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No. 23. TUESDAY, MARCH 27.
Sævit atrox Volscens, nec teli conspicit usquam
Auctorem, nec quò se ardens immittere possit. Virg. THERE is nothing that more betrays a base, ungenerous spirit, than the giving of secret stabs to a man's reputation. Lampoons and satires, that are written with wit and spirit, are like poisoned darts, which not only inflict a wound, but make it incurable. For this reason I am very much troubled when I see the talents of humour and ridicule in the possession of an ill-natured man. There cannot be a greater gratification to a barbarous and inhuman wit, than to stir up sorrow in the heart of a private person, to raise uneasiness among near relations, and to expose whole families to derision, at the same time that he remains unseen and undiscovered. If, besides the accomplishments of being witty and illnatured, a man is vicious into the bargain, he is one of the most mischievous creatures that can enter into a civil society. His satire will then chiefly fall upon those who ought to be the most exempt from it. Virtue, merit, and everything that is praiseworthy, will be made the subject of ridicule and buffoonery. It is impossible to enumerate the evils which arise from these arrows that fly in the dark ;2 and I know no other excuse that is or can be made for them, than that
| The giving of. ] _This use of the participle, instead of the substantive, is agreeable to the English idiom, and has a good effect in our language, which in this, as in other instances, resembles the Greek much more than the Latin tongue. But our polite writers, being generally most conversant in the latter of these languages, have gradually introduced the substantive, or a verb in the infinitive mood, into the place of the participle. Thus, they would say, "detraction,” or “ to detract from the reputation of others, shows a base spirit.” Yet the practice is not so far established, but that the other mode of expression may, sometimes, (though more sparingly, perhaps, than heretofore,) be employed. An exact writer, indeed, would not set out with a sentence in this form ; but, in the body of a discourse, “ currente calamo," he would not scruple to make use of it. Never to employ the participle, would be finical and affected : to employ it constantly, or frequently, would now be thought careless: but to employ it occasionally, contributes plainly to the variety, and, I think, to the grace, of a good English style.
2 Which arise from these arrows that fly in the dark.] This sentence had been more exact, and less languid, if he had said, “Innumerable evils arise from those arrows that fly in the dark.
the wounds they give are only imaginary, and produce nothing more than a secret shame or sorrow in the mind of the suffering person. It must indeed be confessed, that a lampoon or a satire do not carry in them robbery or murder; but at the same time, how many are there that would not rather lose a considerable sum of money, or even life itself, than be set up as marks of infamy and derision ? And in this case a man should consider, that an injury is not to be measured by the notions of him that gives, but of him that receives it.
Those who can put the best countenance upon the outrages of this nature which are offered them, are not without their secret anguish. I have often observed a passage in Socrates's behaviour at his death, in a light wherein none of the critics have considered it. That excellent man, entertaining his friends, a little before he drank the bowl of poison, with a discourse on the immortality of the soul, at his entering upon
the most comic genius, can censure him for talking upon such a subject at such a time. This passage, I think, evidently glances upon Aristophanes, who writ a comedy on purpose to ridicule the discourses of that divine philosopher. It has been observed by many writers, that Socrates was so little moved at this piece of buffoonery, that he was several times present at its being acted upon the stage, and never expressed the least resentment of it. But with submission, I think the remark I have here made shows us that this unworthy treatment made an impression upon his mind, though he had been too wise to discover it.
When Julius Cæsar was lampooned by Catullus, he invited him to a supper, and treated him with such a generous civility, that he made the poet his friend ever after. Cardinal Mazarine gave the same kind of treatment to the learned Quillet, who had reflected upon his Eminence in a famous Latin poem. The cardinal sent for him, and, after some kind expostulations upon what he had written, assured him of his esteem, and dismissed him with a promise of the next good abbey that should fall, which
he accordingly conferred upon him in a few months after. This had so good an effect upon the author, that he dedicated the second edition of his book to the cardinal, after having expunged the passages which had given him offence.
Sextus Quintus was not of so generous and forgiving a
temper. Upon his being made pope, the statue Pasquin was one night dressed in a very dirty shirt, with an excuse written under it, that he was forced to wear foul linen because his laundress was made a princess. This was a reflection upon the pope's sister, who, before the promotion of her brother, was in those mean circumstances that Pasquin represented her. As this pasquinade made a great noise in Rome, the
offered a considerable sum of money to any person that should discover the author of it. The author, relying upon his Holiness's generosity, as also on some private overtures which he had received from him, made the discovery himself; upon which the pope gave him the reward he had promised, but at the same time, to disable the satirist for the future, ordered his tongue to be cut out, and both his hands to be chopped off. Aretine is too trite an instance. Every one knows that all the kings of Europe were his tributaries. Nay, there is a letter of his extant, in which he makes his boasts that he had laid the Sophi of Persia under contribution.
Though, in the various examples which I have here drawn together, these several great men behaved themselves very differently towards the wits of the age who had reproached them; they all of them plainly showed that they were very sensible of their reproaches, and consequently that they received them as very great injuries. For my own part, I would never trust a man that I thought was capable of giving these secret wounds; and cannot but think that he would hurt the person, whose reputation he thus assaults, in his body or in his fortune, could he do it with the same security. There is indeed something very barbarous and inhuman in the ordinary scribblers of lampoons. An innocent young lady shall be exposed for an unhappy feature. A father of a family turned to ridicule for some domestic calamity. A wife be made uneasy all her life for a misinterpreted word or action. Nay, a good, a temperate, and a just man, shall be put out of countenance, by the representation of those qualities that should do him honour. So pernicious a thing is wit, when it is not tempered with virtue and humanity. I have indeed heard of heedless, inconsiderate writers, that
Circumstances that Pasquin represented her.] Carelessly and elliptically expressed.
without any malice have sacrificed the reputation of their friends and acquaintance, to a certain levity of temper, and a silly ambition of distinguishing themselves by a spirit of raillery and satire: as if it were not infinitely more honourable to be a good-natured man than a wit. Where there is this little petulant humour in an author, he is often very mischievous without designing to be so.
For which reason I always lay it down as a rule, that an indiscreet man is more hurtful than an ill-natured one; for as the one will only attack his enemies, and those he wishes ill to, the other injures indifferently both friends and foes. I cannot forbear, on this occasion, transcribing a fable out of Sir Roger L'Estrange, which accidentally lies before me.
A company of waggish boys were watching of frogs at the side of a pond, and still as any of them put up their heads, they'd be pelting them down again with stones. Children,' says one of the frogs, you never consider, that though this be play to you, 'tis death to us.
Ås this week is in a manner set apart and dedicated to serious thoughts, I shall indulge myself in such speculations
not be altogether unsuitable to the season ; and in the mean time, as the setting in ourselves a charitable frame of mind is a work very proper for the time, I have in this paper endeavoured to expose that particular breach of charity which has been generally overlooked by divines, because they are but few who can be guilty of it.
No. 25. THURSDAY, MARCH 29.
-Ægrescitque medendo. Virg. The following letter will explain itself, and needs no apology. SIR,
I am one of that sickly tribe who are commonly known by the name of Valetudinarians; and do confess to you, that I first contracted this ill habit of body, or rather of mind, by the study of physic. I no sooner began to peruse books of this nature, but I found my pulse was irregular; and scarce ever read the account of any disease, that I did not fancy myself afflicted with. Dr. Sydenham's learned treatise of fevers threw me into a lingering hectic, which hung upon me all the while I was reading that excellent piece. I then applied myself to the study of several authors, who have written upon phthisical distempers, and by that means fell into a consumption; till at length growing very fat, I was in a manner shamed out of that imagination. Not long after this I found in myself all the symptoms of the gout, except pain; but was cured of it by a treatise
the gravel, written by a very ingenious author, who (as it is usual for physicians to convert one distemper into another) eased me of the gout by giving me the stone. I at length studied myself into a complication of distempers; but, accidentally taking into my hand that ingenious discourse written by Sanctorius, I was resolved to direct myself by a scheme of rules which I had collected from his observations. The learned world are very well acquainted with that gentleman's invention; who, for the better carrying on of his experiments, contrived a certain mathematical chair, which was so artificially hung upon springs, that it would weigh any. thing as well as a pair of scales. By this means he discovered how many ounces of his food passed by perspiration, what quantity of it was turned into nourishment, and how much went away by the other channels and distributions of nature.
“Having provided myself with this chair, I used to study, eat, drink, and sleep in it; insomuch that I may be said, for these three last years, to have lived in a pair of scales. I compute myself, when I am in full health, to be precisely two hundredweight, falling short of it about a pound after a day's fast, and exceeding it as much after a very full meal; so that it is my continual employment to trim the balance between these two volatile pounds in my constitution. In my ordinary meals I fetch myself up to two hundredweight and half a pound; and if after having dined I find myself fall short of it, I drink just so much small-beer, or eat such a quantity of bread, as is sufficient to make me weight. In my greatest excesses I do not transgress more than the other half pound; which, for my health's sake, I do the first Monday in every month. As soon as I find myself duly poised after dinner, I walk till I have perspired five ounces and four scruples ; and when I discover, by my chair, that I am so far reduced, I fall to my books, and study away three ounces more.