« ПредишнаНапред »
It is no unpleasant entertainment to consider the commerce even of the sexes interrupted by difference in state affairs. A wench and her gallant parted last week upon the words unlimited and passive: and there is such a jargon of terms got into the mouths of the very silliest of the women, that you cannot come into a room, even among them, but you find them divided into Whig and Tory. What heightens the humour is, that all the hard words they know, they certainly suppose to be terms useful in the disputes of the parties. I came in this day where two were in very hot debate; and one of them proposed to me to explain to them what was the difference between circumcision and predestination. You may be sure I was at a loss; but they were too angry at each other to wait for my explanation, and proceeded to lay open the whole state of affairs, instead of the usual topics of dress, gallantry, and scandal.
I have often wondered how it should be possible that this turn to politics should so universally prevail, to the exclusion of every other subject out of conversation; and, upon mature consideration, find it is for want of discourse. Look round you among all the young fellows you meet, and you see those who have the least relish for books, company, or pleasure, though they have no manner or qualities to make them succeed in those pursuits, shall make very passable politicians. Thus the most barren invention shall find enough to say to make one appear an able man in the top coffee houses. It is but adding a certain vehemence in uttering yourself, let the thing you say be never so flat, and you shall be thought a very sensible man, if you were not too hot. As love and honour are the noblest motives of life; so the pretenders to them, without being animated by them, are the most contemptible of all sorts of pretenders. The unjust affectation of any thing that is laudable is ignominious in proportion to the worth of the thing we affect: thus, as love of one's country is the most glorious of all passions, to see the most ordinary tools in a nation give themselves airs that way, without any one good quality in their own life, has something in it romantic, yet not so ridiculous as odious.
Mr. Bickerstaff has received Sylvia's letter from the Bath, and his sister is set out thither. Tom Frontley, who is one of the guides for the town, is desired to bring her into company, and oblige her with a mention in his next lampoon.'
No. 233.] Thursday, October 5, 1710.
-Sunt certa piacula, quæ te Ter parè lecto poterunt recreare libello. Hor. 1 Ep. 1. 36. And, like a charm, to th' upright mind and pure, If thrice read o'er will yield a certain cure.
From my own Apartment, October 4. WHEN the mind has been perplexed with anxious cares and passions, the best method of bringing it to its usual state of tranquillity is, as much as we possibly can, to turn our thoughts to the adversities of persons of higher consideration in virtue and merit than ourselves. By this means all the little incidents of our own lives, if they are unfortunate, seem to be the effect of justice upon our faults and indiscretions. When those whom we know to be excellent, and deserving of a better fate, are wretched, we cannot but resign ourselves, whom most of us know to merit a much worse state than that we are placed in. For such, and many other occasions, there is one admirable relation which one might recommend for certain periods of one's life, to touch, comfort, and improve the heart of man. Tully says somewhere, the pleasures of a husbandman are next to those of a philosopher.' In like manner one may say, for methinks they bear the same proportion one to another, the pleasures of humanity are next to those of devotion. In both these latter satisfactions, there is a certain humiliation which exalts the soul above its ordinary state. At the same time that it lessens our value of ourselves, it enlarges our estimation of others. The history I am going to speak of, is that of Joseph in holy writ, which is related with such majestic simplicity, that all the parts of it strike us with strong touches of nature and compassion; and he must be a stranger to both, who can read it with attention, and not be overwhelmed with the vicissitudes of joy and sorrow. I hope it will not be a profanation, to tell it one's own way here, that they, who may be unthinking enough to be more frequently readers of such papers as this, than of sacred writ, may be advertised, that the greatest pleasures the imagination can be entertained with are to be found there, and that even the style of the scriptures is more than human.
Joseph, a beloved child of Israel, became invidious to his elder brethren, for no other reason but his superior beauty and excellence of body and mind, insomuch, that they could not bear his growing virtue, and let him live. They therefore conspire his death; but nature pleaded so strongly for him in the heart of one of them, that by his persuasion they determined rather to bury him in a pit, than be his immediate executioners with their own hands. When thus much was obtained for him, their minds still softened towards him, and they took the opportunity of some passengers to sell him into Egypt. Israel was persuaded by the artifice of his sons, that the youth was torn to pieces by wild beasts but Joseph was sold to slavery, and still exposed to new misfortunes, from the same cause as before, his beauty and his virtue. By a false accusation he was committed to prison; but in
of us unhappy men that prostrate ourselves before you. When we were first examined by you, you enquired (for what reason my lord enquired we know not) but you enquired, whether we had not a father or a brother? We then acquainted you, that we had a father, an old man, who had a child of his old age, and had
process of time delivered from it, in considera- | brethren, to inform you of the circumstances tion of his wisdom and knowledge, and made the governor of Pharaoh's house. In this elevation of his fortune, his brothers were sent into Egypt, to buy necessaries of life, in a famine. As soon as they are brought into his presence, be beholds, but he beholds with compassion, the men who had sold him to slavery, approaching him with awe and reverence. W he was looking over his brethren, be takes a resolution to indulge himself in the pleasure of stirring their and his own affections, by keeping himself concealed, and examining into the circumstances of their family. For this end, with an air of severity, as watchful minister to Pharaoh, he accuses them as spies, who are come into Egypt with designs against the state. This led them into the account which he wanted of them, the condition of their ancient father and little brother whom they had left behind them. When he had learned that his brother was living, he demands the bringing him to Egypt, as a proof of their veracity.
ried another son, whom he had by the same woman. You were pleased to command us to bring the child he had remaining down to you: we did so; and he has forfeited his liberty. But my father said to us, You know that my wife bare me two sons; one of them was torn in pieces; if mischief befall this also, it will bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. Accept, therefore, oh my Lord! me for your bondman, and let the lad return with his brethren, that I may not see the evil that shall come on my father.' Here Joseph's passion grew too great for further disguise, and he reveals himself with exclamations of transport and tenderness.
But it would be a vain and empty endeavour to attempt laying this excellent representation of the passions of man in the same colours as they appear in the sacred writ, in any other manner, or almost any other words, than those made use of in the page itself. I am obliged, therefore, to turn my designed narration rather into a comment upon the several parts of that beautiful and passionate scene. When Joseph expects to see Benjamin, how natural and how forcible is the reflection, 'This affliction is come upon us, in that we saw the anguish of our brother's soul without pity!' How moving must it be to Joseph to hear Reuben accuse the rest, that they would not hear what he pleaded in behalf of his innocence and distress! He turns from them, and weeps; but commands his passion so far as to give orders for binding one of them in the presence of the rest, while he at leisure observed their different sentiments and concern in their gesture and countenance. When Benjamin is demanded in bondage for stealing the cup, with what force, and what resignation does Judah address his brother!
In what words shall I speak to my lord? with what confidence can I say any thing? Our guilt is but too apparent; we submit to our fate. We are my lord's servants, both we and he also with whom the cup is found.' When that is not accepted, how pathetically does he recapitulate the whole story! and, approaching nearer to Joseph, delivers himself as follows; which, if we fix our thoughts upon the relation between the pleader and the judge, it is impossible to read without tears:
'Let me intrude so far upon you, even in the high condition in which you are, and the miserable one in which you see me and my
After their recovery from their first astonishment, his brethren were seized with fear for the injuries they had done him; but how generously does he keep them in contenance, and make an apology for them: Be not angry with yourselves for selling me hither; call it not so, but think Providence sent me before you to preserve life!'
It would be endless to go through all the beauties of this sacred narrative; but any one who shall read it, at an hour when he is disengaged from all other regards or interests than what arise from it, will feel the alternate passion of a father, a brother, and a son, so warm in him, that they will incline him to exert himself in such of those characters as happen to be his, much above the ordinary course of his life.
No. 234.] Saturday, October 7, 1710.
From my own Apartment, October 6. I HAVE reason to believe, that certain of my contemporaries have made use of an art I some time ago professed, of being often designedly dull; and for that reason shall not exert myself when I see them lazy. He that has so much to struggle with, as the man who pretends to censure others, must keep up his fire for an onset, and may be allowed to carry his arms a little carelessly upon an ordinary march. This paper therefore shall be taken up by my correspondents, two of which have sent me the two following plain, but sensible and honest letters, upon subjects no less important than those of Education and Devotion.
'SIR, 'I a am an old man retired from all acquaintance with the town, but what I have from
your papers, not the worst entertainment of my solitude; yet being still a well wisher to my country, and the commonwealth of learning (à qua confiteor nullam ætatis meæ partem abhorruisse,) and hoping the plain phrase in writing that was current in my younger days would have lasted for my time, I was startled at the picture of modern politeness, transmitted by your ingenious corrrespondent, and grieved to see our sterling English language fallen into the hands of clippers and coiners. That mutilated epistle, consisting of hippo, rep's, and such like enormous curtailings, was a mortifying spectacle, but with the reserve of comfort to find this and other abuses of our mother tongue so pathetically complained of, and to the proper person for redressing them, the Censor of Great Britain.
'He had before represented the deplorable ignorance that for several years past has reigned amongst our English writers, the great depravity of our taste, and continual corruption of our style. But, sir, before you give yourself the trouble of prescribing remedies for tl:ese distempers, which you own will require the greatest care and application, give me leave, having long had my eye upon these mischiefs, and thoughts exercised about them, to mention what I humbly conceive to be the cause of them, and in your friend Horace's words, Quo fonte derivata clades in patriam populumque fluxit.
'I take our corrupt ways of writing to proceed from the mistakes and wrong measures in our common methods of education, which I always looked upon as one of our national grievances, and a singularity that renders us, no less than our situation,
-Penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos. Virg. 1 Eel 67. A race of men from all the world disjoin'd.
Dryden. 'This puts me upon consulting the most celebrated critics on that subject, to compare our practice with their precepts, and find where it was that we came short, or went wide.
'But after all I found our case required something more than these doctors had directed, and the principal defect of our English discipline to lie in the initiatory part, which, although it needs the greatest care and skill, is usually left to the conduct of those blind guides, viz. Chance and Ignorance.
'I shall trouble you with but a single instance, pursuant to what your sagacious friend has said, that he could furnish you with a catalogue of English books, which would cost you a hundred pounds at first hand, wherein you could not find ten lines together of common grammar; which is a necessary consequence of our mismanagement in that province.
to push tender wits into the intricate mazes of grammar, and a Latin grammar? to learn an unknown art by an unknown tongue? to carry them a dark round-about way to let them in at a back-door? Whereas by teaching them first the grammar of their mother-tongue, so easy to be learned, their advance to the grammars of Latin and Greek would be gradual and easy; bu our precipitate way of hurrying them over such a gulf, before we have built them a bridge to it, is a shock to their weak understandings, which they seldom, or very late, recover. In the mean time we wrong nature, and slander infants, who want neither capacity nor will to learn, until we put them upon service beyond their strength; and then indeed we balk them.
For can any thing be more absurd than our way of proceeding in this part of literature?
The liberal arts and sciences are all beautiful as the graces; nor has Grammar, the severe mother of all, so frightful a face of her own; it is the vizard put upon it that scares children. She is made to speak hard words, that to them sound like conjuring. Let her talk intelligibly, and they will listen to her.
In this, I think, as on other accounts, we show ourselves true Britons, always overlooking It has been the our natural advantages. practice of the wisest nations to learn their own language by stated rules, to avoid the confusion that would follow from leaving it to vulgar use. Our English tongue, says a learned man, is the most determinate in its construction, and reducible to the fewest rules; whatever language has less grammar in it, is not intelligible; and whatever has more, all that it has more is superfluous; for which reasons he would have it made the foundation of learning Latin, and all other languages.
To speak and write without absurdity the language of one's country is commendable in persons of all stations, and to some indispensably necessary; and to this purpose I would recommend, above all things, the having a grammar of our mother-tongue first taught in our schools, which would facilitate our youths learning their Latin and Greek grammars, with spare time for arithmetic, astronomy, cosmography, history, &c. that would make them pass the spring of their life with profit and pleasure, that is now miserably spent in grammatical perplexities.
But here, methinks, I see the reader smile, and ready to ask me, as the lawyer did sexton Diego on his bequeathing rich legacies to the poor of the parish, Where are these mighty sums to be raised? Where is there such a grammar to be had? I will not answer as he did," Even where your worship pleases." No, it is our good fortune to have such a grammar, with notes, now in the press, and to be published next term.
'I hear it is a chargeable work, and wish the publisher to have customers of all that have
need of such a book; yet fancy that he cannot be much a sufferer, if it is only bought by all that have more need for it than they think they have.
A certain author brought a poem to Mr. Cowley, for his perusal and judgment of the performance, which he demanded at the next visit with a poetaster's assurance; aud Mr. Cowley, with his usual modesty, desired that he would be pleased to look a little to the grammar of it. To the grammar of it! what do you mean, sir, would you send me to school again?" Why, Mr. H, would it do you any barm?'
This put me on considering how this voyage of literature may be made with more safety and profit, expedition and delight; and at last, for completing so good a service, to request your directions in so deplorable a case; hoping that, as you have had compassion on our overgrown coxcombs in concerns of less consequence, you will exert your charity towards innocents, and vouchsafe to be guardian to the children and youth of Great Britain in this important affair of education, wherein mistakes and wrong measures have so often occasioned their aversion to books, that had otherwise proved the chief ornament and pleasure of their life. I am, with sincerest respect, Sir, Yours, &c.' 'MR. BICKERSTAFF, St. Clements, Oct. 5.
'I observe, as the season begins to grow cold, so does people's devotion; insomuch, that instead of filling the churches, that united zeal might keep one warm there, one is left to freeze in almost bare walls by those who in hot weather are troublesome the contrary way. This, sir, needs a regulation that none but you can give to it, by causing those who absent themselves on account of weather only this winter-time, to pay the apothecaries' bills occasioned by coughs, catarrhs, and other distempers, contracted by sitting in empty seats. Therefore, to you I apply myself for redress, having gotten such a cold on Sunday was sevennight, that has brought me almost to your worship's age from sixty, within less than a fortnight. 'I am,
Your worship's in all obedience, 'W. E.'
No. 235.] Tuesday, October 10, 1710.
From my own Apartment, October 9. AMONG those inclinations which are common to all men, there is none more unaccountable
than that unequal love by which parents dis tinguish their children from each other. Sometimes vanity and self-love appear to have a share towards this effect; and in other instances I have been apt to attribute it to mere instinct: but, however that is, we frequently see the child, that has been beholden to neither of these impulses in his parents, in spite of being neglected, snubbed, and thwarted at home, acquire a behaviour which makes him as agreeable to all the rest of the world, as that of every one else of their family is to each other. I fell into this way of thinking from an intimacy which I have with a very good house in our neighbourhood, where there are three daughters of a very different character and genius. The eldest has a great deal of wit and cunning; the second has good sense, but no artifice; the third has much vivacity, but little understanding. The first is a fine, but scornful woman; the second is not charming, but very winning; the third is no way commendable, but very desirable. The father of these young creatures was ever a great pretender to wit, the mother a woman of as much coquetry. This turn in the parents has biassed their affections towards their children. The old man supposes the eldest of his own genius; and the mother looks upon the youngest as herself renewed. By this means, all the lovers that approach the house are discarded by the father for not observing Mrs. Mary's wit and beauty; and by the mother, for being blind to the mien and air of Mrs. Biddy. Come never so many pretenders, they are not suspected to have the least thought of Mrs. Betty, the middle daugh
Betty, therefore, is mortified into a woman of a great deal of merit, and knows she must depend on that only for her advance
ment. The middlemost is thus the favourite of all her acquaintance, as well as mine; while the other two carry a certain insolence about them in all conversations, and expect the partiality which they meet with at home to attend them wherever they appear. So little do parents understand that they are, of all people, the least judges of their childrens' merit, that what they reckon such is seldom any thing else but a repetition of their own faults and infirmities.
There is, methinks, some excuse for being particular, when one of the offspring has any defect in nature. In this case, the child, if we may so speak, is so much the longer the child of its parents, and calls for the continuance of their care and indulgence from the slowness of its capacity, or the weakness of its body. But there is no enduring to see men enamoured only at the sight of their own impertinencies repeated, and to observe, as we may sometimes, that they have a secret dislike of their children for a degeneracy from their very crimes. Commend me to lady Goodly; she is equal to all
her own children, but prefers them to those of | It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit, or sit
The truth of it is, those parents who are interested in the care of one child more than that of another, no longer deserve the name of parents, but are, in effect, as childish as their children, in having such unreasonable and ungoverned inclinations. A father of this sort has degraded himself into one of his own offspring for none but a child would take part in the passions of children.
No. 236.] Thursday, October 12, 1710.
Nescio quâ natale solum dulcedine mentem
From my own Apartment, October 11.
I FIND in the registers of my family, that the branch of the Bickerstaffs, from which I am descended, came originally out of Ireland. This has given me a kind of natural affection for that country. It is therefore with pleasure that I see not only some of the greatest warriors, but also of the greatest wits, to be natives of that kingdom. The gentleman who writes the following letter is one of these last. The matter of fact contained in it is literally true, though the diverting manner in which it is told may give it the colour of a fable.
I remember, among all my acquaintance, but one man whom I have thought to live with his children with equanimity and a good grace. He had three sons and one daughter, whom he bred with all the care imaginable in a liberal and ingenuous way. I have often heard him say, he had the weakness to love one much better than the other, but that he took as much pains to correct that as any other cri- To Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, at his house minal passion that could arise in his mind.' in Great Britain. His method was, to make it the only pretension in his children to his favour, to be kind to Finding by several passages in your Tatlers each other; and he would tell them, that be that you are a person curious in natural knowwho was the best brother, he would reckon the ledge, I thought it would not be unacceptable best son. This turned their thoughts into an to you to give you the following history of the emulation for the superiority in kind and ten-migration of frogs into this country. There is der affection towards each other. The boys an ancient tradition among the wild philosobehaved themselves very early with a manly phers of this kingdom, that the whole island friendship; and their sister, instead of the was once as much infested by frogs, as that gross familiarities, and impertinent freedoms wherein Whittington made his fortune, was in behaviour usual in other houses, was always by mice. Insomuch that it is said, Macdonald treated by them with as much complaisance the First, could no more sleep, by reason of as any other young lady of their acquaintance, these Dutch nightingales, as they are called at