Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

world. It is certain, a great part of what we call good or ill fortune, rises out of right or wrong measures and schemes of life. When I hear a man complain of his being unfortunate in all his undertakings, I shrewdly suspect him for a very weak man in his affairs. In conformity with this way of thinking, Cardinal Richelieu used to say, that unfortunate and imprudent were but two words for the same thing. As the cardinal himself had a great share both of prudence and good fortune, his famous antagonist, the Count d'Olivares, was disgraced at the court of Madrid, because it was alleged against him that he had never any success in his undertakings. This, says an eminent author, was indırectly accusing him of imprudence.

Cicero recommended Pompey to the Romans for their general upon three accounts, as he was a man of courage, conduct, and good fortune. It was, perhaps, for the reason above mentioned, namely, that a series of good fortune supposes a prudent management in the person whom it befals, that not only Sylla the dictator, but several of the Roman emperors, as is still to be seen upon their medals, among their other titles, gave themselves that of Felix or Fortunate. The heathens, indeed, seem to have valued a man more for his good fortune than for any other quality, which I think is very natural for those who have not a strong belief of another world. For how can I conceive a man crowned with many distinguishing blessings, that has not some extraordinary fund of merit and perfection in him, which lies open to the Supreme eye, though perhaps it is not discovered by my observation? What is the reason Homer's and Virgil's heroes do not form a resolution, or strike a blow, without the conduct and direction of some deity? Doubtless, because the poets esteemed it the greatest honour to be favoured by the gods, and thought the best way of praising a man was, to recount those favours which naturally implied an extraordinary merit in the person on whom they descended.

Those who believe a future state of rewards and punishments act very absurdly, if they form their opinions of a man's merit from his successes. But certainly, if I thought the whole circle of our being was included between our births and deaths, I should think a man's good fortune the measure and standard of his real merit, since Providence would have no opportunity of rewarding his virtue and perfections, but in the present life. A virtuous unbeliever, who lies under the pressure of misfortunes, has reason to cry out, as they say Brutus did, a little before his death: "O Virtue, I have worshipped thee as a substantial good, but I find thou art an empty name." But to return to our first point. Though Prudence does undoubtedly in a great measure produce our good or ill fortune in the world, it is certain there are many unforeseen accidents and occurrences, which very often pervert the finest schemes that can be laid by human wisdom. "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." Nothing less than in finite wisdom can have an absolute command over fortune; the highest degree of it which man can possess, is by no means equal to fortuitous events, and to such contingencies as may rise in the prosecution of our affairs. Nay, it very often happens, that prudence, which has always in it a great mixture of caution, hinders a man from being so fortunate, as he might possibly have been without it. A person who only aims at what is likely to succeed, and follows closely the dictates of human prudence, never meets with those great and unfore

seen successes, which are often the effect of a san guine temper or a more happy rashness; and this perhaps may be the reason, that, according to the common observation, Fortune, like other females, delights rather in favouring the young than the old. Upon the whole, since man is so short-sighted a creature, and the accidents which may happen to him so various, I cannot but be of Dr. Tillotson's opi nion in another case, that were there any doubt of Providence, yet it certainly would be very desirable there should be such a Being of infinite wisdom and goodness, on whose direction we might rely in the conduct of human life.

It is a great presumption to ascribe our successes to our own management, and not to esteem ourselves upon any blessing, rather as it is the bounty of Heaven than the acquisition of our own prudence. I am very well pleased with a medal which was struck by Queen Elizabeth, a little after the defeat of the invincible armada, to perpetuate the memory of that extraordinary event. It is well known how the King of Spain, and others who were the enemies of that great princess, to derogate from her glory, ascribed the ruin of their fleet rather to the violence of storms and tempests, than to the bravery of the English. Queen Elizabeth, instead of looking upon this as a diminution of her honour, valued herself upon such a signal favour of Providence, and accordingly, in the reverse of the medal abovementioned, has represented a fleet beaten by a tempest, and falling foul upon one another, with that religious inscription, "Afflavit Deus, et dissipantur.” "He blew with his wind, and they were scattered."

*

It is remarked of a famous Grecian general, whose name I cannot at present recollect, and who had been a particular favourite of Fortune, that, upon recounting his victories among his friends, he added at the end of several great actions, "And in this fortune had no share." After which it is observed in history, that he never prospered in any thing he undertook.

As arrogance and a conceitedness of our own abilities are very shocking and offensive to men of sense and virtue, we may be sure they are highly displeasing to that Being who delights in a humble mind, and by several of his dispensations seems purposely to show us, that our own schemes, or prudence, have no share in our advancements.

Since on this subject I have already admitted several quotations, which have occurred to my memory upon writing this paper, I will conclude it with a little Persian fable A drop of water fell out of a cloud into the sea, and finding itself lost in such an immensity of fluid matter, broke out into the following reflection: "Alas! What an inconsiderablet creature am I in this prodigious ocean of waters! My existence is of no concern to the universe; I am reduced to a kind of nothing, and am less than the least of the works of God." It so happened that an oyster, which lay in the neighbourhood of this drop, chanced to gape and swallow it up in the midst of this its humble soliloquy. The drop, says the fable, lay a great while hardening in the shell, until by degrees it was ripened into a pearl, which falling into the hands of a diver, after a long series of adventures, is at present that famous pearl which is fixed on the top of the Persian diadem.-L.

Timotheus the Athenian. See Shaw's edit. of Lord Bacon's Works, 4to. vol. i p. 219.

↑ Altered from insignificant, according to a direction in Spect. in folio, No. 295.

No. 294.] WEDNESDAY, FEB. 6, 1711-12. instructing an innocent helpless creature of her own half yard of the silk towards clothing, feeding, and

66

Difficile est plurimum virtutem revereri qui semper secunda sex, in one of these schools. The consciousness of fortuna sit usus.-TULI. ad Herennium. such an action will give her features a nobler life on this illustrious day, than all the jewels that can hang in her hair, or can be clustered in her bosom. INSOLENCE is the crime of all others which every It would be uncourtly to speak in harsher words to man is apt to rail at; and yet there is one respect the fair, but to men one may take a little more freein which almost all men living are guilty of it, and dom. It is monstrous how a man can live with so that is in the case of laying a greater value upon little reflection, as to fancy he is not in a condition the gifts of fortune than we ought. It is here in very unjust and disproportioned to the rest of manEngland come into our very language as a propriety kind, while he enjoys wealth, and exerts no beneof distinction, to say, when we would speak of per volence or bounty to others. As for this particular sons to their advantage, They are people of con- occasion of these schools, there cannot any offer dition." There is no doubt but the proper use of more worthy a generous mind. Would you do a riches implies, that a man should exert all the good handsome thing without return; do it for an infant qualities imaginable; and if we mean by a man of that is not sensible of the obligation. Would you condition or quality, one who, according to the do it for public good; do it for one who will be an wealth he is master of, shows himself just, benefi- honest artificer. Would you do it for the sake of cent, and charitable, that term ought very de-heaven; give it to one who shall be instructed in servedly to be had in the highest veneration; but the worship of him for whose sake you gave it. It when wealth is used only as it is the support of is, methinks, a most laudable institution this, if it pomp and luxury, to be rich is very far from being were of no other expectation than that of producing a recommendation to honour and respect. It is a race of good and useful servants, who will have indeed the greatest insolence imaginable, in a crea- more than a liberal, a religious education. What ture who would feel the extremes of thirst and hun- would not a man do in common prudence, to lay ger, if he did not prevent his appetites, before they out in purchase of one about him, who would add call upon him, to be so forgetful of the common to all his orders he gave, the weight of the comnecessities of human nature, as never to cast an eye mandments, to enforce an obedience to them? for upon the poor and needy. The fellow who escaped one who would consider his master as his father, his from a ship which struck upon a rock in the west, friend, and benefactor, upon easy terms, and in and joined with the country people to destroy his expectation of no other return, but moderate wages brother sailors, and make her a wreck, was thought and gentle usage? It is the common vice of chila most execrable creature; but does not every man dren, to run too much among the servants; from who enjoys the possession of what he naturally such as are educated in these places they would see wants and is unmindful of the unsupplied distress nothing but lowliness in the servant, which would of other men, betray the same temper of mind? not be disingenuous in the child. All the ill offices When a man looks about him, and, with regard to and defamatory whispers, which take their birth riches and poverty, beholds some drawn in pomp from domestics, would be prevented, if this charity and equipage, and they, and their very servants, could be made universal: and a good man might with an air of scorn and triumph, overlooking the have a knowledge of the whole life of the persons multitude that pass by them; and in the same he designs to take into his house for his own serstreet a creature of the same make, crying out, in vice, or that of his family or children, long before the name of all that is good and sacred, to behold they were admitted. This would create endearing his misery, and give him some supply against hun- dependencies; and the obligation would have a ger and nakedness; who would believe these two paternal air in the master, who would be relieved beings were of the same species? But so it is, that from much care and anxiety by the gratitude and the consideration of fortune has taken up all our diligence of a humble friend, attending him as his minds, and as I have often complained, poverty and servant. I fall into this discourse from a letter riches stand in our imaginations in the places of sent to me, to give me notice that fifty boys would guilt and innocence. But in all seasons there will be clothed, and take their seats (at the charge of be some instances of persons who have souls too some generous benefactors) in St. Bride's church, large to be taken with popular prejudices, and, on Sunday next. I wish I could promise to mywhile the rest of mankind are contending for su- self any thing which my correspondent seems to periority in power and wealth, have their thoughts expect from a publication of it in this paper; for bent upon the necessities of those below them. The there can be nothing added to what so many excelcharity schools, which have been erected of late lent and learned men have said on this occasion. years, are the greatest instances of public spirit the But that there may be something here which would age has produced. But, indeed, when we consider move a generous mind, like that of him who wrote how long this sort of beneficence has been on foot, to me, I shall transcribe a handsome paragraph of it is rather from the good management of those in- Dr. Snape's sermon on these charities, which my stitutions, than from the number or value of the correspondent enclosed with his letter. benefactions to them, that they make so great a figure. One would think it impossible that in the space of fourteen years there should not have been five thousand pounds bestowed in gifts this way, nor sixteen hundred children, including males and females, put out to methods of industry. It is not allowed me to speak of luxury and folly with the severe spirit they deserve; I shall only therefore say, I shall very readily compound with any lady in a hooped petticoat, if she give the price of one

"The wise Providence has amply compensated the disadvantages of the poor and indigent, in wanting many of the conveniences of this life, by a more abundant provision for their happiness in the next. Had they been higher born, or more richly endowed, they would have wanted this manner of education, of which those only enjoy the benefit,

The man who is always fortunate, cannot easily have much reverence for virtue.

The birth-day of her majesty Queen Anne, who was born Feb. 6, 1665, and died Aug. 1, 1714, aged 49.

himself, and in a manner becoming accessary to his own dishonour. We may, indeed, generally observe, that in proportion as a woman is more or less beautiful, and her husband advanced in years, she stands in need of a greater or less number of pins, and, upon a treaty of marriage, rises or falls in her demands accordingly. It must likewise be owned, that high quality in a mistress does very much inflame this article in the marriage-reckoning. But where the age and circumstances of both

No. 295.] THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 1711-12. parties are pretty much upon a level, I cannot but

think the insisting upon pin-money is very extraordinary; and yet we find several matches broken off upon this very head. What would a foreigner, or one who is a stranger to this practice, think of a lover that forsakes his mistress, because he is not willing to keep her in pins? But what would he think of the mistress, should he be informed that she asks five or six hundred pounds a year for this use? Should a man unacquainted with our customs be told the sums which are allowed in Great Bri

who are low enough to submit to it; where they
have such advantages without money, and without
price, as the rich cannot purchase with it. The
learning which is given, is generally more edifying
to them, than that which is sold to others. Thus do
they become exalted in goodness, by being de-
pressed in fortune, and their poverty is, in reality,
their preferment."

T.

Prediga non sentit pereuntem fœmina censum:
At velut exhausta redivivus pullulet arca
Nummus, et e pleno semper tollatur acervo,
Non unquam reputat, quanti sibi gaudia constent.
Juv. Sat. vi. 361.
But womankind, that never knows a mean,
Down to the dregs their sinking fortunes drain.
Hourly they give, and spend, and waste, and wear,
And think no pleasure can be bought too dear.-DRYDEN

"MR. SPECTATOR,

"I AM turned of my great climacteric, and am naturally a man of a meek temper. About a dozen years ago I was married, for my sins, to a young woman of good family, and of a high spirit; but could not bring her to close with me, before I had entered into a treaty with her, longer than that of the grand alliance. Among other articles, it was therein stipulated, that she should have 4007, a-year for pin-money, which I obliged myself to pay quarterly into the hands of one who acted as her plenipotentiary in that affair. I have ever since religiously observed my part in this solemn agreement. Now, Sir, so it is, that the lady has had several children since I married her; to which, if I should credit our malicious neighbours, her pin-money has not a little contributed. The education of these my children, who, contrary to my expectation, are born to me every year, straitens me so much, that I have begged their mother to free me from the obligation of the above-mentioned pin-money, that it may go towards making a provision for her family. This proposal makes her noble blood swell in her veins, insomuch that, finding me a little tardy in my last quarter's payment, she threatens ine every day to arrest me; and proceeds so far as to tell me that if I do not do her justice, I shall die in a gaol. To this she adds, when her passion will let her argue calmly, that she has several play-debts on her hands, which must be discharged very suddenly, and that she cannot lose her money as becomes a woman of fashion, if she makes me any abatement in this article. I hope, Sir, you will take an occasion from hence to give your opinion upon a subject which you have not yet touched, and inform us if there are any precedents for this usage among our ancestors; or whether you find any mention of pinmoney in Grotius, Puffendorf, or any other of the civilians.

"I am ever the humblest of your Admirers, "JOSIAH FRIBBLE, Esq" As there is no man living who is a more professed advocate for the fair sex than myself, so there is none that would be more unwilling to invade any of their ancient rights and privileges; but as the doctrine of pin-money is of a late date, unknown to our great-grandmothers, and not yet received by many of our modern ladies, I think it is for the interest of both sexes to keep it from spreading.

Mr. Fribble may not, perhaps, be much mistaken where be intimates, that the supplying a man's wife with pin-money, is furnishing her with arms against

tain, under the title of pin-money, what a prodi-
gious consumption of pins would he think there was
"A pin a day," says our frugal
in this island?
proverb, "is a groat a year;" so that, according to
this calculation, my friend Fribble's wife must every
year make use of eight million six hundred and
forty thousand new pins.

I am not ignorant that our British ladies allege they comprehend under this general term several for the honour of my countrywomen, that they had other conveniences of life; I could therefore wish, rather called it needle-money, which might have implied something of good housewifery, and not have. given the malicious world occasion to think, that dress and trifles have always the uppermost place in a woman's thoughts.

I know several of my fair readers urge in defence of this practice, that it is but a necessary provision they make for themselves, in case their husband proves a churl, or miser; so that they consider this allowance as a kind of alimony, which they may lay their claim to, without actually separating from their husbands. But, with submission, I think a woman who will give up herself to a man in mar. riage, where there is the least room for such an apwill not rely on for the common necessaries of life, prehension, and trust her person to one whom she may very properly be accused (in the phrase of a homely proverb) of being " penny wise and pound

foolish."

It is observed of over-cautious generals, that they in case the event should not answer their expectanever engage in battle without securing a retreat, tions; on the other hand, the greatest conquerors behind them, as being determined either to succeed have burnt their ships, or broke down the bridges or die in the engagement. In the same manner I should very much suspect a woman who takes such precautions for her retreat, and contrives methods how she may live happily, without the affection of one to whom she joins herself for life. Separate purses between man and wife are, in my opinion, as unnatural as separate beds. A marriage cannot be happy, where the pleasures, inclinations, and interests of both parties are not the same. There is no greater incitement to love in the mind of man, than the sense of a person's depending upon him for her ease and happiness; as a woman uses all her endeavours to please the person whom she looks upon as her honour, her comfort, and her support. For this reason, I am not very much surprised at

the behaviour of a rough country 'squire, who, being not a little shocked at the proceeding of a young widow that would not recede from her demands of pin-money, was so enraged at her mercenary tem per, that he told her in great wrath, "As much as she thought him her slave, he would show all the world he did not care a pin for her." Upon which he flew out of the room, and never saw her more.

I remember my friend Sir Roger, who, I dare say, never read this passage in Plato, told me some time since, that upon his courting the perverse widow (of whom I have given an account in former papers) he had disposed of a hundred acres in a diamond ring, which he would have presented her with, had she thought fit to accept it; and that upon her wedding-day, she should have carried on her head fifty of the tallest oaks upon his estate. He further informed me, that he would have given her a coal-pit to keep her in clean linen, that he would have allowed her the profits of a windmill for her fans, and have presented her once in three years with the shearing of his sheep for her under-petticoats. To which the knight always adds, that though he did not care for fine clothes himself, there should not have been a woman in the country better dressed than my Lady Coverley. Sir Roger, perhaps, may in this, as well as in many other of his devices, appear somewhat odd and singular; but if the humour o. pin-money prevails, I think it would be very proper for every gentleman of an estate to mark out so many acres of it under the title of "The Pins."-L

"SIR,

Socrates in Plato's Alcibiades, says he was informed by one who had travelled through Persia, "I was some time since in company with a that as he passed over a great tract of land, and in-young officer, who entertained us with the conquest quired what the name of the place was, they told he had made over a female neighbour of his : when him it was the Queen's Girdle: to which he adds, a gentleman who stood by, as I suppose, envying that another wide field which lay by it, was called the captain's good fortune, asked him what reason the Queen's Veil; and that in the same manner he had to believe the lady admired him? Why,' there was a large portion of ground set aside for says he, my lodgings are opposite to hers, and she every part of her majesty's dress. These lands is continually at her window either at work, readmight not be improperly called the Queen of Per-ing, taking snuff, or putting herself in some toying sia's pin-money. posture, on purpose to draw my eyes that way.' The confession of this vain soldier made me reflect on some of my own actions; for you must know, Sir, I am often at a window which fronts the apartments of several gentlemen, who I doubt not have the same opinion of me. I must own I love to look at them all, one for being well dressed, a second for his fine eye, and one particular one, because he is the least man I ever saw; but there is something so easy and pleasant in the manner of my little man, that I observe he is a favourite of all his acquaintance. I could go on to tell you of many others, that I believe think I have encouraged them from my window: but pray let me have your opinion of the use of a window, in the apartment of a beautiful lady; and how often she may look out at the same man, without being supposed to have a mind to jump out to him.

"Yours,

No. 296.] FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 1711-12.
-Nugis addere pondus. HoR. 1 Ep. xix. 42.
Add weight to trifles.

character more likely to be prevalent in this re
quest, than if I should subscribe myself by my pro-
per name.
"J. M.

"DEAR SPEC.,

"HAVING lately conversed much with the fair sex on the subject of your speculations (which, since their appearance in public, have been the chief exercise of the female loquacious faculty), I found the fair ones possessed with a dissatisfaction at your prefixing Greek mottos to the frontispieces of your late papers; and as a man of gallantry, I thought it a duty incumbent on me to impart it to you in hopes of a reformation, which is only to be effected by a restoration of the Latin to the usual dignity in your papers, which of late the Greek, to the great displeasure of your female readers, has usurped; for though the Latin has the recommendation of being as unintelligible to them as the Greek, yet being written in the same character with their mother tongue, by the assistance of a spelling-book it is legible; which quality the Greek wants: and since the introduction of operas into this nation, the ladies are so charmed with sounds abstracted from their ideas, that they adore and honour the sound of Latin, as it is old Italian. I am a solicitor for the fair sex, and therefore think myself in that

"I desire you may insert this in one of your speculations, to show my zeal for removing the dissatisfaction of the fair sex, and restoring you to

their favour."

"AURELIA CARELESS."

Twice.

"MR. SPECTATOR,

"I have for some time made love to a lady, who received it with all the kind returns I ought to expect but, without any provocation that I know of, she has of late shunned me with the utmost abhorrence, insomuch that she went out of church last Sunday in the midst of divine service, upon my coming into the same pew. Pray, Sir, what must I do in this business?

"Your Servant,

"EUPHUES."

Let her alone ten days.
York, Jan. 20, 1711-12.

"MR. SPECTATOR, "We have in this town a sort of people who pretend to wit, and write lampoons; I have lately been the subject of one of them. The scribbler had not genius enough in verse to turn my age, as indeed I am an old maid, into raillery, for affecting a youthier turn than is consistent with my time of day; and therefore he makes the title of his madrigal, the character of Mrs. Judith Lovebane, born in the year 1680. What I desire of you is, that you dis allow that a coxcomb, who pretends to write verse, should put the most malicious thing he can say in prose, This I humbly conceive will disable our country wits, who indeed take a great deal of pains ill to say any thing in rhyme, though they say it very "I am, Sir, your humble Servant, "SUSANNA LOVEBANE,

"MR. SPECTATOR,

"We are several of us, gentlemen and ladies, who board in the same house, and after dinner one of our company (an agreeable man enough otherwise) stands up and reads your paper to us all. We are the civilest people in the world to one another, and therefore I am forced to this way of desiring our reader when he is doing this office, not to stand afore tue fire. This will be a general good to our family this cold weather. He will, I know, take it to be our common request when he comes to these words, Pray, Sir, sit down;' which I desire you to insert, and you will particularly oblige "Your daily Reader, "CHARITY FROST."

"

66 SIR,

"I am a great lover of dancing, but cannot perform so well as some others; however, by my outof-the-way capers, and some original grimaces, I do not fail to divert the company, particularly the ladies, who laugh immoderately all the time. Some, who pretend to be my friends, tell me they do it in derision, and would advise me to leave it off, withal that I make myself ridiculous. I do not know what to do in this affair, but I am resolved not to give over upon any account, until I have the opinion of the Spectator. "Your humble Servant, "JOHN TROTT."

There is another objection against Milton's fable, which is indeed almost the same with the former, though placed in a different light, namely-That the hero in the Paradise Lost is unsuccessful, and by no means a match for his enemies. This gives occasion for Mr. Dryden's reflection, that the devil was in reality Milton's hero. I think I have obviated this objection in my first paper. The Paradise Lost is an epic, or a narrative poem, and he that looks for a hero in it, searches for that which Milton never intended; but if he will indeed fix No. 297.] SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1711-12. tainly the Messiah who is the hero, both in the the name of a hero upon any person in it, it is cer

velut si

Egregio inspersos reprendas corpore nævos. HOR. 1 Sat. vi. 66. As perfect beauties somewhere have a mole.-CREECH. AFTER what I have said in my last Saturday's paper, I shall enter on the subject of this without further preface, and remark the several defects which appear in the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the language of Milton's Paradise Lost; not doubting but the reader will pardon me, if I allege at the same time whatever may be said for the extenuation of such defects. The first imperfection which I shall observe in the fable is, that the event of it is unhappy.

principal action and in the chief episodes. Paganism could not furnish out a real action for a fable greater than that of the Iliad or Eucid, and therefore a heathen could not form a higher notion of a poem than one of that kind which they call an heroic. Whether Milton's is not of a sublimer nature I will not presume to determine; it is sufficient that I show there is in the Paradise Lost all the greatness of plan, regularity of design, and masterly beauties which we discover in Homer and Virgil.

"If Mr. Trott is not awkward out of time, he has a right to dance let who will laugh; but if he has no ear he will interrupt others; and I am of opinion he should sit still. Given under my hand this fifth of February, 1711-12.

T.

"THE SPECTATOR."

The fable of every poem is, according to Aristotle's division, either simple or implex. It is called simple when there is no change of fortune in it: implex, when the fortune of the chief actor changes from bad to good, or from good to bad. The implex fable is thought the most perfect: I suppose, because it is more proper to stir up the passions of the reader, and to surprise him with a great variety

of accidents.

The most taking tragedies among the ancients were built on this last sort of implex fable, particu larly the tragedy of Edipus, which proceeds upon a story, if we may believe Aristotle, the most proper for tragedy that could be invented by the wit of man. I have taken some pains in a former paper to show, that this kind of implex fable, wherein the event is unhappy, is more apt to affect an audience than that of the first kind; notwithstanding many excellent pieces among the ancients, as well as most of those which have been written of late years in our own country, are raised upon contrary plans. I must however own, that I think this kind of fable, which is the most perfect in tragedy, is not so proper for an heroic poem.

Milton seems to have been sensible of this imperfection in his fable, and has therefore endeavoured to cure it by several expedients; particularly by the mortification which the great adversary of mankind meets with upon his return to the assembly of infernal spirits, as it is described in a beautiful passage of the third book; and likewise by the vision wherein Adam, at the close of the poem, sees his offspring triumphing over his great enemy, and himself restored to a happier paradise than that from

which he fell.

The implex fable is therefore of two kinds: in the first, the chief actor makes his way through a long series of dangers and difficulties, until he arrives at honour and prosperity, as we see in the stories of Ulysses and Eneas; in the second, the chief actor in the poem falls from some eminent pitch of honour and prosperity, into misery and disgrace. Thus we see Adam and Eve sinking from a state of innocence and happiness, into the most abject condition of sin and sorrow.

I must in the next place observe, that Milton has interwoven in the texture of this fable some particulars which do not seem to have probability enough for an epic poem, particularly in the actions which he ascribes to Sin and Death, and the picture which he draws of the "Limbo of Vanity," with other passages in the second book. Such allegories rather savour of the spirit of Spenser and Ariosto, than of Homer and Virgil.

In the structure of his poem he has likewise admitted too many digressions. It is finely observed by Aristotle, that the author of an heroic poem should seldom speak himself, but throw as much of his work as he can into the mouths of those who are his principal actors. Aristotle has given no reason for this precept: but I presume it is because the mind of the reader is more awed, and elevated, when he hears Æneas or Achilles speak, than when Virgil or Homer talk in their own persons. Besides that, assuming the character of an eminent man is apt to fire the imagination, and raise the ideas of the author. Tully tells us, mentioning his dialogue of old age, in which Cato is the chief Z

[ocr errors]
« PředchozíPokračovat »