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I have been so very scrupulous in this particular of not hurting any man’s reputation, that I have forborne mentioning even such authors as I could not name with honour. This I must confess to have been a piece of very great self-denial : for as the public relishes nothing better than the ridicule which turns upon a writer of any eminence, so there is nothing which a man, that has but a very ordinary talent in ridicule, may execute with greater ease. One might raise laughter for a quarter of a year together upon the works of a person who has published but a very few volumes. For which reason I am astonished, that those who have appeared against this paper have made so very little of it. The criticisms which I have hitherto published, have been made with an intention rather to discover beauties and excellencies in the writers of my own time, than to publish any of their faults and imperfections. In the mean while, I should take it for a very great favour from some of my underhand detractors, if they would break all measures with me so far, as to give me a pretence for examining their performances with an impartial eye : nor shall I look upon it as any breach of charity to criticise the author, so long as I keep clear of the person.
In the mean while, until I am provoked to such hostilities, I shall, from time to time, endeavour to do justice to those who have distinguished themselves in the politer parts of learning, and to point out such beauties in their works as may have escaped the observation of others.
As the first place among our English poets is due to Milton ; and as I have drawn more quotations out of him than from any other, I shall enter into a regular criticism upon his Paradise Lost, which I shall publish every Saturday until I have given my thoughts upon that poem. I shall not however presume to impose upon others my own particular judgment on this author, but only deliver it as my private opinion. Criticism is of a very large extent, and every particular master in this art has his favourite passages in an author, which do not equally strike the best judges. It will be sufficient for me if I discover many beauties or imperfections which others have not attended to, and I should be very glad to see any of our eminent writers publish their discoveries on the same subject. In short, I would always be understood to write my papers of criticism in the spirit which Horace has expressed in those two famous lines :
Si quid novisti rectius istis, -
“If you have made any better remarks of your own, * communicate them with candour; if not, make use ‘ of these I present you with.” C
No. CCLXIII. TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 1712.
Gratulor quod eum quem necesse erat diligere, qualiscunque esset, talem habemus ut libenter quoque diligamus. TRE BON IU S A P J D TULL.
I rejoice, that the person, whom it was my duty to love, good or bad, is such an one, that I can love him with a willing mind.
* M.R. SPECTAT OR, * I AM the happy father of a very towardly son, “ in whom I do not only see my life, but also my • manner of life, renewed. It would be extremely “beneficial to society, if you would frequently resume “subjects which serve to bind these sort of relations * faster, and endear the ties of blood with those of ‘good-will, protection, observance, it " 'once, and * veneration. I would, methinks, have this done af* ter an uncommon method, and do not think any “one, who is not capable of writing a good play, * fit to undertake a work wherein there will necessa“rily occur so many secret instincts and biasses of * human nature, which would pass unobserved by ‘common eyes. I thank heaven I have no outrageous * offence against my own excellent parents to answer * for ; but when I am now and then alone, and look ‘back upon my past life, from my earliest infancy to “ this time, there are many faults which I committed ‘ that did not appear to me, even until I myself be‘ came a father. I had not until then a notion of the ‘yearnings of heart, which a man has when he sees ‘ his child do a laudable thing, or the sudden damp ‘ which seizes him when he fears he will act some“thing unworthy. It is not to be imagined, what a * remorse touched me for a long train of childish ‘ negligences of my mother, when I saw my wife ‘the other day look out of the window, and turn as ‘pale as ashes upon seeing my younger boy sliding ‘ upon the ice. These slight intimations will give “you to understand, that there are numberless little * crimes which children take no notice of while they ‘ are doing, which, upon reflection, when they shall “ themselves become fathers, they will look upon ‘with the utmost sorrow and contrition, that they did ‘not regard, before those whom they offended were ‘to be no more seen. How many thousand things ‘do I remember, which would have highly pleased ‘my father, and I omitted for no other reason, but ‘ that I thought what he proposed the effect of hu‘mour and old age, which I am now convinced had ‘reason and good sense in it. I cannot now go ‘ into the parlour to him, and make his heart glad ‘with an account of a matter which was of no con‘sequence, but that I told it, and acted in it. The ‘good man and woman are long since in their graves,
who used to sit and plot the welfare of us their children, while, perhaps, we were sometimes laughing at the old folks at another end of the house. The truth of it is, were we merely to follow nature in these great duties of life, though we have a strong instinct towards the performing of them, we should be on both sides very deficient. Age is so unwelcome to the generality of mankind, and growth toward manhood so desirable to all, that resignation to decay is too difficult a task in the father; and deference, amidst the impulse of gay desires, appears unreasonable to the son. There are so few who can grow old with a good grace, and yet fewer who can come slow enough into the world, that a father, were he to be actuated by his desires, and a son, were he to consult himself only, could neither of them behave himself as he ought to the other. But when reason interposes against instinct, where it would carry either out of the interests of the other, there arises that happiest intercourse of good offices between those dearest relations of human life. The father, according to the opportunities which are offered to him, is throwing down blesings on the son, and the son endeavouring to appear the worthy offspring of such a father. It is after this manner that Camillus and his first born dwell together. Camillus enjoys a pleasing and indolent old age, in which passion is subdued, and reason exalted. He waits the day of his dissolution with a resignation mixed with delight, and the son fears the accession of his father’s fortune with diffidence, lest he should not enjoy or become it as well as his predecessor. Add to this, that the father knows he leaves a friend to the children of his friends, an easy landlord to his tenants, and an agreeable companion to his acquaintance. He believes his son’s behaviour will make him frequently remembered, but never wanted. This commerce ‘ is so well cemented, that without the pomp of say‘ing, “Son, be a friend to such a one when I am ‘gone;” Camillus knows, being in his favour, is ‘direction enough to the grateful youth who is to ‘succeed him, without the admonition of his men‘tioning it. These gentlemen are honoured in all ‘their neighbourhood, and the same effect which the ‘court has on the manners of a kingdom, their cha* racters have on all who live within the influence of “ them. ‘My son and I are not of fortune to communicate “our good actions or intentions to so many as these ‘gentlemen do; but I will be bold to say, my son ‘has, by the applause and approbation which his ‘behaviour towards me has gained him, occasioned ‘that many an old man, besides myself, has rejoiced. ‘ Other men's children follow the example of mine, ‘and I have the inexpressible happiness of overhear‘ing our neighbours, as we ride by, point to their chil‘dren, and say, with a voice of joy, “there they go.” ‘You cannot, Mr. Spectator, pass your time better ‘than in insinuating the delights which these rela‘tions well regarded bestow upon each other. Or‘dinary passages are no longer such, but mutual ‘love gives an importance to the most indifferent ‘things, and a merit to actions the most insignificant. “When we look round the world, and observe the ‘many misunderstandings which are created by the ‘malice and insinuation of the meanest servants be‘tween people thus related, how necessary will it “appear that it were inculcated that men would be “upon their guard to support a constancy of affec‘tion, and that grounded upon the principles of rea‘son, not the impulses of instinct : “It is from the common prejudices which men re‘ceive from their parents, that hatreds are kept alive ‘ from one generation to another; and when men act ‘by instinct, hatreds will descend when good offices