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glorious shew of these gay vegetables, that arose in great profusion on all the banks about us. Sometimes I considered them with the eye of an ordinary spectator, as so many beautiful objects varnished over with a natural gloss, and stained with such a variety of colours, as are not to be equalled in any
artificial dyes or tinctures. Sometimes I considered every leaf as an elaborate piece of tissue, in which the threads and fibres were woven together into different configurations, which gave a different colouring to the light as it glanced on the several parts of the surface. Sometimes I considered the whole bed of tulips, according to the notion of the greatest mathematician and philosopher that ever lived,* as a multitude of optic instruments, designed for the separating light into all those various colours of which it is composed.
I was awakened out of these my philosophical speculations, by observing the company often seemed to laugh at me. I accidentally praised a tulip as one of the finest I ever saw; upon which they told me, it was a common Fool's Coat. Upon that I praised a second, which it seems was but another kind of Fool's Coat. I had the same fate with two or three more; for which reason I desired the owner of the garden to let me know which were the finest of the flowers; for that I was so unskilful in the art, that I thought the most beautiful were the most valuable, and that those which had the gayest colours were the most beautiful. The gentleman smiled at my ignorance. He seemed a very plain honest man, and a person of good sense, had not his head been touched with that distemper which Hippocrates calls the TUTTO pavia, Tulippomania ; insomuch that he would talk very rationally on any subject in the world but a tulip. He told me,“ that he valued the bed of flowers
* Sir Isaac Newton.
which lay before us, and was not above twenty yards in length and two in breadth, more than he would the best hundred acres of land in England ;” and added, " that it would have been worth twice the money it is, if a foolish cook-maid of his had not almost ruined him the last winter, by mistaking a handful of tulip-roots for an heap of onions, and by that means,
says he, “made me a dish of porridge that cost me above a thousand pounds sterling. He then shewed me what he thought the finest of his tulips, which I found received all their value from their rarity and oddness, and put me in mind of your great fortunes, which are not always the greatest beauties.
I have often looked upon it as a piece of happiness, that I have never fallen into any of these fantastical tastes, nor esteemed any thing the more for its being uncommon and hard to be met with. For this reason I look upon the whole country in spring-time as a spacious garden, and make as many visits. to a spot of daisies or a bank of violets, as a florist does to his borders or parterres. There is not a bush in blossom within a mile of me, which I am not acquainted with, nor scarce a daffodil or.cow,slip that withers away. in my neighbourhood without my missing it. I walked home in this temper of mind through several fields and meadows with an unspeakable pleasure, not without reflecting on the bounty of Providence, which has made the most pleasing and most beautiful objects the most ordinary and most N° 219. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1710.
HOR. 1 Sat. iv. 82.
FRANCIS. NEVER were men so perplexed as a select
company of us were this evening with a couple of professed wits, who, through our ill fortune, and their own confidence, had thought fit to pin themselves upon a gentleman who had owned to them, that he was going to meet such and such persons, and named us one by one. These pert puppies immediately resolved to come with him; and from the beginning to the end of the night entertained each other with impertinencies, to which we were perfect strangers. I am come home very much tired; for the affliction was so irksome to me, that it surpasses all other I ever knew, insomuch that I cannot reflect
this sorrow with pleasure, though it is past.
An easy manner of conversation is the most de sirable quality a man can have; and for that reason coxcombs will take upon them to be familiar with people whom they never saw before. What adds to the vexation of it is, that they will act upon the foot of knowing you by fame; and rally with you, as they call it, by repeating what your enemies say of you; and court you, as they think, by uttering to your face, at a wrong time, all the kind things your friends speak of you in your absence.
These people are the more dreadful, the more they have of what is usually called wit: for a lively imagination, when it is not governed by a good understanding, makes such miserable havock both in
conversation and business, that it lays you defenceless, and fearful to throw the least word in its way that may give it new matter for its further errors.
Tom Mercet has as quick a fancy as any one living; but there is no reasonable man can bear him half an hour. His
purpose is to entertain, and it is of no consequence to him what is said, so it be what is called well said: as if a man must bear a wound with patience, because he that pushed at you came up with a good air and mien. That part of life which we spend in company is the most pleasing of all our moments; and therefore I think our behaviour in it should have its laws as well as the part of our being which is generally esteemed the more important. From hence it is, that from long experience I have made it a maxim, That however we may pretend to take satisfaction in sprightly mirth and high jollity, there is no eat pleasure in any company where the basis of the society is not mutual good will. When this is in the room, every trifling circumstance, the most minute accident, the absurdity of a servant, the repetition of an old story, the look of a man when he is telling it, the most indifferent and the most ordinary occurrences, are matters which produce mirth and good-humour. I went to spend an hour after this manner with some friends, who enjoy it in perfection whenever they meet, when those destroyers above-mentioned came in upon us. There is not a man among them who has any notion of distinction of superiority to one another, either in their fortunes or their talents, when they are in company. Or if any reflection to the contrary occurs in their thoughts, it only strikes a delight upon their minds, that so much wisdom and power is in possession of one whom they love and esteem.
In these my Lucubrations, I have frequently dwelt
upon this one topic. The above maxim would make short work for us reformers ; for it is only want of making this a position that renders some characters bad, which would otherwise be good. Tom Mercet means no man ill, but does ill to every body. His ambition is to be witty; and to carry on that design he breaks through all things that other people hold sacred. If he thought that wit was no way to be used but to the advantage of society, that sprightliness vould have a new turn; and we should expect what he is going to say with satisfaction instead of fear. It is no excuse for being mischievous, that a man is mischievous without malice; nor will it be thought an atonement, that the ill was done not to injure the party concerned, but to divert the indifferent.
It is methinks, a very great error, that we should not profess honesty in conversation, as much as in commerce. If we consider, that there is no greater misfortune than to be ill received : where we love the turning a man to ridicule among his friends, we rob him of greater enjoyments than he could have purchased by his wealth : yet he that laughs at him would perhaps be the last man who would hurt him in this case of less consequence.
It has been said, the history of Don Quixote utterly destroyed the spirit of gallantry in the Spanish nation; and I believe we may say much more truly, that the humour of ridicule has done as much injury to the true relish of company in England.
Such satisfactions as arise from the secret comparison of ourselves to others, with relation to their inferior fortunes or merit, are mean and unworthy. The true and high state of conversation is, when men communicate their thoughts to each other upon such subjects and in such a manner, as would be pleasant if there were no such thing as folly in the world; for it is but a low condition of wit in one man which -lepends upon folly in another.