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a Lucilius and a Lucretius, before Virgil and Horace; even after Chaucer there was a Spenser, a Harrington, a Fairfax, before Waller ami Denham were in being, and our numbers were in their nonage till these last appeared.}
He must have been a man of a most wonderful comprehensive nature, because, as it has been truly observed of him, he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tale* the various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the whole English nation in his age. Not a single character has escaped him. All his pilgrims are severally distinguished from each other, and not only in their inclinations but in their very physiognomies and persons. Kaptistu Porta8 could not have described their natures better than by the marks which the jtoct gives them.
The matter and manner of their tales and of their telling arc so suited to their different educations, humours, and callings that each of them would be improper in any other mouth.
• A Neapolitan physiognomist.
t Posterity haa nut siiHtaini'il this verdict. But sec Eni). Lit., pp. 141, 100.
Even the grave and serious characters are distinguished by their several sorts of gravity; their discourses are such as belong to their age, their calling, and their breeding, such as are becoming of them and of them only. Some of his persons are vicious and some virtuous; some arc unlearned, or (as Chaucer calls them) lewd, and some are learned. Even the ribaldry of the low characters is different: the Reeve, the Miller, and the Cook are several men, and distinguished from each other as much as the mincing Lady Prioress and the broad-speaking, gap-toothed Wife of Bath. But enough of this: there is such a variety of game springing up before me that I am distracted in my choice and know not which to follow. It is sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God's plenty. We have our forefathers and great-grand-dames all before us as they were in Chaucer's days: their general characters are still remaining in mankind, and even in England, though they are called by other names than those of monks and friars and canons and lady abbesses and nuns; for mankind is ever the same, and nothing lost out of nature though everything is altered.
EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
SIR RICHARD STEELE
The Taller, No. 1. Tuesday, April 13, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago Hbclli.
Juv. Sat. i. 85, 86. Whale'er men do, or say, or think, or dream, Our motley Paper seizes for its theme.
Though the other papers, which are published for the use of the good people of England,* have certainly very wholesome effects, and arc laudable in their particular kinds, they do not seem to come up to the main design of such narrations, which, I humbly presume, should be principally intended for the use of politic persons, who are so public-spirited as to neglect their own affairs to look into transactions of state. Now these gentlemen, for the most part, being persons of strong zeal, and weak intellects, it is both a charitable and necessary work to offer something, whereby such worthy and well-affected members of the commonwealth may be instructed, after their reading, what to think; which shall be the end and purpose of this my paper, wherein I shall, from time to time, report and consider all matters of what kind soever that shall occur to me, and publish such my advices and reflections every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in the week, for the convenience of the post. I resolve to have something which may be of entertainment to the fair sex, in honour of whom I have invented the title of this paper. I therefore earnestly desire all persons, without distinction, to take it in for the present gratis, and hereafter at the price of one penny, forbidding all hawkers to take more for it at their peril. And I desire all persons to eon
• Newspapers had been published for nearly a century. Steele proposed In The Tatler to publish periodical essays, stories, etc.. which should serve something more than a merely practical purpose. See Eng. Lit., p. 176.
sider, that I am at a very great charge for proper materials for this work, as well as that, before 1 resolved upon it, I had settled a correspondence in all parts of the known and knowing world. And forasmuch as this globe is not trodden upon by mere drudges of business only, but that men of spirit and genius arc justly to be esteemed as considerable agents in it, we shall not, upon a dearth of news, present you with musty foreign edicts, and dull proclamations, but shall divide our relation of the passages which occur in action or discourse throughout this town, as well aa elsewhere, under such dates of places as may prepare you for the matter you are to expect in the following manner.
All accounts of gallantry, pleasure, and entertainment, shall be under the article of White's Chocolate-house;t poetry under that of Will's Coffee-house; Learning, under the title of Grecian; foreign and domestic news, you will have from St. James's Coffee-house; and what else I have to offer on any other subject shall be dated from my own Apartment.
I once more desire my reader to consider, that as I cannot keep an ingenious man to go daily to Will's under two-pence each day, merely for his charges; to White's under sixpence; nor to the Grecian, without allowing him some plain 8panish,i to be as able as others at the learned table; and that a good observer cannot speak with even Kidney2 at St. James's without clean linen; I say, these considerations will, I hope, make all persons willing to comply with my humble request (when my gratis stock is exhausted) of a penny apiece; especially since they are sure of some proper amusement, and that it is impossible for me to want means to entertain them, having, besides the force of my own parts, the
l Probably wine (which according to The Tatler, No. '252, "heightens conversation"). A waiter.
t The public coffee and chocolate houses of London were used as headquarters for the meetings of clubs. White's and St. James's were frequented by statesmen and men of fashion; will's was a rendesvous for men of letters, and The Grecian for lawyers and scholars.
power of divination, and that I can, by casting a figure,3 tell you all that will happen before it conies to pass.
Rot this last faculty I shall use very sparingly, and speak but of few things until they are passed, for fear of divulging matters which may offend our superiors.
Dies, ni fallor, adest, quern semper acer
Semper honoratum, sic dii voluistis habebo.
Virg. JEm. v. 49.
And now the rising day renews the year,
There are those among mankind, who can enjoy no relish of their being, except the world is made acquainted with all that relates to them, and think every thing lost that passes unobserved; but others find a solid delight in 1 stealing by the crowd, and modelling their life after such a manner, as is as much above the approbation as the practice of the vulgar. Life being too short to give instances great enough of true friendship or good will, some sages have thought it pious to preserve a certain reverenee for the Manes* of their deceased friends; and have withdrawn themselves from the rest of the world at certain seasons, to commemorate in their own thoughts such of their acquaintance who have gone before them out of this life. And indeed, when we are advanced in years, there is not a more pleasing entertainment, than to recollect in a gloomy moment the many we have parted with, that have been dear and agreeable to us, and to east a melancholy thought or two after those, with whom, perhaps, we have indulged ourselves in whole nights of mirth and jollity. With such inclinations in my heart I went to my closet5 yesterday in the evening, and resolved to be sorrowful; upon which occasion I could not but look with disdain upon myself, that though all the reasons which I had to lament the loss of many of my friends are now as forcible as at the moment of their departure, yet did not my heart swell with the same sorrow which I felt at that time; but I could, without tears, reflect upon many pleas
3 horoscope 5 private room
* spirits v
ing adventures I have had with some, who have long been blended with common earth.
Though it is by the benefit of nature, that length of time thus blots out the violence of afflictions; yet with tempers too much given to pleasure, it is almost necessary to revive the old places of grief in our memory; and ponder step by step on past life, to lead the mind into that sobriety of thought which poises the heart, and makes it beat with due time, without being quickened with desire, or retarded with despair, from its proper and equal motion. When wc wind up a clock that is out of order, to make it go well for the future, we do not immediately set the hand to the present instant, but wc make it strike the round of all its hours, before it can recover the regularity of its time. Such, thought I, shall be my method this evening; and sinee it is that day of the year which I dedicate to the memory of such in another life as I much delighted in when living, an hour or two shall be sacred to sorrow and their memory, while I run over all the melancholy circumstances of this kind which have occurred to me in my whole life. The first sense of sorrow I ever knew was upon the death of my father, at which time I was not quite five years of age; but was rather amazed at what all the house meant, than possessed with a real understanding why nobody was willing to play with me. I remember I went into the room where his body lay, and my mother sat weeping alone by it. I had my battledore in my hand, and fell a-beating the coffin, and calling papa; for, I know not how, I had some slight idea that he was locked up there. My mother catched mc in her arms, and, transported beyond all patience" of the silent grief she was before in, she almost smothered me in her embraces; and told me, in a flood of tears, "Papa could not hear mc, and would play with me no more, for they were going to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us again." She was a very beautiful woman, of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in her grief amidst all the wildness of her transport, which, methought, struck me with an instinct of sorrow, that, before I was sensible of what it was to grieve, seized my very soul, and has made pity the weakness of my heart ever since. The mind in infancy is, methinks, like the body in embryo, and receives impressions so forcible, that they are as hard to be removed by reason, as any mark, with which a child is born, is to be taken away by
any future application. Hence it is, that goodnature in me is no merit; but having been so frequently overwhelmed with her tears before I knew the cause of any affliction, or could draw defences from my own judgment, I imbibed commiseration, remorse, and an unmanly gentleness of mind, which has since insnared me into ten thousand calamities; from whence I can reap no advantage, except it be, that, in such a humour as I am now in, I can the better indulge myself in the softnesses of humanity, and enjoy that sweet anxiety which arises from the memory of past afflictions.
We, that are very old, are better able to remember things which befel us in our distant youth, than the passages of later days. For this reason it is, that the companions of my strong and vigorous years present themselves more immediately to me in this office of sorrow. Untimely and unhappy deaths are what we are most apt to lament; so little are we able to make it indifferent when a thing happens, though we know it must happen. Thus we groan under life, and bewail those who are relieved from it. Every object that returns to our imagination raises different passions, according to the circumstances of their departure. Who can have lived in an army, and in a serious hour reflect upon the many gay and agreeable men that might long have flourished in the arts of peace, and not join with the imprecations of the fatherless and widow on the tyrant to whose ambition they fell sacrifices f But gallant men, who are cut off by the sword, move rather our veneration than our pity; and we gather relief enough from their own contempt of death, to make that no evil, which was approached with so much cheerfulness, and attended with so much honour. But when we turn our thoughts from the great parts of life on such occasions, and instead of lamenting those who stood ready to give death to those from whom they had the fortune to receive it; 1 say, when we let our thoughts wander from such noble objects, and consider the havoc which is made among the tender and the innocent, pity enters with an unmixed softness, and possesses all our souls at once.
Here (were there words to express such sentiments with proper tenderness) I should record the beauty, innocence and untimely death, of the first object my eyes ever beheld with love. The beauteous virgin! how ignorantly did she charm, how carelessly excel! Oh, Death! thou hast right to the bold, to the ambitious, to the high, and to the haughty;
but why this cruelty to the humble, to the meek, to the undiscerning, to the thoughtles •? Nor age, nor business, nor distress, can erase the dear image from my imagination. In the same week, I saw her dressed for a ball, and in a shroud. How ill did the habit of death become the pretty triflerf I still behold the
smiling earth A large train of disasters
were coming on to my memory, when my servant knocked at my closet-door, and interrupted me with a letter, attended with a hamper of wine, of the same sort with that which is to be put to sale, on Thursday next, at Garraway's coffee-house.* Upon the receipt of it, I sent for three of my friends. We are so intimate, that we can be company in whatever state of mind we meet, and can entertain each other without expecting always to rejoice. The wine we found to be generous and warming, but with such an heat as moved us rather to be cheerful than frolicsome. It revived the spirits, without firing the blood. We commended it until two of the clock this morning; and having to-day met a little before dinner^ we found, that though we drank two bottles a man, we had much more reason to recollect than forget what had passed the night before.
The Spectator, No. g, Friday, March S, 1711.
Ast alii sex
Et plures uno conclamant ore—
Jnv. Sat. vii. 167. Six more at least join their consenting voice.
The firBt of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of ancient descent, a baronet, his name Sir Roger de Coverley. His great grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that shire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir Roger. He is a gentleman that is very singular in his behaviour, but his singularities proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the world, only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However, this humour creates him no enemies, for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms, makes him but the readier and more capable to please and oblige all who know him. When he is in town, he lives in
• This was a place where periodical auctions were
held, and lotteries conducted, t The fashionable dinner hour was four o'clock. Soho Square.7 It is said, lie keeps himself a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him. Before this disappointment, Sir Roger was what you call a fine gentleman, had often supped with my Lord Rochester* and Sir tleorge Etherege,0 fought a duel upon his first •-oming to town, and kicked bully Dawson10 in a public coffee-house for calling him youngster. But being ill-used by the above-mentioned widow, he was very serious for a year and a half; and though, his temper being naturally jovial, he at last got over it, he grew careless of himself, and never dressed afterwards. He continues to wear a coat and doublet of the same cut that were in fashion at the time of his repulse, which, in his merry humours, he tells us, has been in and out twelve times since he first wore it. . . . He is now in his fiftysixth year, cheerful, gay, and hearty; keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that he is rather beloved than esteemed.
His tenants grow rich, his servants look satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men arc glad of his company. When he comes into a house, he calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way upstairs to a visit. 1 must not omit, that Sir Roger is a justice of the quorum;* that he fills the chair at a quarter-session with great abilities, anil, three months ago, gained universal applause by explaining a passage in the game act.
The gentleman next in esteem and authority among us is another bachelor, who is a member of the Inner Temple;11 a man of great probity, wit, and understanding; but he has chosen his place of residence rather to obey the direction of an old humoursome father, than in pursuit of his own inclinations. He was placed there to stuily the laws of the land, and is the most learned of any of the house in those of the stage. Aristotle and Longinus'- are much better understood by him than Littleton or Coke.13 The father sends up every post questions relating to marriage-articles, leases, and tenures, in
7 Torn a fasliionnlilp part of London.
8 A favorite of Charles II. o A Restoration dramatist.
i') A notorious character of (he time.
n One of the four creat colleges (if law in Londou. Ancient Greek philosophers and critics.
13 Gre.1t English lawyers of the loth und Kith centuries respectively.
* Justices of the peace presided over the criminal courts or quarter sessions. Those chosen to sit with the higher court which met twice a year were called "Justices of the quorum."
the neighborhood; all which questions he agrees with11 an attorney to answer and take care of in the lump. He is studying the passions themselves, when he should bo inquiring into the debates among men which arise from them. He knows the argument of each of the orations of Demosthenes and Tully,15 but not one case in the reports of our own courts. No one ever took him for a fool; but none, except his intimate friends, know he has a great deal of wit. This turn makes him at once both disinterested and agreeable. As few of his thoughts are drawn from business, they are most of them fit for conversation. His taste of books is a little too just for tho age he lives in; he has read all, but approves of very few. His familiarity with the customs, manners, actions, and writings of tho ancients, makes him a very delicato observer of what occurs to him in the present world. He is an excellent critic, and the time of the play is his hour of business: exactly at five he passes through New-Inn,i« crosses through Russel-court, and takes a turn at Will's till the play begins; he has his shoes rubbed aud his periwig powdered at the barber's as you go into the Rose." It is for the good of the audience when he is at the play, for the actors have an ambition to please him.
The i>erson of next consideration is Sir Andrew Freeport, a merchant of great eminence in the city of London: a person of indefatigable industry, strong reason, and great experience. His notions of trade arc noble and generous, and (as every rich man has usually some sly way of jesting, which would make no great figure were he not a rich man) he calls the sea the British Common. He is acquainted with commerce in all its parts; and will tell you that it is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms; for true power is to be got by arts and industry. He will often argue that, if this part of our trade were well cultivated, we should gain from one nation; and if another, from another. I have heard him prove, that diligence makes more lasting acquisitions than valour, and that sloth has ruined more nations than the sword. He abounds in several frugal maxims, among which the greatest favourite is, "A penny saved is a penny got.'' A general trader of good sense is pleasauter company than a general scholar; and Sir Andrew having a natural unaffected eloquence, the perspicuity of his discourse gives
14 engages i» Cicero.
16 Part of one of the law colleges.
17 A dissolute tavern-resort.