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No 439. THURSDAY, JULY 24, 1712.
Ovid, Metam. xii. 57.
Each fiction still improv'd with added lies.
very centre of the universe, and perforated with so many windows and avenues as gave her the sight of every thing that was done in the heavens, in the earth, and in
The structure of it was contrived in so admirable a manner, that it echoed
word which was spoken in the whole compass of nature ; so that the palace, says the poet, was always filled with a confused hubbub of low, dying sounds, the voices being almost spent and worn out before they arrived at this general rendezvous of speeches and whispers. : I consider courts with the same regard to the governments' which they superintend, as Ovid's palace of Fame with regard to the universe. The eyes of a watchful minister run through the whole people. There is scarce a murmur or complaint that does not reach his ears. They have news-gatherers and intelligencers, distributed into their several walks and quarters, who bring in their respective quotas, and make them acquainted with the discourse and conversation of the whole kingdom or commonwealth where they are employed. The wisest of kings, alluding to these invisible and unsuspected spies, who are planted by kings and rulers over their fellow-citizens, as well as to those voluntary informers that are buzzing about the ears of a great man, and making their court by such secret methods of intelligence, has given us a very prudent caution ;* 66 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought, and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."
As it is absolutely necessary for rulers to make use of other people's eyes and ears, they should take particular care to do it in such a manner, that it may not bear too hard on the person whose life and conversation are in
* Eccl. x. 20.
quired into. A man who is capable of so infamous a call-
The spy proceeds, and loads him with reports of the same nature, till the cardinal rises in great wrath, calls him an impudent scoundrel, and kicks him out of the room.
It is observed of great and heroic minds, that they have not only shewn a particular disregard to those unmerited reproaches which have been cast upon them, but have been altogether free from that impertinent curiosity of inquiring after them, or the poor revenge of resenting them. The histories of Alexander and Cæsar are full of this kind of instances. Vulgar souls are of a quite contrary character. Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, had a dungeon which was a very curious piece of architecture; and of which, as I am informed, there are still to be seen some remains in that island. It was called Dionysius's Ear, and built with several little windings and labyrinths, in the form of a real ear. The structure of it made it a kind of whispering place, but such a one as gathered the voice
of him who spoke into a funnel which was placed at the very top of it. The tyrant used to lodge all his state criminals, or those whom he supposed to be engaged together in any evil designs upon him, in this dungeon. He had at the same time an apartment over it, where he used to apply himself to the funnel, and by that means overheard every thing that was whispered in the dungeon. I believe one may venture to affirm, that a Cæsar or an Alexander would rather have died by the treason, than have used such disingenuous means for the detecting of it.
A man who in ordinary life is very inquisitive after every thing which is spoken ill of him, passes his time but very indifferently; He is wounded by every arrow that is shot at him, and puts it in the power of every insignificant enemy to disquiet him. Nay, he will suffer from what has been said of him, when it is forgotten by those who said or heard it.
For this reason I could never bear one of those officious friends, that would be telling every malicious report, every idle censure, that passed upon me. The tongue of man is so petulant, and his thoughts so variable, that one should not lay too great a stress upon any present speeches and opinions. Praise and obloquy proceed very frequently out of the same mouth upon the same per. and upon
the same occasion. A generous enemy will sometimes bestow commendations, as the dearest friend cannot sometimes refrain from speaking ill. The man who is indifferent in either of those respects gives his gpinion at random, and praises or disapproves as he finds himself in humour.
I shall conclude this essay with part of a character, which is finely drawn by the Earl of Clarendon, in the first book of his History, and which gives us the lively picture of a great man teasing himself with an absurd curiosity.
“ He had not that application and submission, and reverence for the queen, as might have been expected from his wisdom and breeding; and often crossed her pretences and desires with more rudeness than was natural to him. Yet he was impertinently solicitous to know what her majesty said of him in private, and what resentments she had towards him. And when by some confidants, who had their ends upon him from those offices, he was informed of some bitter expressions falling from her majesty, he
was so exceedingly afflicted and tormented with the sense of it; that sometimes by passionate complaints and representations to the king, sometimes by more dutiful addresses and expostulations with the queen in bewailing his misfortune, he frequently exposed himself, and left his condition worse than it was before, and the éclaircissement commonly ended in the discovery of the persons from whom he had received his most secret intelligence.”
N° 440. FRIDAY, JULY 25, 1712.
merry fellows who are passing their summer together in the country, being provided of a great house, where there is not only a convenient apartment for every particular person, but a large infirmary for the reception of such of them as are any way indisposed or out of humour. Having lately received a letter from the secretary of this society, by order of the whole fraternity, which acquaints me with their behaviour during the last week, I shall here make a present of it to the public.
“MR. SPECTATOR, “We are glad to find that you approve the establishment which we have here made for the retrieving of good manners and agreeable conversation, and shall use our best endeavours so to improve ourselves in this our summer retirement, that we may next winter serve as patterns to the town. But to the end that this our institution may be no less advantageous to the public than to ourselves, we shall communicate to you one week of our proceedings, desiring you at the same time, if you see any thing faulty in them, to favour us with
admonitions; for know, Sir, that it has been proposed amongst us to choose you for our visitor; to which I must farther add, that one of the college having declared last week he did not like the Spectator of the day, and not being able to assign any just reasons for such his dislike, he was sent to the infir: mary nemine contradicente.
“On Monday the assembly was in very good humour, having received some recruits of French claret that morning: when, unluckily, towards the middle of the dinner, one of the company swore at his servant in a very rough manner for having put too much water in his wine. Upon which the president of the day, who is always the mouth of the company, after having convinced him of the impertinence of his passion, and the insult it had made upon the company, ordered his man to take him from the table, and convey him to the infirmary. There was but one more sent away that day; this was a gentleman, who is reckoned by some persons one of the greatest wits, and by others one of the greatest boobies about town. will say is a strange character: but what makes it stranger yet, it is a very true one, for he is perpetually the reverse of himself, being always merry or dull to excess. We brought him hither to divert us, which he did very well upon the road, having lavished away as much wit and laughter upon the hackney coachman as might have served him during his whole stay here, had it been duly managed. He had been lumpish for two or three days, but was so far connived at, in hopes of recovery, that we dispatched one of the briskest fellows among the brotherhood into the infirmary for having told him at table he was not merry.
But our president observing that he indulged himself in this long fit of stupidity, and construing it as a contempt of the college, ordered him to retire into the place prepared for such companions. He was no sooner got into it, but his wit and mirth returned upon him in so violent a manner, that he shook the whole infirmary with the noise of it, and had so good an effect upon the rest of the patients, that he brought them all out to dinner with him the next day.
“On Tuesday we were no sooner sat down, but one of the company complained that his head ached; upon which another asked him, in an insolent manner, what he did there then? This insensibly grew into some warm words ; so that the president, in order to keep the peace, gave directions to take them both from the table, and lodge them in the infirmary. Not long after, another of the company telling us he knew, by a pain in his shoulder, that we should have some rain, the president ordered him to be re