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No. 20. SATURDAY, MAY 26, 1750.
MONG the numerous stratagems, by
which pride endeavours to recommend folly to regard, there is scarcely one
that meets with less success than affectation, or a perpetual disguise of the real character, by fictitious appearances ; whether it be, that every man hates falsehood, from the natural congruity of truth to his faculties of reason, or that every man is jealous of the honour of his understanding, and thinks his discernment consequently called in question, whenever any thing is exhibited under a borrowed form.
This aversion from all kinds of disguise, whatever be its cause, is universally diffused, and incessantly in action ; nor is it necessary, that to exasperate detestation, or excite contempt, any interest should be invaded, or any competition attempted; it is sufficient, that there is an intention to deceive, an intention which every heart swells to oppose, and every tongue is busy to detect. This reflection was awakened in my mind by a
i Satires, iii. 30.
very common practice among my correspondents, of writing under characters which they cannot support, which are of no use to the explanation or enforcement of that which they describe or recommend ; and which, therefore, since they assume them only for the sake of displaying their abilities, I will advise them for the future to forbear, as laborious without advantage.
It is almost a general ambition of those who favour me with their advice for the regulation of my conduct, or their contribution for the assistance of my understanding, to affect the style and the names of ladies. And I cannot always withhold some expression of anger, like Sir Hugh in the comedy, when I happen to find that a woman has a beard. I must therefore warn the gentle Phyllis, that she send me no more letters from the Horse Guards; and require of Belinda, that she be content to resign her pretensions to female elegance, till she has lived three weeks without hearing the politics of Batson's coffee-house. I must indulge myself in the liberty of observation,
1 Macaulay, in his Essays, ed. 1874, i. 418, criticising Johnson's “talent for personation,” says of those Ramblers in which he wrote under the disguise of a woman :-“Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with a worse grace. The reader may well cry out with honest Sir Hugh Evans, “I like not when a 'oman has a great peard : I spy a great peard under her muffler. In a foot-note Macaulay adds :-“It is proper to observe that this passage bears a very close resemblance to a passage in the Rambler. The resemblance may possibly be the effect of unconscious plagiarism." The quotation comes from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act iv., sc. 2.
2 Hawkins, describing the life of a physician, says :-"By that there were some allusions in Chloris's production, sufficient to shew that Bracton and Plowden? are her favourite authors; and that Euphelia has not been long enough at home, to wear out all the traces of phraseology, which she learned in the expedition Carthagena.
Among all my female friends, there was none who gave me more trouble to decypher her true character, than Penthesilea, whose letter lay upon my desk three days before I could fix upon the real writer. There was a confusion of images, and medley of barbarity, which held me long in suspense ; till by perseverance I disentangled the perplexity, and found that Penthesilea is the son of a wealthy stock jobber, who spends his morning under his father's eye in Change Alley, dines at a tavern in Covent Garden, passes his evening in the play-house, and part of the night at a gaming-table, and having learned the dialects of these various regions, has mingled them all in a studied composition.
When Lee’ was once told by a critic, that it was very easy to write like a madman; he
cultivating an interest with either of the two parties the succession of a young physician (to a post in a hospital) was almost insured. The frequenting Batson's or Child's was a declaration of the side he took.”—Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 238. Batson's was in Cornhill, Child's in St. Paul's Churchyard. ---Ashton's Social Life in the reign of Queen Anne, ed. 1883, p. 167.
1 Writers on law, one of the time of Henry III., the other of Elizabeth.
2 Lee was for some years in Bedlam, and was, perhaps, taunted with his madness by the “critic." Addison said ot him that "Among our modern English poets there is none who was better turned for tragedy than Lee ; if, instead of favouring the impetuosity of his genius, he had restrained it, and kept it within its proper bounds. His thoughts are wonderfully suited to tragedy, but frequently lost in such a cloud of words that it is hard to see the beauty of them.”—The Spectator, No. 39. Fielding describes how Tom Jones “ was resolved to pursue the paths of this giant honour, as the gigantic poet Lee calls it."-Tom Jones, Bk. vi., ch. 12.
answered, that it was difficult to write like a madman, but easy enough to write like a fool ;) and I hope to be excused by my kind contributors, if, in imitation of this great author, I presume to remind them, that it is much easier not to write like a man, than to write like a
I have, indeed, some ingenious well-wishers, who, without departing from their sex, have found very wonderful appellations. A very smart letter has been sent me from a puny ensign, signed Ajax Telamonius; another, in recommendation of a new treatise upon cards, from a gamester, who calls himself Sesostris : and another upon the improvements of the fishery, from Dioclesian ; but as these seem only to have picked up their appellations by chance, without endeavouring at any particular imposture, their improprieties are rather instances of blunder than of affectation, and are, therefore, not equally fitted to inflame the hostile passions; for it is not folly but pride,
1 Johnson said of Elphinston's translation of Martial :“There are in these verses too much folly for madness, I think, and too much madness for folly."-Piozzi's Anecdotes, p.61.
not error but deceit, which the world means to persecute, when it raises the full cry of nature to hunt down affectation.1
The hatred which dissimulation always draws upon itself, is so great, that if I did not know how much cunning differs from wisdom, I should wonder that any men have so little knowledge of their own interest, as to aspire to wear a mask for life ; to try to impose upon the world a character, to which they feel themselves void of any just claim; and to hazard their quiet, their fame, and even their profit, by exposing themselves to the danger of that reproach, malevolence, and neglect, which such a discovery as they have always to fear will certainly bring upon them.
It might be imagined, that the pleasure of reputation should consist in the satisfaction of having our opinion of our own merit confirmed by the suffrage of the public; and that, to be extolled for a quality, which a man knows himself to want, should give him no other happiness than to be mistaken for the owner of an estate, over which he chances to be travelling. But he who subsists upon affectation, knows nothing of this delicacy; like a desperate adventurer in commerce, he takes up reputation upon trust, mortgages possessions which he never had, and enjoys, to the fatal hour of bankruptcy, though with a thousand terrors and anxieties, the unnecessary splendour of borrowed riches.
Affectation is to be always distinguished from i See Boswell's Johnson, iv. 27, for Johnson's "abhorrence of affectation."