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a field, I Mall confine myself to a few ge- have done, had he wrote a differtation on neral observations on that head.
this species of poetry. However different First, I observe, · That though excesses the tastes of men may be, their general of both kinds are to be avoided, and discourses on these subjects are commonly though a proper medium ought to be stu- the same. No criticism can be very indied in all productions; yet this medium ftruétive, which descends not to particulars, lies not in a point, but admits of a very and is not full of examples, and illustraconsiderable latitude.' Consider the wide tions. 'Tis allowed on all hands, that diitance, in this respect, between Mr. Pope beauty, as well as virtue, lies always in a and Lucretius. There seem to lie in the medium ; but where this mediam is placed two greatest extremes of resinement and is the great question, and can never be suffimplicity, which a poet can indulgeficiently explained by general reasonings. himself in, without being guilty of any I Mall deliver it as a third observation blameable excess. All this interval may on this fubject, • That we ought to be be filled with poets, who may differ from more on our guard againft the excess of each other, but may be equally admirable, refinement than that of fimplicity; and each in his peculiar style and manner. that because the former excess is both less Corneille and Congreve, who carry their beautiful and more dangerous than the * wit and refinement somewhat farther than latter.' Mr. Pope (if poets of so different a kind It is a certain rule, that wit and passion can be compared together) and Sophocles are entirely inconsistent. When the affecand Terence, who are more simple than tions are moved, there is no place for the Lucretius, seem to have gone out of thać imagination. The mind of man being namedium, wherein the most perfect produc- turally limited, it is impossible all its facions are to be found, and are guilty of culties can operate at once : and the more some excess in these opposite characters. any (ne predominates, the less room is Of all the great poets, Virgil and Racine, there for the others to exert their vigour. in my opinion, lie neareit the c: nier, and For this reason, a greater degree of fimare the farthest rem
emoved from both the plicity is required in all compositions, extremities.
where men, and actions, and paffions are My second observation on this head is, painted, than in such as confitt in reflec• That it is very difficult, if not impoflible, tions and observations. And as the former to explain, by words, wherein the just me- fpecies of writing is the more engaging dium betwixi the excesies of fimplicity and and beautiful, one may safely, upon this rennement confills, or to give any rule, by account, give the preference to the exwhich we can know precisely the bounds treme of fimplicity, above that of refinebetwixt the fault and the beauty. A critic ment. may not only discourse very judiciously on We may also observe, that those com, this head, without intructing his readers, positions which we read the oftenest, and but even without understanding the mat- which every man of talte has got by ter perfectly himself. There is not in the heart, have the recommendation of fimworld a finer piece of criticism than Fon. plicity, and have nothing surprizing in tenelle's Dissertation on Paliorals; where- the thought, when divested of that elein, by a number of reflections and philo- gance of expression, and trarmony of numfophical reasonings, he endeavours to fix bers, with which it is cloathed. If the the just medium which is suitable to that merit of the composition lies in a point of species of writing. But let any one read wit, it may Itrike at first: but the mind the pastorals of that author, and he will be anticipates the thought in the second peconvinced, that this judicious critic, not- rusal, and is no longer affected by it
. withftanding his fine reasonings, had a When I read an epigram of Martial, the false taite, and fixed the point of perfec- first line recalls the whole; and I have no tion much nearer the extreme of refine- pleasure in repeating to myfelf what ! ment than pafloral poetry will admit of. know already. But each line, each word The sentiments of his thepherds are bet- in Catullus luas its merit; and I am never ter suited to the toilets of Paris, than to tired with the perufal of himn. It is futie the forests of Arcadia. But this it is im. cient to run over Cowley once; but Parpossible to discover from his critical rea- nel, after the fiftieth reading, is as fresh lonings. He blames all excellive painting as at the first. Besides, it is with books as and ornament as much as Virgil could with women, where a certain plainness of
manner and of dress is more engaging at cards, and others by snapping up a rich than that glare of paint and airs and ap- heiress or a dowager; while the rest, who parel, which may dazzle the eye, but were not cut off in the natural way by duels reaches not the affictions. Terence is a or the gallows, very resolutely made their modest and bulhful beauty, to whom we quietus with laudanum or the pistol. The grant every thing, because he assumes no
just that remained of this fociety had very thing, and whose purity and nature make calmly prepared for his own execution: a durabic, though not a violent impression he had cocked his pistol, deliberately upon us.
placed the mazzle of it to his temple, and But refinement, as it is the less beauti was juit going to pull the trigger, when ful, so it is the more dangerous extreme, he bethought himself that he could emand what we are the aptelt to fill into. ploy it to better purpose upon HoundowSimplicity pafies for dulness, when it is heath. This brave man, however, had not accompanied with great elegance and but a very fhort refpite, and was obliged to propriety. On the contrary, there is suffer the ignominy of going out of the something surprizing in a blaze of wit and world in a vulgar way, by an halter. conceit. Ordinary readers are mightily The enemies of play will perhaps conftruck with it, an 1 falsely imagine it to be sider those gentlemen, who boldly stake the most dificult, as well as moit excel. their whole fortunes at the gaming-table, lent way of writing. Seneca abounds with in the same view with these desperadoes; agreeable faults, lay's Quinctilian, abundat and they may even go so far as to regard dulcibus vitiis; and for that reason is the the polite and honourable assembly at more dangerous, and the more apt to per- White's as a kind of Laft Guinea Club. vert the taite of the young and inconsider. Nothing, they will say, is so fluctuating as
the property of a gamefter, who (when I shall add, that the excess of refine. luck runs against him) throws away whole ment is now more to be guarded against acres at every cast of the dice, and whole than ever; because it is the extreme which houses are as unsure a poffeffion, as if they men are the most apt to fall into, after were built with cards. Many, indeed, jearning has made great progress, and have been reduced to their last guinea at after eminent writers have appeared in this genteel gaming-house; but the most every species of composition. The endea- inveterate enemies to White's must allow, vour to please by novelty, leads men wide that it is but now and then that a gameof simplicity and nature, and fills their ster of quality, who looks upon it as an even writings with affectation and conceit. It bet whether there is another world, takes was thas the age of Claudias and Nero his chance, and dispatches himself, when became fo much inferior to that of Au- the odds are against him in this. gustus in tatłe and genius : and perhaps But however free the gentlemen of there are, at present, some symptoms of a White's may be from any imputation of like degeneracy of taft-, in France as well this kind, it must be confessed, that suias in England.
Hume. cide begins to prevail so generally, that it
is the moft gallant exploit, by which our § 87. An Essay on Suicide. modern heroes chuse to signalize themThe last sessions deprived us of the only selves; and in this, indeed, they behave furviving member of a society, which with uncommon prowels. From the days (during its short existence) was equal both of Plato down to these, a suicide has always in principles and practice to the Mohocks been compared to a foldier on guard deand Hell-fire club of tremendous memory. serting his post: but I should rather con. This fociety was composed of a few broa sider a set of these desperate men, who ken gamefters and desperate young rakes, rush on certain death, as a body of troops who threw the small remains of their bank- sent out on the forlorn hope. They meet rupt fortunes into one common stock, and every face of death, however horrible, with thence assumed the name of the Last Gui- the utmost resolution : fome blow their nea Club. A short life and a merry one, brains out with a pistol; some expire, was their favourite maxim; and they de- like Socrates, by poison; some fall, like termined, when their finances should be Cato, on the point of their own swords; exhausted, to die as they had lived, like and others, who have lived like Nero, affect gentlemen. Some of their members had to die like Seneca, and bleed to death. we luck to get a reprieve by a good run The most exalted geniuses I ever remem
ber to have heard of were a party of re- never did (and I am confident never will) duced gamesters, who bravely resolved to prevail among the more delicate and tenpledge
each other in a bowl of laudanum. der fex in our own nation : though history I was lately informed of a gentleman, who informs us, that the Roman ladies were went among his usual companions at the once so infatuated as to throw off the softgaming-table the day before he made away nels of their nature, and commit violence with himself, and coolly questioned them, on themselves, till the madness was curbed which they thought the easiest and gen- by the exposing their naked bodies in the teelest method of going out of the world: public streets. This, I think, would afford for there is as much difference between a an hint for fixing the like mark of ignomean person and a man of quality in their miny on our male suicides; and I would manner of destroying themselves, as in have every lower wretch of this sort dragtheir manner of living. The poor sneaking ged at the cart's tail, and afterwards hung wretch, starving in a garret, tucks him in chains at his own door, or have his self up in his litt garters; a second, croft quarters put up in terrorem in the most pubin love, drowns himself like a blind puppy lic places, as a rebel to his Maker. But in Rofamond's pond; and a third cuts his that the suicide of quality might be treated throat with his own razor.
But the man with more respect, he should be indulged of fathion almost always dies by a piftol; in having his wounded corpse aud shatterand even the cobler of any spirit goes off ed brains laid (as it were) in state for by a dose or two extraordinary of gin. some days; of which dreadful spectacle we
But this falle notion of courage, how- may conceive the horror from the followever noble it may appear to the desperate ing picture drawn by Dryden: and abandoned, in reality amounts to no
The layer of himself too faw I there: more than the resolution of the highway.
The gore congeald was clotted in his hair: man, who shoots himself with his own pis
With eyes half clos'd, and mouth wide ope he tol, when he finds it impossible to avoid lay, being taken. All practicable means,
And grim as when he breath'd his sullen foui therefore, should be devised to extirpate
away. such absurd bravery, and to make it ap The common murderer has his skeleton pear every way horrible, odious, contempo preserved at Surgeon's Hall, in order to tible, and ridiculous. From reading the deter others from being guilty of the same public prints, a foreigner might be natu- crime; and I think it would not be imrally led to imagine, that we are the most proper to have a charnel-house set a part lunátic people in the whole world. Almost to receive the bones of these more unnaevery day informs us, that the coroner's tural self-murderers, in which monuments inqueft has sat on the body of some mise. should be erected, giving an account of rable suicide, and brought in their verdict their deaths, and adorned with the glorilunacy; but it is very well known, that the ous cnsigns of their rashness, the rope, the enquiry has not been made into the ligte knife, the sword, or the pistol. of mind of the deceased, but into his fór The cause of these frequent self-murders tune and family. The law has indeed among us has been generally imputed to provided, the deliberate- self-murderer the peculiar temperature of our climate. Thould be treated like a brute, and denied Thus a dull day is looked upon as a natuthe rites of burial: but among hundreds of ral order of execution, and Englishmen lanatics by purchase, I never knew this must necesarily thoot, hang, and drown tentence executed but on one poor cobler, themselves in November. That our spirits who hanged himself in his own stall. A are in some measure influenced by the air pennyless poor wretch, who has not left cannot be denicd; but we are not such enough to defray the funeral charges, may mere barometers, as to be driven to deperhaps be excluded the church-yard; but spair and death by the small degree of ielfmurder by a pistol qualifies the polite gloom that our winter brings with it.
If owner for a sudden death, and entitles him we have not so much sunshine as some to a pompous burial, and a monument, countries in the world, we have infinitely fetting forth his virtues, in Weitminiter more than many others; and I do not hear Abbey. Every man in his sober senses that men dispatch themselves by dozens in must with, that the most severe laws that Rusia or Sweden, or that they are unable could pomby be contrived were enacted to keep up their spirits even in the total againit fucides. This thocking bravado darknels of Greenland. Our climate ex
empts us from many diseases, to which other an old aunt in the North; where I was more southern nations are naturally sub- mightily diverted with the traditional suject; and I can never be perfuaded, that perstitions, which are most religiously prebeing born near the north pole is a physi- served in the family, as they have been cal caule for felf-murder.
delivered down (time out of mind) from Delpair, indeed, is the natural cause of their sagacious grandmothers. these shocking actions; but this is com When I arrived, I found the mistress of monly despair brought on by wilful extra the house very busily employed, with her vagance and debauchery. These first in- two daughters, in nailing an horseflioc to volve men into difficulties, and then death the threshold of the door. This, they at once delivers them of their lives and told me, was to guard against the spiteful their cares. For my part, when I see a designs of an old woman, who was a witch, young profligate wantonly squandering his and had threatened to do the family a fortune in bagnios or at the gaming-table, mischief, because one of my young cousins I cannot help looking on him as hastening laid ewo ftraws across, to see if the old his own death, and in a manner digging hag could walk over them. The young his own grave. As he is at last induced lady affured me, that she had several times to kill himself by motives arising from his heard Goody Cripple muttering to herself; vices, I consider him as dying of some and to be sure the was saying the Lord's disease, which those vices naturally pro- Prayer backwards. Besides, the old woduce. If his extravagance has been chiefly man had very often asked them for a pin: in luxurious eating and drinking, I ima- but they took care never to give her any gine him poisoned by his wines, or fur- thing that was sharp, because she should feited by a favourite dith; and if he has not bewitch them. They afterwards told thrown away his estate in bawdy-houses, I me many other particulars of this kind, conclude him destroyed by rottenness and the same as are mentioned with infinite filthy diseases.
humour by the Spectator: and to Another principal cause of the fre- confirm them, they assured me, that the quency of suicide is the noble spirit of eldest miss, when she was litile, used to free-thinking, which has diffused itself have fits, till the mother flung a knife at among all ranks of people. The libertine another old witch (whom the devil had of fashion has too refined a taste to trou carried off in an high wind), and fetched ble himself at all about a soul or an here- blood from her. after; but the vulgar infidel is at won When I was to go to bed, my aunt derful pains to get rid of his Bible, and made a thousand apologies for not putting labours to persuade himself out of his re me in the best room in the house; which ligion. For this purpose he attends con- (she faid) had never been lain in fince the ftantly at the disputant societies, where he death of an old washerwoman, who walked hears a great deal about free-will, free every night, and haunted that room in agency, and predestination, till at length particular. They fancied that the old he is convinced that man is at liberty to woman had hid money somewhere, and do as he pleases, lays his misfortunes to could not rett till she had told somebody ; the charge of Providence, and comforts and my cousin assured me, that she might himself that he was inevitably destined to have had it all to herself; for the spirit be tied up in his own garters. The cou. came one night to her bed-side, and wantrage of these heroes proceeds from the ed to tell her, but she had not courage to same principles, whether they fall by their speak to it. I learned also, that they had own hands, or those of Jack Ketch: the a footman once, who hanged himself for suicide of whatever rank looks death in love; and he walked for a great while, the face without shrinking; as the gallant till they got the parson to lay him in the rogue affects an easy unconcern under Ty- Red Sea. burn, throws away the psalm-book, bids I had not been here long, when an acthe cart drive off with an oath, and swings cident happened, which very much alarmlike a gentleman.
Connoiffeur ed the whole family. Towzer one night $ 88. An Enumeration of Superftitions ob- fign, that somebody belonging to them
howled most terribly; which was a sure served in the Country.
would die. The youngest miss declared, You must know, Mr. Town, tha vam that she had heard the hen crow that juft returned from a visit of a fortnig it to morning; which was another fatal prog
3 M 2
nostic. They told me, that, just before ing of her corn. Besides, there was a great uncle died, Towzer howled so for several spider crawling up the chimney, and the nights together, that they could not quiet blackbird in the kitchen began to fag; him; and my aunt heard the dead-watch which were both of them as certain fore. tick as plainly as if there had been a clock runners of rain. But the most to be dein the room: the maid too, who fat up. pended on in these cases is a tabby cat, which with him, heard a bell toll at the top of usually lies balking on the parlour hearth. the stairs, the very moment the breath If the cat turned her tail to the fire, we were went out of his body. During this dif- to have an hard frost; if the cat licked her course I overheard one of my cousins tail, rain would certainly ensue. They whisper the other, that she was afraid wondered what stranger they should see; their mamma would not live long; for she because puss washed her face over her left smelt an ugly smell, like a dead carcase. ear. The old lady complained of a cold, They had a dairy-maid, who died the and her eldest daughter remarked it would very week after an hearse had stopt at gothrough the family; for the observed that their door on its way to church: and the poor Tab had sneezed several times. Poor eldelt miss, when she was but thirteen, saw Tab, however, once flew at one of my her own brother's ghost (who was gone cousins; for which she had like to have to the West Indies) walking in the gar- been destroyed, as the whole family began den; and to be sure, nine months after, to think she was no other than a witch. they had an account, that he died on It is impoffible to tell you the several toboard the hip, the very same day, and kens by which they knew whether good or hour of the day, that miis saw his appari- ill luck will happen to them. Spilling tion.
the salt, or laying knives across, are every I need not mention to you the common where accounted ill omens; but a pin with incidents, which were accounted by them the head turned towards you, or to be fol. no less prophetic. If a cinder popped lowed by a strange dog, I found were very from the fire, they were in haste to exa- lucky. I heard one of my cousins tell the mine whether it was a purse or a coffin. cook-maid, that he boiled away all her They were aware of my coming long be- sweethearts, because she had let her dishfore I arrived, because they had seen a water boil over. The same young lady one ftranger on the grate. The youngest mifs morning came down to breakfast with her will let nobody use the poker but herself; cap the wrong side out; which the mother because, when the stirs the fire, it always observing, charged her not to alter it al burns bright, which is a sign the will have day, for fear she thould turn luck. a brisk husband : and Me is no less sure of But, above all, I could not help remarka good one, because she generally has illing the various prognostics which the old luck at cards. Nor is the candle less ora- lady and her daughters used to colle&t from cular than the fire : for the 'quire of the almost every part of the body. A white parish came one night to pay them a visit, fpeck upon the nails made them as sure of when the tallow winding-sheet pointed a gift as if they had it already in their towards him; and he broke his neck foon pockets
. The elder sister is to have one after in a fox-chase. My aunt one night husband more than the youngest, because observed with great pleasure a letter in the the bas one wrinkle more in her forehead; candle; and the very next day one came but the other will have the advantage of from her son in London. We knew when her in the number of children, as was a spirit was in the room, by the candle plainly proved by snapping their fingerburning blue; but poor cousin Nancy was joints. It would take up too much room ready to cry one time, when she snuffed it
to set down every circumstance, which I out, and could not blow it in again; though observed of this furt during my stay with her filter did it at a whift, and consequently them: I shall therefore conclude triumphed in her fuperior virtue.
with the several remarks on other parts of We had no occasion for an almanack or the body, as far as I could learn them from the weather-glass, to let us know whether this prophetic family: for as I was a relait would rain or shine. One evening I pro. tion, you know, they had less reserve: posed to ride out with my cousins ihe next If the head itches, it is a sign of rain. If day to see a gentleman's house in the neigh- the head aches, it is a profitable pain. If bourhood; but my aunt assured us it would you have the tooth-ache, you don't love be wet, the knew very well, from the thootirue. If your eye-brow itches, you will see