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Were not I supported by so great an authority as that of Mr Dryden, I should not venture to observe that the taste of most of our English poets as well as readers is extremely Gothic. He quotes Monsieur Se. grais for a threefold distinction of the readers of poetry: in the first of which he comprehends the rabble of readers, whom he does not treat as such with regard to their quality, but to their numbers and the coarseness of their taste. His words are as follow : 'Segrais has distinguished the readers of poetry, according to their capacity of judging, into three classes.' (He might have said the same of writers too, if he had pleased.]
In the lowest form he places those whom he calls les petits esprits, such things as are our upper-gallery audience in a playhouse ; who like nothing but the husk and rind of wit, prefer a quibble, a conceit, an epigram, before solid sense and elegant expression. These are mob readers. If Virgil and Martial stood for parliament-men, we know already who would carry it. But though they made the greatest appearance in the field, and cry the loudest, the best on it is, they are but a sort of French Huguenots, or Dutch boors, brought over in herds, but not naturalized; who have not lands of two pounds per annum in Parnassus, and therefore are not privileged to poll. Their authors are of the same level, fit to represent them on a mountebank’s stage, or to be masters of the ceremonies in a bear-garden : yet these are they who have the most admirers. But it often happens, to their mortification, that as their readers improve their stock of sense (as they may by reading better books, and by conversation with men of judgment), they soon forsake them.' I must not dismiss this subject without observing, that as Mr. Locke in the passage above mentioned has discovered the most fruitful source of wit, so there is another of a quite contrary nature to it, which does likewise branch itself out into several kinds. For not only the resemblance but the opposition of ideas does very often produce wit; as I could show in several little points, turns, and antitheses, that I may possibly enlarge upon in some future speculation.
ALLEGORÝ ON WIT. No. 63. It is very hard for the mind to disengage itself from a subject in which it has been long employed. The thoughts will be rising of theniselves from time to time, though we give them no encouragement; as the tossings and fluctuations of the sea continue several hours after the winds are laid.
It is to this that I impute my last night's dream or vision, which formed into one continual allegory the several schemes of wit, whether false, mixed, or true, that have been the subject of my late Papers.
Methought I was transported into a country that was filled with prodigies and enchantments, governed by the goddess of FALSEHOOD, and entitled The Region of false Wit. There was nothing in the fields, the woods, and the rivers, that appeared natural. Several of the trees blossomed in leaf-gold, some of them produced bone-lace, and some of them precious stones. The fountains bubbled in an opera tune, and were filled with stags, wild boars, and mermaids, that lived among the waters ; at the same time that dolphins and several kinds of fish played upon the banks, or took their pastime in the meadows. The birds had many of them golden beaks and human voices. The flowers perfumed the air with smells of incense, amber-grease, and pulvillios; and were so interwoven with one another that they grew up in pieces of embroidery. The winds were filled with sighs and messages of distant lovers. As I was walking to and fro in this enchanted wilderness, I could not forbear breaking out into soliloquies upon the several wonders which lay before me, when, to my great surprise, I found there were artificial echoes in every walk, that, by repetitions of certain words which I spoke, agreed with me or contradicted me in every thing I said. In the midst of my conversation with these invisible companions, I discovered in the centre of a very dark grove a monstrous fabric built after the Gothic manner, and covered with innamerable devices in that barbarous kind of sculpture. I immediately went up to it, and found it to be a kind of heathen temple consecrated to the god of Dulness. Upon my entrance I saw the deity of the place drest in the habit of a monk, with a book in one hand and a rattle in the other. Upon his right hand was Industry, with a lamp burning before her; and on his left Caprice, with a monkey sitting on her shoulder. Before his feet there stood an astar of a very odd make, which, as I afterwards found, was shaped in that manner to comply with the inscription that surrounded it, Upon the altar there lay several offerings of axes, wings, and eggs, cut in paper, and inscribed with verses. The temple was filled with votaries, who applied themselves to different diversions, as their fancies directed them. In one part of it I saw a regiment of Anagrams, who were continually in motion, turning to the right or to the left, facing about, doubling their 8
ranks, shifting their stations, and throwing themselves into all the figures and counter-marches of the most changeable and perplexed exercise.
Not far from these was a body of Acrostics, made up of very disproportioned persons. It was disposed into three columns, the officers planting themselves in a line on the left hand of each column. The officers, were all of them at least six feet high, and made three rows of very proper men; but the common soldiers, who filled up the spaces between the officers, were such dwarfs, cripples, and scarecrows, that one could hardly look upon them without laughing. There were behind the Acrostius two or three files of Chronograms, which differed only froin the former as their officers were equipped (like the figure of Time) with an hourglass in one hand, and a scythe in the other, and took their posts promiscuously among the private men whom they commanded.
In the body of the temple, and before the very face of the deity, inethought I saw the phantom of Tryphiodorųs the Lipogrammatist, engaged in a ball with four-and-twenty persons, who pursued him by turns through all the intricacies and labyrinths of a countrydance, without being able to overtake him.
Observing several to be very busy at the western end of the temple, I inquired into what they were doing, and found there was in that quarter the great magazine of rebuses. These were several things of the most different natures, tied up in bundles, and thrown upon one another in heaps like faggots. You might behold an anchor, a night-rail, and a hobby-horse bound up together. One of the workmen seeing me very much surprised, told me, there was an infinite deal of wit in several of those bundles, and that he would explain them to me if I pleased. I thanked him for his civility, but told him I was in very great haste at that time, As I was going out of the temple, I observed in one corner of it a cluster of men and women laughing very heartily, and diverting themselves át a game of crambo. I heard several double rhymes as I passed by them, which raised a great deal of mirth.
Not far from these was another set of merry people engaged at a diversion, in which the whole jest was to mistake one person for another. To give occasion for these ludicrous mistakes, they were divided into pairs, every pair being covered from head to foot with the same kind of dress, though perhaps there was not the least resemblance in their faces. By this means an old man was sometimes mistaken for a boy, a woman for a man, and a black-a-moor for an European, which very often produced great peals of laughter. These I guessed to be a party of puns. But being very desirous to get out of this world of magic, which had almost turned my brain, I left the temple, and crossed over the fields that lay about it with all the speed I could make. I was not gone far before I heard the sound of trumpets and alarms, which seemed to proclaim the march of an enemy; and, as I afterwards found, was in reality what I apprehended it. There appeared at a great distance a very shining light, and in the midst of it a person of a most beautiful aspect; her name was TRUTH. On her right hand there marched a male deity, who bore several quivers on his shoulders, and grasped several arrows in his hand; his name was IV it. The approach of these two enemies filled all the territories of false Wit with an unspeakable consternation, insomuch that the goddess of those regions appeared in person upon her frontiers, with