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I think a pretty instance that the most polite age is in danger of being the most vicious.
• It happened at Athens, during a public representation of fome play exhibited in honour of the common
wealth, that an old gentleman came too late for a place * suitable to his age and quality. Many of the young gentlemen who observed the difficulty and confusion he
was in, made figns to him that they would accommo• date him if he came where they sat. The good man .bustled through the crowd accordingly; but when he came to the seats to which he was invited, the jest was to sit close, and expose him, as he stood out of countenance, to the whole audience: the frolic went round all the Athenian benches. Buton those occasions there were • also particular places assigned for foreigners. When the
good man skulked towards the boxes appointed for the · Lacedemonians, that honest people, more virtuous than
polite, rose up all to a man, and with the greatest re. spect received him among them. The Athenians being
suddenly touched with a sense of the Spartan virtue and their own degeneracy, gave a thunder of applause; and the old man cried out, -The Athenians understand what is good, but the Lacedemonians practise it.'
No. VII. THURSDAY, MARCH 8.
Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
I had the misfortune to find his whole family very much dejected. Upon asking him the occasion of it, he told me that his wife had dreamt a strange dream the night before, which they were afraid portended some misfortune to themselves or to their children. At her coming into the room I observed a settled melancholy in her countenance, which I should have been troubled for,
had I not heard from whence it proceeded. We were no sooner sat down, but after having looked upon me a little while, “My dear,” says she, turning to her hushand, “
you may now see the stranger that was in the “ candle last night.” Soon after this, as they begin to talk of family affairs, a little boy at the lower end of the table told her, that he was to go into join-hand on Thursday: “ Thursday?” says the ; ." no, child, if it “ please God, you shall not begin upon Childermas"day; tell your writing-master that Friday will be soon “ enough.” I was reflecting with myself on the oddness of her fancy, and wondering that any body would eftablish it as a rule to lose a day in every week. In the midst of these my musings, she desired me to reach her a little falt upon the point of my knife, which I did in such a trepidation and hurry of obedience, that I let it drop by the way; at which she immediately startled, and said it fell towards her. Upon this I looked very blank; and observing the concern of the whole table, began to consider myself, with some confusion, as a person that had brought a disaster upon the family. The lady, how. ever, recovering herself after a little space, said to her husband, with a ligh, “ my dear, misfortunes never come “ single.” My friend, I found, acted but an undere part at his table; and being a man of more good-nature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to fall in with all the passions and humours of his yoke-fellow : “ Do not you remember, child,” says she, “ that the • pigeon-house fell the very afternoon that our careless “ wench spilt the salt upon the table?" "Yes,' says he,
my dear, and the next post brought us an account of
the battle of Almanza.' The reader may guess at the figure I made after having done all this mischief. Idila patched my dinner as soon as I could, with my usual taciturnity, when, to my utter confusion, the lady feeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying them across one another upon the plate, desired me that I would humour her so far as to take them out of that figure, and place them side by side. What the absurdity way which I had committed I did not know, but I sup
pose there was fome traditionary superstition in it; and therefore, in obedience to the lady of the house, I dispo. fed of my knife and fork in two parallel lines, which is the figure I shall always lay them in for the future, tho' I do not know any reason for it.
It is not difficult for a man to fee that a person has conceived an aversion to him. For my own part, I quickly found, by the lady's looks, that the regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate aspect: for which reason I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings. Upon my return home, I fell into a profound contemplation on the evils that attend these superititious foilies ofmankind; how they subject us to imaginary afilictions and additional forrows, that do not properly come within our lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not sufficient for it, we turn the most indifferent circumstances into misfortunes, and suffer as much from trilling accidents as from real evils. I have known the shooting of a star spoil a night's reit; and have feen a man in love grow pale and lose his appetite upon the plucking of a merry thought. A screech-owl at midnight has alarned a family more than a band of robbers ; nay, the voice of a cricket harh struck more terror than the roaring of a
ion. There is nothing so inconsiderable which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognostics; a rusty nail or a crooked pin shoot up into prodigies.
I remember I was once in a mixt assembly that was full of cojie and mirth, when on a sudden an old woman unluckily observed there were thirteen of us in company. This remark ítruck a panic terror into several who were present, insomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was big with child, aflirmed that there were fourteen in the room; and that, inftcad of portending one of the company should die, it plainly foretold one of them should be born. Had not my friend found out this expedient to break the omen, I question not but half the
women in the company would have fallen fick that very night.
An old maid, who is troubled with the vapours, produces infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I knew a maiden aunt, of a great family, who is one of these antiquated Sibyls, that forebodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing apparitions and hearing deathwatches; and was the other day almost frighted out of her wits by the great house-dog, that howled in the stable at a time when the lay ill of the tooth-ach. Such an extravagant cast of mind engages multitudes of people not only in impertinent terrors, but in fupernumerary duties of life; and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the foul of man. The horror with which we entertain the thoughts of death (or indeed of any future evil) and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a melancholy mind with innumerable apprehensions and suspicions, and consequently dispose it to the observation of such groundless prodigies and predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wise men to retrench the evils of life. by the reasonings of philofophy, it is the employment of fools to multiply thein by the sentiments of superftition.
For my own part, I should be very much troubled were I endoived with this divining quality, though it should inform me truly of every thing that can befal
I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any misery, before it actually arrives.
I know but one way of fortifying my soul against these gloomy prelages and terrors of mind; and that is, by securing to myself the friendship and protection of that Being who disposes of events, and governs futurity. He secs at one view the whole thread of my exittence; not only that part of it which I have already passed through, but that which runs forward into all the depths of eternity. When I lay me down to sleep, I recommend myself to his care; when I awake, I give myself up to his direction. Amidst all the evils that threaten me
I will look up to him for help, and question not but he will other avert or turn them to my advantage.Thrugh I know neither the time nor the manner of the death I am to die, I am not at all solicitous about it; Jecause I am sure that he knows them both, and that he will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
No. VIII. FRIDAY, MARCH
At Venus obscuro gradientes aere sepfit,
They march obscure, for Venus kindly shrouds
Shall here communicate to the world a couple of let
ters, which I believe will give the reader as good an entertainment as any that I am able to furnish him with; and therefore shall make no apology for them.
I AM one of the directors of the Society for the Re
formation of Manners, and therefore think myself a proper person for your correspondence. I have ihoroughly examined the present state of religion in Great Britain, and am able to acquaint you with the predominant vice of every market-town in the whole island. I can tell you the progress that virtue has made in all
our cities, boroughs, and corporations; and know as ' well the evil practices that are committed in Berwick
or Exeter, as what is done in my own family. In a word, Sir, I have my correspondents in the remotest
parts of the nation, who send me up punctual accounts • from time to time of all the little irregularities thas