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Friday, April 13.
Cupias non placuiffe nimis. - MART.
One would not please too much.
ALATE converfation which I fell into, gave me an
opportunity of observing a great deal of beauty in a very handfome woman, and as much wit in an ingenious man, turned into deformity in the one, and abfurdity in the other, by the mere force of affectation. The fair one had fomething in her perfon upon which her thoughts were fixed, that she attempted to fhew to advantage in every look, word, and gefture. The gentleman was as diligent to do justice to his fine parts, as the lady to her beauteous form: you might fee his imagination on the stretch to find out fomething uncommon, and what they call bright, to entertain her; while fhe writhed herself into as many different postures to engage him. When she laughed, her lips were to fever at a greater diftance than ordinary to fhew her teeth; her fan was to point to fomewhat at a diftance, that in the reach the may discover the roundness of her arm; then fhe is utterly mistaken in what she faw, falls back, fmiles at her own folly, and is so wholly discomposed, that her tucker is to be adjufted, her bofom expofed, and the whole woman put into new airs and graces. While fhe was doing all this, the gallant had time to think of fomething very pleasant to fay next to her, or make fome unkind obfervation on fome other lady to feed her vanity. These unhappy effects of affectation, naturally led me to look into that strange state of mind which fo generally difcolours the behaviour of moft people we meet with.
The learned Dr. Burnet, in his theory of the earth, takes occafion to obferve, that every thought is attended with consciousness and reprefentativeness; the mind has nothing prefented to it but what is immediately followed by a reflection or confcience, which tells you
whether that which was fo prefented is graceful or unbecoming. This act of the mind difcovers itself in the gefture, by a proper behaviour in those whofe confcioufnefs goes no further than to direct them in the just progrefs of their prefent thought or action; but betrays an interruption in every fecond thought, when the consciousness is employed in too fondly approving a man's own conceptions; which fort of confcioufnefs is what we call affectation.
As the love of praife is implanted in our bofoms as a ftrong incentive to worthy actions, it is a very difficult talk to get above a defire of it for things that should be wholly indifferent. Women, whofe hearts are fixed upon the pleasure they have in the confciousness that they are the objects of love and admiration, are ever changing the air of their countenances, and altering the attitude of their bodies, to ftrike the hearts of their beholders with new fenfe of their beauty. The dreffing part of our fex, whofe minds are the fame with the fillier part of the other, are exactly in the like uneafy condition to be regarded for a well-tied cravat, an hat cocked with an unusual briskness, a very well-chofen coat, or other inftances of merit, which they are impatient to fee unobferved.
But this apparent affectation, arifing from an illgoverned conscioufnefs, is not fo much to be wondered at in fuch loose and trivial minds as thefe: but when you fee it reign in characters of worth and distinction, it is what you cannot but lament, not without fome indignation. It creeps into the heart of the wife man as well as that of the coxcomb. When you see a man of fense look about for applause, and discover an itching inclination to be commended; lay traps for a little incenfe, even from those whofe opinion he values in nothing but his own favour; who is fafe against this weakness? or who knows whether he is guilty of it or not? The best way to get clear of fuch a light fondness for applaufe, is to take all poffible care to throw off the love of it upon occafions that are not in themselves laudable, but as it appears, we hope for no praise from them. Of this nature are all graces in mens perfons, drefs and bodily deportment; which will naturally be
winning and attractive if we think not of them, but lofe their force in proportion to our endeavour to make them fuch.
When our consciousness turns upon the main defign of life, and our thoughts are employed upon the chief purpose either in bufinefs or pleasure, we fhall never betray an affectation, for we cannot be guilty of it: but when we give the paffion for praise an unbridled liberty, our pleasure in little perfections, robs us of what is due to us for great virtues and worthy qualities. How many excellent speeches and honeft actions are loft, for want of being indifferent where we ought? Men are oppreffed with regard to their way of fpeaking and acting, inftead of having their thoughts bent upon what they fhould do or fay; and by that means bury a capacity for great things, by their fear of failing in indifferent things. This, perhaps, cannot be called affectation; but it has fome tincture of it, at least so far, as that their fear of erring in a thing of no confequence, argues they would be too much pleafed in performing it.
It is only from a thorough difregard to himfelf in fuch particulars, that a man can act with a laudable fufficiency: his heart is fixed upon one point in view; and he commits no errors, because he thinks nothing an error but what deviates from that intention.
The wild havock affectation makes in that part of the world which should be most polite, is vifible wherever we turn our eyes: it pushes men not only into impertinencies in converfation, but also in their premeditated fpeeches. At the bar it torments the bench, whose bufinefs it is to cut off all fuperfluities in what is spoken before it by the practitioner; as well as feveral little pieces of injuftice which arife from the law itself. I have feen it make a man run from the purpose before a judge, who was, when at the bar himself, fo close and logical a pleader, that with all the pomp of eloquence in his power, he never spoke a word too much.
It might be borne even here, but it often afcends the pulpit itself; and the declaimer, in that facred place, is frequently fo impertinently witty, fpeaks of the laft day itself with fo many quaint phrafes, that there is no man who understands raillery, but must resolve to fin no more::
nay, you may behold him fometimes in prayer, proper delivery of the great truths he is to utter, humble himself with fo very well-turned phrafe, and mention his own unworthiness in a way fo very becoming, that the air of the pretty gentleman is preserved, under the lowliness of the preacher.
I fhall end this with a fhort letter I writ the other day to a witty man, over-run with the fault I am fpeaking of.
'I SPENT some time with you the other day, and muft take the liberty of a friend to tell you of the unfufferable affectation you are guilty of in all you fay ' and do. When I gave you an hint of it, you asked · me whether a man is to be cold to what his friends ⚫ think of him? No: but praise is not to be the entertainment of every moment; he that hopes for it muft be able to fufpend the poffeffion of it till proper periods of life, or death itself. If you would not rather be commended than be praife-worthy, contemn little merits; and allow no man to be fo free with you, as to praise you to your face. Your vanity by this means will want its food. At the fame time your paffion for efteem will be more fully gratified; men will praise you in their actions: where you now receive one compliment, you will then receive twenty 'civilities. Till then you will never have of either, • further than,
• Your humble fervant.
Much do I fuffer, much, to keep in peace
This jealous, wafpifh, wrong-head, rhyming race. POPE..
As a perfect tragedy is the nobleft production of
human nature, fo it is capable of giving the mind one of the most delightful and moft improving entertainments. A virtuous man, fays Seneca, ftruggling with misfortunes, is fuch a fpectacle as gods might look upon with pleasure; and fuch a pleasure it is which one meets with in the reprefentation of a well-written tragedy. Diverfions of this kind wear out of our thoughts every thing that is mean and little. They cherish and cultivate that humanity which is the ornament of our nature. They foften infolence, footh affliction, and fubdue the mind to the difpenfations of providence.
It is no wonder therefore that in all the polite nations of the world, this part of the drama has met with public encouragement.
The modern tragedy excels that of Greece and Rome in the intricacy and difpofition of the fable; but, what a chriftian writer would be ashamed to own, falls infinitely short of it in the moral part of the performance.
This I may fhow more at large hereafter; and in the mean time, that I may contribute fomething towards the improvement of the English tragedy, I fhall take notice, in this and in other following papers, of fome particular parts in it that feem liable to exception.
Aristotle obferves, that the iambic verfe in the Greek tongue was the most proper for tragedy; because at the fame time that it lifted up the difcourfe from profe, it was that which approached nearer to it than any