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the sight of her emperor. As the philosopher was reflecting on this extraordinary petition, there blew a gentle wind through the trap-door, which he at first mistook for a gale of zephyrs, but afterwards found it to be a breeze of sighs: they smelt strong of flowers and incense, and were succeeded by most passionate complaints of wounds and torments, fire and arrows, cruelty, despair, and death. Menippus fancied that such lamentable cries arose from some general execution, or from wretches lying under the torture; but Jupiter told him that they came up to him from the isle of Paphos, and that he every day received complaints of the same nature from that whimsical tribe of mortals who are called lovers. I am so trifled with, says he, by this generation of both sexes, and find it so impossible to please then, whether I grant or refuse their petitions, that I shall order a western wind for the future to intercept them in their passage, and blow them at random upon the earth. The last petition I heard was from a very aged man of near a hundred years old, begging but for one year more of life, and then promising to die contented. This is the rarest old fellow, says Jupiter. He has made this prayer to me for above twenty years together. When he was but fifty years old, he desired only that he might live to see his son settled in the world; I granted it. He then begged the same favour for his daughter, and afterwards that he might see the education of a grandson: when all this was brought about, he puts up a petition that he might live to finish a house he was building. In short, he is an unreasonable old cur, and never wants an excuse: I will hear no more of
him. Upon which he flung down the trap-door in a passion, and was resolved to give no more audiences that day.'
Notwithstanding the levity of this fable, the moral of it very well deserves our attention, and is the same with that which has been inculcated by Socrates and Plato, not to mention Juvenal and Persius, who have each of them made the finest satire in their whole works upon this subject. The vanity of men's wishes, which are the natural prayers of the mind as well as many of those secret devotions which they offer to the Supreme Being, are sufficiently exposed by it. Among other reasons for set forms of prayers, I have often thought it a very good one, that by this means the folly and extravagance of men's desires may be kept within due bounds, and not break out in absurd and ridiculous petitions on so great and solemn an occasion.
No. 392. FRIDAY, MAY 30.
Per ambages et ministeria deorum.
The transformation of Fidelio into a looking-glass. MR. SPECTATOR,
I was lately at a tea-table, where some young ladies entertained the company with a relation of a coquette in the neighbourhood, who had been
discovered practising before her glass. To turn the discourse, which, from being witty grew to be malicious, the matron of the family took occasion from the subject to wish that there were to be found amongsť men such faithful monitors to dress the mind by, as we consult to adorn the body. She added, that if a sincere friend were miraculously changed into a looking-glass, she should not be ashamed to ask its advice very of. ten. This whimsical thought worked so much upon my fancy the whole evening, that it produced a very odd dream.
• Methought, that as I stood before my glass, the image of a youth, of an open and ingenuous aspect, appeared in it; who with a small shrill voice spoke in the following manner:
“ The looking-glass you see, was heretofore a man, even I, the unfortunate Fidelio. I had two brothers, whose deformity in shape was made up by the clearness of their understandings. It must be owned, however, that (as it generally happens) they had each a perverseness of humour suitable to their distortion of body. The eldest, whose belly sunk in monstrously, was a great coward, and though his splenetic contracted tenper made him take fire immediately, he made objects that beset him appear greater than they
The second, whose breast swelled into a bold relievo, on the contrary, took great pleasure in lessening every thing, and was perfectly the reverse of his brother. These oddnesses pleased company once or twice, but disgusted when often seen, for which reason the young gentlemen were sent from court to study mathematics at the university.
“ I need not acquaint you, that I was very well made, and reckoned a bright polite gentleman. I was the confidant and darling of all the fair; and if the old and ugly spoke ill of me, all the world knew it was because I scorned to flatter them. No ball, no assembly, was attended till I had been consulted. Flavia coloured her hair before me, Celia showed me her teeth. Panthea heaved her bosom, Cleora brandished her diamond; I have seen Cleora's foot, and tied artificially the garters of Rhodope.
“It is a general maxim, that those who doat upon themselves can have no violent affection for another; but, on the contrary, I found that the women's passion for me rose in proportion to the love they bore to themselves. verified in my amour with Narcissa, who was so constant to me, that it was pleasantly said, had I been little enough she would have hung me at her girdle. The most dangerous rival I had was a gay empty fellow, who, by the strength of a long intercourse with Narcissa, joined to his natural endowments, had formed himself into a perfect resemblance with her. I had been discarded, had she not observed that he frequently asked my opinion about matters of the last consequence: this made me still more considerable
Though I was eternally caressed by the ladies, such was their opinion of my honour, that I was never envied by the men. A jealous lover of Narcissa one day thought he had caught her in an amorous conversation; for though he was at such a distance that he could hear nothing, he imagined strange things from her airs and
in her eye.
gestures. Sometimes with a serene look she stepped back in a listening posture, and brightened into an innocent smile. Quickly after she swelled into an air of majesty and disdain, then kept her eyes half shut after a languishing manner, then covered her blushes with her hand, breathed a sigh, and seemed ready to sink down. In rushed the furious lover; but how great was his surprise to see no one there but the innocent Fidelio, with his back against the wall betwixt two windows.
“ It were endless to recount all my adventures. Let me hasten to that which cost me my life, and Narcissa her happiness.
She had the misfortune to have the smallpox, upon which I was expressly forbid her sight, it being apprehended that it would increase her distemper, and that I should infallibly catch it at the first look. As soon as she was suffered to leave her bed, she stole out of her chamber, and found me all alone in an adjoining apartment. She ran with transport to her darling, and without mixture of fear lest I should dislike her. But, oh me! what was her fury when she heard me say, I was afraid and shocked at so loathsome a spectacle. She stepped back, swollen with rage, to see if I had the insolence to repeat it. I did, with this addition, that her ill-timed passion had increased her ugliness. Enraged, infamed, distracted, she snatched a bodkin, and with all her force, stabbed me to the heart. Dying, I preserved my sincerity, and expressed the truth, though in broken words; and by reproachful grimaces to the last, I mimicked the deformity of my murderess.