« AnteriorContinuar »
observed several warehouses, nay, private shops, that stand upon Corinthian pillars, and whole rows of tin pots showing themselves, in order to their sale, through a sash window.
I have likewise followed the example of the Roman Censors, in punishing offences according to the quality of the offender. It was usual for them to expel a senator who had been guilty of great immoralities out of the senate house, by omitting his name when they called over the list of his brethren. In the same manner, to remove effectually several worthless men who stand possessed of great honours, I have made frequent draughts of dead men out of the vicious part of the nobility, and given them up to the new society of upholders, with the necessary orders for their interment. As the Roman Censors used to punish the knights or gentlemen of Rome, by taking away their horses from them, I have seized the canes of many criminals of figure, whom I had just reason to animadvert upon. As for the offenders among the common people of Rome, they were generally chastised, by being thrown out of a higher tribe, and placed in one which was not so honourable. My reader cannot but think I have had an eye to this punishment, when I have degraded one species of men into bombs, squibs, and crackers, and another into drums, bass-viols, and bagpipes; not to mention whole packs of delinquents whom I have shut up in kennels, and the new hospital which I am at present erecting, for the reception of those of my countrymen who give me but little hopes of their amendment, on the borders of Moorfields. I shall only observe upon this particular, that since some late surveys I have taken of this island, I shall think it necessary to enlarge the plan of the buildings which I design in this quarter.
When my great predecessor Cato the elder stood for the censorship of Rome, there were several other competitors who offered themselves: and to get an interest among the people, gave them great promises of the mild and gentle treatment which they would use towards them in that office. Cato on the contrary told them, he presented himself as a candidate, because he knew the age was sunk in immorality and corruption; and that if they would give him their votes, he would promise them to make use of such a strictness and severity of discipline as should recover them out of it. The
Roman historians, upon this occasion, very much celebrated the public-spiritedness of that people, who chose Cato for their censor, notwithstanding his method of recommending himself. I may in some measure extol my own countrymen upon the same account, who, without any respect to party, or any application from myself, have made such generous subscriptions for the Censor of Great Britain, as will give a magnificence to my old age, and which I esteem more than I would any post in Europe of an hundred times the value. I shall only add, that upon looking into my catalogue of subscribers, which I intend to print alphabetically in the front of my lucubrations, I find the names of the greatest beauties and wits in the whole island of Great Britain, which I only mention for the benefit of any of them who have not yet subscribed, it being my design to close the subscription in a very short time.
No. 163. THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 1710.
Idem inficeto est inficetior rure
Simul poemata attigit: neque idem unquam
Tam gaudet in se, tamque se ipse miratur.
Nimirum idem omnes fallimur; neque est quisquam
CATUL. DE SUFFENO.
Will's Coffee-house, April 24.
I YESTERDAY came hither about two hours before the company generally make their appearance, with a design to read over all the newspapers; but upon my sitting down, I was accosted by Ned Softly, who saw me from a corner in the other end of the room, where I found he had been writing something. Mr. Bickerstaffe, (says he,) I observe by a late paper of yours, that you and I are just of a humour; for, you must know, of all impertinencies, there is nothing which I so much hate as news. I never read a Gazette in my life; and never trouble my head about our armies, whether they win or lose, or in what part of the world they lie encamped. Without giving me time to reply, he drew a paper of verses out of his pocket, telling me that he had
something which would entertain me more agreeably, and that he would desire my judgment upon every line, for that we had time enough before us till the company came in.
Ned Softly is a very pretty poet, and a great admirer of easy lines. Waller is his favourite: and as that admirable writer has the best and worst verses of any among our English poets, Ned Softly has got all the bad ones without book, which he repeats upon occasion, to show his reading, and garnish his conversation. Ned is indeed a true English reader, incapable of relishing the great and masterly strokes of this art; but wonderfully pleased with the little Gothic ornaments of epigrammatical conceits, turns, points, and quibbles, which are so frequent in the most admired of our English poets, and practised by those who want genius and strength to represent, after the manner of the ancients, simplicity in its natural beauty and perfection.
Finding myself unavoidably engaged in such a conversation, I was resolved to turn my pain into a pleasure, and to divert myself as well as I could with so very odd a fellow. "You must understand, (says Ned,) that the sonnet I am going to read to you was written upon a lady, who showed me some verses of her own making, and is, perhaps, the best poet of our age. But you shall hear it." Upon which he began to read as follows:
"TO MIRA ON HER INCOMPARABLE POEM.
"When dressed in laurel wreaths you shine,
And tune your soft melodious notes,
You seem a sister of the Nine,
Or Phoebus' self in petticoats.
"I fancy, when your song you sing,
(Your song you sing with so much art,) Your pen was plucked from Cupid's wing; For ah! it wounds me like his dart."
'Why (says I) this is a little nosegay of conceits, a very lump of salt: every verse hath something in it that piques; and then the dart in the last line is certainly as pretty a sting in the tail of an epigram (for so I think your critics call it) as ever entered into the thought of a poet." Mr. Bickerstaffe, (says he, shaking me by the hand,) every
body knows you to be a judge of these things; and to tell you truly, I read over Roscommon's translation of Horace's Art of Poetry three several times, before I sat down to write the sonnet which I have shown you. But you shall hear it again, and pray observe every line of it, for not one of them shall pass without your approbation.
"When dressed in laurel wreaths
"That is, (says he,) when you have your garland on; you are writing verses. To which I replied, "I know your meaning: a metaphor!" "The same," said he, and went on: "And tune your soft melodious notes.'
"Pray observe the gliding of that verse; there is scarce a consonant in it: I took care to make it run upon liquids. Give me your opinion of it." 'Truly, (said I,) I think it as good as the former." "I am very glad to hear you say so, (says he,) but mind the next :
'You seem a sister of the Nine.'
"That is, (says he,) you seem a sister of the Muses; for if you look into ancient authors, you will find it was their opinion, that there were nine of them." "I remember it very well, (said I,) but pray proceed."
"Or Phœbus' self in petticoats.'
"Phoebus (says he) was the god of poetry. These little instances, Mr. Bickerstaffe, show a gentleman's reading. Then to take off from the air of learning which Phoebus and the Muses have given to this first stanza, you may observe, how it falls all of a sudden into the familiar; in petticoats!
'Or Phœbus' self in petticoats.'"
"Let us now (says I) enter upon the second stanza. I. find the first line is still a continuation of the metaphor.
'I fancy when your song you sing.''
"It is very right, (says he ;) but pray observe the turn of words in those two lines. I was a whole hour in adjusting of them, and have still a doubt upon me, whether in the second line it should be, 'Your song you sing;' or,' You sing your song.' You shall hear them both :"
'I fancy, when your song you sing,
'I fancy when your song you sing,
"Truly, (said I,) the turn is so natural either way, that you have made me almost giddy with it." "Dear Sir, (said he, grasping me by the hand,) you have a great deal of tience; but pray what do you think of the next verse ? 'Your pen was plucked from Cupid's wing.'"
"Think! (says I,) I think you have made Cupid look like a little goose.' "That was my meaning, (says he,) I think the ridicule is well enough hit off. But we now come to the last, which sums up the whole matter.
For ah! it wounds me like his dart.'
Pray how do you like that ah! doth it not make a pretty figure in that place? Ah!-it looks as if I felt the dart, and cried out at being pricked with it.
'For ah! it wounds me like his dart.'
"My friend Dick Easy (continued he) assured me, he would rather have written that ah! than to1 have been the author of the Æneid. He indeed objected, that I made Mira's pen like a quill in one of the lines, and like a dart in the other. But as to that- "Oh! as to that, (says I,) it is but supposing Cupid to be like a porcupine, and his quills and darts will be the same thing." He was going to embrace me for the hint; but half a dozen critics coming into the room, whose faces he did not like, he conveyed the sonnet into his pocket, and whispered me in the ear, he would show it me again as soon as his man had written it over fair.2
No. 165. SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 1710.
From my own Apartment, April 28.
It has always been my endeavour to distinguish between realities and appearances, and separate true merit from the pretence to it. As it shall ever be my study to make discoveries of this nature in human life, and to settle the proper distinctions betweeen the virtues and perfections of
1 To] should be left out.
2 The humour of this paper is fine; but not original. Ned Softly is a slip of Days, in the rehearsal :
Parva sub ingenti matris se subjicit umbrâ."