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If men truly possess that superiority of understanding over women, which some of them seem to suppose, surely this use of it is equally ungenerous and imprudent. They would, I imagine, show that superiority much more effectually, in endeavouring to imitate the amiable gentleness of the female character, and to acquire, from a sense of its propriety, a virtue, for which, it must be allowed, that the other sex is more indebted to their original constitution.
If women, as we sometimes allege, are too apt to connect the idea of pride, and hardness of manners, with that of knowledge and ability, and on that account, often show a preference to more superficial accomplishments; the men, who value themselves for knowledge and abilities, ought to look into their own conduct for the cause, and, imitating the behaviour of Horatio, endeavour to show that a man's feelings need not be the less delicate for being under the direction of a sound judgment; and that he who best knows the female character, and will put the highest value on its excellence, is also the most likely to make allowance for a difference of taste, and to bear with those little weaknesses with which he knows all human excellence to be often accompanied.
No. 59. TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 1779.
Ex otio plus negotii quàm ex negotio habemus.
VET. SCHOL. AD. ENNIUM IN IPHIGEN.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
SIR, “ I am one of that numerous tribe of men, whom your predecessor, The Spectator, has distinguished by the appellation of Loungers, an innocent, harmless race, who are remarkable for no one offensive quality, except a mortal antipathy at Time; which, as that author says, and we are willing to allow, we study all possible means of killing and destroying. This confession, Sir, of one particular species of malevolence, we are not at all ashamed to make, since the persecution of our adversary is so avowed and notorious, as fully to justify every kind of revenge which we can meditate. We consider time, Sir, as a sort of incubus, or day nightmare, a malignant being, who, like the old man of the sea, in the Arabian Tales, fastens himself upon our shoulders, presses with intolerable weight, and sticks so close, that oftentimes an unhappy victim of his malice is fain to rid himself of his oppressor at the expense of his life. It is not then surprising that it should be the constant study of us, who are infested by this monster, to try every probable scheme for his destruction.
· Now, Sir, as in a long-continued war, the military genius is sharpened by exercise, destructive
inventions are multiplied, and a variety of artful dispositions, manoeuvres, and stratagems are found out, which the great masters of the science, Folard, Puy-Segur, and Saxe, are careful to record for the benefit of belligerent posterity ; so I, in like manner, who for many years have maintained an obstinate warfare with my mortal enemy, have not only put in practice all the common and most approved modes of attack and defence, so as precisely to ascertain the respective merit of each, but I flatter myself with having discovered several artful devices, and ingenious plans, which sufficiently prove my own masterly skill in the science, and which I can recommend to the practice of my brother loungers, from repeated experience of their efficacy.
“I have made so great a proficiency in this useful art, that it was for several years a darling project of mine to digest my knowledge into a regular system; but when, in the prosecution of this great design, I had got the length of forming a complete title-page, and had entered upon the consideration of the plan and arrangement of the work, I found a necessity of abandoning my project, from the immense variety of matter which presented itself to my view, as well as from an unhappy infirmity under which I have laboured from my youth, a sort of lethargic disorder, which totally unfits me for reading or writing more than half an hour at a time.
“ But, Sir, that the world may not be entirely deprived of the fruits of my talents and experience, I have determined to send you some of my detached notes, and a few observations occasionally set down as materials, while the work I have mentioned was in contemplation. These, Sir, as you seem to have a pretty turn for writing, you may,
your own way of periodical speculations, enlarge and improve upon;
or, if you should think proper to follow out my design of a complete treatise on the subject, you have my full permission.
“ The philosophers say, Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I exist. Now, as the sense of our own existence is the most disagreeable of all reflections to us lounging philosophers, it follows that, in order to rid ourselves of that most uneasy sensation, we must endeavour, as much as possible, to banish all thought.
“ To attain this important end, there are various means, according to the variety of tastes. To escape from his own thoughts, one lounger betakes himself to his bottle, another to the gaming-table, and a third .to a mistress. That these methods are frequently successful must be presumed, since the greatest adepts so generally employ them. Nevertheless, I must be excused for binting a very few objections which have occurred in the course of my own practice.
“ As an antidote to the cares of life, and sovereign opiate for the miseries of thought and reflection, there is no medicine which has acquired an equal reputation with a flask of good wine. But most opiates serve only as temporary palliatives, and some, while they give immediate relief, are known to increase the disease. I am afraid we must apply to the pleasures of the bottle, what, with a slight alteration, was said by a wise ancient : ‘Joy may endure for a night, but heaviness, too surely, cometh in the morning.'
" Gaming, too, though a very genteel occupation, must be allowed to approach rather too near to the drudgery of real business. The labour of thought which it requires, and the turbulence of contending passions, are certainly inimical to that tranquil in
difference in which we loungers place our supreme felicity.
“ Although I am well acquainted with all the arguments in favour of gallantry, and allow them to have a great deal of weight, I cannot help thinking that, when considered with a view to our fraternity, it is subject to many inconveniences. Even under the management of the most prudent, it cannot be denied, that it leads to situations in which the peace and quiet, so necessary in the life of a lounger, are disturbed and broken; or leaves him in others that render the presence of his great adversary, Time, more than usually irksome.
“To constitute a complete lounger, it is necessary that he should be a man of taste. Reading, though, as a food, it is gross and of hard digestion, may be taken with much advantage, in small doses, both as a cordial, and as an opiate. For the former of these purposes, I would recommend a complete set of jestbooks from Joe Miller, and the Medley of Fun, down to Jonsoniana ; for the latter, most of the new novels. I would likewise advise the taking in all the magazines and reviews. Those, besides the very considerable amusement in cutting up their leaves, enable a gentleman, by the most compendious means, to form a complete judgment of any author, in any science, and to decide upon his merits in any company, with that proper confidence which represses all opposition of opinion.
“An ingenious author of this age* has lately demonstrated, that it is possible to acquire a critical taste in any of the fine arts, without the smallest portion of natural genius; and it must be acknowledged,
* Mr. Webb. See Preface to his Inquiry into the Beauties of Painting, &c.