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[For the dates, etc., of this periodical, see above under Steele. Addison wrote 274 of the papers, signing them by one of the four letters in the name of the muse Clio. The most characteristic element in his contributions was that of literary criticism; his purpose in this connection is described in the important passage at the close of No. 409, reprinted below.]
No. 10. MONDAY, MARCH 12, 1711
Non aliter quam qui adverso vix flumine lembum
Atque illum in præceps prono rapit alveus amni. — VIRG.
It is with much satisfaction that I hear this great city inquiring day by day after these my papers, and receiving my morning lectures with a becoming seriousness and attention. My publisher tells me that there are already three thousand of them distributed every day. So that if I allow twenty readers to every paper, which I look upon as a modest computation, I may reckon about threescore thousand disciples in London and Westminster, who I hope will take care to distinguish themselves from the thoughtless herd of their ignorant and unattentive brethren. Since I have raised to myself so great an audience, I shall spare no pains to make their instruction agreeable, and their diversion useful. For which reasons I shall endeavor to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality, that my readers may, if possible, both ways find their account in the speculation of the day. And to the end that their virtue and discretion may not be short, transient, intermitting starts of thought, I have resolved to refresh their memories from day to day, till I have recovered them out of that desperate state of vice and folly into which the age is fallen. The mind that lies fallow but a single day, sprouts up in follies that are only to be killed by a constant and assiduous culture. It was said of Socrates that he brought philosophy down from heaven, to inhabit among men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me that I have brought philosophy out of closets and libraries,
schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at teatables and in coffee-houses.
I would therefore in a very particular manner recommend these my speculations to all well-regulated families, that set apart an hour in every morning for tea and bread and butter; and would earnestly advise them for their good to order this paper to be punctually served up, and to be looked upon as a part of the tea-equipage.
Sir Francis Bacon observes that a well written book, compared with its rivals and antagonists, is like Moses's serpent, that immediately swallowed up and devoured those of the Egyptians. I shall not be so vain as to think that where the Spectator appears, the other public prints will vanish; but shall leave it to my reader's consideration whether, is it not much better to be let into the knowledge of one's self, than to hear what passes in Muscovy or Poland; and to amuse ourselves with such writings as tend to the wearing out of ignorance, passion, and prejudice, than such as naturally conduce to inflame hatreds and make enmities irreconcilable?
In the next place, I would recommend this paper to the daily perusal of those gentlemen whom I cannot but consider as my good brothers and allies, - I mean the fraternity of spectators, who live in the world without having anything to do in it, and, either by the affluence of their fortunes, or laziness of their dispositions, have no other business with the rest of mankind, but to look upon them. Under this class of men are comprehended all contemplative tradesmen, titular physicians, fellows of the Royal Society, Templars that are not given to be contentious, and statesmen that are out of business; in short, every one that considers the world as a theatre, and desires to form a right judgment of those who are the actors on it.
There is another set of men that I must likewise lay a claim to, whom I have lately called the blanks of society, as being altogether unfurnished with ideas, till the business and conversation of the day has supplied them. I have often considered these poor souls with an eye of great commiseration, when I have heard them asking the first man they have met with, whether there was any news stirring? and by that means gathering together materials for thinking. These needy persons do not know what to talk of, till about twelve o'clock in
the morning; for by that time they are pretty good judges of the weather, know which way the wind sits, and whether the Dutch mail be come in. As they lie at the mercy of the first man they meet, and are grave or impertinent all the day long, according to the notions which they have imbibed in the morning, I would earnestly entreat them not to stir out of their chambers till they have read this paper, and to promise them that I will daily instil into them such sound and wholesome sentiments as shall have a good effect on their conversation for the ensuing twelve hours.
But there are none to whom this paper will be more useful, than to the female world. I have often thought there has not been sufficient pains taken in finding out proper employments and diversions for the fair ones. Their amusements seem contrived for them rather as they are women than as they are reasonable creatures, and are more adapted to the sex than to the species. The toilet is their great scene of business, and the right adjusting of their hair the principal employment of their lives. The sorting of a suit of ribbons is reckoned a very good morning's work; and if they make an excursion to a mercer's or a toy-shop, so great a fatigue makes them unfit for anything else all the day after. Their more serious occupations are sewing and embroidery, and their greatest drudgery the preparation of jellies and sweetmeats. This, I say, is the state of ordinary women; though I know there are multitudes of those of a more elevated life and conversation, that move in an exalted sphere of knowledge and virtue, that join all the beauties of the mind to the ornaments of dress, and inspire a kind of awe and respect, as well as love, into their male beholders. I hope to increase the number of these by publishing this daily paper, which I shall always endeavor to make an innocent if not an improving entertainment, and by that means at least divert the minds of my female readers from greater trifles. At the same time, as I would fain give some finishing touches to those which are already the most beautiful pieces in human nature, I shall endeavor to point out all those imperfections that are the blemishes, as well as those virtues which are the embellishments, of the sex. In the meanwhile I hope these my gentle readers, who have so much time on their hands, will not grudge throwing away a quarter of an hour in a day
on this paper, since they may do it without any hindrance to business.
I know several of my friends and well-wishers are in great pain for me, lest I should not be able to keep up the spirit of a paper which I oblige myself to furnish every day; but to make them easy in this particular, I will promise them faithfully to give it over as soon as I grow dull. This I know will be matter of great raillery to the small wits, who will frequently put me in mind of my promise, desire me to keep my word, assure me that it is high time to give over, with many other little pleasantries of the like nature, which men of a little smart genius cannot forbear throwing out against their best friends, when they have such a handle given them of being witty. But let them remember that I do hereby enter my caveat against this piece of raillery.
No. 16. MONDAY, MARCH 19, 1711
Quid verum atque decens curo el rogo, et omnis in hoc sum. -HOR.
I have received a letter desiring me to be very satirical upon the little muff that is now in fashion. Another informs me of a pair of silver garters buckled below the knee, that have been lately seen at the Rainbow Coffee-house in Fleet Street. A third sends me a heavy complaint against fringed gloves. To be brief, there is scarce an ornament of either sex which one or other of my correspondents has not inveighed against with some bitterness, and recommended to my observation. I must, therefore, once for all inform my readers that it is not my intention to sink the dignity of this my paper with reflection upon red heels or top-knots, but rather to enter into the passions of mankind, and to correct those depraved sentiments that give birth to all those little extravagances which appear in their outward dress and behavior. Foppish and fantastic ornaments are only indications of vice, not criminal in themselves. Extinguish vanity in the mind, and you naturally retrench the little superfluities of garniture and equipage. The blossoms will fall of themselves when the root that nourishes them is destroyed.
I shall therefore, as I have said, apply my remedies to the first seeds and principles of an affected dress, without descend
ing to the dress itself; though at the same time I must own that I have thoughts of creating an officer under me, to be entitled the Censor of Small Wares, and of allotting him one day in the week for the execution of such his office. An operator of this nature might act under me, with the same regard as a surgeon to a physician; the one might be employed in healing those blotches and tumors which break out in the body, while the other is sweetening the blood and rectifying the constitution. To speak truly, the young people of both sexes are so wonderfully apt to shoot out into long swords or sweeping trains, bushy head-dresses or full-bottomed periwigs, with several other encumbrances of dress, that they stand in need of being pruned very frequently, lest they should be oppressed with ornaments, and overrun with the luxuriancy of their habits. I am much in doubt whether I should give the preference to a Quaker that is trimmed close, and almost cut to the quick, or to a beau that is loaden with such a redundance of excrescences. I must therefore desire my correspondents to let me know how they approve my project, and whether they think the erecting of such a petty censorship may not turn to the emolument of the public; for I would not do anything of this nature rashly and without advice.
There is another set of correspondents to whom I must address myself in the second place: I mean such as fill their letters with private scandal, and black accounts of particular persons and families. The world is so full of ill-nature that I have lampoons sent me by people who cannot spell, and satires composed by those who scarce know how to write. By the last post in particular, I received a packet of scandal which is not legible, and have a whole bundle of letters in women's hands, that are full of blots and calumnies; insomuch that, when I see the name of Celia, Phillis, Pastora, or the like, at the bottom of a scrawl, I conclude of course that it brings me some account of a fallen virgin, a faithless wife, or an amorous widow. I must therefore inform these my correspondents, that it is not my design to be a publisher of intrigues, or to bring little infamous stories out of their present lurking-holes into broad daylight. If I attack the vicious, I shall only set upon them in a body, and will not be provoked by the worst usage I can receive from others to make an example of any particular