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The greater the affiction is in which we see our favourites in these relations engaged, the greater is the pleasure we take in seeing them relieved.
Among the many feigned histories which I have met with in my reading, there is none in which the hero's perplexity is greater, and the winding out of it more difficult, than that in a French author, whose name I have forgot. It so happens, that the hero's mistress was the sister of his most intimate friend, who for certain reasons was given out to be dead, while he was preparing to leave his country in quest of adventures. The hero having heard of his friend's death, immediately repaired to his mistress, to condole with her, and comfort her. Upon his arrival in her garden, he discovered at a distance a man clasped in her arms, and embraced with the most endearing tenderness. What should he do? It did not consist with the gen. tleness of a knight-errant either to kill his mistress or the man whom she was pleased to favour. At the same time, it would have spoiled a romance, should he have laid violent hands on himself. In short, he immediately entered upon his adventures; and after a long series of exploits, found out by degrees, that the person he saw in his mistress's arms was her own brother, taking leave of her before he left his country, and the embrace she gave him nothing else but the affectionate farewel of a sister: so that he had at once the two greatest satisfactions that could enter into the heart of man, in finding his friend alive, whom he thought dead; and his mistress faithful, whom he believed inconstant.
There are indeed some disasters so very fatal, that it is impossible for any accidents to rectify them. Of this kind was that of poor Lucretia ; and yet we see Ovid has found an expedient even in this case.
He describes a beautiful and royal virgin walking sea-shore, where she was discovered by Neptune, and violated after a long unsuccessful importunity. To mitigate her sorrow, he offers her whatever she could wish for. Never certainly was the wit of woman more puzzled finding out a stratagem to retrieve her. honour. Had she desired to be changed into a stock or stone, a beast, fish, or fowl, she would have been a loser by it ; or had she desired to have been made a sea-nymph, or a goddess, her immortality would but have perpetuated ber disgrace. Give me therefore, said she, such a shape as may make me incapable of suffering again the like calamity, or of being reproached for what I have already suffered. To be short, she was turned into a man, and by that only means avoided the danger and imputation she so much dreaded.
I was once myself in agonies of grief that are unutterable, and in so great a distraction of mind, that I thought myself even out of the possibility of receiving comfort. The occasion was as follows; when I was a youth in part of the army which was then quartered at Dover, I fell in love with an agreeable young woman of a good family in those parts, and had the satisfaction, of seeing my addresses kindly received, which occasioned the perplexity I am going to relate.
We were in a calm evening diverting ourselves upon the top of a cliff with the prospect of the sea, and trifling away the time in such little fondnesses as are most ridiculous to people in business, and most agreeable to those in love.
In the midst of these our innocent endearments, she snatched a paper of verses out of my hand, and ran away with them. I was following her, when on a sudden the ground, though at a considerable distance from the verge of the precipice, sunk under her, and threw her down, from so prodigious an height upon such a range of rocks, as would have dashed her into ten thousand pieces, had her body been made of adamant. It is much easier for my reader to imagine my state of mind upon such an occasion than for me to express it. I said to myself, it is not in the power of heaven to relieve me! When I waked, equally transported and astonished, to see myself drawn out of an affliction which the very moment before appeared to me altogether inextricable.
The impressions of grief and horror were so lively on this occasion, that while they lasted, they made nie more miserable than I was at the real death of this beloved person, (which happened a few months after, at a time when the match between us was concluded) inasmuch as the imaginary death was untimely, and I myself in a sort an accessary; whereas her real decease had at least these alleviations, of being natural and inevitable.
The memory of the dream I have related, still dwells so strongly upon me, that I can never read the des. cription of Dover cliff in Shakspeare's tragedy of King Lear, without a fresh sense of my escape. pect from that place is drawn with such proper inci. dents, that whoever can read it without growing giddy, must have a good head, or a very bad one.
Come on, Sir, here's the place; stand still! How fearful
No. CXVIII. TUESDAY, JANUARY 10.
Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti,
From my own Apartment, January 8. I THOUGHT to have given over my prosecution of the dead for this season, having by me many other projects for the reformation of mankind; but I have received so many complaints from such different hands, that I shall disoblige multitudes of my correspondents, if I do not take notice of them. Some of the deceased, who I thought had been laid quietly in their graves, are such hobgoblins in public assemblies, that I must be forced to deal with them as Evander did with his triple-lived adversary, who, according to Virgil, was forced to kill him thrice over, before he could dispatch him.
Ter Letho sternendus erat......
I am likewise informed, that several wives of my dead men have, since the decease of their husbands, been seen in many public places without mourning or regard to common decency.
I am further advised, that several of the defunct, contrary to the woollen act, presume to dress themselves in lace, embroidery, silks, muslins, and other ornaments forbidden to persons in their condition. These and other the like informations moving me thereunto, I must desire for distinction.sake, and to conclude this subject for ever, that when any of these posthumous persons appear, or are spoken of, that their wives may be called widows; their houses, sepulchres; their chariots, hearses; and their garments, fannels: on which condition, they shall be allowed all the conveniences that dead men can in reason desire.
As I was writing this morning on this subject, I received the following letter:
“ Mr. BICKERSTAFF, From the Banks of styr.
“ I MUST confess I treated you very scurrilous“ ly when you first sent me hither; but
have dis“patched such multitudes after me to keep me in “ countenance, that I am very well reconciled both to
condition. We live very lovingly toge“ ther; for as death makes us all equal, it makes us “ very much delight in one another's company. Our “ time passes away much after the same manner as it
did when we were among you: eating, drinking and “ sleeping, are our chief diversions. Our quidnuncs “ between whiles go to a coffee-house, where they “ have several warm liquors made of the waters of “ Lethe, with very good poppy-tea. We that are the s sprightly geniuses of the place, refresh ourselves
frequently with a bottle of mum, and tell stories till we fall asleep. You would do well to send among
us Mr. Dodwell's book against the immortality of 6 the soul, which would be of great consolation to our a whole fraternity, who would be very glad to find “ that they are dead for good and all, and would in “particular make me rest for ever.
< JOHN PARTRIDGE."
“P. S. Sir James is just arrived here in good health.”
The foregoing letter was the more pleasing to me. because I perceive some little symptoms in it of a resuscitation; and having lately seen the predictions of this author, which are written in a true protestant spirit of prophecy, and a particular zeal against the French king, I have some thoughts of sending for him from the Banks of Styx, and reinstating him in his own house, at the sign of the Globe, in Salisbury-street.