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years later, James Beresford, a fellow of
To me no more shall come-whence dost it come?
Fribourg and Pontet! cease your trading toil,
Foredoomed in small circumference to hold
The fellows of Merton seem to have discovered some hidden efficacy in snuff. “Who doth not know what logic lies concealed,
Where diving finger meets with diving thumb ?
The slow-repeated tap, with frowning brows,
The arm tossed round, returning to the nose.
Spectator-The Rebus-Injurious Wit-The Everlasting
Club-The Lovers' Club-Castles in the Air-The Guardian-Contributions by Pope—“The Agreeable Companion”—The Wonderful Magazine-Joe MillerPivot Humour.
OX THEN “The Tatler” had completed two
V hundred and seventy-one numbers, it occurred to the fertile mind of Steele that it might be modified with advantage. For the future it should be a daily paper, and only contain an essay upon one subject. In making this alteration he thought it would be better to give the periodical a title of more important signification, and accordingly called it the “Spectator.” But the most important difference was that Addison was to contribute a much larger portion of the material. This gave more solidity to the work.
Addison never obtained a questionable success by descending too low in coarse language. His style has been recommended as a model, for he is lively and interesting without approaching
dangerous ground. As we read his pleasant pages we can almost agree with Lord Chesterfield that:-“True wit never raised a laugh since the world was,” but here and there we
find a passage that shows us the grave censor was mistaken. Speaking of the “absurdities of the modern opera” Addison says,
“As I was walking in the streets about a fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds upon his shoulder; and as I was wondering with myself what use he would put them to, he was met very luckily by an acquaintance, who had the same curiosity. Upon his asking what he had upon his shoulder, he told him that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. 'Sparrows for the opera,' says his friend, licking his lips, 'what! are they to be roasted ? •No, no,' says the other, they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and to fly about the stage.'
“There have been so many flights of sparrows let loose in this opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid of them, and that in other plays they may make their entrance in very wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in a lady's bedchamber, or perching upon a king's throne; besides the inconvenience which the heads of the audience may sometimes suffer for thein. I am credibly informed that there was once a design of casting into an opera the story of Whittington and his Cat, and that in order to it there had been got together a great quantity of mice; but Mr. Rich, the proprietor of the play. house, very prudently considered tbat it would be impos. sible for the cat to kill them all, and that consequently the princes of the stage might be as much infested with mice as the prince of the island was before the cat's arrival upon it."
To a letter narrating country sports, and a whistling match won by a footman, he adds as a postscript,
“After having despatched these two important points of grinning and whistling, I hope you will oblige the world with some reflections upon yawning, as I have seen it practised on a Twelfth Night among other Christmas gam.
hols at the house of a very worthy gentleman who entertains his tenants at that time of the year. They yawn for a Cheshire cheese, and begin about midnight, when the whole company is supposed to be drowsy. He that yawns widest, and at the same time so naturally as to produce the most yawns among the spectators, carries home the cheese. If you handle this subject as you ought, I question not but your paper will set half the kingdom a-yawning, though I dare promise you it will never make anybody fall asleep."
Johnson observes that Addison never outsteps the modesty of nature, nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. He wrote several essays in the “Spectator” on wit, and condemns much that commonly passes under the name. Together with verbal humour and many absurd devices connected with it, he especially repudiates the rebus. In the first part of the following extract he refers to this device being used for other objects than those of amusement, and he might have reminded us of the alphabets of primitive times, when the picture of an animal signified the sound with which its name commenced; but the rebus proper is merely a bad attempt at humour-a sort of pictorial pun
“I find likewise among the ancients that ingenious kind of conceit which the moderns distinguish by the name of a rebus, that does not sink a letter, but a whole word, by substituting a picture in its place. When Cæsar was one of the masters of the Roman mint, he placed the figure of an elephant upon the reverse of the public money; the word Cæsar signifying an elephant in the Punic language. This was artificially contrived by Cæsar, because it was not lawful for a private man to stamp his own figure upon the coin of the Commonwealth. Cicero, so called from the founder of his family, who was marked on the nose with a little wen like a vetch, (which is Cicer in Latin,) instead of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ordered the words Marcus Tullius with the figure of a vetch at the end of them, to be inscribed on a public monument. This was done probably to show that he was neither ashamed of his name or family, notwithstanding the envy of his competitors had often reproached him with both. In the same manner we read of a famous building that was marked in several parts of it with the figures of a frog and a lizard; these words in Greek having been the names of the architects, who by the laws of their country were never permitted to inscribe their own names upon their works. For the same reason, it is thought that the forelock of the horse in the antique equestrian statute of Marcus Aurelius, represents at a distance the shape of an owl, to intimate the country of the statuary, who in all probability was an Athenian. This kind of wit was very much in vogue among our own countrymen about an age or two ago, who did not practise it for any oblique reason, as the ancients above mentioned, but purely for the sake of being witts. Among innumerable instances that may be given of this nature, I shall produce the device of one, Mr. Newberry, as I find it mentioned by our learned Camden, in his remains. Mr. Newberry, to represent his name by a picture, hung up at his door the sign of a yew-tree that had several berries upon it, and in the midst of them a great golden N hung upon the bough of the tree, which by the help of a little false spelling made up the word N-ew-berry.”
Addison disproved of that severity and malice which was too common among the writers of his age. He refers to it in his essays on wit, in allusion, as it is thought, to Swift.
“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 aud 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. ... . It must indeed be confessed, that a lampoon or a satire does not carry in it robbery or murder; but at the same time, how many are there that would rather lose a considerable sum of money, or even life itself, than be set up as a mark of infamy and derision."