« VorigeDoorgaan »
Horace, in my motto, fays, "That all men "are vicious, and that they differ from one "another, only as they are more or lefs fo." Boileau has given the fame account of our wifdom, as Horace has of our virtue:
Two or three of the old Greek poets have given the fame turn to a fentence which def'cribes the happiness of man in this life :
Τὸ ζην ἀλ πως ἀνδρὸς ἐςιν εὐτυχοῦς. "That_man is most happy who is the least mi
It will not perhaps be unentertaining to the 'polite reader to obferve how these three beautiful fentences are formed upon different fubjects by the fame way of thinking; but I fhall return to the firft of them.
Our goodness being of a comparative, and not an abfolute nature, there is none who in ftrictnefs can be called a virtuous man. Every one has in him a natural alloy, though one may be fuller of drofs than another: for this reafon I cannot think it right to introduce a perfect or a faultless man upon the stage; not only becaufe fuch a character is improper to move compaffion, but because there is no fuch thing in nature. This might probably be one reason why the Spectator in one of his papers took no ice of that late invented term called Poetical Justice, and the wrong notions into which it has led fomne tragic writers. The most perfect man has vices enough to draw down punishments upon his head, and to justify Providence in regard to any miferies that may befal him. For this reafon I cannot think, but that the inftruction and moral are much finer, where a man who is virtuous in the main of his character falls into diftrefs, and finks under the blows of fortune at the end of a tragedy, than when he is reprefented as happy and triumphant. Such an example corrects the infolence of human nature, foftens the mind of the beholder with fentiments of pity and compaffion, comforts him under his own private affliction, and teaches him not to judge of mens virtues by their fucceffes. I cannot think of one real hero in all antiquity fo far raised above human infirmities, that he might not be very naturally reprefented in a tragedy as plunged in misfortunes and calamities. The poet may fill find out fome prevailing paffion or indifcretion in his character, and fhew it in fuch a manner as will fufficiently acquit the gods of any injuftice in his fufferings. For as Horace obferves in my text, the beft man is faulty, though not in fo great a degree as thofe whom we generally call vicious men.
If fuch a ftrict Poetical Juftice, as fome gentlemen infift upon, was to be obferved in this art, there is no manner of reafon why it thould not extend to heroic poetry as well as tragedy. But we find it fo little obferved in Homer, that his Achilles is placed in the greatest point of
glory and fuccefs, though his character is morally vicious, and only poetically good, if I may ufe the phrase of our modern critics. The Eneid is filled with innocent, unhappy perfons.
Nifus and Euryalus, Larjus and Pallas come all 'to unfortunate ends. The poet takes notice in particular, that in the facking of Troy, Ripheus fell, who was the most just man < among the Trojans.
-Nec te tua plurima, Pantheu, Labentem pietas, nec Apollinis infulå texit.
N. 2. V. 429.
"I might here mention the practice of ancient 'tragic poets, both Greek and Latin; but as this particular is touched upon in the paper abovementioned, I fhall pass it over in filence. I could produce paffages out of Ariftotle in favour of my opinion? and if in one place he fays that an abfolutely virtuous man should not be reprefented as unhappy, this does not justify any one who shall think fit to bring in an abfolutely virtuous man upon the ftage. Those who are acquainted with that author's way of writing, know very well, that to take the whole extent of his fubject into his divifions of it, he often makes use of such cases as are imaginary, and not reducible to practice he himself declares that fuch tragedies as ended unhappily bore away the prize in theatrical contentions, from thofe which ended happily; and for the fortieth fpeculation, which I am now confidering, as it has given reafons why thefe are more apt to please an audience, fo it only proves that there are ge'nerally preferable to the other, though at the fame time it affirms that many excellent tragedies have and may be written in both kinds.
I fhall conclude with obferving, that though the Spectator abovementioned is fo far against the rule of poetical justice, as to affirm that ' good men may meet with an unhappy cata'ftrophe in tragedy, it does not say that ill men 6 may go off unpunished. The reafon for this 'diftinction is very plain, namely, because the 'beft of men are vicious enough to justify Providence for any misfortunes and afflictions which may befall them, but there are many " men fo criminal that they can have no claim or pretence to happiness. The best of men may deferve punishment, but the worft of men cannot deferve happiness.'
have made themselves eafy in it. Our unhappinefs is, that we find out fome excufe or other for deferring fuch our good refolutions until our intended retreat is cut off by death. But among all kinds of people there are none who are fo hard to part with the world, as those who are grown old in the heaping up of riches. Their minds are fo warped with their conftant attention to gain, that it is very difficult for them to give their fouls another bent, and convert them towards thofe objects, which, though they are proper for every stage of life, are fo more efpecially for the last. Horace defcribes an old ufurer as fo charmed with the pleasures of a country life, that in order to make a purchase he called in all his money; but what was the event of it? Why in a very few days after he put it out again. I am engaged in this feries of thought by a difcourfe which I had last week with my worthy friend Sir Andrew Freeport, a man of fo much natural eloquence, good fenfe, and probity of mind, that I always hear him with a particular pleasure. As we were fitting together, being the fole remaining members of our club, Sir Andrew gave me an account of the many bufy fcenes of life in which he had been engaged, and at the fame time reckoned up to me abundance of thofe lucky hits, which at another time he would have called pieces of goodfortune; but in the temper of mind he was then, he termed them mercies, favours of Providence, and bleffings upon an honeft industry. Now, fays he, you must know, my good friend, I am fo ufed to confider myself as creditor and debtor, that I often ftate my accounts after the fame manner with regard to heaven and my own foul. In this cafe, when I look upon the debtor-fide, I find fuch innumerable articles, that I want arithmetic to caft them up; but when I look upon the creditor-fide, I find little more than blank paper. Now though I am very well fatisfied that it is not in my power to balance accounts with my Maker, I am refolved however to turn all my future endeavours that way. You must not therefore be furprised, my friend, if you hear that I am betaking myself to a more thoughtful kind of life, and if I meet you no more in this place.
I could not, but approve fo good a resolution, notwithstanding the lofs I should suffer by it. Sir Andrew has fince explained himself to me more at large in the following letter, which is juft come to my hands.
Good Mr. Spectator,
Otwithstanding my friends at the club have always rallied me, when I have talked of retiring from bufinefs, and repeated to me one of my own fayings, "That a mer❝chant has never enough until he has got a little "more;" I can now inform you, that there is
one in the world who thinks he has enough, and is determined to pafs the remainder of his life in the enjoyment of what he has. You know me fo well, that I need not tell you, I mean, by the enjoyments of my poffeffions, the making of them ufeful to the public. As the greatest part of my eftate has been hitherto of an unfteady and volatile nature, either toft upon feas, or nuctuating in funds; it is now fixed and fettled in fubftantial acres and tenements. I have removed it from the uncertainty
of stocks, winds, and waves, and difpofed of it in a confiderable purchafe. This will give me great opportunity of being charitable in my that is, in fetting my poor neighbours to way, work, and giving them a comfortable fubfiftence out of their own industry. My gardens, " my fishponds, my arable and pasture grounds fhall be my feveral hofpitals, or rather workhoufes, in which I propofe to maintain a great many indigent perfons, who are now ftarving in, my neighbourhood. I have got a fine fpread of improveable lands, and in my own thoughts am already plowing up fome of them, fencing others; planting woods, and draining marthes. In fine, as I have my thare in the furface of this ifland, I am refolved to make it as beautiful a fpot as any in her majefty's dominions; at leaft there is not an inch of it which fhall not be cultivated to the best advantage, and do its utmost for its "owner. As in my mercantile employment I fo difpofed of my affairs, that from whatever corner of the compafs the wind blew, it was bring<ing home one or other of my fhips; I hope, as a husbandman, to contrive it fo, that not a shower of rain, or a glimpfe of fun-fhine, fhall fall upon my eftate without bettering fome part of it, and contributing to the products of the feafon. You know it has been hitherto my opinion of life, that it is thrown away when it is not ufeful to others. But when I am riding out by myself, in the fresh air on the open heath that lies by my house, I find feveral other thoughts growing up in me. I am now of opinion, that a man of my age may find bufinefs enough on himself, by fetting his mind in order, preparing it for another world, and reconciling it to the thoughts of death. I must therefore acquaint you, that befides thofe ufual methods of charity, of which I have before spoken, I am at this very inftant finding out a convenient place where I may build an alms-houfe, which I intend to endow very handfomely for a dozen fuperannuated hufbandmen. It will be a great pleafure to me to fay my prayers twice a day with men of my own years, who all of them, as well as myfelf, may have their thoughts taken up how they thall die, rather than how they fhall live. I remember an excellent faying that I learned at fchool, finis coronat opus. You know best whether it be in Virgil or in Horace, it is C bufinefs to apply it. If your affairs will permit you to take the country air with me fometimes, you fhall find an apartment fitted up for you, and fhall be every day entertained with beef or mutton of my own feeding; fish out of my own ponds; and fruit out of my, own gardens. You thall have free egrefs and regrefs about my houfe, without having any questions afked you, and, in a word, fuch an hearty welcome as you may expect from Your most fincere friend, And humble fervant, Andrew Freeport.
The club, of which I am a member, being entirely difperied, I thall confult my reader next week upon a prospect relating to the inftitution. of a new one.
No. 550. MONDAY, DECEMBER 1,
think I have fo well preferved my taciturnity, that I do not remember to have violated it with three fentences in the space of almost two years. As a monoíyllable is my delight, I have made very few excurfions in the converfations which I have related, beyond a Yes or a No. By this means my readers have loft many good things which I have had in my heart,, though I did not care for uttering them.
Now, in order to diverfify my character, and to fhew the world how well I can talk if I have a
mind, I have thoughts of being very loquacious in the club which I have now under confideration. But that I may proceed the more regularly in this affair, I design, upon the firft meeting of the faid club, to have my mouth opened in form; intending to regulate myfelf in this particular by a certain ritual which I have by me, that contains ning of the mouth of a cardinal. I have likeall the ceremonies which are practifed at the opewife examined the forms which were used of old by Pythagoras, when any of his scholars, after fpeech. In the mean time, as I have of late an apprenticeship of filence, was made free of his cafions, I queftion not but in their next articles found my name in foreign gazettes upon lefs ocfrom Great Britain, they will inform the world, that the Spectator's mouth is to be opened on the twenty-fifth of March next.' I may perhaps publish a very ufeful paper at that time of the proceedings in that folemnity, and of the per
But of this mor
fons who fhall affift at it.
INCE the late diffolution of the club, whereof I have often declared myself a member, there are very many perfons who by letters, petitions,, and recommendations, put up for the next election. At the fame time I must complain, that feveral indirect and underhand practices have been made ufe of upon this occafion. A certain gentleman began to tap upon the firft intimation he received of Sir Roger's death: when he fent me up word, that if I would get him chofen in the place of the deceafed, he would prefent me with a barrel of the best October I had ever drank in my life. The ladies are in great pain to know whom I intend to elect in the room of Will Honey comb. Some of them indeed are of opinion, that Mr. Honeycomb did not take fufficient care of their intereft in the club, and are therefore defirous of having in it hereafter a reprefentative of their own fex. A citizen who fubfcribes himfelf Y. Z. tells me, that he h s one and twenty thares in the African company, and offers to bribe me with the odd one in cafe he may fucceed Sir Andrew Freeport, which he thinks would
raife the credit of that fund. I have feveral
Having maturely weighed thefe feveral particulars, with the many remonstrances that have been made to me on this fubject, and confidering how invidious an office I fhall take upon me, if I make the whole election depend upon my fingle voice, and being unwilling to expofe myfelf to thofe clamours, which, on fuch an occafion, will not fail to be raised againft me for partiality, injustice, corruption, and other qualities, which my nature abhors, I have formed to myfelf the project of a club as follows.
I have thought of iffuing out writs to all and every of the clubs that are established in the cities of London and Weftminster, requiring them to choose out of their refpective bodies a perfon of the greatell merit, and to return his name to me before Lady-day, at which time I intend to it upon bufinefs.
By this means I have reafon to hope, that the club over which I fhall prefide will be the flower and quinteffence of all other clubs. have communicated this my project to none but a particular friend of mine, whom I have celebrated twice or thrice for his happiness in that kind of wit which is commonly known by the - name of a pun. The only objection he makes to it is, that I thall raife up enemies to myfelf, if I act with fo regal an air, and that my detractors, inilead of giving me the ufual title of Spectator, will be apt to call me the King of Clubs.
But to proceed on my intended project: it is very well known, that I at fir fet forth in this work with the character of a filent man; and I
551. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2. Sic bonor & nomen divinis vatibus atque Carminibus venit. -HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 400.
HEN men of worthy and excelling geniufes have obliged the world with beautiful and inftructive writings, it is in the nature of gratitude that praife fhould be returned them, as one proper confequent reward of their performances. Nor has mankind ever been to degenerately funk, but they have made this return, and even when they have not been wrought up by the generous endeavour fo as to receive the advantages defigned by it. This praife, which arifes firft in the mouth of particular perions, fpreads and lafts according to the merit of authors; and when it thus meets with a full fuccefs, changes its denomination, and is called fame. They who have happily arrived at this, are, even while they live, inflamed by the acknowledgments of others, and ipuired on to new undertakings for the benefit of mankind, notwithstanding the detraction which fome abject tempers would caft upon them but when they deceafe, their characters being freed from the thadow which envy laid them under, begin to thine out with greater fplendor; their fpirits furvive in their works; they are admitted into the highest company, and they continue.pleafing and instructing potterity from age to age. Some of the belt gain a character, by being able to thew that they are no frangers to them; and others obtain a new warmah
So ancient is the pedigree of verse,
• Mr. Spectator
warmth to labour for the happiness and ease of mankind, from a reflection upon thofe honours which are paid to their memories.
The thought of this took me up, as I turned. over thofe epigrams which are the remains of feveral of the wits of Greece, and perceived many dedicated to the fame of thofe who had excelled in beautiful poetic performances. Wherefore in purfuance to my thought, I concluded to do fomething along with them to bring their praifes into a new light and language, for the encouragement of those whofe modeft tempers may be deterred by the fear of envy or detraction from fair attempts, to which their parts might render them equal. You will perceive them as they follow to be conceived in the form of epitaphs, a fort of writing which is wholly fet apart for a fhort-pointed method of praise.
On Orpheus, written by Antipater.'
"No longer, Orpheus, fhall thy facred ftrains Lead ftones, and trees, and beafts, along the plains;
"No longer footh the boisterous winds to fleep, "Or ftill the billows of the raging deep : "For thou art gone, the mufes mourn'd thy fall "In folemn trains, thy mother most of all. "Ye mortals, icly for your fons ve moan, "If thus a goddets could not fave her own."
Obferve here, that if we take the fable for < granted, -as it was believed to be in that age when the epigram was written, the turn appears to have piety to the gods, and a refigning fpirit in its application. But if we confider the point with refpect to our prefent knowledge, it will be lefs efteemed; though the author himself, because he believed it, may still be more valued than any one who thould now write with a point of the fame nature.
On Homer, by Aldheus of Mytilene.
Still in our ears Andromache complains,
Whofe birth could more than one poor realm adorn, "For all the world is proud that he was born.
The thought in the first part of this is natural, and depending upon the force of poefy:* in the latter part it looks as if it would aim at the hiftory of feven towns contending for the honour of Homer's birth-place; but when you expect to meet with that common ftory, the poet flides by, and raifes the whole world for a kind of arbiter which is to end the contention amongst its several parts.
On Anacreon, by Antipater,
"This tomb be thine, Anacreon! all around "Let ivy wreath, let flowrets deck the ground, "And from its earth, enrich'd with fuch a prize,' "Let wells of milk and ftreams of wine arise "So will thine afhes yet a pleasure know,
If any pleasure reach the fades below,
The poet here written upon, is an eafy gay author, and he who writes upon him has filled his own head with the character of his fubject, 'He feems to love his theme fo much, that he 'thinks of nothing but pleafing him as if he were ftill alive, by entering into his libertine fpirit; fo that the humour is eafy and gay, refembling Anacreon in its air, raised by fuch images, and pointed with fuch a turn as he might have ufed. I give it a place here, be'caufe the author may have defigned it for his 'honour; and I take an opportunity from it to advife others, that when they would praife, they cautiously avoid every loofer qualification, and fix only where there is a real foundation in merit.
This epigram has a refpect to the character of its fubject; for Menander writ remarkably 983 with
with a juftness and purity of language. It has alfo told the country he was born in, without either a fet or a hidden manner, while it twifts together the glory of the poet and his nation, fo as to make the nation depend upon his for " an increase of its own.
I will offer no more inftances at prefent to fhew that they who deferve praise have it returned them from different ages. Let thefe • which have been laid down, Thew men that " envy will not always prevail. And to the end that writers may more fuccefsfully enliven the ' endeavours of one another, let them confider, in fome fuch manner as I have attempted, what may be the jufteft spirit and art of praife. It is indeed very hard to come up to it. Our praife is trifling when it depends upon fable; it is falfe when it depends upon wrong qualifications; it means nothing when it is general; it is extremely difficult to hit when we propose to raife chara&ers high, while we keep to them juftly. I fhall end this with transcribing that 4th Dec. excellent epitaph of Mr. Cowley, wherein, with a kind of grave and philofophic humour, he very beautifully' fpeaks of himfelf (withdrawn from the world, and dead to all the interefts of it) as of a man really deceased. At the fame time it is an inftruction how to leave the public with a good grace.
• Mr. Spectator,
· AVING read over in your paper, No. 551, fome of the epigrams made by the Grecian wits, in commendation of their celebrated poets, I could not forbear fending you another, out of the fame collection; which I take to be as great a compliment to Homer, as any that has yet been paid him.
Poffis ut illum dicere mortuum,
Herbifque odoratis corona
fis fure he's dead; for, lo! how small "A fpot of earth is now his all! "Oh! with that earth may lightly lay, "And ev'ry care be far away!
Bring flow'rs, the fhort-liv'd roses bring, "To life deceas'd fit offering! "And fweets around the poet ftrow, "Whilft yet with life his ashes glow."
The publication of thefe criticisms having procured me the following letter from a very ingenious gentleman, I cannot forbear inferting it in the volume, though it did not come foon enough to have a place in any of my fingle papers,
ποθ ̓ ὁτόν Τροίης πόλεμον, &c.
Who firft tranfcrib'd the famous Trojan war, "And wife Ulyffes' acts, O Jove, make known: "For fince 'tis certain thine thofe poems are, "No more let Homer boast they are his own.”
If you think it worthy of a place in your 'fpeculations, for ought I know, by that means, it may in time be printed as often in English, as it has already been in Greek. I am, like the <reft of the world,
The reader may observe that the beauty of this epigram is different from that of any in the fore going. An irony is looked upon as the finest palliative of praife; and very often conveys the nobleft panegyric under the appearance of fatire, Homer is here feemingly accused and treated as a plagiary; but what is drawn up in the form of an accufation is certainly, as my correfpondent obferves, the greatest compliment that could have been paid to that divine poet.
Your great admirer,
Dear Mr. Spectator,
AM a gentleman of a pretty good fortune, and of a temper impatient of any thing 'which I think an injury; however, I always quarrelled according to law, and instead of attacking my adversary by the dangerous me⚫thod of fword and pistol, I made my affaults by that more fecure one of writ or warrant. I cannot help telling you, that either by the juftice of my caufes, or the fuperiority of my counfel, I have been generally fuccefsful; and to my great fatisfaction I can fay it, that by three actions of flander, and half a dozen tref. paffes, I have for feveral years enjoyed a per fect tranquillity in my reputation and estate. By thefe means alfo I have been made known to the judges; the ferjeants of our circuit are my intimate friends, and the orna⚫ mental counfel pay a very profound respect to one who has made fo great a figure in the law. Affairs of confequence having brought me to town, I had the curiofity the other day to vifit Westminster-hall; and having placed myfelf in one of the courts, expected to be most agreeably entertained. After the court and counsel were, with due ceremony, feated, up-stands á learned gentleman, and began, When this mat'ter was laft ftirred before your lordship; the next humbly moved to quash an indictment; another complained that his adversary had fnapped a judgment; the next informed the court that his client was ftripped of his poffeffion; another begged leave to acquaint his lordship they had been faddled with cofts. At laft up got a grave ferjeant, and told us his client had been hung up whole term by a At this I could bear it no longbut came hither, and refolved to apply my
' writ of error.
• G. R.