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The generality of mankind are not so grossly ignorant, as some overbearing spirits would persuade themselves; and if the authority of a character, or a caation against danger, make us suppress our opinion, yet neither of these are of force enough to suppress our thoughts of them. If a man who has endeavoured to amuse his company with improbabilities, could but look into their minds, he would find that they imagine he lightly esteems of their sense, when he thinks to impose upon them, and that he is less esteemed by them for his attempt in doing so. His endeavour to glory at their expence becomes a ground of quarrel, and the scorn and indifference with which they entertain it, begins the immediate punishment: and, indeed, (if we should even go no further,) silence, or a negligent indifference, has a deeper way of wounding than opposition ; because opposition proceeds from an anger that has a sort of generous sentiment for the adversary mingling along with it, while it shews that there is some esteem in your mind for him : in short, that you think him worth while to contest with : but silence, or a negligent indifference, proceeds from anger, mixed with a scorn that shews another he is thought by you too contemptible to be regarded.
The other method which the world has taken for correcting this practice of false surprise, is to overshoot such talkers in their own bow, or to raise the story with further degrees of impossibility, and set up for a youcher to them, in such a manner as must let them see they stand detected. Thus I have heard a discourse was once managed upon the effects of fear. One of the company had given an account how it had turned his friend's hair grey in a night, while the terrors of a shipwreck encompassed him. Another taking the hint from hence, began, upon his own knowledge, to enlarge his instances of the like nature to such a number, that it was not probable he could ever have met with them; and as he still grounded these upon different causes, for the sake of variety,
it might seem at last, from his share of the conversation, almost impossible that any one who can feel the passion of fear, should, all his life, escape so common an effect of it. By this time some of the company grew negligent, or desirous to contradict him: but one rebuked the rest with an appearance of severity, and, with the known old story in his head, assured them they need not scruple to believe that the fear of any thing can make a man's hair grey, since he knew one whose periwig had suffered so by it: thus he stopped the talk, and made them easy. Thus is the same method taken to bring us to shame, which we fondly take to increase our character. It is, indeed, a kind of mimicry, by which another puts on our air of conversation to shew us to ourselves : he seems to look ridiculous before you, that you may remember how near a resemblance you bear to him, or that you may know he will not lie under the imputation of believing you. Then it is, that you are struck dumb immediately with a conscientious shame for what you have been saying : then it is, that you are in wardly grieved at the sentiments which you cannot but perceive others entertain concerning you. In short, you are against yourself; the laugh of the company runs against you; the censuring world is obliged to you for that triumph which you have allowed them at your own expence: and truth, which you have injured, has a near way of being revenged on you, when by the bare repetition of your story, you become a frequent diversion for the public."
“Mr. SPECTATOR, “ The other day, walking in Pancras church-yard, I thought of your paper, wherein you mention epitaphs,' and am of opinion,
* This paper was not lettered in the original editions ; but Tickell's authority is conclusive in spite of Hurd.—G.
^ I cannot tell how this paper came to be inserted in Mr. Tickell's edition. It certainly was not written by Mr. Addison.-H.
this has a thought in it worth being communicated to your readers.
Here innocence and beauty lies, whose breath
“I am, sir, your servant,'
No. 542. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21.
Et sibi præferri so gaudet,
Ovid. Met. A. 430.
--He heard, Well pleas'd, himself before himself preferr'd.
When I have been present in assemblies where my paper has been talked of, I have been very well pleased to hear those who would detract from the author of it observe, that the letters which are sent to the Spectator, are as good, if not better than any of his works. Upon this occasion, many letters of mirth are usually mentioned, which some think the Spectator writ to himself, and which others commend because they fancy he received them from his correspondents : such are those from the Valetudinarian ; the Inspector of the Sign-posts; the Master of the Fan-exercise; with that of the Hooped-petticoat: that of Nicholas Hart, the Annual Sleeper; that of Sir John Envill; that upon the London Cries; with multitudes of the same nature. As I love nothing more than to mortify the ill-natured, that I may
? See Nos. 26, 33, 177, 323, and 539.-C.
do it effectually, I must acquaint them, they have very often praised me when they did not design it, and that they have approved my writings, when they thought they had derogated from them. I have heard several of these unhappy gentlemen proving, by undeniable arguments, that I was not able to pen a letter which I had written the day before. Nay, I have heard some of them throwing out ambiguous expressions, and giving the company reason to suspect that they themselves did me the honour to send me such and such a particular epistle, which happened to be talked of with the esteem or approbation of those who were present. These rigid critics are so afraid of allowing me any thing which does not belong to me, that they will not be positive whether the lion, the wild boar, and the flower pots in the playhouse, did not actually write those letters which came to me in their names. I must, therefore, inform these gentlemen, that I often chuse this way of casting my thoughts into a letter, for the following reasons : first, out of the policy of those who try their jest upon another, before they own it themselves. Secondly, because I would extort a little praise from such who will never applaud any thing whose author is known and certain. Thirdly, because it gave me an opportunity of introducing a great variety of characters into my work, which could not have been done, had I always written in the person of the Spectator. Fourthly, because the dignity spectatorial would have suffered, had I published, as from myself, those several ludicrous compositions which I have ascribed to fictitious names and characters. And lastly, because they often serve to bring in, more naturally, such additional reflections as have been placed at the end of them.
There are others, who have likewise done me a very particular honour, though undesignedly. These are such who will needs have it, that I have translated or borrowed many of my thoughts out of books which are written in other languages. I have heard of a person, who is more famous for his library than his learning, that has asserted this more than once in his private conversation. Were it true, I am sure he could not speak at from his own knowledge ; but had he read the books which he has collected, he would find this accusation to be wholly groundless. Those who are truly learned will acquit me on this point, in which I have been so far from offending, that I have been scru: pulous, perhaps to a fault, in quoting the authors of several passages, which I might have made my own. But as this assertion is, in reality, an encomium on what I have published, I ought rather to glory in it, than endeavour to confute it.
Some are so very willing to alienate from me that small reputation which might accrue to me from any of my speculations, that they attribute some of the best of them to those imaginary manuscripts with which I have introduced them. There are others, I must confess, whose objections have given me a greater concern, as they seem to reflect, under this head, rather on my morality than on my invention. These are they who say an author. is guilty of falsehood, when he talks to the public of manuscripts which he never saw, or describes scenes of action or discourse in which he was never engaged. But these gentlemen would do well to consider, there is not a fable or parable which ever was made use of, that is not liable to this exception; since nothing, according to this notion, can be related innocently, which was not once matter of fact. Besides, I think the most ordinary reader may be able to discover, by my way of writing, what I deliver in these occurrences as truth, and what as fic. tion.
Since I am unawares engaged in answering the several objec
* Supposed to be Mr. Thomas Rawlinson, the Tom Folios of the Tatler, No. 158.--G.