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miraculous powers which the effluviums of cheese have over bodies whose pores are disposed to receive them in a noxious manner: others gave an account of such who could indeed bear the sight of cheese, but not the taste; for which they brought a reason from the milk of their nurses. Others again discoursed, without endeavouring at reasons, concerning an unconquerable aversion which some stomachs have against a joint of meat when it is whole, and the eager inclination they have for it, when, by its being cut up, the shape which had affected them is altered. From thence they passed to eels, then to parsnips, and so from one aversion to another, till we had worked up ourselves to such a pitch of complaisance, that when the dinner was to come in, we inquired the name of every dish, and hoped it would be no offence to any in the company, before it was admitted. When we had sat down, this civility amongst us turned the discourse from eatables to other sorts of aversions; and the eternal cat, which plagues every conversation of this nature, began then to engross the subject. One had sweated at the sight of it, another had smelled it out as it lay concealed in a very distant cupboard; and he who crowned the whole set of these stories, reckoned up the number of times in which it had occasioned him to swoon away. At last, says he, that you may be all satisfied of my invincible aversion to a cat, I shall give an unanswerable instance: "As I was going through a street of London, where I never had been till then, I felt a general damp and a faintness all over me, which I could not tell how to account for, till I chanced to cast my eyes upwards, and found that I was passing under a signpost on which the picture of a cat was hung."
The extravagance of this turn in the way of surprise, gave a stop to the talk we had been carrying on: some were silent because they doubted, and others because they were conquered in their own way; so that the gentleman had opportunity to press the belief of it upon us, and let us see that he was rather exposing himself than ridiculing others.
I must freely own that I did not, all this while, disbelieve everything that was said; but yet I thought some in the company had been endeavouring who should pitch the bar farthest; that it had, for some time, been a measuring cast, and at last my friend of the cat and sign-post had thrown beyond them all.
I then considered the manner in which this story had been received, and the possibility that it might have passed for a jest upon others, if he had not laboured against himself. From hence, thought I, there are two ways which the wellbred world generally take to correct such a practice, when they do not think fit to contradict it flatly.
The first of these is a general silence, which I would not advise any one to interpret in his own behalf. It is often the effect of prudence in avoiding a quarrel, when they see another drive so fast that there is no stopping him without being run against; and but very seldom the effect of weakness in believing suddenly. The generality of mankind are not so grossly ignorant as some overbearing spirits would persuade themselves; and if the authority of a character, or a caution against danger, make us suppress our opinion, yet neither of these are of force enough to suppress our thoughts of them. If a man who has endeavoured to amuse his company with improbabilities could but look into their minds, he would find that they imagine he lightly esteems of their sense, when he thinks to impose upon them, and that he is less esteemed by them for his attempt in doing so. His endeavour to glory at their expense becomes a ground of quarrel, and the scorn and indifference with which they entertain it begins the immediate punishment: and, indeed, (if we should even go no further,) silence, or a negligent indifference, has a deeper way of wounding than opposition; because opposition proceeds from an anger that has a sort of generous sentiment for the adversary mingling along with it, while it shows that there is some esteem in your mind for him; in short, that you think him worth while to contest with: but silence, or a negligent indifference, proceeds from anger, mixed with a scorn that shows another he is thought by you too contemptible to be regarded.
The other method which the world has taken for correcting this practice of false surprise, is to overshoot such talkers in their own bow, or to raise the story with further degrees of impossibility, and set up for a voucher to them in such a manner as must let them see they stand detected. Thus I have heard a discourse was once managed upon the effects of fear. One of the company had given an account how it had turned his friend's hair grey in a night, while the terrors of a shipwreck encompassed him. Another taking the hint
from hence, began, upon his own knowledge, to enlarge his instances of the like nature to such a number, that it was not probable he could ever have met with them; and as he still grounded these upon different causes, for the sake of variety, it might seem at last, from his share of the conversation, almost impossible that any one who can feel the passion of fear, should all his life escape so common an effect of it. By this time some of the company grew negligent, or desirous to contradict him: but one rebuked the rest, with an appearance of severity, and, with the known old story in his head, assured them they need not scruple to believe that the fear of anything can make a man's hair grey, since he knew one whose periwig had suffered so by it: thus he stopped the talk, and made them easy. Thus is the same method taken to bring us to shame which we fondly take to increase our character. It is, indeed, a kind of mimicry, by which another puts on our air of conversation to show us to ourselves he seems to look ridiculous before you, that you may remember how near a resemblance you bear to him, or that you may know he will not lie under the imputation of believing you. Then it is, that you are struck dumb immediately with a conscientious shame for what you have been saying then it is, that you are inwardly grieved at the sentiments which you cannot but perceive others entertain concerning you. In short, you are against yourself; the laugh of the company runs against you; the censuring world is obliged to you for that triumph which you have allowed them at your own expense: and truth, which you have injured, has a near way of being revenged on you, when by the bare repetition of your story you become a frequent diversion for the public.'
The other day, walking in Pancras church-yard, I thought of your paper wherein you mention epitaphs, and am of opinion this has a thought in it worth being communicated to your readers.
HERE innocence and beauty lies, whose breath
1 I cannot tell how this paper came to be inserted in Mr. Tickell's edition. It certainly was not written by Mr. Addison.
Hence did she go, just as she did begin
66 I am, sir, your servant."
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21.
Et sibi præferri se gaudet
WHEN I have been present in assemblies where my paper has been talked of, I have been very well pleased to hear those who would detract from the author of it observe, that the letters which are sent to the Spectator are as good, if not better than any of his works. Upon this occasion, many letters of mirth are usually mentioned, which some think the Spectator writ to himself, and which others commend because they fancy he received them from his correspondents: such are those from the Valetudinarian; the Inspector of the Sign-posts; the Master of the Fan-exercise; with that of the Hooped-petticoat; that of Nicholas Hart, the Annual Sleeper: that of Sir John Envill; that upon the London Cries; with multitudes of the same nature. As I love nothing more than to mortify the ill-natured, that I may do it effectually, I must acquaint them, they have very often praised me when they did not design it, and that they have approved my writings when they thought they had derogated from them. I have heard several of these unhappy gentlemen proving, by undeniable arguments, that I was not able to pen a letter which I had written the day before. Nay, I have heard some of them throwing out ambiguous expressions, and giving the company reason to suspect that they themselves did me the honour to send me such and such a particular epistle, which happened to be talked of with the esteem or approbation of those who were present. These rigid critics are so afraid of allowing me anything which does not belong to me, that they will not be positive whether the lion, the wild boar, and the flower-pots in the playhouse, did not actually write those letters which came to me in their names. I must, therefore, inform these gentlemen, that I often choose this way of casting my thoughts into a
letter, for these reasons: first, out of the policy of those who try their jest upon another, before they own it themselves. Secondly, because I would extort a little praise from such who will never applaud anything whose author is known and certain. Thirdly, because it gave me an opportunity of introducing a great variety of characters into my work, which could not have been done, had I always written in the person of the Spectator. Fourthly, because the dignity spectatorial would have suffered, had I published, as from myself, those several ludicrous compositions which I have ascribed to fictitious names and characters. And lastly, because they often serve to bring in, more naturally, such additional reflections as have been placed at the end of them.
There are others, who have likewise done me a very particular honour, though undesignedly. These are such who will needs have it, that I have translated or borrowed many of my thoughts out of books which are written in other languages. I have heard of a person, who is more famous for his library than his learning, that has asserted this more than once in his private conversation. Were it true, I am sure he could not speak it from his own knowledge; but had he read the books which he has collected, he would find his accusation to be wholly groundless. Those who are truly learned will acquit me in this point, in which I have been so far from offending, that I have been scrupulous, perhaps to a fault, in quoting the authors of several passages, which I might have made my own. But as this assertion is, in reality, an encomium on what I have published, I ought rather to glory in it, than endeavour to confute it.
Some are so very willing to alienate from me that small reputation which might accrue to me from any of my speculations, that they attribute some of the best of them to those imaginary manuscripts with which I have introduced them. There are others, I must confess, whose objections have given me a greater concern, as they seem to reflect, under this head, rather on my morality than on my invention. These are they who say an author is guilty of falsehood, when he talks to the public of manuscripts which he never saw, or describes scenes of action or discourse in which he was never engaged. But these gentlemen would do well to consider, there is not a fable or parable which ever was made