« AnteriorContinuar »
assured; or, in other words, when he shall be neither sinful, nor ignorant, nor miserable.
If there be anything which makes human nature appear ridiculous to beings of superior faculties, it must be pride. They know so well the vanity of those imaginary perfections that swell the heart of man, and of those little supernumerary advantages, whether in birth, fortune, or title, which one man enjoys above another, that it must certainly very much astonish, if it does not very much divert them, when they see a mortal puffed up, and valuing himself above his neighbours, on any of these accounts, at the same time that he is obnoxious to all the common calamities of the species.
To set this thought in its true light,' we will fancy, if you please, that yonder mole-hill is inhabited by reasonable creatures, and that every pismire (his shape and way of life only excepted) is endowed with human passions. How should we smile to hear one give us an account of the pedigrees, distinctions, and titles that reign among them! Observe how the whole swarm divide and make way for the pismire that passes through them. You must understand he is an emmet of quality, and has better blood in his veins than any pismire in the mole-hill. Do not you see how sensible he is of it, how slow he marches forward, how the whole rabble of ants keep their distance? Here you may observe one placed upon a little eminence, and looking down on a long row of labourers. He is the richest insect on this side the hillock, he has a walk of half a yard in length, and a quarter of an inch in breadth; he keeps a hundred menial servants, and has, at least, fifteen barley-corns in his granary. He is now chiding and beslaving the emmet that stands before him, and who, for all that we can discover, is as good an emmet as himself.
The comparison here carried on with so much vivacity of humour is equally a favourite with the religionist and free-thinker, but on very different considerations; with the religionist, who intends to mortify human pride, and with the free-thinker, who employs it to degrade and vilify human nature. The former would show how man becomes ridiculous, by departing from the rule of his nature, reason; the latter would have us infer from it, that the most reasonable pursuits of man are insignificant. But to make out this last conclusion, more must be taken for granted than the parallel implies, or the libertine will ever prove; I mean, that the reasonable conduct of the passions has no influence on the enjoyment of this life, or of another.
But here comes an insect of figure! Do not you take notice of a little white straw that he carries in his mouth? That straw, you must understand, he would not part with for the longest tract about the mole-hill: did you but know what he has undergone to purchase it! See how the ants of all qualities and conditions swarm about him. Should this straw drop out of his mouth, you would see all this numerous circle of attendants follow the next that took it up, and leave the discarded insect, or run over his back, to come at his successor.
If now you have a mind to see all the ladies of the molehill, observe first the pismire that listens to the emmet on her left hand, at the same time that she seems to turn away her head from him. He tells this poor insect that she is a goddess, that her eyes are brighter than the sun, that life and death are at her disposal. She believes him, and gives herself a thousand little airs upon it. Mark the vanity of the pismire on your left hand. She can scarce crawl with age, but you must know she values herself upon her birth; and if you mind, spurns at every one that comes within her reach. The little nimble coquette that is running along by the side of her, is a wit. She has broke many a pismire's heart. Do but observe what a drove of lovers are running after her.
We will here finish this imaginary scene; but first of all, to draw the parallel closer, will suppose, if you please, that death comes down upon the mole-hill, in the shape of a cocksparrow, who picks up, without distinction, the pismire of quality and his flatterers, the pismire of substance and his day-labourers, the white-straw officer and his sycophants, with all the goddesses, wits, and beauties of the mole-hill.
May we not imagine that beings of superior natures and perfections, regard all the instances of pride and vanity, among our own species, in the same kind of view, when they take a survey of those who inhabit the earth; or, in the language of an ingenious French poet, of those pismires that people this heap of dirt, which human vanity has divided into climates and regions?
No. 154. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7.
Omnia transformant sese in miracula rerum. VIRG.
I QUESTION not but the following letter will be entertaining to those who were present at the late masquerade, as it will recall into their minds several merry particulars that passed in it, and, at the same time, be very acceptable to those who were at a distance from it, as they may form from hence some idea of this fashionable amusement.
To Nestor Ironside, Esq.
Per viam Leonis.
SIR, I could scarce ever go into good company, but the discourse was on the ambassador, the politeness of his entertainments, the goodness of his Burgundy and Champaign, the gaiety of his masquerades, with the odd fantastical dresses which were made use of in those midnight solemnities. The noise these diversions made at last raised my curiosity, and for once I resolved to be present at them, being at the same time provoked to it by a lady I then made my addresses to, one of a sprightly humour, and a great admirer of such novelties. In order to it, I hurried my habit, and got it ready a week before the time, for I grew impatient to be initiated in these new mysteries. Every morning I drest myself in it, and acted before the looking-glass, so that I am vain enough to think I was as perfect in my part as most who had oftener frequented these diversions. You must understand, I personated a devil, and that for several weighty reasons. First, because appearing as one of that fraternity, I expected to meet with particular civilities from the more polite and better bred part of the company. Besides, as from their usual reception they are called familiars, I fancied I should, in this character, be allowed the greatest liberties, and soonest be led into the secrets of the masquerade. To recommend and distinguish me from the vulgar, I drew a very long tail after me. But to speak the truth, what persuaded me most to this disguise was, because I heard an intriguing lady say, in a large company of females, who
unanimously assented to it, that she loved to converse with such, for that generally they were very clever fellows who made choice of that shape. At length, when the long wished for evening came, which was to open to us such vast scenes of pleasure, I repaired to the place appointed about ten at night, where I found nature turned top-side turvy; women changed into men, and men into women, children in leadingstrings seven foot high, courtiers transformed into clowns, ladies of the night into saints, people of the first quality into beasts or birds, gods or goddesses; I fancied I had all Ovid's Metamorphoses before me. Among these were several monsters to which I did not know how to give a name;
Than fables yet have feigned, or fear conceived,
"In the middle of the first room I met with one dressed in a shroud. This put me in mind of the old custom of serving up a death's head at a feast. I was a little angry at the dress, and asked the gentleman whether he thought a dead man was fit company for such an assembly; but he told me, that he was one who loved his money, and that he considered this dress would serve him another time. This walking corse was followed by a gigantic woman with a highcrowned hat, that stood up like a steeple over the heads of the whole assembly. I then chanced to tread upon the foot of a female Quaker, to all outward appearance; but was surprised to hear her cry out, 'D-n you, you son of a ——————,' upon which I immediately rebuked her, when all of a sudden, resuming her character, 'Verily, (says she,) I was to blame, but thou hast bruised me sorely.' A few moments after this adventure, I had like to have been knocked down1 by a shepherdess, for having run my elbow a little inadvertently into one of her sides. She swore like a trooper, and threatened me with a very masculine voice; but I was timely taken off by a Presbyterian parson, who told me in a very soft tone, that he believed I was a pretty fellow, and that he would meet me in Spring Garden to-morrow night. The next object I saw was a chimney-sweeper, made up of black crape and velvet, (with a huge diamond in his mouth,) making love to
1 I had like to have been knocked down.] The past time had, in had like, fixes the time of being knocked down to the present. It should, then. be-"I had like to be knocked down."
a butterfly. On a sudden I found myself among a flock of bats, owls, and lawyers: but what took up my attention most was, one dressed in white feathers that represented a swan. He would fain have found out a Leda among the fair sex, and, indeed, was the most unlucky bird in the company. I was then engaged in discourse with a running footman, but as I treated him like what he appeared to be, a Turkish emperor whispered me in the ear, desiring me to use him civilly, for that it was his master. I was here interrupted by the famous large figure of a woman, hung with little looking-glasses. She had a great many that followed her as she passed by me, but I would not have her value herself upon that account, since it was plain they did not follow so much to look upon her as to see themselves. The next I observed was a nun making an assignation with a heathen god, for I heard them mention the Little Piazza in Covent Garden. I was by this time exceeding hot, and thirsty, so that I made the best of my way to the place where wine was dealt about in great quantities. I had no sooner presented myself before the table, but a magician, seeing me, made a circle over my head with his wand, and seemed to do me homage. I was at a loss to account for his behaviour; until I recollected who I was: this, however, drew the eyes of the servants upon me, and immediately procured me a glass of excellent Champaign. The magician said I was a spirit of an adust and dry constitution; and desired that I might have another refreshing glass, adding withal, that it ought to be a brimmer. I took it in my hand, and drank it off to the magician. This so enlivened me, that I led him by the hand into the next room, where we danced a rigadoon together. I was here a little offended at a jackanapes of a Scaramouch, that cried out, Avaunt Satan!' and gave me a little tap on my left shoulder, with the end of his lath sword. As I was considering how I ought to resent this affront, a well-shaped person that stood at my left-hand, in the figure of a bellman, cried out with a suitable voice,' Past twelve o'clock.' This put me in mind of bed-time: accordingly I made my way towards the door, but was intercepted by an Indian king, a tall, slender youth, dressed up in a most beautiful partycoloured plumage. He regarded my dress very attentively; and after having turned me about once or twice, asked me whom I had been tempting; I could not tell what was the