Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

first competitor that entered the lists, was a black swarthy Frenchman, who accidentally passed that way, and being a man naturally of a withered look, and hard features, promised himself good success. He was placed upon a table in the great point of view, and looking upon the company like Milton's death,

Grinn'd horribly a ghastly smile.

His muscles were so drawn together on each side of his face that he shewed twenty teeth at a grin, and put the country in some pain, lest the foreigner should carry away the honour of the day; but upon a further trial they found he was master only of the merry grin.

The next that mounted the table was a Malecontent in those days, and a great master of the whole art of grinning, but particularly excelled in the angry grin. He did his part so well, that he is said to have made half a dozen women miscarry; but the justice being apprized by one who stood near him, that the fellow who grinned in his face was a Jacobite, and being unwilling that a disaffected person should win the gold ring, and be looked upon as the best grinner in the country, he ordered the oaths to be tendered unto him upon his quitting the table, which the grinner refusing, he was set aside as an unqualified person. There were several other grotesque figures that presented themselves, which it would be too tedious to describe. I must not, however, omit a plough man, who lived in the further part of the country, and being very lucky in a pair of long lanthorn-jaws, wrung his face into such a hideous grimace, that every feature of it appeared under a different distortion. The whole company stood astonished at such a complicated grin, and were ready to assign the prize to him, had it not been proved by one of his antagonists that he had practised with verjuice for some days before, and had a

[ocr errors]

crab found upon him at the very time of grinning; upon which the best judges of grinning declared it as their opinion that he was not to be looked upon as a fair grinner, and therefore order. ed him to be set aside as a cheat.

The prize, it seems, fell at length upon a cobler, Giles Gorgon by name, who produced several new grins of his own invention, having been used to cut faces for many years together over his last. At the very first grin he cast every human feature out of his countenance, at the second he became the face of a spout, at the third a baboon, at the fourth the head of a bass-viol, and at the fifth a pair of nut-crackers. The whole assembly wondered at his accomplishments, and bestowed the ring on him unanimously; but, what he esteemed more than all the rest, a country wench whom he had wooed in vain for above five years before, was so charmed with his grins, and the applauses which he received on all sides, that she married him the week following, and to this day wears the prize upon her finger, the cobler having made use of it as his wedding-ring.

This paper might perhaps seem very impertinent, if it grew serious in the conclusion. I would nevertheless leave it to the consideration of those who are the patrons of this monstrous trial of skill, whether or no they are not guilty, in some measure, of an affront to their species, in treating after this manner the Human Face Divine, and turning that part of us, which has so great an image impressed upon it, into the image of a monkey; whether the raising such silly competitions among the ignorant, proposing prizes for such useless accomplishments, filling the common people's heads with such senseless ambitions, and inspiring them with such absurd ideas of superiority and pre-eminence, has not in it something immoral as well as ridiculous.'

L.

'This paper produced so good an effect that the 'grinning match' was given up and the 'Spectator' applied to by letter to point out the proper

[blocks in formation]

my

In one of last week's papers' I treated of good-nature, as it is the effect of constitution; I shall now speak of it as it is a moral virtue. The first may make a man easy in himself, and agreeable to others, but implies no merit in him that is possessed of it. A man is no more to be praised upon this account, than because he has a regular pulse or a good digestion. This goodnature, however, in the constitution, which Mr. Dryden somewhere calls a milkiness of blood, is an admirable ground-work for the other. In order, therefore, to try our good-nature, whether it arises from the body or the mind, whether it be founded in the animal or rational part of our nature, in a word, whether it be such as is entitled to any other reward, besides that secret satisfaction, and contentment of mind, which is essential to it, and the kind reception it procures us in the world, we must examine it by the following rules.

First, whether it acts with steadiness and uniformity in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity: if otherwise, it is to be looked upon as nothing else but an irradiation of the mind from some new supply of spirits, or a more kindly circulation of the blood. Sir Francis Bacon mentions a cunning solicitor, who would never ask a favour of a great man before dinner;

way of disposing of the prize. V. 'Original Letters to the Spectator,' vol ii. letter from Coleshill.--G.

IV No. 169.-C.

[ocr errors]

but took care to prefer his petition at a time when the party petitioned had his mind free from care, and his appetites in good humour. Such a transient temporary good-nature as this, is not that philanthropy, that love of mankind, which deserves the title of a moral virtue.

The next way of a man's bringing his good-nature to the test, is, to consider whether it operates according to the rules of reason and duty for if, notwithstanding its general benevolence to mankind, it makes no distinction between its objects, if it exerts itself promiscuously towards the deserving and the undeserving, if it relieves alike the idle and the indigent, if it gives itself up to the first petitioner, and lights upon any one rather by accident than choice, it may pass for an amiable instinct, but must not assume the name of a moral virtue.

The third trial of good-nature will be the examining ourselves, whether or no we are able to exert it to our own disadvantage, and employ it on proper objects, notwithstanding any little pain want, or inconvenience which may arise to ourselves from it: in a word, whether we are willing to risk any part of our fortune, or reputation, our health or ease, for the benefit of mankind. Among all these expressions of good-nature, I shall single out that which goes under the general name of charity, as it consists in relieving the indigent; that being a trial of this kind which offers itself to us almost at all times and in every place.

I should propose it as a rule to every one, who is provided with any competency of fortune more than sufficient for the necessaries of life, to lay aside a certain proportion of his income for the use of the poor. This I would look upon as an offering to him who has a right to the whole, for the use of those whom, in the passage hereafter mentioned, he has described as his own representatives upon earth. At the same time we should manage our charity with such prudence and caution, that we may not hurt

our own friends or relations whilst we are doing good to those who are strangers to us.

This may possibly be explained better by an example than by a rule.

Eugenius is a man of universal good-nature, and generous beyond the extent of his fortune; but withal so prudent in the œconomy of his affairs, that what goes out in charity is made up by good management. Eugenius has what the world calls two hundred pounds a year; but never values himself above ninescore, as not thinking he has a right to the tenth part, which he always appropriates to charitable uses. To this sum he frequently makes other voluntary additions, insomuch that in a good year, for such he accounts those in which he has been able to make greater bounties than ordinary, he has given above twice the sum to the sickly and indigent. Eugenius prescribes to himself many particular days of fasting and abstinence, in order to increase his private bank of charity, and sets aside what would be the current expences of those times for the poor, He often goes afoot where his business calls him, and at the end of his walk has given a shilling, which in his ordinary methods of expence would have gone for coach-hire, to the first necessitous person that has fallen in his way. I have known him, when he has been going to a play or an opera, divert the money which was designed for that purpose, upon an object of charity whom he has met with in the street; and afterwards pass his evening in a coffee-house, or at a friend's fireside, with much greater satisfaction to himself than he could have received from the most exquisite entertainments of the theatre. By these means he is generous without impoverishing himself, and enjoys his estate by making it the property of others.

There are few men so cramped in their private affairs whe may not be charitable after this manner, without any disadvantage

VOL. V.-19

« VorigeDoorgaan »