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No. 604. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 1714.
Tu ne quæsieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi,
HOR. Od. xi. 1. 1. ver. 1.
Ah, do not strive too much to know,
What the kind gods design to do
THE desire of knowing future events is one of the strongest inclinations in the mind of man. Indeed an ability of foreseeing probable accidents is what, in the language of men, is called wisdom and prudence ; but not satisfied with the light that reason holds out, mankind hath endeavoured to penetrate more compendiously into futurity. Magic, oracles, omens, lucky hours, and the various arts of superstition, owe their rise to this powerful cause. As this principle is founded in self-love, every man is sure to be solicitous in the first place about his own fortune, the course of his life, and the time and manner of his death.
If we consider that we are free agents, we shall discover the absurdity of such inquiries. One of our actions, which we might have performed or neglected, is the cause of another that succeeds it, and so the whole chain of life is linked together. Pain, poverty, or infamy, are the natural product of vicious and imprudent acts, as the contrary blessings are of good ones; so that we cannot suppose our lot to be determined without impiety. A great enhancement of pleasure arises from its being unexpected; and pain is doubled by being foreseen. Upon all these, and several other accounts, we ought to rest satisfied in this portion bestowed on us; to adore the hand that hath fitted every thing to our nature, and hath not more displayed his goodness in our knowledge than in our ignorance.
It is not unworthy observation, that superstitious inquiries into future events prevail more or less, in proportion to the improvement of liberal arts and useful knowledge
in the several parts of the world. Accordingly, we find that magical incantations remain in Lapland; in the more remote parts of Scotland they have their second sight *; and several of our own countrymen have seen abundance of fairies. In Asia this credulity is strong: and the greatest part of refined learning there consists in the knowledge of amulets, talismans, ocult numbers, and the like.
When I was at Grand Cairo, I fell into the acquaintance of a good-natured Mussulman, who promised me many good offices which he designed to do me when he became prime minister, which was a fortune bestowed on his imagination by a doctor very deep in the curious sciences. At his repeated solicitations I went to learn my destiny of this wonderful sage. For a small sum I had his promise, but was desired to wait in a dark apartment until he had run through the preparatory ceremonies. Having a strong propensity, even then, to dreaming, I took a nap upon the sofa where I was placed, and had the following vision, the particulars whereof I picked up the other day among my papers.
I found myself in an unbounded plain, where methought the whole world, in several habits and with different tongues, was assembled The multitude glided swiftly along, and I found in myself a strong inclination to mingle in the train. My eyes quickly singled out some of the most splendid figures. Several in rich caftans and glittering turbans bustled through the throng, and trampled over the bodies of those they threw down; until, to my great surprise, I found that the great pace they went only hastened them to a scaffold or a bowstring. Many beautiful damsels on the other side moved forward with great gaiety; some danced until they fell all along; and others painted their faces until they lost their noses. A tribe of creatures with busy looks falling into a fit of laughter at the misfortunes of the unhappy ladies, I turned my eyes upon them. They were each of them filling his pockets with gold and jewels; and, when there was no room left for more, these wretches, looking round with
* D. Beattie, in his "Essays," 4to. edit. p. 480 et seq. has some excellent remarks on this visionary faculty.
fear and horror, pined away before my face with famine
This prospect of human misery struck me dumb for some miles. Then it was that, to disburden my mind, I took pen and ink, and did every thing that hath since happened under my office of Spectator. While I was employing myself for the good of mankind, I was surprised to meet with very unsuitable returns from my fellow-creatures. Never was poor author so beset with pamphleteers, who sometimes marched directly against me, but oftener shot at me from strong bulwarks, or rose up suddenly in ambush. They were of all characters and capacities; some with ensigns of dignity, and others in liveries*: but what most surprised me, was to see two or three in black gowns among my enemies. It was no small trouble to me, sometimes to have a man come up to me with an angry face, and reproach me for having lampooned him, when I had never seen or heard of him in my life. With the ladies it was otherwise: many became my enemies for not being particularly pointed out; as there were others who resented the satire which they imagined I had directed against them. My great comfort was in the company of half a dozen friends, who I found since were the club which I have so often mentioned in my papers. I laughed often at Sir Roger in my sleep, and was the more diverted with Will Honeycomb's gallantries (when we afterwards became acquainted,) because I had foreseen his marriage with a farmer's daughThe regret which arose in my mind upon the death of my companions, my anxieties for the public, and the many calamities still fleeting before my eyes, made me repent my curiosity; when the magician entered the room, and awaked me, by telling me (when it was too late) that he was just going to begin.
N. B. I have only delivered the prophecy of that part of my life which is past, it being inconvenient to divulge the second part until a more proper opportunity.
Doubtless an allusion to the birelings and black gowns employed by the administration in the last years of the Queen's reign: Dean Swift, Prior, Atterbury, Dr. Friend, Dr. King, Mr. Oldisworth, Mrs. Manly, the writers of the Examiner, &c.
No. 605. MONDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1714.
Exuerint sylvestrem animum; cultuque frequenti,
-They change their savage mind,
HAVING perused the following letter, and finding it to run upon the subject of love, I referred it to the learned casuist, whom I have retained in my service for speculations of that kind. He returned it to me the next morning with his report annexed to it, with both of which I shall here present my reader.
FINDING that you have entertained an useful person in your service in quality of love-casuist,* I apply myself to you, under a very great difficulty, that hath for some months perplexed me. I have a couple of humble servants, one of which I have no aversion to; the other I think of very kindly. The first hath the reputation of a man of good sense, and is one of those people that your sex are apt to value. My spark is reckoned a coxcomb among the men, but is a favourite of the ladies. If I marry the man of worth, as they call him, I shall oblige my parents, and improve my fortune; but with my dear beau I promise myself happiness, although not a jointure. Now, I would ask you, whether I should consent to lead my life with a man that I have only no objections to, or with him against whom all objections to me appear frivolous? I am determined to follow the casuist's advice, and I dare say he will not put me upon so serious a thing as matrimony contrary to my inclination.
'I am, &c.
* See Nos. 591, 602, 614, 623, and 625.
P. S. I forgot to tell you, that the pretty gentleman is the most complaisant creature in the world, and is always of my mind; but the other, forsooth, fancies he has as much wit as myself, slights my lap-dog, and hath the insolence to contradict me when he thinks I am not in the right. About half an hour ago he maintained to my face, that a patch always implies a pimple.'
As I look upon it to be my duty rather to side with the parents than the daughter, I shall propose some considerations to my gentle querist, which may incline her to comply with those under whose direction she is: and at the same time convince her, that it is not impossible but she may, in time, have a true affection for him who is at present indifferent to her; or, to use the old family maxim, that, if she marries first, love will come after.'
The only objection that she seems to insinuate against the gentleman proposed to her, is his want of complaisance, which, I perceive, she is very willing to return. Now I can discover from this very circumstance, that she and her lover, whatever they may think of it, are very good friends in their hearts? It is difficult to determine whether love delights more in giving pleasure or pain. Let Miss Fickle ask her own heart, if she doth not take a secret pride in making this man of good sense look very silly? Hath she ever been better pleased, than when her behaviour hath made her lover ready to hang himself? or doth she ever rejoice more, than when she thinks she hath driven him to the very brink of a purling stream? Let her consider, at the same time, that it is not impossible but her lover may have discovered her tricks, and hath a mind to give her as good as she brings. I remember a handsome young baggage that treated a hopeful Greek of my acquaintance, just come from Oxford, as if he had been a barbarian. The first week after she had fixed him, she took a pinch of snuff out of his rival's box, and apparently touched the enemy's little finger. She became a professed enemy to the arts and sciences, and scarce ever wrote a letter to him without wilfully mis-spelling his name. The young scholar, to be even with her, railed at coquettes as soon as he had got the word; and did not want parts to turn into ridicule her men of wit and pleasure of the town. After having ir