Richard Steele.

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Those who have maintain'd that Men would be more miserable than Beasts,
were their Hopes confin'd to this Life only; among other Considerations
take notice that the latter are only afflicted with the Anguish of the
present Evil, whereas the former are very often pained by the Reflection
on what is passed, and the Fear of what is to come. This Fear of any
Future Difficulties or Misfortunes is so natural to the Mind, that were
a Man's Sorrows and Disquietudes summ'd up at the End of his Life, it
would generally be found that he had suffer'd more from the Apprehension
of such Evils as never happen'd to him, than from those Evils which had
really befallen him. To this we may add, that among those Evils which
befal us, there are many that have been more painful to us in the
Prospect, than by their actual Pressure.

This natural Impatience to look into Futurity, and to know what
Accidents may happen to us hereafter, has given birth to many ridiculous
Arts and Inventions. Some found their Prescience on the Lines of a Man's
Hand, others on the Features of his Face; some on the Signatures which
Nature has impressed on his Body, and others on his own Hand-Writing:
Some read Men's Fortunes in the Stars, as others have searched after
them in the Entrails of Beasts, or the Flights of Birds. Men of the best
Sense have been touched, more or less, with these groundless Horrours
and Presages of Futurity, upon surveying the most indifferent Works of
Nature. Can any thing be more surprizing than to consider _Cicero_, who
made the greatest Figure at the Bar, and in the Senate of the _Roman_
Commonwealth, and, at the same time, outshined all the Philosophers of
Antiquity in his Library and in his Retirements, as busying himself in
the College of Augurs, and observing, with a religious Attention, after
what manner the Chickens peck'd the several Grains of Corn which were
thrown to them?

Notwithstanding these Follies are pretty well worn out of the Minds of
the Wise and Learned in the present Age, Multitudes of weak and ignorant
Persons are still Slaves to them. There are numberless Arts of
Prediction among the Vulgar, which are too trifling to enumerate; and
infinite Observations, of Days, Numbers, Voices, and Figures, which are
regarded by them as Portents and Prodigies. In short, every thing
Prophesies to the superstitious Man, there is scarce a Straw or a rusty
Piece of Iron that lies in his way by Accident.

It is not to be conceiv'd how many Wizards, Gypsies, and Cunning-Men are
dispers'd thro' all the Countries and Market-Towns of _Great-Britain_,
not to mention the Fortune-tellers and Astrologers, who live very
comfortably upon the Curiosity of several well-dispos'd Persons in the
Cities of _London_ and _Westminster_.

Among the many pretended Arts of Divination, there is none which so
universally amuses as that by Dreams. I have indeed observ'd in a late
Speculation, that there have been sometimes, upon very extraordinary
Occasions, supernatural Revelations made to certain Persons by this
means; but as it is the chief Business of this Paper to root out popular
Errors, I must endeavour to expose the Folly and Superstition of those
Persons, who, in the common and ordinary course of Life, lay any stress
upon things of so uncertain, shadowy, and chimerical a nature. This I
cannot do more effectually than by the following Letter, which is dated
from a Quarter of the Town that has always been the Habitation of some
prophetick _Philomath_; it having been usual, time out of Mind, for all
such People as have lost their Wits, to resort to that Place either for
their Cure [1] or for their Instruction.

_Moor-Fields_, Oct. 4, 1712.


'Having long consider'd whether there be any Trade wanting in this
great City, after having survey'd very attentively all kinds of Ranks
and Professions, I do not find in any Quarter of the Town an
_Oneirocritick_, or, in plain _English_, an Interpreter of Dreams. For
want of so useful a Person, there are several good People who are very
much puzled in this Particular, and dream a whole Year together
without being ever the wiser for it. I hope I am pretty well qualify'd
for this Office, having studied by Candlelight all the Rules of Art
which have been laid down upon this Subject. My great Uncle by my
Wife's Side was a _Scotch_ Highlander, and second-sighted. I have four
Fingers and two Thumbs upon one Hand, and was born on the longest
Night of the Year. My Christian and Sir-Name begin and end with the
same Letters. I am lodg'd in _Moorfields_, in a House that for these
fifty years has been always tenanted by a Conjurer.

'If you had been in Company, so much as my self, with ordinary Women
of the Town, you must know that there are many of them who every day
in their Lives, upon seeing or hearing of any thing that is
unexpected, cry, _My Dream is out_; and cannot go to sleep in quiet
the next night, till something or other has happen'd which has
expounded the Visions of the preceding one. There are others who are
in very great pain for not being able to recover the Circumstances of
a Dream, that made strong Impressions upon them while it lasted. In
short, Sir, there are many whose waking Thoughts are wholly employ'd
on their sleeping ones. For the benefit therefore of this curious and
inquisitive Part of my Fellow-Subjects, I shall in the first place
tell those Persons what they dreamt of, who fancy they never dream at
all. In the next place, I shall make out any Dream, upon hearing a
single Circumstance of it; and in the last place, shall expound to
them the good or bad Fortune which such Dreams portend. If they do not
presage good luck, I shall desire nothing for my Pains; not
questioning at the same time that those who consult me will be so
reasonable as to afford me a moderate Share out of any considerable
Estate, Profit or Emolument which I shall thus discover to them. I
interpret to the Poor for nothing, on condition that their Names may
be inserted in Publick Advertisements, to attest the Truth of such my
Interpretations. As for People of Quality or others, who are
indisposed, and do not care to come in Person, I can interpret their
Dreams by seeing their Water. I set aside one Day in the Week for
Lovers; and interpret by the great for any Gentlewoman who is turned
of Sixty, after the rate of half a Crown _per_ Week, with the usual
Allowances for good Luck. I have several Rooms and Apartments fitted
up, at reasonable rates, for such as have not Conveniences for
dreaming at their own Houses.

_Titus Trophonius_.

_N. B_. I am not dumb.


[Footnote 1: Bedlam was then in Moorfields.]

* * * * *

No. 206. Friday, October 10, 1712. Budgell.

'Candida perpetuo reside, concordia, lecto,
Tamque pari semper sit Venus æqua jugo.
Diligat illa, senem quondam: Sed et ipsa marito,
Tunc quoque cum fuerit, non videatur anus.'


The following Essay is written by the Gentleman, to whom the World is
oblig'd for those several excellent Discourses which have been marked
with the Letter X.

I have somewhere met with a Fable that made _Wealth_ the Father of
_Love_. It is certain a Mind ought, at least, to be free from the
Apprehensions of Want and Poverty, before it can fully attend to all the
Softnesses and Endearments of this Passion. Notwithstanding we see
Multitudes of married People, who are utter Strangers to this delightful
Passion amidst all the Affluence of the most plentiful Fortunes.

It is not sufficient to make a Marriage happy, that the Humours of two
People should be alike; I could instance an hundred Pair, who have not
the least Sentiment of Love remaining for one another, yet are so like
in their Humours, that if they were not already married, the whole World
would design them for Man and Wife.

The Spirit of Love has something so extremely fine in it, that it is
very often disturbed and lost, by some little Accidents which the
Careless and Unpolite never attend to, till it is gone past Recovery.

Nothing has more contributed to banish it from a married State, than too
great a Familiarity, and laying aside the common Rules of Decency. Tho'
I could give Instances of this in several Particulars, I shall only
mention that of _Dress_. The Beaus and Belles about Town, who dress
purely to catch one another, think there is no further occasion for the
Bait, when their first Design has succeeded. But besides the too common
Fault in point of Neatness, there are several others which I do not
remember to have seen touched upon, but in one of our modern Comedies,
[1] where a _French_ Woman offering to undress and dress herself before
the Lover of the Play, and assuring his Mistress that it was very useful
in _France_, the Lady tells her that's a Secret in Dress she never knew
before, and that she was so unpolish'd an _English_ Woman, as to resolve
never to learn even to dress before her Husband.

There is something so gross in the Carriage of some Wives, that they
lose their Husbands Hearts for Faults, which, if a Man has either
Good-Nature or Good-Breeding, he knows not how to tell them of. I am
afraid, indeed, the Ladies are generally most faulty in this Particular,
who, at their first giving into Love, find the Way so smooth and
pleasant, that they fancy 'tis scarce possible to be tired in it.

There is so much Nicety and Discretion requir'd to keep Love alive after
Marriage, and make Conversation still new and agreeable after twenty or
thirty years, that I know nothing which seems readily to promise it, but
an earnest endeavour to please on both sides, and superior good Sense on
the part of Man.

By a Man of Sense, I mean one acquainted with Business and Letters.

A Woman very much settles her Esteem for a Man, according to the Figure
he makes in the World, and the Character he bears among his own Sex. As
Learning is the chief Advantage we have over them, it is, methinks, as
scandalous and inexcusable for a Man of Fortune to be illiterate, as for
a Woman not to know how to behave her self on the most ordinary
Occasions. It is this which sets the two Sexes at the greatest Distance;
a Woman is vexed and surpriz'd, to find nothing more in the Conversation
of a Man, than in the common Tattle of her own Sex.

Some small Engagement at least in Business, not only sets a Man's
Talents in the fairest Light, and allots him a Part to act, in which a
Wife cannot well intermeddle; but gives frequent occasions for those
little Absences, which, whatever seeming Uneasiness they may give, are
some of the best Preservatives of Love and Desire.

The Fair Sex are so conscious to themselves, that they have
nothing in them which can deserve entirely to engross the
whole Man, that they heartily despise one, who, to use their
own Expression, is always hanging at their Apron-Strings.

_Lætitia_ is pretty, modest, tender, and has Sense enough; she married
_Erastus_, who is in a Post of some Business, and has a general Taste in
most Parts of polite Learning. _Lætitia_, where ever she visits, has the
pleasure to hear of something which was handsomely said or done by
_Erastus_. _Erastus_, since his Marriage, is more gay in his Dress than
ever, and in all Companies is as complaisant to _Lætitia_ as to any
other Lady. I have seen him give her her Fan, when it has dropped, with
all the Gallantry of a Lover. When they take the Air together, _Erastus_
is continually improving her Thoughts, and with a Turn of Wit and Spirit
which is peculiar to him, giving her an Insight into things she had no
notion of before. _Lætitia_ is transported at having a new World thus
open'd to her, and hangs upon the Man that gives her such agreeable
Informations. _Erastus_ has carried this Point still further, as he
makes her daily not only more fond of him, but infinitely more satisfied
with herself. _Erastus_ finds a Justness or Beauty in whatever she says
or observes, that _Lætitia_ herself was not aware of; and, by his
Assistance, she has discovered an hundred good Qualities and
Accomplishments in herself, which she never before once dreamed of.
_Erastus_, with the most artful Complaisance in the World, by several
remote Hints, finds the means to make her say or propose almost whatever
he has a mind to, which he always receives as her own Discovery, and
gives her all the Reputation of it.

_Erastus_ has a perfect Taste in Painting, and carried _Lætitia_ with
him the other day to see a Collection of Pictures. I sometimes visit
this happy Couple. As we were last Week walking in the long Gallery
before Dinner, _I have lately laid out some Mony in Paintings_, says
_Erastus; I bought that_ Venus _and_ Adonis _purely upon_ Lætitia's
_Judgment; it cost me three-score Guineas, and I was this morning
offer'd [a [2]] hundred for it_. I turned towards _Lætitia_, and saw her
Cheeks glow with Pleasure, while at the same time she cast a look upon
_Erastus_, the most tender and affectionate I ever beheld.

_Flavilla_ married _Tom Tawdry_; she was taken with his laced Coat and
rich Sword-knot; she has the mortification to see _Tom_ despised by all
the worthy Part of his own Sex. _Tom_ has nothing to do after Dinner,
but to determine whether he will pare his Nails at St. _James's,
White's_, or his own House. He has said nothing to _Flavilla_ since they
were married, which she might not have heard as well from her own Woman.
He however takes great care to keep up the saucy ill-natur'd Authority
of a Husband. Whatever _Flavilla_ happens to assert, _Tom_ immediately
contradicts with an Oath, by way of Preface, and, _My Dear, I must tell
you, you talk most confoundedly silly. Flavilla_ had a Heart naturally
as well dispos'd for all the Tenderness of Love as that of _Lætitia_;
but as Love seldom continues long after Esteem, it is difficult to
determine, at present, whether the unhappy _Flavilla_ hates or despises
the Person most, whom she is obliged to lead her whole Life with.


[Footnote 1: Steele's _Funeral_, or _Grief a la Mode_, Act III.]

[Footnote 2: [an] and in first reprint.]

* * * * *

No. 507. Saturday, October 11, 1712. Addison.

'Defendit numerus, junctæque umbone Phalanges.'


There is something very Sublime, tho' very fanciful, in _Plato's_
Description of the Supreme Being, That _Truth is his Body, and Light his
Shadow_. According to this Definition, there is nothing so contradictory
to his Nature, as Error and Falshood. The Platonists have so just a
Notion of the Almighty's Aversion to every thing which is false and
erroneous, that they looked upon _Truth_ as no less necessary than
_Virtue_, to qualifie an human Soul for the Enjoyment of a separate
State. For this reason as they recommended Moral Duties to qualifie and
season the Will for a future Life, so they prescribed several
Contemplations and Sciences to rectifie the Understanding. Thus _Plato_
has called Mathematical Demonstrations the Catharticks or Purgatives of
the Soul, as being the most proper Means to cleanse it from Error, and
to give it a Relish of Truth; which is the natural Food and Nourishment
of the Understanding, as Virtue is the Perfection and Happiness of the

There are many Authors who have shewn wherein the Malignity of a _Lie_
consists, and set forth in proper Colours, the Heinousness of the
Offence. I shall here consider one Particular Kind of this Crime, which
has not been so much spoken to; I mean that abominable Practice of
_Party-lying_. This Vice is so very predominant among us at present,
that a Man is thought of no Principles, who does not propagate a certain
System of Lies. The Coffee-Houses are supported by them, the Press is
choaked with them, eminent Authors live upon them. Our
Bottle-Conversation is so infected with them, that a Party-Lie is grown
as fashionable an Entertainment, as a lively Catch or a merry Story: The
Truth of it is, half the great Talkers in the Nation would be struck
dumb, were this Fountain of Discourse dried up. There is however one
Advantage resulting from this detestable Practice; the very Appearances
of Truth are so little regarded, that Lies are at present discharg'd in
the Air, and begin to hurt no Body. When we hear a Party-story from a
Stranger, we consider whether he is a Whig or a Tory that relates it,
and immediately conclude they are Words of course, in which the honest
Gentleman designs to recommend his Zeal, without any Concern for his
Veracity. A Man is looked upon as bereft of common Sense, that gives
Credit to the Relations of Party-Writers; [nay] his own Friends shake
their Heads at him, and consider him in no other Light than as an
officious Tool or a well-meaning Ideot. When it was formerly the Fashion
to husband a Lie, and trump it up in some extraordinary Emergency, it
generally did Execution, and was not a little serviceable to the Faction
that made use of it; but at present every Man is upon his Guard, the
Artifice has been too often repeated to take Effect.

I have frequently wonder'd to see Men of Probity, who would scorn to
utter a Falshood for their own particular Advantage, give so readily
into a Lie when it becomes the Voice of their Faction, notwithstanding
they are thoroughly sensible of it as such. How is it possible for those
who are Men of Honour in their Persons, thus to become notorious Liars
in their Party? If we look into the Bottom of this Matter, we may find,
I think, three Reasons for it, and at the same time discover the
Insufficiency of these Reasons to justify so Criminal a Practice.

In the first place, Men are apt to think that the Guilt of a Lie, and
consequently the Punishment, may be very much diminish'd, if not wholly
worn out, by the Multitudes of those who partake in it. Tho' the Weight
of a Falshood would be too heavy for _one_ to bear, it grows light in
their Imaginations, when it is shared among _many_. But in this Case a
Man very much deceives himself; Guilt, when it spreads thro' numbers, is
not so properly divided as multiplied: Every one is criminal in
proportion to the Offence which he commits, not to the Number of those
who are his Companions in it. Both the Crime and the Penalty lie as
heavy upon every Individual of an offending Multitude, as they would
upon any single Person had none shared with him in the Offence. In a
word, the Division of Guilt is like that of Matter; tho' it may be
separated into infinite Portions, every Portion shall have the whole
Essence of Matter in it, and consist of as many Parts as the Whole did
before it was divided.

But in the second place, tho' Multitudes, who join in a Lie, cannot
exempt themselves from the Guilt, they may from the Shame of it. The
Scandal of a Lie is in a manner lost and annihilated, when diffused
among several Thousands; as a Drop of the blackest Tincture wears away
and vanishes, when mixed and confused in a considerable Body of Water;
the Blot is still in it, but is not able to discover it self. This is
certainly a very great Motive to several Party-Offenders, who avoid
Crimes, not as they are prejudicial to their Virtue, but to their
Reputation. It is enough to shew the Weakness of this Reason, which
palliates Guilt without removing it, that every Man who is influenced by
it declares himself in effect an infamous Hypocrite, prefers the
Appearance of Virtue to its Reality, and is determined in his Conduct
neither by the Dictates of his own Conscience, the Suggestions of true
Honour, nor the Principles of Religion.

The third and last great Motive for Mens joining in a popular Falshood,
or, as I have hitherto called it, a Party-Lie, notwithstanding they are
convinced of it as such, is the doing Good to a Cause which every Party
may be supposed to look upon as the most meritorious. The Unsoundness of
this Principle has been so often exposed, and is so universally
acknowledged, that a Man must be an utter Stranger to the Principles,
either of natural Religion or Christianity, who suffers himself to be
guided by it. If a Man might promote the supposed Good of his Country by
the blackest Calumnies and Falshoods, our Nation abounds more in
Patriots than any other of the Christian World. When _Pompey_ was
desired not to set Sail in a Tempest that would hazard his Life, _It is
necessary for me_, says he, _to Sail, but it is not necessary for me to
Live_: [1] Every Man should say to himself, with the same Spirit, It is
my Duty to speak Truth, tho' it is not my Duty to be in an Office. One
of the Fathers hath carried this Point so high, as to declare, _He would
not tell a Lie, tho' he were sure to gain Heaven by it_. However
extravagant such a Protestation may appear, every one will own, that a
Man may say very reasonably, _He would not tell a Lie, if he were sure
to gain Hell by it_; or, if you have a mind to soften the Expression,
that he would not tell a Lie to gain any Temporal Reward by it, when he
should run the hazard of losing much more than it was possible for him
to gain.


[Footnote 1: Quoted from Plutarch's Life, § 50. Terser in the
original: - '[Greek: Plein anágkae, zaen ouk anágkae.]']

* * * * *

No. 508. Monday, October 13, 1712. Steele.

'Omnes autem et habentur et dicuntur Tyranni, qui potestate sunt
perpetua, in ea Civitate quæ libertate usa est.'

Corn. Nepos.

The following Letters complain of what I have frequently observed with
very much Indignation; therefore I shall give them to the Publick in the
Words with which my Correspondents, who suffer under the Hardships
mention'd in them, describe them.


'In former Ages all Pretensions to Dominion have been supported and
submitted to, either upon Account of Inheritance, Conquest or
Election; and all such Persons who have taken upon 'em any Soveraignty
over their Fellow-Creatures upon any other Account, have been always
called Tyrants, not so much because they were guilty of any particular
Barbarities, as because every Attempt to such a Superiority was in its
Nature tyrannical. But there is another sort of Potentates, who may
with greater Propriety be call'd Tyrants, than those last mention'd,
both as they assume a despotick Dominion over those as free as
themselves, and as they support it by Acts of notable Oppression and
Injustice; and these are the Rulers in all Clubs and Meetings. In
other Governments, the Punishments of some have been alleviated by the
Reward of others; but what makes the Reign of these Potentates so
particularly grievous, is, that they are exquisite in punishing their
Subjects, at the same time they have it not in their power to reward
'em. That the Reader may the better comprehend the Nature of these
Monarchs, as well as the miserable State of those that are their
Vassals, I shall give an Account of the King of the Company I am
fallen into, whom for his particular Tyranny I shall call _Dionysius_;
as also of the Seeds that sprung up to this odd sort of Empire.

'Upon all Meetings at Taverns, 'tis necessary some one of the Company
should take it upon him to get all things in such order and readiness,
as may contribute as much as possible to the Felicity of the
Convention; such as hastening the Fire, getting a sufficient number of
Candles, tasting the Wine with a judicious Smack, fixing the Supper,
and being brisk for the Dispatch of it. Know then, that _Dionysius_
went thro' these Offices with an Air that seem'd to express a
Satisfaction rather in serving the Publick, than in gratifying any
particular Inclination of his own. We thought him a Person of an
exquisite Palate, and therefore by consent beseeched him to be always
our Proveditor; which Post, after he had handsomely denied, he could
do no otherwise than accept. At first he made no other use of his
Power, than in recommending such and such things to the Company, ever
allowing these Points to be disputable; insomuch that I have often
carried the Debate for Partridge, when his Majesty has given
Intimation of the high Relish of Duck, but at the same time has
chearfully submitted, and devour'd his Partridge with most gracious
Resignation. This Submission on his side naturally produc'd the like
on ours; of which he in a little time made such barbarous Advantage,

Online LibraryRichard SteeleThe Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 With Translations and Index for the Series → online text (page 179 of 228)