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which they never intend to take; I look upon it to be none of the least, that they are incapable of keeping a secret which is so very pleasing to them. A girl longs to tell her confident, that she hopes to be married in a little time, and, in order to talk of the pretty fellow that dwells so much in her thoughts, asks her very gravely, what she would advise her to in a case of so much difficulty. Why else should Melissa, who had not a thousand pounds in the world, go into every quarter of the town to ask her acquaintance whether they would advise her to take Tom Townly, that made his addresses to her with an estate of five thousand a year? 'Tis very pleasant, on this occasion, to hear the lady propose her doubts, and to see the pains she is at to get over them,
I must not here omit a practice that is in use among the vainer part of our own sex, who will often ask a friend's advice, in relation to a fortune whom they are never likely to come at. Will Honeycomb, who is now on the verge of threescore, took me aside not long since, and asked me in his most serious look, whether I would advise him to marry my Lady Betty Single, who, by the way, is one of the greatest fortunes about town. I stared him full in the face upon so strange a question; upon which he immediately gave me an inventory of her jewels and estate, adding, that he was resolved to do nothing in a matter of such consequence without my approbation. Finding he would have an answer, I told him, if he could get the lady's consent, he had mine. This is about the tenth match which, to my knowledge, Will has consulted his friends upon, without ever opening his mind to the party herself.
I have been engaged in this subject by the following letter, which comes to me from some notable young female scribe, who, by the contents of it, seems to have carried matters so far, that she is ripe for asking advice; but as I would not lose her good
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will, nos forfeit the reputation which I have with her for wisdom, I shall only communicate the letter to the public, without returning any answer to it.
- Mr. SPECTATOR, "Now, sir, the thing is this: Mr. Shapely is the prettiest gentleman about town. He is very tall, but not too tall neither. He dances like an angel. His mouth is made I do not know how, but it is the prettiest that I ever saw in my life. He is always laughing, for he has an infinite deal of wit. If you did but see how he rolls his stockings ! he has a chousand pretty fancies, and I am sure, if you saw him, you would like him. He is a very good scholar, and can talk Latin as fast as English. I wish you could but see him dance. Now you must understand poor Mr. Shapely has no estate ; but how can he help that, you know ? and yet my friends are so unreasonable as to be always teazing me about him, because he has no estate: but I am sure he has that that is better than an estate; for he is a good-natured, ingenious, modest, civil, tall, well-bred, handsome man; and I am obliged to him for his civilities ever since I saw him. I forgot to tell you that he has black eyes, and looks upon me now and then, as if he had tears in them. And yet my friends are so unreasonable, that they would have me be uncivil to him. I have a good portion, which they cannot hinder me of, and I shall be fourteen on the 29th day of August next, and am therefore willing to settle in the world as soon as I can, and so is Mr. Shapely. But every body I advise with here is poor Mr. Shapely's enemy. I desire, therefore, you will give me your advice, for I know you are a wise man; and if you advise me well, I am resolved to follow it. I heartily wish you could see him dance,
Sir, your most humble servant, B. D.": He loves your Spectators mightily."
No. 476. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5.
HOR. Ars Poet. 41.
Method gives light.
AMONG my daily papers which I bestow on the public, there are some which are written with regularity and method, and others that run out into the wildness of those compositions which go by the name of Essays. As for the first, I have the whole scheme of the discourse in my mind before I set pen to paper. In the other kind of writing, it is sufficient that I have several thoughts on a subject, without troubling myself to range them in such order, that they may seem to grow out of one another, and be disposed under the proper heads. Seneca and Montaigne are patterns for writing in this last kind, as Tully and Aristotle excel in the other. When I read an author of genius who writes without method, I fancy myself in a wood that abounds with a great many noble objects, rising among one another in the greatest confusion and disorder. When I read a methodical discourse, I am in a regular plantation, and can place myself in its several centers, so as to take a view of all the lines and walks that are struck from whem. You may ramble in the one a whole day together, and every moment discover something or other that is new to you; but when you have done, you will find but a confused imperfect notion of the place: in the other, your eye commands the whole prospect, and gives you such an idea of it, as is not easily worn out of the memory.
Irregularity and want of method are only supportable in men of great learning or genius, who are often too full to be exact, and therefore chuse to throw down their pearls in heaps before the reader, rather than be at the pains of stringing them.
Method is of advantage to a work, both in respect to the writer and the reader. In regard to the first, it is a great help to his invention. When a man has planned his discourse, he finds a great many thoughts rising out of every head, that do not offer themselves upon the general survey of a subject. His thoughts are at the same time more intelligible, and better discover their drift and meaning, when they are placed in their proper lights, and follow one another in a regular series, than when they are thrown together without order and connection. There is always an obscurity in confusion, and the same sentence that would have enlightened the reader in one part of a discourse, perplexes him in another. For the same reason, like wise, every thought in a methodical discourse shews itself in its greatest beauty, as the several figures in a piece of painting receive new grace from their disposition in the picture. The advantages of a reader from a methodical discourse, are correspondent with those of the writer. He comprehends every thing easily, takes it in with pleasure, and retains it long.
Method is not less requisite in ordinary conversation than in writing, provided a man would talk to make himself understood. I, who hear a thousand coffee-house debates every day, am very sensible of this want of method in the thoughts of my honest countrymen. There is not one dispute in ten which is managed in those schools of politics, where, after the three first sentences, the question is not entirely lost. Our disputants put me in mind of the skuttle-fish, that when he is unable to extri. cate himself, blackens all the water about him till he becomes invisible. The man who does not know how to methodize his thoughts, has always, to borrow a phrase from the Dispensary,
a barren superfluity of words; the fruit is lost amidst the exu. berance of leaves.
Tom Puzzle is one of the most eminent immethodical dispu
tants of any that has fallen under my observation. Tom has read enough to make him very impertinent; his knowledge is sufficient to raise doubts, but not to clear them. It is pity that hc has so much learning, or that he has not a great deal more. With these qualifications Tom sets up for a Free-thinker, finds a great many things to blame in the constitution of his country, and gives shrewd intimations that he does not believe another world. In short, Puzzle is an atheist as much as his parts will give him leave. He has got about half a dozen common-place topics, into which he never fails to turn the conversation, what. ever was the occasion of it: though the matter in debate be about Doway or Denain, it is ten to one but half his discourse runs upon the unreasonableness of bigotry and priest-craft. This makes Mr. Puzzle the admiration of all those who have less sense than himself, and the contempt of all those who have more. There is none in town whom Tom dreads so much as my friend Will Dry. Will, who is acquainted with Tom's Logic, when he finds him running off the question, cuts him short with a What then ? we allow all this to be true, but what is it to our present purpose ?' I have known Tom eloquent half an hour together, and triumphing, as he thought, in the superiority of argument, when he has been non-plused on a sudden by Mr. Dry's desiring him to tell the company what it was that he endeavoured to prove. In short, Dry is a man of a clear methodical head, but few words, and gains the same advantages over Puzzle, that a small body of regular troops would gain over a numberless undisciplined militia.