« السابقةمتابعة »
If his Catholic Majesty shall ever come to an understanding of this paragraph, and strike a fair comparison between himself and his illustrious namesake, I should not be surprised if the next work his academicians shall be employed in proves the fortifications of Ceuta.
When I compare the state of ffattery in a free country, with that which obtains in arbitrary states, it is a consolation to find that this mean principle is not natural to mankind; for it certainly abates in proportion as independency advances. This will be very evident to any one, who compares the flat. tery of Elizabeth's and James's days with the present. Ben Jonson, for instance, was a surly poet, yet how fulsome are his masques ! In his News from the New World, he says of James
Read him as you wonld do the book
What his proportions be:
But is pure harmony.
This poet, though he was rather a clumsy flat. terer of his prince, was ingenions enough in the mode he took for flattering himself, by introducing a kind of chorus, wherein he takes occasion to tell his hearers; that careless of all vulgar censurc, as not depending on common approbation, he is confident his plays shall super-please judicious spectators, and to them he leaves it to work with the rest, by example or otherwise. It is remarkable that this passage should be found in his Magnetic Lady, and that he should speak with such confidence of one of his worst produce tions, as if he was determined to force a bad comedy upon the hearers by the anthority of his own recom. mendation. This is an evidentimitation of Aristophanes, who, in his comedy of The Clouds holds the same language to his audience, fairly telling them he shall estimate their judgment according to the degree of applause they shall bestow upon his performance then before them : in conclusion he inveighs against certain of his contemporaries, Eupolis, Phrynichus, and Hermippus, with whose comedies, if any of his audience is well pleased, that person he hopes will depart from his dissatisfied ; but if they condemn his rirals, and applaud him, he shall think better of their judgment for the future. Act 1. sc. 6.
The caution authors now proceed with shews the refinement of the times ; still they can contrive in a modest way to say civil things of themselves, and it would be hard indeed to disappoint them of so slight a gratification for what praise is so little to be envied, as that which a man bestows on himself? Several of our diurnal essayists have contrived under the veil of fiction to hook in something recommendatory of themselves, which they mean should pass for truth; such is the intelligent taciturnity of the Spectator, and the solemn integrity of the Guardian.
The latter, in one of his papers, notices the am. bition of some authors to prefix engravings of their portraits to their title-pages; his ridicule has not quite laughed this fashion out of countenance, for I perceive it is still in existence, and I frequently meet the face of an old acquaintance looking through the windows of a bookseller's shop. One very ingenious gentleman, whose beauty is amongst the least of his recommendations, has very prudently stamped his age upon his print. In the same shop window with this gentleman, I observed with great pleasure an elegant anthor standing by him, as erect as a dart, firm and collected in the awful moment of
beginning a minuet. I own I regret that the honest ... butler, who has regalcd the age with a treatise on ale
and strong beer, has not hung out his own head in the front of his book, as a sign of the good entertainment within.
But of all the instances of face-fattery I have lately met with, that of a worthy citizen surprised me most, whose compting-house I entered the other day, and found an enormous portrait of my friend in a flaming drapery of blue and gold, mounted upon the back of a war-horse, which the limner has made to rear so furiously, that I was quite asto, nished to see my friend, who is no great jockey, keep his seat so steadily : he confessed to me that he had consented to be drawn on horseback to please his wife and daughters, who chose the attitude ; for his own part it made him quite giddy to look at himself, and he frequently desired the painter not to let the horse prance so, but to no purpose.
Too great avidity of praise will sometimes betray an author into a studied attempt at fine writing, where the thought will not carry the style; writers of this sort are like those tasteless dabblers in archi: tecture, who turn the gable-ends of barns and cot. tages into castles and temples, and spend a world of plaistering and pains to decorate a pig-stye, They bring to my mind a ridiculous scene, at which I was present the other day: I found a lady of my acquaintance busily employed in the domes, tic education of her only son ; the preceptor was in the room, and was standing in an attitude very much resembling the erect gentleman I had seen that morning in the bookseller's window : the boy kept his eyes fixt, and seemed to govern his motions by certain signals of the feet and arms, which he repeated from the preceptor. In the course of my conversation with his mother, I chanced to drop my glove upon the floor, upon which he approached to pick it up, but in a step so measured and methodical, that I had done the office for myself, before he had performed his advances. As I was about to resume the conversation, the mother interrupted me, by desiring I would favour her so far as to drop my glove again, that Bobby might have the honour of presenting it to me in proper form : all this while the boy stood as upright as an arrow, perfectly motionless; but no sooner had I thrown down my gauntlet, than he began to put one foot slowly in advance before the other; upon which the preceptor of politeness cried out, one ! first position !-The boy then made an. other movement of his feet, upon which the master repeated-two!-second position !- This was followed by another, and the echo again cried out-three! tery well-third position! bend your body slowly !--At the word of command the automaton bent his body very deliberately, its arms hanging down in parallel perpendiculars to the floor, like the fore.legs of a quadruped. The glove being now taken up by the right hand, was placed with great decorum upon the back of the left hand ; the trunk of the animal was slowly restored to its erect position, and the glove presented with all due solemnity. As I was in hopes the ceremony was now over, upon hearing the teacher cry bravo ! I thought it time to make my compliment of, thank you, pretty Master! but I was again in a mistake, for the mother begged me not to hurry her dear Bobby, but allow him time to make his bow, and still hold the glove in my hand: this was an operation of no slight con. sequence, for in the time it took him up, a nimble artist might have made the glove: at last, however, it was over, and the boy was putting himself in order of retreat, when the master observing that I had omitted the necessary bend of my wrist upon receiving the glove, for want of which the whole
had been imperfect, proposed a repetition of the maneuvre, in which Bobby should be the dropper, and himself the picker up of the glove. This pro , posal struck me with such horror, that, taking a hasty leave of the lady, in which, first, second, and third position were probably huddled all together, I departed, repeating to myself in the words of Foigard, all this may be very fine, but upon my soul it is very ridiculous.
LADY THimblr. is one of those female pedants, who, with quick animal spirits, a port imagination, great self-conceit, and a homely person, scts herself up for a woman of talents : she has as much of the learned languages, as a boarding-school girl carries home of French upon her first holidays, when Miss assures you she can call for what she wants, and, though she won't utter a word in the parlour from pretended modesty, insults the ignorance of the chambermaid with an eternal jargon of bad grammar, worse pronounced. This learned lady is the only child of a wealthy trader of the city of London, who, having never advanced in his own education beyond the erudition of the compting-house, took care his daughter should be instructed in every thing he did not understand himself, and as the girl grew exceedingly vain of the applause of the pedagogue, who read to her, the merchant grew as vain of the scholarship of his child, and would listen to the sound of Latin or Greek with as much superstitious