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so many empty bags, that I now found not above a tenth part of them had been filled with money. The rest that took up the same space, and made the same figure as the bags that were really filled with money, had been blown up with air, and called into my memory the bags full of wind, which Homer tells us his hero received as a present from Æolus. The great heaps of gold, on either side the throne, now appeared to be only heaps of paper, or little piles of notched sticks, bound up together in bundles, like Bath faggots.
Whilst I was lamenting this sudden desolation that had been made before me, the whole scene vanished: in the room of the frightful spectres there now entered a second dance of apparitions very agreeably matched together, and made up of very amiable phantoms. The first pair was Liberty with Monarchy at her right hand; the second was Moderation leading in Religion; and the third a person whom I had never seen, with the Genius of Great Britain. At their first entrance the lady revived; the bags swelled to their former bulk; the piles of faggots, and heaps of paper, changed into 20 pyramids of guineas: and, for my own part, I was so transported with joy that I awaked; though, I must confess, I would fain have fallen asleep again to have closed my vision, if I could have done it.
IV. POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.
Thursday, March 8, 1711.
Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, Sagas,
Hor. 2 Ep. ii. 207, 8.
Visions and magic spells can you despise,
GOING yesterday to dine with an old acquaintance, I had the
the family. The lady however recovering herself, after a little space, said to her husband with a sigh, "My dear, misfortunes never come single." My friend, I found, acted but an under-part at his table, and being a man of more good-nature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to fall in with all the passions and humours of his yoke-fellow. "Do you not remember, child," says she, "that the pigeonhouse fell the very afternoon that our careless wench spilt the salt upon the table?" "Yes," says he, "my dear, and the 10 next post brought us an account of the battle of Almanza." The reader may guess at the figure I made after having done all this mischief. I dispatched my dinner as soon as I could, with my usual taciturnity; when, to my utter confusion, the lady seeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying them across one another upon my plate, desired me that I would humour her so far as to take them out of that figure, and place them side by side. What the absurdity was which I had committed I did not know, but I suppose there was some traditionary superstition in it; and therefore, in 20 obedience to the lady of the house, I disposed of my knife
and fork in two parallel lines, which is the figure I shall always lay them in for the future, though I do not know any reason for it.
It is not difficult for a man to see that a person has conceived an aversion to him. For my own part I quickly found, by the lady's looks, that she regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate aspect for which reason I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings. Upon my return home I fell 30 into a profound contemplation on the evils that attend these superstitious follies of mankind; how they subject us to imaginary afflictions, and additional sorrows, that do not properly come within our lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not sufficient for it, we turn the most indifferent circumstances into misfortunes, and suffer as much from trifling accidents as from real evils. I have known the
shooting of a star spoil a night's rest; and have seen a man in love grow pale and lose his appetite upon the plucking of a merry-thought. A screech owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers; nay, the voice of a cricket hath struck more terror than the roaring of a lion. There is nothing so inconsiderable which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognostics. A rusty nail, or a crooked pin, shoot up into prodigies.
An old maid, that is troubled with the vapours, produces 10 infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt, of a great family, who is one of these antiquated sybils, that forebodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing apparitions, and hearing death-watches; and was the other day almost frighted out of her wits by the great housedog, that howled in the stable at a time when she lay ill of the tooth-ache. Such an extravagant cast of mind engages multitudes of people, not only in impertinent terrors, but in supernumerary duties of life, and arises from that fear and 20 ignorance which are natural to the soul of man. The horror with which we entertain the thoughts of death (or indeed of any future evil), and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a melancholy mind with innumerable apprehensions and suspicions, and consequently dispose it to the observation of such groundless prodigies and predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wise men to retrench the evils of life by the reasonings of philosophy, it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the sentiments of superstition.
For my own part, I should be very much troubled were I 30 endowed with this divining quality, though it should inform me truly of everything that can befall me. I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any misery, before it actually arrives.
I know but one way of fortifying my soul against these gloomy presages and terrors of mind, and that is by securing
to myself the friendship and protection of that Being who disposes of events and governs futurity. He sees, at one view, the whole thread of my existence, not only that part of it which I have already passed through, but that which runs forward into all the depths of eternity. When I lay me down to sleep I recommend myself to His care, when I awake I give myself up to His direction. Amidst all the evils that threaten me I will look up to Him for help, and question not but he will either avert them or turn them to my advantage. 10 Though I know neither the time nor the manner of the death I am to die, I am not at all solicitous about it, because I am sure that He knows them both, and that He will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
V. REFLECTIONS IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
No. 26. ]
Friday, March 30, 1711.
Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
Vitæ summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam.
Et domus exilis Plutonia.-Hor. 1 Od. iv. 13.
With equal foot, rich friend, impartial fate
Life's span forbids thee to expand thy cares,
Night soon will seize, and you must quickly go
To storied ghosts, and Pluto's house below.-Creech.
WHEN I am in a serious humour, I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey; where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather 30 thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable. I yesterday passed