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portion of these blessings as is vested in himself, and is his own private property. By this means, every man that does himself any real service, does me a kindness. I come in for my share in all the good that happens to a man of merit and virtue, and partake of many gifts of fortune and power that I was never born to. There is nothing in particular in which I so much rejoice, as the deliverance of good and generous spirits out of dangers, difficulties, and distresses. And because the world does not supply instances of this kind to furnish out sufficient entertainments for such an humanity and benevolence of temper, I have ever delighted in reading the history of ages past, which draws together into a narrow compass the great occurrences and events that are but thinly sown in those tracts of time which lie within our own knowledge and observation. When I see the life of a great man, who has deserved well of his country, after having struggled through all the oppositions of prejudice and envy, breaking out with lustre, and shining forth in all the splendour of success, I close my book, and am an happy man for a whole evening.
But since in history events are of a mixed nature, and ofter happen alike to the worthless and the deserving, insomuch that we frequently see a virtuous man dying in the midst of disappointments and calamities, and the vicious ending their days in prosperity and peace; I love to amuse myself with the accounts I meet with in fabulous histories and fictions: for in this kind of writings we have always the pleasure of seeing vice punished and virtue rewarded. Indeed, were we able to view a man in the whole circle of his existence, we should have the satisfaction of seeing it close with happiness or misery, according to his proper merit: but though our view of him is interrupted by death before the finishing of his adventures, (if I may so speak,) we may be sure that the conclusion and catastrophe is altogether suitable to his behaviour. On the contrary, the whole being of a man, considered as an hero, or a knight-errant, is comprehended within the limits of a poem or romance, and therefore always ends to our satisfaction; so that inventions of this kind are like food and exercise to a good-natured disposition, which they please and gratify at the same time that they nourish and strengthen. The greater the affliction is in
1 After the verb add "it."
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 gentleness 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 farewell 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 had 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 a case like hers. He describes a beautiful and royal virgin walking on the sea-shore, where she was discovered by Neptune, and violated after a long and unsuccessful importunity. To mitigate her sorrow, he offers her whatever she would wish for. Never, certainly, was the wit of woman more puzzled in 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 seanymph, or a goddess, her immortality would but have perpetuated her 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 a 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 the 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 a 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 awaked,1 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 me 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 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 description of
When I awaked.] Inimitably contrived, not to tell us that this adventure was a dream, till we come to the catastrophe of it.
Dover Cliff in Shakspeare's tragedy of King Lear, without a fresh sense of my escape. The prospect from that place is drawn with such proper incidents, that whoever can read it without growing giddy, must have a good head, or a very bad one.1
Come on, sir, here's the place. Stand still! how fearful
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge
Lest my brain turn.
No. 119. THURSDAY, JANUARY 12, 1709.
In tenui labor.
Sheer Lane, January 11.
I HAVE lately applied myself with much satisfaction to the curious discoveries that have been made by the help of microscopes, as they are related by authors of our own and other nations. There is a great deal of pleasure in prying into this world of wonders, which nature has laid out of sight, and seems industrious to conceal from us. Philosophy had ranged over all the visible creation, and began to want objects for her inquiries, when the present age, by the invention of glasses, opened a new and inexhaustible magazine of rarities, more wonderful and amazing than any of those which astonished our forefathers. I was yesterday amusing myself with speculations of this kind, and reflecting upon myriads
1 A quibble, not much to the credit of the writer. For, by a good head, is here meant, a head that does not turn and grow giddy at the sight of a precipice and by a bad one, is meant a head, that leaves a man insensible to the force of this description. But these two heads may grow together on the same shoulders.-The thought, then, is a false one, and the opposition is only in the sound, not in the sense.
of animals that swim in those little seas of juices that are contained in the several vessels of an human body. While my mind was thus filled with that secret wonder and delight, I could not but look upon myself as in an act of devotion, and am very well pleased with the thought of the great heathen anatomist, who calls his description of the parts of an human body, "An Hymn to the Supreme Being." The reading of the day produced in my imagination an agreeable morning's dream, if I may call it such: for I am still in doubt, whether it passed in my sleeping or waking thoughts.1 However it was, I fancied that my good genius stood at my bed's head, and entertained me with the following discourse; for upon my rising, it dwelt so strongly upon me, that I writ down the substance of it, if not the very words.
If (said he) you can be so transported with those productions of nature which are discovered to you by those artificial eyes that are the works of human invention, how great will your surprise be, when you shall have it in your power to model your own eye as you please and adapt it to the bulk of objects, which, with all these helps, are by infinite degrees too minute for your perception. We, who are unbodied spirits, can sharpen our sight to what degree we think fit, and make the least work of the creation distinct and visible. This gives us such ideas as cannot possibly enter into your present conceptions. There is not the least particle of matter which may not furnish one of us sufficient employment for a whole eternity. We can still divide it, and still open it, and still discover new wonders of Providence, as we look into the different texture of its parts, and meet with beds of vegetables, mineral and metallic mixtures, and several kinds of animals that lie hid, and as it were lost, in such an endless fund of matter. I find you are surprised at this discourse; but as your reason tells you there are infinite parts in the smallest portion of matter, it will likewise convince you, that there is as great a variety of secrets, and as much room for discoveries, in a particle no bigger than the point of a pin, as in the globe of the whole earth. Your microscopes bring to sight shoals of living creatures in a spoonful of vinegar; but we, who can distinguish them in their different magnitudes, see among them several huge Leviathans, that
1 Waking thoughts.] Finely observed, to intimate that what follows, how fantastic soever it may seem, hath its foundation in truth and fact.