a lewd expression. All that can be said in excuse for them is, that their works sufficiently show they have no taste of their authors; and that what they do in this kind, is out of their great learning, and not out of any levity or lasciviousness of temper.1
It may be so.-Yet when learned critics choose to shine on these dirty subjects, while so many cleaner and fairer, which deserve their
A pedant of this nature is wonderfully well described in six lines of Boileau, with which I shall conclude his character:1 Un Pédant enyvré de sa vaine science, Tout herissé de Grec, tout bouffi d' arrogance, Et qui de mille Auteurs retenus mot pour mot, Dans sa tête entassez n' a souvent fait qu'un Sot, Croit qu'un Livre fait tout, et que sans Aristote La Raison ne voit goute, et le bon Sens radote.
No. 160. TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 1710.
From my own Apartment, April 17.
A COMMON civility to an impertinent fellow, often draws upon one a great many unforeseen troubles; and if one doth not take particular care, will be interpreted by him as an overture of friendship and intimacy. This I was very sensible of this morning. About two hours before day, I heard a great rapping at my door, which continued some time, till my maid could get herself ready to go down and see what was the occasion of it. She then brought me up word, that there was a gentleman who seemed very much in haste, and said he must needs speak with me. By the description she gave me of him, and by his voice, which I could hear as I lay in my bed, I fancied him to be my old acquaintance the upholsterer, whom I met the other day in St. James's Park. For which reason I bid her tell the gentleman, whoever he was, that I was indisposed, that I could see nobody, and that, if he had anything to say to me, I desired he would leave it in writing. My maid, after having delivered her message, told me, that the gentleman said he would stay at the next coffee-house till I was stirring, and bid her be sure to tell me, that the French were driven from the Scarp, and that pains, are left in obscurity, they must not be surprised if the world thinks otherwise.
The satire contained in this paper is extremely just; and yet, I doubt, has done no small hurt in the republic of letters. The reason is, that most men are lazy, as well as vain; and are, therefore, glad of such a pretence, as this piece of raillery affords them, to see all erudition, especially profound erudition, in the light of pedantry. So difficult it is not to misapply the talent of ridicule, or, at least, not to give others the occasion of misapplying it!
the Douay was invested. He gave her the name of another town, which I found she had dropped by the way.
As much as I love to be informed of the success of my brave countrymen, I do not care for hearing of a victory before day, and was therefore much out of humour at this unseasonable visit. I had no sooner recovered my temper, and was falling asleep, but I was immediately startled by a second rap; and upon my maid's opening the door, heard the same voice ask her, if her master was yet up? and at the same time bid her tell me, that he was come on purpose to talk with me about a piece of home-news that everybody in town will be full of two hours hence. I ordered my maid, as soon as she came into the room, without hearing her message, to tell the gentleman, that whatever his news was, I would rather hear it two hours hence than now; and that I persisted in my resolution not to speak with anybody that morning. The wench delivered my answer presently, and shut the door. It was impossible for me to compose myself to sleep after two such unexpected alarms; for which reason I put on my clothes in a very peevish humour. I took several turns about my chamber, reflecting with a great deal of anger and contempt on these volunteers in politics, that undergo all the pain, watchfulness, and disquiet of a first minister, without turning it to the advantage either of themselves or their country; and yet it is surprising to consider how numerous this species of men is. There is nothing more frequent than to find a tailor breaking his rest on the affairs of Europe, and to see a cluster of porters sitting upon the ministry. Our streets swarm with politicians, and there is scarce a shop which is not held by a statesman. As I was musing after this manner, I heard the upholsterer at the door delivering a letter to my maid, and begging her, in very great hurry, to give it to her master as soon as ever he was awake, which I opened and found as follows:
I was to wait upon you about a week ago, to let you know, that the honest gentleman whom you conversed with upon the bench at the end of the Mall, having heard that I had received five shillings of you, to give you a hundred pounds upon the Great Turk's being driven out of Europe, desired me to acquaint you, that every one of that company
would be willing to receive five shillings, to pay a hundred pounds on the same conditions. Our last advices from Muscovy making this a fairer bet than it was a week ago, I do not question but you will accept the wager.
"But this is not my present business. If you remember, I whispered a word in your ear as we were walking up the Mall, and you see what has happened since. If I had seen you this morning, I would have told you in your ear another secret. I hope you will be recovered of your indisposition by to-morrow morning, when I will wait on you at the same hour as I did this; my private circumstances being such, that I cannot well appear in this quarter of the town after it is day.
I have been so taken up with the late good news from Holland, and expectation of further particulars, as well as with other transactions, of which I will tell you more tomorrow morning, that I have not slept a wink these three nights.
"I have reason to believe, that Picardy will soon follow the example of Artois, in case the enemy continue in their present resolution of flying away from us. I think I told you last time we were together my opinion about the Deulle.
"The honest gentlemen upon the bench bid me tell you, they would be glad to see you often among them. We shall be there all the warm hours of the day during the present posture of affairs.
"This happy opening of the campaign will, I hope, give us a very joyful summer; and I propose to take many a pleasant walk with you, if you will sometimes come into the Park; for that is the only place in which I can be free from the malice of my enemies. Farewell till three-a-clock to-morrow morning.
"P. S. The king of Sweden is still at Bender.”
I should have fretted myself to death at this promise of a second visit, if I had not found in his letter an intimation of the good news which I have since heard at large. I have, however, ordered my maid to tie up the knocker of my door, in such a manner as she would do if I was really indisposed. By which means I hope to escape breaking my morning's rest.
No. 161. THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 1710.
-Nunquam libertas gratior exstat
Quam sub rege pio.
From my own Apartment, April 19.
I was walking two or three days ago in a very pleasing retirement, and amusing myself with the reading of that ancient and beautiful allegory, called "The table of Cebes." 2 I was at last so tired with my walk, that I sat down to rest myself upon a bench that stood in the midst of an agreeable shade. The music of the birds that filled all the trees about me, lulled me asleep before I was aware of it; which 3 was followed by a dream, that I impute in some measure to the foregoing author, who had made an impression upon my imagination, and put me into his own way of thinking.
I fancied myself among the Alps, and, as it is natural in a dream, seemed every moment to bound from one summit to another, till at last, after having made this airy progress over the tops of several mountains, I arrived at the very centre of those broken rocks and precipices. I here, methought, saw a prodigious circuit of hills, that reached above the clouds, and encompassed a large space of ground, which I had a great curiosity to look into. I thereupon continued my former way of travelling through a great variety of winter scenes, till I had gained the top of these white mountains, which seemed another Alps of snow. I looked down from hence into a spacious plain, which was surrounded on all sides by this mound of hills, and which presented me with the most agreeable prospect 1 had ever seen. There was a greater variety of colours in the embroidery of the meadows, a more lively green in the leaves and grass, a brighter crystal in the streams, than what I ever met with in any other region. The light itself had something more Better expunge-" the reading of."
2 The table of Cebes.] A fine moral allegory, but of a character wholly different from that which follows. This picturesque and sublime dream had been more naturally introduced, if the author of it had fallen asleep over a canto of Spenser.
Which.] What? "The being lulled asleep," carelessly expressed. The Alps.] The scenery of this vision, taken from Switzerland.See the author's travels.