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said, “ he that did not hate Bavius might love Mævius,” he was in perfect good humour; and was not so much moved at their absurdities as passionately to call them sots or blockheads in a direct invective, but laughed at them with a delicacy of scorn, without
mixture of anger. The best good man, with the worst-natured muse, was the character among us of a gentleman as famous for his humanity as his wit.
The ordinary subjects for satire are such as incite the greatest indignation in the best tempers, and consequently men of such a make are the best qualified for speaking of the offences in human life These men can behold vice and folly, when they injure persons to whom they are wholly unacquainted, with the same severity as others resent the ills they do to themselves. A good-natured man cannot see an overbearing fellow put a bashful man of merit out of countenance, or outstrip him in the pursuit of any advantage, but he is on fire to succour the oppressed, to produce the merit of the one, and confront the impudence of the other.
The men of the greatest character in this kind were Horace and Juvenal. There is not, that I remember, one ill-natured expression in all their writings, not one sentence of severity, which does not apparently proceed from the contrary disposition, Whoever reads them, will, I believe, be of this mind; and if they were read with this view, it might possibly persuade our young fellows, that they may be very witty men without speaking ill of any
but those who deserve it. But, in the perusal of these writers,
may not be unnecessary to consider, that they lived in very different times.
Horace was intimate with a prince of the greatest goodness and humanity imaginable, and his court was formed after his example: therefore the faults that poet falls
upon were little inconsistencies in behaviour, false pretences to politeness, or impertinent affectations of what men were not fit for. Vices of a coarser sort could not come under his consideration, or enter the palace of Augustus. Juvenal, on the other hand, lived under Domitian, in whose reign every thing that was great and noble was banished the habitations of the men in power. Therefore he attacks vice as it passes by in triumph, not as it breaks into conversation. The fall of empire, contempt of glory, and a general degeneracy of manners, are before his eyes in all his writings. In the days of Augustus, to have talked like Juvenal had been madness; or in those of Domitian, like Horace. Morality and virtue are every where recommended in Horace, as became a man in a polite court, from the beauty, the propriety, the convenience of pursuing them. Vice and corruption are attacked by Juvenal in a style which denotes, he fears he shall not be heard without he calls to them in their own language, with a barefaced mention of the villanies and obscenities of his contemporaries.
This accidental talk of these two great men carries me from my design, which was to tell some coxcombs that run about this town with the name of smart satirical fellows, that they are by no means qualified for the characters they pretend to, of being severe upon other men; for they want good nature. There is no foundation in them for arriving at what they aim at; and they may as well pretend to flatter as rally agreeably, without being good-natured.
There is a certain impartiality necessary to make what a man says bear any weight with those he speaks to. This quality, with respect to men's errors and vices, is never seen but in good-natured men. They have ever such a frankness of mind, and benevolence to all men, that they cannot receive impressions of unkindness without mature deLiberation; and writing or speaking ill of a man upon personal considerations, is so irreparable and mean an injury, that no one possessed of this quality is capable of doing it: but in all ages there have been interpreters to authors when living, of the same genius with the commentators into whose hands they fall when dead. I dare say it is impossible for any man of more wit than one of these to take any of the four-and-twenty letters, and form out of them a name to describe the character of a vicious man with greater life, but one of these would immediately cry, “ Mr. Such-a-one is meant in that place.” But the truth of it is, satirists describe the age, and backbiters assign their descriptions to private men.
In all terms of reproof, when the sentence appears to arise from personal hatred or passion, it is not then made the cause of mankind, but a misunderstanding between two persons. For this reason the representations of a good-natured man bear a pleasantry in them, which shows there is no malignity at heart, and by consequence they are attended to by his hearers or readers, because they are unprejudiced. This difference is only what is due to him; for no man thoroughly nettled can say a thing general enough to pass off with the air of an opinion declared, and not a passion gratified. I remember a humourous fellow at Oxford, when he heard any one had spoken ill of him, used to say, I will not take my revenge of him until I have forgiven him.” What he meant by this was, that he would not enter upon this subject until it was grown as indifferent to him as any other : and I have by this rule, seen him more than once triumph over his adversary with an inimitable spirit and humour : for he came to the assault against a man full of sore places, and he himself invulnerable.
There is no possibility of succeeding in a satirical way of writing or speaking, except a man throws himself quite out of the question. It is great vanity to think any one will attend to a thing, because it is your quarrel. You must make your satire the concern of society in general if you would have it regarded. When it is so, the good-nature of a man of wit will prompt him to many brisk and disdainful sentiments and replies, to which all the malice in the world will not be able to repartee.
N° 243. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1710.
Infert se septus nebulâ, mirabile dictu!
VIRG. Æn. i. 413.
DRYDEN. From my own Apartment, October 27. I HAVE somewhere made mention of Gyges's ring; and intimated to my reader, that it was at present in my possession, though I have not since made any use of it. The tradition concerning this ring is very romantic, and taken notice of both by Plato and Tully, who each of them make an admirable use of it for the advancement of morality. This Gyges was the master shepherd to king Candaules. As he was wandering over the plains of Lydia, he saw a great chasm in the earth, and had the curiosity to enter it. After having descended pretty far into it, he found the statue of a horse in brass, with doors in the sides of it. Upon opening them, he found the body of a dead man, bigger than ordinary, with a ring upon his finger, which he took off, and put upon
The virtues of it were much greater than he at first imagined ; for upon his going into the assembly of shepherds, he observed, that he
was invisible when he turned the stone of the ring with the palm of his hand, and visible when he turned it towards his company. Had Plato and Cicero been as well versed in the occult sciences as I am, they would have found a great deal of mystic learning in this tradition : but it is impossible for an adept to be understood by one who is not an adept.
As for myself, I have, with much study and plication, arrived at this great secret of making myself invisible, and by that means conveying myself where I please; or, to speak in Rosicrucian lore, I have entered into the clifts of the earth, discovered the brazen horse, and robbed the dead giant of his ring. The tradition says further of Gyges, that by the means of this ring he gained admission into the most retired parts of the court, and made such use of those opportunities, that he at_length became king of Lydia. For my own part, I, who have always rather endeavoured to improve my mind than my fortune, have turned this ring to no other advantage, than to get a thorough insight into the ways of men, and to make such observations
the of others as may be useful to the public, whatever effect they may have upon myself.
About a week ago, not being able to sleep, I got up, and put on my magical ring; and, with a thought, transported myself into a chamber, where I saw a light. I found it inhabited by a celebrated beauty, though she is of that species of women which we call a slattern. Her head-dress and one of her shoes lay upon a chair, her petticoat in one corner of the room, and her girdle that had a copy of verses made upon it but the day before, with her thread stockings, in the middle of the floor. I was so foolishly officious, that I could not forbear gathering up her clothes together, to lay them upon the chair that stood by her bed-side; when, to my great surprise,