« 上一頁繼續 »
think her, she is extremely belied if she is the novice she appears; she was last week at a ball till two in the morning; Mr. Triplett knows whether he was the happy man that took care of her home; but” -This was followed by some particular exception that each woman in the room made to some peculiar grace or advantage; so that Mr. Triplett was beaten from one limb and feature to another, till he was forced to resign the whole woman. In the end, I took notice Triplett recorded all this malice in his heart, and saw in his countenance, and a certain waggish shrug, that he designed to repeat the conversation; I therefore let the discourse die, and soon after took an occasion to commend a certain gentleman of my acquaintance for a person of singular modesty, courage, integrity; and withal as a man of an entertaining conversation, to which advantages he had a shape and manner peculiarly graceful. Mr. Triplett
, who is a woman's man, seemed to hear me with patience enough to commend the qualities of his mind: he never heard indeed but that he was a very honest man, and no fool; but for a fine gentleman, he must ask pardon. Upon no other foundation than this, Mr. Triplett took occasion to give the gentleman's pedigree, by what methods some part of the estate was acquired, how much it was beholden to a marriage for the present circumstances of it; after all, he could see nothing but a common man in his person, his breeding, or understanding
• Thus, Mr. Spectator, this impertinent hu-' mour of diminishing every one who is produced in conversation to their advantage, runs through
the world; and I am, I confess, so fearful of the force of ill tongues, that I have begged of all those who are my well-wishers never to commend me, for it will but bring my frailties into examination, and I had rather be unobserved, than conspicuous for disputed perfections. I am confident a thousand young people, who would have been ornaments to society, have, from fear of scandal, never dared to exert themselves in the polite arts of life. Their lives have passed away in an odious rusticity, in spite of great advantages of person, genius, and fortune. There is a vicious terror of being. blamed in some well inclined people, and a wicked pleasure in suppressing them in others; both which I recommend to your Spectatorial wisdom to animadvert upon: and you can be successful in it, I need not say how much you will deserve of the town; but new toasts will owe to you their beauty, and new wits their fame. 6 Your most obedient humble servant,
• I am, sir,
No. 349. THURSDAY, APRIL 10.
Quos ille timorum
I am very much pleased with a consolatory letter of Phalaris, to one who had lost a son that was a young man of great merit. The thought with which he comforts the afflicted father is, to the best of my memory, as follows: That he should consider death had set a kind of seal upon his son's character, and placed him out of the reach of vice and infamy; that while he lived he was still within the possibility of falling away from virtue, and losing the fame of which he was possessed. Death only closes a man's reputation, and determines it as good or bad.
This, among other motives, may be one reason why we are naturally averse to the launching out into a man's praise till his head is laid in the dust. Whilst he is capable of changing, we may be forced to retract our opinions. He may forfeit the esteem we have conceived of him, and some time or other appear to us under a different light from what he does at present. In short, as the life of any man can not be called happy or un
happy, so neither can it be pronounced vicious or virtuous, before the conclusion of it.
It was upon this consideration that Epaminondas, being asked, whether Chabrias, Iphicrates, or he himself, deserved most to be esteemed? • You must first see us die,' said he, · before that question can be answered.'
As there is not a more melancholy consideration to a good man than his being obnoxious to such a change, so there is nothing more glorious than to keep up an uniformity in his actions, and preserve the beauty of his character to the last.
The end of a man's life is often compared to the winding up of a well-written play, where the principal persons still act in character, whatever the fate is which they undergo. There is scarce a great person in the Grecian or Roman history, whose death has not been remarked upon by some writer or other, and censured or applauded according to the genius or principles of the person who has descanted upon it. Monsieur de St. Evremond is very particular in setting forth the constancy and courage of Petronius Arbiter during his last moments, and thinks he discovers in them a greater firmness of mind and resolution than in the death of Seneca, Cato, or Socrates. There is no question but this polite author's affectation of appearing singular in his remarks, and making discoveries which had escaped the observation of others, threw him into this course of reflection. It was Petronius's merit, that he died in the same gaiety of temper in which he lived; but as his life was altogether loose and dissolute, the indifference which he showed at the close of it is to be looked upon as a piece of na
tural carelessness and levity rather than fortitude. The resolution of Socrates proceeded from very different motives; the consciousness of a well spent life, and the prospect of a happy eternity. If the ingenious author abovementioned was so pleased with gaiety of humour in a dying man, he might have found a much nobler instance of it in our countryman Sir Thomas Moore.
This great and learned man was famous for enlivening his ordinary discourses with wit and pleasantry; and, as Erasmus tells him in an epistle dedicatory, acted in all parts of life like a second Democritus.
He died upon a point of religion, and is respected as a martyr by that side for which he suffered. That innocent mirth which had been so conspicuous in his life did not forsake him to the last; he maintained the same cheerfulness of heart upon the scaffold which he used to show at his table; and, upon laying his head on the block, gave instance of that good humour with which he had always entertained his friends in the most ordinary occurrences. His death was of a piece with his life; there was nothing in it new, forced, or affected. He did not look upon the severing of his head from his body as a circumstance that ought to produce any change in the disposition of his mind; and as he died under a fixed and settled hope of immortality, he thought any unusual degree of sorrow and concern improper on such an occasion, as had nothing in it which could deject or terrify him.
There is no great danger of imitation from this example: men's natural fears will be a sufficient guard against it. I shall only observe, that what