« AnteriorContinuar »
that I have reason to hope this sort of cheats are almost at an end.
The orange-flower men appeared next with pe. titions, perfumed so strongly with musk, that I was almost overcome with the scent; and for my own sake, was obliged forthwith to licence their handkerchiefs, especially when I found they had sweetened them at Charles Lillie's, and that some of their persons would not be altogether inoffensive without them. Johņ Morphew, whom I have made the general of my dead men, acquainted me, that the petitioners were all of that order, and could produce certificates to prove it, if I required it. I was so well pleased with this way of their embalming themselves, that I commanded the abovesaid Morphew to give it in orders to his whole army, that every one who did not surrender himself up to be disposed of by the upholders, should use the same method to keep himself sweet during his present state of putrefaction.
I finished my session with great content of mind, reflecting upon the good I had done; for however flightly men may regard these particularities and little follies in dress and behaviour, they lead to greater evils. The bearing to be laughed at for such singularities, teaches us insensibly an impertinent fortitude, and enables us to bear public censure for things which more substantially deserve it. By this means they open a gate to folly, and oftentimes render a man so ridiculous, as discredit his virtues and capacities, and unqualify them from doing any good in the world. Besides, the giving into uncommon habits of this nature, is a want of that humble deference which is due to mankind ; and (what is worst of all) the certain indication of some secret flaw in the mind of the person that commits them. When I was a young man, I remember a gentleman of great integrity and worth was very remarkable for wearing a broad belt, and a hanger, instead of a fashionable sword, though in all other points a very
well bred man. I suspected him at first sight to have something wrong in him, but was not able for a long while to discover any collateral proofs of it. I watched him narrowly for six-and-thirty years, when at last, to the surprise of every body but myself, who had long expected to see the folly break out, he married his own cook-maid.
Sir Richard Steele joined in this paper,
No. 108. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1709.
Pronaque cum spectant animalia cætera terram,
Sheer-Lane, December 16. Ir is not to be imagined, how great an effect welldisposed lights, with proper forms and orders in assemblies, have upon some tempers. I am sure I feel it in so extraordinary a manner, that I cannot in a day or two get out of my imagination any very beautiful or disagreeable impression which I receive on such occasions. For this reason, I frequently look in at the playhouse, in order to enlarge my thoughts, and warm my mind with some new ideas, that may be serviceable to me in my lucubrations.
In this disposition I entered the theatre the other day, and placed myself in a corner of it, very convenient for seeing, without being myself observed. I found the audience hushed in a very deep attention, and did not question but some noble tragedy was just then in its crisis, or that an incident was to be unravelled, which would determine the fate of an hero. While I was in this suspence, expecting every moment to see my friend Mr. Betterton appear in all the majesty of distress, to my unspeak
able amazement, there came up a monster with a face between his feet; and as I was looking on, he raised himself on one leg in such a perpendicular posture, that the other grew in a direct line above his head. It afterwards twisted itself into the motions and wreathings of several different animals, and, after great variety of shapes and transformations, went off the stage in the figure of an human creature. The admiration, the applause, the satisfaction of the audience, during this strange entertainment, is not to be expressed. I was very much out of countenance for my dear countrymen, and looked about with some apprehension for fear any foreigner should be present. Is it possible (thought I) that human nature can rejoice in its disgrace, and take pleasure in seeing its own figure turned to ridicule, and distorted into forms that raise horror and aversion? There is something disingenuous and immoral in the being able to bear such a sight. Men of elegant and noble minds, are shocked at seeing the characters of persons who deserve esteem for their virtue, knowledge, or services to their country, placed in wrong lights, and by misrepresentation made the subject of buffoonry. Such a nice abhorrence is not, indeed, to be found among the vulgar; but methinks it is wonderful, that those who have nothing but the outward figure to distin- . guish them as men, should delight in seeing it abused, vilified, and disgraced.
I must confess, there is nothing that more pleases me, in all that I read in books, or see among mankind, than such passages as represent human nature in its proper dignity. As man is a creature made up of different extremes, he has something in him very great and very mean : a skilful artist may draw an excellent picture of him in either view. The finest authors of antiquity have taken hini on the more advantageous side. They cultivate the natural grandeur of the soul, raise in her a generous am
bition, feed her with hopes of immortality and perfection, and do all they can to widen the partition between the virtuous and the vicious, - by making the difference betwixt them as great as between gods and brutes. "In short, it is impossible to read a page in Plato, Tully, and a thousand other ancient moralists, without being a greater and a better man for it. On the contrary, I could never read any of our inodish French authors, or those of our own country who are the imitators and admirers of that trifling nation, without being for some time out of humour with myself, and at every thing about me. Their business is, to depreciate human nature, and consider it under its worst appearances. They give mean interpretations and base motives to the worthiest actions: they resolve virtue and vice into constitution. In short, they endeavour to make no distinction between man and man, or between the species of men and that of brutes. As an instance of this kind of authors, among many others, let any one examine the celebrated Rochefoucault, who is the great philosopher for administering of consolation to the idle, the envious, and worthless part of mankind.
I remember a young gentleman of moderate understanding, but great vivacity, who, by dipping into many authors of this nature, had got a little smattering of knowledge, just enough to make an atheist or a free-thinker, but not a philosopher or a man of sense. With these accomplishments, he went to visit his father in the country, who was a plain, rough, honest man, and wise, though not learned. The son, who took all opportunities to shew his learning, began to establish a new religion in the family, and to enlarge the narrowness of their country notions, in which he succeeded so well, that he had seduced the butler by his table-talk, and staggered his eldest sister. The old gentleman began to be alarmed at the 'schisms that arose among his children, but did
not yet believe his son's doctrine to be so pernicious as it really was, till one day talking of his settingdog, the son said, “ He did not question but Tray was as immortal as any one of the family;” and in the heat of the argument, told his father, “That for his own part, he expected to die like a dog." Upon which, the old man, starting up in a very great passion, cried out, “ Then, sirrah, you shall live like one;" and taking his cane in his hand, cudgelled him out his system. This had so good an effect upon him, that he took up from that day, fell to reading good books, and is now a bencher in the Middle Temple.
I do not mention this cudgelling part of the story with a design to engage the secular arm in matters of this nature; but certainly, if it ever exerts itself in affairs of opinion and speculation, it ought to do it on such shallow and despicable pretenders to knowledge, who endeavour to give man dark and uncomfortable prospects of his being, and destroy those principles which are the support, happiness, and glory, of all public societies, as well as private persons.
I think it is one of Pythagoras's golden sayings, “ That a man should take care above all things to have a due respect for himself:” and it is certain, that this licentious sort of authors, who are for depreciating mankind, endeavour to disappoint and undo what the most refined spirits have been labouring to advance since the beginning of the world. The very design of dress, good-breeding, outward ornaments, and ceremony, were to lift up human nature, and to set it off to an advantage. Architecture, painting, and statuary, were invented with the same design; as indeed every art and science contributes to the embellishment of life, and to the wearing off, or throwing into shades, the mean and low parts of our nature. Poetry carries on this great end more than all the rest, as may be seen in