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thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was anything new or strange to be 50 seen; nay, to such a degree was my curiosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid; and as soon as I had set myself right in that particular, returned to my 55 native country with great satisfaction.
I have passed my latter years in this city, where I am frequently seen in most public places, though there are not above half a dozen of my select friends that know me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There 60 is no place of general resort, wherein I do not often make my appearance; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of politicians at Will's, and listening with great attention to the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes I smoke a pipe at Child's, and 65 whilst I seem attentive to nothing but the Postman, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I
appear on Sunday nights at St. James's coffee-house, and sometimes join the little committee of politics in the inner room, as one who comes there to hear and improve. My face is likewise 70 very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa-tree, and in the theaters both of Drury-Lane and the Hay-market. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years, and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stock-jobbers at Jonathan's. In short, wherever I see a 75 cluster of people, I always mix with them, though I never open my lips but in my own club.
Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind, than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and 80 artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of a husband or a
father, and can discern the errors in the economy, business,
and diversion of others, better than those who are engaged 85 in them; as standers-by discover blots which are apt to
escape those who are in the game. I never espoused any party with violence, and am resolved to observe an exact neutrality between the Whigs and Tories, unless I shall be
forced to declare myself by the hostilities of either side. 90 In short, I have acted in all the parts of my life as a looker-on, which is the character I intend to preserve in this paper.
I have given the reader just so much of my history and character, as to let him see I am not altogether unqualified
for the business I have undertaken. As for other particulars 95 in my life and adventures, I shall insert them in following
papers, as I shall see occasion. In the meantime, when I consider how much I have seen, read, and heard, I begin to blame my own taciturnity; and since I have neither time
nor inclination, to communicate the fulness of my heart in 100 speech, I am resolved to do it in writing, and to print myself
out, if possible, before I die. I have been often told by my friends, that it is a pity so many useful discoveries which I have made should be in the possession of a silent man. For
this reason, therefore, I shall publish a sheet-full of thoughts 105 every morning, for the benefit of my contemporaries; and
if I can any way contribute to the diversion or improvement of the country in which I live, I shall leave it when I am summoned out of it, with the secret satisfaction of thinking that I have not lived in vain.
There are three very material points which I have not spoken to in this paper; and which, for several important reasons, I must keep to myself, at least for some time: I mean, an account of my name, my age, and my lodgings. I
must confess, I would gratify my reader in anything that is 115 reasonable; but as for these three particulars, though I am
sensible they might tend very much to the embellishment
of my paper, I cannot yet come to a resolution of communicating them to the public. They would indeed draw me out of that obscurity which I have enjoyed for many years, and expose me in public places to several salutes and civilities, 120 which have been always very disagreeable to me; for the greatest pain I can suffer, is the being talked to, and being stared at. It is for this reason likewise, that I keep my complexion and dress as very great secrets; though it is not impossible but I may make discoveries of both in the progress 125 of the work I have undertaken.
After having been thus particular upon myself, I shall, in to-morrow's paper, give an account of those gentlemen who are concerned with me in this work; for, as I have before intimated, a plan of it is laid and concerted, as all other 130 matters of importance are, in a club. However, as my friends have engaged me to stand in the front, those who have a mind to correspond with me may direct their letters to the Spectator, at Mr. Buckley's, in Little Britain. For I must further acquaint the reader, that, though our club 135 meets only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have appointed a committee to sit every night, for the inspection of all such papers as may contribute to the advancement of the public weal.
The Vision of Mirzah
(The Spectator, No. 159. Saturday, September 1, 1711.) When I was at Grand Cairo, I picked up several oriental manuscripts, which I have still by me. Among others I met with one entitled The Visions of Mirzah, which I have read over with great pleasure. I intend to give it to the public when I have no other entertainment for them; and 5 shall begin with the first vision, which I have translated word for word as follows :
“On the fifth day of the moon, which, according to the custom of my forefathers, I always keep holy, after having 10 washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I
ascended the high hills of Bagdat, in order to pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer. As I was here airing myself on the tops of the mountains, I fell into a profound
contemplation on the vanity of human life; and passing 15 from one thought to another, ‘Surely,' said I, ‘man is but a
shadow, and life a dream.' Whilst I was thus musing, I cast my eyes towards the summit of a rock that was not far from me, where I discovered one in the habit of a shepherd,
with a musical instrument in his hand. As I looked upon 20 him he applied it to his lips, and began to play upon it. The
sound of it was exceedingly sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpressibly melodious, and altogether different from anything I had ever heard. They put me in
mind of those heavenly airs that are played to the departed 25 souls of good men upon their first arrival in Paradise, to
wear out the impressions of their last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place. My heart melted away in secret raptures.
“I had been often told that the rock before me was the 30 haunt of a Genius; and that several had been entertained
with music who had passed by it, but never heard that the musician had before made himself visible. When he had raised my thoughts by those transporting airs which he
played to taste the pleasures of his conversation, as I looked 35 upon him like one astonished, he beckoned to me, and by
the waving of his hand directed me to approach the place where he sat. I drew near with that reverence which is due to a superior nature; and as my heart was entirely
subdued by the captivating strains I had heard, I fell down 40 at his feet and wept. The Genius smiled upon me with a
look of compassion and affability that familiarized him to
my imagination, and at once dispelled all the fears and apprehensions with which I approached him. He lifted me from the ground, and taking me by the hand, Mirzah,' said he, 'I have heard thee in thy soliloquies; follow me.' 45
“He then led me to the highest pinnacle of the rock, and placing me on the top of it, 'Cast thy eyes eastward,' said he, ‘and tell me what thou seest.' 'I see,' said I, a huge valley, and a prodigious tide of water rolling through it.' 'The valley that thou seest,' said he, “is the Vale of Misery, 50 and the tide of water that thou seest is part of the great Tide of Eternity.' 'What is the reason,' said I, 'that the tide I see rises out of a thick mist at one end, and again loses itself in a thick mist at the other?' 'What thou seest,' said he, ‘is that portion of eternity which is called time, measured 55 out by the sun, and reaching from the beginning of the world to its consummation. Examine now,' said he, 'this sea that is bounded with darkness at both ends, and tell me what thou discoverest in it.' 'I see a bridge,' said I, 'standing in the midst of the tide.' "The bridge thou seest,' said he, 'is 60 Human Life: consider it attentively. Upon a more leisurely survey of it, I found that it consisted of threescore and ten entire arches, with several broken arches, which added to those that were entire, made up the number about a hundred. As I was counting the arches, the Genius told 65 me that this bridge consisted at first of a thousand arches; but that a great flood swept away the rest, and left the bridge in the ruinous condition I now beheld it. “But tell me farther,' said he, 'what thou discoverest on it.' 'I see multitudes of people passing over it,' said I, “and a black cloud 70 hanging on each end of it. As I looked more attentively, I saw several of the passengers dropping through the bridge into the great tide that flowed underneath it; and upon farther examination, perceived there were innumerable trap-doors that lay concealed in the bridge, which the 75