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No. 1. SATURDAY, JANUARY 23, 1779.
WHEN a stranger is introduced into a numerous company, he is scarcely seated before every body present begins to form some notion of his character. The gay, the sprightly, and the inconsiderate, judge of him by the cut of his coat, the fashion of his periwig, and the ease or awkwardness of his bow. The cautious citizen, and the proud country-gentleman, value him according to the opinion they chance to adopt, the one, of the extent of his rent-roll, the other, of the length of his pedigree; and all estimate his merit, in proportion as he seems to possess or to want those qualities for which themselves wish to be admired. If, in the course of conversation, they chance to discover that he is in use to make one in the polite circles of the metropolis; that he is famihar with the great, and sometimes closeted with the minister; whatever contempt or indifference they may at first have shown, or felt themselves disposed to show, they at once give up their own judgment; every one pays a compliment to his own sagacity, by assuming the merit of having discovered that this
stranger had the air of a man of fashion, and all vie in their attention and civility, in hopes of establishing a more intimate acquaintance.
An anonymous periodical writer, when he first gives his works to the public, is pretty much in the situation of the stranger. If he endeavour to amuse the young and the lively, by the sprightliness of his wit, or the sallies of his imagination, the grave and the serious throw aside his works as trifling and contemptible. The reader of romance and sentiment finds no pleasure but in some eventful story, suited to his taste and disposition; while with him - who aims at instruction in politics, religion, or morality, nothing is relished that has not a relation to the object he pursues. But no sooner is the public informed that this unknown author has already figured in the world as a poet, historian, or essayist; that his writings are read and admired by the Shaftesburies, the Addisons, and the Chesterfields of the age; than beauties are discovered in every line; he is extolled as a man of universal talents, who can laugh with the merry, and be serious with the grave; who at one time can animate his reader with the glowing sentiments of virtue and compassion, and at another carry him through the calm disquisitions of science and philosophy.
Nor is the world to be blamed for this general mode of judging. Before an individual can form an opinion for himself, he is under a security of reading with attention, of examining whether the style and manner of the author be suited to his subject, if his thoughts and images be natural, his observations just, his arguments conclusive; and though all this may be done with moderate talents, and without any extraordinary share of what is commonly called learning, yet it is a much more compendious method, and saves much time, and labour, and reflection, to
follow the crowd, and to re-echo the opinions of the critics.
There is, however, one subject on which every man thinks himself qualified to decide, namely, the representation of his own character, of the characters of those around him, and of the age in which he lives; and as I propose in the following papers 'to hold, as it were, the Mirror up to Nature, to show Virtue her own features, Vice her own image, and the very age and body of the Time his form and pressure,' my readers will judge for themselves, independent of names and authority, whether the picture be a just one. This is a field, which, however extensively and judiciously cultivated by my predecessors, may still produce something new. The follies, the fashions, and the vices of mankind, are in constant fluctuation; and these, in their turn, bring to light new virtues, or modifications of virtues, which formerly lay hid in the human soul, for want of opportunities to exert them. Time alone can show whether I be qualified for the task I have undertaken. No man, without a trial, can judge of his ability to please the public; and prudence forbids him to trust the applauses of partial friendship. . It may be proper, however, without meaning to anticipate the opinion of the reader, to give him some of the outlines of my past life and education.
I am the only son of a gentleman of moderate fortune. My parents died when I was an infant, leaving me under the guardianship of an eminent counsellor, who came annually to visit an estate he had in the neighbourhood of my father's, and of the clergyman of the parish, both of them men of distinguished probity and honour. They took particular care of my education, intending me for one of the learned professions. At the age of twenty I had
completed my studies, and was preparing to enter
By the assiduities of some friends, who have promised to assist me in the present publication, I was prevented from falling a sacrifice to that languid inactivity which a depression of spirits never fails to produce. Without seeming to do so, they engaged me by degrees to divide my time between study and society; restoring, by that means, a relish for both. I once more took a share in the busy, and, sometimes, in the idle scenes of life. But a mind habituated to reflection, though it may seem occupied with the occurrences of the day, (a tax which politeness exacts, which every benevolent heart cheerfully pays), will often, at the same time, be employed in endeavouring to discover the spring and motives of action which are sometimes hid from the actors themselves; to trace the progress of character through the mazes in which it is involved by education or habit; to mark those approaches to error into which unsuspecting innocence and integrity are too apt to be led ; and, in general, to investigate those passions and affections of the mind which have the chief influence on the happiness of individuals, or of society.
If the sentiments and observations to which this train of thinking will naturally give rise can be exhibited in this paper, in such a dress and manner
as to afford amusement, it will at least be an innocent one; and, though instruction is, perhaps, hardly to be expected from such desultory sketches, yet their general tendency shall be to cultivate taste, and improve the heart.
No. 2. SATURDAY, JANUARY 30, 1779.
No child ever heard from its nurse the story of Jack the Giant Killer's cap of darkness without envying the pleasures of invisibility; and the idea of Gyges' Ring has made, I believe, many a grave mouth water. .
This power is, in some degree, possessed by the writer of an anonymous paper. He can at least exercise it for a purpose for which people would be most apt to use the privilege of being invisible, to wit, that of hearing what is said of himself. • A few hours after the publication of my first number, I sallied forth with all the advantages of invisibility, to hear an account of myself and my paper. I must confess, however, that for some time I was mortified by hearing no such account at all; the first company I visited being dull enough to talk about last night's Advertiser, instead of the Mirror; and the second, which consisted of ladies, to whom I ventured to mention the appearance of my first number, making a sudden digression to the price of a new-fashioned lustring, and the colour of the trimming with which it would be proper to make it up into a gown. Nor was I more fortunate in the third place, where I contrived to introduce the subject of