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No. 517. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23.
Heu pietas I heu prisca fides !
VIRG. En. vi. 878.
We last night received a piece of ill news at our club, which very sensibly afflicted every one of us. I question not but my readers themselves will be troubled at the hearing of it. To -keep them no longer in suspense, Sir Roger de Coverley is dead.' He departed this life at his house in the country, after a few weeks sickness. Sir Andrew Freeport has a letter from one of his correspendents in those parts, that informs him the old man caught a cold at the county sessions, as he was very warmly promoting an address of his own penning, in which he succeeded according to his wishes. But this particular comes from a whig justice of peace, who was always Sir Roger's enemy and antago
1 “Mr. Addisod was so fond of this character that a little before he laid down the “Spectator' (foreseeing that some nimble gentleman would catch up his pen the moment he quitted it) he said to our intimate friend, with a certain warmth in his expression which he was not often guilty of, “I'll kill Sir Roger that nobody else may murder himn.'”—The Bee p. 26.
On this Chalıner's sensibly remarks, that “the killing of Sir Roger has been sufficiently accounted for, without supposing that Addison despatched him in a fit of anger: for the work was about to close, and it appeared necessary to close the club; but whatever difference of opinion there may be concerning this circumstance, it is universally agreed that it produced a paper of transcendent excellence in all the graces of simplicity and pathos. There is not in our language any assumption of character more faithful than that of the honest butler; nor a more irresistible stroke of nature than the circumstance of the book received by Sir Andrew Freeport."
Budgell's story is another version of the reason Cervantes gave for killing his hero ;-para mi fola nacio Don Quixote, y yo para el. Shakespere's motive for the early death of Mercutio, in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, has been accounted for by a similar fiction.
No. 512. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17.
Lectorem delectando pariterque monendo.
Hor. Ars Poet. 844
Mixing together profit and delight.
There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man who gives it us as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or ideots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shews for our good on such an occasion, as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise, does, in that particular, esercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it, but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons, there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable; and, indeed, all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another, according to the perfection at which they have arrived in this art. How many de vices have been made use of, to render this bitter portion palata. ble? some convey their instructions to us in the best chosen words, others in the most harmonious numbers, some in points of wit, and others in short proverbs.
But among all the different ways of giving counsel, I think the finest, and that which pleases the most universally, is fable, in whatsoever shape it appears. If we consider this way of instructing or giving advice, it excels all others, because it is the least shocking, and the least subject to those exceptions which I have before mentioned.
This will appear to us, if we reflect, in the first place, that upon reading of a fable we are made to believe we advise ourselves. We peruse the author for the sake of the story, and consider the precepts rather as our own conclusions, than his instructions. The moral insinuates itself imperceptibly, we are taught by surprise, and become wiser and better unawares. In short, by this method a man is so far over-reached as to think he is directing himself, whilst he is following the dictates of another, and consequently is not sensible of that which is the most un. pleasing circumstance in advice.
In the next place, if we look into human nature, we shall find that the mind is never so much pleased, as when she exerts herself in any action that gives her an idea of her own perfections and abilities. This natural pride and ambition of the soul is very much gratisied in the reading of a fable : for in writings of this kind, the reader comes in for half of the performance; every thing appears to him like a discovery of his own; he is busied all the while in applying characters and circumstances, and is in this respect both a reader and a composer. It is no wonder, therefore, that on such occasions, when the mind is thus pleased with itself, and amused with its own discoveries, it is highly delighted with the writing which is the occasion of it. For this reason the Absalon and Achitophel was one of the most popular poems that ever appeared in English. The poetry is indeed very fine, but had it been much finer, it would not have so much pleased, without a plan which gave the reader an opportunity of exerting his own talents.
This oblique manner of giving advice is so inoffensive, that if we look into ancient histories, we find the wise men of old very
* Ourselves. Two small inaccuracies in this sentence, 1. Instead of upon reading of a fable," it should huve been, “ upon the reading of," or,
upon rearling a fable.”—2. The sentence is involved and complicated“ We reflect that-we are made to believe that we advise ourselves.”—To conceal, or palliate the last defect, the second that is left out, but must be supplied by the reader.-H.
often chose to give counsel to their kings in fables. To omit many which will occur to every one's memory, there is a pretty instance of this nature in a Turkish tale, which I do not like the worse for that little oriental extravagance which is mixed with it.
We are told that the Sultan Mahmoud, by his perpetual wars abroad, and his tyranny at home, had filled his dominions with ruin and desolation, and half unpeopled the Persian empire. The visier to this great sultan, (whether an humourist or an enthusiast, we are not informed) pretended to have learned of a certain dervise to understand the language of birds, so that there was not a bird that could open his mouth, but the visier knew what it was he said. As he was one evening with the emperor, in their return from hunting, they saw a couple of owls upon a tree that grew near an old wall, out of an heap of rubbish. would fain know,' says the sultan, 'what those two owls are saying to one another; listen to their discourse, and give me an account of it.' The visier approached the tree, pretending to be very attentive to the two owls. Upon his return to the sultan,
Sir,' says he, 'I have heard part of their conversation, but dare not tell you what it is.' The sultan would not be satisfied with such an answer, but forced him to repeat word for word every thing that the owls had said. “You must know then,' said the visier, that one of these owls has a son, and the other a daughter, between whom they are now upon a treaty of marriage. The father of the son said to the father of the daughter, in my hearing,
One of Dryden's most vigorous satires. It was in this that he dres his celebrated character of the Duke of Buckingham, paying off in a few lines of unequalled force and point, some debts of long standing.-G.
Chose. To avoid the fault just now taken notice of, wo might say, "chusing to give," &c.-H.
b Which I do which is. The same fault again.-H.
* Brother, I consent to this marriage, provided you will settle upon your daughter fifty ruined villages for her portion. To which the father of the daughter replied, “Instead of fifty, I will give her five hundred, if you please. God grant a long life to Sultan Mahmoud; whilst he reigns over us, we shall never want ruined villages.'
The story says, the sultan was so touched with the fable, that he rebuilt the towns and villages which had been destroyed, and from that time forward consulted the good of his people.
To fill up my paper, I shall add a most ridiculous piece of natural magic, which was taught by no less a philosopher than Democritus, namely, that if the blood of certain birds, which he mentioned,' were mixed together, it would produce a serpent of such a wonderful virtue, that whoever did eat it should be skilled in the language of birds, and understand every thing they said to one another.
Whether the dervise abovementioned might not have eaten such a serpent, I shall leave to the determination of the learned.
This story, as I collect from the picture, is in the superb Persian MS, in the public library, at Cambridge.-C.
“That-it would produce-of such virtue that—" Still the same fault of a too complicated construction; whence we may conclude that this paper was written carelessly, and in haste.-H.