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presentation of what is reputable among men, not to say what is sacred, that no beauty, no excellence in an author ought to atone for it; nay, such excellence is an aggravation of his guilt, and an argument that he errs against the conviction of his own understanding and conscience. Wit should be tried by this rule, and an audience should rise against such a scene as throws down the reputation of any thing which the consideration of religion or decency should preserve from contempt. But all this evil arises from this one corruption of mind, that makes men resent offences against their virtue, less than those against their understanding. An author shall write as if he thought there was not a man of honour or woman of chastity in the house, and come off with applause: for an insult upon all the ten commandment with the Jittle critics is not so bad as the breach of an unity of time and place. Half wits do not apprehend the miseries that must necessarily flow from a degeneracy of manners; nor do they know that order is the
support of society. Sir Roger and his mistress are monsters of the poet's own forming; the sentiments in both of them are such as do not arise in fools of their education. We all know that a silly scholar, instead of being below every one he meets with, is apt to be exalted above the rank of such as are really his superiors: his arrogance is always founded upon particular notions of distinction in his own head, accompanied with a pedantic scorn of all fortune and pre-eminence, when compared with his knowledge and learning. This very one character of Sir Roger, as silly as it really is, has done more towards the disparagement of holy orders, and consequently of virtue itself, than all the wit of that author, or any other, could make up for in the conduct of the longest life after it. I do not pretend, in saying
this, to give myself airs of more virtue than my neighbours, but assert it from the principles by which mankind must always be governed. Sallies of imagination are to be overlooked, when they are committed out of warmth in the recommendation of what is praise-worthy; but a deliberate advancing of vice, with all the wit in the world, is as ill an action as any that comes before the magistrate, and ought to be received as such by the people.
N° 271. THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 1711-12.
Mille truhens varios adrerso sole colores.
VIRG. Æn. iv, 701
Drawing a thousand colours from the light.
I receive a double advantage from the letters of my correspondents; first, as they shew me which of my papers are most acceptable to them; and in the next place, as they furnish me with materials for new speculations. Sometimes indeed I do not make use of the letter itself, but form the hints of it into plans of my own invention : sometimes I take the liberty to change the language or thought into my own way of speaking and thinking, and always (if it can be done without prejudice to the sense) omit the many compliments and applauses which are usually bestowed upon me.
Besides the two advantages above mentioned, which
I receive from the letters that are sent me, they give me an opportunity of lengthening out my paper by the skilful management of the subscribing part at the end of them, which perhaps does not a little conduce to the ease both of myself and reader.
Some will have it, that I often write to myself, and am the only punctual correspondent I have. This objection would indeed be material were the letters I communicate to the public stuffed with my own commendations; and if instead of endeavouring to divert and instruct my readers, I admired in them the beauty of my own performances. But I shall leave these wise conjecturers to their own imaginations, and produce the three following letters for the entertainment of the day.
"I was last Thursday in an assembly of Jadics, where there were thirteen different coloured hoods. Your Spectator of that day lying upon the table, they ordered me to read it to them, which I did with a very clear voice, until I came to the Greek verse at the end of it. I must confess I was a little startled at its popping upon me so unexpectedly. However, I covered my confusion as well as I could, and after having muttered two or three hard words to myself, laughed heartily, and cried "
a very good jest, faith.” The ladies desired me to explain it to them; but I begged their pardon for that, and told them, that if it had been proper for them to hear, they might be sure the author would not have wrapped it up in Greek. I then let drop several expressions, as if there was something in it that was not fit to be spoken before
a company of ladies. Upon which the matron of the assembly, who was dressed in a cherry-coloured hood, commended the discretion of the writer for having thrown his filthy thoughts into Greek, which was likely to corrupt but few of his readers. At the same time she declared herself
well pleased that he had not given a decisive opinion upon the new-fashioned hoods; “ for to tell you truly,” says she, “ I was afraid he would have made us ashamed to shew our heads." Now, sir, you must know, since this unlucky accident happened to me in a company of ladies, among whom I passed for a most ingenious man, I have consulted one who is well versed in the Greek language, and he assures
his word, that your late quotation means no more than that “ manners, not dress, are the ornaments of a woman.” If this comes to the knowledge of my female admirers, I shall be very hard put to it to bring myself off handsomely. In the mean while, I give you this account, that you may take care hereafter not to betray any of your well-wishers into the like inconveniences. It is in the number of these that I beg leave to subscribe myself,
• Your readers are so well pleased with your character of Sir Roger de Coverley, that there appeared a sensible joy in every coffee-house, upon hearing the old knight was come to town. I am now with a knot of his admirers, who make it their joint request to you, that you would give us public notice of the window or balcony where the knight intends to make his appearance. He has already given great satisfaction to several who have seen
him at Squires's coffee house. If you think fit to place your short face at Sir Roger's left elbow, we shall take the hint, and gratefully acknowledge so great a favour.
• I am, sir,
• C. D.'
• Knowing that you are very inquisitive after every thing that is curious in nature, I will wait on you
if you please in the dusk of the evening, with my show upon my back, which I carry about with me in a box, as only consisting of a man, a woman, and a horse. The two first are married, in which state the little cavalier has so well acquitted himself, that his lady is with child. The big-bellied woman and her husband, with their little whimsical palfrey, are so very light, that when they are put together into a scale, an ordinary man may weigh down the wholy family. The little man is a bully in his nature; but when he grows choleric I confine him to his box until his wrath is over, by which means I have hitherto prevented him from doing mischief. His horse is likewise very vicious, for which reason I am forced to tie him close to his manger with a pack-thread. The woman is a coquette. She struts as much as it is possible for a lady of two feet high, and would ruin me in silks, were not the quantity that goes to a large pincushion sufficient to make her a gown and petticoat. She told me the other day, that she heard the ladies wore coloured hoods, and ordered me to get her one of the finest blue. I am forced to comply with her demands whilst she is is in her present condition, being very willing to have more of the same breed. I do not know what