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Several epic poets have religiously followed Virgil as to the number of his books: and even Milton is thought by many to have changed the number of his books from ten to twelve for no other reason; as Cowley tells us it was his design, had he finished his Davideis, to have also imitated the Æneid in this particular. I believe every one will agree with me that a perfection of this nature hath no foundation in reason; and, with due respect to these great names, may be looked upon as something whimsical.
I mention these great examples in defence of my bookseller, who occasioned this eighth volume of Spectators, because, as he said, he thought seven a very odd number. On the other side, several grave reasons were urged on this important subject; as, in particular, that seven was the precise number of the wise men, and that the most beautiful constellation in the heavens was composed of seven stars. This he allowed to be true, but still insisted that seven was an odd number; suggesting at the same time that, if he were provided with a sufficient stock of leading papers, he should find friends ready enough to carry on the work. Having by this means got his vessel launched and set afloat, he hath committed the steerage of it, from time to time, to such as he thought capable of conducting it.
The close of this volume, which the town may now expect in a little time, may possibly ascribe each sheet to its proper author.
It were no hard task to continue this paper, a considerable time longer, by the help of large contributions sent from unknown hands.
I cannot give the town a better opinion of the Spectator's correspondents than by publishing the following letter, with a very fine copy of verses. upon a subject perfectly new.
Dublin, Nov. 30, 1714. . "You lately recommended to your female readers the good old custom of their grandmothers, who used to lay out a great part of their time in needle-work. I entirely agree with you in your sentiments, and think it would not be of less advantage to themselves and their posterity, than to the reputation of many of their good neighbours, if they passed many of those hours in this innocent entertainment which are lost at the tea-table. I would, however, humbly offer to your consideration the case of the poetical ladies; who, though they may be willing to take any advice given them by the Spectator, yet cannot so easily quit their pen and ink as you may imagine. Pray allow them, at least now and then, to indulge themselves in other amusements of fancy when they are tired with stooping to their tapestry. There is a very particular kind of work, which of late several ladies here in our kingdom are very fond of, which seems very well adapted to a poetical genius : it is the making of grottoes. I know a lady who has a very beautiful one, composed by herself; nor is there one shell in it not stuck up by her own hands. I here send you a poem to the fair architect, which I would not offer to herself, until I knew whether this method of a lady's passing her time were approved of by the British Spectator ; which, with the poem, I submit to your censure, who am
Your constant reader
and humble servant,
ON HER GROTTO,
" A grotto so complete, with such design,
66 Where can unpolish'd nature boast a piece
66 Charm'd with the sight, my ravish'd breast is fir'd
“0, were I equal to the bold design,
No. 633. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15, 1714,
Omnia profecto, cum se a cælestibus rebus referet ad humanas, excelsiùs magnificentiusque et dicet et sentiet.
CICERO. The contemplation of celestial things will make a man both
speak and think more sublimely and magnificently when · he descends to human affairs.
The following discourse is printed, as it came to my hands, without variation.
Cambridge, Dec. 12. It was a very common inquiry among the ancients why the number of excellent orators, under all the encouragements the most flourishing states could give them, fell so far short of the number of those who excelled in all other sciences. A friend of mine used merrily to apply to this case an observation of Herodotus, who says, that the most useful animals are the most fruitful in their generation; whereas the species of those beasts that are fierce and mischievous to mankind are but scarcely continued. The historian instances in a hare, which always either breeds or brings forth; and a lioness which brings forth but once, and then loses all power of conception. But leaving my friend to his mirth, I am of opinion that in these latter ages we have greater cause of complaint than the ancients had. And since that solemn festival is approaching*, which calls for all the power of oratory, and which affords as noble a subject for the
pulpit as any revelation has taught us, the design of this paper shall be to show, that our moderns have greater advantages towards true and solid eloquence, than any which the celebrated speakers of antiquity
The first great and substantial difference is, that their common places, in which almost the whole force of amplification consists, were drawn from the profit or honesty of the action, as they regarded only this present state of duration. But Christianity, as it exalts morality to a greater perfection, as it brings the consideration of another life into the question, as it proposes rewards and punishments of a higher nature and a longer continuance, is more adapted to affect the minds of the audience, naturally inclined to pursue what it imagines its greatest interest and concern. If Pericles, as historians report, could shake the firmest resolutions of his hearers, and set the passions of all Greece in a ferment, when the present welfare of his country, or the fear of hostile invasions, was the subject; what may be expected from that orator who warns his audience against those evils which have no remedy, when once undergone, either from prudence or time? As much greater as the evils in a future state are than these at present, so much are the motives to persuasion under Christianity greater than those which mere moral considerations could supply us with. But what I now mention relates only to the power of moving the affections. There is another part of eloquence, which is indeed its masterpiece; I mean the marvellous, or sublime. In this the Christian orator has the advantage, beyond contradiction. Our ideas are so infinitely enlarged by revelation, the eye of reason has so wide a prospect into eternity, the notions of a Deity are so