The Works of Samuel Johnson

Part 6 out of 7

always a favourite amongst the elderly ladies, because
I never rebelled against seniority, nor could be
charged with thinking myself wise before my time;
but heard every opinion with submissive silence,
professed myself ready to learn from all who seemed
inclined to teach me, paid the same grateful acknowledgements
for precepts contradictory to each other,
and if any controversy arose, was careful to side with
her who presided in the company.

Of this compliance I very early found the advantage;
for my aunt Matilda left me a very large addition
to my fortune, for this reason chiefly, as she
herself declared, because I was not above hearing
good counsel, but would sit from morning till night
to be instructed, while my sister Sukey, who was a
year younger than myself, and was, therefore, in
greater want of information, was so much conceited
of her own knowledge, that whenever the good lady
in the ardour of benevolence reproved or instructed
her, she would pout or titter, interrupt her with
questions, or embarrass her with objections.

I had no design to supplant my sister by this
complaisant attention; nor, when the consequence of my
obsequiousness came to be known, did Sukey so
much envy as despise me: I was, however, very well
pleased with my success; and having received, from
the concurrent opinion of all mankind, a notion that
to be rich was to be great and happy, I thought I had
obtained my advantages at an easy rate, and resolved
to continue the same passive attention, since I found
myself so powerfully recommended by it to kindness
and esteem.

The desire of advising has a very extensive
prevalence; and since advice cannot be given but to those
that will hear it, a patient listener is necessary to the
accommodation of all those who desire to be confirmed
in the opinion of their own wisdom: a patient
listener, however, is not always to be had; the present
age, whatever age is present, is so vitiated and
disordered that young people are readier to talk than
to attend, and good counsel is only thrown away
upon those who are full of their own perfections.

I was, therefore, in this scarcity of good sense, a
general favourite; and seldom saw a day in which
some sober matron did not invite me to her house,
or take me out in her chariot, for the sake of instructing
me how to keep my character in this censorious
age, how to conduct myself in the time of courtship,
how to stipulate for a settlement, how to manage a
husband of every character, regulate my family, and
educate my children.

We are all naturally credulous in our own favour.
Having been so often caressed and applauded for
docility, I was willing to believe myself really
enlightened by instruction, and completely qualified for the
task of life. I did not doubt but I was entering the
world with a mind furnished against all exigencies,
with expedients to extricate myself from every
difficulty, and sagacity to provide against every danger;
I was, therefore, in haste to give some specimen of
my prudence, and to show that this liberality of
instruction had not been idly lavished upon a mind
incapable of improvement.

My purpose, for why should I deny it? was like
that of other women, to obtain a husband of rank
and fortune superior to my own; and in this I had
the concurrence of all those that had assumed the
province of directing me. That the woman was
undone who married below herself, was universally
agreed: and though some ventured to assert, that
the richer man ought invariably to be preferred, and
that money was a sufficient compensation for a
defective ancestry; yet the majority declared warmly
for a gentleman, and were of opinion that upstarts
should not be encouraged.

With regard to other qualifications I had an
irreconcilable variety of instructions. I was sometimes
told that deformity was no defect in a man; and
that he who was not encouraged to intrigue by an
opinion of his person, was more likely to value the
tenderness of his wife: but a grave widow directed
me to choose a man who might imagine himself
agreeable to me, for that the deformed were always
insupportably vigilant, and apt to sink into sullenness,
or burst into rage, if they found their wife's
eye wandering for a moment to a good face or a
handsome shape.

They were, however, all unanimous in warning
me, with repeated cautions, against all thoughts of
union with a wit, as a being with whom no happiness
could possibly be enjoyed: men of every other
kind I was taught to govern, but a wit was an
animal for whom no arts of taming had been yet
discovered: the woman whom he could once get within
his power, was considered as lost to all hope of
dominion or of quiet: for he would detect artifice and
defeat allurement; and if once he discovered any
failure of conduct, would believe his own eyes, in
defiance of tears, caresses, and protestations.

In pursuance of these sage principles, I proceeded
to form my schemes; and while I was yet in the
first bloom of youth, was taken out at an assembly
by Mr. Frisk. I am afraid my cheeks glowed, and
my eyes sparkled; for I observed the looks of all
my superintendants fixed anxiously upon me; and
I was next day cautioned against him from all hands,
as a man of the most dangerous and formidable kind,
who had writ verses to one lady, and then forsaken
her only because she could not read them, and had
lampooned another for no other fault than defaming
his sister.

Having been hitherto accustomed to obey, I
ventured to dismiss Mr. Frisk, who happily did not
think me worth the labour of a lampoon. I was then
addressed by Mr. Sturdy, and congratulated by all
my friends on the manors of which I was shortly
to be lady: but Sturdy's conversation was so gross,
that after the third visit I could endure him no
longer; and incurred, by dismissing him, the censure
of all my friends, who declared that my nicety
was greater than my prudence, and that they feared
it would be my fate at last to be wretched with a wit.

By a wit, however, I was never afterwards
attacked, but lovers of every other class, or pretended
lovers, I have often had; and, notwithstanding the
advice constantly given me, to have no regard in
my choice to my own inclinations, I could not
forbear to discard some for vice, and some for
rudeness. I was once loudly censured for refusing an old
gentleman who offered an enormous jointure, and
died of the phthisic a year after; and was so baited
with incessant importunities, that I should have
given my hand to Drone the stock-jobber, had not
the reduction of interest made him afraid of the
expenses of matrimony.

Some, indeed, I was permitted to encourage; but
miscarried of the main end, by treating them according
to the rules of art which had been prescribed
me. Altilis, an old maid, infused into me so
much haughtiness and reserve, that some of my
lovers withdrew themselves from my frown, and
returned no more; others were driven away, by the
demands of settlement which the widow Trapland
directed me to make; and I have learned, by many
experiments, that to ask advice is to lose opportunity.

I am, Sir,

Your humble servant,


No. 81. TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 1753

Nil desperandum. HOR. Lib. i. Od. vii. 27.

Avaunt despair!

I HAVE sometimes heard it disputed in conversation,
whether it be more laudable or desirable,
that a man should think too highly or too meanly
of himself: it is on all hands agreed to be best, that
he should think rightly; but since a fallible being
will always make some deviations from exact rectitude,
it is not wholly useless to inquire towards
which side it is safer to decline.

The prejudices of mankind seem to favour him
who errs by under-rating his own powers: he is considered
as a modest and harmless member of society,
not likely to break the peace by competition, to
endeavour after such splendour of reputation as may
dim the lustre of others, or to interrupt any in the
enjoyment of themselves; he is no man's rival, and,
therefore, may be every man's friend.

The opinion which a man entertains of himself
ought to be distinguished, in order to an accurate
discussion of this question, as it relates to persons
or to things. To think highly of ourselves in
comparison with others, to assume by our own authority
that precedence which none is willing to grant, must
be always invidious and offensive; but to rate our
powers high in proportion to things, and imagine
ourselves equal to great undertakings, while we leave
others in possession of the same abilities, cannot
with equal justice provoke censure.

It must be confessed, that self-love may dispose
us to decide too hastily in our own favour: but who is
hurt by the mistake? If we are incited by this vain
opinion to attempt more than we can perform, ours
is the labour, and ours is the disgrace.

But he that dares to think well of himself, will
not always prove to be mistaken; and the good
effects of his confidence will then appear in great
attempts and great performances: if he should not
fully complete his design, he will at least advance
it so far as to leave an easier task for him that
succeeds him; and even though he should wholly fail,
he will fail with honour.

But from the opposite errour, from torpid
despondency, can come no advantage; it is the frost of
the soul, which binds up all its powers, and congeals
life in perpetual sterility. He that has no hopes of
success, will make no attempts; and where nothing
is attempted, nothing can be done.

Every man should, therefore, endeavour to
maintain in himself a favourable opinion of the powers
of the human mind; which are, perhaps, in every
man, greater than they appear, and might, by diligent
cultivation, be exalted to a degree beyond
what their possessor presumes to believe. There is
scarce any man but has found himself able, at the
instigation of necessity, to do what in a state of
leisure and deliberation he would have concluded
impossible; and some of our species have signalized
themselves by such achievements, as prove that
there are few things above human hope.

It has been the policy of all nations to preserve,
by some public monuments, the memory of those
who have served their country by great exploits:
there is the same reason for continuing or reviving
the names of those, whose extensive abilities have
dignified humanity. An honest emulation may be
alike excited; and the philosopher's curiosity may
be inflamed by a catalogue of the works of Boyle
or Bacon, as Themistocles was kept awake by the
trophies of Miltiades.

Among the favourites of nature that have from
time to time appeared in the world, enriched with
various endowments and contrarieties of excellence,
none seems to have been exalted above the common
rate of humanity, than the man known about two
centuries ago by the appellation of the Admirable
Crichton; of whose history, whatever we may suppress
as surpassing credibility, yet we shall, upon
incontestable authority, relate enough to rank him
among prodigies.

"Virtue," says Virgil, "is better accepted when
it comes in a pleasing form:" the person of Crichton
was eminently beautiful; but his beauty was
consistent with such activity and strength, that
in fencing he would spring at one bound the
length of twenty feet upon his antagonist; and he
used the sword in either hand with such force and
dexterity, that scarce any one had courage to engage him.

Having studied at St. Andrews in Scotland, he
went to Paris in his twenty-first year, and affixed on
the gate of the college of Navarre a kind of challenge
to the learned of that university to dispute with him
on a certain day: offering to his opponents, whoever
they should be, the choice of ten languages, and of
all faculties and sciences. On the day appointed three
thousand auditors assembled, when four doctors of
the church and fifty masters appeared against him;
and one of his antagonists confesses, that the doctors
were defeated; that he gave proofs of knowledge
above the reach of man; and that a hundred years
passed without food or sleep, would not be sufficient
for the attainment of his learning. After a disputation
of nine hours, he was presented by the president
and professors with a diamond and a purse of gold,
and dismissed with repeated acclamations.

From Paris he went away to Rome, where he made
the same challenge, and had in the presence of the
pope and cardinals the same success. Afterwards he
contracted at Venice an acquaintance with Aldus
Manutius, by whom he was introduced to the learned
of that city: then visited Padua, where he engaged
in another publick disputation, beginning his
performance with an extemporal poem in praise of the
city and the assembly then present, and concluding
with an oration equally unpremeditated in commendation
of ignorance.

He afterwards published another challenge, in
which he declared himself ready to detect the errours
of Aristotle and all his commentators, either
in the common forms of logick, or in any which his
antagonists should propose of a hundred different
kinds of verse.

These acquisitions of learning, however
stupendous, were not gained at the expense of any pleasure
which youth generally indulges, or by the omission
of any accomplishment in which it becomes a gentleman
to excel: he practised in great perfection the
arts of drawing and painting, he was an eminent
performer in both vocal and instrumental musick, he
danced with uncommon gracefulness, and, on the day
after his disputation at Paris, exhibited his skill in
horsemanship before the court of France, where at a
publick match of tilting, he bore away the ring upon
his lance fifteen times together.

He excelled likewise in domestic games of less
dignity and reputation: and in the interval between
his challenge and disputation at Paris, he spent so
much of his time at cards, dice, and tennis, that a
lampoon was fixed upon the gate of the Sorbonne,
directing those that would see this monster of
erudition, to look for him at the tavern.

So extensive was his acquaintance with life and
manners, that in an Italian comedy composed by
himself, and exhibited before the court of Mantua,
he is said to have personated fifteen different
characters; in all which he might succeed without great
difficulty, since he had such power of retention, that
once hearing an oration of an hour, he would repeat
it exactly, and in the recital follow the speaker
through all his variety of tone and gesticulation.

Nor was his skill in arms less than in learning, or
his courage inferior to his skill: there was a prize-
fighter at Mantua, who travelling about the world,
according to the barbarous custom of that age, as a
general challenger, had defeated the most celebrated
masters in many parts of Europe; and in Mantua,
where he then resided, had killed three that appeared
against him. The duke repented that he had granted
him his protection; when Crichton, looking on his
sanguinary success with indignation, offered to stake
fifteen hundred pistoles, and mount the stage against
him. The duke with some reluctance consented, and
on the day fixed the combatants appeared: their
weapon seems to have been single rapier, which was
then newly introduced in Italy. The prize-fighter
advanced with great violence and fierceness, and
Crichton contended himself calmly to ward his
passes, and suffered him to exhaust his vigour by
his own fury. Crichton then became the assailant;
and pressed upon him with such force and agility,
that he thrust him thrice through the body, and
saw him expire: he then divided the prize he had
won among the widows whose husbands had been

The death of this wonderful man I should be
willing to conceal, did I not know that every reader
will inquire curiously after that fatal hour, which is
common to all human beings, however distinguished
from each other by nature or by fortune.

The duke of Mantua, having received so many
proofs of his various merit, made him tutor to his
son Vicentio di Gonzaga, a prince of loose manners
and turbulent disposition. On this occasion it was,
that he composed the comedy in which he exhibited
so many different characters with exact propriety.
But his honour was of short continuance; for
as he was one night in the time of Carnival
rambling about the streets, with his guitar in his hand,
he was attacked by six men masked. Neither his
courage nor skill in his exigence deserted him: he
opposed them with such activity and spirit, that
he soon dispersed them, and disarmed their leader,
who throwing off his mask, discovered himself to
be the prince his pupil. Crichton, falling on his knees,
took his own sword by the point, and presented it to
the prince; who immediately seized it, and instigated,
as some say, by jealousy, according to others,
only by drunken fury and brutal resentment, thrust
him through the heart.

Thus was the Admirable Crichton brought into
that state, in which he could excel the meanest of
mankind only by a few empty honours paid to his
memory: the court of Mantua testified their esteem
by a publick mourning, the contemporary wits were
profuse of their encomiums, and the palaces of Italy
were adorned with pictures, representing him on
horseback with a lance in one hand and a book
in the other[i].

[i] This paper is enumerated by Chalmers among those which
Johnson dictated, not to Bathurst, but to Hawkesworth. It is an
elegant summary of Crichton's life which is in Mackenzie's
Writers of the Scotch Nation. See a fuller account by the Earl
of Buchan and Dr. Kippis in the Biog. Brit. and the recently
published one by Mr. Frazer Tytler.

No. 84. SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, 1753

----------------Tolle periclum,
Jam vaga prosiliet frenis natura remotis.

HOR. Lib. ii. Sat. vii. 73.

But take the danger and the shame away,
And vagrant nature bounds upon her prey. FRANCIS.



IT has been observed, I think, by Sir William
Temple, and after him by almost every other
writer, that England affords a greater variety of
characters than the rest of the world. This is
ascribed to the liberty prevailing amongst us, which
gives every man the privilege of being wise or
foolish his own way, and preserves him from the
necessity of hypocrisy or the servility of imitation.
That the position itself is true, I am not
completely satisfied. To be nearly acquainted with the
people of different countries can happen to very few;
and in life, as in every thing else beheld at a
distance, there appears an even uniformity: the petty
discriminations which diversify the natural character,
are not discoverable but by a close inspection;
we, therefore, find them most at home, because there
we have most opportunities of remarking them.
Much less am I convinced, that this peculiar
diversification, if it be real, is the consequence of
peculiar liberty; for where is the government to be found
that superintends individuals with so much vigilance,
as not to leave their private conduct without
restraint? Can it enter into a reasonable mind to
imagine, that men of every other nation are not equally
masters of their own time or houses with ourselves,
and equally at liberty to be parsimonious or profuse,
frolick or sullen, abstinent or luxurious? Liberty is
certainly necessary to the full play of predominant
humours; but such liberty is to be found alike under
the government of the many or the few, in
monarchies or commonwealths.

How readily the predominant passion snatches an
interval of liberty, and how fast it expands itself
when the weight of restraint is taken away, I had
lately an opportunity to discover, as I took a journey
into the country in a stage-coach; which, as every
journey is a kind of adventure, may be very properly
related to you, though I can display no such
extraordinary assembly as Cervantes has collected
at Don Quixote's inn[j].

[j] Johnson has made impressive allusion to the immortal
work of Cervantes in his Second Rambler. Every reflecting man
must arise from its perusal with feelings of the deepest
melancholy, with the most tender commiseration for the weakness
and lot of humanity. To such a man its moral must ever be
"profoundly sad." Vulgar minds cannot know it. Hence it has
ever been the favorite with the intellectual class, while Gil
Blas has more generally won the applause of men of the world. An
amusing anecdote of the almost universal admiration for the chef
d 'oeuvre of Le Sage may be found in Butler's Reminiscences.
That bigotted, yet extraordinary man, Alva, predicted, with
prophetic precision, the effects which the satire on Chivalry
would produce in Spain. See Broad Stone of Honour, or Rules for
the Gentlemen of England.

In a stage coach, the passengers are for the most
part wholly unknown to one another, and without
expectation of ever meeting again when their
journey is at an end; one should therefore
imagine, that it was of little importance to any of
them, what conjectures the rest should form concerning
him. Yet so it is, that as all think themselves
secure from detection, all assume that character of
which they are most desirous, and on no occasion is
the general ambition of superiority more apparently

On the day of our departure, in the twilight of
the morning, I ascended the vehicle with three men
and two women, my fellow travellers. It was easy
to observe the affected elevation of mien with which
every one entered, and the supercilious servility with
which they paid their compliments to each other.
When the first ceremony was despatched, we sat
silent for a long time, all employed in collecting
importance into our faces, and endeavouring to strike
reverence and submission into our companions.

It is always observable that silence propagates
itself, and that the longer talk has been suspended, the
more difficult it is to find any thing to say. We began
now to wish for conversation; but no one seemed
inclined to descend from his dignity, or first propose
a topick of discourse. At last a corpulent gentleman,
who had equipped himself for this expedition with
a scarlet surtout and a large hat with a broad lace,
drew out his watch, looked on it in silence, and then
held it dangling at his finger. This was, I suppose,
understood by all the company as an invitation to
ask the time of the day, but nobody appeared to
heed his overture; and his desire to be talking so far
overcame his resentment, that he let us know of his
own accord it was past five, and that in two hours
we should be at breakfast.

His condescension was thrown away: we continued
all obdurate; the ladies held up their heads; I
amused myself with watching their behaviour; and
of the other two, one seemed to employ himself in
counting the trees as we drove by them, the other
drew his hat over his eyes, and counterfeited a
slumber. The man of benevolence, to shew that he was
not depressed by our neglect, hummed a tune, and
beat time upon his snuff-box.

Thus universally displeased with one another, and
not much delighted with ourselves, we came at last
to the little inn appointed for our repast; and all began
at once to recompense themselves for the constraint
of silence, by innumerable questions and
orders to the people that attended us. At last, what
every one had called for was got, or declared
impossible to be got at that time, and we were persuaded
to sit round the same table; when the gentleman in
the red surtout looked again upon his watch, told us
that we had half an hour to spare, but he was sorry
to see so little merriment among us; that all fellow
travellers were for the time upon the level, and that
it was always his way to make himself one of the
company. "I remember," says he, "it was on just
such a morning as this, that I and my Lord Mumble
and the Duke of Tenterden were out upon a ramble:
we called at a little house as it might be this; and
my landlady, I warrant you, not suspecting to whom
she was talking, was so jocular and facetious, and
made so many merry answers to our questions, that
we were all ready to burst with laughter. At last the
good woman happening to overhear me whisper the
duke and call him by his title, was so surprised and
confounded, that we could scarcely get a word from
her; and the duke never met me from that day to
this, but he talks of the little house, and quarrels
with me for terrifying the landlady."

He had scarcely time to congratulate himself on
the veneration which this narrative must have
procured for him from the company, when one of the
ladies having reached out for a plate on a distant part
of the table, began to remark, "the inconveniences
of travelling, and the difficulty which they who never
sat at home without a great number of attendants,
found in performing for themselves such offices as
the road required; but that people of quality often
travelled in disguise, and might be generally known
from the vulgar by their condescension to poor inn-
keepers, and the allowance which they made for any
defect in their entertainment; that for her part,
while people were civil and meant well, it was never
her custom to find fault, for one was not to expect
upon a journey all that one enjoyed at one's own

A general emulation seemed now to be excited.
One of the men who had hitherto said nothing, called
for the last newspaper; and having perused it a while
with deep pensiveness, "It is impossible," says he,
"for any man to guess how to act with regard to
the stocks; last week it was the general opinion that
they would fall; and I sold out twenty thousand
pounds in order to a purchase: they have now risen
unexpectedly; and I make no doubt but at my
return to London I shall risk thirty thousand pounds
among them again."

A young man, who had hitherto distinguished
himself only by the vivacity of his looks, and a frequent
diversion of his eyes from one object to another,
upon this closed his snuff-box, and told us that "he
had a hundred times talked with the chancellor and
the judges on the subject of the stocks; that for his
part he did not pretend to be well acquainted with
the principles on which they were established, but
had always heard them reckoned pernicious to trade,
uncertain in their produce, and unsolid in their foundation;
and that he had been advised by three judges,
his most intimate friends, never to venture his money
in the funds, but to put it out upon land security,
till he could light upon an estate in his own country."

It might be expected, that upon these glimpses
of latent dignity, we should all have begun to look
round us with veneration; and have behaved like the
princes of romance, when the enchantment that
disguises them is dissolved, and they discover the
dignity of each other; yet it happened, that none of
these hints made much impression on the company;
every one was apparently suspected of endeavouring
to impose false appearances upon the rest; all
continued their haughtiness in hopes to enforce their
claims; and all grew every hour more sullen, because
they found their representations of themselves without

Thus we travelled on four days with malevolence
perpetually increasing, and without any endeavour
but to outvie each other in superciliousness and
neglect; and when any two of us could separate
ourselves for a moment we vented our indignation at
the sauciness of the rest.

At length the journey was at an end; and time and
chance, that strip off all disguises, have discovered
that the intimate of lords and dukes is a nobleman's
butler, who has furnished a shop with the money he
has saved; the man who deals so largely in the funds,
is the clerk of a broker in Change-alley; the lady who
so carefully concealed her quality, keeps a cook-shop
behind the Exchange; and the young man who is so
happy in the friendship of the judges, engrosses
and transcribes for bread in a garret of the Temple.
Of one of the women only I could make no
disadvantageous detection, because she had assumed no
character, but accommodated herself to the scene
before her, without any struggle for distinction or

I could not forbear to reflect on the folly of
practising a fraud, which, as the event showed, had been
already practised too often to succeed, and by the
success of which no advantage could have been
obtained; of assuming a character, which was to end
with the day; and of claiming upon false pretences
honours which must perish with the breath that paid

But, Mr. Adventurer, let not those who laugh at
me and my companions, think this folly confined to
a stage-coach. Every man in the journey of life takes
the same advantage of the ignorance of his fellow
travellers, disguises himself in counterfeited merit,
and hears those praises with complacency which his
conscience reproaches him for accepting. Every man
deceives himself while he thinks he is deceiving
others; and forgets that the time is at hand when
every illusion shall cease, when fictitious excellence
shall be torn away, and ALL must be shown to ALL in
their real state.

I am, Sir, your humble servant,


No. 85. TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, 1753

Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam,
Multa tulit fecitque puer. Hon. De Ar. Poet. 412.

The youth, who hopes th' Olympic prize to gain,
All arts must try, and every toil sustain. FRANCIS.

IT is observed by Bacon, that "reading makes a
full man, conversation a ready man, and writing
an exact man."

As Bacon attained to degrees of knowledge
scarcely ever reached by any other man, the directions
which he gives for study have certainly a just
claim to our regard; for who can teach an art with
so great authority, as he that has practised it with
undisputed success?

Under the protection of so great a name, I shall,
therefore, venture to inculcate to my ingenious
contemporaries, the necessity of reading, the fitness of
consulting other understandings than their own, and
of considering the sentiments and opinions of those
who, however neglected in the present age, had in
their own times, and many of them a long time
afterwards, such reputation for knowledge and acuteness
as will scarcely ever be attained by those that
despise them.

An opinion has of late been, I know not how,
propagated among us, that libraries are filled only
with useless lumber; that men of parts stand in need
of no assistance; and that to spend life in poring upon
books, is only to imbibe prejudices, to obstruct and
embarrass the powers of nature, to cultivate memory
at the expense of judgment, and to bury reason
under a chaos of indigested learning.

Such is the talk of many who think themselves
wise, and of some who are thought wise by others;
of whom part probably believe their own tenets, and
part may be justly suspected of endeavouring to
shelter their ignorance in multitudes, and of wishing to
destroy that reputation which they have no hopes
to share. It will, I believe, be found invariably true,
that learning was never decried by any learned man;
and what credit can be given to those who venture
to condemn that which they do not know?

If reason has the power ascribed to it by its
advocates, if so much is to be discovered by attention
and meditation, it is hard to believe, that so many
millions, equally participating of the bounties of
nature with ourselves, have been for ages upon ages
meditating in vain: if the wits of the present time
expect the regard of posterity, which will then
inherit the reason which is now thought superior to
instruction, surely they may allow themselves to be
instructed by the reason of former generations.
When, therefore, an author declares, that he has
been able to learn nothing from the writings of his
predecessors, and such a declaration has been lately
made, nothing but a degree of arrogance unpardonable
in the greatest human understanding, can
hinder him from perceiving that he is raising
prejudices against his own performance; for with what
hopes of success can he attempt that in which
greater abilities have hitherto miscarried? or with
what peculiar force does he suppose himself invigorated,
that difficulties hitherto invincible should give
way before him?

Of those whom Providence has qualified to make
any additions to human knowledge, the number is
extremely small; and what can be added by each
single mind, even of this superior class, is very
little: the greatest part of mankind must owe all
their knowledge, and all must owe far the larger
part of it, to the information of others. To understand
the works of celebrated authors, to comprehend
their systems, and retain their reasonings, is a
task more than equal to common intellects; and
he is by no means to be accounted useless or idle,
who has stored his mind with acquired knowledge,
and can detail it occasionally to others who have
less leisure or weaker abilities.

Persius has justly observed, that knowledge is
nothing to him who is not known by others to
possess it[k]: to the scholar himself it is nothing
with respect either to honor or advantage, for the
world cannot reward those qualities which are
concealed from it; with respect to others it is nothing,
because it affords no help to ignorance or errour.

[k] Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter.
Sat. i. 27.

It is with justice, therefore, that in an
accomplished character, Horace unites just sentiments
with the power of expressing them; and he that
has once accumulated learning, is next to consider,
how he shall most widely diffuse and most agreeably
impart it.

A ready man is made by conversation. He that
buries himself among his manuscripts, "besprent,"
as Pope expresses it, "with learned dust," and
wears out his days and nights in perpetual research
and solitary meditation, is too apt to lose in his
elocution what he adds to his wisdom; and when
he comes into the world, to appear overloaded with
his own notions, like a man armed with weapons
which he cannot wield. He has no facility of
inculcating his speculations, of adapting himself to the
various degrees of intellect which the accidents of
conversation will present; but will talk to most
unintelligibly, and to all unpleasantly.

I was once present at the lectures of a profound
philosopher, a man really skilled in the science
which he professed, who having occasion to explain
the terms opacum and pellucidum, told us, after
some hesitation, that opacum was, as one might
say, opake, and that pellucidum signified pellucid.
Such was the dexterity with which this learned
reader facilitated to his auditors the intricacies of
science; and so true is it, that a man may know what
he cannot teach.

Boerhaave complains, that the writers who have
treated of chymistry before him, are useless to the
greater part of students, because they presuppose
their readers to have such degrees of skill as are not
often to be found. Into the same errour are all men
apt to fall, who have familiarized any subject to
themselves in solitude: they discourse, as if they
thought every other man had been employed in the
same inquiries; and expect that short hints and
obscure allusions will produce in others the same train
of ideas which they excite in themselves.

Nor is this the only inconvenience which the man
of study suffers from a recluse life. When he meets
with an opinion that pleases him, he catches it up
with eagerness; looks only after such arguments as
tend to his confirmation; or spares himself the
trouble of discussion, and adopts it with very little
proof; indulges it long without suspicion, and in
time unites it to the general body of his knowledge,
and treasures it up among incontestable truths:
but when he comes into the world among men who,
arguing upon dissimilar principles, have been led to
different conclusions, and being placed in various
situations, view the same object on many sides; he
finds his darling position attacked, and himself in
no condition to defend it: having thought always
in one train, he is in the state of a man who having
fenced always with the same master, is perplexed
and amazed by a new posture of his antagonist; he
is entangled in unexpected difficulties, he is harassed
by sudden objections, he is unprovided with solutions
or replies; his surprise impedes his natural
powers of reasoning, his thoughts are scattered and
confounded, and he gratifies the pride of airy
petulance with an easy victory.

It is difficult to imagine, with what obstinacy
truths which one mind perceives almost by intuition,
will be rejected by another; and how many
artifices must be practised, to procure admission for
the most evident propositions into understandings
frighted by their novelty, or hardened against them
by accidental prejudice; it can scarcely be conceived,
how frequently, in these extemporaneous controversies,
the dull will be subtle, and the acute absurd;
how often stupidity will elude the force of
argument, by involving itself in its own gloom; and
mistaken ingenuity will weave artful fallacies, which
reason can scarcely find means to disentangle.

In these encounters the learning of the recluse
usually fails him: nothing but long habit and frequent
experiments can confer the power of changing
a position into various forms, presenting it in
different points of view, connecting it with known
and granted truths, fortifying it with intelligible
arguments, and illustrating it by apt similitudes;
and he, therefore, that has collected his knowledge
in solitude, must learn its application by mixing
with mankind.
But while the various opportunities of conversation
invite us to try every mode of argument, and
every art of recommending our sentiments, we are
frequently betrayed to the use of such as are not in
themselves strictly defensible: a man heated in talk,
and eager of victory, takes advantage of the mistakes
or ignorance of his adversary, lays hold of
concessions to which he knows he has no right, and
urges proofs likely to prevail on his opponent, though
he knows himself that they have no force: thus the
severity of reason is relaxed, many topicks are
accumulated, but without just arrangement or
distinction; we learn to satisfy ourselves with such
ratiocination as silences others; and seldom recall to
a close examination, that discourse which has gratified
our vanity with victory and applause.

Some caution, therefore, must be used lest
copiousness and facility be made less valuable by inaccuracy
and confusion. To fix the thoughts by writing, and
subject them to frequent examinations and reviews,
is the best method of enabling the mind to detect its
own sophisms, and keep it on guard against the
fallacies which it practises on others: in conversation we
naturally diffuse our thoughts, and in writing we
contract them; method is the excellence of writing,
and unconstraint the grace of conversation.

To read, write, and converse in due proportions,
is, therefore, the business of a man of letters. For
all these there is not often equal opportunity;
excellence, therefore, is not often attainable; and most
men fail in one or other of the ends proposed, and
are full without readiness, or without exactness.
Some deficiency must be forgiven all, because all
are men; and more must be allowed to pass uncensured
in the greater part of the world, because none
can confer upon himself abilities, and few have the
choice of situations proper for the improvement of
those which nature has bestowed: it is, however,
reasonable to have PERFECTION in our eye; that we may
always advance towards it, though we know it never
can be reached.

No. 92. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1753

Cum tabulis animum censoris sumet honesti.

HOR. Lib. ii. Ep. ii. 110.

Bold be the critick, zealous to his trust,
Like the firm judge inexorably just.


IN the papers of criticism which you have given to
the publick, I have remarked a spirit of candour
and love of truth equally remote from bigotry and
captiousness; a just distribution of praise amongst
the ancients and the moderns: a sober deference to
reputation long established, without a blind adoration
of antiquity; and a willingness to favour later
performances, without a light or puerile fondness
for novelty.

I shall, therefore, venture to lay before you, such
observations as have risen to my mind in the
consideration of Virgil's pastorals, without any inquiry
how far my sentiments deviate from established rules
or common opinions.

If we survey the ten pastorals in a general view,
it will be found that Virgil can derive from them
very little claim to the praise of an inventor. To
search into the antiquity of this kind of poetry is
not my present purpose; that it has long subsisted in
the east, the Sacred Writings sufficiently inform us;
and we may conjecture, with great probability, that
it was sometimes the devotion, and sometimes the
entertainment of the first generations of mankind.
Theocritus united elegance with simplicity; and
taught his shepherds to sing with so much ease and
harmony, that his countrymen, despairing to excel,
forbore to imitate him; and the Greeks, however
vain or ambitious, left him in quiet possession of the
garlands which the wood-nymphs had bestowed
upon him.

Virgil, however, taking advantage of another
language, ventured to copy or to rival the Sicilian bard:
he has written with greater splendour of diction, and
elevation of sentiment: but as the magnificence of
his performances was more, the simplicity was less;
and, perhaps, where he excels Theocritus, he sometimes
obtains his superiority by deviating from the
pastoral character, and performing what Theocritus
never attempted.

Yet, though I would willingly pay to Theocritus
the honour which is always due to an original author,
I am far from intending to depreciate Virgil: of
whom Horace justly declares, that the rural muses
have appropriated to him their elegance and sweetness,
and who, as he copied Theocritus in his design,
has resembled him likewise in his success; for,
if we except Calphurnius, an obscure author of the
lower ages, I know not that a single pastoral was
written after him by any poet, till the revival of

But though his general merit has been universally
acknowledged, I am far from thinking all the
productions of his rural Thalia equally excellent; there
is, indeed, in all his pastorals a strain of versification
which it is vain to seek in any other poet; but if we
except the first and the tenth, they seem liable either
wholly or in part to considerable objections.

The second, though we should forget the great
charge against it, which I am afraid can never be
refuted, might, I think, have perished, without any
diminution of the praise of its author; for I know
not that it contains one affecting sentiment or pleasing
description, or one passage that strikes the
imagination or awakens the passions.

The third contains a contest between two
shepherds, begun with a quarrel of which some particulars
might well be spared, carried on with sprightliness
and elegance, and terminated at last in a reconciliation:
but, surely, whether the invectives with which
they attack each other be true or false, they are too
much degraded from the dignity of pastoral innocence;
and instead of rejoicing that they are both
victorious, I should not have grieved could they
have been both defeated.

The poem to Pollio is, indeed, of another kind:
it is filled with images at once splendid and pleasing,
and is elevated with grandeur of language
worthy of the first of Roman poets; but I am not
able to reconcile myself to the disproportion between
the performance and the occasion that produced it:
that the golden age should return because Pollio
had a son, appears so wild a fiction, that I am ready
to suspect the poet of having written, for some
other purpose, what he took this opportunity of
producing to the publick.

The fifth contains a celebration of Daphnis, which
has stood to all succeeding ages as the model of
pastoral elegies. To deny praise to a performance
which so many thousands have laboured to imitate,
would be to judge with too little deference for the
opinion of mankind: yet whoever shall read it with
impartiality, will find that most of the images are of
the mythological kind, and therefore easily invented;
and that there are few sentiments of rational praise
or natural lamentation.

In the Silenus he again rises to the dignity of
philosophick sentiments, and heroick poetry. The
address to Varus is eminently beautiful: but since
the compliment paid to Gallus fixes the transaction
to his own time, the fiction of Silenus seems
injudicious: nor has any sufficient reason yet been found,
to justify his choice of those fables that make the
subject of the song.

The seventh exhibits another contest of the tuneful
shepherds: and, surely, it is not without some
reproach to his inventive power, that of ten
pastorals Virgil has written two upon the same plan.
One of the shepherds now gains an acknowledged
victory, but without any apparent superiority, and
the reader, when he sees the prize adjudged, is not
able to discover how it was deserved.

Of the eighth pastoral, so little is properly the
work of Virgil, that he has no claim to other praise
or blame than that of a translator.

Of the ninth, it is scarce possible to discover the
design or tendency; it is said, I know not upon
what authority, to have been composed from fragments
of other poems; and except a few lines in
which the author touches upon his own misfortunes,
there is nothing that seems appropriated to any time
or place, or of which any other use can be discovered
than to fill up the poem.

The first and the tenth pastorals, whatever be
determined of the rest, are sufficient to place their
author above the reach of rivalry. The complaint
of Gallus disappointed in his love, is full of such
sentiments as disappointed love naturally produces; his
wishes are wild, his resentment is tender, and his
purposes are inconstant. In the genuine language
of despair, he soothes himself awhile with the pity
that shall be paid him after his death.

--------Tamen cantabitis, arcades, inquit,
Montibus hoec vestris: soli cantare periti
Arcades. O mihi tum quam molliter ossa quiescant,
Vestra meos olim si fistula dicat amores! Virg. Ec. x. 31.

--------Yet, O Arcadian swains,
Ye best artificers of soothing strains!
Tune your soft reeds, and teach your rocks my woes,
So shall my shade in sweeter rest repose.
O that your birth and business had been mine;
To feed the flock, and prune the spreading vine! WARTON.

Discontented with his present condition, and
desirous to be any thing but what he is, he wishes
himself one of the shepherds. He then catches the
idea of rural tranquillity; but soon discovers how
much happier he should be in these happy regions,
with Lycoris at his side:

Hic gelidi fontes, hic mollia prata, Lycori:
Hic nemus, hic ipso tecum consumerer oevo.
Nunc insanus amor duri me Martis in armis
Tela inter media atque adversos detinet hostes.
Tu procul a patria (nec sit mihi credere) tantum
Alpinas, ah dura, nives, et frigora Rheni
Me sine sola vides. Ah te ne frigora laedant!
Ah tibi ne teneras glacies secet aspera plantas! Ec. x. 42.

Here cooling fountains roll through flow'ry meads,
Here woods, Lycoris, lift their verdant heads;
Here could I wear my careless life away,
And in thy arms insensibly decay.
Instead of that, me frantick love detains,
'Mid foes, and dreadful darts, and bloody plains:
While you--and can my soul the tale believe,
Far from your country, lonely wand'ring leave
Me, me your lover, barbarous fugitive!
Seek the rough Alps where snows eternal shine,
And joyless borders of the frozen Rhine.
Ah! may no cold e'er blast my dearest maid,
Nor pointed ice thy tender feet invade. WARTON.

He then turns his thoughts on every side, in quest
of something that may solace or amuse him: he proposes
happiness to himself, first in one scene and
then in another: and at last finds that nothing will

Jam neque Hamodryades rursum, nec carmina nobis
Ipsa placent: ipsoe rursum concedite sylvae.
Non illum nostri possunt mutare labores;
Nec si frigoribus mediis Hebrumque bibamus,
Sithoniasque nives hyemis subeamus aquosae:
Nec si, cum moriens alta liber aret in ulmo
AEthiopum versemus oves sub sidere Cancri.
Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori. Ec. x. 62.

But now again no more the woodland maids,
Nor pastoral songs delight--Farewell, ye shades--
No toils of ours the cruel god can change,
Tho' lost in frozen deserts we should range;
Tho' we should drink where chilling Hebrus flows,
Endure bleak winter blasts, and Thracian snows:
Or on hot India's plains our flocks should feed,
Where the parch'd elm declines his sickening head,
Beneath fierce-glowing Cancer's fiery beams,
Far from cool breezes and refreshing streams.
Love over all maintains resistless sway,
And let us love's all-conquering power obey. WARTON.

But notwithstanding the excellence of the tenth
pastoral, I cannot forbear to give the preference to
the first, which is equally natural and more diversified.
The complaint of the shepherd, who saw his old
companion at ease in the shade, while himself was
driving his little flock he knew not whither, is such
as, with variation of circumstances, misery always
utters at the sight of prosperity:

Nos patriae fines, et dulcia linquimus arva;
Nos patriam fugimus: Tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra
Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida sylvas. Ec. i. 3.

We leave our country's bounds, our much-lov'd plains;
We from our country fly, unhappy swains!
You, Tit'rus, in the groves at leisure laid,
Teach Amaryllis' name to every shade. WARTON.

His account of the difficulties of his journey, gives
a very tender image of pastoral distress:

------------En ipse capellas
Protenus aeger ago: hanc etiam vix, Tityre, duco:
Hic inter densas corylos modo namque gemellos,
Spem gregis, ah! silice in nuda connixa reliquit. Ec. i. 12.

And lo! sad partner of the general care.
Weary and faint I drive my goats afar!
While scarcely this my leading hand sustains,
Tired with the way, and recent from her pains;
For 'mid yon tangled hazels as we past,
On the bare flints her hapless twin she cast,
The hopes and promise of my ruin'd fold! WARTON.

The description of Virgil's happiness in his little
farm, combines almost all the images of rural pleasure;
and he, therefore, that can read it with indifference,
has no sense of pastoral poetry:

Fortunate senex! ergo tua rura manebunt,
Et tibi magna satis; quamvis lapis omnia nudus,
Limosoque palus obducat pascua junco:
Non insueta graves tentabunt pabula foetas,
Nec mala vicini pecoris contagia loedent.
Fortunate senex! hic inter flumina nota,
Et fontes sacros, frigus captabis opacum.
Hinc tibi, quae semper vicino ab limite sepes,
Hyblaeis apibus florem depasta salicti,
Saepe levi somnum suadebit inire susurro.
Hinc alta sub rupe canet frondator ad auras.
Nec tamen interea raucae, tua cura, palumbes,
Nec gemere aeria cessabit turtur ab ulmo. Ec. i. 47.

Happy old man! then still thy farms restored,
Enough for thee, shall bless thy frugal board.
What tho' rough stones the naked soil o'erspread,
Or marshy bulrush rear its wat'ry head,
No foreign food thy teeming ewes shall fear,
No touch contagious spread its influence here.
Happy old man! here 'mid th' accustom'd streams
And sacred springs, you'll shun the scorching beams;
While from yon willow-fence, thy picture's bound,
The bees that suck their flow'ry stores around,
Shall sweetly mingle with the whispering boughs
Their lulling murmurs, and invite repose:
While from steep rocks the pruner's song is heard;
Nor the soft-cooing dove, thy fav'rite bird,
Meanwhile shall cease to breathe her melting strain,
Nor turtles from th' aerial elm to 'plain. WARTON.

It may be observed, that these two poems were
produced by events that really happened; and may,
therefore, be of use to prove, that we can always feel
more than we can imagine, and that the most artful
fiction must give way to truth.

I am, Sir, Your humble servant,


No. 95. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 1753

----Dulcique animos novitate tenebo. OVID. Met. iv. 284.

And with sweet novelty your soul detain.

IT is often charged upon writers, that with all their
pretensions to genius and discoveries, they do little
more than copy one another; and that compositions
obtruded upon the world with the pomp of novelty,
contain only tedious repetitions of common sentiments,
or at best exhibit a transposition of known
images, and give a new appearance of truth only by
some slight difference of dress and decoration.

The allegation of resemblance between authors is
indisputably true; but the charge of plagiarism,
which is raised upon it, is not to be allowed with
equal readiness. A coincidence of sentiment may
easily happen without any communication, since
there are many occasions in which all reasonable men
will nearly think alike. Writers of all ages have had
the same sentiments, because they have in all ages
had the same objects of speculation; the interests and
passions, the virtues and vices of mankind, have been
diversified in different times, only by unessential and
casual varieties: and we must, therefore, expect in
the works of all those who attempt to describe them,
such a likeness as we find in the pictures of the same
person drawn in different periods of his life.

It is necessary, therefore, that before an author be
charged with plagiarism, one of the most reproachful,
though, perhaps, not the most atrocious of literary
crimes, the subject on which he treats should
be carefully considered. We do not wonder, that
historians, relating the same facts, agree in their
narration; or that authors, delivering the elements of
science, advance the same theorems, and lay down
the same definitions: yet it is not wholly without
use to mankind, that books are multiplied, and that
different authors lay out their labours on the same
subject; for there will always be some reason why
one should on particular occasions, or to particular
persons, be preferable to another; some will be clear
where others are obscure, some will please by their
style and others by their method, some by their
embellishments and others by their simplicity, some by
closeness and others by diffusion.

The same indulgence is to be shown to the writers
of morality: right and wrong are immutable; and
those, therefore, who teach us to distinguish them, if
they all teach us right, must agree with one another.
The relations of social life, and the duties resulting
from them, must be the same at all times and in all
nations: some petty differences may be, indeed,
produced, by forms of government or arbitrary customs;
but the general doctrine can receive no alteration.

Yet it is not to be desired, that morality should be
considered as interdicted to all future writers: men
will always be tempted to deviate from their duty,
and will, therefore, always want a monitor to recall
them; and a new book often seizes the attention of
the publick, without any other claim than that it is
new. There is likewise in composition, as in other
things, a perpetual vicissitude of fashion; and truth
is recommended at one time to regard, by
appearances which at another would expose it to neglect;
the author, therefore, who has judgment to discern
the taste of his contemporaries, and skill to gratify
it, will have always an opportunity to deserve well
of mankind, by conveying instruction to them in a
grateful vehicle.

There are likewise many modes of composition,
by which a moralist may deserve the name of an
original writer: he may familiarize his system by
dialogues after the manner of the ancients, or subtilize
it into a series of syllogistick arguments: he may
enforce his doctrine by seriousness and solemnity,
or enliven it by sprightliness and gaiety: he may
deliver his sentiments in naked precepts, or illustrate
them by historical examples: he may detain the
studious by the artful concatenation of a continued
discourse, or relieve the busy by short strictures, and
unconnected essays.

To excel in any of these forms of writing will
require a particular cultivation of the genius: whoever
can attain to excellence, will be certain to engage
a set of readers, whom no other method would have
equally allured; and he that communicates truth
with success, must be numbered among the first
benefactors to mankind.

The same observation may be extended likewise
to the passions: their influence is uniform, and their
effects nearly the same in every human breast: a man
loves and hates, desires and avoids, exactly like his
neighbour; resentment and ambition, avarice and
indolence, discover themselves by the same symptoms
in minds distant a thousand years from one another.

Nothing, therefore, can be more unjust, than to
charge an author with plagiarism, merely because he
assigns to every cause its natural effect; and makes
his personages act, as others in like circumstances
have always done. There are conceptions in which
all men will agree, though each derives them from
his own observation: whoever has been in love, will
represent a lover impatient of every idea that
interrupts his meditations on his mistress, retiring to
shades and solitude, that he may muse without
disturbance on his approaching happiness, or associating
himself with some friend that flatters his passion,
and talking away the hours of absence upon his darling
subject. Whoever has been so unhappy as to have
felt the miseries of long-continued hatred, will,
without any assistance from ancient volumes, be able to
relate how the passions are kept in perpetual agitation,
by the recollection of injury and meditations of
revenge; how the blood boils at the name of the enemy,
and life is worn away in contrivances of mischief.
Every other passion is alike simple and limited,
if it be considered only with regard to the breast
which it inhabits; the anatomy of the mind, as that
of the body, must perpetually exhibit the same
appearances; and though by the continued industry
of successive inquirers, new movements will be from
time to time discovered, they can affect only the
minuter parts, and are commonly of more curiosity
than importance.

It will now be natural to inquire, by what arts are
the writers of the present and future ages to attract
the notice and favour of mankind. They are to
observe the alterations which time is always making
in the modes of life, that they may gratify every
generation with a picture of themselves. Thus love
is uniform, but courtship is perpetually varying: the
different arts of gallantry, which beauty has inspired,
would of themselves be sufficient to fill a volume;
sometimes balls and serenades, sometimes tournaments
and adventures, have been employed to melt
the hearts of ladies, who in another century have
been sensible of scarce any other merit than that of
riches, and listened only to jointures and pin-money.
Thus the ambitious man has at all times been eager
of wealth and power; but these hopes have been
gratified in some countries by supplicating the people,
and in others by flattering the prince: honour
in some states has been only the reward of military
achievements, in others it has been gained by noisy
turbulence and popular clamours. Avarice has worn
a different form, as she actuated the usurer of Rome,
and the stock-jobber of England; and idleness itself,
how little soever inclined to the trouble of invention,
has been forced from time to time to change its
amusements, and contrive different methods of wearing
out the day.

Here then is the fund, from which those who study
mankind may fill their compositions with an
inexhaustible variety of images and allusions: and he
must be confessed to look with little attention upon
scenes thus perpetually changing, who cannot catch
some of the figures before they are made vulgar by
reiterated descriptions.

It has been discovered by Sir Isaac Newton, that
the distinct and primogenial colours are only seven;
but every eye can witness, that from various mixtures,
in various proportions, infinite diversifications
of tints may be produced. In like manner, the
passions of the mind, which put the world in motion,
and produce all the bustle and eagerness of the busy
crowds that swarm upon the earth; the passions, from
whence arise all the pleasures and pains that we see
and hear of, if we analyze the mind of man, are very
few; but those few agitated and combined, as external
causes shall happen to operate, and modified by
prevailing opinions and accidental caprices, make
such frequent alterations on the surface of life, that
the show, while we are busied in delineating it,
vanishes from the view, and a new set of objects succeed,
doomed to the same shortness of duration with the
former: thus curiosity may always find employment,
and the busy part of mankind will furnish the
contemplative with the materials of speculation to the
end of time.

The complaint, therefore, that all topicks are
preoccupied, is nothing more than the murmur of
ignorance or idleness, by which some discourage others,
and some themselves; the mutability of mankind
will always furnish writers with new images, and the
luxuriance of fancy may always embellish them with
new decorations.

No. 99. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1753

----Magnis tamen excidit ausis. OVID. Met. Lib. ii. 328.

But in the glorious enterprise he died. ADDISON.

IT has always been the practice of mankind, to
judge of actions by the event. The same attempts,
conducted in the same manner, but terminated by
different success, produce different judgments: they
who attain their wishes, never want celebrators of
their wisdom and their virtue; and they that
miscarry, are quickly discovered to have been defective
not only in mental but in moral qualities. The world
will never be long without some good reason to hate
the unhappy; their real faults are immediately
detected; and if those are not sufficient to sink them
into infamy, an additional weight of calumny will be
superadded: he that fails in his endeavours after
wealth or power, will not long retain either honesty
or courage.

This species of injustice has so long prevailed in
universal practice, that it seems likewise to have
infected speculation: so few minds are able to separate
the ideas of greatness and prosperity, that even Sir
William Temple has determined, "that he who can
deserve the name of a hero, must not only be virtuous
but fortunate."

By this unreasonable distribution of praise and
blame, none have suffered oftener than projectors,
whose rapidity of imagination and vastness of design
raise such envy in their fellow mortals, that every
eye watches for their fall, and every heart exults at
their distresses: yet even a projector may gain favour
by success; and the tongue that was prepared to
hiss, then endeavours to excel others in loudness of

When Coriolanus, in Shakespeare, deserted to
Aufidius, the Volscian servants at first insulted him,
even while he stood under the protection of the
household gods: but when they saw that the project
took effect, and the stranger was seated at the head
of the table, one of them very judiciously observes,
"that he always thought there was more in him
than he could think."

Machiavel has justly animadverted on the
different notice taken by all succeeding times, of the two
great projectors, Cataline and Caesar. Both formed
the same project, and intended to raise themselves
to power, by subverting the commonwealth: they
pursued their design, perhaps, with equal abilities,
and with equal virtue; but Cataline perished in the
field, and Caesar returned from Pharsalia with
unlimited authority: and from that time, every
monarch of the earth has thought himself honoured by
a comparison with Caesar; and Cataline has been
never mentioned, but that his name might be
applied to traitors and incendiaries.

In an age more remote, Xerxes projected the
conquest of Greece, and brought down the power
of Asia against it: but after the world had been
filled with expectation and terrour, his army was
beaten, his fleet was destroyed, and Xerxes has been
never mentioned without contempt.

A few years afterwards, Greece likewise had her
turn of giving birth to a projector; who invading
Asia with a small army, went forward in search of
adventures, and by his escape from one danger,
gained only more rashness to rush into another: he
stormed city after city, over-ran kingdom after
kingdom, fought battles only for barren victory,
and invaded nations only that he might make his
way through them to new invasions: but having
been fortunate in the execution of his projects, he
died with the name of Alexander the Great.

These are, indeed, events of ancient times; but
human nature is always the same, and every age
will afford us instances of publick censures influenced
by events. The great business of the middle
centuries, was the holy war; which undoubtedly
was a noble project, and was for a long time
prosecuted with a spirit equal to that with which it had
been contrived; but the ardour of the European
heroes only hurried them to destruction; for a long
time they could not gain the territories for which
they fought, and, when at last gained, they could
not keep them: their expeditions, therefore, have
been the scoff of idleness and ignorance, their
understanding and their virtue have been equally
vilified, their conduct has been ridiculed, and their cause
has been defamed.

When Columbus had engaged king Ferdinand in
the discovery of the other hemisphere, the sailors,
with whom he embarked in the expedition, had so
little confidence in their commander, that after having
been long at sea looking for coasts which they
expected never to find, they raised a general mutiny,
and demanded to return. He found means to sooth
them into a permission to continue the same course
three days longer, and on the evening of the third
day descried land. Had the impatience of his crew
denied him a few hours of the time requested, what
had been his fate but to have come back with the
infamy of a vain projector, who had betrayed the
king's credulity to useless expenses, and risked his
life in seeking countries that had no existence? how
would those that had rejected his proposals have
triumphed in their acuteness! and when would his
name have been mentioned, but with the makers of
potable gold and malleable glass?

The last royal projectors with whom the world
has been troubled, were Charles of Sweden and the
Czar of Muscovy. Charles, if any judgment may be
formed of his designs by his measures and his
inquiries, had purposed first to dethrone the Czar,
then to lead his army through pathless deserts into
China, thence to make his way by the sword through
the whole circuit of Asia, and by the conquest of
Turkey to unite Sweden with his new dominions:
but this mighty project was crushed at Pultowa;
and Charles has since been considered as a madman
by those powers, who sent their ambassadors to
solicit his friendship, and their generals "to learn
under him the art of war."

The Czar found employment sufficient in his own
dominions, and amused himself in digging canals,
and building cities: murdering his subjects with
insufferable fatigues, and transplanting nations from
one corner of his dominions to another, without
regretting the thousands that perished on the
way: but he attained his end, he made his people
formidable, and is numbered by fame among the

I am far from intending to vindicate the sanguinary
projects of heroes and conquerors, and would
wish rather to diminish the reputation of their
success, than the infamy of their miscarriages: for I
cannot conceive, why he that has burned cities, wasted
nations, and filled the world with horrour and
desolation, should be more kindly regarded by mankind,
than he that died in the rudiments of wickedness;
why he that accomplished mischief should be glorious,
and he that only endeavoured it should be criminal.
I would wish Caesar and Catiline, Xerxes and
Alexander, Charles and Peter, huddled together in
obscurity or detestation.

But there is another species of projectors, to whom
I would willingly conciliate mankind; whose ends
are generally laudable, and whose labours are
innocent; who are searching out new powers of nature,
or contriving new works of art; but who are yet
persecuted with incessant obloquy, and whom the
universal contempt with which they are treated,
often debars from that success which their industry
would obtain, if it were permitted to act without

They who find themselves inclined to censure
new undertakings, only because they are new, should
consider, that the folly of projection is very seldom
the folly of a fool; it is commonly the ebullition
of a capacious mind, crowded with variety of
knowledge, and heated with intenseness of thought;
it proceeds often from the consciousness of uncommon
powers, from the confidence of those, who having
already done much, are easily persuaded that they
can do more. When Rowley had completed the orrery,
he attempted the perpetual motion; when Boyle
had exhausted the secrets of vulgar chymistry, he
turned his thoughts to the work of transmutation[l].

[l] Sir Richard Steele was infatuated with notions of
Alchemy, and wasted money in its visionary projects. He had a
laboratory at Poplar. Addisoniana, vol. i. p. 10.

The readers of Washington Irving's Brace-Bridge Hall will
recollect a pleasing and popular exposition of the alternately
splendid and benevolent, and always passionate reveries of the
Alchemist, in the affecting story of the Student of Salamanca.

A projector generally unites those qualities which
have the fairest claim to veneration, extent of
knowledge and greatness of design: it was said of Catiline,
"immoderata, incredibilia, nimis alta semper cupiebat."
Projectors of all kinds agree in their intellects,
though they differ in their morals; they all fail by
attempting things beyond their power, by despising
vulgar attainments, and aspiring to performances to
which, perhaps, nature has not proportioned the
force of man: when they fail, therefore, they fail not
by idleness or timidity, but by rash adventure and
fruitless diligence.

That the attempts of such men will often
miscarry, we may reasonably expect; yet from such
men, and such only, are we to hope for the cultivation
of those parts of nature which lie yet waste, and
the invention of those arts which are yet wanting
to the felicity of life. If they are, therefore,
universally discouraged, art and discovery can make no
advances. Whatever is attempted without previous
certainty of success, may be considered as a project,
and amongst narrow minds may, therefore, expose
its author to censure and contempt; and if the liberty
of laughing be once indulged, every man will laugh
at what he does not understand, every project will be
considered as madness, and every great or new
design will be censured as a project. Men unaccustomed
to reason and researches, think every enterprise
impracticable, which is extended beyond
common effects, or comprises many intermediate
operations. Many that presume to laugh at
projectors, would consider a flight through the air in a
winged chariot, and the movement of a mighty
engine by the steam of water as equally the dreams of
mechanick lunacy; and would hear, with equal
negligence, of the union of the Thames and Severn by
a canal, and the scheme of Albuquerque, the
viceroy of the Indies, who in the rage of hostility had
contrived to make Egypt a barren desert, by turning
the Nile into the Red Sea.

Those who have attempted much, have seldom
failed to perform more than those who never deviate
from the common roads of action: many valuable
preparations of chymistry are supposed to have risen
from unsuccessful inquiries after the grand elixir: it
is, therefore, just to encourage those who endeavour
to enlarge the power of art, since they often succeed
beyond expectation; and when they fail, may sometimes
benefit the world even by their miscarriages.

No. 102. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1753

----Quid tam dextro pede concipis, ut te
Conatus non poeniteat votique peracti? JUV. Sat. x. 5.

What in the conduct of our life appears
So well design'd, so luckily begun,
But when we have our wish, we wish undone. DRYDEN.



I HAVE been for many years a trader in London.
My beginning was narrow, and my stock small;
I was, therefore, a long time brow-beaten and
despised by those, who, having more money, thought
they had more merit than myself. I did not,
however, suffer my resentment to instigate me to any
mean arts of supplantation, nor my eagerness of
riches to betray me to any indirect methods of gain;
I pursued my business with incessant assiduity,
supported by the hope of being one day richer than
those who contemned me; and had, upon every
annual review of my books, the satisfaction of
finding my fortune increased beyond my expectation.

In a few years my industry and probity were fully
recompensed, my wealth was really great, and my
reputation for wealth still greater. I had large
warehouses crowded with goods, and considerable sums
in the publick funds; I was caressed upon the
Exchange by the most eminent merchants; became
the oracle of the common council; was solicited to
engage in all commercial undertakings; was flattered
with the hopes of becoming in a short time one of
the directors of a wealthy company, and, to
complete my mercantile honours, enjoyed the expensive
happiness of fining for sheriff.

Riches, you know, easily produce riches; when I
had arrived to this degree of wealth, I had no longer
any obstruction or opposition to fear; new acquisitions
were hourly brought within my reach, and I
continued for some years longer to heap thousands
upon thousands.

At last I resolved to complete the circle of a
citizen's prosperity by the purchase of an estate in
the country, and to close my life in retirement.
From the hour that this design entered my
imagination, I found the fatigues of my employment
every day more oppressive, and persuaded myself
that I was no longer equal to perpetual attention,
and that my health would soon be destroyed by
the torment and distraction of extensive business.
I could imagine to myself no happiness, but in
vacant jollity, and uninterrupted leisure: nor
entertain my friends with any other topick than the
vexation and uncertainty of trade, and the happiness
of rural privacy.

But, notwithstanding these declarations, I could
not at once reconcile myself to the thoughts of
ceasing to get money; and though I was every day
inquiring for a purchase, I found some reason for
rejecting all that were offered me; and, indeed, had
accumulated so many beauties and conveniences in
my idea of the spot where I was finally to be
happy, that, perhaps, the world might have been
travelled over without discovery of a place which
would not have been defective in some particular.

Thus I went on, still talking of retirement, and
still refusing to retire; my friends began to laugh at
my delays, and I grew ashamed to trifle longer with
my own inclinations; an estate was at length
purchased, I transferred my stock to a prudent young
man who had married my daughter, went down into
the country, and commenced lord of a spacious

Here for some time I found happiness equal to my
expectation. I reformed the old house according to
the advice of the best architects, I threw down the
walls of the garden, and enclosed it with palisades,
planted long avenues of trees, filled a green-house
with exotick plants, dug a new canal, and threw the
earth into the old moat.

The fame of these expensive improvements brought
in all the country to see the show. I entertained my
visitors with great liberality, led them round my
gardens, showed them my apartments, laid before
them plans for new decorations, and was gratified by
the wonder of some and the envy of others.

I was envied: but how little can one man judge
of the condition of another! The time was now
coming, in which affluence and splendour could no longer
make me pleased with myself. I had built till the
imagination of the architect was exhausted; I had
added one convenience to another, till I knew not
what more to wish or to design; I had laid out my
gardens, planted my park, and completed my water-
works; and what now remained to be done? what,
but to look up to turrets, of which when they were
once raised I had no further use, to range over
apartments where time was tarnishing the furniture, to
stand by the cascade of which I scarcely now
perceived the sound, and to watch the growth of woods
that must give their shade to a distant generation.

In this gloomy inactivity, is every day begun and
ended: the happiness that I have been so long
procuring is now at an end, because it has been procured;
I wander from room to room, till I am weary of
myself; I ride out to a neighbouring hill in the centre
of my estate, from whence all my lands lie in
prospect round me; I see nothing that I have not seen
before, and return home disappointed, though I knew
that I had nothing to expect.

In my happy days of business I had been
accustomed to rise early in the morning; and remember
the time when I grieved that the night came so soon
upon me, and obliged me for a few hours to shut out
affluence and prosperity. I now seldom see the rising
sun, but to "tell him," with the fallen angel, "how
I hate his beams[m]." I awake from sleep as to languor
or imprisonment, and have no employment for the
first hour but to consider by what art I shall rid
myself of the second. I protract the breakfast as long as
I can, because when it is ended I have no call for
my attention, till I can with some degree of decency
grow impatient for my dinner. If I could dine all my
life, I should be happy; I eat not because I am hungry,
but because I am idle: but, alas! the time quickly
comes when I can eat no longer; and so ill does my
constitution second my inclination, that I cannot bear
strong liquors: seven hours must then be endured
before I shall sup; but supper comes at last, the more
welcome as it is in a short time succeeded by sleep.

[m] Johnson was too apt to destroy the KEEPING of character
in his correspondences. A retired trader might desire a little
more slumber, "a little folding of the hands to sleep;" but the
lofty malignity of a fallen spirit sickening at the beams of day,
would not be among the feelings of an ordinary mind. Some good
remarks on this point may be seen in Miss Talbot's Letters to
Mrs. Carter.

Such, Mr. Adventurer, is the happiness, the hope
of which seduced me from the duties and pleasures
of a mercantile life. I shall be told by those who read
my narrative, that there are many means of innocent
amusement, and many schemes of useful employment,
which I do not appear ever to have known;
and that nature and art have provided pleasures, by
which, without the drudgery of settled business, the
active may be engaged, the solitary soothed, and
the social entertained.
These arts, Sir, I have tried. When first I took
possession of my estate, in conformity to the taste
of my neighbours, I bought guns and nets, filled my
kennel with dogs, and my stable with horses: but
a little experience showed me, that these instruments
of rural felicity would afford me few gratifications.
I never shot but to miss the mark, and, to
confess the truth, was afraid of the fire of my own
gun. I could discover no musick in the cry of the
dogs, nor could divest myself of pity for the animal
whose peaceful and inoffensive life was sacrificed to
our sport. I was not, indeed, always at leisure to
reflect upon her danger; for my horse, who had been
bred to the chase, did not always regard my choice
either of speed or way, but leaped hedges and
ditches at his own discretion, and hurried me along
with the dogs, to the great diversion of my brother
sportsmen. His eagerness of pursuit once incited
him to swim a river; and I had leisure to resolve in
the water, that I would never hazard my life again
for the destruction of a hare.

I then ordered books to be procured, and by the
direction of the vicar had in a few weeks a closet
elegantly furnished. You will, perhaps, be surprised
when I shall tell you, that when once I had ranged
them according to their sizes, and piled them up in
regular gradations, I had received all the pleasure
which they could give me. I am not able to excite
in myself any curiosity after events which have been
long passed, and in which I can, therefore, have no
interest; I am utterly unconcerned to know whether
Tully or Demosthenes excelled in oratory, whether
Hannibal lost Italy by his own negligence or the
corruption of his countrymen. I have no skill in
controversial learning, nor can conceive why so
many volumes should have been written upon questions,
which I have lived so long and so happily
without understanding. I once resolved to go
through the volumes relating to the office of justice
of the peace, but found them so crabbed and intricate,
that in less than a month I desisted in despair,
and resolved to supply my deficiencies by paying a
competent salary to a skilful clerk.

I am naturally inclined to hospitality, and for
some time kept up a constant intercourse of visits
with the neighbouring gentlemen; but though they
are easily brought about me by better wine than
they can find at any other house, I am not much
relieved by their conversation; they have no skill in
commerce or the stocks, and I have no knowledge
of the history of families or the factions of the
country; so that when the first civilities are over,
they usually talk to one another, and I am left alone
in the midst of the company. Though I cannot
drink myself, I am obliged to encourage the
circulation of the glass; their mirth grows more
turbulent and obstreperous; and before their merriment
is at end, I am sick with disgust, and, perhaps,
reproached with my sobriety, or by some sly
insinuations insulted as a cit.

Such, Mr. Adventurer, is the life to which I am
condemned by a foolish endeavour to be happy by
imitation; such is the happiness to which I pleased
myself with approaching, and which I considered
as the chief end of my cares and my labours. I
toiled year after year with cheerfulness, in
expectation of the happy hour in which I might be idle:
the privilege of idleness is attained, but has not
brought with it the blessing of tranquillity.

I am yours, &c. MERCATOR.

No. 107. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1753

----Sub judice lis est. HOR. De Ar. Poet. 78.

And of their vain disputings find no end. FRANCIS.

IT has been sometimes asked by those who find
the appearance of wisdom more easily attained by
questions than solutions, how it comes to pass, that
the world is divided by such difference of opinion?
and why men, equally reasonable, and equally lovers
of truth, do not always think in the same manner?

With regard to simple propositions, where the
terms are understood, and the whole subject is
comprehended at once, there is such an uniformity of
sentiment among all human beings, that, for many
ages, a very numerous set of notions were supposed
to be innate, or necessarily co-existent with the
faculty of reason: it being imagined, that universal
agreement could proceed only from the invariable
dictates of the universal parent.

In questions diffuse and compounded, this
similarity of determination is no longer to be expected.
At our first sally into the intellectual world, we all
march together along one straight and open road;
but as we proceed further, and wider prospects open
to our view, every eye fixes upon a different scene;
we divide into various paths, and, as we move forward,
are still at a greater distance from each other.
As a question becomes more complicated and
involved, and extends to a greater number of relations,
disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied;
not because we are irrational, but because we are
finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge,
exerting different degrees of attention, one
discovering consequences which escape another, none
taking in the whole concatenation of causes and
effects, and most comprehending but a very small part,
each comparing what he observes with a different
criterion, and each referring it to a different purpose.

Where, then, is the wonder, that they who see
only a small part should judge erroneously of the
whole? or that they, who see different and dissimilar
parts, should judge differently from each other?

Whatever has various respects, must have various
appearances of good and evil, beauty or deformity;
thus, the gardener tears up as a weed, the plant which
the physician gathers as a medicine; and "a general,"
says Sir Kenelm Digby, "will look with pleasure
over a plain, as a fit place on which the fate of
empires might be decided in battle, which the farmer
will despise as bleak and barren, neither fruitful of
pasturage, nor fit for tillage[n]."

[n] Livy has described the Achaean leader, Philopaemen, as
actually so exercising his thoughts whilst he wandered among the
rocky passes of the Morea, xxxv. 28. In the graphic page of the
Roman historian, as in the stanzas of the "Ariosto of the North:"
"From shingles grey the lances start,
"The bracken bush sends forth the dart,
"The rushes and the willow wand
"Are bristling into axe and brand."

Lady of the Lake. Canto v. 9.

Two men examining the same question proceed
commonly like the physician and gardener in selecting
herbs, or the farmer and hero looking on the plain;
they bring minds impressed with different notions,
and direct their inquiries to different ends; they


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