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mentioned, but more contemptible, in proportion to what more he robs the public of and enjoys above him. I lay it down, therefore, for a rule that the whole man is to move together; that every action of any importance is to have a prospect of public good; and that the general tendency of our indifferent actions ought to be agreeable to the dictates of reason, of religion, of good-breeding : without this, a man, as I before have hinted, is hopping instead of walking; he is not in his entire and proper motion.”
While the honest knight was thus bewildering himself in good starts, I looked intentively upon him, which made him, I thought, collect his mind a little. “What I aim at,” says he, “is to represent, that I am of opinion to polish our understandings and neglect our manners is of all things the most inexcusable. Reason should govern passion; but, instead of that, you see, it is often subservient to it; and, as unaccountable as one would think it, a wise man is not always a good man.” This degeneracy is not only the guilt of particular persons, but also at some times of a whole people; and perhaps it may appear upon examination that the most polite ages are the least virtuous. This may be attributed to the folly of admitting wit and learning as merit in themselves. without considering the application of them. By this means it becomes a rule, not so much to regard what
we do, as how we do it. But this false beauty will not pass upon men of honest minds and true taste. Sir Richard Blackmore says, with as much good sense as virtue, It is a mighty dishonour and shame to employ excellent faculties and abundance of wit to humour and please men in their vices and follies. The great enemy of mankind, notwithstanding his wit and angelic faculties, is the most odious being in the whole creation.” He goes on soon after to say, very generously, that he undertook the writing of his poem “ to rescue the Muses out of the hands of ravishers; to restore them to their sweet and chaste. mansions ; and to engage them in an employment suitable to their dignity." This certainly ought to be the purpose of every man who appears in public; and whoever does not proceed upon that foundation injures his country as fast as he succeeds in his studies. When modesty ceases to be the chief ornament of one sex, and integrity of the other, society is upon a wrong basis; and we shall be ever after without rules to guide our judgment in what is really becoming and ornamental. Nature and reason direct one thing ; passion and humour another. To follow the dictates of the two latter is going into a road that is both endless and intricate; when we pursue the other, our passage is delightful, and what we aim at easily attainable.
I do not doubt but England is at present as polite a nation as any in the world; but any man who thinks can easily see that the affectation of being gay and in fashion has very near eaten up our good sense and our religion. Is there anything so just as that mode and gallantry should be built upon exerting ourselves in what is proper and agreeable to the institutions of justice and piety among us ? And yet is there anything more common than that we run in perfect contradiction to them ? All which is supported by no other pretension than that it is done with what we call a good grace.
Nothing ought to be held laudable or becoming, but what nature itself should prompt us to think so. Respect to all kind of superiors is founded, methinks, upon instinct; and yet what is so ridiculous as age? I make this abrupt transition to the mention of this vice more than any other, in order to introduce a little story, which I think a pretty instance that the most polite age is in danger of being the most vicious.
" It happened at Athens, during a public representation of some play exhibited in honour of the commonwealth, that an old gentleman came too late for a place suitable to his age and quality. Many of the young gentlemen who observed the difficulty and confusion he was in made signs to him that they would accommodate him if he came where they sat. The good man bustled through the crowd accordingly; but when he came to the seats to which he was invited, the jest was to sit close and expose him, as he stood, out of countenance, to the whole audience. The frolic went round all the Athenian benches. But on those occasions there were also particular places assigned for foreigners. When the good man skulked towards the boxes appointed for the Lacedæmonians, that honest people, more virtuous than polite, rose up all to a man, and with the greatest respect received him among them. The Athenians, being suddenly touched with a sense of the Spartan virtue and their own degeneracy, gave a thunder of applause; and the old man cried out, “The Athenians understand what is good, but the Lacedæmonians practise it.'
THE SPECTATOR IN LODGINGS
-Veteres avias tibi de pulmone revello.
PERS., Sat. v. 92.
I root th' old woman from thy trembling heart.
At my coming to London, it was some time before I could settle myself in a house to my liking. I was forced to quit my first lodgings by reason of an officious landlady that would be asking me every morning how I had slept. I then fell into an honest family, and lived very happily for above a week; when my landlord, who was a jolly, good-natured man, took it into his head that I wanted company, and therefore would frequently come into my chamber to keep me from being alone. This I bore for two or three days; but telling me one day that he was afraid I was melancholy, I thought it was high time for me to be gone, and accordingly took new lodgings that very night. About a week after, I found my jolly landlord, who, as I said before, was an honest, hearty man, had put me into an advertisement in the Daily Courant, in the following words : “ Whereas, a melancholy man left bis lodgings on Thursday last in the afternoon, and was afterwards seen going towards Islington; if any one can give notice of him to R. B., fishmonger in the Strand, he shall be very well rewarded for his pains.” As I am the best man in the world to keep my own counsel, and my landlord the fishmonger not knowing my name, this accident of my life was never discovered to this very day.