No. 037 [from The Spectator] by Joseph Addison

Story type: Essay

No. 37
Thursday, April 12, 1711. Addison.

… Non illa colo calathisve Minervae
Foemineas assueta manus …


Some Months ago, my Friend Sir Roger, being in the Country, enclosed a Letter to me, directed to a certain Lady whom I shall here call by the Name of Leonora, and as it contained Matters of Consequence, desired me to deliver it to her with my own Hand. Accordingly I waited upon her Ladyship pretty early in the Morning, and was desired by her Woman to walk into her Lady’s Library, till such time as she was in a Readiness to receive me. The very Sound of a Lady’s Library gave me a great Curiosity to see it; and as it was some time before the Lady came to me, I had an Opportunity of turning over a great many of her Books, which were ranged together in a very beautiful Order. At the End of the Folios (which were finely bound and gilt) were great Jars of China placed one above another in a very noble Piece of Architecture. The Quartos were separated from the Octavos by a Pile of smaller Vessels, which rose in a [delightful[1]] Pyramid. The Octavos were bounded by Tea Dishes of all Shapes Colours and Sizes, which were so disposed on a wooden Frame, that they looked like one continued Pillar indented with the finest Strokes of Sculpture, and stained with the greatest Variety of Dyes. That Part of the Library which was designed for the Reception of Plays and Pamphlets, and other loose Papers, was enclosed in a kind of Square, consisting of one of the prettiest Grotesque Works that ever I saw, and made up of Scaramouches, Lions, Monkies, Mandarines, Trees, Shells, and a thousand other odd Figures in China Ware. In the midst of the Room was a little Japan Table, with a Quire of gilt Paper upon it, and on the Paper a Silver Snuff-box made in the Shape of a little Book. I found there were several other Counterfeit Books upon the upper Shelves, which were carved in Wood, and served only to fill up the Number, like Fagots in the muster of a Regiment. I was wonderfully pleased with such a mixt kind of Furniture, as seemed very suitable both to the Lady and the Scholar, and did not know at first whether I should fancy my self in a Grotto, or in a Library.

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Upon my looking into the Books, I found there were some few which the Lady had bought for her own use, but that most of them had been got together, either because she had heard them praised, or because she had seen the Authors of them. Among several that I examin’d, I very well remember these that follow. [2]

Ogleby’s Virgil.
Dryden’s Juvenal.
Sir Isaac Newton’s Works.
The Grand Cyrus: With a Pin stuck in one of the middle Leaves.
Pembroke’s Arcadia.
Locke of Human Understanding: With a Paper of Patches in it.
A Spelling-Book.
A Dictionary for the Explanation of hard Words.
Sherlock upon Death.
The fifteen Comforts of Matrimony.
Sir William Temptle’s Essays.
Father Malbranche’s Search after Truth, translated into English.
A Book of Novels.
The Academy of Compliments.
Culpepper’s Midwifry.
The Ladies Calling.
Tales in Verse by Mr. Durfey : Bound in Red Leather, gilt on the
Back, and doubled down in several Places.
All the Classick Authors in Wood.
A set of Elzevers by the same Hand.
Clelia : Which opened of it self in the Place that describes two
Lovers in a Bower.
Baker’s Chronicle.
Advice to a Daughter.
The New Atalantis, with a Key to it.
Mr. Steel’s Christian Heroe.
A Prayer Book: With a Bottle of Hungary Water by the side of it.
Dr. Sacheverell’s Speech.
Fielding’s Tryal.
Seneca’s Morals.
Taylor’s holy Living and Dying.
La ferte’s Instructions for Country Dances.

I was taking a Catalogue in my Pocket-Book of these, and several other Authors, when Leonora entred, and upon my presenting her with the Letter from the Knight, told me, with an unspeakable Grace, that she hoped Sir ROGER was in good Health: I answered Yes, for I hate long Speeches, and after a Bow or two retired.

Leonora was formerly a celebrated Beauty, and is still a very lovely Woman. She has been a Widow for two or three Years, and being unfortunate in her first Marriage, has taken a Resolution never to venture upon a second. She has no Children to take care of, and leaves the Management of her Estate to my good Friend Sir ROGER. But as the Mind naturally sinks into a kind of Lethargy, and falls asleep, that is not agitated by some Favourite Pleasures and Pursuits, Leonora has turned all the Passions of her Sex into a Love of Books and Retirement. She converses chiefly with Men (as she has often said herself), but it is only in their Writings; and admits of very few Male-Visitants, except my Friend Sir ROGER, whom she hears with great Pleasure, and without Scandal. As her Reading has lain very much among Romances, it has given her a very particular Turn of Thinking, and discovers it self even in her House, her Gardens, and her Furniture. Sir ROGER has entertained me an Hour together with a Description of her Country-Seat, which is situated in a kind of Wilderness, about an hundred Miles distant from London, and looks like a little Enchanted Palace. The Rocks about her are shaped into Artificial Grottoes covered with Wood-Bines and Jessamines. The Woods are cut into shady Walks, twisted into Bowers, and filled with Cages of Turtles. The Springs are made to run among Pebbles, and by that means taught to Murmur very agreeably. They are likewise collected into a Beatiful Lake that is Inhabited by a Couple of Swans, and empties it self by a litte Rivulet which runs through a Green Meadow, and is known in the Family by the Name of The Purling Stream. The Knight likewise tells me, that this Lady preserves her Game better than any of the Gentlemen in the Country, not (says Sir ROGER) that she sets so great a Value upon her Partridges and Pheasants, as upon her Larks and Nightingales. For she says that every Bird which is killed in her Ground, will spoil a Consort, and that she shall certainly miss him the next Year.

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When I think how odly this Lady is improved by Learning, I look upon her with a Mixture of Admiration and Pity. Amidst these Innocent Entertainments which she has formed to her self, how much more Valuable does she appear than those of her Sex, [who [3]] employ themselves in Diversions that are less Reasonable, tho’ more in Fashion? What Improvements would a Woman have made, who is so Susceptible of Impressions from what she reads, had she been guided to such Books as have a Tendency to enlighten the Understanding and rectify the Passions, as well as to those which are of little more use than to divert the Imagination?

But the manner of a Lady’s Employing her self usefully in Reading shall be the Subject of another Paper, in which I design to recommend such particular Books as may be proper for the Improvement of the Sex. And as this is a Subject of a very nice Nature, I shall desire my Correspondents to give me their Thoughts upon it.


[Footnote 1: very delightful]

[Footnote 2: John Ogilby, or Ogilvy, who died in 1676, aged 76, was originally a dancing-master, then Deputy Master of the Revels in Dublin; then, after the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion, a student of Latin and Greek in Cambridge. Finally, he settled down as a cosmographer. He produced translations of both Virgil and Homer into English verse. His ‘Virgil’, published in 1649, was handsomely printed and the first which gave the entire works in English, nearly half a century before Dryden’s which appeared in 1697.

The translation of ‘Juvenal’ and ‘Persius’ by Dryden, with help of his two sons, and of Congreve, Creech, Tate, and others, was first published in 1693. Dryden translated Satires 1, 3, 6, 10, and 16 of Juvenal, and the whole of Persius. His Essay on Satire was prefixed.

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‘Cassandra’ and ‘Cleopatra’ were romances from the French of Gautier de Costes, Seigneur de la Calprenede, who died in 1663. He published ‘Cassandra’ in 10 volumes in 1642, ‘Cleopatra’ in 12 volumes in 1656, besides other romances. The custom was to publish these romances a volume at a time. A pretty and rich widow smitten with the ‘Cleopatra’ while it was appearing, married La Calprenede upon condition that he finished it, and his promise to do so was formally inserted in the marriage contract. The English translations of these French Romances were always in folio. ‘Cassandra’, translated by Sir Charles Cotterell, was published in 1652; ‘Cleopatra’ in 1668, translated by Robert Loveday. ‘Astraea’ was a pastoral Romance of the days of Henri IV. by Honore D’Urfe, which had been translated by John Pyper in 1620, and was again translated by a Person ‘of Quality’ in 1657. It was of the same school as Sir Philip Sydney’s ‘Arcadia’, first published after his death by his sister Mary, Countess of Pembroke, in 1590, and from her, for whom, indeed, it had been written, called the Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

Sir Isaac Newton was living in the ‘Spectator’s’ time. He died in 1727, aged 85. John Locke had died in 1704. His ‘Essay on the Human Understanding’ was first published in 1690. Sir William Temple had died in 1699, aged 71.

The ‘Grand Cyrus’, by Magdeleine de Scuderi, was the most famous of the French Romances of its day. The authoress, who died in 1701, aged 94, was called the Sappho of her time. Cardinal Mazarin left her a pension by his will, and she had a pension of two thousand livres from the king. Her ‘Grand Cyrus’, published in 10 volumes in 1650, was translated (in one volume, folio) in 1653. ‘Clelia’, presently afterwards included in the list of Leonora’s books, was another very popular romance by the same authoress, published in 10 volumes, a few years later, immediately translated into English by John Davies, and printed in the usual folio form.

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Dr. William Sherlock, who after some scruple about taking the oaths to King William, did so, and was made Dean of St. Paul’s, published his very popular ‘Practical Discourse concerning Death’, in 1689. He died in 1707.

Father Nicolas Malebranche, in the ‘Spectator’s’ time, was living in enjoyment of his reputation as one of the best French writers and philosophers. The foundations of his fame had been laid by his ‘Recherche de la Verite’, of which the first volume appeared in 1673. An English translation of it, by Thomas Taylor, was published (in folio) in 1694. He died in 1715, Aged 77.

Thomas D’Urfey was a licentious writer of plays and songs, whose tunes Charles II. would hum as he leant on their writer’s shoulder. His ‘New Poems, with Songs’ appeared in 1690. He died in 1723, aged 95.

The ‘New Atalantis’ was a scandalous book by Mary de la Riviere Manley, a daughter of Sir Roger Manley, governor of Guernsey. She began her career as the victim of a false marriage, deserted and left to support herself; became a busy writer and a woman of intrigue, who was living in the ‘Spectator’s’ time, and died in 1724, in the house of Alderman Barber, with whom she was then living. Her ‘New Atalantis’, published in 1709, was entitled ‘Secret Memoirs and Manners of several Persons of Quality of both sexes, from the New Atalantis, an Island in the Mediterranean.’ Under feigned names it especially attacked members of Whig families, and led to proceedings for libel.

La Ferte was a dancing master of the days of the ‘Spectator’, who in Nos. 52 and 54 advertised his School

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‘in Compton Street, Soho, over against St. Ann’s Church Back-door,’ adding that, ‘at the desire of several gentlemen in the City,’ he taught dancing on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the neighhourhood of the Royal Exchange.]

[Footnote 3: that]

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