« ForrigeFortsæt »
eauties or agreeables; so that by consequence, after the nagistrates had put off a great many, there were still a great nany that stuck upon their hands. In order, therefore, to clear the market, the money which the beauties had sold for, was disposed of among the ugly; so that a poor man, who could not afford to have a beauty for his wife, was forced to take up with a fortune; the greatest portion being always given to the most deformed. To this the author adds, that every poor man was forced to live kindly with his wife, or, in case he repented of his bargain, to return her portion with her to the next public sale.
"What I would recommend to thee on this occasion is, to establish such an imaginary fair in Great Britain: thou couldst make it very pleasant, by matching women of quality with cobblers and carmen, or describing titles and garters leading off in great ceremony shopkeepers' and farmers' daughters. Though, to tell thee the truth, I am confoundedly afraid, that as the love of money prevails in our island more than it did in Persia, we should find that some of our greatest men would choose out the portions, and rival one another for the richest piece of deformity; and that, on the contrary, the toasts and belles would be bought up by extravagant heirs, gamesters, and spendthrifts. Thou couldst make very pretty reflections upon this occasion in honour of the Persian politics, who took care, by such marriages, to beautify the upper part of the species, and to make the greatest persons in the government the most graceful. But this I shall leave to thy judicious pen.
“I have another story to tell thee, which I likewise met in a book. It seems the general of the Tartars, after having laid siege to a strong town in China, and taken it by storm, would set to sale all the women that were found in it. Accordingly, he put each of them into a sack, and after having thoroughly considered the value of the woman who was enclosed, marked the price that was demanded for her upon the sack. There were a great confluence of chapmen, that resorted from every part, with a design to purchase, which they were to do unsight unseen. The book mentions a merchant in particular, who observing one of the sacks to be marked pretty high, bargained for it, and carried it off with him to his house. As he was resting with it upon a halfway bridge, he was resolved to take a survey of his purchase:
upon opening the sack, a little old woman popped her head out of it; at which the adventurer was in so great a rage, that he was going to shoot her out into the river. The old lady, however, begged him first of all to hear her story, by which he learned that she was sister to a great Mandarin, who would infallibly make the fortune of his brother-in-law as soon as he should know to whose lot she fell. Upon which the merchant again tied her up in his sack, and carried her to his house, where she proved an excellent wife, and procured him all the riches from her brother that she promised him.
"I fancy, if I was disposed to dream a second time, I could make a tolerable vision upon this plan. I would suppose all the unmarried women in London and Westminster brought to market in sacks, with their respective prices on each sack. The first sack that is sold is marked with five thousand pound; upon the opening of it, I find it filled with an admirable housewife, of an agreeable countenance: the purchaser, upon hearing her good qualities, pays down her price very cheerfully. The second I would open, should be a five hundred pound sack: the lady in it, to our surprise, has the face and person of a toast: as we are wondering how she came to be set at so low a price, we hear that she would have been valued at ten thousand pound, but that the public had made those abatements for her being a scold. I would afterwards find some beautiful, modest, and discreet woman, that should be the top of the market; and perhaps discover half a dozen romps tied up together in the same sack, at one hundred pound a-head. The prude and the coquette should be valued at the same price, though the first should go off the better of the two. I fancy thou wouldst like such a vision, had I time to finish it; because, to talk in thy own way, there is a moral in it. Whatever thou mayest think of it, prythee do not make any of thy queer apologies for this letter, as thou didst for my last. The women love a gay, lively fellow, and are never angry at the railleries of one who is their known admirer. I am always bitter upon them, but well with them. "Thine, HONEYCOMB."
No. 512. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17.
Lectorem delectando pariterque monendo. HoR.
THERE is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man who gives it us as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or idiots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shows for our good on such an occasion, as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise, does, in that particular, exercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable; and, indeed, all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another, according to the perfection at which they have arrived in this art. How many devices have been made use of to render this bitter potion palatable! some convey their instructions to us in the best chosen words, others in the most harmonious numbers; some in points of wit, and others in short proverbs.
But among all the different ways of giving counsel, I think the finest, and that which pleases the most universally, is fable, in whatsoever shape it appears. If we consider this way of instructing or giving advice, it excels all others, because it is the least shocking, and the least subject to those exceptions which I have before mentioned.
This will appear to us, if we reflect, in the first place, that upon reading of a fable we are made to believe we advise ourselves. We peruse the author for the sake of the story, and consider the precepts rather as our own conclusions, than his instructions. The moral insinuates itself imperceptibly, we are taught by surprise, and become wiser and better unawares. In short, by this method a man is so far over
1 Ourselves.] Two small inaccuracies in this sentence. 1. Instead of upon reading of a fable," it should have been, " upon the reading of," or, upon reading a fable."--2. The sentence is involved and complicated-"We reflect that we are made to believe that we advise ourselves." -To conceal or palliate the last defect, the second that is left out, but must be supplied by the reader.
reached as to think he is directing himself, whilst he is following the dictates of another, and consequently is not sensible of that which is the most unpleasing circumstance in advice.
In the next place, if we look into human nature, we shall find that the mind is never so much pleased, as when she exerts herself in any action that gives her an idea of her own perfections and abilities. This natural pride and ambition of the soul is very much gratified in the reading of a fable: for in writings of this kind, the reader comes in for half of the performance; everything appears to him like a discovery of his own; he is busied all the while in applying characters and circumstances, and is in this respect both a reader and a composer. It is no wonder, therefore, that on such occasions, when the mind is thus pleased with itself, and amused with its own discoveries, it is highly delighted with the writing which is the occasion of it. For this reason the Absalon and Achitophel was one of the most popular poems that ever appeared in English. The poetry is indeed very fine, but had it been much finer it would not have so much pleased, without a plan which gave the reader an opportunity of exerting his own talents.
This oblique manner of giving advice is so inoffensive, that if we look into ancient histories, we find the wise men of old very often chose to give counsel to their kings in fables. To omit many which will occur to every one's memory, there is a pretty instance of this nature in a Turkish tale, which I do not like the worse for that little Oriental extravagance which is mixed with it.
We are told that the Sultan Mahmoud, by his perpetual wars abroad, and his tyranny at home, had filled his dominions with ruin and desolation, and half unpeopled the Persian empire. The vizier to this great sultan (whether an humourist or an enthusiast we are not informed) pretended to have learned of a certain dervise to understand the language of birds, so that there was not a bird that could open his mouth but the vizier knew what it was he said. As he was one evening with the emperor, on their return from hunting, they saw a couple of owls upon a tree that grew near an old wall, out of an heap of rubbish. I would fain
Chose.] To avoid the fault just now taken notice of, we might say, choosing to give," &c.
2 Which I do which is.] The same fault again.
know," says the sultan, "what those two owls are saying to one another; listen to their discourse, and give me an account of it." The vizier approached the tree, pretending to be very attentive to the two owls. Upon his return to the sultan, "Sir," says he, “I have heard part of their conversation, but dare not tell you what it is." The sultan would not be satisfied with such an answer, but forced him to repeat word for word everything that the owls had said. "You must know then," said the vizier, "that one of these owls has a son, and the other a daughter, between whom they are now upon a treaty of marriage. The father of the son said to the father of the daughter, in my hearing, " Brother, I consent to this marriage, provided you will settle upon your daughter fifty ruined villages for her portion." To which the father of the daughter replied, "Instead of fifty, I will give her five hundred, if you please. God grant a long life to Sultan Mahmoud; whilst he reigns over us, we shall never want ruined villages."
The story says, the sultan was so touched with the fable, that he rebuilt the towns and villages which had been destroyed, and from that time forward consulted the good of his people.
To fill up my paper I shall add a most ridiculous piece of natural magic, which was taught by no less a philosopher than Democritus, namely, that if the blood of certain birds, which he mentioned, were mixed together, it would produce a serpent of such wonderful virtue, that whoever did eat it should be skilled in the language of birds, and understand everything they said to one another. Whether the dervise above-mentioned might not have eaten such a serpent, I shall leave to the determinations of the learned.
No. 513. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18.
-Afflata est numine quando
Jam propiore Dei
THE following letter comes to me from that excellent man in holy orders, whom I have mentioned more than once, as
1 "That-it would produce-of such virtue that."] Still the same fault of a too complicated construction; whence we may conclude that this paper was written carelessly, and in haste.