Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

could not exempt him from the grave. Nay, this occasion in me, who look upon the distinctions amongst men to be merely scenical, raised reflections upon the emptiness of all human perfection and greatness in general; and I could not but regret, that the sacred heads which lie buried in the neighbourhood of this little portion of earth in which my poor old friend is deposited, are returned to dust as well as he, and that there is no difference in the grave between the imaginary and the real monarch. This made me say of human life itself with Macbeth:

To-morrow, to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in a stealing pace from day to day,
To the last moment of recorded time!
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
To the eternal night! Out, out, short candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

The mention I have here made of Mr. Betterton, for whom I had, as long as I have known anything, a very great esteem and gratitude for the pleasure he gave me, can do him no good; but it may possibly be of service to the unhappy woman he has left behind him, to have it known, that this great tragedian was never in a scene half so moving, as the circumstances of his affairs created at his departure. His wife after the cohabitation of forty years in the strictest amity, has long pined away with a sense of his decay, as well in his person as his little fortune; and, in proportion to that, she has herself decayed both in her health and reason. Her husband's death, added to her age and infirmities, would certainly have determined1 her life, but that the greatness of her distress has been her relief, by a present deprivation of her senses. This absence of reason is her best defence against sorrow, poverty, and sickness. I dwell upon this account so distinctly, in obedience to a certain great spirit, who hides her name, and has by letter applied to me to recommend to her some object of compassion, from whom she may be concealed.

This, I think, is a proper occasion for exerting such heroic generosity; and as there is an ingenuous shame in those who have known better fortune to be reduced to receive obligations, as well as a becoming pain in the truly

1 ended

generous to receive thanks; in this case both these delicacies are preserved; for the person obliged is as incapable of knowing her benefactress, as her benefactress is unwilling to be known by her.

THE TATLER

NO. 264. DECEMBER 16, 1710

Favete linguis. — HOR. Od. iii. 2. 2. Boccalini, in his "Parnassus," indicts a laconic writer for speaking that in three words which he might have said in two, and sentences him for his punishment to read over all the words of Guicciardini.3 This Guicciardini is so very prolix and circumstantial in his writings, that I remember our countryman, Doctor Donne, speaking of that majestic and concise manner in which Moses has described the creation of the world, adds, "that if such an author as Guicciardini were to have written on such a subject, the world itself would not have been able to have contained the books that gave the history of its creation."

I look upon a tedious talker, or what is generally known by the name of a story-teller, to be much more insufferable than even a prolix writer. An author may be tossed out of your hand, and thrown aside when he grows dull and tiresome; but such liberties are so far from being allowed towards your orators in common conversation, that I have known a challenge sent a person for going out of the room abruptly, and leaving a man of honour in the midst of a dissertation. This evil is at present so very common and epidemical, that there is scarce a coffee-house in town that has not some speakers belonging to it, who utter their political essays, and draw parallels out of Baker's "Chronicle" to almost every part of her majesty's reign. It was said of two ancient authors, who had very different beauties in their style, "that if you took a word from one of them, you only spoiled his eloquence; but if you took a word from the other, you spoiled his sense." I have often applied the first part of this criticism to several of these coffee-house speakers whom I

[blocks in formation]

THE TATLER

have at present in my thoughts, though the character that is given to the last of those authors, is what I would recommend to the imitation of my loving countrymen. But it is not only public places of resort, but private clubs and conversations over a bottle, that are infested with this loquacious kind of animal, especially with that species which I comprehend under the name of a story-teller. I would earnestly desire these gentlemen to consider, that no point of wit or mirth at the end of a story can atone for the half hour that has been lost before they come at it. I would likewise lay it home to their serious consideration, whether they think that every man in the company has not a right to speak as well as themselves? and whether they do not think they are invading another man's property, when they engross the time which should be divided equally among the company to their own private use?

What makes this evil the much greater in conversation is, that these humdrum companions seldom endeavour to wind up their narrations into a point of mirth or instruction, which might make some amends for the tediousness of them; but think they have a right to tell anything that has happened within their memory. They look upon matter of fact to be a sufficient foundation for a story, and give us a long account of things, not because they are entertaining or surprising, but because they are true.

My ingenious kinsman, Mr. Humphry
Wagstaff, used to say, "the life of man is too
short for a story-teller."

Methusalem might be half an hour in tell-
ing what o'clock it was: but as for us post-
diluvians, we ought to do everything in haste;
and in our speeches, as well as actions, remem-
ber that our time is short. A man that talks
for a quarter of an hour together in company,
if I meet him frequently, takes up a great part
A quarter of an hour may be
of my span.
reckoned the eight-and-fortieth part of a day,
a day the three hundred and sixtieth part of a
year, and a year the threescore and tenth part
of life. By this moral arithmetic, supposing a
man to be in the talking world one third part
of the day, whoever gives another a quarter of
an hour's hearing, makes him a sacrifice of
more than the four hundred thousandth part
of his conversable life.

I would establish but one great general rule
to be observed in all conversation, which is

This

this, "that men should not talk to please
themselves, but those that hear them."
would make them consider, whether what
they speak be worth hearing; whether there
be either wit or sense in what they are about
to say; and, whether it be adapted to the
time when, the place where, and the person to
whom, it is spoken.

For the utter extirpation of these orators
and story-tellers, which I look upon as very
great pests of society, I have invented a watch
which divides the minute into twelve parts,
after the same manner that the ordinary
watches are divided into hours: and will en-
deavour to get a patent,' which shall oblige
every club or company to provide themselves
with one of these watches, that shall lie upon
the table as an hour-glass is often placed near
the pulpit, to measure out the length of a
discourse.

I shall be willing to allow a man one round of my watch, that is, a whole minute, to speak in; but if he exceeds that time, it shall be lawful for any of the company to look upon the watch, or to call him down to order.

Provided, however, that if any one can make it appear he is turned of threescore, he may take two, or, if he pleases, three rounds of the watch without giving offence. Provided, also, that this rule be not construed to extend to the fair sex, who shall still be at liberty to talk by the ordinary watch that is I would likewise earnestly recomnow in use. mend this little automaton, which may be easily carried in the pocket without any incumbrance, to all such as are troubled with this infirmity of speech, that upon pulling out their watches, they may have frequent occasion to consider what they are doing, and by that means cut the thread of the story short, and hurry to a conclusion. I shall only add, that this watch, with a paper of directions how to use it, is sold at Charles Lillie's.

I am afraid a Tatler will be thought a very improper paper to censure this humour of being talkative; but I would have my readers know that there is a great difference between tattle and loquacity, as I shall show at large in a following lucubration; it being my design to upon that subject, in throw away a candle 2 order to explain the whole art of tattling in all its branches and subdivisions.

1

essay

a royal order 2 i.e. burn it in composing an

THE SPECTATOR

NO. II. MARCH 13, 1711
Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas.1
- Juv. Sat. ii. 63.

Arietta is visited by all persons of both sexes, who have any pretence to wit and gallantry. She is in that time of life which is neither affected with the follies of youth, nor infirmities of age; and her conversation is so mixed with gaiety and prudence, that she is agreeable both to the young and the old. Her behaviour is very frank, without being in the least blameable: and as she is out of the track of any amorous or ambitious pursuits of her own, her visitants entertain her with accounts of themselves very freely, whether they concern their passions or their interests. I made her a visit this afternoon, having been formerly introduced to the honour of her acquaintance by my friend Will Honeycomb, who has prevailed upon her to admit me sometimes into her assembly, as a civil inoffensive man. I found her accompanied with one person only, a common-place talker, who, upon my entrance, arose, and after a very slight civility sat down again; then, turning to Arietta, pursued his discourse, which I found was upon the old topic of constancy in love. He went on with great facility in repeating what he talks every day of his life; and with the ornaments of insignificant laughs and gestures, enforced his arguments by quotations out of plays and songs, which allude to the perjuries of the fair, and the general levity of women. Methought he strove to shine more than ordinarily in his talkative way, that he might insult my silence, and distinguish himself before a woman of Arietta's taste, and understanding. She had often an inclination to interrupt him, but could find no opportunity, till the larum ceased of itself, which it did not till he had repeated and murdered the celebrated story of the Ephesian Matron.2

Arietta seemed to regard this piece of raillery as an outrage done to her sex; as indeed I have always observed that women, whether out of a nicer regard to their honour, or what other reason I cannot tell, are more

1 Censure spares the crows and attacks the doves. 2 A story of an easily consoled widow, told by Petronius, a Latin writer of the first century.

sensibly touched with those general aspersions which are cast upon their sex, than men are by what is said of theirs.

When she had a little recovered herself from the serious anger she was in, she replied in the following manner:

"Sir, when I consider how perfectly new all you have said on this subject is, and that the story you have given us is not quite two thousand years old, I cannot but think it a piece of presumption to dispute it with you; but your quotations put me in mind of the fable of the lion and the man. The man walking with that noble animal, showed him, in the ostentation of human superiority, a sign of a man killing a lion. Upon which, the lion said very justly, 'We lions are none of us painters, else we could show a hundred men killed by lions for one lion killed by a man.' You men are writers, and can represent us women as unbecoming as you please in your works, while we are unable to return the injury. You have twice or thrice observed in your discourse, that hypocrisy is the very foundation of our education; and that an ability to dissemble our affections is a professed part of our breeding. These and such other reflections are sprinkled up and down the writings of all ages, by authors, who leave behind them memorials of their resentment against the scorn of particular women, in invectives against the whole sex. Such a writer, I doubt not, was the celebrated Petronius, who invented the pleasant aggravations of the frailty of the Ephesian lady; but when we consider this question between the sexes, which has been either a point of dispute or raillery ever since there were men and women, let us take facts from plain people, and from such as have not either ambition or capacity to embellish their narrations with any beauties of imagination. I was the other day amusing myself with Ligon's Account of Barbadoes; and, in answer to your wellwrought tale, I will give you, (as it dwells upon my memory) out of that honest traveller, in his fifty-fifth page, the history of Inkle and Yarico.

"Mr. Thomas Inkle, of London, aged twenty years, embarked in the Downs,2 on the good ship called the Achilles, bound for the West Indies, on the 16th of June, 1647, in

1 pub. 1657 2 a roadstead for ships off the east coast of Kent

THE SPECTATOR

order to improve his fortune by trade and merchandise. Our adventurer was the third son of an eminent citizen, who had taken particular care to instil into his mind an early love of gain, by making him a perfect master of numbers, and consequently giving him a quick view of loss and advantage, and preventing the natural impulses of his passions, by prepossession towards his interests. With a mind thus turned, young Inkle had a person every way agreeable, a ruddy vigour in his countenance, strength in his limbs, with ringlets of fair hair loosely flowing on his shoulders. It happened, in the course of the voyage, that the Achilles, in some distress, put into a creek on the main 2 of America, in search of provisions. The youth, who is the hero of my story, among others went on shore on this occasion.

After the

From their first landing they were observed by a party of Indians, who hid themselves in the woods for that purpose. The English unadvisedly marched a great distance from the shore into the country, and were intercepted by the natives, who slew the greatest Upon number of them. Our adventurer escaped among others, by flying into a forest. his coming into a remote and pathless part of the wood, he threw himself, tired and breathless, on a little hillock, when an Indian maid rushed from a thicket behind him. first surprise they appeared mutually agreeable to each other. If the European was highly charmed with the limbs, features, and wild graces of the naked American; the American was no less taken with the dress, complexion, and shape of an European, covered from head to foot. The Indian grew immediately enamoured of him, and consequently solicitous for his preservation. She therefore conveyed him to a cave, where she gave him a delicious repast of fruits, and led him to a stream to slake his thirst. In the midst of these good offices, she would sometimes play with his hair, and delight in the opposition of its colour to that of her fingers; then open his bosom, then laugh at him for covering it. She was, it seems, a person of distinction, for she every day came to him in a different dress, of the most beautiful shells, bugles, and bredes. She likewise brought him a great many spoils, which her other lovers had presented to her, so that his cave was richly adorned with all the spotted skins of

1 arithmetic 2 mainland 3 beads braided work

AE

beasts, and most parti-coloured feathers of
fowls, which that world afforded. To make
his confinement more tolerable, she would
carry him in the dusk of the evening, or by the
favour of moonlight, to unfrequented groves
and solitudes, and show him where to lie down
in safety, and sleep amidst the falls of waters
and melody of nightingales. Her part was to
watch and hold him awake in her arms, for
fear of her countrymen, and wake him on
occasions to consult his safety. In this man-
ner did the lovers pass away their time, till
they had learned a language of their own, in
which the voyager communicated to his mis-
tress how happy he should be to have her in
his country, where she should be clothed in
such silks as his waistcoat was made of, and
be carried in houses drawn by horses, without
being exposed to wind or weather. All this
he promised her the enjoyment of, without
such fears and alarms as they were there tor-
mented with. In this tender correspondence
these lovers lived for several months, when
Yarico, instructed by her lover, discovered a
vessel on the coast, to which she made signals;
and in the night, with the utmost joy and
crew of his countrymen bound to Barbadoes.
satisfaction, accompanied him to a ship's
When a vessel from the main arrives in that
island, it seems the planters come down to the
shore, where there is an immediate market of
the Indians and other slaves, as with us of
horses and oxen.

"To be short, Mr. Thomas Inkle, now coming into English territories, began seriously to reflect upon his loss of time, and to weigh with himself how many days' interest of his money he had lost during his stay with Yarico. This thought made the young man very pensive, and careful what account he should be able to give his friends of his voyage. Upon which consideration, the prudent and frugal young man sold Yarico to a Barbadian merchant; notwithstanding that the poor tion, told him that she was with child by him: girl, to incline him to commiserate her condibut he only made use of that information, to rise in his demands upon the purchaser.'

I was so touched with this story (which I think should be always a counterpart to the Ephesian Matron) that I left the room with tears in my eyes, which a woman of Arietta's good sense did, I am sure, take for greater applause than any compliments I could make her.

JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719)

FROM THE CAMPAIGN, A POEM TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH

But, O my muse, what numbers wilt thou find

To sing the furious troops in battle joined! Methinks I hear the drum's tumultuous sound

The victor's shouts and dying groans confound, The dreadful burst of cannon rend the skies, And all the thunder of the battle rise! 'Twas then great Marlborough's mighty soul was proved.

281

That, in the shock of charging hosts unmoved,
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examined all the dreadful scenes of war;
In peaceful thought the field of death sur-
veyed,

To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,1
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleased the Almighty's orders to per-
form,

291

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

It is with much satisfaction that I hear this great city inquiring day by day after these my papers, and receiving my morning lectures with a becoming seriousness and attention. My publisher tells me, that there are already three thousand of them distributed every day: So that if I allow twenty readers to every paper, which I look upon as a modest computation, I may reckon about threescore thousand disciples in London and Westminster, who I hope will take care to distinguish themselves from the thoughtless herd of their ignorant and unattentive brethren. Since I have raised to myself so great an audience, I shall spare no pains to make their instruction agreeable, and their diversion useful. For which reasons I shall endeavour to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality, that my readers may, if possible,

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsæt »