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of shapes and appearances, all of which are severally detected, to the great delight and surprise of the reader. We may likewise observe with how much art the poet has varied several characters of the persons that speak in his infernal assembly. On the contrary, how has he represented the whole Godhead exerting itself towards man in its full benevolence under the three-fold distinction of a Creator, a Redeemer, and a Comforter Nor must we omit the person of Raphael, who, amidst his tenderness and friendship for man, shews such a dignity and condescension in all his speech and behaviour, as are suitable to a superior nature. The angels are indeed as much diversified in Mikon, and distinguished by their proper parts, as the gods are in. Homer or Virgil. The reader will find nothing ascribed to Uriel, Gabriel, Michael, or Raphael, which is not in a particular manner suitable to their respective characters. There is another circumstance in the principal actors of the Iliad and Æneid, which gives a peculiar beauty to those two poems, and was therefore contrived with very great judgment. I mean the authors having chosen, for their heroes, persons who were so nearly related to the people for whom they wrote. Achilles was a Greek, and Æneas the remote founder of Rome. By this means their countrymen, whom they principally proposed to themselves for their readers, were particularly attentive to all the parts of their story, and sympathized with their heroes in all their adventures. A Roman could not but rejoice in the escapes, successes, and victories of Æneas, and be grieved at any defeats, misfortunes, or disappointments that befel him ; as a Greek must have had the same regard for Achilles. And it is plaim that each of those poems have lost this great advantage, among those readers to whom their heroes are as strangers, or indifferent persons. Milton’s poem is admirable in this respect, since it is impossible for any of its readers, whatever nation, country or people he may belong to, not to be related to the persons who are the principal actors in it; but what is still infinitely more to its advantage, the principal actors in this poem are not only our progenitors, but our representatives. We have an actual interest in every thing they do, and no less than our utmost happiness is concerned, and lies at stake in all their behaviour. * I shall subjoin as a corollary to the foregoing remark, an admirable observation out of Aristotle, which hath been very much misrepresented in the quotations of some modern critics. “If a man of “ perfect and consummate virtue falls into a mis“fortune, it raises our pity, but not our terror, be“cause we do not fear that it may be our own case, “who do not resemble the suffering person.” But as that great philosopher adds, “if we see a man of “ virtue mixt with infirmities, fall into any misfor“tune, it does not only raise our pity but our ter“ ror; because we are afraid that the like misfor“tunes may happen to ourselves, who resemble the “character of the suffering person.” I shall take another opportunity to observe, that a person of an absolute and consummate virtue should never be introduced in tragedy, and shall only remark in this place, that the foregoing observation of Aristotle, though it may be true in other occasions, does not hold in this; because in the present case, though the persons who fall into misfortune are of the most perfect and consummate virtue, it is not to be considered as what may possibly be, but what actually is our own case ; since we are embarked with them on the same bottom, and must be partakers of their happiness or misery.
In this, and some other very few instances, Aristotle's rules for epic poetry, which he had drawn from his reflections upon Homer, cannot be supposed to quadrate exactly with the heroic poems which have been made since his time; since it is plain his rules would still have been more perfect, could he have perused the IEneid which was made some hundred years after his death.
In my next, I shall go through other parts of Milton’s poem; and hope that what I shall there advance, as well as what I have already written, will not only serve as a comment upon Milton, but upon Aristotle.
No. CCLXXIV. MONDAY, JANUARY 14.
Audire est operae pretium, procedere recte
I HAVE upon several occasions, that have occurred since I first took into my thoughts the present state of fornication, weighed with myself in behalf of guilty females, the impulses of flesh and blood, together with the arts and gallantries of crasty men; and reflect with some scorn that most part of what we in our youth think gay and polite, is nothing else but an habit of indulging a pruriency that way. It will cost some labour to bring people to so lively a sense of this, as to recover the manly modesty in the behaviour of my men readers, and the bashful grace in the faces of my women ; but in all cases which come into debate, there are
certain things previously to be done before we can have a true light into the subject matter; therefore it will, in the first place, be necessary to consider the impotent wenchers and industrious hags, who are supplied with, and are constantly supplying new sacrifices to the devil or lust. You are to know then, if you are so happy as not to know it already, that the great havock which is made in the habitations of beauty and innocence, is committed by such as can only lay waste and not enjoy the soil. When you observe the present state of vice and virtue, the offenders are such as one would think, should have no impulse to what they are pursuing ; as in business, you see sometimes fools pretend to be knaves, so in pleasure, you will find old men set up for wenchers. This latter sort of men are the great basis and fund of iniquity in the kind we are speaking of: you shall have an old rich man often receive scrawls from the several quarters of the town, with descriptions of the new wares in their hands, if he will please to send word when he will be waited on. This interview is contrived, and the innocent is brought to such indecencies, as from time to time banish shame and raise desire. With these preparatives the hags break their wards by little and little, until they are brought to lose all apprehensions of what shall befal them in the possession of younger men. It is a common postscript of a hag to a young fellow whom she invites to a new woman, “She has, I assure you, seen none but old “Mr. Such-a-one.” It pleases the old fellow that the nymph is brought to him unadorned, and from his bounty she is accommodated with enough to dress her for other lovers. This is the most ordinary method of bringing beauty and poverty into the possession of the town : but the particular cases of kind keepers, skilful pinps, and all others who drive a separate trade, and are not in the general society or
commerce of sin, will require distinct consideration. At the same time that we are thus severe on the abandoned, we are to represent the case of others with that mitigation as the circumstances demand. Calling names does no good; to speak worse of any thing than it deserves, does only take off from the credit of the accuser, and has implicitly the force of an apology in the behalf of the person accused. We shall therefore, according as the circumstances differ, vary our appellations of these criminals: those who offend only against themselves, and are not scandals to society, but out of deference to the sober part of the world, have so much good left in them as to be ashamed, must not be huddled in the common word due to the worst of women; but regard is to be bad to their circumstances when they fell, to the uneasy perplexity under which they lived under senseless and severe parents, to the importunity of poverty, to the violence of a passion in its beginning well grounded, and all other alleviations which make unhappy women resign the characteristic of their sex, modesty. To do otherwise than this, would be to act like a pedantic stoic, who thinks all crimes alike, and not like an impartial Spectator, who looks upon them with all the circumstances that diminish or enhance the guilt. I am in hopes, if this subject be well pursued, women will hereafter from their infancy be treated with an eye to their future state in the world; and not have their tempers made too untractable from an improper sourness or pride, or too complying from familiarity or forwardness contracted at their own houses. After these hints on this subject, I shall end this paper with the following genuine letter; and desire all who think they may be concerned in future speculations on this subject, to send in what they have to say for themselves for some incidents in their lives, in order to have proper allowances made for their conduct. W O Le IVs K