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“DEAR NESTOR, “ It is a well known proverb in certain parts of this kingdom, "Love me, love my dog;' and I hope you will take it as a mark of my respect for your person that I here bring a bit for your lion. ****
What follows being secret history, it will be printed in other papers ; wherein the lion will publish his private intelligence.
N° 119. TUESDAY, JULY 28, 1713.
-poetarum veniet manus, auxilio quæ Sit mihi
HOR. 1 Sat. iv. 141: A band of poets to my aid I'll call.-CREECH: WHERE is nothing which more shews the want of taste
and discernment in a writer than the decrying of any author in gross ; especially of an author who has been the admiration of multitudes, and that too in several ages of the world. This however is the general practice of all illiterate and undistinguishing critics. Because Homer and Virgil and Sophocles have been commended by the learned of all times, every scribbler who has no relish of their beauties, gives himself an air of rapture when he speaks of them. But as he praises these he knows not why, there are others whom he depreciates with the same vehemence, and upon the same account. We may see after what a different manner Strada proceeds in his judgment on the Latin poets; for I intend to publish, in this paper, a continuation of that prolusion which was the subject of the last Thursday.* I shall therefore give my reader a short account in prose of every poem which was produced in the learned assembly there described ; and if he is thuroughly conversant in the works of those ancient authors, he will see with how much judgment every subject is adapted to the poet who makes use of it, and with how much delicacy every particular poet's way of writing is characterized in the censure that is passed upon it. Lucan's representative was the first who recited before that august assembly. As Lucan was a Spaniard, his poem does honour to that nation, which at the same time makes the romantic bravery in the hero of it more probable.
See No. 115, and for the conclusion No. 122.
Alphonso was the governor of a town invested by the Moors. During the blockade they made his only son their prisoner, whom they brought before their walls, and exposed to his father's sight, threatening to put him to death, if he did not immediately give up the town. The father tells them if he had a hundred sons he would rather see them all perish, than do an ill action, or betray his country. “But,” says he, “ if you take a pleasure in destroying the innocent, you may do it if you please: behold a sword for your purpose." Upon which he threw his sword from the wall, returned to his palace, and was able, at such a juncture, to sit down to the repast which was prepared for him. He was soon raised by the shouts of the enemy, and the cries of the besieged. Upon returning again to the walls, he saw his son lying in the pangs of death; but far from betraying any weakness at such a spectacle, he upbraids his friends for their sorrow, and returns to finish his repast,
Upon the recital of this story, which is exquisitely drawn up in Lucan's spirit and language, the whole assembly declared their opinion of Lucan in a confused murmur. The poem was praised or censured according to the
prejudices which every one had conceived in favour or disadvantage of the author. These were so very great, that some had placed him, in their opinions, above the highest, and others beneath the lowest of the Latin poets. Most of them however agreed, that Lucan's genius was wonderfully great, but at the same time too haughty and head-strong to be governed by art, and that his style was like his genius, learned, bold, and lively, but withal too tragical and blustering. In a word, that he chose rather a great than a just reputation; to which they added, that he was the first of the Latin poets who deviated from the purity of the Roman language.
The representative of Lucretius told the assembly, that they should soon be sensible of the difference between a poet who was a native of Rome, and a stranger who had been adopted into it; after which he entered upon his subject, which I find exhibited to my hand in a speculation of one of my predecessors.*
Strada, in the person of Lucretius, gives an account of * See Spect. No. 241, by Addison, who copies this whole paragraph verbatim from himself.
a chimerical correspondence between two friends by the help of a certain loadstone, which had such a virtue in it, that if it touched two several needles, when one of the needles so touched began to move, the other, though at never so great a distance, moved at the same time, and in the same manner. He tells us, that two friends, being each of them possessed of one of these needles, made a kind of dial-plate, inscribing it with the four-and-twenty letters, in the same manner as the hours of the day are marked upon the ordinary dial-plate. Then they fixed oue of the needles on each of these plates in such a manner that it could move round without impediment, so as to touch any of the four-and-twenty letters. Upon their separating from one another into distant countries, they agreed to withdraw themselves punctually into their closets at a certain hour of the day, and to converse with one another by means of this their invention. Accordingly, when they were some hundred miles asunder, each of them shut himself up in his closet at the time appointed, and immediatly cast his eyes upon the dial-plate. If he had a mind to write any thing to his friend, he directed his needle to every letter that formed the words which he had occasion for, making a little pause at the end of every word or sentence to avoid confusion. The friend, in the meanwhile, saw his own sympathetic needle moving of itself to every letter, which that of his correspondent pointed at. By this means they talked together across a whole continent, and conveyed their thoughts to one another in an instant over cities or mountains, seas or deserts.
The whole audience were pleased with the artifice of the poet who represented Lucretius, observing very well how he laid asleep their attention to the simplicity of his style in some of his verses, and to the want of harmony in others, by fixing their minds to the novelty of his subject, and to the experiment w.sich he related. Without such an artifice they were of opinion that nothing would have sounded more harsh than Lucretius's diction and numbers. But it was plain that the more learned part of the assembly were quite of another mind. These allowed that it was peculiar to Lucretius, above all other poets, to be always doing or teaching something, that no other style was so proper to teach in, or gave a greater pleasure to
those who had a true relish for the Roman tongue. They added farther, that if Lucretius had not been embarrassed with the difficulty of his matter, and a little led away by an affectation of antiquity, there could not have been any thing more perfect than his poem.
Claudian succeeded Lucretius, having chosen for his subject the famous contest between the nightingale and the lutanist, which every one is acquainted with, especially since Mr. Philips has so finely improved that hint in one of his pastorals.
He had no sooner finished, but the assembly rung with acclamations made in his praise. His first beauty, which every one owned, was the great clearness and perspicuity which appeared in the plan of his poem.
Others were wonderfully charmed with the smoothness of his verse and the flowing of his numbers, in which there were none of those elisions and cuttings-off so frequent in the works of other poets. There were several, however, of a more refined judgment, who ridiculed that infusion of foreign phrases with which he had corrupted the Latin tongue, and spoke with contempt of the equability of his numbers, that cloyed and satiated the ear for want of variety: to which they likewise added, a frequent and unseasonable affectation of appearing sonorous and sublime.
The sequel of this prolusion shall be the work of another day.*
N° 120. WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 1713.
Nothing lovelier can be found
A BIT FOR THE LION.
S soon as you have set up your unicorn,t there is
no question but the ladies will make him push very furiously at the men; for which reason I think it is good to be beforehand with them, and make the lion roar aloud at female irregularities. Among these, I wonder how their gaming has so long escaped your notice. You, who converse with the sober family of the Lizards, are per* See Strada, lib. ii. Prol. 6.
+ No. 114.
haps a stranger to these viragos; but what would you say, should you see the Sparkler shaking her elbow for a whole night together, and thumping the table with a dice-box? Or, how would you like to hear the good widow-lady herself returning to her house at midnight, and alarming the whole street with the most enormous rap, after having sat up until that time at crimp or ombre ? Sir, I am the husband of one of these female gamesters, and a great loser by it, both in my rest and my pocket. As my wife reads your papers, one upon this subject might be of use both to her, and
“ Your humble servant.” I should ill deserve the name of Guardian, did I not caution all my fair wards against a practice which when it runs to excess, is the most shameful but one that the female world can fall into. The ill consequences of it are more than can be contained in this paper. However, that 1 may proceed in method, I shall consider them; first, as they relate to the mind; secondly, as they relate to the body.
Could we look into the mind of a female gamester, we should see it full of nothing but trumps and matadores. Her slumbers are haunted with kings, queens, and knaves. The day lies heavy upon her until the play-season returns, when for half a dozen hours together all her faculties are employed in shuffling, cutting, dealing, and sorting out a pack of cards, and no ideas to be discovered in a soul which calls itself rational, excepting little square figures of painted and spotted paper. Was the understanding, that divine part in our composition, given for such a use? Is it'thus that we improve the greatest talent human nature is endowed with? What would a superior being think were he shewn this intellectual faculty in a female gamester, and at the same time told, that it was by this she was distinguished from brutes, and allied to angels?
When our women thus fill their imaginations with pips and counters, I cannot wonder at the story I have lately heard of a new-born child that was marked with the five of clubs.
Their passions suffer no less by this practice than their understandings and imaginations. What hope and fear,