Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

HE following letter has given me a new sense of

the nature of my writings. I have the deepest regard to conviction, and shall never act against it. However, I do not yet understand what good man

he thinks I have injured; but his epistle has such weight in it, that I shall always have respect for his admonition, and desire the continuance of it. I am not conscious that I have spoke any faults a man may not mend if he pleases. « MR. BICKERSTAFF,

September 25. “When I read your paper of Thursday, I was surprised to find mine of the 13th inserted at large; I never intended myself or you a second trouble of this kind, believing I had sufficiently pointed out the mạn you had injured, and that by this time you were convinced that silence would be the best answer ; but finding your reflections are such as naturally call for a reply, I take this way of doing it; and in the first place, return you thanks for the compliment made me of my feeming sense and worth. I do assure you, I shall always endeavour to convince mankind of the latter, though I have no pretence to the former. But to come a little nearer, I observe you put yourself under a very severe restriction, even the laying down the Tatler' for ever, if I can give you an instance, wherein you have injured any good man, or pointed at anything which is not the true object of raillery.

“ I must confess, Mr. Bickerstaff, if the making a man guilty of vices that would shame the gallows, be the best method to point at the true object of raillery, I have till this time been very ignorant; but if it be so, I will venture to assert one

thing, and lay it down as a maxim, even to the Staffian race, viz. : that that method of pointing ought no more to be pursued than those people ought to cut your throat who suffer by it, because I take both to be murder, and the law is not in every private man's hands to execute: but indeed, sir, were you the only person would suffer by the Tatler's' discontinuance, I have malice enough to punish you in the manner you prescribe; but I am not so great an enemy to the town or my own pleasures as to wish it, nor that you would lay aside lashing the reigning vices so long as you keep to the true spirit of satire, without descending to rake into characters below its dignity; for as you well observe, there is something very terrible in unjustly attacking men in a way that may prejudice their honour or fortune; and, indeed, where crimes are enormous, the delinquent deserves little pity, yet the reporter may deserve less. And here I am naturally led to that celebrated author of "The Whole Duty of Man,' who hath set this matter in a true light in his “Treatise of the Government of the Tongue,' where, speaking of uncharitable truths, he says, ' A discovery of this kind serves not to reclaim, but enrage the offender, and precipitate him into farther degrees of ill. Modesty and fear of shame is one of those natural restraints which the wisdom of heaven has put upon mankind, and he that once stumbles, may yet, by a check of that bridle, recover again ; but when by a publick detection he is fallen under that infamy he feared, he will then be apt to discard all caution, and to think he owes himself the utmost pleasures of vice, as the price of his reputation. Nay, perhaps he advances farther, and sets up for a reversed sort of fame, by being eminently wicked, and he who before was but a clandestine disciple becomes a doctor of impiety, &c.' This sort of reasoning, fir, most certainly induced our wise legislators very lately to repeal that law which put the stamp of infamy in the face of felons; therefore, you had better give an act of oblivion to your delinquents, at least for transportation, than continue to mark them in so notorious a manner. I can't but applaud your designed attempt of raising merit from obscurity, celebrating virtue in distress, and attacking vice in another method, by setting innocence in a proper light. Your

pursuing these noble themes will make a greater advance to the reformation you seem to aim at, than the method you have hitherto taken, by putting mankind beyond the power of retrieving themselves, or indeed: to think it possible. But if, after all your endeavours in this new way, there should then remain any hardened impenitents, you must e'en give 'em up to the rigour of the law, as delinquents not within the benefit of their clergy. Pardon me, good Mr. Bickerstaff, for the tediousness of this epistle, and believe 'tis not from


selfconviction I have taken up so much of your time or my own; but fupposing you mean all your lucubrations should tend to the good of mankind, I may the easier hope your pardon, being, fir, yours, &c.

Coming into this place (Will's coffee-house) to-night, I met an old friend of mine, who, a little after the restoration; writ an epigram with some applause, which he has lived upon ever since, and by virtue of it, has been a constant frequenter of this coffee-house for forty years. He took me aside, and with a great deal of friendship told me he was glad to see me alive; “ for,” said he, “Mr. Bickerstaff, I am sorry to find you have raised many enemies by your lucubrations. There are, indeed, fome,” says he, “whose enmity is the greatest honour they can fhew a man ; but have you lived to these years, and do not know that the ready way to disoblige is to give advice? You may endeavour to guard your children, as you call them, but He was going on, but I found the disagreeableness of giving advice without being asked, by my own impatience of what he was about to say; in a word, I begged him to give me the hearing of a short fable..

A gentleman,” says I, “who was one day flumbering in an arbour, was on a sudden awakened by the gentle biting of a lizard, a little animal remarkable for its love to mankind. He threw it from his hand with some indignation, and was rising up to kill it, when he saw a huge venomous ferpent Niding towards him on the other fide, which he foon deftroyed, reflecting afterwards with gratitude upon his friend that saved him, and with anger against himself that had shewn fo: little fense of a good office."

[ocr errors][graphic][merged small]



Falfus honor juvat, et mendax infamia terret.
Quem nis mendofum et mendacem ? -

HoR. 1 EP. xvi. 39.
False praise can please, and calumny affright,
None but the vicious and the hypocrite.


KNOW no manner of speaking so offensive as that of giving praise, and closing it with an exception, which proceeds (where men do not do it to introduce malice, and make calumny

more effectual) from the common error of considering man as a perfect creature. But if we rightly examine things, we shall find that there is a sort of economy in Providence, that one shall excel where another is defective, in order to make men more useful to each other, and mix them in society. This man having this talent and that man another, is as necessary in conversation as one professing one trade and another, is beneficial in commerce. The happiest climate does not produce all things, and it was so ordained, that one part of the earth should want the product of another, for uniting mankind in a general correspondence and good understanding. It is, therefore, want of good sense as well as good nature, to say Simplicius has a better judgment, but not so much wit as Latius ; for that these have not each other's capacities is no more a diminution to either, than if you should say Simplicius is not Latius, or Latius not Simplicius. The heathen world had so little notion that perfection was to be expected amongst men, that among them any one quality or endowment in an heroic degree made a god. Hercules had strength, but it was never objected to him that he wanted wit. Apollo presided over wit, and it was never asked if he had strength. We hear no exceptions against the beauty of Minerva or the wisdom of Venus. These wise heathens were glad to immortalize any one serviceable gift, and overlook all imperfections in the person who had it; but with us it is far otherwise, for we reject many eminent virtues if they are accompanied with one apparent weakness. The reflecting after this manner made me account for the strange delight men take in reading lampoons and scandal, with which the age abounds, and of which I receive frequent complaints. Upon mature consideration, I find it is principally for this reafon that the worst of mankind-the libellers, receive so much encouragement in the world. The low race of men take a secret pleasure in finding an eminent character levelled to their condition by a report of its defects, and keep themselves in countenance, though they are excelled in a thousand virtues, if they believe they have in common with a great person any one fault. The libeller falls in with this humour, and gratifies this baseness of temper, which is naturally an enemy to extraordinary merit. It is from this, that libel and satire are promiscuously joined together in the notions of the vulgar, though the satirist and libeller differ as much as the magistrate and murderer. In the consideration of human life, the satirist never falls upon persons who are not glaringly faulty, and the libeller on none but who are confpicuously commendable. Were I to expose any vice in a good or great man, it should certainly be by correcting it in some one where that crime was the distinguishing part of the character, as pages are chastised for the admonition of princes. When it is performed otherwise, the vicious are kept in credit by placing men of merit in the same accusation. But all the pasquils, lampoons, and libels we meet with now-a-days, are a

« AnteriorContinuar »