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BOOKSELLER TO THE READER.
In the 632d Spectator the Reader will find an account of the rise of this eighth and last volume *.
I have not been able to prevail upon the several gentlemen who were concerned in this work to let me acquaint the world with their names.
Perhaps it will be unnecessary to inform the reader, that no other papers which have appeared under the title of Spectator, since the closing of this eighth volume, were written by any of those gentlemen who had a hand in this or the former volumes.
*After the Spectator had been discontinued about eighteen months, during which time the "Guardian," and the "Englishman," were published, an attempt was made to revive it, at a time,' says Dr. Johnson, by no means favourable to literature, when the succession of a new family to the throne filled the nation with anxiety, discord, and confusion; and either the turbulence of the times, or the satiety of the readers, put a stop to the publication after an experiment of eighty numbers, which were afterwards collected into an 8th volume, perhaps more valuable than any of those that went before it. Addison produced more than a fourth part; and the other contributors are by no means unworthy of appearing as his associates. The time that had passed during the suspension of the Spectator, though it had not lessened his power of humour, seems to have increased his disposition to seriousness: the proportion of his religious to his comic papers is greater than in the former series. The Spectator, from its recommencement, was published only three times a-week, and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison, Tickell has ascribed 23: viz. Nos. 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 562, 565, 567, 568, 569, 571, 574, 575, 579, 580, 582, 583, 584, 585, 590, 592, 598, and 600.' Addison therefore produced more than a fourth part of this volume.-Johnson's Lives of English Poets, vol. ii. p. 97. 8vo. edit. 1794.
No. 556. FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 1714.
Qualis ubi in lucem coluber mala gramina pastus
So shines, renew'd in youth, the crested snake,
UPON laying down the office of Spectator, I acquainted the world with my design of electing a new club, and of opening my mouth in it after a most solemn`manner. Both the election and the ceremony are now past; but not finding it so easy, as I at first imagined, to break through a fifty years silence, I would not venture into the world under the character of a man who pretends to talk like other people, till I had arrived at full freedom of speech.
I shall reserve for another time. the history of such club or clubs of which I am now a talkative, but unworthy member; and shall here give an account of this surprising change which has been produced in me, and which I look upon to be as remarkable an accident as any recorded in history, since that. which happened to the son of Croesus, after having been many years as much tongue-tied as myself.
Upon the first opening of my mouth, I made a speech, consisting of about half a dozen well-turned periods; but grew so very hoarse upon it, that for three days together, instead of finding the use of my tongue, I was afraid that I had quite lost it. Besides, the unusual extension of my muscles on this occasion made my face ache on both sides to such a degree, that nothing but an invincible resolution and perseverance could have prevented me from falling back to my monosyllables.
I afterwards made several essays towards speaking; and that I might not be startled at my own voice, which has happened to me more than once, I used to read aloud in my chamber, and have often stood in the middle of the street to call a coach, when I knew there was none within hearing
When I was thus grown pretty well acquainted with my own voice, I laid hold of all opportunities to exert it. Not caring however to speak much by myself, and to draw upon me the whole attention of those I conversed with, I used for some time to walk every morning in the Mall, and talk in chorus with a parcel of Frenchmen. I found my modesty greatly relieved by the communicative temper of this nation, who are so very sociable as to think they are never better company than when they are all opening at the same time.
I then fancied I might receive great benefit from female conversation, and that I should have a convenience of talking with the greater freedom when I was not under any impediment of thinking: I therefore threw myself into an assembly of ladies, but could not for my life get in a word among them; and found, that if I did not change my company, I was in danger of being reduced to my primitive taciturnity.
The coffee-houses have ever since been my chief places of resort, where I have made the greatest improvements;
in order to which I have taken a particular care never to be of the same opinion with the man I conversed with. I was a tory at Button's, and a whig at Child's, a friend to the Englishman, or an advocate for the Examiner, as it best served my turn: some fancy me a great enemy to the French king, though in reality I only make use of him for a help to discourse. In short, I wrangle and dispute for exercise; and have carried this point so far, that I was once like to have been run through the body for making a little too free with my betters.
In a word, I am quite another man to what I was.
My old acquaintance scarce knew me; nay, I was ask ed the other day by a Jew at Jonathan's, whether I was not related to a dumb gentleman, who used to come to that coffee-house? But I think I never was better pleased in my life than about a week ago, when, as I was battling it across the table with a young Templar, his companion gave him a pull by the sleeve, begging him to come away, for that the old prig would talk him to death.
Being now a very good proficient in discourse, I shall appear in the world with this addition to my character, that my countrymen may reap the fruits of my new-acquired loquacity.
Those who have been present at public disputes in the University, know, that it is usual to maintain heresies for argument sake. I have heard a man a most impudent Socinian for half an hour, who has been an orthodox divine all his life after. I have taken the same method to accomplish myself in the gift of utterance, having talked above a twelvemonth, not so much for the benefit of my hearers, as of myself. But, since I have now gained the faculty I have been so long endeavouring after, I intend to make a right use of it, and shall think myself obliged for the future to speak always in truth and sincerity of heart. While a man is learning to fence, he practises both on friend and foe; but when he is a master in the art, he never exerts it but on what he thinks the right side.
That this last allusion may not give my reader a wrong idea of my design in this paper, I must here inform him, that the author of it is of no faction; that he is a friend to no interests but those of truth and virtue; nor a foe to any but those of vice and folly. Though I make more noise in the world than I used to do, I am still resolved to act in it as an indifferent Spectator. It is not my ambition to increase the number either of whigs or tories, but of wise and good men; and I could heartily wish there were no faults common to both parties, which afford me sufficient matter to work upon, without descending to those which are peculiar to either.
If in a multitude of counsellors there is safety, we ought to think ourselves the securest nation in the world. Most of our garrets are inhabited by statesmen, who watch over the liberties of their country, and make a shift to keep themselves from starving, by taking into their care the properties of their fellow-subjects.
As these politicians of both sides have already worked the nation into a most unnatural ferment, I shall be so far from endeavouring to raise it to a greater height, that, on the contrary, it shall be the chief tendency of my papers to inspire my countrymen with a mutual good-will and benevolence. Whatever faults either party may be guilty of, they are rather inflamed than cured by those reproaches which they cast upon one another. The most likely method of rectifying any man's conduct is by recommending to him the principles of truth and honour, religion and virtue; and so long as he acts with an eye to these principles, whatever party he is of, he cannot fail of being a good Englishman, and a lover of his country.
As for the persons concerned in this work, the names of all of them, or at least such as desire it, shall be published hereafter; till which time I must entreat the courteous reader to suspend his curiosity, and rather to consider what is written, than who they are that write it.
Having thus adjusted all necessary preliminaries with my reader, I shall not trouble him with any more prefatory discourses, but proceed in my old method, and entertain him with speculations on every useful subject that falls in my way.