Story type: Essay
Thursday, March 1, 1711. Addison.
‘Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
Cogitat, ut speciosa dehinc miracula promat.’
I have observed, that a Reader seldom peruses a Book with Pleasure ’till he knows whether the Writer of it be a black or a fair Man, of a mild or cholerick Disposition, Married or a Batchelor, with other Particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right Understanding of an Author. To gratify this Curiosity, which is so natural to a Reader, I design this Paper, and my next, as Prefatory Discourses to my following Writings, and shall give some Account in them of the several persons that are engaged in this Work. As the chief trouble of Compiling, Digesting, and Correcting will fall to my Share, I must do myself the Justice to open the Work with my own History.
I was born to a small Hereditary Estate, which [according to the tradition of the village where it lies, ] was bounded by the same Hedges and Ditches in William the Conqueror’s Time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from Father to Son whole and entire, without the Loss or Acquisition of a single Field or Meadow, during the Space of six hundred Years. There [runs ] a Story in the Family, that when my Mother was gone with Child of me about three Months, she dreamt that she was brought to Bed of a Judge. Whether this might proceed from a Law-suit which was then depending in the Family, or my Father’s being a Justice of the Peace, I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any Dignity that I should arrive at in my future Life, though that was the Interpretation which the Neighbourhood put upon it. The Gravity of my Behaviour at my very first Appearance in the World, and all the Time that I sucked, seemed to favour my Mother’s Dream: For, as she has often told me, I threw away my Rattle before I was two Months old, and would not make use of my Coral till they had taken away the Bells from it.
As for the rest of my Infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in Silence. I find that, during my Nonage, I had the reputation of a very sullen Youth, but was always a Favourite of my School-master, who used to say, that my parts were solid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the University, before I distinguished myself by a most profound Silence: For, during the Space of eight Years, excepting in the publick Exercises of the College, I scarce uttered the Quantity of an hundred Words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three Sentences together in my whole Life. Whilst I was in this Learned Body, I applied myself with so much Diligence to my Studies, that there are very few celebrated Books, either in the Learned or the Modern Tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the Death of my Father I was resolved to travel into Foreign Countries, and therefore left the University, with the Character of an odd unaccountable Fellow, that had a great deal of Learning, if I would but show it. An insatiable Thirst after Knowledge carried me into all the Countries of Europe, [in which ] there was any thing new or strange to be 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 my self right in that Particular, returned to my Native Country with great Satisfaction. 
I have passed my latter Years in this City, where I am frequently seen in most publick Places, tho’ 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 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 listning with great Attention to the Narratives that are made in those little Circular Audiences. Sometimes I smoak a Pipe at Child’s;  and, while I seem attentive to nothing but the Post-Man,  over-hear 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 Politicks in the Inner-Room, as one who comes there to hear and improve. My Face is likewise 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, where-ever I see a Cluster of People, I always mix with them, tho’ 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 my self a Speculative Statesman, Soldier, Merchant, and Artizan, without ever medling with any Practical Part in Life. I am very well versed in the Theory of an Husband, or a Father, and can discern the Errors in the Oeconomy, Business, and Diversion of others, better than those who are engaged 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 forc’d to declare myself by the Hostilities of either side. 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 in my Life and Adventures, I shall insert them in following Papers, as I shall see occasion. In the mean time, 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 Speech, I am resolved to do it in Writing; and to Print my self out, if possible, before I Die. I have been often told by my Friends that it is 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 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 my self, 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 any thing that is 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 Publick. They would indeed draw me out of that Obscurity which I have enjoyed for many Years, and expose me in Publick Places to several Salutes and Civilities, 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; tho’ it is not impossible, but I may make Discoveries of both in the Progress of the Work I have undertaken.
After having been thus particular upon my self, 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 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 tho’ our Club 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.
[Footnote 1: I find by the writings of the family,]
[Footnote 2: goes]
[Footnote 3: where]
[Footnote 4: This is said to allude to a description of the Pyramids of Egypt, by John Greaves, a Persian scholar and Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, who studied the principle of weights and measures in the Roman Foot and the Denarius, and whose visit to the Pyramids in 1638, by aid of his patron Laud, was described in his ‘Pyramidographia.’ That work had been published in 1646, sixty-five years before the appearance of the ‘Spectator’, and Greaves died in 1652. But in 1706 appeared a tract, ascribed to him by its title-page, and popular enough to have been reprinted in 1727 and 1745, entitled, ‘The Origine and Antiquity of our English Weights and Measures discovered by their near agreement with such Standards that are now found in one of the Egyptian Pyramids.’ It based its arguments on measurements in the ‘Pyramidographia,’ and gave to Professor Greaves, in Addison’s time, the same position with regard to Egypt that has been taken in our time by the Astronomer-Royal for Scotland, Professor Piazzi Smyth.]
[Footnote 5: publick]
[Footnote 6: ‘Will’s’ Coffee House, which had been known successively as the ‘Red Cow’ and the ‘Rose’ before it took a permanent name from Will Urwin, its proprietor, was the corner house on the north side of Russell Street, at the end of Bow Street, now No. 21. Dryden’s use of this Coffee House caused the wits of the town to resort there, and after Dryden’s death, in 1700, it remained for some years the Wits’ Coffee House. There the strong interest in current politics took chiefly the form of satire, epigram, or entertaining narrative. Its credit was already declining in the days of the ‘Spectator’; wit going out and card-play coming in.]
[Footnote 7: ‘Child’s’ Coffee House was in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Neighbourhood to the Cathedral and Doctors’ Commons made it a place of resort for the Clergy. The College of Physicians had been first established in Linacre’s House, No. 5, Knightrider Street, Doctors’ Commons, whence it had removed to Amen Corner, and thence in 1674 to the adjacent Warwick Lane. The Royal Society, until its removal in 1711 to Crane Court, Fleet Street, had its rooms further east, at Gresham College. Physicians, therefore, and philosophers, as well as the clergy, used ‘Child’s’ as a convenient place of resort.]
[Footnote 8: The ‘Postman’, established and edited by M. Fonvive, a learned and grave French Protestant, who was said to make L600 a year by it, was a penny paper in the highest repute, Fonvive having secured for his weekly chronicle of foreign news a good correspondence in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Flanders, Holland. John Dunton, the bookseller, in his ‘Life and Errors,’ published in 1705, thus characterized the chief newspapers of the day:
‘the ‘Observator’ is best to towel the Jacks, the ‘Review’ is best to promote peace, the ‘Flying Post’ is best for the Scotch news, the ‘Postboy’ is best for the English and Spanish news, the ‘Daily Courant’ is the best critic, the ‘English Post’ is the best collector, the ‘London Gazette’ has the best authority, and the ‘Postman’ is the best for everything.’ ]
[Footnote 9: ‘St. James’s’ Coffee House was the last house but one on the south-west corner of St. James’s Street; closed about 1806. On its site is now a pile of buildings looking down Pall Mall. Near St. James’s Palace, it was a place of resort for Whig officers of the Guards and men of fashion. It was famous also in Queen Anne’s reign, and long after, as the house most favoured Whig statesmen and members of Parliament, who could there privately discuss their party tactics.]
[Footnote 10: The ‘Grecian’ Coffee House was in Devereux Court, Strand, and named from a Greek, Constantine, who kept it. Close to the Temple, it was a place of resort for the lawyers. Constantine’s Greek had tempted also Greek scholars to the house, learned Professors and Fellows of the Royal Society. Here, it is said, two friends quarrelled so bitterly over a Greek accent that they went out into Devereux Court and fought a duel, in which one was killed on the spot.]
[Footnote 11: The ‘Cocoa Tree’ was a Chocolate House in St. James’s Street, used by Tory statesmen and men of fashion as exclusively as ‘St. James’s’ Coffee House, in the same street, was used by Whigs of the same class. It afterwards became a Tory club.]
[Footnote 12: Drury Lane had a theatre in Shakespeare’s time, ‘the Phoenix,’ called also ‘the Cockpit.’ It was destroyed in 1617 by a Puritan mob, re-built, and occupied again till the stoppage of stage-plays in 1648. In that theatre Marlowe’s ‘Jew of Malta,’ Massinger’s ‘New Way to Pay Old Debts,’ and other pieces of good literature, were first produced. Its players under James I. were ‘the Queen’s servants.’ In 1656 Davenant broke through the restriction upon stage-plays, and took actors and musicians to ‘the Cockpit,’ from Aldersgate Street. After the Restoration, Davenant having obtained a patent, occupied, in Portugal Row, the Lincoln’s Inn Theatre, and afterwards one on the site of Dorset House, west of Whitefriars, the last theatre to which people went in boats. Sir William Davenant, under the patronage of the Duke of York, called his the Duke’s Players. Thomas Killigrew then had ‘the Cockpit’ in Drury Lane, his company being that of the King’s Players, and it was Killigrew who, dissatisfied with the old ‘Cockpit,’ opened, in 1663, the first ‘Drury Lane Theatre’, nearly upon the site now occupied by D.L. No. 4. The original theatre, burnt in 1671-2, was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, and opened in 1674 with a Prologue by Dryden. That (D.L. No. 2) was the house visited by ‘the Spectator’. It required rebuilding in 1741 (D.L. No. 3); and was burnt down, and again rebuilt, in 1809, as we now have it (D.L. No. 4). There was no Covent Garden Theatre till after ‘the Spectator’s’ time, in 1733, when that house was first opened by Rich, the harlequin, under the patent granted to the Duke’s Company.
In 1711 the other great house was the theatre in the Haymarket, recently built by Sir John Vanbrugh, author of ‘The Provoked Wife,’ and architect of Blenheim. This ‘Haymarket Theatre’, on the site of that known as ‘Her Majesty’s,’ was designed and opened by Vanbrugh in 1706, thirty persons of quality having subscribed a hundred pounds each towards the cost of it. He and Congreve were to write the plays, and Betterton was to take charge of their performance. The speculation was a failure; partly because the fields and meadows of the west end of the town cut off the poorer playgoers of the City, who could not afford coach-hire; partly because the house was too large, and its architecture swallowed up the voices of the actors. Vanbrugh and Congreve opened their grand west-end theatre with concession to the new taste of the fashionable for Italian Opera. They began with a translated opera set to Italian music, which ran only for three nights. Sir John Vanbrugh then produced his comedy of ‘The Confederacy,’ with less success than it deserved. In a few months Congreve abandoned his share in the undertaking. Vanbrugh proceeded to adapt for his new house three plays of Moliere. Then Vanbrugh, still failing, let the Haymarket to Mr. Owen Swiney, a trusted agent of the manager of ‘Drury Lane’, who was to allow him to draw what actors he pleased from ‘Drury Lane’ and divide profits. The recruited actors in the ‘Haymarket’ had better success. The secret league between the two theatres was broken. In 1707 the ‘Haymarket’ was supported by a subscription headed by Lord Halifax. But presently a new joint patentee brought energy into the counsels of ‘Drury Lane’. Amicable restoration was made to the Theatre Royal of the actors under Swiney at the ‘Haymarket’; and to compensate Swiney for his loss of profit, it was agreed that while ‘Drury Lane’ confined itself to the acting of plays, he should profit by the new taste for Italian music, and devote the house in the ‘Haymarket’ to opera. Swiney was content. The famous singer Nicolini had come over, and the town was impatient to hear him. This compact held for a short time. It was broken then by quarrels behind the scenes. In 1709 Wilks, Dogget, Cibber, and Mrs. Oldfield treated with Swiney to be sharers with him in the ‘Haymarket’ as heads of a dramatic company. They contracted the width of the theatre, brought down its enormously high ceiling, thus made the words of the plays audible, and had the town to themselves, till a lawyer, Mr. William Collier, M.P. for Truro, in spite of the counter-attraction of the trial of Sacheverell, obtained a license to open ‘Drury Lane’, and produced an actress who drew money to Charles Shadwell’s comedy, ‘The Fair Quaker of Deal.’ At the close of the season Collier agreed with Swiney and his actor-colleagues to give up to them ‘Drury Lane’ with its actors, take in exchange the ‘Haymarket’ with its singers, and be sole Director of the Opera; the actors to pay Collier two hundred a year for the use of his license, and to close their house on the Wednesdays when an opera was played.
This was the relative position of ‘Drury Lane’ and the ‘Haymarket’ theatres when the ‘Spectator’ first appeared. ‘Drury Lane’ had entered upon a long season of greater prosperity than it had enjoyed for thirty years before. Collier, not finding the ‘Haymarket’ as prosperous as it was fashionable, was planning a change of place with Swiney, and he so contrived, by lawyer’s wit and court influence, that in the winter following 1711 Collier was at Drury Lane with a new license for himself, Wilks, Dogget, and Cibber; while Swiney, transferred to the Opera, was suffering a ruin that caused him to go abroad, and be for twenty years afterwards an exile from his country.]
[Footnote 13: ‘Jonathan’s’ Coffee House, in Change Alley, was the place of resort for stock-jobbers. It was to ‘Garraway’s’, also in Change Alley, that people of quality on business in the City, or the wealthy and reputable citizens, preferred to go.]
[Footnote 14: pains … are.]
[Footnote 15: ‘The Spectator’ in its first daily issue was ‘Printed for ‘Sam. Buckley’, at the ‘Dolphin’ in ‘Little Britain’; and sold by ‘A. Baldwin’ in ‘Warwick Lane’.’]
[Footnote 16: The initials appended to the papers in their daily issue were placed, in a corner of the page, after the printer’s name.]
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