PHYSICIAN AND ASTROLOGER
By Richard Steele.
Papers from Steele's "Tatler."
By Henry Morley
Of the relations between Steele and Addison, and the origin of Steele's "Tatler," which was developed afterwards into the "Spectator," account has already been given in the introduction to a volume of this Library, * containing essays from the "Spectator"—"Sir Roger de Coverley and the Spectator Club." There had been a centre of life in the "Tatler," designed, as Sir Roger and his friends were designed, to carry the human interest of a distinct personality through the whole series of papers. The "Tatler's" personality was Isaac Bickerstaff, Physician and Astrologer; as to years, just over the grand climacteric, sixty-three, mystical multiple of nine and seven; dispensing counsel from his lodgings at Shire Lane, and seeking occasional rest in the vacuity of thought proper to his club at the "Trumpet."
The name of Isaac Bickerstaff Steele borrowed from his friend Swift, who, just before the establishment of the "Tatler," had borrowed it from a shoemaker's shop-board, and used it as the name of an imagined astrologer, who should be an astrologer indeed, and should attack John Partridge, the chief of the astrological almanack makers, with a definite prediction of the day and hour of his death. This he did in a pamphlet that brought up to the war against one stronghold of superstition an effective battery of satire. The pamphlet itself has been given in our volume of "The Battle of the Books, and other short pieces, by Jonathan Swift." * The joke once set rolling was kept up in other playful little pamphlets written to announce the fulfilment of the prophecy, and to explain to Partridge that, whether he knew it or not, he was dead. This joke was running through the town when Steele began his "Tatler" on the 12th of April, 1709. Steele kept it going, and, in doing so, wrote once or twice in the character of Bickerstaff. Then he proceeded to develop the astrologer into a central character, who should give life and unity to his whole series of essays.
They were published for a penny a number, at the rate of three numbers a week. Steele, for his threepence a week, sought to give wholesome pleasure while good-humouredly helping men to rise above the vices and the follies of their time. Evil ways of the court of Charles the Second still survived in empty tradition. The young man thought it polite to set up for an atheist, said Steele, though it could be proved on him that every night he said his prayers. It was fashionable to speak frivolously of women, and affect contempt of marriage, though the English were, and are, of all men the most domestic. Steele made it a part of his duty to break this evil custom, to uphold the true honour of womanhood, and assert the sacredness of home. The two papers in this collection, called "Happy Marriage" and "A Wife Dead," are beautiful examples of his work in this direction. He attacked the false notions of honour that kept duelling in fashion. Steele could put his heart into the direct telling of a tale of human love or sorrow, and in that respect was unapproached by Addison; but he was surpassed by Addison in a subtle delicacy of touch, in the fine humour with which he played about the whims and weaknesses of men. The tenth paper in this volume, "A Business Meeting," is a good example of what Addison could do in that way.
Of the papers in this volume, the first was sent to Steele by the post, and—Steele wrote in the original Preface to the completed "Tatler"—"written, as I since understand, by Mr. Twisdon, who died at the battle of Mons, and has a monument in Westminster Abbey, suitable to the respect which is due to his wit and valour." The other papers were all written by Steele, with these exceptions:—No. V., "Marriage of Sister Jenny," and No. VII., "The Dream of Fame," were described by Steele, in a list given to Tickell, as written by himself and Addison together. No. XIV., "The Wife Dead," is Steele's, with some passages to which Addison contributed. No. XIII., "Dead Folks," was, the first part, by Addison; the second part, beginning "From my own Apartment, November 25," by Steele; Addison wrote No. X., "A Business Meeting," No. XVI., "A very Pretty Poet," and No. XX., "False Doctoring." Addison joined Steele in the record of cases before "Bickerstaff, Censor," No. XVIII. Of the twenty-six sections in this volume, therefore, three are by Addison alone; one is in two parts, written severally by Addison and Steele; four are by Addison and Steele working in friendly fellowship, and without trace of their separate shares in the work; eighteen are by Steele alone.
* Cassell's National Library.
ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, PHYSICIAN AND ASTROLOGER.
I.—THE STAFFIAN RACE.
From my own Apartment, May, 4, 1709.
Of all the vanities under the sun, I confess that of being proud of one's birth is the greatest. At the same time, since in this unreasonable age, by the force of prevailing custom, things in which men have no hand are imputed to them; and that I am used by some people as if Isaac Bickerstaff, though I write myself Esquire, was nobody: to set the world right in that particular, I shall give you my genealogy, as a kinsman of ours has sent it me from the Heralds' Office. It is certain, and observed by the wisest writers, that there are women who are not nicely chaste, and men not severely honest, in all families; therefore let those who may be apt to raise aspersions upon ours please to give us as impartial an account of their own, and we shall be satisfied. The business of heralds is a matter of so great nicety that, to avoid mistakes, I shall give you my cousin's letter, verbatim, without altering a syllable.
"Since you have been pleased to make yourself so famous of late by your ingenious writings, and some time ago by your learned predictions; since Partridge, of immortal memory, is dead and gone, who, poetical as he was, could not understand his own poetry; and, philomathical as he was, could not read his own destiny; since the Pope, the King of France, and great part of his court, are either literally or metaphorically defunct: since, I say, these things not foretold by any one but yourself have come to pass after so surprising a manner: it is with no small concern I see the original of the Staffian race so little known in the world as it is at this time; for which reason, as you have employed your studies in astronomy and the occult sciences, so I, my mother being a Welsh woman, dedicated mine to genealogy, particularly that of our family, which, for its antiquity and number, may challenge any in Great Britain. The Staffs are originally of Staffordshire, which took its name from them; the first that I find of the Staffs was one Jacobstaff, a famous and renowned astronomer, who, by Dorothy his wife, had issue seven sons—viz., Bickerstaff, Longstaff, Wagstaff, Quarterstaff, Whitestaff, Falstaff, and Tipstaff. He also had a younger brother, who was twice married, and had five sons—viz., Distaff, Pikestaff, Mopstaff, Broomstaff, and Raggedstaff. As for the branch from whence you spring, I shall say very little of it, only that it is the chief of the Staffs, and called Bickerstaff, quasi Biggerstaff; as much as to say, the Great Staff, or Staff of Staffs; and that it has applied itself to Astronomy with great success, after the example of our aforesaid forefather. The descendants from Longstaff, the second son, were a rakish, disorderly sort of people, and rambled from one place to another, till, in the time of Harry the Second, they settled in Kent, and were called Long-Tails, from the long tails which were sent them as a punishment for the murder of Thomas-a-Becket, as the legends say. They have been always sought after by the ladies, but whether it be to show their aversion to popery, or their love to miracles, I cannot say. The Wagstaffs are a merry, thoughtless sort of people, who have always been opinionated of their own wit; they have turned themselves mostly to poetry. This is the most numerous branch of our family, and the poorest. The Quarterstaffs are most of them prize-fighters or deer-stealers; there have been so many of them hanged lately that there are very few of that branch of our family left. The Whitestaffs are all courtiers, and have had very considerable places. There have been some of them of that strength and dexterity that five hundred of the ablest men in the kingdom have often tugged in vain to pull a staff out of their hands. The Falstaffs are strangely given to drinking: there are abundance of them in and about London. And one thing is very remarkable of this branch, and that is, there are just as many women as men in it. There was a wicked stick of wood of this name in Harry the Fourth's time, one Sir John Falstaff. As for Tipstaff, the youngest son, he was an honest fellow; but his sons, and his sons' sons, have all of them been the veriest rogues living; it is this unlucky branch has stocked the nation with that swarm of lawyers, attorneys, serjeants, and bailiffs, with which the nation is overrun. Tipstaff, being a seventh son, used to cure the king's evil; but his rascally descendants are so far from having that healing quality that, by a touch upon the shoulder, they give a man such an ill habit of body that he can never come abroad afterwards. This is all I know of the line of Jacobstaff; his younger brother, Isaacstaff, as I told you before, had five sons, and was married twice; his first wife was a Staff, for they did not stand upon false heraldry in those days, by whom he had one son, who, in process of time, being a schoolmaster and well read in the Greek, called himself Distaff or Twicestaff. He was not very rich, so he put his children out to trades, and the Distaffs have ever since been employed in the woollen and linen manufactures, except myself, who am a genealogist. Pikestaff, the eldest son by the second venter, was a man of business, a downright plodding fellow, and withal so plain, that he became a proverb. Most of this family are at present in the army. Raggedstaff was an unlucky boy, and used to tear his clothes in getting birds' nests, and was always playing with a tame bear his father kept. Mopstaff fell in love with one of his father's maids, and used to help her to clean the house. Broomstaff was a chimney-sweeper. The Mopstaffs and Broomstaffs are naturally as civil people as ever went out of doors; but, alas! if they once get into ill hands, they knock down all before them. Pilgrimstaff ran away from his friends, and went strolling about the country; and Pipestaff was a wine-cooper. These two were the unlawful issue of Longstaff.
"N.B.—The Canes, the Clubs, the Cudgels, the Wands, the Devil upon two Sticks, and one Bread, that goes by the name of Staff of Life, are none of our relations. I am, dear Cousin,
"Your humble servant,
"From the Heralds' Office,
"May 1, 1709."
From my own Apartment, May 8.
Much hurry and business have to-day perplexed me into a mood too thoughtful for going into company; for which reason, instead of the tavern, I went into Lincoln's Inn walks; and having taken a round or two, I sat down, according to the allowed familiarity of these places, on a bench; at the other end of which sat a venerable gentleman, who, speaking with a very affable air, "Mr. Bickerstaff," said he, "I take it for a very great piece of good fortune that you have found me out." "Sir," said I, "I had never, that I know of, the honour of seeing you before." "That," replied he, "is what I have often lamented; but, I assure you, I have for many years done you good offices, without being observed by you; or else, when you had any little glimpse of my being concerned in an affair, you have fled from me, and shunned me like an enemy; but, however, the part I am to act in the world is such that I am to go on in doing good, though I meet with never so many repulses, even from those I oblige." This, thought I, shows a great good nature, but little judgment, in the persons upon whom he confers his favours. He immediately took notice to me that he observed, by my countenance, I thought him indiscreet in his beneficence, and proceeded to tell me his quality in the following manner: "I know thee, Isaac, to be so well versed in the occult sciences that I need not much preface, or make long preparations, to gain your faith that there are airy beings who are employed in the care and attendance of men, as nurses are to infants, till they come to an age in which they can act of themselves. These beings are usually called amongst men guardian angels; and, Mr. Bickerstaff, I am to acquaint you that I am to be yours for some time to come; it being our orders to vary our stations, and sometimes to have one patient under our protection, and sometimes another, with a power of assuming what shape we please, to ensnare our wards into their own good. I have of late been upon such hard duty, and know you have so much work for me, that I think fit to appear to you face to face, to desire you will give me as little occasion for vigilance as you can." "Sir," said I, "it will be a great instruction to me in my behaviour if you please to give me some account of your late employments, and what hardships or satisfactions you have had in them, that I may govern myself accordingly." He answered, "To give you an example of the drudgery we go through, I will entertain you only with my three last stations. I was on the first of April last put to mortify a great beauty, with whom I was a week; from her I went to a common swearer, and have been last with a gamester. When I first came to my lady, I found my great work was to guard well her eyes and ears; but her flatterers were so numerous, and the house, after the modern way, so full of looking-glasses, that I seldom had her safe but in her sleep. Whenever we went abroad, we were surrounded by an army of enemies; when a well-made man appeared, he was sure to have a side-glance of observation; if a disagreeable fellow, he had a full face, out of more inclination to conquests; but at the close of the evening, on the sixth of the last month, my ward was sitting on a couch, reading Ovid's epistles; and as she came to this line of Helen to Paris,
'She half consents who silently denies,'
entered Philander, who is the most skilful of all men in an address to women. He is arrived at the perfection of that art which gains them; which is, 'to talk like a very miserable man, but look like a very happy one.' I saw Dictinna blush at his entrance, which gave me the alarm; but he immediately said something so agreeable on her being at study, and the novelty of finding a lady employed in so grave a manner, that he on a sudden became very familiarly a man of no consequence, and in an instant laid all her suspicions of his skill asleep, as he had almost done mine, till I observed him very dangerously turn his discourse upon the elegance of her dress, and her judgment in the choice of that very pretty mourning. Having had women before under my care, I trembled at the apprehension of a man of sense who could talk upon trifles, and resolved to stick to my post with all the circumspection imaginable. In short, I prepossessed her against all he could say to the advantage of her dress and person; but he turned again the discourse, where I found I had no power over her, on the abusing her friends and acquaintance. He allowed, indeed, that Flora had a little beauty, and a great deal of wit; but then she was so ungainly in her behaviour, and such a laughing hoyden! Pastorella had with him the allowance of being blameless; but what was that towards being praiseworthy? To be only innocent is not to be virtuous! He afterwards spoke so much against Mrs. Dipple's forehead, Mrs. Prim's mouth, Mrs. Dentifrice's teeth, and Mrs. Fidget's cheeks that she grew downright in love with him; for it is always to be understood that a lady takes all you detract from the rest of her sex to be a gift to her. In a word, things went so far that I was dismissed. The next, as I said, I went to was a common swearer. Never was a creature so puzzled as myself when I came first to view his brain; half of it was worn out, and filled up with mere expletives that had nothing to do with any other parts of the texture; therefore, when he called for his clothes in a morning, he would cry, 'John!' John does not answer. 'What a plague! nobody there? What the devil, and rot me, John, for a lazy dog as you are!' I knew no way to cure him but by writing down all he said one morning as he was dressing, and laying it before him on the toilet when he came to pick his teeth. The last recital I gave him of what he said for half an hour before was, 'What, the devil! where is the washball? call the chairmen! d—n them, I warrant they are at the alehouse already! zounds! and confound them!' When he came to the glass he takes up my note—'Ha! this fellow is worse than me: what, does he swear with pen and ink?' But, reading on, he found them to be his own words. The stratagem had so good an effect upon him that he grew immediately a new man, and is learning to speak without an oath; which makes him extremely short in his phrases; for, as I observed before, a common swearer has a brain without any idea on the swearing side; therefore my ward has yet mighty little to say, and is forced to substitute some other vehicle of nonsense to supply the defect of his usual expletives. When I left him, he made use of 'Odsbodikins! Oh me! and Never stir alive!' and so forth; which gave me hopes of his recovery. So I went to the next I told you of, the gamester. When we first take our place about a man, the receptacles of the pericranium are immediately searched. In his I found no one ordinary trace of thinking; but strong passion, violent desires, and a continued series of different changes had torn it to pieces. There appeared no middle condition; the triumph of a prince, or the misery of a beggar, were his alternate states. I was with him no longer than one day, which was yesterday. In the morning at twelve we were worth four thousand pounds; at three, we were arrived at six thousand; half an hour after, we were reduced to one thousand; at four of the clock, we were down to two hundred; at five, to fifty; at six, to five; at seven, to one guinea; the next bet to nothing. This morning he borrowed half a crown of the maid who cleans his shoes, and is now gaming in Lincoln's Inn Fields among the boys for farthings and oranges, till he has made up three pieces, and then he returns to White's into the best company in town."
Thus ended our first discourse; and it is hoped that you will forgive me that I have picked so little out of my companion at our first interview. In the next it is possible he may tell me more pleasing incidents; for though he is a familiar, he is not an evil, spirit.
From my own Apartment, May 12.
I have taken a resolution hereafter, on any want of intelligence, to carry my Familiar abroad with me, who has promised to give me very proper and just notices of persons and things, to make up the history of the passing day. He is wonderfully skilful in the knowledge of men and manners, which has made me more than ordinarily curious to know how he came to that perfection, and I communicated to him that doubt. "Mr. Pacolet," said I, "I am mightily surprised to see you so good a judge of our nature and circumstances, since you are a mere spirit, and have no knowledge of the bodily part of us." He answered, smiling, "You are mistaken; I have been one of you, and lived a month amongst you, which gives me an exact sense of your condition. You are to know that all who enter into human life have a certain date or stamen given to their being which they only who die of age may be said to have arrived at; but it is ordered sometimes by fate, that such as die infants are, after death, to attend mankind to the end of that stamen of being in themselves which was broken off by sickness or any other disaster. These are proper guardians to men, as being sensible of the infirmity of their State. You are philosopher enough to know that the difference of men's understandings proceeds only from the various dispositions of their organs; so that he who dies at a month old is in the next life as knowing, though more innocent, as they who live to fifty; and after death they have as perfect a memory and judgment of all that passed in their lifetime as I have of all the revolutions in that uneasy, turbulent condition of yours; and you would say I had enough of it in a month were I to tell you all my misfortunes." "A life of a month cannot have, one would think, much variety. But pray," said I, "let us have your story."
Then he proceeds in the following manner:—
"It was one of the most wealthy families in Great Britain into which I was born, and it was a very great happiness to me that it so happened, otherwise I had still, in all probability, been living; but I shall recount to you all the occurrences of my short and miserable existence, just as, by examining into the traces made in my brain, they appeared to me at that time. The first thing that ever struck my senses was a noise over my head of one shrieking; after which, methought, I took a full jump, and found myself in the hands of a sorceress, who seemed as if she had been long waking and employed in some incantation: I was thoroughly frightened, and cried out; but she immediately seemed to go on in some magical operation, and anointed me from head to foot. What they meant I could not imagine; for there gathered a great crowd about me, crying, 'An heir! an heir!' upon which I grew a little still, and believed this was a ceremony to be used only to great persons, and such as made them, what they called Heirs. I lay very quiet; but the witch, for no manner of reason or provocation in the world, takes me, and binds my head as hard as possibly she could; then ties up both my legs, and makes me swallow down a horrid mixture. I thought it a harsh entrance into life, to begin with taking physic; but I was forced to it, or else must have taken down a great instrument in which she gave it me. When I was thus dressed, I was carried to a bedside, where a fine young lady, my mother I wot, had like to have hugged me to death. From her they faced me about, and there was a thing with quite another look from the rest of the room, to whom they talked about my nose. He seemed wonderfully pleased to see me; but I knew since, my nose belonged to another family. That into which I was born is one of the most numerous amongst you; therefore crowds of relations came every day to congratulate my arrival; among others my cousin Betty, the greatest romp in nature; she whisks me such a height over her head that I cried out for fear of falling. She pinched me, and called me squealing chit, and threw me into a girl's arms that was taken in to tend me. The girl was very proud of the womanly employment of a nurse, and took upon her to strip and dress me a-new, because I made a noise, to see what ailed me; she did so, and stuck a pin in every joint about me. I still cried; upon which she lays me on my face in her lap; and, to quiet me, fell a-nailing in all the pins by clapping me on the back and screaming a lullaby. But my pain made me exalt my voice above hers, which brought up the nurse, the witch I first saw, and my grandmother. The girl is turned downstairs, and I stripped again, as well to find what ailed me as to satisfy my grandam's farther curiosity. This good old woman's visit was the cause of all my troubles. You are to understand that I was hitherto bred by hand, and anybody that stood next gave me pap, if I did but open my lips; insomuch that I was grown so cunning as to pretend myself asleep when I was not, to prevent my being crammed. But my grandmother began a loud lecture upon the idleness of the wives of this age, who, for fear of their shape, forbear suckling their own offspring; and ten nurses were immediately sent for; one was whispered to have a wanton eye, and would soon spoil her milk; another was in a consumption; the third had an ill voice, and would frighten me instead of lulling me to sleep. Such exceptions were made against all but one country milch-wench, to whom I was committed, and put to the breast. This careless jade was eternally romping with the footman and downright starved me; insomuch that I daily pined away, and should never have been relieved had it not been that, on the thirtieth day of my life, a Fellow of the Royal Society, who had writ upon Cold Baths, came to visit me, and solemnly protested I was utterly lost for want of that method; upon which he soused me head and ears into a pail of water, where I had the good fortune to be drowned; and so escaped being lashed into a linguist till sixteen, and being married to an ill-natured wife till sixty, which had certainly been my fate had not the enchantment between body and soul been broken by this philosopher. Thus, till the age I should have otherwise lived, I am obliged to watch the steps of men; and, if you please, shall accompany you in your present walk, and get you intelligence from the aerial lackey, who is in waiting, what are the thoughts and purposes of any whom you inquire for."
I accepted his kind offer, and immediately took him with me in a hack to White's.
White's Chocolate-house, May 13.
We got in hither, and my companion threw a powder round us, that made me as invisible as himself; so that we could see and hear all others, ourselves unseen and unheard.
The first thing we took notice of was a nobleman of a goodly and frank aspect, with his generous birth and temper visible in it, playing at cards with a creature of a black and horrid countenance, wherein were plainly delineated the arts of his mind, cozenage, and falsehood. They were marking their game with counters, on which we could see inscriptions, imperceptible to any but us. My Lord had scored with pieces of ivory, on which were writ, "Good Fame, Glory, Riches, Honour, and Posterity!" The spectre over-against him had on his counters the inscriptions of "Dishonour, Impudence, Poverty, Ignorance, and Want of Shame." "Bless me!", said I; "sure, my Lord does not see what he plays for?" "As well as I do," says Pacolet. "He despises that fellow he plays with, and scorns himself for making him his companion." At the very instant he was speaking, I saw the fellow who played with my Lord hide two cards in the roll of his stocking. Pacolet immediately stole them from thence; upon which the nobleman soon after won the game. The little triumph he appeared in, when he got such a trifling stock of ready money, though he had ventured so great sums with indifference, increased my admiration. But Pacolet began to talk to me. "Mr. Isaac, this to you looks wonderful, but not at all to us higher beings: that nobleman has as many good qualities as any man of his order, and seems to have no faults but what, as I may say, are excrescences from virtues. He is generous to a prodigality, more affable than is consistent with his quality, and courageous to a rashness. Yet, after all this, the source of his whole conduct is, though he would hate himself if he knew it, mere avarice. The ready cash laid before the gamester's counters makes him venture, as you see, and lay distinction against infamy, abundance against want; in a word, all that is desirable against all that is to be avoided." "However," said I, "be sure you disappoint the sharpers to-night, and steal from them all the cards they hide." Pacolet obeyed me, and my Lord went home with their whole bank in his pocket.
It is remarkable that I was bred by hand, and ate nothing but milk till I was a twelvemonth old; from which time, to the eighth year of my age, I was observed to delight in pudding and potatoes; and, indeed, I retain a benevolence for that sort of food to this day. I do not remember that I distinguished myself in anything at those years but by my great skill at taw, for which I was so barbarously used that it has ever since given me an aversion to gaming. In my twelfth year, I suffered very much for two or three false concords. At fifteen I was sent to the university, and stayed there for some time; but a drum passing by, being a lover of music, I listed myself for a soldier. As years came on, I began to examine things, and grew discontented at the times. This made me quit the sword, and take to the study of the occult sciences, in which I was so wrapped up that Oliver Cromwell had been buried, and taken up again, five years before I heard he was dead. This gave me first the reputation of a conjurer, which has been of great disadvantage to me ever since, and kept me out of all public employments. The greater part of my later years has been divided between Dick's coffee-house, the Trumpet in Sheer Lane, and my own lodgings.
From my own Apartment, June 5.
There are those among mankind who can enjoy no relish of their being except the world is made acquainted with all that relates to them, and think everything lost that passes unobserved; but others find a solid delight in stealing by the crowd, and modelling their life after such a manner as is as much above the approbation as the practice of the vulgar. Life being too short to give instances great enough of true friendship or good-will, some sages have thought it pious to preserve a certain reverence for the Manes of their deceased friends; and have withdrawn themselves from the rest of the world at certain seasons, to commemorate in their own thoughts such of their acquaintance who have gone before them out of this life. And indeed, when we are advanced in years, there is not a more pleasing entertainment than to recollect in a gloomy moment the many we have parted with that have been dear and agreeable to us, and to cast a melancholy thought or two after those with whom, perhaps, we have indulged ourselves in whole nights of mirth and jollity. With such inclinations in my heart I went to my closet yesterday in the evening, and resolved to be sorrowful; upon which occasion I could not but look with disdain upon myself, that though all the reasons which I had to lament the loss of many of my friends are now as forcible as at the moment of their departure, yet did not my heart swell with the same sorrow which I felt at that time; but I could, without tears, reflect upon many pleasing adventures I have had with some, who have long been blended with common earth. Though it is by the benefit of nature that length of time thus blots out the violence of afflictions; yet with tempers too much given to pleasure, it is almost necessary to revive the old places of grief in our memory; and ponder step by step on past life, to lead the mind into that sobriety of thought which poises the heart, and makes it beat with due time, without being quickened with desire, or retarded with despair, from its proper and equal motion. When we wind up a clock that is out of order, to make it go well for the future, we do not immediately set the hand to the present instant, but we make it strike the round of all its hours, before it can recover the regularity of its time. Such, thought I, shall be my method this evening; and since it is that day of the year which I dedicate to the memory of such in another life as I much delighted in when living, an hour or two shall be sacred to sorrow and their memory, while I run over all the melancholy circumstances of this kind which have occurred to me in my whole life.
The first sense of sorrow I ever knew was upon the death of my father, at which time I was not quite five years of age; but was rather amazed at what all the house meant than possessed with a real understanding why nobody was willing to play with me. I remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother sat weeping alone by it. I had my battledore in my band, and fell a-beating the coffin, and calling Papa; for, I know not how, I had some slight idea that he was locked up there. My mother catched me in her arms, and, transported beyond all patience of the silent grief she was before in, she almost smothered me in her embrace; and told me in a flood of tears, "Papa could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they were going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us again." She was a very beautiful woman, of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in her grief amidst all the wildness of her transport which, methought, struck me with an instinct of sorrow, which, before I was sensible of what it was to grieve, seized my very soul, and has made pity the weakness of my heart ever since. The mind in infancy is, methinks, like the body in embryo; and receives impressions so forcible that they are as hard to be removed by reason as any mark with which a child is born is to be taken away by any future application. Hence it is that good-nature in me is no merit; but having been so frequently overwhelmed with her tears before I knew the cause of any affliction, or could draw defences from my own judgment, I imbibed commiseration, remorse, and an unmanly gentleness of mind, which has since ensnared me into ten thousand calamities; and from whence I can reap no advantage, except it be that, in such a humour as I am now in, I can the better indulge myself in the softness of humanity, and enjoy that sweet anxiety which arises from the memory of past afflictions.
We, that are very old, are better able to remember things which befell us in our distant youth than the passages of later days. For this reason it is that the companions of my strong and vigorous years present themselves more immediately to me in this office of sorrow. Untimely or unhappy deaths are what we are most apt to lament: so little are we able to make it indifferent when a thing happens, though we know it must happen. Thus we groan under life, and bewail those who are relieved from it. Every object that returns to our imagination raises different passions, according to the circumstance of their departure. Who can have lived in an army, and in a serious hour reflect upon the many gay and agreeable men that might long have flourished in the arts of peace, and not join with the imprecations of the fatherless and widow on the tyrant to whose ambition they fell sacrifices? But gallant men, who are cut oft by the sword, move rather our veneration than our pity; and we gather relief enough from their own contempt of death, to make it no evil, which was approached with so much cheerfulness, and attended with so much honour. But when we turn our thoughts from the great parts of life on such occasions, and instead of lamenting those who stood ready to give death to those from whom they had the fortune to receive it; I say, when we let our thoughts wander from such noble objects, and consider the havoc which is made among the tender and the innocent, pity enters with an unmixed softness, and possesses all our souls at once.
Here, were there words to express such sentiments with proper tenderness, I should record the beauty, innocence, and untimely death of the first object my eyes ever beheld with love. The beauteous virgin! how ignorantly did she charm, how carelessly excel! Oh, Death! thou hast right to the bold, to the ambitious, to the high, and to the haughty; but why this cruelty to the humble, to the meek, to the undiscerning, to the thoughtless? Nor age, nor business, nor distress can erase the dear image from my imagination. In the same week, I saw her dressed for a ball, and in a shroud. How ill did the habit of death become the pretty trifler! I still behold the smiling earth—A large train of disasters were coming on to my memory, when my servant knocked at my closet-door, and interrupted me with a letter, attended with a hamper of wine, of the same sort with that which is to be put to sale on Thursday next at Garraway's coffee-house. Upon the receipt of it I sent for three of my friends. We are so intimate that we can be company in whatever state of mind we meet, and can entertain each other without expecting always to rejoice. The wine we found to be generous and warming, but with such a heat as moved us rather to be cheerful than frolicsome. It revived the spirits, without firing the blood. We commended it till two of the clock this morning; and having to-day met a little before dinner, we found that, though we drank two bottles a man, we had much more reason to recollect than forget what had passed the night before.
V.—MARRIAGE OF SISTER JENNY.
From my own Apartment, September 30.
I am called off from public dissertations by a domestic affair of great importance, which is no less than the disposal of my sister Jenny for life. The girl is a girl of great merit and pleasing conversation: but I being born of my father's first wife, and she of his third, she converses with me rather like a daughter than a sister. I have indeed told her that if she kept her honour, and behaved herself in such a manner as became the Bickerstaffs, I would get her an agreeable man for her husband; which was a promise I made her after reading a passage in Pliny's "Epistles." That polite author had been employed to find out a consort for his friend's daughter, and gives the following character of the man he had pitched upon. "Aciliano plurimum vigoris et industriae quanquam in maxima verecundia: est illi facies liberalis, multo sanguine, multo rubore, suffusa: est ingenua totius corporis pulchritudo et quidam senatorius decor, quae ego nequaquam arbitror negligenda: debet enim hoc castitati puellarum quasi praemium dari." "Acilianus," for that was the gentleman's name, "is a man of extraordinary vigour and industry, accompanied with the greatest modesty: he has very much of the gentleman, with a lively colour, and flush of health in his aspect. His whole person is finely turned, and speaks him a man of quality; which are qualifications that, I think, ought by no means to be overlooked, and should be bestowed on a daughter as the reward of her chastity."
A woman that will give herself liberties need not put her parents to so much trouble; for if she does not possess these ornaments in a husband she can supply herself elsewhere. But this is not the case of my sister Jenny, who, I may say without vanity, is as unspotted a spinster as any in Great Britain. I shall take this occasion to recommend the conduct of our own family in this particular.
We have, in the genealogy of our house, the descriptions and pictures of our ancestors from the time of King Arthur, in whose days there was one of my own name, a knight of his round table, and known by the name of Sir Isaac Bickerstaff. He was low of stature, and of a very swarthy complexion, not unlike a Portuguese Jew. But he was more prudent than men of that height usually are, and would often communicate to his friends his design of lengthening and whitening his posterity. His eldest son Ralph, for that was his name, was for this reason married to a lady who had little else to recommend her but that she was very tall and very fair. The issue of this match, with the help of high shoes, made a tolerable figure in the next age, though the complexion of the family was obscure till the fourth generation from that marriage. From which time, till the reign of William the Conqueror, the females of our house were famous for their needlework and fine skins. In the male line there happened an unlucky accident in the reign of Richard III., the eldest son of Philip, then chief of the family, being born with a hump-back and very high nose. This was the more astonishing, because none of his forefathers ever had such a blemish, nor indeed was there any in the neighbourhood of that make, except the butler, who was noted for round shoulders and a Roman nose; what made the nose the less excusable was the remarkable smallness of his eyes.
These several defects were mended by succeeding matches: the eyes were open in the next generation, and the hump fell in a century and a half, but the greatest difficulty was how to reduce the nose, which I do not find was accomplished till about the middle of the reign of Henry VII., or rather the beginning of that of Henry VIII.
But while our ancestors were thus taken up in cultivating the eyes and nose, the face of the Bickerstaffs fell down insensibly into chin, which was not taken notice of, their thoughts being so much employed upon the more noble features, till it became almost too long to be remedied.
But length of time, and successive care in our alliances, have cured this also, and reduced our faces into that tolerable oval which we enjoy at present. I would not be tedious in this discourse, but cannot but observe that our race suffered very much about three hundred years ago, by the marriage of one of our heiresses with an eminent courtier, who gave us spindle-shanks and cramps in our bones; insomuch, that we did not recover our health and legs till Sir Walter Bickerstaff married Maud the milkmaid, of whom the then Garter King-at-Arms, a facetious person, said pleasantly enough, "that she had spoiled our blood, but mended our constitutions."
After this account of the effect our prudent choice of matches has had upon our persons and features, I cannot but observe that there are daily instances of as great changes made by marriage upon men's minds and humours. One might wear any passion out of a family by culture, as skilful gardeners blot a colour out of a tulip that hurts its beauty. One might produce an affable temper out of a shrew, by grafting the mild upon the choleric; or raise a jack-pudding from a prude, by inoculating mirth and melancholy. It is for want of care in the disposing of our children, with regard to our bodies and minds, that we go into a house and see such different complexions and humours in the same race and family. But to me it is as plain as a pikestaff, from what mixture it is that this daughter silently lours, the other steals a kind look at you, a third is exactly well behaved, a fourth a splenetic, and a fifth a coquette.
In this disposal of my sister, I have chosen with an eye to her being a wit, and provided that the bridegroom be a man of a sound and excellent judgment, who will seldom mind what she says when she begins to harangue, for Jenny's only imperfection is an admiration of her parts, which inclines her to be a little, but very little, sluttish; and you are ever to remark that we are apt to cultivate most, and bring into observation what we think most excellent in ourselves, or most capable of improvement. Thus, my sister, instead of consulting her glass and her toilet for an hour and a half after her private devotion, sits with her nose full of snuff and a man's nightcap on her head, reading plays and romances. Her wit she thinks her distinction, therefore knows nothing of the skill of dress, or making her person agreeable. It would make you laugh to see me often, with my spectacles on, lacing her stays, for she is so very a wit, that she understands no ordinary thing in the world.
For this reason I have disposed of her to a man of business, who will soon let her see that to be well dressed, in good humour, and cheerful in the command of her family, are the arts and sciences of female life. I could have bestowed her upon a fine gentleman, who extremely admired her wit, and would have given her a coach and six, but I found it absolutely necessary to cross the strain; for had they met, they had entirely been rivals in discourse, and in continual contention for the superiority of understanding, and brought forth critics, pedants, or pretty good poets. As it is, I expect an offspring fit for the habitation of the city, town or country; creatures that are docile and tractable in whatever we put them to.
To convince men of the necessity of taking this method, let any one even below the skill of an astrologer, behold the turn of faces he meets as soon as he passes Cheapside Conduit, and you see a deep attention and a certain unthinking sharpness in every countenance. They look attentive, but their thoughts are engaged on mean purposes. To me it is very apparent, when I see a citizen pass by, whether his head is upon woollen, silks, iron, sugar, indigo, or stocks. Now this trace of thought appears or lies hid in the race for two or three generations.
I know at this time a person of a vast estate, who is the immediate descendant of a fine gentleman, but the great grandson of a broker, in whom his ancestor is now revived. He is a very honest gentleman in his principles, but cannot for his blood talk fairly; he is heartily sorry for it; but he cheats by constitution, and over-reaches by instinct.
The happiness of the man who marries my sister will be, that he has no faults to correct in her but her own, a little bias of fancy, or particularity of manners which grew in herself, and can be amended by her. From such an untainted couple we can hope to have our family rise to its ancient splendour of face, air, countenance, manner, and shape, without discovering the product of ten nations in one house. Obadiah Greenhat says, "he never comes into any company in England, but he distinguishes the different nations of which we are composed." There is scarce such a living creature as a true Briton. We sit down, indeed, all friends, acquaintance, and neighbours; but after two bottles you see a Dane start up and swear, "the kingdom is his own." A Saxon drinks up the whole quart, and swears he will dispute that with him. A Norman tells them both, he will assert his liberty; and a Welshman cries, "They are all foreigners and intruders of yesterday," and beats them out of the room. Such accidents happen frequently among neighbours' children, and cousin-germans. For which reason I say study your race, or the soil of your family will dwindle into cits or 'squires, or run up into wits or madmen.
VI.—PROFESSIONAL: A CASE OF SPLEEN.
White's Chocolate House, October 12.
It will be allowed me that I have all along showed great respect in matters which concern the fair sex; but the inhumanity with which the author of the following letter has been used is not to be suffered:—
"Yesterday I had the misfortune to drop in at my Lady Haughty's upon her visiting-day. When I entered the room where she receives company, they all stood up indeed; but they stood as if they were to stare at, rather than to receive me. After a long pause, a servant brought a round stool, on which I sat down at the lower end of the room, in the presence of no less than twelve persons, gentlemen and ladies, lolling in elbow-chairs. And, to complete my disgrace, my mistress was of the society. I tried to compose myself in vain, not knowing how to dispose of either my legs or arms, nor how to shape my countenance, the eyes of the whole room being still upon me in a profound silence. My confusion at last was so great, that, without speaking, or being spoken to, I fled for it, and left the assembly to treat me at their discretion. A lecture from you upon these inhuman distinctions in a free nation will, I doubt not, prevent the like evils for the future, and make it, as we say, as cheap sitting as standing.
"I am, with the greatest respect, Sir,
"Your most humble, and
"Most obedient servant,
"P.S.—I had almost forgot to inform you that a fair young lady sat in an armless chair upon my right hand, with manifest discontent in her looks."
Soon after the receipt of this epistle, I heard a very gentle knock at my door. My maid went down and brought up word "that a tall, lean, black man, well dressed, who said he had not the honour to be acquainted with me, desired to be admitted." I bid her show him up, met him at my chamber-door, and then fell back a few paces. He approached me with great respect, and told me, with a low voice, "he was the gentleman that had been seated upon the round stool." I immediately recollected that there was a joint-stool in my chamber, which I was afraid he might take for an instrument of distinction, and therefore winked at my boy to carry it into my closet. I then took him by the hand, and led him to the upper end of my room, where I placed him in my great elbow-chair, at the same time drawing another without arms to it for myself to sit by him. I then asked him, "at what time this misfortune befell him?" He answered, "Between the hours of seven and eight in the evening." I further demanded of him what he had ate or drank that day? He replied, "Nothing but a dish of water-gruel with a few plums in it." In the next place, I felt his pulse, which was very low and languishing. These circumstances confirmed me in an opinion, which I had entertained upon the first reading of his letter, that the gentleman was far gone in the spleen. I therefore advised him to rise the next morning, and plunge into the cold bath, there to remain under water till he was almost drowned. This I ordered him to repeat six days successively; and on the seventh to repair at the wonted hour to my Lady Haughty's, and to acquaint me afterwards with what he shall meet with there: and particularly to tell me, whether he shall think they stared upon him so much as the time before. The gentleman smiled; and, by his way of talking to me, showed himself a man of excellent sense in all particulars, unless when a cane-chair, a round or a joint-stool, were spoken of. He opened his heart to me at the same time concerning several other grievances, such as being overlooked in public assemblies, having his bows unanswered, being helped last at table, and placed at the back part of a coach, with many other distresses, which have withered his countenance, and worn him to a skeleton. Finding him a man of reason, I entered into the bottom of his distemper. "Sir," said I, "there are more of your constitution in this island of Great Britain than in any other part of the world: and I beg the favour of you to tell me whether you do not observe that you meet with most affronts in rainy days?" He answered candidly, "that he had long observed, that people were less saucy in sunshine than in cloudy weather." Upon which I told him plainly, "his distemper was the spleen; and that though the world was very ill-natured, it was not so bad as he believed it." I further assured him, "that his use of the cold bath, with a course of STEEL which I should prescribe him, would certainly cure most of his acquaintance of their rudeness, ill-behaviour, and impertinence." My patient smiled and promised to observe my prescriptions, not forgetting to give me an account of their operation.
VII.—THE DREAM OF FAME.
From my own Apartment, October 14.
There are two kinds of immortality, that which the soul really enjoys after this life, and that imaginary existence by which men live in their fame and reputation. The best and greatest actions have proceeded from the prospect of the one or the other of these; but my design is to treat only of those who have chiefly proposed to themselves the latter as the principal reward of their labours. It was for this reason that I excluded from my Tables of Fame all the great founders and votaries of religion; and it is for this reason also that I am more than ordinarily anxious to do justice to the persons of whom I am now going to speak, for, since fame was the only end of all their enterprises and studies, a man cannot be too scrupulous in allotting them their due proportion of it. It was this consideration which made me call the whole body of the learned to my assistance; to many of whom I must own my obligations for the catalogues of illustrious persons which they have sent me in upon this occasion. I yesterday employed the whole afternoon in comparing them with each other, which made so strong an impression upon my imagination, that they broke my sleep for the first part of the following night, and at length threw me into a very agreeable vision, which I shall beg leave to describe in all its particulars.
I dreamed that I was conveyed into a wide and boundless plain, that was covered with prodigious multitudes of people, which no man could number. In the midst of it there stood a mountain, with its head above the clouds. The sides were extremely steep, and of such a particular structure, that no creature which was not made in a human figure could possibly ascend it. On a sudden there was heard from the top of it a sound like that of a trumpet, but so exceeding sweet and harmonious, that it filled the hearts of those who heard it with raptures, and gave such high and delightful sensations, as seemed to animate and raise human nature above itself. This made me very much amazed to find so very few in that innumerable multitude who had ears fine enough to hear or relish this music with pleasure; but my wonder abated when, upon looking round me, I saw most of them attentive to three Syrens, clothed like goddesses, and distinguished by the names of Sloth, Ignorance, and Pleasure. They were seated on three rocks, amidst a beautiful variety of groves, meadows, and rivulets that lay on the borders of the mountain. While this base and grovelling multitude of different nations, ranks, and ages were listening to these delusive deities, those of a more erect aspect and exalted spirit separated themselves from the rest, and marched in great bodies towards the mountain from whence they heard the sound, which still grew sweeter the more they listened to it.
On a sudden methought this select band sprang forward, with a resolution to climb the ascent, and follow the call of that heavenly music. Every one took something with him that he thought might be of assistance to him in his march. Several had their swords drawn, some carried rolls of paper in their hands, some had compasses, others quadrants, others telescopes, and others pencils. Some had laurels on their heads, and others buskins on their legs; in short, there was scarce any instrument of a mechanic art, or liberal science, which was not made of use on this occasion. My good demon, who stood at my right hand during this course of the whole vision, observing in me a burning desire to join that glorious company, told me, "he highly approved that generous ardour with which I seemed transported; but at the same time advised me to cover my face with a mask all the while I was to labour on the ascent." I took his counsel, without inquiring into his reasons. The whole body now broke into different parties, and began to climb the precipice by ten thousand different paths. Several got into little alleys, which did not reach far up the hill before they ended, and led no further; and I observed that most of the artizans, which considerably diminished our number, fell into these paths.
We left another considerable body of adventurers behind us who thought they had discovered byways up the hill, which proved so very intricate and perplexed, that after having advanced in them a little they were quite lost among the several turns and windings; and though they were as active as any in their motions, they made but little progress in the ascent. These, as my guide informed me, were men of subtle tempers, and puzzled politics, who would supply the place of real wisdom with cunning and artifice. Among those who were far advanced in their way there were some that by one false step fell backward, and lost more ground in a moment, than they had gained for many hours, or could be ever able to recover. We were now advanced very high, and observed that all the different paths which ran about the sides of the mountain began to meet in two great roads, which insensibly gathered the whole multitude of travellers into two great bodies. At a little distance from the entrance of each road there stood a hideous phantom, that opposed our further passage. One of these apparitions had his right hand filled with darts, which he brandished in the face of all who came up that way. Crowds ran back at the appearance of it, and cried out, "Death!" The spectre that guarded the other road was Envy. She was not armed with weapons of destruction, like the former, but by dreadful hissings, noises of reproach, and a horrid distracted laughter; she appeared more frightful than Death itself, insomuch that abundance of our company were discouraged from passing any further, and some appeared ashamed of having come so far. As for myself, I must confess my heart shrunk within me at the sight of these ghastly appearances; but, on a sudden, the voice of the trumpet came more full upon us, so that we felt a new resolution reviving in us, and in proportion as this resolution grew the terrors before us seemed to vanish. Most of the company, who had swords in their hands, marched on with great spirit, and an air of defiance, up the road that was commanded by Death; while others, who had thought and contemplation in their looks, went forward in a more composed manner up the road possessed by Envy. The way above these apparitions grew smooth and uniform, and was so delightful, that the travellers went on with pleasure, and in a little time arrived at the top of the mountain. They here began to breathe a delicious kind of ether, and saw all the fields about them covered with a kind of purple light, that made them reflect with satisfaction on their past toils, and diffused a secret joy through the whole assembly, which showed itself in every look and feature. In the midst of these happy fields there stood a palace of a very glorious structure. It had four great folding-doors that faced the four several quarters of the world. On the top of it was enthroned the goddess of the mountain, who smiled upon her votaries, and sounded the silver trumpet which had called them up, and cheered them in their passage to her palace. They had now formed themselves into several divisions, a band of historians taking their stations at each door, according to the persons whom they were to introduce.
On a sudden the trumpet, which had hitherto sounded only a march, or a point of war, now swelled all its notes into triumph and exultation. The whole fabric shook, and the doors flew open. The first who stepped forward was a beautiful and blooming hero, and, as I heard by the murmurs round me, Alexander the Great. He was conducted by a crowd of historians. The person who immediately walked before him was remarkable for an embroidered garment, who, not being well acquainted with the place, was conducting him to an apartment appointed for the reception of fabulous heroes. The name of this false guide was Quintus Curtius. But Arrian and Plutarch, who knew better the avenues of this palace, conducted him into the great hall, and placed him at the upper end of the first table. My good demon, that I might see the whole ceremony, conveyed me to a corner of this room, where I might perceive all that passed without being seen myself. The next who entered was a charming virgin, leading in a venerable old man that was blind. Under her left arm she bore a harp, and on her head a garland. Alexander, who was very well acquainted with Homer, stood up at his entrance, and placed him on his right hand. The virgin, who it seems was one of the Nine Sisters that attended on the Goddess of Fame, smiled with an ineffable grace at their meeting, and retired.
Julius Caesar was now coming forward; and though most of the historians offered their service to introduce him, he left them at the door, and would have no conductor but himself.
The next who advanced was a man of a homely but cheerful aspect, and attended by persons of greater figure than any that appeared on this occasion. Plato was on his right hand, and Xenophon on his left. He bowed to Homer, and sat down by him. It was expected that Plato would himself have taken a place next to his master Socrates: but on a sudden there was heard a great clamour of disputants at the door, who appeared with Aristotle at the head of them. That philosopher, with some rudeness, but great strength of reason, convinced the whole table that a title to the fifth place was his due, and took it accordingly.
He had scarce sat down, when the same beautiful virgin that had introduced Homer brought in another, who hung back at the entrance, and would have excused himself, had not his modesty been overcome by the invitation of all who sat at the table. His guide and behaviour made me easily conclude it was Virgil. Cicero next appeared, and took his place. He had inquired at the door for Lucceius to introduce him, but not finding him there, he contented himself with the attendance of many other writers, who all, except Sallust, appeared highly pleased with the office.
We waited some time in expectation of the next worthy, who came in with a great retinue of historians, whose names I could not learn, most of them being natives of Carthage. The person thus conducted, who was Hannibal, seemed much disturbed, and could not forbear complaining to the board of the affronts he had met with among the Roman historians, "who attempted," says he, "to carry me into the subterraneous apartment, and perhaps would have done it, had it not been for the impartiality of this gentleman," pointing to Polybius, "who was the only person, except my own countrymen, that was willing to conduct me hither."
The Carthaginian took his seat, and Pompey entered, with great dignity in his own person, and preceded by several historians. Lucan the poet was at the head of them, who, observing Homer and Virgil at the table, was going to sit down himself, had not the latter whispered him that whatever pretence he might otherwise have had, he forfeited his claim to it by coming in as one of the historians. Lucan was so exasperated with the repulse, that he muttered something to himself, and was heard to say that since he could not have a seat among them himself, he would bring in one who alone had more merit than their whole assembly: upon which he went to the door and brought in Cato of Utica. That great man approached the company with such an air that showed he contemned the honour which he laid a claim to. Observing the seat opposite to Caesar was vacant, he took possession of it, and spoke two or three smart sentences upon the nature of precedency, which, according to him, consisted not in place, but in intrinsic merit: to which he added, "that the most virtuous man, wherever he was seated, was always at the upper end of the table." Socrates, who had a great spirit of raillery with his wisdom, could not forbear smiling at a virtue which took so little pains to make itself agreeable. Cicero took the occasion to make a long discourse in praise of Cato, which he uttered with much vehemence. Caesar answered him with a great deal of seeming temper, but, as I stood at a great distance from them, I was not able to hear one word of what they said. But I could not forbear taking notice that in all the discourse which passed at the table a word or nod from Homer decided the controversy.
After a short pause Augustus appeared, looking round him, with a serene and affable countenance, upon all the writers of his age, who strove among themselves which of them should show him the greatest marks of gratitude and respect. Virgil rose from the table to meet him; and though he was an acceptable guest to all, he appeared more such to the learned than the military worthies.
The next man astonished the whole table with his appearance. He was slow, solemn, and silent in his behaviour, and wore a raiment curiously wrought with hieroglyphics. As he came into the middle of the room, he threw back the skirt of it, and discovered a golden thigh. Socrates, at the sight of it, declared against keeping company with any who were not made of flesh and blood, and, therefore, desired Diogenes the Laertian to lead him to the apartment allotted for fabulous heroes and worthies of dubious existence. At his going out he told them, "that they did not know whom they dismissed; that he was now Pythagoras, the first of philosophers, and that formerly he had been a very brave man at the Siege of Troy." "That may be true," said Socrates, "but you forget that you have likewise been a very great harlot in your time." This exclusion made way for Archimedes, who came forward with a scheme of mathematical figures in his hand, among which I observed a cone and a cylinder.
Seeing this table full, I desired my guide, for variety, to lead me to the fabulous apartment, the roof of which was painted with Gorgons, Chimeras, and Centaurs, with many other emblematical figures, which I wanted both time and skill to unriddle. The first table was almost full. At the upper end sat Hercules, leaning an arm upon his club; on his right hand were Achilles and Ulysses, and between them AEneas; on his left were Hector, Theseus, and Jason: the lower end had Orpheus, AEsop, Phalaris, and Musaeus. The ushers seemed at a loss for a twelfth man, when, methought, to my great joy and surprise, I heard some at the lower end of the table mention Isaac Bickerstaff; but those of the upper end received it with disdain, and said, "if they must have a British worthy, they would have Robin Hood!"
While I was transported with the honour that was done me, and burning with envy against my competitor, I was awakened by the noise of the cannon which were then fired for the taking of Mons. I should have been very much troubled at being thrown out of so pleasing a vision on any other occasion; but thought it an agreeable change, to have my thoughts diverted from the greatest among the dead and fabulous heroes to the most famous among the real and the living.
VIII.—LOVE AND SORROW.
From my own Apartment, October 17.
After the mind has been employed on contemplations suitable to its greatness, it is unnatural to run into sudden mirth or levity; but we must let the soul subside, as it rose, by proper degrees. My late considerations of the ancient heroes impressed a certain gravity upon my mind, which is much above the little gratification received from starts of humour and fancy, and threw me into a pleasing sadness. In this state of thought I have been looking at the fire, and in a pensive manner reflecting upon the great misfortunes and calamities incident to human life, among which there are none that touch so sensibly as those which befall persons who eminently love, and meet with fatal interruptions of their happiness when they least expect it. The piety of children to parents, and the affection of parents to their children, are the effects of instinct; but the affection between lovers and friends is founded on reason and choice, which has always made me think the sorrows of the latter much more to be pitied than those of the former. The contemplation of distresses of this sort softens the mind of man, and makes the heart better. It extinguishes the seeds of envy and ill-will towards mankind, corrects the pride of prosperity, and beats down all that fierceness and insolence which are apt to get into the minds of the daring and fortunate.
For this reason the wise Athenians, in their theatrical performances, laid before the eyes of the people the greatest afflictions which could befall human life, and insensibly polished their tempers by such representations. Among the moderns, indeed, there has arisen a chimerical method of disposing the fortune of the persons represented, according to what they call poetical justice; and letting none be unhappy but those who deserve it. In such cases, an intelligent spectator, if he is concerned, knows he ought not to be so, and can learn nothing from such a tenderness, but that he is a weak creature, whose passions cannot follow the dictates of his understanding. It is very natural, when one is got into such a way of thinking, to recollect these examples of sorrow which have made the strongest impression upon our imaginations. An instance or two of such you will give me leave to communicate.
A young gentleman and lady of ancient and honourable houses in Cornwall had from their childhood entertained for each other a generous and noble passion, which had been long opposed by their friends, by reason of the inequality of their fortunes; but their constancy to each other, and obedience to those on whom they depended, wrought so much upon their relations, that these celebrated lovers were at length joined in marriage. Soon after their nuptials the bridegroom was obliged to go into a foreign country, to take care of a considerable fortune, which was left him by a relation, and came very opportunely to improve their moderate circumstances. They received the congratulations of all the country on this occasion; and I remember it was a common sentence in everyone's mouth, "You see how faithful love is rewarded."
He took this agreeable voyage, and sent home every post fresh accounts of his success in his affairs abroad; but at last, though he designed to return with the next ship, he lamented in his letters that "business would detain him some time longer from home," because he would give himself the pleasure of an unexpected arrival.
The young lady, after the heat of the day, walked every evening on the sea-shore, near which she lived, with a familiar friend, her husband's kinswoman, and diverted herself with what objects they met there, or upon discourses of the future methods of life, in the happy change of their circumstances. They stood one evening on the shore together in a perfect tranquillity, observing the setting of the sun, the calm face of the deep, and the silent heaving of the waves, which gently rolled towards them, and broke at their feet, when at a distance her kinswoman saw something float on the waters, which she fancied was a chest, and with a smile told her, "she saw it first, and if it came ashore full of jewels she had a right to it." They both fixed their eyes upon it, and entertained themselves with the subject of the wreck, the cousin still asserting her right, but promising, "if it was a prize, to give her a very rich coral for the child which she was then expecting, provided she might be godmother." Their mirth soon abated when they observed upon the nearer approach that it was a human body. The young lady, who had a heart naturally filled with pity and compassion, made many melancholy reflections on the occasion. "Who knows," said she, "but this man may be the only hope and heir of a wealthy house; the darling of indulgent parents, who are now in impertinent mirth, and pleasing themselves with the thoughts of offering him a bride they had got ready for him? or, may not he be the master of a family that wholly depended upon his life? There may, for aught we know, be half-a-dozen fatherless children and a tender wife, now exposed to poverty by his death. What pleasure might he have promised himself in the different welcome he was to have from her and them! But let us go away; it is a dreadful sight! The best office we can do is to take care that the poor man, whoever he is, may be decently buried." She turned away, when the wave threw the carcass on the shore. The kinswoman immediately shrieked out, "Oh, my cousin!" and fell upon the ground. The unhappy wife went to help her friend, when she saw her own husband at her feet, and dropped in a swoon upon the body. An old woman, who had been the gentleman's nurse, came out about this time to call the ladies in to supper, and found her child, as she always called him, dead on the shore, her mistress and kinswoman both lying dead by him. Her loud lamentations, and calling her young master to life, soon awaked the friend from her trance, but the wife was gone for ever.
When the family and neighbourhood got together round the bodies, no one asked any question, but the objects before them told the story.
Incidents of this nature are the more moving when they are drawn by persons concerned in the catastrophe, notwithstanding they are often oppressed beyond the power of giving them in a distinct light, except we gather their sorrow from their inability to speak it.
I have two original letters, written both on the same day, which are to me exquisite in their different kinds. The occasion was this. A gentleman who had courted a most agreeable young woman, and won her heart, obtained also the consent of her father, to whom she was an only child. The old man had a fancy that they should be married in the same church where he himself was, in a village in Westmoreland, and made them set out while he was laid up with the gout at London. The bridegroom took only his man, the bride her maid: they had the most agreeable journey imaginable to the place of marriage, from whence the bridegroom writ the following letter to his wife's father:—
"After a very pleasant journey hither, we are preparing for the happy hour in which I am to be your son. I assure you the bride carries it, in the eye of the vicar who married you, much beyond her mother though he says your open sleeves, pantaloons, and shoulder-knot made a much better show than the finical dress I am in. However, I am contented to be the second fine man this village ever saw, and shall make it very merry before night, because I shall write myself from thence,
"Your most dutiful son,
"March 18, 1672.
"The bride gives her duty, and is as handsome as an angel. I am the happiest man breathing."
The villagers were assembling about the church, and the happy couple took a walk in a private garden. The bridegroom's man knew his master would leave the place on a sudden after the wedding, and seeing him draw his pistols the night before, took this opportunity to go into his chamber and charge them. Upon their return from the garden, they went into that room, and, after a little fond raillery on the subject of their courtship, the lover took up a pistol, which he knew he had unloaded the night before, and, presenting it to her, said, with the most graceful air, whilst she looked pleased at his agreeable flattery, "Now, madam, repent of all those cruelties you have been guilty of to me; consider, before you die, how often you have made a poor wretch freeze under your casement; you shall die, you tyrant, you shall die, with all those instruments of death and destruction about you, with that enchanting smile, those killing ringlets of your hair—" "Give fire!" said she, laughing. He did so, and shot her dead. Who can speak his condition? but he bore it so patiently as to call up his man. The poor wretch entered, and his master locked the door upon him. "Will," said he, "did you charge these pistols?" He answered, "Yes." Upon which, he shot him dead with that remaining. After this, amidst a thousand broken sobs, piercing groans, and distracted motions, he writ the following letter to the father of his dead mistress:—
"I, who two hours ago told you truly I was the happiest man alive am now the most miserable. Your daughter lies dead at my feet, killed by my hand, through a mistake of my man's charging my pistols unknown to me. Him I have murdered for it. Such is my wedding day. I will immediately follow my wife to her grave, but before I throw myself upon my sword, I command my distraction so far as to explain my story to you. I fear my heart will not keep together till I have stabbed it. Poor good old man! Remember, he that killed your daughter died for it. In the article of death, I give you my thanks and pray for you, though I dare not for myself. If it be possible, do not curse me."
IX.—LOVE AND REASON.
From my own Apartment, October 19.
It is my frequent practice to visit places of resort in this town where I am least known, to observe what reception my works meet with in the world, and what good effects I may promise myself from my labours, and it being a privilege asserted by Monsieur Montaigne, and others, of vain-glorious memory, that we writers of essays may talk of ourselves, I take the liberty to give an account of the remarks which I find are made by some of my gentle readers upon these my dissertations.
I happened this evening to fall into a coffee-house near the 'Change, where two persons were reading my account of the "Table of Fame."
The one of these was commenting as he read, and explaining who was meant by this and the other worthy as he passed on. I observed the person over against him wonderfully intent and satisfied with his explanation. When he came to Julius Caesar, who is said to have refused any conductor to the table: "No, no," said he, "he is in the right of it, he has money enough to be welcome wherever he comes;" and then whispered, "He means a certain colonel of the Trainbands." Upon reading that Aristotle made his claim with some rudeness, but great strength of reason; "Who can that be, so rough and so reasonable? It must be some Whig, I warrant you. There is nothing but party in these public papers." Where Pythagoras is said to have a golden thigh, "Ay, ay," said he, "he has money enough in his breeches; that is the alderman of our ward." You must know, whatever he read, I found he interpreted from his own way of life and acquaintance. I am glad my readers can construe for themselves these difficult points; but, for the benefit of posterity, I design, when I come to write my last paper of this kind, to make it an explanation of all my former. In that piece you shall have all I have commended with their proper names. The faulty characters must be left as they are, because we live in an age wherein vice is very general, and virtue very particular; for which reason the latter only wants explanation.
But I must turn my present discourse to what is of yet greater regard to me than the care of my writings; that is to say, the preservation of a lady's heart. Little did I think I should ever have business of this kind on my hands more; but, as little as any one who knows me would believe it, there is a lady at this time who professes love to me. Her passion and good humour you shall have in her own words.
"I had formerly a very good opinion of myself; but it is now withdrawn, and I have placed it upon you, Mr. Bickerstaff, for whom I am not ashamed to declare I have a very great passion and tenderness. It is not for your face, for that I never saw; your shape and height I am equally a stranger to; but your understanding charms me, and I am lost if you do not dissemble a little love for me. I am not without hopes; because I am not like the tawdry gay things that are fit only to make bone-lace. I am neither childish-young, nor beldame-old, but, the world says, a good agreeable woman.
"Speak peace to a troubled heart, troubled only for you; and in your next paper, let me find your thoughts of me.
"Do not think of finding out who I am, for, notwithstanding your interest in demons, they cannot help you either to my name, or a sight of my face; therefore, do not let them deceive you.
"I can bear no discourse, if you are not the subject; and believe me, I know more of love than you do of astronomy.
"Pray, say some civil things in return to my generosity, and you shall have my very best pen employed to thank you, and I will confirm it.
"I am your admirer,
There is something wonderfully pleasing in the favour of women; and this letter has put me in so good a humour, that nothing could displease me since I received it. My boy breaks glasses and pipes, and instead of giving him a knock on the pate, as my way is, for I hate scolding at servants, I only say, "Ah, Jack! thou hast a head, and so has a pin," or some such merry expression. But, alas! how am I mortified when he is putting on my fourth pair of stockings on these poor spindles of mine! "The fair one understands love better than I astronomy!" I am sure, without the help of that art, this poor meagre trunk of mine is a very ill habitation for love. She is pleased to speak civilly of my sense, but Ingenium male habitat is an invincible difficulty in cases of this nature. I had always, indeed, from a passion to please the eyes of the fair, a great pleasure in dress. Add to this, that I have writ songs since I was sixty, and have lived with all the circumspection of an old beau as I am. But my friend Horace has very well said: "Every year takes something from us;" and instructed me to form my pursuits and desires according to the stage of my life; therefore, I have no more to value myself upon, than that, I can converse with young people without peevishness, or wishing myself a moment younger. For which reason, when I am amongst them, I rather moderate than interrupt their diversions. But though I have this complacency, I must not pretend to write to a lady civil things, as Maria desires. Time was, when I could have told her, "I had received a letter from her fair hands; and that, if this paper trembled as she read it, it then best expressed its author," or some other gay conceit. Though I never saw her, I could have told her, "that good sense and good-humour smiled in her eyes; that constancy and good-nature dwelt in her heart; that beauty and good-breeding appeared in all her actions." When I was five-and-twenty, upon sight of one syllable, even wrong spelt, by a lady I never saw, I could tell her, "that her height was that which was fit for inviting our approach, and commanding our respect; that a smile sat on her lips, which prefaced her expressions before she uttered them, and her aspect prevented her speech. All she could say, though she had an infinite deal of wit, was but a repetition of what was expressed by her form; her form! which struck her beholders with ideas more moving and forcible than ever were inspired by music, painting, or eloquence." At this rate I panted in those days; but ah! sixty-three! I am very sorry I can only return the agreeable Maria a passion expressed rather from the head than the heart.
"You have already seen the best of me, and I so passionately love you that I desire we may never meet. If you will examine your heart, you will find that you join the man with the philosopher; and if you have that kind opinion of my sense as you pretend, I question not but you add to it complexion, air, and shape; but, dear Molly, a man in his grand climacteric is of no sex. Be a good girl, and conduct yourself with honour and virtue, when you love one younger than myself. I am, with the greatest tenderness, your innocent lover,
X.—A BUSINESS MEETING.
From my own Apartment, October 25.
When I came home last night my servant delivered me the following letter:
"I have orders from Sir Harry Quickset, of Staffordshire, Baronet, to acquaint you that his honour Sir Harry himself, Sir Giles Wheelbarrow, Knight, Thomas Rentfree, Esquire, Justice of the Quorum, Andrew Windmill, Esquire, and Mr. Nicholas Doubt, of the Inner Temple, Sir Harry's grandson, will wait upon you at the hour of nine to-morrow morning, being Tuesday the twenty-fifth of October, upon business which Sir Harry will impart to you by word of mouth. I thought it proper to acquaint you beforehand so many persons of quality came, that you might not be surprised therewith. Which concludes, though by many years' absence since I saw you at Stafford, unknown, Sir, your most humble servant,
I received this message with less surprise than I believe Mr. Thrifty imagined; for I knew the good company too well to feel any palpitations at their approach; but I was in very great concern how I should adjust the ceremonial, and demean myself to all these great men, who perhaps had not seen anything above themselves for these twenty years last past. I am sure that is the case of Sir Harry. Besides which, I was sensible that there was a great point in adjusting my behaviour to the simple esquire, so as to give him satisfaction and not disoblige the justice of the quorum.
The hour of nine was come this morning, and I had no sooner set chairs, by the steward's letter, and fixed my tea-equipage, but I heard a knock at my door, which was opened, but no one entered; after which followed a long silence, which was broke at last by, "Sir, I beg your pardon; I think I know better," and another voice, "Nay, good Sir Giles—" I looked out from my window, and saw the good company all with their hats off and arms spread, offering the door to each other. After many offers, they entered with much solemnity, in the order Mr. Thrifty was so kind as to name them to me. But they are now got to my chamber-door, and I saw my old friend Sir Harry enter. I met him with all the respect due to so reverend a vegetable; for you are to know that is my sense of a person who remains idle in the same place for half a century. I got him with great success into his chair by the fire, without throwing down any of my cups. The knight-bachelor told me "he had a great respect for my whole family, and would, with my leave, place himself next to Sir Harry, at whose right hand he had sat at every quarter-sessions these thirty years, unless he was sick." The steward in the rear whispered the young templar, "That is true to my knowledge." I had the misfortune, as they stood cheek by jowl, to desire the esquire to sit down before the justice of the quorum, to the no small satisfaction of the former, and resentment of the latter. But I saw my error too late, and got them as soon as I could into their seats. "Well," said I, "gentlemen, after I have told you how glad I am of this great honour, I am to desire you to drink a dish of tea." They answered one and all, "that they never drank tea in a morning." "Not in a morning!" said I, staring round me; upon which the pert jackanapes, Nic Doubt, tipped me the wink, and put out his tongue at his grandfather. Here followed a profound silence, when the steward in his boots and whip proposed, "that we should adjourn to some public house, where everybody might call for what they pleased, and enter upon the business." We all stood up in an instant, and Sir Harry filed off from the left, very discreetly, countermarching behind the chairs towards the door. After him Sir Giles in the same manner. The simple esquire made a sudden start to follow, but the justice of the quorum whipped between upon the stand of the stairs. A maid, going up with coals, made us halt, and put us into such confusion that we stood all in a heap, without any visible possibility of recovering our order; for the young jackanapes seemed to make a jest of this matter, and had so contrived, by pressing amongst us under pretence of making way, that his grandfather was got into the middle, and he knew nobody was of quality to stir a step till Sir Harry moved first. We were fixed in this perplexity for some time, till we heard a very loud noise in the street, and Sir Harry asking what it was, I, to make them move, said it was fire. Upon this, all ran down as fast as they could, without order or ceremony, till we got into the street, where we drew up in very good order, and filed off down Sheer Lane; the impertinent templar driving us before him as in a string, and pointing to his acquaintance who passed by.
I must confess I love to use people according to their own sense of good breeding, and therefore whipped in between the justice and the simple esquire. He could not properly take this ill, but I overheard him whisper the steward, "that he thought it hard that a common conjuror should take place of him, though an elder esquire." In this order we marched down Sheer Lane, at the upper end of which I lodge.
When we came to Temple Bar, Sir Harry and Sir Giles got over, but a run of coaches kept the rest of us on this side the street. However, we all at last landed, and drew up in very good order before Ben Tooke's shop, who favoured our rallying with great humanity; from whence we proceeded again till we came to Dick's coffee-house, where I designed to carry them. Here we were at our old difficulty, and took up the street upon the same ceremony. We proceeded through the entry, and were so necessarily kept in order by the situation, that we were now got into the coffee-house itself, where, as soon as we arrived we repeated our civilities to each other, after which, we marched up to the high table, which has an ascent to it enclosed in the middle of the room. The whole house was alarmed at this entry, made up of persons of so much state and rusticity. Sir Harry called for a mug of ale and Dyer's Letter. The boy brought the ale in an instant, but said they did not take in the Letter. "No!" says Sir Harry, "then take back your mug; we are like indeed to have good liquor at this house!" Here the templar tipped me a second wink, and, if I had not looked very grave upon him, I found he was disposed to be very familiar with me. In short, I observed after a long pause, that the gentlemen did not care to enter upon business till after their morning draught, for which reason I called for a bottle of mum, and finding that had no effect upon them, I ordered a second and a third, after which Sir Harry reached over to me and told me in a low voice, "that the place was too public for business, but he would call upon me again to-morrow morning at my own lodgings, and bring some more friends with him."