Imágenes de páginas

bric and muslins, and will talk an hour together upon a sweet-meat. He entertains his mother every night with observations that he makes both in town and court: as what lady shows the nicest fancy in her dress; what man of quality wears the fairest wig ; who has the finest linen, who the prettiest snuff-box, with many other the like curious remarks that may be made in good company.

On the other hand, I have very frequently the opportunity of seeing a rural Andromache, who came up to town last winter, and is one of the greatest fox-hunters in the country. She talks of hounds and horses, and makes nothing of leaping over a six-bar gate. If a man tells her a waggish story, she gives him a push with her hand in jest, and calls him an impudent dog ; and if her servant neglects his business, threatens to kick him out of the house. I have heard her, in her wrath, call a substantial tradesman a lousy cur; and remember one day, when she could not think of the name of a person, she described him, in a large company of men and ladies, by the fellow with the broad shoulders.

If those speeches and actions, which in their own nature are indifferent, appear ridiculous when they proceed from a wrong sex, the faults and imperfections of one sex, transplanted into another, appear black and monstrous. As for the men, I shall not in this paper any further concern myself about them; but as I would fain contribute to make woman-kind, which is the most beautiful part of the creation, entirely amiable, and wear out all those little spots and blemishes that are apt to rise among the charms which nature has poured out upon them, I shall dedicate this paper to their service. The spot which I would here endeavour to clear them of, is that party-rage which of late years is very much crept into their conversation. This is, in its nature, a male vice, and made up of many angry and cruel passions, that are altogether repugnant to the softness, the modesty, and those endearing qualities which are natural to the fair

Women were formed to temper mankind and soothe them into tenderness and compassion; not to set an edge upon their minds, and blow up in them those passions which are too apt to rise of their own accord. When I have seen a pretty mouth uttering calumnies and invectives, what would I not have given to have stopt it! how have I been troubled to see some of the finest features in the world grow pale, and tremble with party-rage! Camilla is one of the greatest beauties in the British nation, and yet values herself more upon being the virago of one party, than being the toast of both. The dear creature, about a week ago, encountered the fierce and beautiful Penthesilea across a teatable; but in the height of her anger, as her hand chanced to shake with the earnestness of the dispute, she scalded her fingers, and spilt a dish of tea upon her petticoat. Had not this accident broke off the debate, nobody knows where it would have ended.


There is one consideration which I would earnestly recommend to all my female readers, and which, I hope, will have some weight with them. In short, it is this, that there is nothing so bad for the face as party-zeal. . It gives an illnatured cast to the eye, and a disagreeable sourness to the look; besides, that it makes the lines too strong, and flushes them worse than brandy. I have seen a woman's face break out in heats, as she has been talking against a great lord, whom she had never seen in her life; and indeed never knew a party-woman that kept her beauty for a twelvemonth. I would therefore advise all my female readers, as they value their complexions, to let alone all disputes of this nature; though, at the same time, I would give free liberty to all superannuated motherly partisans to be as violent as they please, since there will be no danger either of their spoiling their faces or of their gaining converts.

For my own part, I think a man makes an odious and despicable figure that is violent in a party ; but a woman is too sincere to mitigate the fury of her principles with temper and discretion, and to act with that caution and reservedness which are requisite in our sex. When this unnatural zeal gets into them, it throws them into ten thousand heats and extravagances; their generous souls set no bounds to their love, or to their hatred; and whether a whig or tory, a lapdog or a gallant, an opera or a puppet-show, be the object of it, the passion, while it reigns, engrosses the whole woman.

I remember when Dr. Titus Oates was in all his glory, I accompanied my friend Will. Honeycomb in a visit to a lady of his acquaintance: we were no sooner sat down, but upon casting my eyes about the room, I found in almost every corner of it a print that represented the doctor in all magnitudes and dimensions. A little after, as the lady was discoursing my friend, and held her snuff-box in her hand, who should I see in the lid of it but the doctor. It was not long after this, when she had occasion for her handkerchief, which upon the first opening discovered among the plaits of it the figure of the doctor. Upon this my friend Will., who loves raillery, told her, that if he was in Mr. True-love's place (for that was the name of her husband) he should be made as uneasy by a handkerchief as ever Othello was.

“ I am afraid, (said she,) Mr. Honeycomb, you are a tory: tell me truly, are you a friend to the doctor or not?” Will., instead of making her a reply, smiled in her face (for indeed she was very pretty) and told her, that one of her patches was dropping off. She immediately adjusted it, and looking a little seriously, “Well, (says she,) I'll be hanged if you and your silent friend there are not against the doctor in your hearts; I suspected as much by his saying nothing." Upon this she took her fan into her hand, and upon the opening of it again displayed to us the figure of the doctor, who was placed with great gravity among the sticks of it. In a word, I found that the doctor had taken possession of her thoughts, her discourse, and most of her furniture ; but finding myself pressed too close by her question, I winked upon my friend to take his leave, which he did accordingly.

No. 58. MONDAY, MAY 7.

Ut pictura, poesis erit

Hor. NOTHING is so much admired, and so little understood, as wit. No author that I know of has written professedly upon it; as for those who make any mention of it, they only treat on the subject as it has accidentally fallen in their way, and that too in little short reflections, or in general declamatory flourishes, without entering into the bottom of the matter. I hope, therefore, I shall perform an acceptable work to my countrymen, if I treat at large upon this subject;' which I

1 What the author calls “ treating at large upon this subject,is only giving the history of false wit, in the four first of these papers ; a general idea of the true, in the fifth, and a recapitulation of the whole, by way of vision, in the sixth. An accurate treatise on this nice subject is among the desiderata of literature. However, this essay upon it, so far as it goes, is elegant and useful; and such, in point of composition, as might be expected from Mr. Addison, when he took time and pains to methodize

1 a

shall endeavour to do in a manner suitable to it, that I may not incur the censure which a famous critic bestows upon one who had written a treatise upon the sublime in a low, groveling style. I intend to lay aside a whole week for this undertaking, that the scheme of my thoughts may not be broken and interrupted; and I dare promise myself, if my readers will give me a week's attention, that this great city will be very much changed for the better by next Saturday night. I shall endeavour to make what I say intelligible to ordinary capacities; but if my readers meet with any paper that in some parts of it may be a little out of their reach, I would not have them discouraged, for they may assure themselves the next shall be much clearer.

As the great and only end of these speculations, is to banish vice and ignorance out of the territories of Great Britain, I shall endeavour as much as possible to establish among us a taste of polite writing. It is with this view that I have endeavoured to set my readers right in several points relating to operas and tragedies; and shall from time to time impart my notions of comedy, as I think they may tend to its refinement and perfection. I find by my book- . seller that these papers of criticism, with that

upon humour, have met with a more kind reception than, indeed, I could have hoped for from such subjects ; for which reason I shall enter upon my present undertaking with great cheerfulness.

In this, and one or two following papers, I shall trace out the history of false wit, and distinguish the several kinds of it as they have prevailed in different ages of the world. This I think the more necessary at present, because I observed there were attempts on foot last winter to revive some of those antiquated modes of wit that have been long exploded out of the commonwealth of letters. There were several satires and panegyrics handed about in acrostic, by which means some of the most arrant, undisputed blockheads about the town began to entertain ambitious thoughts, and to set up for polite authors. I shall, therefore, describe at length those many arts of false wit, in which a writer does not show himself a man of a beautiful genius, but of great industry.

The first species of false wit which I have met with, is very and correct what he wrote, (which Mr. Tickell tells us was the case with these papers,) and did not apply himself in haste to print an occasional entertainment for the day.


venerable for its antiquity, and has produced several pieces
which have lived very near as long as the Iliad itself: I mean
those short poems printed among the minor Greek poets,
which resemble the figure of an egg, a pair of wings, an ax,
a shepherd's pipe, and an altar.
As for the first, it is a little oval poem,


not improperly be called a scholar's egg. I would endeavour to hatch it, or, in more intelligible language, to translate it into English, did not I find the interpretation of it very difficult; for the author seems to have been more intent upon the figure of his


the sense of it. The pair of wings consists of twelve verses, or rather feathers, every verse decreasing gradually in its measure according to its situation in the wing. The subject of it (as in the rest of the poems which follow) bears some remote affinity with the figure, for it describes a god of Love, who is always painted with wings.

The ax, methinks, would have been a good figure for a lampoon, had the edge of it consisted of the most satirical parts of the work; but as it is in the original, I take it to have been nothing else but the poesy of an ax which was consecrated to Minerva, and was thought to have been the same that Epeus made use of in the building of the Trojan horse ; which is a hint I shall leave to the consideration of the critics. I am apt to think that the poesy was written originally upon the ax, like those which our modern cutlers inscribe upon their knives; and that, therefore, the poesy still remains in its ancient shape, though the ax itself is lost.

The shepherd's pipe may be said to be full of music, for it is composed of nine different kinds of verses, which by their several lengths resemble the nine stops of the old musical instrument, that is likewise the subject of the poem.

The altar is inscribed with the epitaph of Troilus, the son of Hecuba ; which, by the way, makes me believe, that these false pieces of wit are much more ancient than the authors to whom they are generally ascribed

; at least I will never be persuaded that so fine a writer as Theocritus could have been the author of any such simple works.

It was impossible for a man to succeed in these performances who was not a kind of painter, or at least a designer : he was first of all to draw the outline of the subject which he intended to write upon, and afterwards conform the de



[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »