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P. S. I am the more impatient under this misfortune, having received fresh provocation, last Wednesday, in the Abbey.'
I entirely agree with the amiable and unfortunate Lesbia, that an insult upon a woman in her circumstances is as infamous in a man, as a tame behaviour when the lie or a buffet is given; which truth I shall beg leave of her to illustrate by the following observation.
It is a mark of cowardice passively to forbear resenting an affront, the resentment of which would lead a man into danger; it is no less a sign of cowardice to affront a creature that hath not power to avenge itself. Whatever name therefore this ungenerous man may bestow on the helpless lady he hath injured, I shall not scruple to give him, in return for it, the appellation of coward.
A man, that can so far descend from his dignity as to strike a lady, can never recover his reputation with either sex, because no provocation is thought strong enough to justify such treatment from the powerful towards the weak. In the circumstances in which poor Lesbia is situated, she can appeal to no man whatsoever to avenge an insult, more grievous than a blow. If she could open her mouth, the base man knows that a husband, a bro ther, a generous friend, would die to see her righted.
A generous mind, however enraged against an enemy, feels its resentment sink and vanish away when the object of its wrath falls into its power. An estranged friend, filled with jealousy and discontent towards a bosom acquaintance, is apt to overflow with tenderness and remorse, when a creature that was once dear to him under goes any misfortune. What name then shall we give to his ingratitude, who (forgetting the favours he solicited with eagerness, and received with rapture) can insult the miseries that he himself caused, and make sport with the pain to which he owes his greatest pleasure? There is but one being in the creation whose province it is to practise upon the imbecilities of frail creatures, and triumph in the woes which his own artifices brought about; and we well know, those who follow his example will receive his reward.
Leaving my fair correspondent to the direction of her own wisdom and modesty; and her enemy, and his mean
accomplices, to the compunction of their own hearts; I shall conclude this paper with a memorable instance of revenge, taken by a Spanish lady upon a guilty lover, which may serve to shew what violent effects are wrought by the most tender passion, when soured into hatred; and may deter the young and unwary from unlawful love. The story, however romantic it may appear, I have heard affirmed for a truth.
Not many years ago an English gentleman, who in a rencounter by night in the streets of Madrid, had the misfortune to kill his man, fled into a church-porch for sanctuary. Leaning against the door he was surprised to find it open, and a glimmering light in the church. He had the courage to advance towards the light; but was terribly startled at the sight of a woman in white, who ascended from a grave with a bloody knife in her hand. The phantom marched up to him, and asked him what he did there. He told her the truth, without reserve, believing that he had met a ghost; upon which she spoke to him in the following manner : Stranger, thou art in my power: I am a murderer as thou art. Know then, that I am a nun of a noble family. A base perjured man undid me, and boasted of it. I soon had him dispatched; but, not content with the murder, I have bribed the sexton to let me enter his grave, and have now plucked out his false heart from his body; and thus I use a traitor's heart.' At these words she tore it in pieces and trampled it under her feet.
Yesterday was published, Mr. Steele's Apology for himself and his writings; occasioned by his expulsion from the House of Commons.
No. 612. WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1714.
Murranum hic, atavos et avorum antiqua sonantem
VIRG. En. xii. ver. 529.
Murranus, boasting of his blood, that springs
It is highly laudable to pay respect to men who are descended from worthy ancestors, not only out of gratitude to those who have done good to mankind, but as it is an encouragement to others to follow their example. But this is an honour to be received, not demanded, by the descendants of great men; and they, who are apt to remind us of their ancestors, only put us upon making comparisons to their own disadvantage. There is some pretence for boasting of wit, beauty, strength, or wealth, because the communication of them may give pleasure or profit to others; but we can have no merit, nor ought we to claim any respect, because our fathers acted well, whether we would or no.
The following letter ridicules the folly I have mentioned, in a new, and, I think, not disagreeable light.
‹ Mr. SPECTATOR,
'WERE the genealogy of every family preserved, there would probably be no man valued or despised on account of his birth. There is scarce a beggar in the streets, who would not find himself lineally descended from some great man; nor any one of the highest title, who would not discover several base and indigent persons among his ancestors. It would be a pleasant entertainment to see one gree of men appear together, under the same characters they bore when they acted their respective parts among the living. Suppose therefore a gentleman, full of his illustrious family, should, in the same manner
as Virgil makes Æneas look over his descendants, see the whole line of his progenitors pass in a review before his eyes-With how many varying passions would he behold shepherds and soldiers, statesmen and artificers, princes and beggars, walk in the procession of five thousand years! How would his heart sink or flutter at the several sports of fortune in a scene so diversified with rags and purple, handicraft tools and sceptres, ensigns of dignity and emblems of disgrace! And how would his fears and apprehensions, his transports and mortifications, succeed one another, as the line of his genealogy appeared bright or obscure!
In most of the pedigrees hung up in old mansionhouses, you are sure to find the first in the catalogue a great statesman, or a soldier with an honourable commission. The honest artificer that begot him, and all his frugal ancestors before him, are torn off from the top of the register; and you are not left to imagine that the noble founder of the family ever had a father. Were we to trace many boasted lines farther backwards, we should lose them in a mob of tradesmen, or a crowd of rustics, without hope of seeing them emerge again: not unlike the old Appian way, which, after having run many miles in length, loses itself in a bog.
I lately made a visit to an old country gentleman, who is very far gone in this sort of family madness. I found him in his study perusing an old register of his family, which he had just then discovered, as it was branched out in the form of a tree, upon a skin of parchment. Having the honour to have some of his blood in my veins, he permitted me to cast my eye over the boughs of this venerable plant; and asked my advice in the reforming of some of the superfluous branches.
We passed slightly over three or four of our immediate forefathers, whom we knew by tradition, but were soon stopped by an alderman of London, who I perceived made my kinsman's heart go pit-a-pat. His confusion increased when he found the alderman's father to be a grazier; but he recovered his fright upon seeing justice of the quorum at the end of his titles. Things went on pretty well as we threw our eyes occasionally over the tree, when unfortunately he perceived a merchant-taylor perched on a bough, who was said greatly to have in
creased the estate; he was just going to cut him off if he had not seen gent. after the name of his son; who was recorded to have mortgaged one of the manors his honest father had purchased. A weaver, who was burnt for his religion in the reign of Queen Mary, was pruned away without mercy; as was likewise a yeoman, who died of a fall from his own cart. But great was our triumph in one of the blood who was beheaded for high treason: which nevertheless was not a little allayed by another of our ancestors who was hanged for stealing of sheep. The expectations of my good cousin were wonderfully raised by a match into the family of a knight; but, unfortunately for us, this branch proved barren: on the other hand, Margery the milk-maid, being twined round a bough, it flourished out into so many shoots, and bent with so much fruit, that the old gentleman was quite out of countenance. To comfort me under this disgrace, he singled out a branch ten times more fruitful than the other, which he told me he valued more than any in the tree, and bade me be of good comfort. This enormous bough was a graft out of a Welsh heiress, with so many Ap's upon it that it might have made a little grove by itself. From the trunk of the pedigree, which was chiefly composed of labourers and shepherds, arose a huge sprout of farmers; this was branched out into yeomen, and ended in a sheriff of the county, who was knighted for his good service to the crown in bringing up an address. Several of the names that seemed to disparage the family, being looked upon as mistakes, were lopped off as rotten or withered; as, on the contrary, no small number appearing without any titles, my cousin to supply the defects of the manuscript, added esq. at the end of each of them.
The tree, so pruned, dressed, and cultivated, was, within a few days, transplanted into a large sheet of vellum, and placed in the great hall, where it attracts the veneration of his tenants every Sunday morning, while they wait till his worship is ready to go to church; wondering that a man, who had so many fathers before him, should not be made a knight, or at least a justice of the peace.'