No. 377 [from The Spectator] by Joseph Addison

Story type: Essay

No. 377
Tuesday, May 13, 1712. Addison.

‘Quid quisque vitet, nunquam homini satis

Cautum est in horas–‘


Love was the Mother of Poetry, and still produces, among the most ignorant and barbarous, a thousand imaginary Distresses and Poetical Complaints. It makes a Footman talk like Oroondates, and converts a brutal Rustick into a gentle Swain. The most ordinary Plebeian or Mechanick in Love, bleeds and pines away with a certain Elegance and Tenderness of Sentiments which this Passion naturally inspires.

These inward Languishings of a Mind infected with this Softness, have given birth to a Phrase which is made use of by all the melting Tribe, from the highest to the lowest, I mean that of dying for Love.

Romances, which owe their very Being to this Passion, are full of these metaphorical Deaths. Heroes and Heroines, Knights, Squires, and Damsels, are all of them in a dying Condition. There is the same kind of Mortality in our Modern Tragedies, where every one gasps, faints, bleeds and dies. Many of the Poets, to describe the Execution which is done by this Passion, represent the Fair Sex as Basilisks that destroy with their Eyes; but I think Mr. Cowley has with greater Justness of Thought compared a beautiful Woman to a Porcupine, that sends an Arrow from every Part. [1]

I have often thought, that there is no way so effectual for the Cure of this general Infirmity, as a Man’s reflecting upon the Motives that produce it. When the Passion proceeds from the Sense of any Virtue or Perfection in the Person beloved, I would by no means discourage it; but if a Man considers that all his heavy Complaints of Wounds and Deaths rise from some little Affectations of Coquetry, which are improved into Charms by his own fond Imagination, the very laying before himself the Cause of his Distemper, may be sufficient to effect the Cure of it.

It is in this view that I have looked over the several Bundles of Letters which I have received from Dying People, and composed out of them the following Bill of Mortality, which I shall lay before my Reader without any further Preface, as hoping that it may be useful to him in discovering those several Places where there is most Danger, and those fatal Arts which are made use of to destroy the Heedless and Unwary.

Lysander, slain at a Puppet-show on the third of September.

Thirsis, shot from a Casement in Pickadilly.

T. S., wounded by Zehinda’s Scarlet Stocking, as she was stepping out of a Coach.

Will. Simple, smitten at the Opera by the Glance of an Eye that was aimed at one who stood by him.

Tho. Vainlove, lost his Life at a Ball.

Tim. Tattle, kill’d by the Tap of a Fan on his left Shoulder by Coquetilla, as he was talking carelessly with her in a Bow-window.

Sir Simon Softly, murder’d at the Play-house in Drury-lane by a Frown.

Philander, mortally wounded by Cleora, as she was adjusting her Tucker.

Ralph Gapely, Esq., hit by a random Shot at the Ring.

F. R., caught his Death upon the Water, April the 31st.

W. W., killed by an unknown Hand, that was playing with the Glove off upon the Side of the Front-Box in Drury-Lane.

Sir Christopher Crazy, Bart., hurt by the Brush of a Whalebone Petticoat.

Sylvius, shot through the Sticks of a Fan at St. James’s Church.

Damon, struck thro’ the Heart by a Diamond Necklace.
Thomas Trusty,

Francis Goosequill,

William Meanwell,

Edward Callow, Esqrs., standing in a Row, fell all four at the same time, by an Ogle of the Widow Trapland.

Tom. Rattle, chancing to tread upon a Lady’s Tail as he came out of the Play-house, she turned full upon him, and laid him dead upon the Spot.

Dick Tastewell, slain by a Blush from the Queen’s Box in the third Act of the Trip to the Jubilee.

Samuel Felt, Haberdasher, wounded in his Walk to Islington by Mrs. Susannah Crossstich, as she was clambering over a Stile.
R. F.,

T. W.,

S. I.,

M. P., etc., put to Death in the last Birth-Day Massacre.

Roger Blinko, cut off in the Twenty-first Year of his Age by a White-wash.

Musidorus, slain by an Arrow that flew out of a Dimple in Belinda’s Left Cheek.

Ned Courtly presenting Flavia with her Glove (which she had dropped on purpose) she receivd it, and took away his Life with a Curtsie.

John Gosselin having received a slight Hurt from a Pair of blue Eyes, as he was making his Escape was dispatch’d by a Smile.

Strephon, killed by Clarinda as she looked down into the Pit.

Charles Careless, shot flying by a Girl of Fifteen, who unexpectedly popped her Head upon him out of a Coach.

Josiah Wither, aged threescore and three, sent to his long home by Elizabeth Jet-well, Spinster.

Jack Freelove, murderd by Melissa in her Hair.

William Wiseaker, Gent., drown’d in a Flood of Tears by Moll Common.

John Pleadwell, Esq., of the Middle Temple, Barrister at Law, assassinated in his Chambers the sixth Instant by Kitty Sly, who pretended to come to him for his Advice.


[Footnote 1:

They are all weapon, and they dart
Like Porcupines from every Part.

Anacreontics, iii.]

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