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SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY PAPERS IN
No. 1. The Spectator's Account of Himself
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
Hor. Ars Poet. ver. 143.
I HAVE observed, that a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black 3 or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much 5 to the right understanding of an author.
To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper and my next, as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons that 10 are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digesting, and correcting will fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.4
I was born to a small hereditary estate, which, 15 according to the tradition of the village where it
lies, was bounded by the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's time 5 that it is at present, and has been delivered down from father
to son, whole and entire, without the loss or acqui5 sition of a single field or meadow, during the space
of six hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that before I was born my mother dreamt that she would bring forth a judge. Whether this
might proceed from a law-suit which was then de10 pending in the family, or my father's being a
justice of the peace, I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any dignity that I should arrive at in my future life, though that
was the interpretation which the neighborhood put 15 upon it. The gravity of my behavior at my very
first appearance in the world, seemed to favor my mother's dream: for, as she has often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make use of my coral until they had 20 taken away the bells from it.
As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find, that during my nonage, I had the reputation
of a very sullen youth, but was always a favorite 25 of my school-master, who used to say, “that my
parts were solid, and would wear well.” I had not been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence; for during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises of the college, I scarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three sentences together in my whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, 5 that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the death of my father, I was resolved to travel into foreign countries, and therefore left the 10 university, with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but show it. An insatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was anything new or strange 15 to be seen; nay, to such a degree was my curiosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men’ concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid: and as soon as I had set 20 myself right in that particular, returned to my native country with great satisfaction.
I have passed my latter years in this city, where 'I am frequently seen in most public places, though there are not above half a dozen of my select 25 friends that know me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There is no place of general resort wherein I do not often make my appearance sometimes I am seen thrusting my
head into a round of politicians at Will's, and listening with great attention to the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Some
times I smoke a pipe at Child's,' and whilst I seem 5 attentive to nothing but the Postman,'' overhear
the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's 11 coffeehouse, and sometimes join the little committee of
politics in the inner-room, as one who comes there 10 to hear and improve. My face is likewise very well
known at the Grecian,12 the Cocoa-tree,13 and in the theaters both of Drury-lane and the Hay-market.14 I have been taken for a merchant upon the exchange
for above these ten years, and sometimes pass for 15 a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's.15.
In short, wherever I see a cluster of people, I always mix with them, though I never open my lips but in my own club.
Thus I live in the world rather as a Spectator of 20 mankind, than as one of the species, by which
means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very
well versed in the theory of a husband, or a father, 25 and can discern the errors in the economy, business,
and diversion of others, better than those who are engaged in them; as standers-by discover blots,16 which are apt to escape those who are in the game. I never espoused any party with violence, and am