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Many of the miseries and misfortunes of life proceed from our want of consideration, in one or all of these particulars. They are the rocks on which the sanguine tribe of lovers daily split, and on which the bankrupt, the politician, the alchymist, and projector are cast away in every age. Men of warm imaginations and towering thoughts are apt to overlook the goods of fortune which are near them, for something that glitters in the sight at a distance; to neglect solid and substantial happiness for what is showy and superficial; and to contemn that good which lies within their reach, for that which they are not capable of attaining. Hope calculates its schemes for a long and durable life; presses forward to imaginary points of bliss ; and grasps at impossibilities, and consequently very often insnares men into beggary, ruin, and dishonour.
What I have here said, may serve as a moral to an Arabian fable, which I find translated into French by Monsieur Galland. The fable has in it such a wild, but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and that he will consider himself, if he reflects on the several amusements of hope
· The fable has in it such a wild, but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and that he will consider himself, fc.] This sentence deserves to be well considered: 1. The repetition of but- -“ such a wild, but natural”—“I questioned not but”-has an ill effect. 2. But, in “ I question not but” may seem equivalent to that, for so it follows in the next sentence
“and that he will consider," i. e. I question not, that he will consider.—Why then did he not say—I question not that, in the first instance ? Certainly, to avoid the repetition of that—that I question not that.-After the intervention of a whole sentence, he ventures to assume the regular form—and that he will consider; still the fault is only palliated, not removed. Taking the construction in this light, he had better have expressed himself thus:“The fable has in it such a wild, but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and will consider himself,” &c. But, 3. But is not equivalent to that.—The sense of this particle is, according to its name, always adversative, though the use of it, in our language, be frequently such as may lead a careless reader to think otherwise. The mystery is only this : but, refers very often to something that passes in the writer's, or speaker's mind; and is not expressed. In all cases, the sentence in which it occurs is elliptical ; as that before us, which, when filled up, would run thus—I question not but [believe that] my reader, &c. Sometimes, the ellipsis is only of the derb, as when we say—I question not but that.-All the forms of speaking in which but occurs, and in a sense seemingly not adversative, may be explained in the same manner. The sentence before us is, then, not, which have sometimes passed in his mind, as a near relation to the Persian glass-man. Alnaschar, says
the fable, was a very idle fellow, that never would set his hand to any business during his father's life. When his father died, he left him to the value of a hundred drachmas in Persian money. Alnaschar, in order to make the best of it, laid it out in glasses, bottles, and the finest earthenware. These he piled up in a large open basket, and having made choice of a very little shop, placed the basket at his feet, and leaned his back upon the wall, in expectation of customers. As he sat in this posture with his eyes upon the basket, he fell into a most amusing train of thought, and was overheard by one of his neighbours as he talked to himself in the following manner:
This basket (says he) cost me at the wholesale merchant's a hundred drachmas, which is all I have in the world. I shall quickly make two hundred of it, by selling it in retail. These two hundred drachmas will in a very little while rise to four hundred, which of course will amount in time to four thousand. Four thousand drachmas cannot fail of making eight thousand. As soon as by this means I am master of ten thousand, I will lay aside my trade of glass-man, and turn jeweller. I shall then deal in diamonds, pearls, and all ungrammatical; and is only faulty because it is long and complicated, and something unharmonious, by what could not be avoided, the repetition of that in the last part of it; for, I question not, to which but is opposed, being at a considerable distance, he could not say--but he will consider-as he had said before, but my reader will ; and even then, the sound of but, thus repeated, had been offensive. The way of rectifying the whole passage, is this :—“The fable has in it a very wild and natural air; and question not but (or but that] my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and will consider himself (if he reflects on the several amusements of hope, which have sometimes passed in his mind) as a near relation to the Persian glass-man.”.
As for the ellipsis, it is very frequent, and natural in all languages; the mind hastening to its main conclusion, without stopping to deduce explicitly its intervening ideas : as in the following passage of Euripides
βλέψουν προς ημάς, όμμα δός φίλημά τε,
IPHIG. IN AUL. 1238. -Yet, the perspicuity of a sentence is something hurt by elliptical forms, and the main character of a polished language is perspicuity. One would, therefore, as much as may be, and when custom has not made them necessary, or sufficiently intelligible, always avoid them.
sorts 'of rich stones. When I have got together as much wealth as I can well desire, I will make a purchase of the finest house I can find, with lands, slaves, eunuchs, and horses. I shall then begin to enjoy myself, and make a noise in the world. I will not, however, stop there, but still continue my traffic, till I have got together a hundred thousand drachmas. When I have thus made myself master of a hundred thousand drachmas, I shall naturally set myself on the foot of a prince, and will demand the Grand Vizier's daughter in marriage, after having represented to that minister the information which I have received of the beauty, wit, discretion, and other high qualities which his daughter possesses. I will let him know at the same time, that it is my intention to make him a present of a thousand pieces of gold on our marriage-night. As soon as I have married the Grand Vizier's daughter, I will buy her ten black eunuchs, the youngest and best that can be got for money. I must afterwards make my father-in-law a visit with a great train and equipage. And when I am placed at his right hand, which he will do of course, if it be only to honour his daughter, I'll give him the thousand pieces of gold which I promised him, and afterwards, to his great surprise, will present him with another purse of the same value, with some short speech; as, “Sir, you see I am a man of my word: I always give more than I promise.'
“When I have brought the princess to my house, I shall take particular care to breed in her a due respect for me, before I give the reins to love and dalliance. To this end I shall confine her to her own apartment, make her a short visit, and talk but little to her. Her women will represent to me, that she is inconsolable by reason of my unkindness, and beg me with tears to caress her, and let her sit down by me; but I shall still remain inexorable, and will turn my back upon her all the first night. Her mother will then come and bring her daughter to me, as I am seated upon my sofa. The daughter with tears in her eyes will fling herself at my feet, and beg of me to receive her into my favour : then will I, to imprint in her a thorough veneration for my person, draw up my legs and spurn her from me with my foot, in such a manner that she shall fall down several paces from the sofa."
Alnaschar was entirely swallowed up in this chimerical vision, and could not forbear acting with his foot what he had in his thoughts; so that unluckily striking his basket of brittle ware, which was the foundation of all his grandeur, he kicked his glasses to a great distance from him into the street, and broke them into ten thousand pieces.
No. 536. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14.
O verè Phrygiæ, neque enim Phryges ! As I was the other day standing in my bookseller's shop, a pretty young thing, about eighteen years of age, stept out of her coach, and brushing by me, beckoned the man of the shop to the further end of his counter, where she whispered something to him with an attentive look, and at the same time presented him with a letter : after which, pressing the end of her fan upon his hand, she delivered the remaining part of her message, and withdrew. I observed in the midst of her discourse, that she flushed, and cast an eye upon me over her shoulder, having been informed by my bookseller, that I was the man of the short face, whom she had so often read of. Upon her passing by me, the pretty blooming creature smiled in my face, and dropped me a curtsey. She scarce gave me time to return her salute, before she quitted the shop with an easy skuttle, and stepped again into her coach, giving the footman directions to drive where they were bid. Upon her departure, my bookseller gave me a letter, subscribed, “To the ingenious Spectator," which the young lady had desired him to deliver into my own hands, and to tell me, that the speedy publication of it would not only oblige herself, but a whole tea-table of my friends. I opened it, therefore, with a resolution to publish it, whatever it should contain, and am sure, if any of my male readers will be so severely critical as not to like it, they would have been as well pleased with it as myself, had they seen the face of the pretty scribe.
London, Nov. 1712. You are always ready to receive any useful hint or proposal, and such, I believe, you will think one that may put you in a way to employ the most idle part of the kingdom;
I mean that part of mankind who are known by the name of the women’s-men, or beaus, &c. MR. SPECTATOR, you are sensible these pretty gentlemen are not made for any manly employments, and for want of business are often as much in the vapours as the ladies. Now what I propose is this, since knotting is again in fashion, which has been found a very pretty amusement, that you would recommend it to these gentlemen, as something that may make them useful to the ladies they admire. And since it is not inconsistent with any game, or other diversion, for it may be done in the playhouse, in their coaches, at the tea-table, and in short, in all places where they come for the sake of the ladies, (except at church; be pleased to forbid it there, to prevent mistakes,) it will be easily complied with. It is, beside, an employment that allows, as we see by the fair of
many graces, which will make the beaus more readily come into it; it shows a white hand and a diamond ring to great advantage; it leaves the
eyes at full liberty to be employed as before, as also the thoughts, and the tongue. In short, it seems in every respect so proper, that it is needless to urge it further, by speaking of the satisfaction these male-knotters will find, when they see their work mixed up in a fringe, and worn by the fair lady for whom and with whom it was done. Truly, MR. SPECTATOR, I cannot but be pleased I have hit upon something that these gentlemen are capable of; for it is sad so considerable a part of the kingdom (I mean for numbers) should be of no manner of use.
I shall not trouble you further at this time, but only to say, that I am always your reader, and generally your admirer,
“ C. B.” “P. S. The sooner these fine gentlemen are set to work, the better; there being at this time several fine fringes that stay only for more hands."
I shall, in the next place, present my reader with the description of a set of men who are common enough in the world, though I do not remember that I have yet taken notice of them, as they are drawn in the following letter. “MR. SPECTATOR,
Since you have lately, to so good purpose, enlarged upon conjugal love, it is to be hoped you will discourage every practice that rather proceeds from a regard to interest,