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consider all those persons to whom the malice of the world may possibly apply it, and take care to dash it with such particular circumstances as may prevent all such ill-natured applications. If I write anything on a black man, I run over in my mind all the eminent persons in the nation who are of that complexion : when I place an imaginary name at the head of a character, I examine every syllable and letter of it, that it may not bear any resemblance to one that is real. I know very well the value
which every man sets upon his reputation, and how painful it 10 is to be exposed to the mirth and derision of the public, and
should therefore scorn to divert my reader at the expence of any private man.
As I have been thus tender of every particular person's reputation, so I have taken more than ordinary care not to give offence to those who appear in the higher figures of life. I would not make myself merry even with a piece of pasteboard that is invested with a public character; for which reason I have never glanced upon the late designed procession of his
Holiness n and his attendants, notwithstanding it might have 20 afforded matter to many ludicrous speculations. Among those
advantages which the public may reap from this paper, it is not the least that it draws men's minds off from the bitterness of party, and furnishes them with subjects of discourse that may be treated without warmth or passion. This is said to have been the first design of those gentlemen who set on foot the Royal Society », and had then a very good effect, as it turned many of the greatest geniuses of that age to the disquisitions of natural knowledge, who, if they had engaged in politics with the same
parts and application, might have set their country in a flame. 30 The air pump, the barometer, the quadrant, and the like in
ventions, were thrown out to those busy spirits, as tubs and barrels are to a whale n, that he may let the ship sail on without disturbance, while he diverts himself with those innocent amusements.
I have been so very scrupulous in this particular of not hurting any man's reputation, that I have forborne mentioning even such authors as I could not name with honour. This I must confess to have been a piece of very great self-denial : for as the public
relishes nothing better than the ridicule which turns upon a 40 writer of eminence, so there is nothing which a man that has but
THE SPECTATOR AS CRITIC.
97 a very ordinary talent in ridicule may execute with greater ease. One might raise laughter for a quarter of a year together upon the works of a person who has published but a very few volumes. For which reason I am astonished, that those who have appeared against this paper have made so very little of it. The criticisms which I have hitherto published have been made with an intention rather to discover beauties and excellencies in the writers of my own time, than to publish any
of their faults and imperfections. In the mean while I should 10 take it for a very great favour from some of my underhand
detractors, if they would break all measures with me so far, as to give me a pretence for examining their performances with an impartial eye: nor shall I look upon it as any breach of charity to criticise the author, so long as I keep clear of the person.
In the mean while, till I am provoked to such hostilities, I shall from time to time endeavour to do justice to those who have distinguished themselves in the politer parts of learning, and to point out such beauties in their works as may have escaped the observation of others.
As the first place among our English poets is due to Milton, and as I have drawn more quotations out of him than from any other, I shall enter into a regular criticism upon his Paradise Lost, which I shall publish every Saturday, till I have given my thoughts upon that poem. I shall not however presume to impose upon others my own particular judgment on this author, but only deliver it as my private opinion. Criticism is of a very large extent, and every particular master in this art has his favourite passages in an author, which do not equally strike the best judges. It will
be sufficient for me if I discover many beauties or imperfections 30 which others have not attended to, and I should be very glad to
see any of our eminent writers publish their discoveries on the same subject. In short, I would always be understood to write my papers of criticism in the spirit which Horace has expressed in those two famous lines:
-Si quid novisti rectius istis,
EPIST. 1. 6. 68. • If you have made any better remarks of your own, communicate them with candour, if not, make use of these I present
No. 445. The penny stamp just imposed obliges the Spectator to raise
his price. He has been charged with making political attacks
Mart. Epig. II. 118.
I’n't worth so much : you're in the right. This is the day on which many eminent authors will probably publish their last words. I am afraid that few of our weekly historians, who are men that above all others delight in war, will be able to subsist under the weight of a stamp, and an approaching peace n. A sheet of blank paper that must have this new imprimatur clapt upon it, before it is qualified to communicate any thing to the public, will make its way in the world very heavily. In short, the necessity of carrying a stamp, and the improbability of
notifying a bloody battle, will, I am afraid, both concur to the 10 sinking of those thin folios, which have every other day retailed
to us the history of Europe for several years last past. A facetious friend of mine, who loves a pun, calls this present mortality among authors, The fall of the leaf.
I remember, upon Mr. Baxter's n death, there was published a sheet of very good sayings, inscribed, The last words of Mr. Baxter. The title sold so great a number of these papers, that about a week after there came out a second sheet, inscribed, More last words of Mr. Baxter. In the same manner, I have reason to
think, that several ingenious writers, who have taken their leave 20 of the public, in farewell papers, will not give over so, but intend
to appear again, though perhaps under another form, and with a different title. Be that as it will, it is my business in this place to give an account of my own intentions, and to acquaint my reader with the motives by which I act in this great crisis of the republic of letters.
I have been long debating in my own heart, whether I should throw up my pen, as an author that is cashiered by the act of parliament n, which is to operate within these four and twenty
hours, or whether I should still persist in laying my speculations 30 from day to day before the public. The argument which pre
vails with me most on the first side of the question is, that I am
informed by my bookseller he must raise the price of every single paper to twopence, or that he shall not be able to pay the duty of it. Now, as I am very desirous my readers should have their learning as cheap as possible, it is with great difficulty that I comply with him in this particular.
However, upon laying my reasons together in the balance, I find that those which plead for the continuance of this work have much the greater weight. For, in the first place, in recompence
for the expence to which this will put my readers, it is to be 10 hoped they may receive from every paper so much instruction
as will be a very good equivalent. And, in order to this, I would not advise any one to take it in, who, after the perusal of it, does not find himself twopence the wiser or the better man for it; or who, upon examination, does not believe that he has had two penny worth of mirth or instruction for his money.
But I must confess there is another motive which prevails with me more than the former. I consider that the tax on paper was given for the support of the government; and as I have enemies,
who are apt to pervert every thing I do or say, I fear they would 20 ascribe the laying down my paper, on such an occasion, to a
spirit of malecontentedness, which I am resolved none shall ever justly upbraid me with. No! I shall glory in contributing my utmost to the weal public; and if my country receives five or six pounds a day by my labours, I shall be very well pleased to find myself so useful a member. It is a received maxim, that no honest man should enrich himself by methods that are prejudicial to the community in which he lives : and by the same rule I think we may pronounce
the person to deserve very well of his countrymen, whose labours bring more into the public coffers than into his 30 own pocket.
Since I have mentioned the word enemies, I must explain myself so far as to acquaint my reader, that I mean only the insignificant party-zealots on both sides; men of such poor narrow souls, that they are not capable of thinking on any thing but with an eye to Whig or Tory. During the course of this paper, I have been accused by these despicable wretches of trimming, time serving, personal reflection, secret satire, and the like. Now though, in these my compositions, it is visible to any reader of
common sense that I consider nothing but my subject, which is 40 always of an indifferent nature; how is it possible for me to
write so clear of party, as not to lie open to the censure of those who will be applying every sentence, and finding out persons and things in it, which it has no regard to ?
Several paltry scribblers and declaimers have done me the honour to be dull upon me in reflexions of this nature; but notwithstanding my name has been sometimes traduced by this contemptible tribe of nien, I have hitherto avoided all animadversions upon 'em. The truth of it is, I am afraid of making
them appear considerable by taking notice of them, for they are 10 like those imperceptible insects which are discovered by the mi
croscope, and cannot be made the subject of observation without being magnified.
Having mentioned those few who have shown themselves the enemies of this paper, I should be very ungrateful to the public, did not I at the same time testify my gratitude to those who are its friends, in which number 1 may reckon many of the most distinguished persons of all conditions, parties, and professions in the isle of Great Britain. I am not so vain as to think this ap
probation is so much due to the performance as to the design. 20 There is, and ever will be, justice enough in the world, to afford
patronage and protection for those who endeavour to advance truth and virtue, without regard to the passions and prejudices of any particular cause or faction. If I have any other merit in me, it is that I have new-pointed all the batteries of ridicule. They have been generally planted against persons, who have appeared serious rather than absurd, or at best have aimed rather at what is unfashionable than what is vicious. For my own part, I have endeavoured to make nothing ridiculous that is not in
some measure criminal. I have set up the immoral man as the 30 object of derision : in short, if I have not formed a new weapon
against vice and irreligion, I have at least shewn how that weapon may be put to a right use, which has so often fought the battles of impiety and profaneness.