THE COVERLEY PAPERS
FROM THE 'SPECTATOR'
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES, BY O. M. MYERS
The following selection comprises all numbers of the Spectator which are concerned with the history or character of Sir Roger de Coverley, and all those which arise out of the Spectator's visit to his country house. Sir Roger's name occurs in some seventeen other papers, but in these he either receives only passing mention, or is introduced as a speaker in conversations where the real interest is the subject under discussion. In these his character is well maintained, as, for example, at the meeting of the club described in Spectator 34, where he warns the Spectator not to meddle with country squires, but they add no traits to the portrait we already have of him. No. 129 is included because it arises naturally out of No. 127, and illustrates the relation between the town and country. No. 410 has been omitted because it was condemned by Addison as inconsistent with the character of Sir Roger, together with No. 544, which is an unconvincing attempt to reconcile it with the whole scheme. Some of the papers have been slightly abridged where they would not be acceptable to the taste of a later age.
The papers are not all signed, but the authorship is never in doubt. Where signatures are attached, C, L, I, and O are the mark of Addison's work; R and T of Steele's, and X of Budgell's. [Footnote: Spectator 555.]
I have availed myself freely of the references and allusions collected by former editors, and I have gratefully to acknowledge the help of Miss G. E. Hadow in reading my introductory essay.
O. M. M.
Spectator 1 Addison (C)
" 2 Steele (R)
" 106 Addison (L)
" 107 Steele (R)
" 108 Addison (L)
" 109 Steele (R)
" 110 Addison (L)
" 112 " (L)
" 113 Steele (R)
" 114 " (T)
" 115 Addison (L)
" 116 Budgell (X)
" 117 Addison (L)
" 118 Steele (T)
" 119 Addison (L)
" 120 " (L)
" 121 " (L)
" 122 " (L)
" 123 " (L)
" 125 " (C)
" 126 " (C)
" 127 " (C)
" 128 " (C)
" 129 " (C)
" 130 " (C)
" 131 " (C)
" 132 Steele (T)
" 269 Addison (L)
" 329 " (L)
" 335 Addison (L)
" 359 Budgell (X)
" 383 Addison (I)
" 517 " (O)
APPENDIX I. On Coffee-Houses
APPENDIX II. On the Spectator's Acquaintance
APPENDIX III. On the Death of Sir Roger
APPENDIX IV. On the Spectator's Popularity
It is necessary to study the work of Joseph Addison in close relation to the time in which he lived, for he was a true child of his century, and even in his most distinguishing qualities he was not so much in opposition to its ideas as in advance of them. The early part of the eighteenth century was a very middle-aged period: the dreamers of the seventeenth century had grown into practical men; the enthusiasts of the century before had sobered down into reasonable beings. We no longer have the wealth of detail, the love of stories, the delight in the concrete for its own sake of the Chaucerian and Elizabethan children; these men seek for what is typical instead of enjoying what is detailed, argue and illustrate instead of telling stories, observe instead of romancing. Captain Sentry 'behaved himself with great gallantry in several sieges' [Footnote: Spectator 2.] but the Spectator does not care for them as Chaucer cares for the battlefields of his Knight. 'One might ... recount' many tales touching on many points in our speculations, and no child and no Elizabethan would refrain from doing so, but the Spectator will not 'go out of the occurrences of common life, but assert it as a general observation.' [Footnote: Spectator 107] He is in perfect harmony with his age, too, in the intensely rational view which he takes of ghosts [Footnote: Spectator 110] and witches, [Footnote: Spectator 117] for it was a period in which men cared very little for things which 'the eye hath not seen'. In his use of mottoes, again, which are deliberately sought illustrations for his papers, [Footnote: Spectator 221] and not the sparks which have fired his train of thought, he is typical of the period of middle-age in which men amuse themselves with such academic pastimes. Addison is the very antipodes of the kind of man who
'Loves t' have his sails fill'd with a lusty wind, Even till his sail-yards tremble, his masts crack'—
he remarks soberly that 'it is very unhappy for a man to be born in such a stormy and tempestuous season.' [Footnote: Spectator 125.] He may not have been a great poet, but he was an exquisite critic of life; he shared his contemporaries' lack of enthusiasm, but he possessed a fine discrimination, and those less practical, more irresponsible qualities would have been merely an incumbrance to the apostle of good sense and moderation. For when men are young they are much occupied with the framing of ideals and the search after absolute truth; as they grow older they generally become more practical; they accept, more or less, the idea of compromise, and make the best of things as they are or as they may be made. The age being vicious, Addison did not betake himself to a monastery, or urge others to do so; he tried to mend its morals. This was a difficult task. The Puritans, during their supremacy, had imposed their own severity on others; and now the Court party was revenging itself by indulging in extreme licentiousness. Its amusements were cruel and vicious, and the Puritans did nothing to improve them, but denounced them altogether and held themselves aloof. It was Addison's task to refine the taste of his contemporaries and to widen their outlook, so that the Puritan and the man of the world might find a common ground on which to meet and to learn each from the other; it was his endeavour 'to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality ... till I have recovered them out of that desperate state of vice and folly into which the age is fallen. [Footnote: Spectator 10.] It was a happy thing for that and for all succeeding ages that a man of Addison's character and genius was ready to undertake the work. He was well versed in the pleasures of society and letters, but his delicate taste could not be gratified by the ordinary amusements of the town. He treated life as an art capable of affording the artist abundant pleasure, but he recognized goodness as a necessary condition of this pleasure. He was the most popular man of his day; even Swift said that if Addison had wished to be king people could hardly have refused him; [Footnote: Journal to Stella, October 12, 1710.] and the qualities which endeared him to his friends were exactly of the kind to enable him to hold the mean between the bigots and the butterflies, and to dictate without giving offence, for they were humanity and humour, moderation of character, judgment, and a most sensitive tact. His qualities and his limitations alike appear in the Spectator. For example, he tells us that he wishes that country clergymen would borrow the sermons of great divines, and devote all their own efforts to acquiring a good elocution: [Footnote: Spectator 106.] here we detect the practical moralist and the man who likes a thing good of its kind, but not the enthusiast. He upholds the observance of Sunday on account of its social influences rather than for its religious meaning; [Footnote: Spectator 112.] Swift's famous Argument against the Abolition of Christianity is only a satirical exaggeration of this position. The virtues commended in the Spectator are those which make for the well-being of society— good sense and dignity, moderation and a sense of fitness, kindness and generosity. They are to be practised with an eye to their consequences; even virtues must not be allowed to run wild. Modesty is in itself a commendable quality, but in Captain Sentry it becomes a fault, because it interferes with his advancement. [Footnote: Spectator 2.] The great function of goodness is to promote happiness; when it ceases to do this it ceases to be goodness.
But the greatest hindrance that an enthusiastic temperament would have presented to Addison's work is that it would have spoilt his method. His aim he declared roundly to be 'the advancement of the public weal', [Footnote: Spectator 1.] but he did not prosecute it in the usual way. 'A man,' he says, 'may be learned without talking sentences.' [Footnote: Spectator 4.] He saw much evil, and he laughed at it. He has tried, he tells us, to 'make nothing ridiculous that is not in some measure criminal'; [Footnote: Spectator 445.] an enthusiast could never have met crime with laughter, unless with the corrosive laughter of a Swift. Addison's humour is perfectly frank and humane; himself a Whig, he has given us a picture of the Tory Sir Roger which has been compared to the portrait of our friend Mr. Pickwick. Sir Roger put to silence and confusion by the perversity of the widow and her confidant, [Footnote: Spectator 113.] congratulating himself on having been called 'the tamest and most humane of all the brutes in the country', [Footnote: Spectator 113.] seeking to be reassured that no trace of his likeness showed through the whiskers of the Saracen's head, [Footnote: Spectator 122.] puzzled by his doubts concerning the witch, [Footnote: Spectator 117.] and pleased by the artful gipsies, [Footnote: Spectator 130.] inviting the guide to the Abbey to visit him at his lodgings in order to continue their conversation, [Footnote: Spectator 329.] and shocked by the discourtesy of the young men on the Thames [Footnote: Spectator 383.]—these are pictures drawn by one who laughed at what he loved. Addison's humour has a 'grave composure' [Footnote: Elwin.] and a characteristic appearance of simplicity which never cease to delight us.
This was the man; and he found the instrument ready to his hand. There was now a large educated class in circumstances sufficiently prosperous to leave them some leisure for society and its enjoyments. The peers and the country squires were reinforced by the professional men, merchants, and traders. The political revolution of 1688 had added greatly to the freedom of the citizens; the cessation of the Civil War, the increased importance of the colonies, the development of native industries, and the impulse given to cloth-making and silk-weaving by the settlement of Flemish and Huguenot workmen in the seventeenth century had encouraged trade; and the establishment of the Bank of England had been favourable to mercantile enterprise. We find the Spectator speaking of 'a trading nation like ours.' [Footnote: Spectator 108.] Addison realized that it is the way in which men employ their leisure which really stamps their character; so he provided 'wit with morality' for their reading, and attempted, through their reading, to refine their taste and conversation at the theatre, the club, and the coffee-house.
Dunton, Steele, and Defoe had modified the periodical literature of the day by adding to the newspapers essays on various subjects. The aim of the Tatler was the same as that of the Spectator, but it had certain disadvantages. The press censorship had been abolished in 1695, but newspapers were excepted from the general freedom of the Press. A more important disadvantage lay in the character of Steele, who did not possess the balance and moderation required to edit such an organ. Unlike Addison, he was not a true son of his century. He was enthusiastic and impulsive, fertile in invention and sensitive to emotion. His tenderness and pathos reach heights and depths that Addison never touches, but he has not Addison's fine perception of events and motives on the ordinary level of emotion. He could not repress his keen interest sufficiently to treat of politics in his paper and yet remain the impartial censor. So the Tatler was dropped, and the Spectator took its place. This differed from its predecessors in appearing every day instead of three times a week, and in excluding all articles of news.
The machinery of the club had been anticipated in 1690 by John Dunton's Athenian Society, which replied to all questions submitted by readers in his paper, the Athenian Mercury. This was succeeded by the Scandal Club of Defoe's Review, and the well-known club of the Tatler, which met at the Trumpet; [Footnote: Tatler 132] but the plan of arranging the whole work round the doings of the club is a new departure in the Spectator.
It is in these periodicals that we first find the familiar essay. Its only predecessors are such serious essays as those of Bacon, Cowley, and Temple, the turgid paragraphs of Shaftesbury, the vigorous but crude and rough papers of Collier, and the 'characters' of Overbury and Earle. These 'characters' had always been entirely typical; they were treated rather from the abstract than from the human point of view, and had no names or other individualization than that of their character and calling. In some of the numbers of the Spectator we still find these 'characters' occurring, such as the character of Will Wimble, [Footnote: Spectator 108.] of the honest yeoman, [Footnote: Spectator 122.] and of Tom Touchy; [Footnote: Spectator 122.] but they are surrounded by circumstances peculiar to themselves, and so are much more highly individualized. The Tatler and the Spectator very greatly extended the range of essay-writing, and with it the flexibility of prose style; it is this extension that gives to them their modern quality. Nothing came amiss: fable, description, vision, gossip, literary criticism or moral essays, discussion of large questions such as marriage and education, or of the smaller social amenities—any subject which would be of interest to a sufficiently large number of readers would furnish a paper; as Steele wrote at the beginning of the Tatler, 'Quicquid agunt homines nostri libelli farrago.' Different interests were voiced by the various members of the club, and the light humorous treatment and an easy style attracted a larger public than had ever been reached by a single publication. [Footnote: v. Appendix IV.] The elasticity of the structure enabled Addison to produce the maximum effect, and to bring into play the full weight of his character.
The nature of the work was determined throughout by its strongly human interest. It is significant as standing between the lifeless 'characters' of the seventeenth century and the great development of the novel. Thackeray calls Addison 'the most delightful talker in the world', and his essays have precisely the charm of the conversation of a well-informed and thoughtful man of the world. They are entirely discursive; he starts with a certain subject, and follows any line of thought that occurs to him. If he thinks of an anecdote in connexion with his subject, that goes down; if it suggests to him abstract speculations or moral reflections he gives us those instead. It is the capricious chat of a man who likes to talk, not the product of an imperative need of artistic expression. It is significant that so much of his work consists of gossip about people. This growing interest in the individual was leading up to the great eighteenth century novel. It seems to arise out of a growing sense of identity, a stronger interest in oneself; there is a common motive at the root of our observation of other people, of the interest attaching to ordinary actions presented on the stage, and of the fascination of a reflection or a portrait of ourselves; by these means we are enabled to some extent to become detached, and to take an external and impersonal view of ourselves. The stage had already turned to the representation of contemporary life and manners; portraiture was increasing in popularity; and the novel was on its way.
In the Coverley Papers all the characteristic species of the Spectator are represented except the allegory and the essays in literary criticism. Steele, who was always full of projects and swift and spontaneous in invention, wrote the initial description of the club members, and the characters were sustained by the two friends with wonderful consistency. Apparently each was mainly responsible for a certain number of the characters, and Sir Roger was really the property of Addison, but no one person was strictly monopolized by either. The papers were written independently, but it is easy to see that the two authors had an identical conception of their characters. It is true that the singularity of Sir Roger's behaviour described by Steele in the first draft of his character is very lightly touched in subsequent papers, and that, judging by the simplicity of his conduct in town, he has forgotten very completely the 'fine gentleman' [Footnote: Spectator 2.] period of his life, when, like Master Shallow, he 'heard the chimes at midnight', but these are insignificant details.
Since Sir Roger belongs to Addison, it follows naturally that in the present selection Addison's share compared with Steele's is larger in proportion than in the complete Spectator, but it would be a mistake to lose sight of the importance of Steele's part of the work. Addison was the greater artist, and the balance and shapeliness of his style enhances the effect of his thought and judgment, but we should be no less sorry to relinquish Steele's headlong directness and warmth of feeling. The humorous character sketches of Sir Roger's ancestors [Footnote: Spectator 109.] are his, and his the passage at arms between the Quaker and the soldier in the coach—the delightful soldier of whose remark the Spectator tells us: 'This was followed by a vain laugh of his own, and a deep silence of all the rest of the company. I had nothing left for it but to fall fast asleep, which I did with all speed.' [Footnote: Spectator 132.] His, too, is the charming little idyll of the huntsman and his Betty, who fears that her love will drown himself in a stream he can jump across, [Footnote: Spectator 118.] and the whole fragrant story of Sir Roger's thirty years' attachment to the widow. [Footnote: Spectator 113, 118.] But above all, we must not overlook the fact that without Steele, as he himself says in his dedication to The Drummer, Addison would never have brought himself to give to the world these familiar, informal essays. Addison was naturally both cautious and shy; the mask which Steele invented lent him just the security which he needed, and the Spectator endures as the monument of a great friendship, a memorial such as Steele had always desired. [Footnote: Spectator 555.]
Steele himself explained the other advantages of the disguise: 'It is much more difficult to converse with the world in a real than in a personated character,' he says, both because the moral theory of a man whose identity is known is exposed to the commentary of his life, and because 'the fictitious person ... might assume a mock authority without being looked upon as vain and conceited'. [Footnote: Spectator 555.] It is to the influence of this mask that much of the self- complacent superiority which has been attributed to Addison may be referred; one 'having nothing to do with men's passions and interests', [Footnote: Spectator 4.] one 'set to watch the manners and behaviour of my countrymen and contemporaries,' [Footnote: Spectator 435.] and to extirpate anything 'that shocks modesty and good manners', [Footnote: Spectator 34.] such a censor was bound to place himself on a pinnacle above the passions and foibles which he was to rebuke. Yet occasionally Addison does appear a trifle self-satisfied. Pope's indictment of his character in the person of Atticus cannot be entirely set aside. His creed, as implied in Spectator 115, esteems the welfare of man as the prime end of a fostering Providence, and such an opinion as this, held steadily without doubt or struggle, would tend to give a man a strong sense of his own importance. The superiority of his attitude to women, which, however, does not appear in the Coverley Papers, is attributable partly to his office of censor, and partly to their position at the time. This sort of condescension appears most distinctly in his treatment of animals. He is far more humane in his feeling for them than are the majority of his contemporaries, but although he likes to moralize over Sir Roger's poultry, [Footnote: Spectator 120, 121.] he really looks down on them from the elevation which a reasonable being must possess over the creatures of instinct. Yet how does he know so certainly that instinct is actually inferior to reason?
Addison is essentially a townsman, and his treatment of nature is always cold. The one passage in these papers which evinces a genuine love of the country is Steele's description of his enjoyment when he is strolling in the widow's grove. He is 'ravished with the murmur of waters, the whisper of breezes, the singing of birds; and whether I looked up to the heavens, down on the earth, or turned to the prospects around me, still struck with new sense of pleasure'. [Footnote: Spectator 118.] The style of the two writers reflects the qualities of their minds. Addison's writing is fluent, easy, and lucid. He wrote and corrected with great care, and his words very closely express his thought. Landor speaks of his prose as a 'cool current of delight', and Dr. Johnson, in an often quoted passage, calls it 'the model of the middle style ... always equable and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences.... His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour. He is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic.... Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.'
Steele was a far more rapid writer, and even grammatical faults are not infrequent in his papers. He explicitly declares that 'Elegance, purity, and correctness were not so much my purpose, as in any intelligible manner as I could to rally all those singularities of human life ... which obstruct anything that was really good and great'. [Footnote: Dedication to The Drummer.] His style varies with his mood, and with the degree of his interest. Occasionally it reaches the simple, rhythmic prose of the passage quoted above, but generally it is somewhat abrupt and a little toneless. But now and again we find the 'unexpected splendour' in which Addison is wanting, in phrases like 'a covered indigence, a magnificent poverty', [Footnote: Spectator 114.] or in the sparkling antitheses of Sir Roger's description of his ancestors. [Footnote: Spectator 109.] Yet Steele's claim on our admiration rests not on the quality of his style, but, as Mr. John Forster has said, on 'the soul of a sincere man shining through it all'.
The influence of the Spectator was incalculable. Addison succeeded in his principal object. 'I shall be ambitious to have it said of me that I have brought philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and in coffee-houses,' and that I have produced 'such writings as tend to the wearing out of ignorance, passion, and prejudice'. [Footnote: Spectator 10.] A glance at the social and literary history of the next thirty or forty years will reveal how fully this wish was accomplished. It is true that folly and vice have not yet been wiped off the face of the earth, but the Spectator turned the tide of public opinion against them. The fashionable ideal was reversed; virtue became admirable, and though vice could not be destroyed, it was no longer suffered to plume itself in the eyes of the world. The Spectator had delivered virtue from its position of contempt, and 'set up the immoral man as the object of derision'. [Footnote: Spectator 445.]
The Spectator has also acquired an incidental value from the passage of time. Addison hints at this in his citations from an imaginary history of Queen Anne's reign, supposed to be written three hundred years later. In 'those little diurnal essays which are still extant'—two-thirds of the time has elapsed, and at present the Spectator is certainly extant—we are enabled 'to see the diversions and characters of the English nation in his time.' [Footnote: Spectator 101.] It is in the literature of a nation that we find the history of its life and the motives of its deeds.
Finally, the Spectator has a permanent value as a human document. 'Odd and uncommon characters are the game that I look for and most delight in,' [Footnote: Spectator 103. ] he tells us, but, with the exception of the sketch of Tom Touchy [Footnote: Spectator 122.], none of his persons are lifeless embodiments of a single trait, like the 'humours' of the early part of the preceding century. Sir Roger, who 'calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way upstairs to a visit', [Footnote: Spectator 2.] who is too delicate to mention that the 'very worthy gentleman to whom he was highly obliged' was once his footman, [Footnote: Spectator 107.] who dwells upon the beauty of his lady's hand [Footnote: Spectator 113.] and can be jealous of Sir David Dundrum [Footnote: Spectator 359.] after thirty odd years of courtship, who hardly likes to contemplate being of service to his lady, because of 'giving her the pain of being obliged', [Footnote: Spectator 118.] who addresses the court and remarks on the weather to the judge in order to impress the Spectator and the country, [Footnote: Spectator 122.] who will not own to a mere citizen among his ancestors, [Footnote: Spectator 109.] and 'very frequently' [Footnote: Spectator 125.] repeats his old stories—Sir Andrew, with his joke about the sea and the British common, [Footnote: Spectator 2.] and his tenderness for his old friend and opponent [Footnote: Spectator 517.]—the volatile Will Honeycomb, whose gallantry and care of his person [Footnote: Spectator 2, 359.] remind us of his successor, Major Pendennis—these are all in their degree intimate friends or acquaintances, as living in our imagination and in the actual world now as they were two hundred years ago, and immortal as everything must be which has once been inspired with the authentic breath of life.
ADDISON: COVERLEY PAPERS
No. 1. THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 1710-11.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem Cogitat, ut speciosa dehinc miracula promat. HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 143.
One with a flash begins, and ends in smoke; The other out of smoke brings glorious light, And (without raising expectation high) Surprises us with dazzling miracles. ROSCOMMON.
I have observed, that a Reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure, until he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author. To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper and my next as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digesting, and correcting will fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.
I was born to a small hereditary estate, which, according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from father to son whole and entire, without the loss or acquisition of a single field or meadow, during the space of six hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that when my mother was gone with child of me about three months, she dreamt that she was brought to bed of a Judge: Whether this might proceed from a law-suit which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace, I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any dignity that I should arrive at in my future life, though that was the interpretation which the neighbourhood put upon it. The gravity of my behaviour at my very first appearance in the world, and all the time that I sucked, seemed to favour my mother's dream: For, as she has often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make use of my coral until they had taken away the bells from it.
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find, that, during my nonage, I had the reputation of a very sullen youth, but was always a favourite of my schoolmaster, who used to say, that my parts were solid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence; for during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises of the college, I scarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three sentences together in my whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the death of my father, I was resolved to travel into foreign countries, and therefore left the university, with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but shew it. An insatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was any thing new or strange to be seen; nay, to such a degree was my curiosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid: And, as soon as I had set myself right in that particular, returned to my native country with great satisfaction.
I have passed my latter years in this city, where I am frequently seen in most public places, though there are not above half a dozen of my select friends that know me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There is no place of general resort, wherein I do not often make my appearance; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of politicians at Will's, and listening with great attention to the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes I smoke a pipe at Child's, and, whilst I seem attentive to nothing but the Postman, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's coffee-house, and sometimes join the little committee of politics in the inner-room, as one who comes there to hear and improve. My face is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa-Tree, and in the theatres both of Drury-Lane and the Hay-Market. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years, and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's: In short, wherever I see a cluster of people, I always mix with them, though I never open my lips but in my own club.
Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind, than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of a husband or a father, and can discern the errors in the oeconomy, business, and diversion of others, better than those who are engaged in them; as standers-by discover blots, which are apt to escape those who are in the game. I never espoused any party with violence, and am resolved to observe an exact neutrality between the Whigs and Tories, unless I shall be forced to declare myself by the hostilities of either side. In short, I have acted in all the parts of my life as a looker-on, which is the character I intend to preserve in this paper.
I have given the Reader just so much of my history and character, as to let him see I am not altogether unqualified for the business I have undertaken. As for other particulars in my life and adventures, I shall insert them in following papers, as I shall see occasion. In the mean time, when I consider how much I have seen, read, and heard, I begin to blame my own taciturnity; and, since I have neither time nor inclination to communicate the fulness of my heart in speech, I am resolved to do it in writing, and to print myself out, if possible, before I die. I have been often told by my friends, that it is pity so many useful discoveries which I have made should be in the possession of a silent man. For this reason, therefore, I shall publish a sheet-full of thoughts every morning, for the benefit of my contemporaries; and if I can any way contribute to the diversion or improvement of the country in which I live, I shall leave it, when I am summoned out of it, with the secret satisfaction of thinking that I have not lived in vain.
There are three very material points which I have not spoken to in this paper; and which, for several important reasons, I must keep to myself, at least for some time: I mean, an account of my name, my age, and my lodgings. I must confess, I would gratify my reader in any thing that is reasonable; but as for these three particulars, though I am sensible they might tend very much to the embellishment of my paper, I cannot yet come to a resolution of communicating them to the public. They would indeed draw me out of that obscurity which I have enjoyed for many years, and expose me in public places to several salutes and civilities, which have been always very disagreeable to me; for the greatest pain I can suffer, is the being talked to, and being stared at. It is for this reason likewise, that I keep my complexion and dress as very great secrets; though it is not impossible, but I may make discoveries of both in the progress of the work I have undertaken.
After having been thus particular upon myself, I shall, in to-morrow's paper, give an account of those gentlemen who are concerned with me in this work; for, as I have before intimated, a plan of it is laid and concerted (as all other matters of importance are) in a Club. However, as my friends have engaged me to stand in the front, those who have a mind to correspond with me, may direct their letters to the SPECTATOR, at Mr. Buckley's in Little-Britain. For I must further acquaint the Reader, that, though our club meets only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have appointed a committee to sit every night, for the inspection of all such papers as may contribute to the advancement of the public weal. C.
No. 2. FRIDAY, MARCH 2.
Ast alii sex Et plures uno conclamant ore. Juv. Sat. vii. ver. 167.
Six more at least join their consenting voice.
The first of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of ancient descent, a Baronet, his name Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY. His great- grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that shire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir ROGER. He is a gentleman that is very singular in his behaviour, but his singularities proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the world, only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However this humour creates him no enemies, for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms, makes him but the readier and more capable to please and oblige all who know him. When he is in town, he lives in Soho- Square. It is said, he keeps himself a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him. Before this disappointment, Sir ROGER was what you call a Fine Gentleman, had often supped with my Lord Rochester and Sir George Etherege, fought a duel upon his first coming to town, and kicked Bully Dawson in a public coffee-house for calling him youngster. But being ill-used by the above-mentioned widow, he was very serious for a year and a half; and though, his temper being naturally jovial, he at last got over it, he grew careless of himself, and never dressed afterwards. He continues to wear a coat and doublet of the same cut that were in fashion at the time of his repulse, which, in his merry humours, he tells us, has been in and out twelve times since he first wore it. He is now in his fifty-sixth year, chearful, gay, and hearty; keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that he is rather beloved than esteemed. His tenants grow rich, his servants look satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men are glad of his company: When he comes into a house he calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way upstairs to a visit. I must not omit, that Sir ROGER is a justice of the Quorum; that he fills the chair at a quarter-session with great abilities, and three months ago gained universal applause by explaining a passage in the game-act.
The gentleman next in esteem and authority among us, is another bachelor, who is a member of the Inner-Temple; a man of great probity, wit, and understanding; but he has chosen his place of residence rather to obey the direction of an old humoursome father, than in pursuit of his own inclinations. He was placed there to study the laws of the land, and is the most learned of any of the house in those of the stage. Aristotle and Longinus are much better understood by him than Littleton or Coke. The father sends up every post questions relating to marriage-articles, leases, and tenures, in the neighbourhood; all which questions he agrees with an attorney to answer and take care of in the lump. He is studying the passions themselves, when he should be inquiring into the debates among men which arise from them. He knows the argument of each of the orations of Demosthenes and Tully, but not one case in the reports of our own courts. No one ever took him for a fool, but none, except his intimate friends, know he has a great deal of wit. This turn makes him at once both disinterested and agreeable: As few of his thoughts are drawn from business, they are most of them fit for conversation. His taste of books is a little too just for the age he lives in; he has read all, but approves of very few. His familiarity with the customs, manners, actions, and writings of the ancients, makes him a very delicate observer of what occurs to him in the present world. He is an excellent critick, and the time of the play is his hour of business; exactly at five he passes through New-Inn, crosses through Russel-Court, and takes a turn at Will's until the play begins; he has his shoes rubbed and his periwig powdered at the barber's as you go into the Rose. It is for the good of the audience when he is at a play, for the actors have an ambition to please him.
The person of next consideration is Sir ANDREW FREEPORT, a merchant of great eminence in the city of London. A person of indefatigable industry, strong reason, and great experience. His notions of trade are noble and generous, and (as every rich man has usually some sly way of jesting, which would make no great figure were he not a rich man) he calls the sea the British Common. He is acquainted with commerce in all its parts, and will tell you that it is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms; for true power is to be got by arts and industry. He will often argue, that if this part of our trade were well cultivated, we should gain from one nation; and if another, from another. I have heard him prove, that diligence makes more lasting acquisitions than valour, and that sloth has ruined more nations than the sword. He abounds in several frugal maxims, amongst which the greatest favourite is, 'A penny saved is a penny got.' A general trader of good sense is pleasanter company than a general scholar; and Sir ANDREW having a natural unaffected eloquence, the perspicuity of his discourse gives the same pleasure that wit would in another man. He has made his fortunes himself; and says that England may be richer than other kingdoms, by as plain methods as he himself is richer than other men; though, at the same time, I can say this of him, that there is not a point in the compass but blows home a ship in which he is an owner.
Next to Sir ANDREW in the club-room sits Captain SENTRY, a gentleman of great courage, good understanding, but invincible modesty. He is one of those that deserve very well, but are very aukward at putting their talents within the observation of such as should take notice of them. He was some years a captain, and behaved himself with great gallantry in several engagements, and at several sieges; but having a small estate of his own, and being next heir to Sir ROGER, he has quitted a way of life in which no man can rise suitably to his merit, who is not something of a courtier, as well as a soldier. I have heard him often lament, that in a profession where merit is placed in so conspicuous a view, impudence should get the better of modesty. When he has talked to this purpose, I never heard him make a sour expression, but frankly confess that he left the world because he was not fit for it. A strict honesty and an even regular behaviour, are in themselves obstacles to him that must press through crowds, who endeavour at the same end with himself, the favour of a commander. He will however, in his way of talk, excuse generals, for not disposing according to men's desert, or inquiring into it: For, says he, that great man who has a mind to help me, has as many to break through to come at me, as I have to come at him: Therefore he will conclude, that the man who would make a figure, especially in a military way, must get over all false modesty, and assist his patron against the importunity of other pretenders, by a proper assurance in his own vindication. He says it is a civil cowardice to be backward in asserting what you ought to expect, as it is a military fear to be slow in attacking when it is your duty. With this candour does the gentleman speak of himself and others. The same frankness runs through all his conversation. The military part of his life has furnished him with many adventures, in the relation of which he is very agreeable to the company; for he is never overbearing, though accustomed to command men in the utmost degree below him; nor ever too obsequious, from an habit of obeying men highly above him.
But that our society may not appear a set of humourists, unacquainted with the gallantries and pleasures of the age, we have among us the gallant WILL HONEYCOMB, a gentleman who, according to his years, should be in the decline of his life, but having ever been very careful of his person, and always had a very easy fortune, time has made but a very little impression, either by wrinkles on his forehead, or traces in his brain. His person is well turned, of a good height. He is very ready at that sort of discourse with which men usually entertain women. He has all his life dressed very well, and remembers habits as others do men. He can smile when one speaks to him, and laughs easily. He knows the history of every mode, and can inform you from which of the French court ladies our wives and daughters had this manner of curling their hair, that way of placing their hoods, and whose vanity, to shew her foot, made that part of the dress so short in such a year. In a word, all his conversation and knowledge have been in the female world: As other men of his age will take notice to you what such a minister said upon such and such an occasion, he will tell you when the Duke of Monmouth danced at court, such a woman was then smitten, another was taken with him at the head of his troop in the Park. In all these important relations, he has ever about the same time received a kind glance or a blow of a fan from some celebrated beauty, mother of the present Lord such-a-one.
If you speak of a young commoner that said a lively thing in the House, he starts up, 'He has good blood in his veins, Tom Mirabell begot him, that rogue cheated me in that affair; that young fellow's mother used me more like a dog than any woman I ever made advances to.' This way of talking of his very much enlivens the conversation among us of a more sedate turn; and I find there is not one of the company, but myself, who rarely speak at all, but speaks of him as of that sort of man who is usually called a well-bred Fine Gentleman. To conclude his character, where women are not concerned, he is an honest worthy man.
I cannot tell whether I am to account him whom I am next to speak of, as one of our company; for he visits us but seldom, but, when he does, it adds to every man else a new enjoyment of himself. He is a clergyman, a very philosophic man, of general learning, great sanctity of life, and the most exact good breeding. He has the misfortune to be of a very weak constitution, and consequently cannot accept of such cares and business as preferments in his function would oblige him to: He is therefore among divines what a chamber-counsellor is among lawyers. The probity of his mind, and the integrity of his life, create him followers, as being eloquent or loud advances others. He seldom introduces the subject he speaks upon; but we are so far gone in years, that he observes when he is among us, an earnestness to have him fall on some divine topic, which he always treats with much authority, as one who has no interests in this world, as one who is hastening to the object of all his wishes, and conceives hope from his decays and infirmities. These are my ordinary companions. R.
No. 106. MONDAY, JULY 2.
Hinc tibi copia Manabit ad plenum, benigno Ruris honorum opulenta cornu. HOR. Od. xvii. 1. i. v. 14.
Here to thee shall plenty flow, And all her riches show, To raise the honour of the quiet plain. CREECH.
Having often received an invitation from my friend Sir ROGER DE COVERLEY to pass away a month with him in the country, I last week accompanied him thither, and am settled with him for some time at his country-house, where I intend to form several of my ensuing Speculations. Sir ROGER, who is very well acquainted with my humour, lets me rise and go to bed when I please, dine at his own table or in my chamber as I think fit, sit still and say nothing without bidding me be merry. When the gentlemen of the country come to see him, he only shews me at a distance: As I have been walking in his fields, I have observed them stealing a sight of me over an hedge, and have heard the Knight desiring them not to let me see them, for that I hated to be stared at.
I am the more at ease in Sir ROGER'S family, because it consists of sober and staid persons; for, as the Knight is the best master in the world, he seldom changes his servants; and as he is beloved by all about him, his servants never care for leaving him; by this means his domesticks are all in years, and grown old with their master. You would take his valet de chambre for his brother, his butler is gray-headed, his groom is one of the gravest men that I have ever seen, and his coachman has the looks of a privy-counsellor. You see the goodness of the master even in the old house-dog, and in a gray pad that is kept in the stable with great care and tenderness, out of regard to his past services, though he has been useless for several years.
I could not but observe, with a great deal of pleasure, the joy that appeared in the countenance of these ancient domesticks upon my friend's arrival at his country-seat. Some of them could not refrain from tears at the sight of their old master; every one of them pressed forward to do something for him, and seemed discouraged if they were not employed. At the same time the good old Knight, with a mixture of the father and the master of the family, tempered the inquiries after his own affairs with several kind questions relating to themselves. This humanity and good-nature engages every body to him, so that when he is pleasant upon any of them, all his family are in good humour, and none so much as the person whom he diverts himself with: On the contrary, if he coughs, or betrays any infirmity of old age, it is easy for a stander-by to observe a secret concern in the looks of all his servants.
My worthy friend has put me under the particular care of his butler, who is a very prudent man, and, as well as the rest of his fellow-servants, wonderfully desirous of pleasing me, because they have often heard their master talk of me as of his particular friend.
My chief companion, when Sir ROGER is diverting himself in the woods or the fields, is a very venerable man who is ever with Sir ROGER, and has lived at his house in the nature of a chaplain above thirty years. This gentleman is a person of good sense and some learning, of a very regular life, and obliging conversation: He heartily loves Sir ROGER, and knows that he is very much in the old Knight's esteem, so that he lives in the family rather as a relation than a dependant.
I have observed in several of my papers, that my friend Sir ROGER, amidst all his good qualities, is something of an humorist; and that his virtues, as well as imperfections, are, as it were, tinged by a certain extravagance, which makes them particularly his, and distinguishes them from those of other men. This cast of mind, as it is generally very innocent in itself, so it renders his conversation highly agreeable, and more delightful than the same degree of sense and virtue would appear in their common and ordinary colours. As I was walking with him last night, he asked me how I liked the good man whom I have just now mentioned? and without staying for my answer, told me, That he was afraid of being insulted with Latin and Greek at his own table; for which reason he desired a particular friend of his at the University to find him out a clergyman rather of plain sense than much learning, of a good aspect, a clear voice, a sociable temper, and, if possible, a man that understood a little of back-gammon. My friend, says Sir ROGER, found me out this gentleman, who, besides the endowments required of him, is, they tell me, a good scholar, though he does not show it: I have given him the parsonage of the parish; and because I know his value, have settled upon him a good annuity for life. If he outlives me, he shall find that he was higher in my esteem than perhaps he thinks he is. He has now been with me thirty years; and though he does not know I have taken notice of it, has never in all that time asked any thing of me for himself though he is every day soliciting me for something in behalf of one or other of my tenants, his parishioners. There has not been a lawsuit in the parish since he has lived among them: If any dispute arises they apply themselves to him for the decision; if they do not acquiesce in his judgment, which I think never happened above once or twice at most, they appeal to me. At his first settling with me, I made him a present of all the good sermons which have been printed in English, and only begged of him that every Sunday he would pronounce one of them in the pulpit. Accordingly, he has digested them into such a series, that they follow one another naturally, and make a continued system of practical divinity.
As Sir ROGER was going on in his story, the gentleman we were talking of came up to us; and upon the Knight's asking him who preached to-morrow (for it was Saturday night) told us, the Bishop of St. Asaph in the morning, and Dr. South in the afternoon. He then shewed us his list of preachers for the whole year, where I saw with a great deal of pleasure Archbishop Tillotson, Bishop Saunderson, Dr. Barrow, Dr. Calamy, with several living authors who have published discourses of practical divinity. I no sooner saw this venerable man in the pulpit, but I very much approved of my friend's insisting upon the qualifications of a good aspect and a clear voice; for I was so charmed with the gracefulness of his figure and delivery, as well as with the discourses he pronounced, that I think I never passed any time more to my satisfaction. A sermon repeated after this manner, is like the composition of a poet in the mouth of a graceful actor.
I could heartily wish that more of our country-clergy would follow this example; and, instead of wasting their spirits in laborious compositions of their own, would endeavour after a handsome elocution, and all those other talents that are proper to enforce what has been penned by greater masters. This would not only be more easy to themselves, but more edifying to the people. L.
No. 107. TUESDAY, JULY 3.
AEsopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici, Servumque collocarunt oeterna in basi, Patere honoris scirent ut cunctis viam. PHAED. Epilog. 1. 2.
The Athenians erected a large statue to AEsop, and placed him, though a slave, on a lasting pedestal; to show, that the way to honour lies open indifferently to all.
The reception, manner of attendance, undisturbed freedom and quiet, which I meet with here in the country, has confirmed me in the opinion I always had, that the general corruption of manners in servants is owing to the conduct of masters. The aspect of every one in the family carries so much satisfaction, that it appears he knows the happy lot which has befallen him in being a member of it. There is one particular which I have seldom seen but at Sir ROGER'S; it is usual in all other places, that servants flee from the parts of the house through which their master is passing; on the contrary, here they industriously place themselves in his way; and it is on both sides, as it were, understood as a visit, when the servants appear without calling. This proceeds from the humane and equal temper of the man of the house, who also perfectly well knows how to enjoy a great estate, with such oeconomy as ever to be much beforehand. This makes his own mind untroubled, and consequently unapt to vent peevish expressions, or give passionate or inconsistent orders to those about him. Thus, respect and love go together; and a certain cheerfulness in performance of their duty is the particular distinction of the lower part of this family. When a servant is called before his master, he does not come with an expectation to hear himself rated for some trivial fault, threatened to be stripped or used with any other unbecoming language, which mean masters often give to worthy servants; but it is often to know what road he took, that he came so readily back according to order; whether he passed by such a ground, if the old man who rents it is in good health; or whether he gave Sir ROGER'S love to him, or the like.
A man who preserves a respect, founded on his benevolence to his dependents, lives rather like a prince than a master in his family; his orders are received as favours, rather than duties; and the distinction of approaching him is part of the reward for executing what is commanded by him.
There is another circumstance in which my friend excels in his management, which is the manner of rewarding his servants: He has ever been of opinion, that giving his cast clothes to be worn by valets has a very ill effect upon little minds, and creates a silly sense of equality between the parties, in persons affected only with outward things. I have heard him often pleasant on this occasion, and describe a young gentleman abusing his man in that coat, which a month or two before was the most pleasing distinction he was conscious of in himself. He would turn his discourse still more pleasantly upon the ladies' bounties of this kind; and I have heard him say he knew a fine woman, who distributed rewards and punishments in giving becoming or unbecoming dresses to her maids.
But my good friend is above these little instances of good-will, in bestowing only trifles on his servants; a good servant to him is sure of having it in his choice very soon of being no servant at all. As I before observed, he is so good an husband, and knows so thoroughly that the skill of the purse is the cardinal virtue of this life: I say, he knows so well that frugality is the support of generosity, that he can often spare a large fine when a tenement falls, and give that settlement to a good servant, who has a mind to go into the world, or make a stranger pay the fine to that servant, for his more comfortable maintenance, if he stays in his service.
A man of honour and generosity considers it would be miserable to himself to have no will but that of another, though it were of the best person breathing, and for that reason goes on as fast as he is able to put his servants into independent livelihoods. The greatest part of Sir ROGER'S estate is tenanted by persons who have served himself or his ancestors. It was to me extremely pleasant to observe the visitants from several parts to welcome his arrival in the country; and all the difference that I could take notice of between the late servants who came to see him, and those who staid in the family, was, that these latter were looked upon as finer gentlemen and better courtiers.
This manumission, and placing them in a way of livelihood, I look upon as only what is due to a good servant, which encouragement will make his successor be as diligent, as humble, and as ready as he was. There is something wonderful in the narrowness of those minds, which can be pleased, and be barren of bounty to those who please them.
One might, on this occasion, recount the sense that great persons in all ages have had of the merit of their dependents, and the heroick services which men have done their masters in the extremity of their fortunes; and shewn to their undone patrons, that fortune was all the difference between them; but as I design this my speculation only as a gentle admonition to thankless masters, I shall not go out of the occurrences of common life, but assert it as a general observation, that I never saw but in Sir ROGER'S family, and one or two more, good servants treated as they ought to be. Sir ROGER'S kindness extends to their children's children, and this very morning he sent his coachman's grandson to prentice. I shall conclude this paper with an account of a picture in his gallery, where there are many which will deserve my future observation.
At the very upper end of this handsome structure I saw the portraiture of two young men standing in a river, the one naked, the other in a livery. The person supported seemed half dead, but still so much alive as to shew in his face exquisite joy and love towards the other. I thought the fainting figure resembled my friend Sir ROGER; and looking at the butler, who stood by me, for an account of it, he informed me that the person in the livery was a servant of Sir ROGER'S, who stood on the shore while his master was swimming, and observing him taken with some sudden illness, and sink under water, jumped in and saved him. He told me Sir ROGER took off the dress he was in as soon as he came home, and by a great bounty at that time, followed by his favour ever since, had made him master of that pretty seat which we saw at a distance as we came to this house. I remembered indeed Sir ROGER said there lived a very worthy gentleman, to whom he was highly obliged, without mentioning any thing further. Upon my looking a little dissatisfied at some part of the picture, my attendant informed me that it was against Sir ROGER'S will, and at the earnest request of the gentleman himself, that he was drawn in the habit in which he had saved his master. R.
No. 108. WEDNESDAY, JULY 4.
Gratis anhelans, multa agendo nihil agens. PHAEDR. Fab. v. 1. 2.
Out of breath to no purpose, and very busy about nothing.
As I was yesterday morning walking with Sir ROGER before his house, a country-fellow brought him a huge fish, which, he told him, Mr. William Wimble had caught that very morning; and that he presented it, with his service to him, and intended to come and dine with him. At the same time he delivered a letter which my friend read to me as soon as the messenger left him.
'I DESIRE you to accept of a jack, which is the best I have caught this season. I intend to come and stay with you a week, and see how the perch bite in the Black River. I observed with some concern, the last time I saw you upon the bowling-green, that your whip wanted a lash to it; I will bring half a dozen with me that I twisted last week, which I hope will serve you all the time you are in the country. I have not been out of the saddle for six days last past, having been at Eaton with Sir John's eldest son. He takes to his learning hugely. I am, SIR,
'Your humble servant,
This extraordinary letter, and message that accompanied it, made me very curious to know the character and quality of the gentleman who sent them; which I found to be as follows. Will Wimble is younger brother to a baronet, and descended of the ancient family of the Wimbles. He is now between forty and fifty; but, being bred to no business and born to no estate, he generally lives with his elder brother as superintendent of his game. He hunts a pack of dogs better than any man in the country, and is very famous for finding out a hare. He is extremely well-versed in all the little handicrafts of an idle man: He makes a May-fly to a miracle; and furnishes the whole country with angle-rods. As he is a good-natured officious fellow, and very much esteemed upon account of his family, he is a welcome guest at every house, and keeps up a good correspondence among all the gentlemen about him. He carries a tulip-root in his pocket from one to another, or exchanges a puppy between a couple of friends that live perhaps in the opposite sides of the county. Will is a particular favourite of all the young heirs, whom he frequently obliges with a net that he has weaved, or a setting dog that he has made himself. He now and then presents a pair of garters of his own knitting to their mothers or sisters; and raises a great deal of mirth among them, by inquiring as often as he meets them how they wear? These gentleman-like manufactures and obliging little humours make Will the darling of the country.
Sir ROGER was proceeding in the character of him, when we saw him make up to us with two or three hazle-twigs in his hand, that he had cut in Sir ROGER'S woods, as he came through them in his way to the house. I was very much pleased to observe on one side the hearty and sincere welcome with which Sir ROGER received him, and on the other, the secret joy which his guest discovered at sight of the good old Knight. After the first salutes were over, Will desired Sir ROGER to lend him one of his servants to carry a set of shuttlecocks he had with him in a little box to a lady that lived about a mile off, to whom it seems he had promised such a present for above this half year. Sir ROGER'S back was no sooner turned, but honest Will began to tell me of a large cock-pheasant that he had sprung in one of the neighbouring woods, with two or three other adventures of the same nature. Odd and uncommon characters are the game that I looked for, and most delight in; for which reason I was as much pleased with the novelty of the person that talked to me, as he could be for his life with the springing of a pheasant, and therefore listened to him with more than ordinary attention.
In the midst of his discourse the bell rung to dinner, where the gentleman I have been speaking of had the pleasure of seeing the huge jack, he had caught, served up for the first dish in a most sumptuous manner. Upon our sitting down to it he gave us a long account how he had hooked it, played with it, foiled it, and at length drew it out upon the bank, with several other particulars that lasted all the first course. A dish of wild-fowl that came afterwards furnished conversation for the rest of the dinner, which concluded with a late invention of Will's for improving the quail-pipe.
Upon withdrawing into my room after dinner, I was secretly touched with compassion towards the honest gentleman that had dined with us; and could not but consider with a great deal of concern, how so good an heart and such busy hands were wholly employed in trifles; that so much humanity should be so little beneficial to others, and so much industry so little advantageous to himself. The same temper of mind and application to affairs, might have recommended him to the publick esteem, and have raised his fortune in another station of life. What good to his country or himself might not a trader or merchant have done with such useful though ordinary qualifications?
Will Wimble's is the case of many a younger brother of a great family, who had rather see their children starve like gentlemen, than thrive in a trade or profession that is beneath their quality. This humour fills several parts of Europe with pride and beggary. It is the happiness of a trading nation, like ours, that the younger sons, though uncapable of any liberal art or profession, may be placed in such a way of life, as may perhaps enable them to vie with the best of their family: Accordingly we find several citizens that were launched into the world with narrow fortunes, rising by an honest industry to greater estates than those of their elder brothers. It is not improbable but Will was formerly tried at divinity, law, or physick; and that, finding his genius did not lie that way, his parents gave him up at length to his own inventions. But certainly, however improper he might have been for studies of a higher nature, he was perfectly well turned for the occupations of trade and commerce. As I think this is a point which cannot be too much inculcated, I shall desire my reader to compare what I have here written with what I have said in my twenty-first speculation. L.
No. 109. THURSDAY, JULY 5.
Abnormis sapiens. HOR. Sat. ii. 1. 2. v. 3.
Of plain good sense, untutor'd in the schools.
I was this morning walking in the gallery when Sir ROGER entered at the end opposite to me, and advancing towards me, said he was glad to meet me among his relations the DE COVERLEYS, and hoped I liked the conversation of so much good company, who were as silent as myself. I knew he alluded to the pictures, and as he is a gentleman who does not a little value himself upon his ancient descent, I expected he would give me some account of them. We were now arrived at the upper end of the gallery, when the Knight faced towards one of the pictures, and, as we stood before it, he entered into the matter, after his blunt way of saying things, as they occur to his imagination, without regular introduction, or care to preserve the appearance of chain of thought.
'It is,' said he, 'worth while to consider the force of dress; and how the persons of one age differ from those of another, merely by that only. One may observe also, that the general fashion of one age has been followed by one particular set of people in another, and by them preserved from one generation to another. Thus the vast jetting coat and small bonnet, which was the habit in Harry the Seventh's time, is kept on in the yeomen of the guard; not without a good and politick view, because they look a foot taller, and a foot and an half broader: Besides that the cap leaves the face expanded, and consequently more terrible, and fitter to stand at the entrances of palaces.
'This predecessor of ours, you see, is dressed after this manner, and his cheeks would be no larger than mine, were he in a hat as I am. He was the last man that won a prize in the tilt-yard (which is now a common street before Whitehall). You see the broken lance that lies there by his right foot; he shivered that lance of his adversary all to pieces; and bearing himself, look you, Sir, in this manner, at the same time he came within the target of the gentleman who rode against him, and taking him with incredible force before him on the pommel of his saddle, he in that manner rid the tournament over, with an air that shewed he did it rather to perform the rule of the lists, than expose his enemy; however, it appeared he knew how to make use of a victory, and with a gentle trot he marched up to a gallery where their mistress sat (for they were rivals) and let him down with laudable courtesy and pardonable insolence. I don't know but it might be exactly where the coffee-house is now.
'You are to know this my ancestor was not only of a a military genius, but fit also for the arts of peace, for he played on the bass-viol as well as any gentleman at court; you see where his viol hangs by his basket-hilt sword. The action at the tilt-yard you may be sure won the fair lady, who was a maid of honour, and the greatest beauty of her time; here she stands the next picture. You see, Sir, my great-great- great-grandmother has on the new-fashioned petticoat, except that the modern is gathered at the waist: my grandmother appears as if she stood in a large drum whereas the ladies now walk as if they were in a go- cart. For all this lady was bred at court, she became an excellent country-wife, she brought ten children, and when I shew you the library, you shall see in her own hand (allowing for the difference of the language) the best receipt now in England both for an hasty- pudding and a white-pot.
'If you please to fall back a little, because it is necessary to look at the three next pictures at one view: These are three sisters. She on the right hand, who is so beautiful, died a maid; the next to her, still handsomer, had the same fate, against her will; this homely thing in the middle had both their portions added to her own, and was stolen by a neighbouring gentleman, a man of stratagem and resolution, for he poisoned three mastiffs to come at her, and knocked down two deer- stealers in carrying her off. Misfortunes happen in all families: The theft of this romp and so much money, was no great matter to our estate. But the next heir that possessed it was this soft gentleman, whom you see there: Observe the small buttons, the little boots, the laces, the slashes about his clothes, and above all the posture he is drawn in, (which to be sure was his own chusing:) You see he sits with one hand on a desk writing and looking as it were another way, like an easy writer, or a sonneteer: He was one of those that had too much wit to know how to live in the world; he was a man of no justice, but great good manners; he ruined every body that had anything to do with him, but never said a rude thing in his life; the most indolent person in the world, he would sign a deed that passed away half his estate with his gloves on, but would not put on his hat before a lady if it were to save his country. He is said to be the first that made love by squeezing the hand. He left the estate with ten thousand pounds debt upon it, but however by all hands I have been informed that he was every way the finest gentleman in the world. That debt lay heavy on our house for one generation, but it was retrieved by a gift from that honest man you see there, a citizen of our name, but nothing at all akin to us. I know Sir ANDREW FREEPORT has said behind my back, that this man was descended from one of the ten children of the maid of honour I shewed you above; but it was never made out. We winked at the thing indeed, because money was wanting at that time.'
Here I saw my friend a little embarrassed, and turned my face to the next portraiture.
Sir ROGER went on with his account of the gallery in the following manner. 'This man' (pointing to him I looked at) 'I take to be the honour of our house, Sir HUMPHREY DE COVERLEY; he was in his dealings as punctual as a tradesman, and as generous as a gentleman. He would have thought himself as much undone by breaking his word, as if it were to be followed by bankruptcy. He served his country as knight of this shire to his dying day. He found it no easy matter to maintain an integrity in his words and actions, even in things that regarded the offices which were incumbent upon him, in the care of his own affairs and relations of life, and therefore dreaded (though he had great talents) to go into employments of state, where he must be exposed to the snares of ambition. Innocence of life and great ability were the distinguishing parts of his character; the latter, he had often observed, had led to the destruction of the former, and used frequently to lament that great and good had not the same signification. He was an excellent husbandman, but had resolved not to exceed such a degree of wealth; all above it he bestowed in secret bounties many years after the sum he aimed at for his own use was attained. Yet he did not slacken his industry, but to a decent old age spent the life and fortune which was superfluous to himself, in the service of his friends and neighbours.'
Here we were called to dinner, and Sir ROGER ended the discourse of this gentleman, by telling me, as we followed the servant, that this his ancestor was a brave man, and narrowly escaped being killed in the civil wars: 'For, said he, he was sent out of the field upon a private message, the day before the battle of Worcester.' The whim of narrowly escaping by having been within a day of danger, with other matters above-mentioned, mixed with good sense, left me at a loss whether I was more delighted with my friend's wisdom or simplicity. R.
No. 110. FRIDAY, JULY 6.
Horror ubique animos, simul ipsa silentia terrent. VIRG. AEn. ii. v. 755.
All things are full of horror and affright, And dreadful ev'n the silence of the night. DRYDEN.
At a little distance from Sir ROGER'S house, among the ruins of an old abbey, there is a long walk of aged elms; which are shot up so very high, that when one passes under them, the rooks and crows that rest upon the tops of them seem to be cawing in another region. I am very much delighted with this sort of noise, which I consider as a kind of natural prayer to that Being who supplies the wants of his whole creation, and who, in the beautiful language of the Psalms>, feedeth the young ravens that call upon him. I like this retirement the better, because of an ill report it lies under of being haunted; for which reason (as I have been told in the family) no living creature ever walks in it besides the chaplain. My good friend the butler desired me with a very grave face not to venture myself in it after sun-set, for that one of the footmen had been almost frighted out of his wits by a spirit that appeared to him in the shape of a black horse without an head; to which he added, that about a month ago one of the maids coming home late that way with a pail of milk upon her head, heard such a rustling among the bushes that she let it fall.
I was taking a walk in this place last night between the hours of nine and ten, and could not but fancy it one of the most proper scenes in the world for a ghost to appear in. The ruins of the abbey are scattered up and down on every side, and half-covered with ivy and elder bushes, the harbours of several solitary birds, which seldom make their appearance till the dusk of the evening. The place was formerly a church-yard, and has still several marks in it of graves and burying-places. There is such an echo among the old ruins and vaults, that if you stamp but a little louder than ordinary, you hear the sound repeated. At the same time the walk of elms, with the croaking of the ravens which from time to time are heard from the tops of them, looks exceeding solemn and venerable. These objects naturally raise seriousness and attention; and when night heightens the awfulness of the place, and pours out her supernumerary horrors upon every thing in it, I do not at all wonder that weak minds fill it with spectres and apparitions.
Mr. Locke, in his chapter of the Association of Ideas, has very curious remarks to show how, by the prejudice of education, one idea often introduces into the mind a whole set that bear no resemblance to one another in the nature of things. Among several examples of this kind, he produces the following instance. The ideas of goblins and sprights have really no more to do with darkness than light: Yet let but a foolish maid inculcate these often on the mind of a child, and raise them there together, possibly he shall never be able to separate them again so long as he lives; but darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other.
As I was walking in this solitude, where the dusk of the evening conspired with so many other occasions of terror, I observed a cow grazing not far from me, which an imagination that was apt to startle might easily have construed into a black horse without an head: And I dare say the poor footman lost his wits upon some such trivial occasion.
My friend Sir ROGER has often told me with a good deal of mirth, that at his first coming to his estate he found three parts of his house altogether useless; that the best room in it had the reputation of being haunted, and by that means was locked up; that noises had been heard in his long gallery, so that he could not get a servant to enter it after eight o'clock at night; that the door of one of the chambers was nailed up, because there went a story in the family that a butler had formerly hanged himself in it; and that his mother, who lived to a great age, had shut up half the rooms in the house, in which either her husband, a son, or daughter had died. The Knight seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, upon the death of his mother ordered all the apartments to be flung open, and exorcised by his chaplain, who lay in every room one after another, and by that means dissipated the fears which had so long reigned in the family.
I should not have been thus particular upon these ridiculous horrors, did not I find them so very much prevail in all parts of the country. At the same time I think a person who is thus terrified with the imagination of ghosts and spectres, much more reasonable than one who, contrary to the reports of all historians sacred and profane, ancient and modern, and to the traditions of all nations, thinks the appearance of spirits fabulous and groundless: Could not I give myself up to this general testimony of mankind, I should to the relations of particular persons who are now living, and whom I cannot distrust in other matters of fact. I might here add, that not only the historians, to whom we may join the poets, but likewise the philosophers of antiquity have favoured this opinion. Lucretius himself, though by the course of his philosophy he was obliged to maintain that the soul did not exist separate from the body, makes no doubt of the reality of apparitions, and that men have often appeared after their death. This I think very remarkable. He was so pressed with the matter of fact which he could not have the confidence to deny, that he was forced to account for it by one of the most absurd unphilosophical notions that was ever started. He tells us, That the surfaces of all bodies are perpetually flying off from their respective bodies, one after another; and that these surfaces or thin cases, that included each other whilst they were joined in the body like the coats of an onion, are sometimes seen entire when they are separated from it; by which means we often behold the shapes and shadows of persons who are either dead or absent.
I shall dismiss this paper with a story out of Josephus, not so much for the sake of the story itself as for the moral reflexions with which the author concludes it, and which I shall here set down in his own words. 'Glaphyra the daughter of King Archelaus, after the death of her two first husbands (being married to a third, who was brother to her first husband, and so passionately in love with her that he turned off his former wife to make room for this marriage) had a very odd kind of dream. She fancied that she saw her first husband coming towards her, and that she embraced him with great tenderness; when in the midst of the pleasure which she expressed at the sight of him, he reproached her after the following manner: Glaphyra, says he, thou hast made good the old saying, That women are not to be trusted. Was not I the husband of thy virginity? Have I not children by thee? How couldst thou forget our loves so far as to enter into a second marriage, and after that into a third, nay to take for thy husband a man who has so shamefully crept into the bed of his brother? However, for the sake of our passed loves, I shall free thee from thy present reproach, and make thee mine for ever. Glaphyra told this dream to several women of her acquaintance, and died soon after. I thought this story might not be impertinent in this place, wherein I speak of those kings: Besides that the example deserves to be taken notice of, as it contains a most certain proof of the immortality of the soul, and of Divine Providence. If any man thinks these facts incredible, let him enjoy his own opinion to himself, but let him not endeavour to disturb the belief of others, who by instances of this nature are excited to the study of virtue.'
No. 112. MONDAY, JULY 9.
Athanatous men prota theous, nomo hos diakeitai, tima. PYTHAG.
First, in obedience to thy country's rites, Worship the immortal Gods.
I am always very well pleased with a country Sunday, and think, if keeping holy the seventh day were only a human institution, it would be the best method that could have been thought of for the polishing and civilizing of mankind. It is certain the country people would soon degenerate into a kind of savages and barbarians, were there not such frequent returns of a stated time, in which the whole village meet together with their best faces, and in their cleanliest habits, to converse with one another upon indifferent subjects, hear their duties explained to them, and join together in adoration of the Supreme Being. Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week, not only as it refreshes in their minds the notions of religion, but as it puts both the sexes upon appearing in their most agreeable forms, and exerting all such qualities as are apt to give them a figure in the eye of the village. A country fellow distinguishes himself as much in the Church-yard, as a citizen does upon the Change, the whole parish-politicks being generally discussed in that place, either after sermon or before the bell rings.
My friend Sir ROGER, being a good churchman, has beautified the inside of his church with several texts of his own chusing: He has likewise given a handsome pulpit-cloth, and railed in the communion-table at his own expence. He has often told me, that at his coming to his estate he found his parishioners very irregular; and that, in order to make them kneel and join in the responses, he gave every one of them a hassock and a common-prayer-book; and at the same time employed an itinerant singing-master, who goes about the country for that purpose, to instruct them rightly in the tunes of the psalms; upon which they now very much value themselves, and indeed out-do most of the country churches that I have ever heard.
As Sir ROGER is landlord to the whole congregation, he keeps them in very good order, and will suffer no body to sleep in it besides himself; for, if by chance he has been surprised into a short nap at sermon, upon recovering out of it he stands up and looks about him, and if he sees any body else nodding, either wakes them himself, or sends his servants to them. Several other of the old Knight's particularities break out upon these occasions:
Sometimes he will be lengthening out a verse in the singing psalms, half a minute after the rest of the congregation have done with it; sometimes, when he is pleased with the matter of his devotion, he pronounces Amen three or four times to the same prayer; and sometimes stands up when every body else is upon their knees, to count the congregation, or see if any of his tenants are missing.
I was yesterday very much surprised to hear my old friend, in the midst of the service, calling out to one John Matthews to mind what he was about, and not disturb the congregation. This John Matthews it seems is remarkable for being an idle fellow, and at that time was kicking his heels for his diversion. This authority of the Knight, though exerted in that odd manner which accompanies him in all circumstances of life, has a very good effect upon the parish, who are not polite enough to see any thing ridiculous in his behaviour; besides that, the general good sense and worthiness of his character makes his friends observe these little singularities as foils, that rather set off than blemish his good qualities.
As soon as the sermon is finished, no body presumes to stir till Sir ROGER is gone out of the church. The Knight walks down from his seat in the chancel between a double row of his tenants, that stand bowing to him on each side; and every now and then inquires how such an one's wife, or mother, or son, or father do, whom he does not see at church; which is understood as a secret reprimand to the person that is absent.
The chaplain has often told me, that upon a catechising-day, when Sir ROGER has been pleased with a boy that answers well, he has ordered a bible to be given him next day for his encouragement; and sometimes accompanies it with a flitch of bacon to his mother. Sir ROGER has likewise added five pounds a year to the clerk's place; and that he may encourage the young fellows to make themselves perfect in the church- service, has promised upon the death of the present incumbent, who is very old, to bestow it according to merit.