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of broken hints and irregular sketches, it is often expected that every sheet should be a kind of treatise, and make out in thought what it wants in bulk : that a point of humour should be worked up in all its parts; and a subject touched upon in its most essential articles, without the repetitions, tautologies, and enlargements, that are indulged to longer labours. The ordinary writers of morality prescribe to their readers after the Galenic way; their medicines are made up in large quantities. An essay
writer must practise in the chymical method, and give the 10 virtue of a full draught in a few drops. Were all books reduced
thus to their quintessence, mạny a bulky author would make his appearance in a penny-paper: there would be scarce such a thing in nature as a folio: the works of an age would be contained on a few shelves; not to mention millions of volumes that would be utterly annihilated.
I cannot think that the difficulty of furnishing out separate papers of this nature, has hindered authors from communicating their thoughts to the world after such a manner: though I must
confess I am amazed that the press should be only made use of 20 in this way by news-writers, and the zealots of parties; as if it
were not more advantageous to mankind, to be instructed in wisdom and virtue, than in politics; and to be made good fathers, husbands, and sons, than counsellors and statesmen. Had the philosophers and great men of antiquity, who took so much pains in order to instruct mankind, and leave the world wiser and better than they found it,-had they, I say, been possessed of the art of printing, there is no question but they would have made such an advantage of it, in dealing out their lectures to the
public. Our common prints would be of great use were they thus 30 calculated to diffuse good sense through the bulk of a people, to
clear up their understandings, animate their minds with virtue, dissipate the sorrows of a heavy heart, or unbend the mind from its more severe employments, with innocent amusements. When knowledge, instead of being bound up in books, and kept in libraries and retirements, is thus obtruded upon the public; when it is canvassed in every assembly, and exposed upon every table; I cannot forbear reflecting upon that passage in the Proverbs, “Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets;
she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of 40 the gates. In the city she uttereth her words, saying, How
long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity ? and the scorners delight in their scorning ? and fools hate knowledge?'
The many letters which come to me from persons of the best sense in both sexes, (for I may pronounce their characters from their way of writing) do not a little encourage me in the prosecution of this my undertaking: besides that, my bookseller tells me, the demand for these my papers increases daily. It is at his instance that I shall continue my rural speculations to the end of
this month; several having made up separate sets of them, as they 10 have done before of those relating to wit, to operas, to points of morality, or subjects of humour.
I am not at all mortified, when sometimes I see my works thrown aside by men of no taste nor learning. There is a kind of heaviness and ignorance that hangs upon the minds of ordinary men, which is too thick for knowledge to break through. Their souls are not to be enlightened. -Nox atra cava circumvolat umbra.
VIRG. Æn. ii. 360. Dark night surrounds them with her hollow shade. To these I must apply the fable of the mole, that after having consulted many oculists for the bettering of his sight, was at last
provided with a good pair of spectacles; but upon his endeavour20 ing to make use of them, his mother told him very prudently,
“That spectacles, though they might help the eye of a man, could be of no use to a mole.' It is not therefore for the benefit of moles that I publish these my daily essays.
But besides such as are moles through ignorance, there are others who are moles through envy. As it is said in the Latin proverb, that one man is a wolf to another;' so, generally speaking, one author is a mole to another author. It is impossible for them to discover beauties in one another's works,
they have eyes only for spots and blemishes: they can indeed see 30 the light, as it is said of the animals which are their name-sakes,
but the idea of it is painful to them; they immediately shut their eyes upon it, and withdraw themselves into a wilful obscurity. I have already caught two or three of these dark undermining vermin, and intend to make a string of them, in order to hang them up in one of my papers, as an example to such voluntary moles.-C.
The Spectator serves up the grave and gay by turns to his readers: represses everything of an immoral tendency: letter on whistling and yawning.
Centuriæ seniorum agitant expertia frugis:
Hor. Ars Poet., 341.
I should lose the other. I make it therefore my endeavour to 10 find out entertainments of both kinds, and by that means perhaps
consult the good of both, more than I should do, did I always write to the particular taste of either. As they neither of them know what I proceed upon, the sprightly reader, who takes up my paper in order to be diverted, very often finds himself engaged unawares in a serious and profitable course of thinking; as on the contrary, the thoughtful man, who perhaps may hope to find something solid, and full of deep reflexion, is very often insensibly betrayed into a fit of mirth. In a word, the reader sits down to
my entertainment without knowing his bill of fare, and has 20 therefore at least the pleasure of hoping there may be a dish to
I must confess, were I left to myself, I should rather aim at instructing than diverting: but if we will be useful to the world, we must take it as we find it. Authors of professed severity discourage the looser part of mankind from having anything to do with their writings. A man must have virtue in him, before
he will enter upon the reading of a Seneca or an Epictetusn. The very title of a moral treatise has something in it austere and shocking to the careless and inconsiderate.
For this reason several unthinking persons fall in my way, who would give no attention to lectures delivered with a religious seriousness or a philosophic gravity.
They are ensnared into sentiments of wisdom and virtue when they do not think of it; and if by that means they arrive only at such a degree of con
sideration as may dispose them to listen to more studied and 10 elaborate discourses, I shall not think my speculations useless. I
might likewise observe, that the gloominess in which sometimes the minds of the best men are involved, very often stands in need of such little incitements to mirth and laughter, as are apt to disperse melancholy, and put our faculties in good humour. To which some will add, that the British climate, more than any other, makes entertainments of this nature in a manner necessary.
If what I have here said does not recommend, it will at least excuse, the variety of my speculations. I would not willingly 20 laugh but in order to instruct, or if I sometimes fail in this point, when
mirth ceases to be instructive, it shall never cease to be innocent. A scrupulous conduct in this particular, has, perhaps, more merit in it than the generality of readers imagine: did they know how many thoughts occur in a point of humour, which a discreet author in modesty suppresses; how many strokes of raillery present themselves, which could not fail to please the ordinary taste of mankind, but are stifled in their birth by reason of some remote tendency which they carry in them to corrupt
the minds of those who read them ; did they know how many 30 glances of ill-nature are industriously avoided for fear of doing
injury to the reputation of another, they would be apt to ihink kindly of those writers who endeavour to make themselves diverting without being immoral.
One may apply to these authors that passage in Waller:
Poets lose half the praise they would have got,
Were it but known what they discreetly blot ". As nothing is more easy than to be a wit, with all the abovementioned liberties, it requires some genius and invention to appear
such without them.
What I have here said is not only in regard to the public, but with an eye to my particular correspondent, who has sent me the following letter, which I have castrated in some places upon these considerations.
'SIR, 'Having lately seen your discourse upon a match of grinning, I cannot forbear giving you an account of a whistling match, which, with many others, I was entertained with about three
years since at the Bath. The prize was a guinea, to be conferred 10 upon the ablest whistler, that is, on him who could whistle
clearest, and go through his tune without laughing, to which at the same time he was provoked by the antic postures of a MerryAndrew, who was to stand upon the stage and play his tricks in the eye of the performer. There were three competitors for the ring. The first was a ploughman of a very promising aspect; his features were steady, and his muscles composed in so inflexible a stupidity, that upon his first appearance every one gave the guinea for lost. The pickle-herring however found the way to shake him; for upon his whistling a country jig, this unlucky wag danced to it with such variety of distortions and grimaces, that the countryman could not forbear smiling upon him, and by that means spoiled his whistle, and lost the prize.
The next that mounted the stage was an under-citizen of the Bath, a person remarkable among the inferior people of that place for his great wisdom and his broad band. He contracted his mouth with much gravity, and, that he might dispose his mind to be more serious than ordinary, began the tune of The children
in the wood, and went through part of it with good success; 30 when on a sudden the wit at his elbow, who had appeared
wonderfully grave and attentive for some time, gave him a touch upon the left shoulder, and stared him in the face with so bewitching a grin, that the whistler relaxed his fibres into a kind of simper, and at length burst out into an open laugh. The third who entered the lists was a footman, who in defiance of the Merry-Andrew and all his arts, whistled a Scotch tune and an Italian sonata, with so settled a countenance, that he bore away the prize, to the great admiration of some hundreds of persons, who, as well as myself, were present at this trial of skill. Now,