« VorigeDoorgaan »
No 1. Thursday, March 1. 1710-11.
Non fumum ex fulgore, fed ex fumo dare lucen
One with a flash begins, and ends in smoke ;
HAVE obferved, that a reader feldom perufes a book with pleasure, until he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric difpofition, married or a batchelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author. To gratify this curiofity, which is fo natural to a reader, I defign this paper, and my next, as prefatory difcourfes to my following writ ings, and fhall give fome account in them of the feveral perfons
perfons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digefting, and correcting, will fall to my fhare, I muft do myself the juftice to open the.. work with my own history.
I WAS born to a fmall hereditary eftate, which, according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by the faine hedges and ditches in William. the Conqueror's time that it is at prefent, and has been delivered down from father to fon whole- and entire, without the lofs or acquifition of a fingle field or meadow, during the space of fix hundred years. There runs a story. in the family, that when my mother was gone with child of me about three months, fhe dreamed that she was brought to bed of a judge whether this might proceed from a law fuit, which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace, I cannot determine; for I am not fo vain as to think it prefaged any dignity that I fhould arrive at in my future life, though: that was the interpretation which the neighbourhood put upon it. The gravity of my behaviour at my very first. appearance in the world, and all the time that I fucked, feemed to favour my mother's dream: for as the has often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make use of my coral until they had taken away the bells from it..
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I fhall pass it over in filence. I find, that, during my nonage, I had the reputation of a very fullen youth, but was always a favourite of my fchoolmafter, who used to say, that my parts were folid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the university, before I diftinguished myself by a moft profound filence for, during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercifes of the college, I fcarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever fpoke three fentences together in my whole life. Whilft I was in this learned body, I applied myself with fo much diligence to my ftudies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
UPON the death of my father, I was refolved to tra vel into foreign countries, and therefore left the univerfity, with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but fhew it. An infatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was any thing new or ftrange to be feen; nay, to fuch a degree was my curiofity raised, that having read the controverfies of fome, great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the meafure of a pyramid: and as foon as I had fet myself right in that particular, returned to my native country with great fatisfaction.
I HAVE paffed my latter years in this city, where I ain frequently feen in moft public places, though there are not above half a dozen of my felect friends that know me; of whom my next paper hall give a more particular account. There is no place of general refort, wherein I do not often make my appearance, fometimes I am seen thrufting my head into a round of politicians at Will's, and liftening with great attention to the narratives that are made in thofe little circular audiences. Sometimes I fmoke a pipe at Child's, and whilft I seem attentive to no. thing but the Pollman, over-hear the converfation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St James's coffeehouse, and fometimes join the little committee of politics in the inner room, as one who comes there to hear and improve. My face is likewife very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa-tree, and in the theatres both of Drury-lane and Hay-market. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years, and fometimes pafs for a Few in the affembly of ftock-jobbers at Jonathan's: in fhort, where-ever I fee a clufter of people, I always mix with them, though I never open my lips but in my own club.
THUS I live in the world rather as a fpectator of mankind, than as one of the fpecies, by which means I have made myfelf a fpeculative ftatefman, foldier, merchant, and artifan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well verfed in the theory of a husband or a father, and can difcern the errors in the economy, bufinefs, and diverfion of others, better
than those who are engaged in them; as ftanders-by dif cover blots, which are apt to escape those who are in the game. I never espoused any party with violence, and am refolved to observe an exact neutrality between the Whigs and Tories, unless I fhall be forced to declare myself by the hoftilities of either fide. In fhort, I have acted in all the parts of my life as a looker-on, which is the character I intend to preferve in this paper.
I HAVE given the reader juft fo much of my history and character, as to let him fee I am not altogether unqualified for the bufinefs I have undertaken. As for other particulars in my life and adventures, I fhall infert them in following papers, as I fhall fee occafion. In the mean time, when I confider how much I have feen, read, and heard, I begin to blame my own taciturnity ; eid fince I have neither time nor inclination to communicate the fulness of my heart in speech, I am refolved to do it in writing, and to print myself out, if poffible, before I die. I have been often told by my friends, that it is pity fo many useful discoveries which I have made fhould be in the poffeffion of a filent man. For this reafon therefore, I fhall publifh a fheet-full of thoughts every morning, for the benefit of my contemporaries; and . if I can any way contribute to the diverfion or improvement of the country in which I live, I fhall leave it, when I am fummoned out of it, with the fecret fatisfaction of thinking that I have not lived in vain.
THERE are three very material points which I have not spoken to in this paper; and which, for feveral important reafons, I muft keep to myself, at leaft for fome time I mean, an account of my name, my age, and my lodgings. I muft confefs, I would gratify my reader in any thing that is reasonable; but as for these three particulars, though I am fenfible they might tend very much to the embellishment of iny paper, I cannot yet come to a refolution of communicating them to the public. They would indeed draw me out of that obfcurity which I have enjoyed for many years, and expofe me in public places to feveral falutes and civilities, which have been always very difagreeable to me; for the greatest pain I can fuffer, is the being talked to, and being ftared at. It is for this reafon likeways, that I keep
my complexion and drefs as very great fecrets; though it is not impoffible, but I may make discoveries of both in the progrefs of the work I have undertaken.
AFTER having been thus particular upon myself, I fhall, in to-morrow's paper, give an account of those gentlemen who are concerned with me in this work; for, as I have before intimated, a plan of it is laid and concerted, as all other matters of importance are, in a club. However, as my friends have engaged me to stand in the front, those who have a mind to correfpond with me, may direct their letters to the SPECTATOR, at Mr. Buckley's in Little-Britain. For I muft further acquaint the reader, that, though our club meets only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have appointed a committee to fit every night, for the infpection of all fuch papers as may contribute to the advancement of the public weal.
HE firft of our fociety is a gentleman of Worcefterfhire, of antient defcent, a baronet, his name Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY. His great grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that fhire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir ROGER. He is a gentleman that is very fingular in his behaviour, but his fingularities proceed from his good fenfe, and are contradictions to the manners of the world, only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However, this humour creates him no enemies, for he does nothing with fournefs or obftinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms, makes him but the reaVOL. I.