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under the Notion of being unconstrained and disengaged, People take upon
them to be unconcerned in any Duty of Life. A general Negligence is what
they assume upon all Occasions, and set up for an Aversion to all manner
of Business and Attention. _I am the carelessest Creature in the World,
I have certainly the worst Memory of any Man living_, are frequent
Expressions in the Mouth of a Pretender of this sort. It is a professed
Maxim with these People never to _think_; there is something so solemn
in Reflexion, they, forsooth, can never give themselves Time for such a
way of employing themselves. It happens often that this sort of Man is
heavy enough in his Nature to be a good Proficient in such Matters as
are attainable by Industry; but alas! he has such an ardent Desire to be
what he is not, to be too volatile, to have the Faults of a Person of
Spirit, that he professes himself the most unfit Man living for any
manner of Application. When this Humour enters into the Head of a
Female, she gently professes Sickness upon all Occasions, and acts all
things with an indisposed Air: She is offended, but her Mind is too lazy
to raise her to Anger, therefore she lives only as actuated by a violent
Spleen and gentle Scorn. She has hardly Curiosity to listen to Scandal
of her Acquaintance, and has never Attention enough to hear them
commended. This Affectation in both Sexes makes them vain of being
useless, and take a certain Pride in their Insignificancy.

Opposite to this Folly is another no less unreasonable, and that is the
Impertinence of being always in a Hurry. There are those who visit
Ladies, and beg Pardon afore they are well seated in their Chairs, that
they just called in, but are obliged to attend Business of Importance
elsewhere the very next Moment: Thus they run from Place to Place,
professing that they are obliged to be still in another Company than
that which they are in. These Persons who are just a going somewhere
else should never be detained; [let [2]] all the World allow that
Business is to be minded, and their Affairs will be at an end. Their
Vanity is to be importuned, and Compliance with their Multiplicity of
Affairs would effectually dispatch em. The Travelling Ladies, who have
half the Town to see in an Afternoon, may be pardoned for being in
constant Hurry; but it is inexcusable in Men to come where they have no
Business, to profess they absent themselves where they have. It has been
remarked by some nice Observers and Criticks, that there is nothing
discovers the true Temper of a Person so much as his Letters. I have by
me two Epistles, which are written by two People of the different
Humours above-mentioned. It is wonderful that a Man cannot observe upon
himself when he sits down to write, but that he will gravely commit
himself to Paper the same Man that he is in the Freedom of Conversation.
I have hardly seen a Line from any of these Gentlemen, but spoke them as
absent from what they were doing, as they profess they are when they
come into Company. For the Folly is, that they have perswaded themselves
they really are busy. Thus their whole Time is spent in suspense of the
present Moment to the next, and then from the next to the succeeding,
which to the End of Life is to pass away with Pretence to many things,
and Execution of nothing.


The Post is just going out, and I have many other Letters of very
great Importance to write this Evening, but I could not omit making my
Compliments to you for your Civilities to me when I was last in Town.
It is my Misfortune to be so full of Business, that I cannot tell you
a Thousand Things which I have to say to you. I must desire you to
communicate the Contents of this to no one living; but believe me to
be, with the greatest Fidelity,


_Your most Obedient_,

_Humble Servant_,

Stephen Courier.


I hate Writing, of all Things in the World; however, though I have
drunk the Waters, and am told I ought not to use my Eyes so much, I
cannot forbear writing to you, to tell you I have been to the last
Degree hipped since I saw you. How could you entertain such a Thought,
as that I should hear of that silly Fellow with Patience? Take my Word
for it, there is nothing in it; and you may believe it when so lazy a
Creature as I am undergo the Pains to assure you of it by taking Pen,
Ink, and Paper in my Hand. Forgive this, you know I shall not often
offend in this Kind. I am very much
_Your Servant_,
Bridget Eitherdown.

_The Fellow is of your Country, prythee send me Word how ever whether
he has so great an Estate_.

_Mr_. SPECTATOR, _Jan_. 24, 1712.

I am Clerk of the Parish from whence Mrs. _Simper_ sends her
Complaint, in your Yesterdays _Spectator_. I must beg of you to
publish this as a publick Admonition to the aforesaid Mrs. _Simper_,
otherwise all my honest Care in the Disposition of the Greens in the
Church will have no Effect: I shall therefore with your Leave lay
before you the whole Matter. I was formerly, as she charges me, for
several Years a Gardener in the County of _Kent_: But I must
absolutely deny, that tis out of any Affection I retain for my old
Employment that I have placed my Greens so liberally about the Church,
but out of a particular Spleen I conceived against Mrs. _Simper_ (and
others of the same Sisterhood) some time ago. As to herself, I had one
Day set the Hundredth _Psalm_, and was singing the first Line in order
to put the Congregation into the Tune, she was all the while curtsying
to Sir _Anthony_ in so affected and indecent a manner, that the
Indignation I conceived at it made me forget my self so far, as from
the Tune of that _Psalm_ to wander into _Southwell_ Tune, and from
thence into _Windsor_ Tune, still unable to recover my self till I had
with the utmost Confusion set a new one. Nay, I have often seen her
rise up and smile and curtsy to one at the lower End of the Church in
the midst of a _Gloria Patri_; and when I have spoke the Assent to a
Prayer with a long Amen uttered with decent Gravity, she has been
rolling her Eyes around about in such a Manner, as plainly shewed,
however she was moved, it was not towards an Heavenly Object. In fine,
she extended her Conquests so far over the Males, and raised such Envy
in the Females, that what between Love of those and the Jealousy of
these, I was almost the only Person that looked in the Prayer-Book all
Church-time. I had several Projects in my Head to put a Stop to this
growing Mischief; but as I have long lived in _Kent_, and there often
heard how the _Kentish_ Men evaded the Conqueror, by carrying green
Boughs over their Heads, it put me in mind of practising this Device
against Mrs. _Simper_. I find I have preserved many a young Man from
her Eye-shot by this Means; therefore humbly pray the Boughs may be
fixed, till she shall give Security for her peaceable Intentions.

_Your Humble Servant_,

Francis Sternhold.


[Footnote 1: [_Strenua nos exercet inertia._ - -HOR.]

[Footnote 2: [_but_]]

* * * * *

No. 285. Saturday, January 26, 1712. Addison.

Ne, quicunque Deus, quicunque adhibebitur heros,
Regali conspectus in auro nuper et ostro,
Migret in Obscuras humili sermone tabernas:
Aut, dum vitat humum, nubes et inania captet.


Having already treated of the Fable, the Characters, and Sentiments in
the Paradise Lost, we are in the last Place to consider the Language;
and as the Learned World is very much divided upon Milton as to this
Point, I hope they will excuse me if I appear particular in any of my
Opinions, and encline to those who judge the most advantageously of the

It is requisite that the Language of an Heroic Poem should be both
Perspicuous and Sublime. [1] In proportion as either of these two
Qualities are wanting, the Language is imperfect. Perspicuity is the
first and most necessary Qualification; insomuch that a good-natur'd
Reader sometimes overlooks a little Slip even in the Grammar or Syntax,
where it is impossible for him to mistake the Poets Sense. Of this Kind
is that Passage in Milton, wherein he speaks of Satan.

- God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valu'd he nor shunn'd.

And that in which he describes Adam and Eve.

Adam the goodliest Man of Men since born
His Sons, the fairest of her Daughters Eve.

It is plain, that in the former of these Passages according to the
natural Syntax, the Divine Persons mentioned in the first Line are
represented as created Beings; and that, in the other, Adam and Eve are
confounded with their Sons and Daughters. Such little Blemishes as
these, when the Thought is great and natural, we should, with Horace [2]
impute to a pardonable Inadvertency, or to the Weakness of human Nature,
which cannot attend to each minute Particular, and give the last
Finishing to every Circumstance in so long a Work. The Ancient Criticks
therefore, who were acted by a Spirit of Candour, rather than that of
Cavilling, invented certain Figures of Speech, on purpose to palliate
little Errors of this nature in the Writings of those Authors who had so
many greater Beauties to attone for them.

If Clearness and Perspicuity were only to be consulted, the Poet would
have nothing else to do but to cloath his Thoughts in the most plain and
natural Expressions. But since it often happens that the most obvious
Phrases, and those which are used in ordinary Conversation, become too
familiar to the Ear, and contract a kind of Meanness by passing through
the Mouths of the Vulgar, a Poet should take particular Care to guard
himself against Idiomatick Ways of Speaking. Ovid and Lucan have many
Poornesses of Expression upon this Account, as taking up with the first
Phrases that offered, without putting themselves to the Trouble of
looking after such as would not only have been natural, but also
elevated and sublime. Milton has but few Failings in this Kind, of
which, however, you may [meet with some Instances, as [3] in the
following Passages.

Embrios and Idiots, Eremites and Fryars,
White, Black, and Grey, - with all their Trumpery,
Here Pilgrims roam -

- A while discourse they hold,
No fear lest Dinner cool; - when thus began
Our Author -

Who of all Ages to succeed, but feeling
The Evil on him brought by me, will curse
My Head, ill fare our Ancestor impure,
For this we may thank Adam -

The Great Masters in Composition, knew very well that many an elegant
Phrase becomes improper for a Poet or an Orator, when it has been
debased by common Use. For this Reason the Works of Ancient Authors,
which are written in dead Languages, have a great Advantage over those
which are written in Languages that are now spoken. Were there any mean
Phrases or Idioms in Virgil and Homer, they would not shock the Ear of
the most delicate Modern Reader, so much as they would have done that of
an old Greek or Roman, because we never hear them pronounced in our
Streets, or in ordinary Conversation.

It is not therefore sufficient, that the Language of an Epic Poem be
Perspicuous, unless it be also Sublime. To this end it ought to deviate
from the common Forms and ordinary Phrases of Speech. The Judgment of a
Poet very much discovers it self in shunning the common Roads of
Expression, without falling into such ways of Speech as may seem stiff
and unnatural; he must not swell into a false Sublime, by endeavouring
to avoid the other Extream. Among the Greeks, Æschylus, and sometimes
Sophocles, were guilty of this Fault; among the Latins, Claudian and
Statius; and among our own Countrymen, Shakespear and Lee. In these
Authors the Affectation of Greatness often hurts the Perspicuity of the
Stile, as in many others the Endeavour after Perspicuity prejudices its

Aristotle has observed, that the Idiomatick Stile may be avoided, and
the Sublime formed, by the following Methods. [4]

First, by the Use of Metaphors [: Such are those of Milton. [5]]

Imparadised in one anothers Arms.

- And in his Hand a Reed
Stood waving tipt with Fire. -

The grassie Clods now calvd, -

[Spangled with Eyes - ]

In these and innumerable other Instances, the Metaphors are very bold
but just; I must however observe that the Metaphors are not [so] thick
sown in Milton which always savours too much of Wit; that they never
clash with one another, which, as Aristotle observes, turns a Sentence
into a kind of an Enigma or Riddle; [6] and that he seldom has recourse
to them where the proper and natural Words will do as well.

Another way of raising the Language, and giving it a Poetical Turn, is
to make use of the Idioms of other Tongues. Virgil is full of the Greek
Forms of Speech, which the Criticks call Hellenisms, as Horace in his
Odes abounds with them much more than Virgil. I need not mention the
several Dialects which Homer has made use of for this end. Milton, in
conformity with the Practice of the Ancient Poets, and with Aristotle's
Rule, has infused a great many Latinisms, as well as Græcisms, and
sometimes Hebraisms, into the Language of his Poem; as towards the
Beginning of it.

Nor did they not perceive the evil Plight
In which they were, or the fierce Pains not feel,
Yet to their Genrals Voice they soon obey'd. -

- Who shall tempt with wandring Feet
The dark unbottom'd Infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable Obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his airy Flight
Upborn with indefatigable Wings
Over the vast Abrupt!

[ - So both ascend
In the Visions of God - Book 2.]

Under this Head may be reckon'd the placing the Adjective after the
Substantive, the Transposition of Words, the turning the Adjective into
a Substantive, with several other Foreign Modes of Speech which this
Poet has naturalized to give his Verse the greater Sound, and throw it
out of Prose.

The third Method mentioned by Aristotle is what agrees with the Genius
of the Greek Language more than with that of any other Tongue, and is
therefore more used by Homer than by any other Poet. I mean the
lengthning of a Phrase by the Addition of Words, which may either be
inserted or omitted, as also by the extending or contracting of
particular Words by the Insertion or Omission of certain Syllables.
Milton has put in practice this Method of raising his Language, as far
as the Nature of our Tongue will permit, as in the Passage
above-mentioned, Eremite, [for] what is Hermit, in common Discourse. If
you observe the Measure of his Verse, he has with great Judgment
suppressed a Syllable in several Words, and shortned those of two
Syllables into one, by which Method, besides the above-mentioned
Advantage, he has given a greater Variety to his Numbers. But this
Practice is more particularly remarkable in the Names of Persons and of
Countries, as Beëlzebub, Hessebon, and in many other Particulars,
wherein he has either changed the Name, or made use of that which is not
the most commonly known, that he might the better depart from the
Language of the Vulgar.

The same Reason recommended to him several old Words, which also makes
his Poem appear the more venerable, and gives it a greater Air of

I must likewise take notice, that there are in Milton several Words of
his own coining, as Cerberean, miscreated, Hell-doom'd, Embryon Atoms,
and many others. If the Reader is offended at this Liberty in our
English Poet, I would recommend him to a Discourse in Plutarch, [7]
which shews us how frequently Homer has made use of the same Liberty.

Milton, by the above-mentioned Helps, and by the Choice of the noblest
Words and Phrases which our Tongue would afford him, has carried our
Language to a greater Height than any of the English Poets have ever
done before or after him, and made the Sublimity of his Stile equal to
that of his Sentiments.

I have been the more particular in these Observations on Milton's Stile,
because it is that Part of him in which he appears the most singular.
The Remarks I have here made upon the Practice of other Poets, with my
Observations out of Aristotle, will perhaps alleviate the Prejudice
which some have taken to his Poem upon this Account; tho after all, I
must confess that I think his Stile, tho admirable in general, is in
some places too much stiffened and obscured by the frequent Use of those
Methods, which Aristotle has prescribed for the raising of it.

This Redundancy of those several Ways of Speech, which Aristotle calls
foreign Language, and with which Milton has so very much enriched, and
in some Places darkned the Language of his Poem, was the more proper for
his use, because his Poem is written in Blank Verse. Rhyme, without any
other Assistance, throws the Language off from Prose, and very often
makes an indifferent Phrase pass unregarded; but where the Verse is not
built upon Rhymes, there Pomp of Sound, and Energy of Expression, are
indispensably necessary to support the Stile, and keep it from falling
into the Flatness of Prose.

Those who have not a Taste for this Elevation of Stile, and are apt to
ridicule a Poet when he departs from the common Forms of Expression,
would do well to see how Aristotle has treated an Ancient Author called
Euclid, [8] for his insipid Mirth upon this Occasion. Mr. Dryden used to
call [these [9]]sort of Men his Prose-Criticks.

I should, under this Head of the Language, consider Milton's Numbers, in
which he has made use of several Elisions, which are not customary among
other English Poets, as may be particularly observed in his cutting off
the Letter Y, when it precedes a Vowel. [10] This, and some other
Innovation in the Measure of his Verse, has varied his Numbers in such a
manner, as makes them incapable of satiating the Ear, and cloying the
Reader, which the same uniform Measure would certainly have done, and
which the perpetual Returns of Rhime never fail to do in long Narrative
Poems. I shall close these Reflections upon the Language of Paradise
Lost, with observing that Milton has copied after Homer rather than
Virgil in the length of his Periods, the Copiousness of his Phrases, and
the running of his Verses into one another.


[Footnote 1: Aristotle, Poetics, ii. §26.

The excellence of Diction consists in being perspicuous without being

[Footnote 2:

Verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
Offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura.

De Ar. Poet., II. 351-3.]

[Footnote 3: [see an Instance or two]]

[Footnote 4: Poetics, ii. § 26]

[Footnote 5: [,like those in Milton]]

[Footnote 6:

That language is elevated and remote from the vulgar idiom which
employs unusual words: by unusual, I mean foreign, metaphorical,
extended - all, in short, that are not common words. Yet, should a poet
compose his Diction entirely of such words, the result would be either
an enigma or a barbarous jargon: an enigma if composed of metaphors, a
barbarous jargon if composed of foreign words. For the essence of an
enigma consists in putting together things apparently inconsistent and
impossible, and at the same time saying nothing but what is true. Now
this cannot be effected by the mere arrangement of words; by the
metaphorical use of them it may.]

[Footnote 7: On Life and Poetry of Homer, wrongly ascribed to Plutarch,
Bk. I. § 16.]

[Footnote 8: Poetics, II. § 26.

A judicious intermixture is requisite ... It is without reason,
therefore, that some critics have censured these modes of speech, and
ridiculed the poet for the use of them; as old Euclid did, objecting
that versification would be an easy business, if it were permitted to
lengthen words at pleasure, and then giving a burlesque example of
that sort of diction... In the employment of all the species of
unusual words, moderation is necessary: for metaphors, foreign words,
or any of the others improperly used, and with a design to be
ridiculous, would produce the same effect. But how great a difference
is made by a proper and temperate use of such words may be seen in
heroic verse. Let any one put common words in the place of the
metaphorical, the foreign, and others of the same kind, and he will be
convinced of the truth of what I say.

He then gives two or three examples of the effect of changing poetical
for common words. As, that (in plays now lost):

the same Iambic verse occurs in Æschylus and Euripides; but by means
of a single alteration - the substitution of a foreign for a common and
usual word - one of these verses appears beautiful, the other ordinary.
For Æschylus in his Philoctetes says, "The poisonous wound that eats
my flesh." But Euripides for ([Greek: esthiei]) "eats" says ([Greek:
thoinatai]) "banquets on."]

[Footnote 9: [this]]

[Footnote 10: This is not particularly observed. On the very first page
of P. L. we have a line with the final y twice sounded before a vowel,

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song.

Again a few lines later,

That to the height of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence.

Ten lines farther we read of the Serpent

Stirr'd up with envy and revenge.

We have only an apparent elision of y a few lines later in his aspiring

To set himself in glory above his peers,

for the line would be ruined were the y to be omitted by a reader. The
extreme shortness of the two unaccented syllables, y and a, gives them
the quantity of one in the metre, and allows by the turn of voice a
suggestion of exuberance, heightening the force of the word glory. Three
lines lower Milton has no elision of the y before a vowel in the line,

Against the throne and monarchy of God.

Nor eight lines after that in the words day and night. There is elision
of y in the line,

That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall.

But none a few lines lower down in

Sole reigning holds the tyranny of heaven.

When the y stands by itself, unaccented, immediately after an accented
syllable, and precedes a vowel that is part of another unaccented
syllable standing immediately before an accented one, Milton accepts the
consequence, and does not attempt to give it the force of a distinct
syllable. But Addison's vague notion that it was Milton's custom to cut
off the final y when it precedes a vowel, and that for the sake of being
uncommon, came of inaccurate observation. For the reasons just given,
the y of the word glory runs into the succeeding syllable, and most
assuredly is not cut off, when we read of

the excess
Of Glory obscured: as when the sun, new ris'n,
Looks through the horizontal misty air,

but the y in misty stands as a full syllable because the word air is
accented. So again in

Death as oft accused
Of tardy execution, since denounc'd
The day of his offence.

The y of tardy is a syllable because the vowel following it is
accented; the y also of day remains, because, although an unaccented
vowel follows, it is itself part of an accented syllable.]

* * * * *

No. 286. Monday, January 28, 1712. Steele.

Nomina Honesta prætenduntur vitiis.


York, Jan. 18, 1712.

Mr. Spectator,

I pretend not to inform a Gentleman of so just a Taste, whenever he
pleases to use it; but it may not be amiss to inform your Readers,
that there is a false Delicacy as well as a true one. True Delicacy,
as I take it, consists in Exactness of Judgment and Dignity of
Sentiment, or if you will, Purity of Affection, as this is opposed to
Corruption and Grossness. There are Pedants in Breeding as well as in
Learning. The Eye that cannot bear the Light is not delicate but sore.
A good Constitution appears in the Soundness and Vigour of the Parts,
not in the Squeamishness of the Stomach; And a false Delicacy is
Affectation, not Politeness. What then can be the Standard of Delicacy
but Truth and Virtue? Virtue, which, as the Satyrist long since
observed, is real Honour; whereas the other Distinctions among Mankind
are meerly titular. Judging by that Rule, in my Opinion, and in that
of many of your virtuous Female Readers, you are so far from deserving
Mr. Courtly's Accusation, that you seem too gentle, and to allow too
many Excuses for an enormous Crime, which is the Reproach of the Age,

Online LibraryRichard SteeleThe Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 With Translations and Index for the Series → online text (page 104 of 228)