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thor kind of wit which confifts partly in the re-
Out of the innumerable branches of mixt wit, I
as the resemblance lies in the ideas or in the words: its foundations are laid partly in falfhood, and partly in truth: reafon puts in her claim for one half of it, and extravagance for the other. The only province therefore for this kind of wit, is epigram, or those little occafional poems that in their own nature are nothing else but a tissue of epigrams. I cannot conclude this head of mixt wit, without owning that the admirable poet, out of whom I have taken the examples of it, had as much true wit as any author that ever writ; and indeed all other talents of an extraordinary genius,
It may be expected, fince I am upon this fubject, that I fhould take notice of Mr. Dryden's definition of wit? which with all the deference that is due to the judgment of fo great a man, is not so properly a definition of wit, as of good writing in general. Wit, as he defines it, is a propriety of words and thoughts adapted to the subject.' If this be a true definition of wit, I am apt to think that Euclid was the greatest wit that ever set pen to paper: it is certain that never was a greater propriety of words and thoughts adapted to the fubject, than what that author has made use of in his Elements. I fhall only appeal to my reader, if this definition agrees with any notion he has of wit; if it be a true one, I am fure Mr. Dryden was not only a better poet, but a greater wit, than Mr. Cowley; and Virgil a much more facetious man than either Ovid or Martial.
Bouhours, whom I look upon to be the most penetrating of all the French critics, has taken pains to fhew, that it is impoffible for any thought to be beautiful which is not just, and has not its foundation in the nature of things; that the bafis of all wit is truth; and that no thought can be valuable, of which good fenfe is not the groundwork. Boileau has endeavoured to inculcate the fame notion in several parts of his writings, both in profe and verfe. This is that natural way of writing, that beautiful fimplicity, which we fo much admire in the compositions of the ancients: and which nobody deviates from, but those who want ftrength of genius to make a thought shine in its own natural beauties. Poets, who want this ftrength of genius to give that majestic fimplicity to nature, which we fo much admire in the works of the ancients, are forced to hunt after foreign ornaments, and not to let any piece of wit of what kind soever escape them. I look upon these writers as Goths in poetry, who, like thofe in architecture, nor being able to come up to the beautiful fimplicity of the old Greeks and Romans, have endeavoured to fupply its place with all the extravagances of an irregular fancy. Mr. Dryden makes a very handsome observation, on Ovid's writing a letter from Dido to Æneas, in the following words. Ovid.' says he, speaking of Virgil's fiction of Dido and Æneas, takes it up after him, even in the fame age, and makes an an'cient heroine of Virgil's new-created Dido; dic
tates a letter for her just before her death to the ' ungrateful fugitive; and, very unluckily for himself, is, for measuring a fword with a man fo much fuperior in force to him on the fame fubject. I think I may be judge of this, because
'I have tranflated both. The famous author of
The reader may obferve, in every one of thefe in. ftances, that the poet mixes the qualities of fire with thofe of love; and in the fame fentence speaking of it both as a paffion and as real fire, furprises the reader with thofe feeming resemblances or contradictions that make up all the wit in this kind of writing. Mixt wit therefore is a compofition of pun and true wit, and is more or lefs perfe&t
the Art of Love has nothing of his own: he borrows all from a greater master in his own pro'feflion, and, which is worse, improves nothing
which he finds: nature fails him, and being 'forced to his old fhift, he has recourse to witticifm
cifm. This paffes indeed with his foft admirers, and gives him the preference to Virgil in their esteem.'
Were not I fupported by fo great an authority as that of Mr. Dryden, I should not venture to obferve, that the taste of moft of our English poets, as well as readers, is extremely Gothic. He quotes Monfieur Segrais for a threefold diftinction of the readers of poetry in the firft of which he comprehends the rabble of readers, whom he does not treat as fuch with regard to their quality, but to their numbers and the coarfenefs of their tate. His words are as follows: Segrais has diftinguifhed the readers of poetry, according to their capacity of judging, into three claffes. [He might have faid the fame of writers too, if he had pleafed.] In the lowest form he places thofe whom he calls Les Petits Efprits, fuch things as our upper-gallery audience in a playhoufe; who like nothing but the husk and rhind of wit, prefer a quibble, a conceit, an epigram, <before folid fenfe and elegant expreffion: thefe are mob-readers. If Virgil and Martial ftood for parliament-men, we know already who would carry it. But though they make the greateft appearance in the field, and cry the loudeft, the belt on't is they are but a fort of French huguenots, or Dutch boors, brought over in herds, but not naturalized; who have not lands of two pounds per annum in Parnaffus, and therefore are not privileged to poll. Their au-, thors are of the fame level, fit to reprefent them on a mountebank's ftage, or to be mafters of the ceremonies in a bear-garden: yet thefe are they who have the most admirers. But it oft-. en happens, to their mortification, that as their readers improve their ftock of fenfe, as they may by reading better books, and by converfation with men of judgment, they foon forfake
ployed. The thoughts will be rifing of themfelves
It is to this that I impute my last night's dream or vifion, which formed into one continued alle gory the feveral schemes of wit, whether falfe, mixed, or true, that have been the fubject of my late papers.
Methought I was tranfported into a country
I must not difinifs this fubject without obferv. ing, that as Mr. Locke, in the paffage abovementioned, has difcovered the most fruitful fource of wit, fo there is another of a quite contrary nature to it, which does likewife branch itfeif out into feveral kinds. For not only the refemblance, but the oppofition of ideas, does very often produce wit; as I could fhew in feveral little points, turns, and antithefes, that I may poffibly enlarge upon in fome future fpeculation.
N° 63. SATURDAY, MAY 12.
Not far from these was a body of Acrostics, made up of very difproportioned perfons. It was difpofed into three columns, the officers planting themfelves in a line on the left-hand of each column. The officers were all of them at least fix feet high, and made three rows of very proper men; but the common foldiers, who filled up the spaces between the officers, were fuch dwarfs, cripples, and fcarecrows, that one could hardly look upon them without laughing. There were
behind the Acrostics two or three files of Chronograms, which differed only from the former, as their officers were equipped, like the figure of time, with an hour-glafs in one hand, and a fcythe in the other, and took their pofts promiscuously among the private men whom they commanded. In the body of the temple, and before the very face of the deity, methought I faw the phantom of Tryphiodorus the Lipogrammatift, engaged in a ball with four-and-twenty perfons, who purfued him by turns through all the intricacies and labyrinths of a country dance, without being able to overtake him.
Obferving feveral to be very bufy at the western end of the Temple, I inquired into what they were doing, and found there was in that quarter the great magazine of Rebus's. There were feveral things of the most different natures tied up in bundles, and thrown upon one another in heaps like faggots, You might behold an anchor, a night-rail, and a hobby-horse, bound up together, One of the workmen feeing me very much furprized, told me, there was an infinite deal of wit in feveral of those bundles, and that he would explain them to me if I pleafed. I thanked him for his civility, but told him I was in very great hafte at that time. As I was going out of the Temple, I obferved in one corner of it a cluster of men and women laughing very heartily, and diverting themfelves at a game of Crambo. I heard feveral Double Rhymes as I paffed by them, which raifed a great deal of mirth.
Not far from thefe was another fet of merry people engaged at a diverfion, in which the whole jeft was to mistake one perfon for another. To give occafion for thefe ludicrous mistakes, they were divided into pairs, every pair being covered from head to foot with the fame kind of drefs, though perhaps there was not the leaft refemblance in their faces. By this means an old man was fometimes mistaken for a boy, a woman for a man, and a black-a-moor for an European, which very often produced great peals of laughter. Thefe I gueffed to be a party of Puns. But being very defirous to get out of this world of magic, which had almost turned my brain, I left the temple, and croffed over the fields that lay about it with all the fpeed I could make. I was not gone far before I heard the found of trumpets and alarms, which feemed to proclaim the march of an enemy; and, as I afterwards found, was in reality what I apprehended it. There appeared at a great diftance a very fhining light, and, in the midst of it, a person of a most beautiful afpect; her name was Truth. On her righthand there marched a male deity, who bore feveral quivers on his fhoulder, and grafped feveral arrows in his hand. His name was Wit. The approach of thefe two enemies filled all the territories of Falfe Wit with an unspeakable confternation, infomuch that the goddess of thofe regions appeared in perfon upon her frontiers, with the feveral inferior deities, and the different bodies of forces which I had before seen in the temple, who were now drawn up in array, and prepared to give their foes a warm reception. As the march of the enemy was very flow, it gave time to the feveral inhabitants who bordered upon the regions of Falfhood to draw their forces into a body, with a design to ftand upon their guard as neuters, and attend the iffue of the combat.
I must here inform my reader, that the fron
tiers of the enchanted region, which I have before defcribed, were inhabited by the fpecies of Mixed Wit, who made a very odd appearance when they were mustered together in an army. There were men whose bodies were stuck full of darts, and women whofe eyes were burningglaffes; men that had hearts of fire, and women that had breafts of fnow. It would be endless to describe several monsters of the like nature, that compofed this great army; which immediately fell afunder and divided itself into two parts, the one half throwing themselves behind the banners of Truth, and the others behind those of Falfhood.
The goddess of Falfhood was of gigantic ftature, and advanced fome paces before the front of her army; but as the dazzling light, which flowed from Truth, began to fhine upon her, fhe faded infenfibly; infomuch, that in a little space fhe looked rather like an huge phantom than a real fubftance. At length, as the goddess of Truth approached still nearer to her, fhe fell away intirely, and vanished amidft the brightness of her prefence; fo that there did not remain the leaft trace or impreffion of her figure in the place where the had been seen.
As at the rifing of the fun the constellations grow thin, and the ftars go out one after another, till the whole hemifphere is extinguished; fuch was the vanishing of the goddess: and not only of the goddess herfelf, but of the whole army that attended her, which sympathized with their leader, and shrunk into nothing, in proportion as the goddefs difappeared. At the fame time the whole temple funk, the fish betook themselves to the ftreams, and the wild beafts to the woods, the fountains recovered their murmurs, the birds their voices, the trees their leaves, the flowers their fcents, and the whole face of nature its true and genuine appearance. Though I ftill continued afleep, I fancied myself as it were awakened out of a dream, when I faw this region of prodigies restored to woods and rivers, fields and meadows.
Upon the removal of that wild fcene of wonders, which had very much disturbed my imagination, I took a full furvey of the persons of Wit and Truth; for indeed it was impoffible to look upon the firit, without feeing the other at the fame time. There was behind them a strong and compact body of figur. s. The genius of Heroic Poetry appeared with the fword in her hand, and a laurel on her head. Tragedy was crowned with cyprefs, and covered with robes dipped in blood. Satire had fmiles in her look, and a dagger under her garment. Rhetoric was known by her thunderbolt; and Comedy by her mask. After feveral other figures, Epigram marched up in the rear, who had been posted there at the beginning of the expedition, that he might not revolt to the enemy, whom he wis fufpected to favour in his heart. I was very much awed and delighted with the appearance of the God of Wit; there was fomething fo amiable, and yet so piercing in his looks, as infpired me at once with love and terror. As I was gazing on him, to my unfpeakable joy, he took a quiver of arrows from his fhoulder, in order to make me a prefent of it; but as I was reaching out my hand to receive it of him, I knocked it against a chair, and by that means awaked,
No 64. MONDAY, MAY 14.
—Hic vivimus ambitiosâ
admired in the Gazette. But whatever compliments may be made on these occafions, the true mourners are the mercers, filkmen, lacemen, and milliners. A prince of a merciful and royal difpofition would reflect with great anxiety upon the profpect of his death, if he confidered what numbers would be reduced to mifery by that accident only; who would think it of moment enough to direct, that in the notification of his departure, the honour done to him might be restrained to those of the houshold of the prince to whom it fhould be fignified. He would think a general mourning to be in a lefs degree the fame ceremony which is practifed in barbarous nations, of killing their flaves to attend the obfequies of their kings.
I had been wonderfully at a lofs for many months together, to guefs at the character of a man who came now and then to our coffee-house; he ever ended a news-paper with this reflection, Well, I fee all the foreign princes are in good health. If you asked, Pray Sir, what fays the Poftman from Vienna? he answered, Make us thankful, the German princes are all well.' What does he fay from Barcelona? He does not fpeak but that the country agrees very well with the new queen.' After very much inquiry, I found this man of universal loyalty was a wholefale dealer in filks and ribbons; his way is, it feems, if he hires a weaver, or workman, to have it inferted in his articles, That all this fhall be • well and truly performed, provided no foreign
potentate shall depart this life within the time abovementioned. It happens in all public mournings, that the many trades which depend upon our habits, are during that folly either pinched with prefent want, or terrified with the apparent approach of it. All the atonement which men can make for wanton expences, which is a fort of infulting the scarcity under which others labour, is, that the fuperfluities of the wealthy give fupplies to the neceffities of the poor; but, instead of any other good arifing from the affec. tation of being in courtly habits of mourning, all order feems to be destroyed by it; and the true honour, which one court does to another on that occafion, lofes its force and efficacy. When a fo. reign minifter beholds the court of a nation, which flourishes in riches and plenty, lay afide, upon the lofs of his mafter, all marks of fplendor and magnificence, though the head of fuch a joyful people, he will conceive a greater idea of the honour done his mafter, than when he fees the generality of the people in the fame habit. When one is afraid to ask the wife of a tradefman whom the has loft of her family; and after fome preparation endeavours to know whom the mourns for; how ridiculous is it to hear her explain herself, that we have loft one of the houfe of Auftria? Princes are elevated fo highly above the rest of mankind, that it is a prefumptuous diftinction to take a part in honours done to their memories, except we have authority for it, by being related in a particular manner to the court which pays that veneration to their friendship, and feems to exprefs on fuch an occafion the fenfe of the uncertainty of human life in general, by affuming the habit of forrow, though in the full poffetion of triumph and royR
Juv. Sat. iii. 183. The face of wealth in poverty we wear. HE most improper things we commit in the conduct of our lives, we are led into by the force of fashion. Inftances might be given, in which a prevailing custom makes us act against the rules of nature, law, and common fenfe; but at prefent I fhall confine my confideration of the effect it has upon men's minds, by looking into our behaviour when it is the fashion to go into mourning. The custom of representing the grief we have for the tofs of the dead by our habits, certainly had its rife from the real forrow of fuch as were too much diftreffed to take the proper care they ought of their drefs. By degrees it prevailed, that fuch as had this inward oppreffion upon their minds, made an apology for not joining with the reft of the world in their ordinary diverfions by drefs fuited to their condition. This therefore was at firft affumed by fuch only as were under real diftrefs; to whom it was a relief that they had nothing about them fo light and gay as to be irkfome to the gloom and melancholy of their inward reflections, or that might misrepresent them to others. In procefs of time this laudable diftinction of the forrowful was loft, and mourning is now worn by heirs and widows. You see nothing but magnificence and folemnity in the equipage of the relict, and an air of release from fervitude in the pomp of a fon who has loft a wealthy father. This fafhion of forrow is now become a generous part of the ceremonial between princes and fovereigns, who in the language of all nations are ftiled brothers to each other, and put on the purple upon the death of any potentate with whom they live in amity. Courtiers, and all who with themselves fuch, are immediately feized with grief from head to foot upon this difafter to their prince; fo that one may know, by the very buckles of a gentleman-ufher, what degree of friendfhip any deceafed monarch maintained with the court to which he belongs. A good courtier's habit and behaviour is hieroglyphical on thefe occafions; he deals much in whispers, and you may fee he dreffes according to the beft intelligence. The general affectation among men, of appearing greater than they are, makes the whole world run into the habit of the court. You fee the lady, who the day before was as various as a rainbow, upon the time appointed for beginning to mourn, as dark as a cloud. This humour does not prevail only on those whofe fortunes can fupport any change in their equipage, not on thofe only whofe incomes demand the wantonnefs of new appearances; but on fuch alfo who have just enough to clothe them. An old acquaintance of mine, of ninety pounds a year, who has naturally the vanity of being a man of fashion deep at his heart, is very much put to it to bear the mortality of princes. He made a new black fuit upon the death of the King of Spain, he turned it for the King of Portugal, and he now keeps his chamber while it is fcouring for the emperor. He is a good eco-alty. nomift in his extravagance, and makes only a fresh Hlack button upon his iron-gray fait for any potntate of fmall territories; he indeed adds his crape hatband for a prince whole exploits he has
N° 65. TUESDAY, MAY 15.
Now for Mrs. Harriot; fhe laughs at obedience to an absent mother, whofe tenderness Bufy defcribes to be very exquifite, for that the is fo "pleased with finding Harriot again, that the "cannot chide her for being out of the way.” This witty daughter, and fine lady, has fo little refpect for this good woman, that the ridicules her air in taking leave, and cries, "In what "struggle is my poor mother yonder? See, fee "her head tottering, her eyes staring, and her un
because he has more wit than is ufual in her "fex, and as much malice, though she is as wild.
as you would with her, and has a demurenets "in her looks that makes it so surprising!" Then to recommend her as a fit fpoufe for his hero, the poet makes her speak her fenfe of marriage very ingeniously; “I think," fays fhe, “I might be brought to endure him, and that is all a reafonable woman fhould expect in an husband." It is, methinks, unnatural that we are not made to understand how the that was bred under a filly pious old mother, that would never trust her out of her fight, came to be fo polite.
FTER having at large explained what wit it, all that labour feems but an useless inquiry, without fome time be spent in confidering the application of it. The feat of wit, when one speaks as a man of the town and the world, is the playhoufe; I fhall therefore fill this paper with reflections upon the use of it in that place. The application of wit in the theatre has as strong an affect upon the manners of our gentlemen, as the tafte of it has upon the writings of our authors. may, perhaps, look like a very prefumptuous work, though not foreign from the duty of a Spectator, to tax the writings of fuch as have long had the general applause of a nation; but I fhall always make reafon, truth, and nature, the measures of praife and difpraife; if thofe are for me, the generality of opinion is of no confequence against me; if they are against mie, the general opinion cannot long support me.
Without further preface, I am going to look into fome of our most applauded plays, and fee whether they deferve the figure they at present bear in the imaginations of men, or not.
In reflecting upon these works, I fall chiefly dwell upon that for which each refpective play is most celebrated. The prefent paper fhall be employed upon Sir Fopling Flutter. The received character of this play is, that it is the pattern of genteel comedy. Dorimant and Harriot are the characters of greateft confequence: and if these are low and mean, the reputation of the play is very unjust,
I will take for granted, that a fine gentleman fhould be honeft in his actions, and refined in his language. Instead of this, our hero in this piece is a direct knave in his designs, and a clown in his language, Bellair is his admirer and friend; in return of which, because he is forfooth a greater wit than his faid friend, he thinks it reafonable to perfuade him to marry a young lady, whofe virtue, he thinks, will last no longer than till the is a wife, and then she cannot but fall to his share, as he is an irresistible fine gentleman. The falfhood to Mrs. Loveit, and the barbarity of triumphing over her anguish for lofing him, is another inftance of his honesty, as well as his goodnature. As to his fine language; he calls the orange-woman, who it seems is inclined to grow fat, "An over-grown jade, with a flasket of guts "before her;" and falutes her with a pretty "phrafe of, How now, double tripe?" Upon the mention of a country gentlewoman, whom he knows nothing of, no one can imagine why, he "will lay his life the is fome awkward ill"fashioned country toad, who, not having above "four dozen of hairs on her head, has adorned "her baldness with a large white fruz, that fhe "may look fparkifhly in the fore-front of the "king's box at an old play." Unnatural mixture of fenfelefs common-place!
It cannot be denied, but that the negligence of every thing, which engages the attention of the fober and valuable part of mankind, appears very well drawn in this piece; but it is denied, that it is neceffary to the character of a fine gentleman, that he should in that manner trample upon all order and decency. As for the character of Dorimant, it is more of a coxcomb than that of Fopling. He says of one of his companions, that a good correfpondence between them is their mutual intereft. Speaking of that friend, he declares, their being much together "makes the
As to the generofity of his temper, he tells his poor footman. "If he did not wait better-" he would turn him away, in the infolent phrafe of "I'll uncafe you."
women think the better of his understanding, "and judge more favourably of my reputation. "It makes him pass upon fome for a man of ve "ry good fenfe, and me upon others for a very "civil perfon."
This whole celebrated piece is a perfect contradiction to good manners, good fenfe, and common honesty; and as there is nothing in it but what is built upon the ruin of virtue and innocence, according to the notion of merit in this comedy, I take the shoemaker to be, in reality, the fine gentleman of the play; for it seems he is an Atheist, if we may depend upon his character as given by the orange-woman, who is herself far from being the lowest in the play. She fays of a fine man, who is Dorimant's companion, there "is not fuch another heathen in the town, except "the floemaker." His pretenfion to be the hero of the Drama appears ftill more in his own defcription of his way of living with his lady. "There is," fays he, "never a man in town lives
more like a gentleman with his wife than I do; "I never mind her motions; fhe never inquires "into mine. We fpeak to one another civilly, "hate one another heartily; and because it is "vulgar to lie and foak together, we have each "of us our several fettle-bed." That of foaking together is as good as if Dorimant had spoken it himself; and, I think, fince he puts human nature in as ugly a form as the circumftance will bear, and is a ftanch unbeliever, he is very much wronged in having no part of the good fortune bestowed in the last act.
To speak plainly of this whole work, I think nothing but being loft to a fenfe of innocence and virtue can make any one fee this comedy, without obferving more frequent occafion to move forrow