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may conduce to the happiness of the other, and cheerfully sacrifice the pleasures of a few years to those of an eternity.1
No. 576. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4.
Nitor in adversum; nec me, qui cætera, vincit
I REMEMBER a young man of very lively parts, and of a sprightly turn in conversation, who had only one fault, which was an inordinate desire of appearing fashionable. This ran him into many amours, and consequently into many distempers. He never went to bed till two a-clock in the morning, because he would not be a queer fellow; and was every now and then knocked down by a constable, to signalize his vivacity. He was initiated into half a dozen clubs before he was one and twenty, and so improved in them his natural gaiety of temper, that you might frequently trace him to his lodgings by a range of broken windows, and other the like monuments of wit and gallantry. To be short, after having fully established his reputation of being a very agreeable rake, he died of old age at five and twenty.
There is, indeed, nothing which betrays a man into so many errors and inconveniences, as the desire of not appearing singular; for which reason it is very necessary to form a right idea of singularity, that we may know when it is laudable and when it is vicious. In the first place, every man of sense will agree with me, that singularity is laudable, when, in contradiction to a multitude, it adheres to the dictates of conscience, morality, and honour. In these cases we ought to consider, that it is not custom, but duty, which is the rule of action; and that we should be only so far sociable, as we are reasonable creatures. Truth is never the less so for not being attended to; and it is the nature ci
These two moral papers, though on the commonest of all subjects, and without the appearance of a new sentiment to recommend them, are, perhaps, as pleasing as any in the Spectator. The reason is, that they are exquisitely well written; by which I only mean, that the style is perfectly clear and pure; that is, such as it should be on the occasion, which requires, and only permits, that plain good sense should be suitably expressed.
Tantùm de medio sumptis accedit honoris !
actions, not the number of actors, by which we ought to regulate our behaviour. Singularity in concerns of this kind is to be looked upon as heroic bravery, in which a man leaves the species only as he soars above it. What greater instance can there be of a weak and pusillanimous temper, than for a man to pass his whole life in opposition to his own sentiments? or not to dare to be what he thinks he ought to be?
Singularity, therefore, is only vicious when it makes men act contrary to reason, or when it puts them upon distinguishing themselves by trifles. As for the first of these, who are singular in anything that is irreligious, immoral, or dishonourable, I believe every one will easily give them up. I shall therefore speak of those only who are remarkable for their singularity in things of no importance, as in dress, behaviour, conversation, and all the little intercourses of life. In these cases there is a certain deference due to custom; and notwithstanding there may be a colour of reason to deviate from the multitude in some particulars, a man ought to sacrifice his private inclinations and opinions to the practice of the public. It must be confessed that good sense often makes a humourist; but then it unqualifies him for being of any moment in the world, and renders him ridiculous to persons of a much inferior understanding.
I have heard of a gentleman in the north of England, who was a remarkable instance of this foolish singularity. He had laid it down as a rule within himself, to act in the most indifferent parts of life according to the most abstracted notions of reason and good sense, without any regard to fashion or example. This humour broke out at first in many little oddnesses: he had never any stated hours for his dinner, supper, or sleep; because, said he, we ought to attend the calls of nature, and not set our appetites to our meals, but bring our meals to our appetites. In his conversation with country-gentlemen, he would not make use of a phrase that was not strictly true: he never told any of them, that he was his humble servant, but that he was his well-wisher; and would rather be thought a malecontent, than drink the king's health when he was not a-dry. He would thrust his head out of his chamber-window every morning, and after baving gaped for fresh air about half an hour, repeat fifty verses as loud as he could bawl them for the benefit of his lungs; to which end he generally took them out of Homer;
the Greek tongue, especially in that author, being more deep and sonorous, and more conducive to expectoration, than any other. He had many other particularities, for which he gave sound and philosophical reasons. As this humour still
grew upon him, he chose to wear a turban instead of a periwig; concluding very justly, that a bandage of clean linen about his head was much more wholesome, as well as cleanly, than the caul of a wig, which is soiled with frequent perspirations. He afterwards judiciously observed, that the many ligatures in our English dress must naturally check the circulation of the blood; for which reason, he made his breeches and his doublet of one continued piece of cloth, after the manner of the Hussars. In short, by following the pure dictates of reason, he at length departed so much from the rest of his countrymen, and, indeed, from his whole species, that his friends would have clapped him into Bedlam, and have begged his estate, but the judge being informed that he did no harm, contented himself with issuing out a commission of lunacy against him, and putting his estate into the hands of proper guardians.
The fate of this philosopher puts me in mind of a remark in Monsieur Fontenelle's Dialogue of the Dead. "The ambitious and the covetous (says he) are madmen to all intents and purposes, as much as those who are shut up in dark rooms; but they have the good luck to have numbers on their side; whereas the frenzy of one who is given up for a lunatic, is a frenzy hors d'œuvre ;" that is, in other words, something which is singular in its kind, and does not fall in with the madness of a multitude.
No. 579. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11.
-Odora canum vis. VIRG.
IN the reign of King Charles I. the Company of Stationers, into whose hands the printing of the Bible is committed by patent, made a very remarkable erratum or blunder in one of their editions; for instead of "Thou shalt not commit adultery," they printed off several thousands of copies with "Thou shalt commit adultery." Archbishop
Laud, to punish this their negligence, laid a considerable fine upon that Company in the Starchamber.
By the practice of the world, which prevails in this degenerate age, I am afraid that very many young profligates, of both sexes, are possessed of this spurious edition of the Bible, and observe the commandment according to that faulty reading.
Adulterers, in the first ages of the church, were excommunicated for ever, and unqualified all their lives for bearing a part in Christian assemblies, notwithstanding they might seek it with tears, and all the appearances of the most unfeigned repentance.
I might here mention some ancient laws among the heathens which punished this crime with death; and others of the same kind, which are now in force among several governments that have embraced the reformed religion. But because a subject of this nature may be too serious for my ordinary readers, who are very apt to throw by my papers, when they are not enlivened with something that is diverting or uncommon; I shall here publish the contents of a little manuscript lately fallen into my hands, and which pretends to great antiquity, though, by reason of some modern phrases and other particulars in it, I can by no means allow it to be genuine, but rather the production of a modern sophist.
It is well known by the learned, that there was a temple upon Mount Etna dedicated to Vulcan, which was guarded by dogs of so exquisite a smell, (says the historian,) that they could discern whether the persons who came thither were chaste or otherwise. They used to meet and fawn upon such as were chaste, caressing them as the friends of their master Vulcan; but flew at those who were polluted, and never ceased barking at them till they had driven them from the temple.
My manuscript gives the following account of these dogs, and was probably designed as a comment upon this story.
"These dogs were given to Vulcan by his sister Diana, the goddess of hunting and chastity, having bred them out of some of her hounds, in which she had observed this natural instinct and sagacity. It was thought she did it in spite of Venus, who, upon her return home, always found her husband in a good or bad humour, according to the reception which she met with from his dogs. They lived in the temple
several years, but were such snappish curs that they frighted away most of the votaries. The women of Sicily made a solemn deputation to the priest, by which they acquainted him, that they would not come up to the temple with their annual offerings unless he muzzled his mastiffs; and at last compromised the matter with him, that the offering should always be brought by a chorus of young girls, who were none of them above seven years old. It was wonderful (says the author) to see how different the treatment was which the dogs gave to these little misses, from that which they had shown to their mothers. It is said that a prince of Syracuse, having married a young lady, and being naturally of a jealous temper, made such an interest with the priests of this temple that he procured a whelp from them of this famous breed. The young puppy was very troublesome to the fair lady at first, insomuch, that she solicited her husband to send him away, but the good man cut her short with the old Sicilian proverb, 'Love me, love my dog.' From which time she lived very peaceably with both of them. The ladies of Syracuse were very much annoyed with him, and several of very good reputation refused to come to court till he was discarded. There were, indeed, some of them that defied his sagacity, but it was observed, though he did not actually bite them, he would growl at them most confoundedly. To return to the dogs of the temple: after they had lived here in great repute for several years, it so happened, that as one of the priests, who had been making a charitable visit to a widow who lived on the promontory of Lilybeum, returned home pretty late in the evening, the dogs flew at him with so much fury, that they would have worried him if his brethren had not come in to his assistance: upon which, (says my author,) the dogs were all of them hanged, as having lost their original instinct."
I cannot conclude this paper without wishing, that we had some of this breed of dogs in Great Britain, which would certainly do justice, I should say honour, to the ladies of our country, and show the world the difference between Pagan women, and those who are instructed in sounder principles of virtue and religion.