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or not? The best way to get clear of such a light fondness applause, is to take all possible care to throw off the love upon occasions that are not in themselves laudable, but a appears, we hope for no praise from them. Of this nature are graces in men's persons, dress, and bodily deportment, which naturally be winning and attractive if we think not of them, lose their force in proportion to our endeavour to make th such.
When our consciousness turns upon the main design of life, our thoughts are employed upon the chief purpose either in b ness or pleasure, we shall never betray an affectation, for cannot be guilty of it: but when we give the passion for praise unbridled liberty, our pleasure in little perfections robs us of w is due to us for great virtues and worthy qualities. How ma excellent speeches and honest actions are lost, for want of be indifferent where we ought? Men are oppressed with regard their way of speaking and acting, instead of having their thoug bent upon what they should do or say; and by that means b a capacity for great things, by their fear of failing in indiffere things. This, perhaps, cannot be called affectation; but it some tincture of it, at least so far, as that their fear of erring i thing of no consequence, argues they would be too much pleas in performing it.
It is only from a thorough disregard to himself in such parti lars, that a man can act with a laudable sufficiency: his heart fixed upon one point in view; and he commits no errors, becau he thinks nothing an error but what deviates from that intentio
The wild havoc affectation makes in that part of the world whic should he most polite, is visible wherever we turn our eyes pushes men not only into impertinences in conversation, but al in their premeditated speeches. At the bar it torments the benc whose business it is to cut off all superfluities in what is spoke before it by the practitioner; as well as several little pieces of i justice which arise from the law itself. I have seen it małe man run from the purpose before a judge, who was, when at th bar himself, so close and logical a pleader, that with all the pom of eloquence in his power, he never spoke a word too much.
It might be borne even here, but it often ascends the pulp itself, and the declaimer, in that sacred place, is frequently so iic pertinently witty, speaks of the last day itself with so man quaint phrases, that there is no man who understands raillery, bu must resolve to sin no more. Nay, you may behold him some times in prayer, for a proper delivery of the great truths he is t
Probably Lord Chancellor Cowper.
atte, bumble himself with so very well-turned phrase, and men. tion his own unworthiness in a way so very becoming, that the air of the pretty gentleman is preserved, under the lowliness of the presche.
I abal end this with a short letter I writ the other day to a very witty ma overrun with the fault I am speaking of.
* DEAR SIR, “I spent some time with you the other day, and must take the liberty of a friend to tell you of the unsufferable affectation you se guilty of in all you say and do. When I gave you a hint of it, you sted me whether a man is to be cold to what his friends think of him? No, but praise is not to be the entertainment of every moment. He that hopes for it must be able to suspend the pusession of it till proper periods of life, or death itself. If you Fould not rather be commended than be praiseworthy, contemn brute merits; and allow no man to be so free with you, as to praise you to your face. Your vanity by this means will want its food. At the same time your passion for esteem will be more fully gratited; men will praise you in their actions : where you now retaite one compliment, you will then receive twenty civilities. Till then you will never have of either, further than,
“Your humble servant, SILELE.
No. 39. SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 1711.
Multa fero, ut placem genus irritabile vatum,
HOR. 2. EP. ii. 102.
As a perfect tragedy is the noblest production of human nature, so it is capable of giving the mind one of the most delightful and most improving entertainments. A virtuous man (says Seneca) strugging with misfortune, is such a spectacle as gods might look upon with pleasure ; and such a pleasure it is which one meets with in
very frequently, where the sense was rightly translated, the necessary transposition of words, which were drawn out of the phrase of one tongue into that of another, made the music appear very absurd in one tongue that was very natural in the other. I remember an Italian verse that runs thus, word for word
“And turn'd my rage into pity;" which the English for rhyme sake translated,
“And into pity turn'd my rage." By this means the soft notes that were adapted to pity in the Italian, fell upon the word rage in the English ; and the angry sounds that were turned to rage in the original, were made to express pity in the translation. It oftentimes happened likewise, that the finest notes in the air fell upon the most insignificant words in the sentence. I have known the word " and” pursued through the whole gamut, have been entertained with many a melodious “the," and have heard the most beautiful graces, quavers, and divisions bestowed upon " then, for, and from;" to the eternal honour of our English particles.
The next step to our refinement, was the introducing of Italian actors into our opera, who sung their parts in their own language, at the same time that our countrymen performed theirs in our native tongue. The king or hero of the play generally spoke in Italian, and his slaves answered him in English. The lover frequently made his court, and gained the heart of his princess, in a language which she did not understand. One would have thought it very difficult to have carried on dialogues after this manner without an interpreter between the persons that conversed to gether; but this was the state of the English stage for about three years.
At length the audience grew tired of understanding half the opera; and therefore, to ease themselves entirely of the fatigue of thinking, have so ordered it at present, that the whole opera is performed in an unknown tongue. We no longer understand the language of our own stage; insomuch that I have often been afraid, when I have seen our Italian performers chattering in the vehemence of action, that they have been calling us names, and abusing us among themselves; but I hope, since we do put such an entire confidence in them, they will not talk against us before our faces, though they may do it with the same safety as if it were behind our backs. In the mean time, I cannot forbear thinking how naturally an historian who writes two or three hundred years hence, and does not know the taste of his wise forefathers, will make the following reflection :—“In the beginning of the
Since I am upon this subject, I must observe that our English poets bare succeeded much better in the style, than in the sentiment of their tragedies. Their language is very often noble and Sonorous, but the sense either very trifling, or very common. On the antrary, in the ancient tragedies, and indeed in those of Caneille and Racine, though the expressions are very great, it is. the thought that bears them up and swells them. For my own part, I prefer a noble sentiment that is depressed with homely language, infinitely before a vulgar one that is blown up with all the sound and energy of expression. Whether this defect in our tragedies may arise from want of genius, knowledge, or experiesce
, in the writers, or from their compliance with the vicious taste of their readers, who are better judges of the language than of the sentiments, and consequently relish the one more than the other, I cannot determine. But I believe it might rectify the conded both of the one and of the other, if the writer laid down the whole contexture of his dialogue in plain English, before he turned it into blank verse; and if the reader, after the perusal of I seene, would consider the naked thought of every speech in it, aben divested of all its tragic ornaments. By this means, without being imposed upon by words, we may judge impartially of the thought, and consider whether it be natural or great enough for the person that utters it, whether it deserves to shine in such & blaze of eloquence, or show itself in such a variety of lights u are generally made use of by the writers of our English
I must in the next place observe, that when our thoughts are great and just, they are often obscured by the sounding phrases, Lad metaphors, and forced expressions in which they are clothed. Shakespeare is often very faulty in this particular. There is a fine Seservation in Aristotle to this purpose, which I have never seen gooted. The expression, says be, ought to be very
much laboured in the unactive parts of the fable, as in descriptions, similitudes, Eurations, and the like; in which the opinions, manners, and passions of men are not represented: for these (namely, the opinions, manners, and passions) are apt to be obscured by pompous phrases and elaborate expressions. Horace, who copied most of his criticisms after Aristotle, seems to have had his eye ou the foregoing rule, in the following verses :
“Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri :
Telephus et Peleus, cum pauper et exul uterque,
ARS. POET. VER. 95.
Thank heav'n that made me of an humble mind;
OBSERVING one person behold another, who was an utter stranger to him, with a cast of his eye, which, methought, expressed an emotion of heart very different from what could be raised by an object so agreeable as the gentleman he looked at, I began to consider, not without some secret sorrow, the condition of an envious
Some have fancied that envy has a certain magical force in it, and that the eyes of the envious have by their_fascination blasted the enjoyments of the happy. Sir Francis Bacon says, some have been so curious as to remark the times and seasons when the stroke of an envious eye is most effectually pernicious, and have observed that it has been when the person envied has been in any circumstance of glory and triumph. At such a time the mind of the prosperous man goes, as it were, abroad, among things without him, and is more exposed to the malignity. But I shall not dwell upon speculations so abstracted as this, or repeat the many excellent things which one might collect out of authors upon this miserable affection ; but, keeping in the road of common life, consider the envious man with relation to these three heads, his pains, his reliefs, and his happiness.
The envious man is in pain upon all occasions which ought to give him pleasure. The relish of his life is inverted; and the ob jects which administer the highest satisfaction to those who are exempt from this passion, give the quickest pangs to persons who are subject to it. All the perfections of their fellow-creatures are odious. Youth, beauty, valour, and wisdom are provocations of their displeasure. What a wretched and apostate state is this! to be offended with excellence, and to hate a man because we approve him! The condition of the envious man is the most emphatically miserable; he is not only incapable of rejoicing in another's merit or success, but lives in a world wherein all mankind are in a plot against his quiet, by studying their own happiness and advantage. Will Prosper* is an honest tale-bearer. He makes it his business to join in conversation with envious men. He points to such an handsome young fellow, and whispers that he is secretly married to a great fortune. When they doubt, he adds circum. stances to prove it; and never fails to aggravate their distress, by assuring them, that, to his knowledge, he has an uncle will leave him some thousands. Will has many arts of this kind to torture this sort of temper, and delights in it. When he finds them change colour, and say faintly they wish such a piece of news is true, he
* See No. 20.