« 上一頁繼續 »
are no longer her guardian and protector, as you were designed by nature; but, in compliance to her weaknesses, you have disabled yourself from avoiding the misfortunes into which they will lead you both, and you are to see the hour in which you are to be reproached by herself for that very complaisance to her. It is indeed the most difficult mastery over ourselves we can possibly attain, to resist the grief of her who charms us; but let the heart ache, be the anguish never so quick and painful, it is what must be suffered and passed through, if you think to live like a gentleman or be conscious to yourself that you are a man of honesty. The old argument, that“ you
do not love me if you deny me this,” which first was used to obtain a trifle, by habitual success will oblige the unhappy man who gives way to it to resign the cause even of his country and his honour.
No 511. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1712. Quis non inveniat turbà quod amaret in illa ?
OVID, Art: Am. i. 175. -Who could fail to find, In such a crowd a mistress to his mind? “ DEAR SPEC., Fonting that my
last letter took, I do intend to continue my epistolary correspondence with thee, on those dear confounded creatures, women, Thou knowest all the little learning I am master of is upon that subject: I never looked in a book, but for their sakes. I have lately met with two pure stories for a Spectator, which I am sure will please mightily, if they pass through thy hands. The first of them I found by chance in an English. book, called Herodotus, that lay in my friend Dapperwit's window, as I visited him one morning. It luckily opened in the place where I met the following account. He tells us that it was the manner among the Persians to have several fairs in the kingdom, at which all the young unmarried women were annually exposed to sale. The men who wanted wives came hither to provide themselves., Every woman was given to the highest bidder, and the money which she fetched laid aside for the public use, to be em
ployed as thou shalt hear by and by. By this means, the richest people had the choice of the market, and culled out the most extraordinary beauties. As soon as the fair was thus picked, the refuse was to be distributed among the poor, and
among those who could not go to the price of a beauty. Several of these married the agreeables, without paying a farthing for them, unless somebody chanced to think it worth his while to bid for them, in which case the best bidder was always the purchaser. But now you must know, Spec., it happened in Persia, as it does in our own country, that there were as many ugly women beauties or agreeables; so that by consequence, after the magistrates had put off a great many, there was still a great many that stuck upon their hands. In order therefore to clear the market, the money which the beauties had sold for was disposed of among the ugly; so that a poor man, who could not afford to have a beauty for his wife, was forced to take up with a fortune; the greatest portion being always given to the most deformed. To this the author adds, that every poor man was forced to live kindly with his wife, or, in case he repented of his bargain, to return her portion with her to the next public sale.
“What I would recommend to thee on this occasion is, to establish such an imaginary fair in Great Britain ; thou couldst make it very pleasant by matching women of quality with cobblers and carmen, or describing titles and garters leading off in great ceremony shopkeepers' and farmers' daughters. Though, to tell thee the truth, I am confoundedly afraid, that as the love of money prevails in our island more than it did in Persia, we should find that some of our greatest men would choose out the portions, and rival one another for the richest piece of deformity; and that, on the contrary, the toasts and belles would be bought up by extravagant heirs, gamesters, and spendthrifts. Thou couldst make very pretty reflections upon this occasion in honour of the Persian politicians, who took care, by such marriages, to beautify the upper part of the species, and to make the greatest persons in the government the most graceful. But this I shall leave to thy ju
"I have another story to tell thee, which I likewise met with in a book. It seems the general of the Tartars, after
having laid siege to a strong town in China, and taken it by storm, would set to sale all the women that were found in it. Accordingly he put each of them into a sack, and, after having thoroughly considered the value of the woman who was enclosed, marked the price that was demanded for her upon the sack. There was a great confluence of chapmen, that resorted from every part, with a design to purchase, which they were to do 'unsight unseen. The book mentions a merchant in particular, who observed one of the sacks to be marked pretty high, bargained for it, and carried it off with him to his house. As he was resting with it upon a halfway bridge, he was resolved to take a survey of his purchase: upon opening the sack, a little old woman popped her head out of it; at which the adventurer was in so great a rage, that he was going to shoot her out into the river. The old lady, however, begged him first of all to hear her story, by which he learned that she was sister to a great mandarin, who would infallibly make the fortune of his brother-in law as soon as he should know to whose lot she fell. Upon which the merchant again tied her up in his sack, and carried her to his house, where she proved an excellent wife, and procured him all the riches from her brother that she had promised him.
“I fancy, if I was disposed to dream a second time, I could make a tolerable vision upon this plan. I would suppose. all the unmarried women in London and Westminster brought to market in sacks, with their respective prices on each sack. The first sack that is sold is marked with five thousand pound. Upon the opening of it, I find it filled with an admirable housewife, of an agreeable countenance. The purchaser, upon hearing her good qualities, pays down her price very cheerfully. The second I would open should be a five hundred pound sack. The lady in it, to our surprise, has the face and person of a toast. As we are wondering how she came to be set at so low a price, we hear that she would have been valued at ten thousand pound, but that the public had made those abatements for her being a scold. 'I would afterward find some beautiful, modest, and discreet women, that should be the top of the market; and perhaps discover half a dozen romps tied up together in the same sack, at one
hundred pound a head. The prude and the coquette should be valued at the same price, though the first should go off the better of the two. I fancy thou wouldst like such a vision, had I time to finish it; because, to talk in thy own way, there is a moral in it.
Whatever thou mayest think of it, pr’ythee do not make any of thy queer apologies for this letter, as thou didst for my last. The women love a gay lively fellow, and are never angry at the railleries of one who is their known admirer. I am always bitter upon them, but well with them.
" Thine, 0.
No 512. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1712.
HoR. Ars Poet. ver. 344.
it us as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or idiots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shews for our good on such an occasion as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise, does, in that particular, exercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it, but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons, there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable; and indeed all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another, according to the perfection at which they have arrived in this art. How many devices have been made use of, to render this bitter portion palatable! Some convey
their instructions to us in the best chosen words, others in the most harmonious numbers; some in points of wit, and others in short proverbs.
But, among all the different ways of giving counsel, I think the finest, and that which pleases the most universally, is fable, in whatsoever shape it appears. consider this way of instructing or giving advice, it excels
all others, because it is the least shocking, and the least subject to those exceptions which I have before mentioned.
This will appear to us, if we reflect, in the first place, that
upon the reading of a fable, we are made to believe we advise ourselves. We peruse the author for the sake of the story, and consider the precepts rather as our own conclusions than his instructions. The moral insinuates itself imperceptibly; we are taught by surprise, and become wiser and better unawares. In short, by this method, a man is so far overreached as to think he is directing himself, while he is following the dictates of another, and consequently is not sensible of that which is the most unpleasing circumstance in advice.
In the next place, if we look into human nature, we shall find that the mind is never so much pleased, as when she exerts herself in any action that gives her an idea of her own perfections and abilities. This natural pride and ambition of the soul is very much gratified in the reading of a fáble ; for, in writings of this kind, the reader.comes in for half of the performance; every thing appears to him like a discovery of his own; he is busied all the while in applying characters and circumstances, and is in this respect both a reader and a composer. It is no wonder, therefore, that on such occasions, when the mind is thus pleased with itself, and amused with its own discoveries, that it is highly delighted with the writing which is the occasion of it. For this reason the Absalom and Achitophel* was one of the most popular poems that ever appeared in English. The poetry is indeed very fine: but had it been much finer, it would not have so much pleased, without a plan which gave the reader an opportunity of exerting his own talents.
This oblique manner of giving advice is so inoffensive, that, if we look into ancient histories, we find the wise men of old very often chose to give counsel to their kings in fables. To omit many which will occur to every one's memory, there is a pretty instance of this nature in a
* A memorable satire written by Dryden against the faction which, by Lord Shaftesbury's incitement, set the Duke of Monmouth at their bead. Of this poem, in which personal satire is applied to the support of public principles, the sale was so large, that it is said not to have been equalled, but hy Sacheverell's trial: