No. 016 [from The Spectator] by Joseph Addison

Story type: EssayNo. 16Monday, March 19. Addison.Quid verum atque decens curo et rogo, et omnis in hoc sum.Hor.I have receiv’d a Letter, desiring me to be very satyrical …

Story type: Essay

No. 16
Monday, March 19. Addison.

Quid verum atque decens curo et rogo, et omnis in hoc sum.

Hor.

I have receiv’d a Letter, desiring me to be very satyrical 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; [1] a third sends me an 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 Reflections 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 Extravagancies which appear in their outward Dress and Behaviour. Foppish and fantastick 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 descending to the Dress it self; though at the same time I must own, that I have Thoughts of creating an Officer under me to be entituled, The Censor of small Wares, and of allotting him one Day in a 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 employ’d in healing those Blotches and Tumours which break out in the Body, while the other is sweetning 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-bottom’d Perriwigs, with several other Incumbrances of Dress, that they stand in need of being pruned very frequently [lest they should [2]] be oppressed with Ornaments, and over-run with the Luxuriency 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 Excrescencies. 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 Publick; for I would not do any thing of this Nature rashly and without Advice.

There is another Set of Correspondents to whom I must address my self, 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 [3]] cannot spell, and Satyrs compos’d by those who scarce know how to write. By the last Post in particular I receiv’d a Packet of Scandal that is not legible; and have a whole Bundle of Letters in Womens Hands that are full of Blots and Calumnies, insomuch that when I see the Name Caelia, Phillis, Pastora, or the like, at the Bottom of a Scrawl, I conclude on 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 Intreagues and Cuckoldoms, or to bring little infamous Stories out of their present lurking Holes into broad Day light. If I attack the Vicious, I shall only set upon them in a Body: and will not be provoked by the worst Usage that I can receive from others, to make an Example of any particular Criminal. In short, I have so much of a Drawcansir[4] in me, that I shall pass over a single Foe to charge whole Armies. It is not Lais or Silenus, but the Harlot and the Drunkard, whom I shall endeavour to expose; and shall consider the Crime as it appears in a Species, not as it is circumstanced in an Individual. I think it was Caligula who wished the whole City of Rome had but one Neck, that he might behead them at a Blow. I shall do out of Humanity what that Emperor would have done in the Cruelty of his Temper, and aim every Stroak at a collective Body of Offenders. At the same Time I am very sensible, that nothing spreads a Paper like private Calumny and Defamation; but as my Speculations are not under this Necessity, they are not exposed to this Temptation.

In the next Place I must apply my self to my Party-Correspondents, who are continually teazing me to take Notice of one anothers Proceedings. How often am I asked by both Sides, if it is possible for me to be an unconcerned Spectator of the Rogueries that are committed by the Party which is opposite to him that writes the Letter. About two Days since I was reproached with an old Grecian Law, that forbids any Man to stand as a Neuter or a Looker-on in the Divisions of his Country. However, as I am very sensible [my [5]] Paper would lose its whole Effect, should it run into the Outrages of a Party, I shall take Care to keep clear of every thing [which [6]] looks that Way. If I can any way asswage private Inflammations, or allay publick Ferments, I shall apply my self to it with my utmost Endeavours; but will never let my Heart reproach me with having done any thing towards [encreasing [7]] those Feuds and Animosities that extinguish Religion, deface Government, and make a Nation miserable.

What I have said under the three foregoing Heads, will, I am afraid, very much retrench the Number of my Correspondents: I shall therefore acquaint my Reader, that if he has started any Hint which he is not able to pursue, if he has met with any surprizing Story which he does not know how to tell, if he has discovered any epidemical Vice which has escaped my Observation, or has heard of any uncommon Virtue which he would desire to publish; in short, if he has any Materials that can furnish out an innocent Diversion, I shall promise him my best Assistance in the working of them up for a publick Entertainment.

This Paper my Reader will find was intended for an answer to a Multitude of Correspondents; but I hope he will pardon me if I single out one of them in particular, who has made me so very humble a Request, that I cannot forbear complying with it.

To the SPECTATOR.

March 15, 1710-11.

SIR,

‘I Am at present so unfortunate, as to have nothing to do but to mind my own Business; and therefore beg of you that you will be pleased to put me into some small Post under you. I observe that you have appointed your Printer and Publisher to receive Letters and Advertisements for the City of London, and shall think my self very much honoured by you, if you will appoint me to take in Letters and Advertisements for the City of Westminster and the Dutchy of Lancaster. Tho’ I cannot promise to fill such an Employment with sufficient Abilities, I will endeavour to make up with Industry and Fidelity what I want in Parts and Genius. I am,

Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

Charles Lillie.’

C.

[Footnote 1: The Rainbow, near the Inner Temple Gate, in Fleet Street, was the second Coffee-house opened in London. It was opened about 1656, by a barber named James Farr, part of the house still being occupied by the bookseller’s shop which had been there for at least twenty years before. Farr also, at first, combined his coffee trade with the business of barber, which he had been carrying on under the same roof. Farr was made rich by his Coffee-house, which soon monopolized the Rainbow. Its repute was high in the Spectator’s time; and afterwards, when coffee-houses became taverns, it lived on as a reputable tavern till the present day.]

[Footnote 2: that they may not]

[Footnote 3: that]

[Footnote 4: Drawcansir in the Duke of Buckingham’s Rehearsal parodies the heroic drama of the Restoration, as by turning the lines in Dryden’s ‘Tyrannic Love,’

Spite of myself, I’ll stay, fight, love, despair;
And all this I can do, because I dare,

into

I drink, I huff, I strut, look big and stare;
And all this I can do, because I dare.

When, in the last act, a Battle is fought between Foot and great Hobby-Horses

‘At last, Drawcansir comes in and Kills them all on both Sides,’
explaining himself in lines that begin,

Others may boast a single man to kill;
But I the blood of thousands daily spill.]

[Footnote 5: that my]

[Footnote 6: that]

[Footnote 7: the encreasing]

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