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these my musings, she desired me to reach her a little salt upon the point of my Knife, which I did in such a trepidation and hurry of obedience, that I let it drop by the way; at which she immediately startled, and said it fell towards her. Upon this I looked very blank; and, observing the concern of the 5 whole table, began to consider my self, with some confusion, as a person that had brought a disaster upon the family. The Lady however recovering her self, after a little space, said to her husband, with a sigh, My Dear, Misfortunes never come single. My friend, I found, acted but an under-part at his table, and being a man of more good-nature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to fall in with all the passions and humours of his Yoke-fellow : Do not you remember, Child, (says she) that the Pigeon-house fell the very afternoon that our careless wench spilt the salt upon the table? Yes, (says he) My 15 Dear, and the next post brought us an account of the battle of Almanza. The reader may guess at the figure I made, after having done all this mischief. I dispatched my dinner as soon as I could, with my usual taciturnity; when, to my utter confusion, the Lady seeing me quitting my Knife and Fork, and laying them across one another upon my plate, desired me that I would humour her so far as to take them out of that figure, and place them side by side. What the absurdity was which I had committed I did not know, but I suppose there was some traditionary superstition in it; and therefore, in obedience to 25 the Lady of the house, I disposed of my Knife and Fork in two parallel lines, which is the figure I shall always lay them in for the future, though I do not know any reason for it.
It is not difficult for a man to see that a person has conceived an aversion to him. For my own part, I quickly found, 30 by the Lady's looks, that she regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate aspect.
For which reason I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings. Upon my return home, I fell into a profound
contemplation of the evils that attend these superstitious follies of mankind; how they subject us to imaginary afflictions, and additional sorrows, that do not properly come within our
lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not sufficient for 5 it, we turn the most indifferent circumstances into misfortunes,
and suffer as much from trifling accidents, as from real evils. I have known the shooting of a Star spoil a night's rest; and have seen a man in love grow pale and lose his appetite, upon the plucking of a Merry-thought. A Screech-owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of Robbers; nay, the voice of a Cricket hath struck more terror than the roaring of a Lion. There is nothing so inconsiderable, which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with Omens
and Prognosticks. A rusty nail, or a crooked pin, shoot up 15 into prodigies.
I remember I was once in a mixt assembly, that was noise and mirth, when on a sudden an old woman unluckily observed there were thirteen of us in company. This remark struck a panick terror into several who were present, insomuch that one or two of the Ladies were going to leave the room ; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was big with child, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, instead of portending one of the company
should die, it plainly foretold one of them should be born. 25 Had not my friend found this expedient to break the Omen,
I question not but half the women in the company would have fallen sick that very night.
An old maid, that is troubled with the Vapours, produces
infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neigh30 bours. I know a maiden Aunt of a great family, who is one
of these antiquated Sibyls, that forebodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing Apparitions, and hearing Death-watches; and was the other day almost frighted out of her wits by the great house-dog, that
howled in the stable at a time when she lay ill of the tooth-ach. Such an extravagant cast of mind engages multitudes of people, not only in impertinent terrors, but in supernumerary duties of life ; and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the Soul of man. The horror with which we entertain 5 the thoughts of death (or indeed of any future evil) and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a melancholy mind with innumerable apprehensions and suspicions, and consequently dispose it to the observation of such groundless Prodigies and Predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wise-men to retrench the evils of life by the reasonings of Philosophy; it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the sentiments of Superstition.
For my own part, I should be very much troubled were I endowed with this divining quality, though it should inform 15 me truly of every thing that can befall me. I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any misery, before it actually arrives.
I know but one way of fortifying my Soul against these gloomy presages and terrors of mind, and that is, by securing 20 to my self the friendship and protection of that Being who disposes of events, and governs futurity. He sees, at one view, the whole thread of my Existence, not only that part of it which I have already passed through, but that which runs forward into all the depths of Eternity. When I lay me down 25 to sleep, I recommend my self to his care; when I awake, I give my self up to his direction. Amidst all the evils that threaten me, I will look up to him for help, and question not but he will either avert them, or turn them to my advantage. Though I know neither the time nor the manner of the death 30 I am to die, I am not at all solicitous about it; because I am sure that he knows them both, and that he will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
No 10. Monday, March 12. [1711.]
Non aliter quam qui adverso vix flumine lembum
Atque illum in præceps prono rapit alveus amni. Virg.
My Publisher tells me, that there are already three thousand 5
of them distributed every day: So that if I allow twenty readers to every paper, which I look upon as a modest computation, I may reckon about threescore thousand Disciples in London and Westminster, who I hope will take care to
distinguish themselves from the thoughtless herd of their 10 ignorant and unattentive brethren. Since I have raised to
my self so great an audience, I shall spare no pains to make their instruction agreeable, and their diversion useful. For which reasons I shall endeavour to enliven Morality with Wit,
and to temper Wit with Morality, that my readers may, if 15 possible, both ways find their account in the Speculation of
the day. And to the end that their virtue and discretion may not be short transient intermitting starts of thoughts, I have resolved to refresh their memories from day to day, till I have recovered them out of that desperate state of Vice and Folly into which the age is fallen. The mind that lies fallow but a single day, sprouts up in follies that are only to be killed by a constant and assiduous culture. It was said of Socrates, that he brought Philosophy down from Heaven, to inhabit
among men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me, 25 that I have brought Philosophy out of Closets and Libraries,
Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at
I would therefore in a very particular manner recommend these my Speculations to all well-regulated families, that set
apart an hour in every morning for Tea and Bread and Butter;
5 pared with its rivals and antagonists, is like Moses's Serpent, that immediately swallowed up and devoured those of the Ægyptians. I shall not be so vain as to think, that where the SPECTATOR appears, the other publick prints will vanish; But shall leave it to my reader's consideration, whether, Is it not much better to be let into the knowledge of ones self, than to hear what passes in Muscovy or Poland; and to amuse our selves with such writings as tend to the wearing out of ignorance, passion, and prejudice, than such as naturally conduce to inflame hatreds, and make enmities irreconcileable?
15 In the next place, I would recommend this paper to the daily perusal of those Gentlemen whom I cannot but consider as my good brothers and allies, I mean the fraternity of Spectators, who live in the world without having any thing to do in it; and either by the affluence of their fortunes, or laziness of their dispositions, have no other business with the rest of mankind, but to look upon them. Under this Class of men are comprehended all contemplative Tradesmen, titular Physicians, Fellows of the Royal-society, Templers that are not given to be contentious, and Statesmen that are out of busi 25 ness; in short, every one that considers the world as a Theatre, and desires to form a right judgement of those who are the actors on it.
There is another set of men that I must likewise lay a claim to, whom I have lately called the Blanks of Society, as being 30 altogether unfurnished with Ideas, till the business and conversation of the day has supplied them. I have often considered these poor souls with an eye of great commiseration, when I have heard them asking the first man they have met