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cannot guess at any objections that could be made to his paper. If we consider his style with that indulgence which we must shew to old English writers, or if we look into the variety of his subjects, with those several dissertations, moral reflexions. ....'
The following part of the paragraph is so much to my advantage, and beyond anything I can pretend to, that I hope my reader will excuse me for not inserting it.-L.
No. 124. Difficulties of periodical writing ; increasing demand for the work: the Spectator not written for moles.'
Μέγα βιβλιον μέγα κακόν. .
A great book is a great evil. A man who publishes his works in a volume, has an infinite advantage over one who communicates his writings to the world 10 in loose tracts and single pieces. We do not expect to meet
with anything in a bulky volume, till after some heavy preamble, and several words of course, to prepare the reader for what follows: nay, authors have established it as a kind of rule, that a man ought to be dull sometimes, as the most severe reader makes allowances for many rests and nodding places n in a voluminous writer. This gave occasion to the famous Greek proverb which I have chosen for my motto, That a great book is a
On the contrary, those who publish their thoughts in distinct 20 sheets, and as it were by piece-meal, have none of these ad
vantages. We must immediately fall into our subject, and treat every part of it in a lively manner, or our papers are thrown by as dull and insipid : our matter must lie close together, and either be wholly new in itself, or in the turn it receives from our expressions. Were the books of our best authors thus to be retailed to the public, and every page submitted to the taste of forty or fifty thousand readers, I am afraid we should complain of many flat expressions, trivial observations, beaten topics,
and common thoughts, which go off very well in the lump. At go the same time, notwithstanding some papers may be made up
of broken hints and irregular sketches, it is often expected that every sheet should be a kind of treatise, and make out in thought what it wants in bulk : that a point of humour should be worked up in all its parts; and a subject touched upon in its most essential articles, without the repetitions, tautologies, and enlargements, that are indulged to longer labours. The ordinary writers of morality prescribe to their readers after the Galenic way; their medicines are made up in large quantities. An essay
writer must practise in the chymical method, and give the 10 virtue of a full draught in a few drops. Were all books reduced
thus to their quintessence, mạny a bulky author would make his appearance in a penny-paper: there would be scarce such a thing in nature as a folio: the works of an age would be contained on a few shelves; not to mention millions of volumes that would be utterly annihilated.
I cannot think that the difficulty of furnishing out separate papers of this nature, has hindered authors from communicating their thoughts to the world after such a manner: though I must
confess I am amazed that the press should be only made use of 20 in this way by news-writers, and the zealots of parties; as if it
were not more advantageous to mankind, to be instructed in wisdom and virtue, than in politics; and to be made good fathers, husbands, and sons, than counsellors and statesmen. Had the philosophers and great men of antiquity, who took so much pains in order to instruct mankind, and leave the world wiser and better than they found it,-had they, I say, been possessed of the art of printing, there is no question but they would have made such an advantage of it, in dealing out their lectures to the
public. Our common prints would be of great use were they thus 30 calculated to diffuse good sense through the bulk of a people, to
clear up their understandings, animate their minds with virtue, dissipate the sorrows of a heavy heart, or unbend the mind from its more severe employments, with innocent amusements. When knowledge, instead of being bound up in books, and kept in libraries and retirements, is thus obtruded upon the public; when it is canvassed in every assembly, and exposed upon every table; I cannot forbear reflecting upon that passage in the Proverbs, "Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets;
she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of 40 the gates. In the city she uttereth her words, saying, How
long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning ? and fools hate knowledge?'
The many letters which come to me from persons of the best sense in both sexes, (for I may pronounce their characters from their way of writing) do not a little encourage me in the prosecution of this my undertaking: besides that, my bookseller tells me, the demand for these my papers increases daily. It is at his instance that I shall continue my rural speculations to the end of
this month; several having made up separate sets of them, as they 10 have done before of those relating to wit, to operas, to points of morality, or subjects of humour.
I am not at all mortified, when sometimes I see my works thrown aside by men of no taste nor learning. There is a kind of heaviness and ignorance that hangs upon the minds of ordinary men, which is too thick for knowledge to break through. Their souls are not to be enlightened. -Nox atra cava circumvolat umbra.
VIRG. Æn. ii. 360. Dark night surrounds them with her hollow shade. To these I must apply the fable of the mole, that after having consulted many oculists for the bettering of his sight, was at last
provided with a good pair of spectacles; but upon his endeavour20 ing to make use of them, his mother told him very prudently,
“That spectacles, though they might help the eye of a man, could be of no use to a mole. It is not therefore for the benefit of moles that I publish these my daily essays.
But besides such as are moles through ignorance, there are others who are moles through envy. As it is said in the Latin proverb, ‘that one man is a wolf to another;' so, generally speaking, one author is a móle to another author. It is impossible for them to discover beauties in one another's works,
they have eyes only for spots and blemishes: they can indeed see 30 the light, as it is said of the animals which are their name-sakes,
but the idea of it is painful to them ; they immediately shut their eyes upon it, and withdraw themselves into a wilful obscurity. I have already caught two or three of these dark undermining vermin, and intend to make a string of them, in order to hang them up in one of my papers, as an example to such voluntary moles.-C.
No. 179. The Spectator serves up the grave and gay by turns
to his readers: represses everything of an immoral tendency:
Centuriæ seniorum agitant expertia frugis :
Hor. Ars Poet., 341.
FRANCIS. I may cast my readers under two great general divisions, the Mercurial and the Saturnine. The first are the gay part of my disciples, who require speculations of wit and humour; the others are those of a more solemn and sober turn, who find no pleasure but in papers of morality and sound sense. The former call every thing that is serious, stupid; the latter look upon every thing as impertinent that is ludicrous. Were I always grave, one half of my readers would fall off from me: were I always merry,
I should lose the other. I make it therefore my endeavour to 10 find out entertainments of both kinds, and by that means perhaps
consult the good of both, more than I should do, did I always write to the particular taste of either. As they neither of them know what I proceed upon, the sprightly reader, who takes up my paper in order to be diverted, very often finds himself engaged unawares in a serious and profitable course of thinking; as on the contrary, the thoughtful man, who perhaps may hope to find something solid, and full of deep reflexion, is very often insensibly betrayed into a fit of mirth. In a word, the reader sits down to
my entertainment without knowing his bill of fare, and has 20 therefore at least the pleasure of hoping there may be a dish to his palate.
I must confess, were I left to myself, I should rather aim at instructing than diverting : but if we will be useful to the world, we must take it as we find it. Authors of professed severity discourage the looser part of mankind from having anything to do with their writings. A man must have virtue in him, before
he will enter upon the reading of a Seneca or an Epictetusn. The very title of a moral treatise has something in it austere and shocking to the careless and inconsiderate.
For this reason several unthinking persons fall in my way, who would give no attention to lectures delivered with a religious seriousness or a philosophic gravity. They are ensnared into sentiments of wisdom and virtue when they do not think of it; and if by that means they arrive only at such a degree of con
sideration as may dispose them to listen to more studied and 10 elaborate discourses, I shall not think my speculations useless. I
might likewise observe, that the gloominess in which sometimes the minds of the best men are involved, very often stands in need of such little incitements to mirth and laughter, as are apt to disperse melancholy, and put our faculties in good humour. To which some will add, that the British climate, more than any other, makes entertainments of this nature in a manner necessary.
If what I have here said does not recommend, it will at least excuse, the variety of my speculations. I would not willingly 20 laugh but in order to instruct, or if I sometimes fail in this point,
when my mirth ceases to be instructive, it shall never cease to be innocent. A scrupulous conduct in this particular, has, perhaps, more merit in it than the generality of readers imagine: did they know how many thoughts occur in a point of humour, which a discreet author in modesty suppresses; how many strokes of raillery present themselves, which could not fail to please the ordinary taste of mankind, but are stifled in their birth by reason of some remote tendency which they carry in them to corrupt
the minds of those who read them ; did they know how many 30 glances of ill-nature are industriously avoided for fear of doing
injury to the reputation of another, they would be apt to ihink kindly of those writers who endeavour to make themselves diverting without being immoral. One may apply to these authors that passage in Waller:
Poets lose half the praise they would have got,
As nothing is more easy than to be a wit, with all the abovementioned liberties, it requires some genius and invention to appear such without them.