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all the while his wife was carrying him on, and, as it was said, had scarce passed a day in his life without giving her the discipline of the strap.
“I cannot conclude my letter, dear Spec, without telling thee one very odd whim in this my dream. I saw, methought, a dozen women employed in bringing off one man; I could not guess who it should be, until upon his nearer approach I discovered thy short phiz. The women all declared that it was for the sake of thy works, and not thy person, that they brought thee off, and that it was on condition that thou shouldst continue the Spectator. If thou thinkest this dream will make a tolerable one, it is at thy service, from,
“Dear Spec, thine, sleeping and waking,
THE GROTTO OF GRIEF. A VISION. (No. 501).
How are we tortured with the absence of what we covet to possess, when it appears to be lost to us! What excursions does the soul make in imagination after it! and how does it turn into itself again, more foolishly fond and dejected, at the disappointment! Our grief, instead of having recourse to reason, which might restrain it, searches to find a further nourishment. It calls upon memory to relate the several passages and circumstances of satisfaction which we formerly enjoyed; the pleasures we purchased by those riches that are taken from us; or the power and splendour of our departed honours; or the voice, the words, the looks, the temper, and affections of our friends that are deceased. It needs must happen from hence, that the passion should often swell to such a size as to burst the heart which contains it, if time did not make these circumstances less strong and lively, so that reason should become a more equal match for the passion, or if another desire, which becomes more present, did not overpower them with a livelier representation. These are thoughts which I had when I fell into a kind of vision upon this subject, and
may therefore stand for a proper introduction to a relation of it. I found myself upon a naked shore, with company
whose afflicted countenances witnessed their conditions. Before us flowed a water, deep, silent, and called the River of Tears, which, issuing from two fountains on an upper ground, encompassed an island that lay before us. The boat which plied in it was old and shattered, having been sometimes overset by the impatience and haste of single passengers to arrive at the other side. This immediately was brought to us by Misfortune who steers it, and we were all preparing to take our places, when there appeared a woman of a mild and composed behaviour, who began to deter us from it, by representing the dangers which would attend our voyage. Hereupon some who knew her for Patience, and some of those too who until then cried the loudest, were persuaded by her, and returned back. The rest of us went in, and she (whose good-nature would not suffer her to forsake persons in trouble) desired leave to accompany us, that she might at least administer some small comfort or advice while we sailed. We were no sooner embarked but the boat was pushed off, the sheet was spread; and being filled with sighs, which are the winds of that country, we made a passage to the further bank, through several difficulties, of which the most of us seemed utterly regardless.
When we landed, we perceived the island to be strangely overcast with fogs, which no brightness could pierce, so that a kind of gloomy horror sat always brooding over it. This had something in it very shocking to easy tempers, insomuch that some others, whom Patience had by this time gained over, left us here, and privily conveyed themselves round the verge of the island to find a ford, by which she told them they might escape.
For my part, I still went along with those who were for piercing into the centre of the place; and joining ourselves to others whom we found upon the same journey, we marched solemnly as at a funeral, through bordering hedges of rosemary, and through a grove of yew-trees, which love to overshadow tombs and flourish in churchyards. Here we heard
on overy side the wailings and complaints of several of the inhabitants, who had cast themselves disconsolately at the fe of trees; and as we chanced to approach any of these, we might perceive them wringing their hands, beating their breasts, tearing their hair, or after some other manner visibly agitated with vexation. Our Sorrows were heightened by the influence of what we heard and saw, and one of our number was wrought up to such a pitch of wildness, as to talk of hanging himself upon a bough which shot temptingly across the path we travelled in ; but he was restrained from it by the kind endeavours of our above-mentioned companion. We had now gotten into the most dusky silent part of the island, and by the redoubled sounds of sighs, which made a doleful whistling in the branches, the thickness of air, which occasioned faintish respiration, and the violent throbbings of heart which more and more affected us, we found that we approached the Grotto of Grief. It was a wide, hollow, and melancholy cave, sunk deep in a dale, and watered by rivulets that had a colour between red and black. These crept slow and half congealed amongst its windings, and mixed their heavy murmurs with the echo of groans that rolled through all the passages. In the most retired parts of it sat the doleful Being herself: the path to her was strewed with goads, stings, and thorns; and her throne on which she sat was broken into a rock, with ragged pieces pointing upwards for her to lean upon. A heavy mist hung above her; her head oppressed with it reclined upon her arm. Thus did she reign over her disconsolate subjects, full of herself to stupidity, in eternal pensiveness and the profoundest silence. On one side of her stood Dejection just dropping into a swoon, and Paleness wasting to a skeleton; on the other side were Care inwardly tormented with imaginations, and Anguish suffering outward troubles to suck the blood from her heart in the shape of vultures. The whole vault had a genuine dismalness in it, which a few scattered lamps, whose blueish flames arose and sunk in their urns, discovered to our eyes with increase. Some of us fell down, overcome and spent with what they suffered in the way, and were given over to those tormentors that stood on either hand of the presence; others, galled and mortified with pain, recovered the entrance, where Patience, whom we had left behind, was still waiting to receive us. With her (whose company was now become more grateful to us by the want we had found of her), we winded round the grotto, and ascended at the back of it, out of the mournful dale in whose bottom it lay. On this eminence we halted, by her advice, to pant for breath; and lifting our eyes, which until then were fixed downwards, felt a sullen sort of satisfaction, in observing through the shades what numbers had entered the island. This satisfaction, which appears to have ill-nature in it, was excusable, because it happened at a time when we were too much taken up with our own concern to have respect to that of others; and therefore we did not consider them as suffering, but ourselves as not suffering in the most forlorn estate. It had also the ground-work of humanity and compassion in it, though the mind was then too dark and too deeply engaged to perceive it; but as we proceeded onwards, it began to discover itself, and from observing that others were unhappy, we came to question one another, when it was that we met, and what were the sad occasions that brought us together. Then we heard our stories, we compared them, we mutually gave and received pity, and so by degrees became tolerable company. A considerable part of the troublesome road was thus deceived: at length the openings among the trees grew larger, the air seemed thinner, it lay with less oppression upon us, and we could now and then discern tracks in it of a lighter grayness, like the breakings of day, short in duration, much enlivening, and called in that country gleams of amusement. Within a short while these gleams began to appear more frequent, and then brighter and of a longer continuance; the sighs that hitherto filled the air with so much dolefulness, altered to the sound of common breezes, and in general the horrors of the island were abated. When we had arrived at last at the ford by which we were to pass out, we met with those fashionable mourners who had been ferried over along with us, and who, being unwilling to go as far as we, had coasted by the shore to find the place, where they waited our coming; that, by showing themselves to the world only at the time when we did, they might seem also to have been among the troubles of the grotto. Here the waters that rolled on the other side so deep and silent, were much dried up, and it was an easier matter for us to wade over. The river being crossed, we were received upon the further bank by our friends and acquaintances, whom Comfort had brought out to congratulate our appearance in the world again. Some of these blamed us for staying so long away from them ; others advised us against all temptations of going back again; every one was cautious not to renew our trouble, by asking any particulars of the journey; and all concluded, that, in a case of so much melancholy and affliction, we could not have made choice of a fitter companion than Patience. Here Patience, appearing serene at her praises, delivered us over to Comfort. Comfort smiled at his receiving the charge; immediately the sky purpled on that side to which he turned, and double day at once broke in upon me. PARNELL•
FAIR FOR DISPOSING OF WOMEN. (No. 511).
“Finding that my last letter took, I do intend to continue my epistolary correspondence with thee, on those dear confounded creatures, women. Thou knowest, all the little learning I am master of is upon that subject; I never looked in a book, but for their sakes. I have lately met with two pure stories for a Spectator, which I am sure will please mightily, if they pass through thy hands. The first of them I found by chance in an English book, called Herodotus, that lay in my friend Dapperwit's window, as I visited him one morning. It luckily opened in the place where I met with the following account. He tells us that