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No. XXIII. TUESDAY, MARCH 27.
Sævit atrox Volscens, nec teli conspicit usquam
Fierce Volscens foams with rage, and, gazing round,
THERE is nothing that more betrays a base ungenerous spirit, than the giving of secret stabs to a man's reputation. Lampoons and satires that are written with wit and spirit, are like poisoned darts, which not only inflict a wound, but make it incurable. For this reason, I am very much troubled when I see the talents of humour and ridicule in the possession of an ill-natured man. There cannot be a greater gratification to a barbarous and inhuman wit, than to stir up sorrow in the heart of a private person, to raise uneasiness among near relations, and to expose whole families to derision, at the same time that he remains unseen and undiscovered. If, besides the accomplishments of being witty and ill-natured, a man is vicious into the bargain, he is one of the most mischievous creatures that can enter into a civil society. His satire will then chiefly fall upon those who ought to be the most exempt from it. Virtue, merit, and every thing that is praiseworthy, will be made the subject of ridicule and buffoonery. It is impossible to enumerate the evils which arise from these arrows that fly in the dark; and I know no other excuse that is or can be made for them, than that the wounds they give are only imaginary, and produce nothing more than a secret shame or sorrow in the mind of the suffering person. It must indeed be confessed, that a lampoon or satire do not carry in them robbery or murder; but at the same time, how many are there that would not rather lose a considerable sum of money, or even life itself, than be set up as a mark of infamy and derision? and in this case a man should consider, that an injury is not to be measured by the notions of him that gives, but of him who receives it.
Those who can put the best countenance upon the outrages of this nature which are offered them, are not without their secret anguish. I have often observed a passage in Socrates's behaviour at his death, in a light wherein none of the critics have considered it. That excellent man, entertained his friends a little before he drank the bowl of poison, with a discourse on the immortality of the soul, at his entering upon it, says, that he does not believe any of the most comic genius can censure him for talking upon such a subject at such a time. This passage, I think, evidently glances upon Aristophanes, who writ a comedy on purpose to ridicule the discourses of that divine philosopher. It has been observed by many writers, that Socrates was so little moved at this piece of buffoonry, that he was several times present at its being acted upon the stage, and never expressed the least resenta ment of it. But with submission, I think the remark I have here made, shews us, that this unworthy treatment made an impression upon his mind, though he had been too wise to discover it.
When Julius Cæsar was lampooned by Catullus, he invited him to a supper, and treated him with such a generous civility, that he made the poet his friend ever after. Cardinal Mazarine gave the same kind treatment to the learned Quillet, who had reflected upon his eminence in a famous Latin poem. The Cardinal sent for him, and after some kind expostulations upon what he had written, assured him of his esteem, and dismissed him with a promise of the next good abbey that should fall; which he accordingly conferred upon him in a few months after. This had so good an effect upon the author, that he had dedi
cated the second edition of his book to the Cardinal, after having expunged the passages which had given him offence.
Sextus Quintus was not of so generous and forgiving a temper. Upon his being made Pope, the statue of Pasquin was one night dressed in a very dirty shirt, with an excuse written under it, that he was forced to wear foul linen, because his laundress was made a princess. This was a reflection upon the Pope's sister, who, before the promotion of her brother, was in those mean circumstances that Pasquin represented her. As this pasquinade made a great noise in Rome, the Pope offered a considerable sum of money to any person that should discover the author of it. The author, relying upon his Holiness's generosity, as also on some private overtures which he hail received from him, made the discovery himself; upon which the Pope gave him tne reward he had promised, but at the same time, to disable the satirist for the future, ordered his tongue to be cut out, and both his hands to be chopped off. Aretine is too trite an instance. Every one knows that all the kings in Europe were his tributaries. Nay, there is a letter of his extant, in which he makes his boasts that he had laid the Sophi of Persia under contribution.
Though in the various examples which I have here drawn together, these several great men behaved themselves very differently towards the wits of the age who had reproached them; they all of them plainly shewed that they were very sensible of their reproaches, and consequently that they received them as very great injuries. For my own part, I would never trust a man that I thought was capable of giving these secret wounds; and cannot but think that he would hurt the person whose reputation he thus as: saults, in his body or in his fortune, could he do it with the same security. There is indeed something very barbarous and inliuman in the ordinary scribblers of lampoons: an innocent young lady shall be exposed for an unhappy feature; a father of a family turned to ridicule, for some domestic calamity; a wife be made uneasy all her life, for a misinterpreted word or action; nay, a good, a temperate, and a just man, shall be put out of countenance by the representation of those qualities that should do him honour. So pernicious a thing is wit when it is not tempered with virtue and humanity.
I have, indeed, heard of heedless inconsiderate writers, that without any malice have sacrificed the reputation of their friends and acquaintance, to a certain levity of temper, and a silly ambition of distinguishing themselves by a spirit of raillery and satire; as if it were not infinitely more honourable to be a gond-natured man, than a wit. Where there is this little petulant humour in an author, he is often very inischievous without designing to be so. For which reason I always lay it down as a rule, that an indiscreet man is more hurtful than an ill-natured one; for as the latter will only attack his enemies, and those he wishes ill to, the other injures indifferently both friends and foes. I cannot forbear, on this occasion, transcribing a fable out of Sir Roger l'Estrange, which accidentally lies before me: "A company of waggish (boys were watching of frogs at the side of a pond,
and still as any of them put up their heads they would “ be pelting them down again with stones. Children, 6 says one of the frogs, you never consider, that though « this may be play to you, it is death to us.'
As this week is in a manner set apart and dedicated to serious thoughts, I shall indulge myself in such speculations as may not be altogether unsuitable to the season: and in the mean time, as the settling in ourselves a charitable frame of mind is a work very proper for the time, I have, in this paper, endeavoured to expose that particular breach of charity which has been
generally overlooked by divines, because they are but few who can be guilty of it.
No. XXIV. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28.
Accurrit quidam notus mihi nomine tantum;
Comes up a fop (I knew him but by fame)
THERE are in this town a great number of insignificant people, who are by no means fit for the better sort of conversation, and yet have an impertinent ambition of appearing with those to whom they are not welcome. If you walk in the Park, one of them will certainly join with you, though you are in company with ladies ; if you drink a bottle, they will find your haunts. What makes such fellows the more burdensome is, that they neither offend nor please so far as to be taken notice of for either. It is, I presume, for this reason, that my correspondents are willing by my means to be rid of them. The two following letters are written by persons who suffer by such impertinence. A worthy old bachelor, who sets in for his dose of claret every night at such an hour, is teazed by a swarm of them ; who, because they are sure of room and good fire, have taken it in their heads to keep a sort of club in his company, though the good sober gentleman himself is an utter enemy to such meetings,