Class Discussion 7: The Eighteenth Century Essay

After reading examples of periodical essays from Steele, Addison, and Johnson, what would you say is different about the essay in the 18th century as compared with the essays you write in college?
you must post your response of at least 300 words


No. 2. Friday, March 2, 1711. Steele.

… Ast Alii sex

Et plures one conclamant pray. Juv.

The first of our Society is a Gentleman of _Worcestershire_, of antient

Descent, a Baronet, his Name Sir ROGER DE COVERLY.  [1] His great

Grandfather was Inventor of that famous Country-Dance which is call’d

after him.  All who know that Shire are very well acquainted with the

Parts and Merits of Sir ROGER.  He is a Gentleman that is very singular

in his Behavior of him, but his Singularities of him proceed from his good Sense of him, and

are Contradictions to the Manners of the World, only as he thinks the

World is in the wrong.  However, this Humor creates him no Enemies, for

he does nothing with Sourness or Obstinacy;  and his of him being unconfined to

Modes and Forms, makes him but the readier and more capable to please

and oblige all who know him.  When he is in town he lives in _Soho

Square_: [2] It is said, he keeps himself a Batchelour by reason he was

crossed in Love by a perverse beautiful Widow of the next County to him.

Before this Disappointment, Sir ROGER was what you call a fine

Gentleman, he had often supped with my Lord _Rochester_ [3] and Sir _George

Etherege_, [4] fought a Duel upon his first coming to Town, and kick’d

Bully _Dawson_ [5] in a publick Coffee-house for calling him Youngster.

But being ill-used by the above-mentioned Widow, he was very serious for

a Year and a half;  and tho ‘his Temper of him being naturally jovial, he at

last got over it, he grew careless of himself and never dressed

afterwards;  he continues to wear a Coat and Doublet of the same Cut that

were in Fashion at the Time of his Repulse de el, which, in his merry Humours de el,

he tells us, he has been in and out twelve Times since he first wore it.

‘Tis said Sir ROGER grew humble in his Desires of him after he had forgot this

cruel Beauty, insomuch that it is reported he has frequently offended in

Point of Chastity with Beggars and Gypsies: but this is look’d upon by

his Friends of him rather as Matter of Raillery than Truth.  He is now in his

Fifty-sixth Year, cheerful, gay, and hearty, keeps a good House in both

Town and Country;  a great lover of mankind;  but there is such a mirthful

Cast in his Behavior of him, that he is rather beloved than esteemed.  His

Tenants grow rich, his Servants de el look satisfied, all the young Women

profess Love to him, and the young Men are glad of his Company by him: When he

comes into a House he calls the Servants by their Names, and talks all

the way Up Stairs to a Visit.  I must not omit that Sir ROGER is a

Justice of the _Quorum_;  that he fills the chair at a Quarter-Session

with great Abilities, and three Months ago, he gained universal Applause by

explaining a Passage in the Game-Act.

The Gentleman next in Esteem and Authority among us, is another

Batchelour, who is a Member of the _Inner Temple_: a Man of great

Probity, Wit, and Understanding;  but he has chosen his place of

Residence rather to obey the Direction of an old humorous Father, than

in pursuit of his own Inclinations of him.  He was plac’d there to study the

Laws of the Land, and he is the most learned of any of the House in those

of the Stage.  _Aristotle_ and _Longinus_ are much better understood by

him than _Littleton_ or _Cooke_.  The Father sends up every Post

Questions relating to Marriage-Articles, Leases, and Tenures, in the

Neighborhood;  all which Questions he agrees with an Attorney to answer

and take care of in the Lump.  He is studying the Passions themselves,

when he should be inquiring into the Debates among Men which arise from

them.  He knows the Argument of each of the Orations of _Demosthenes_ and

_Tully_, but not one Case in the Reports of our own Courts.  No one ever

took him for a Fool, but none, except his intimate Friends de él, know he has

a great deal of Wit.  This Turn makes him at once both disinterested and

agreeable: As few of his Thoughts of him are drawn from Business, they are most

of them fit for Conversation.  His Taste of Books by him is a little too just

for the Age he lives in;  he has read all, but he Approves of very few.  His

Familiarity with the Customs, Manners, Actions, and Writings of the

Antients, makes him a very delicate Observer of what occurs to him in

the present World.  He is an excellent Critick, and the Time of the Play

is his Hour of Business from him;  exactly at five he passes through _New Inn_,

he crosses through _Russel Court_;  and he takes a turn at _Will’s_ till the

play begins;  he has his shoes rubb’d and his Perriwig powder’d at the

Barber’s as you go into the Rose [6] – It is for the Good of the Audience

when he is at a Play, for the Actors have an Ambition to please him.

The Person of next Consideration is Sir ANDREW FREEPORT, a Merchant of

great Eminence in the City of _London_: A Person of indefatigable

Industry, strong Reason, and great Experience.  His Notions of Trade by him are

noble and generous, and (as every rich Man has usually some sly Way of

Jesting, which would make no great Figure were he not a rich Man) he

calls the Sea the _British Common_.  He is acquainted with Commerce in

all its Parts, and he will tell you that it is a stupid and barbarous Way

to extend Dominion by Arms;  for true Power is to be got by Arts and

Industry.  He will often argue, that if this Part of our Trade were well

cultivated, we should gain from one Nation;  and if another, from

another.  I have heard him prove that Diligence makes more lasting

Acquisitions than Valor, and that Sloth has ruin’d more Nations than

the Sword.  He abounds in several frugal Maxims, amongst which the

Greatest Favorite is, ‘A Penny saved is a Penny got.’  To General Trader

of good Sense is pleasanter Company than a general Scholar;  and Sir

ANDREW having a natural unaffected Eloquence, the Perspicuity of his

Discourse gives the same Pleasure that Wit would in another Man. He has

made his Fortunes of him himself;  and he says that _England_ may be richer than

other Kingdoms, by as plain Methods as he himself is richer than other

Men;  tho ‘at the same Time I can say this of him, that there is not a

point in the Compass, but he blows home a Ship in which he is an Owner.

Next to Sir ANDREW in the Club-room sits Captain SENTRY, [7] a Gentleman

of great Courage, good Understanding, but Invincible Modesty.  He is one

of those that deserve very well, but are very awkward at putting their

Talents within the Observation of such as should take notice of them.  I have

was some Years a Captain, and he behaved himself with great Gallantry in

several Engagements, and at several Sieges;  but having a small Estate of

his de él own de él, and being next Heir to Sir ROGER, he has quitted a Way of Life

in which no Man can rise suitably to his Merit de él, who is not something of

a Courtier, as well as a Soldier.  I have heard him often lament, that in

a Profession where Merit is placed in so conspicuous a View, Impudence

he should get the better of Modesty.  When he has talked to this Purpose, I

never heard him make a sour Expression, but frankly confess that he left

the World, because he was not fit for it.  A strict honesty and an even

regular Behavior, are in themselves Obstacles to him that must press

through Crowds who endeavor at the same End with himself, the Favor of

to Commander.  He will, however, in this Way of Talk, excuse Generals, for

not disposing according to Men’s Desert, or inquiring into it: For, he says

he, that great Man who has a Mind to help me, has as many to break

through to come at me, as I have to come at him: Therefore he will

conclude, that the Man who would make a Figure, especially in a military

Way, he must get over all false Modesty, and assist his Patron against the

Importunity of other Pretenders, by a proper Assurance in his own

Vindication.  He says it is a civil Cowardice to be backward in asserting

what you ought to expect, as it is a military fear to be slow in

attacking when it is your Duty.  With this Candor does the Gentleman

speak of himself and others.  The same Frankness runs through all his

Conversation.  The military Part of his Life de él has furnished him with many

Adventures, in the Relation of which he is very agreeable to the

Company;  for he is never over-bearing, though accustomed to command Men

in the utmost Degree below him;  nor ever too obsequious, from an Habit

of obeying Men highly above him.

But that our Society may not appear a Set of Humorists unacquainted

with the Gallantries and Pleasures of the Age, we have among us the

gallant WILL.  HONEYCOMB, [8] a Gentleman who, according to his Years of him,

should be in the Decline of his Life of him, but having ever been very careful

of his Person de él, and he always had a very easy Fortune, Time has made but

very little Impression, either by Wrinkles on his Forehead de él, or Traces in

his Brain from him.  His Person de él is well turned, and of a good Height.  He is very

ready at that sort of Discourse with which Men usually entertain Women.

He has all his Life de él dressed very well, and remembers Habits as others do

Men.  He can smile when one speaks to him, and laughs easily.  He knows

the History of every Mode, and he can inform you from which of the French

King’s Wenches our Wives and Daughters had this Manner of curling their

Hair, that Way of placing their Hoods;  whose Frailty was covered by such

a Sort of Petticoat, and whose Vanity de ella to show her de ella Foot de ella made that Part of

the Dress so short in such a Year.  In a Word, all his Conversation of him and

Knowledge has been in the female World: As other Men of his Age by he will

take Notice to you what such a Minister said upon such and such an

Occasion, he will tell you when the Duke of _Monmouth_ danced at Court

such a Woman was then smitten, another was taken with him at the Head of

his Troop of him in the _Park_.  In all these important Relations, he has ever

about the same Time he received a kind Glance, or a Blow of a Fan, from

some celebrated Beauty, Mother of the present Lord such-a-one.  if you

speak of a young Commoner that said a lively thing in the House, he

starts up,

‘He has good Blood in his Veins de el, _Tom Mirabell_ begot him, the Rogue

cheated me in that Affair;  that young Fellow’s Mother used me more

like a Dog than any Woman I ever made Advances to. ‘

This Way of Talking of his de él, very much enlivens the Conversation among us

of a more sedate Turn;  and I find there is not one of the Company but

myself, who rarely speak at all, but speaks of him as of that Sort of

Man, who is usually called a well-bred fine Gentleman.  To conclude his

Character, where Women are not concerned, he is an honest worthy Man.

I cannot tell whether I am to account him whom I am next to speak of, as

one of our Company;  for he visits us but seldom, but when he does, it

adds to every Man else a new Enjoyment of himself.  He is a Clergyman, a

very philosophick Man, of general Learning, great Sanctity of Life, and

the most exact good Breeding.  He has the Misfortune to be of a very weak

Constitution, and consequently he cannot accept of such Cares and Business

as Preferments in his Function of him would oblige him to: He is therefore

among Divines what a Chamber-Counselor is among Lawyers.  The Probity of

his Mind of him, and the Integrity of his Life of him, create him Followers, as being

he eloquent or loud advances others.  He seldom introduces the Subject he

speaks upon;  but we are so far gone in Years, that he observes when he

is among us, an Earnestness to have him fall on some divine Topick,

which he always treats with much Authority, as one who has no Interests

in this World, as one who is hastening to the Object of all his Wishes de él,

and he conceives Hope from his Decays and Infirmities de el.  These are my

ordinary Companions.

R. [9]

[Footnote 1: The character of Sir Roger de Coverley is said to have been

drawn from Sir John Pakington, of Worcestershire, a Tory, whose name,

family, and politics are represented by a statesman of the present time.

The name, on this its first appearance in the ‘Spectator’, is spelt

Coverly;  also in the first reprint.]

[Footnote 2: ‘Soho Square’ was then a new and most fashionable part of

the town.  It was built in 1681. The Duke of Monmouth lived in the center

house, facing the statue.  Originally the square was called King Square.

Pennant mentions, on Pegg’s authority, a tradition that, on the death of

Monmouth, his admirers of him changed the name to Soho, the word of the day at

the field of Sedgemoor.  But the ground upon which the Square stands was

called Soho as early as the year 1632. ‘So ho’ was the old call in

hunting when a hare was found.]

[Footnote 3: John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, b.  1648, d.  1680. His

licentious wit made him a favorite of Charles II.  His strength of he was

exhausted by licentious living at the age of one and thirty.  His chief

work is a poem upon ‘Nothing.’  He died repentant of his wasted life de él, in

which, as he told Burnet, he had ‘for five years been continually

drunk, ‘or so much affected by frequent drunkenness as in no instance to

be master of himself.]

[Footnote 4: Sir George Etherege, b.  1636, d.  1694. ‘Gentle George’ and

‘Easy Etherege,’ a wit and friend of the wits of the Restoration.  I have

bought his knighthood from him to enable him to marry a rich widow who required a

title, and he died of a broken neck, by tumbling down-stairs when he was

drunk and lighting guests to their apartments.  His three comedies by him, ‘The

Comical Revenge, ” ella She Would if she Could, ‘and’ The Man of Mode, or Sir

Fopling Flutter, ‘excellent embodiments of the court humor of his time de él,

were collected and printed in 8vo in 1704, and reprinted, with addition

of five poems, in 1715.]

[Footnote 5: Bully Dawson, a swaggering sharper of Whitefriars, is said

to have been sketched by Shadwell in the Captain Hackum of his comedy

called ‘The Squire of Alsatia.’]

[Footnote 6: The ‘Rose’ Tavern was on the east side of Brydges Street,

near Drury Lane Theater, much favored by the looser sort of play-goers.

Garrick, when he enlarged the Theater, made the ‘Rose’ Tavern a part of


[Footnote 7: Captain Sentry was by some supposed to have been drawn from

Colonel Kempenfelt, the father of the Admiral who went down with the

‘Royal George’.]

[Footnote 8: Will.  Honeycomb was by some found in a Colonel Cleland.]

[Footnote 9: Steele’s signature was R till No. 91;  then T, and

occasionally R, till No. 134;  then always T.

Addison signed C till No. 85, when he first used L;  and was L or C till

No. 265, then L, till he first used I in No. 372. Once or twice using L,

he was I till No. 405, which he signed O, and by this letter he held,

except for a return to C (with a single use of O), from 433 to 477.]

Joseph Addison : the spectator n.10

No. 10. Monday, March 12, 1711. Addison.

‘Non aliter quam qui adverso vix flumine lembum
Remigiis subigit: si brachia forte remisit,
Atque illum in praeceps prono rapit alveus amni.’


It is with much Satisfaction that I hear this great City inquiring Day
by Day after these my Papers, and receiving my Morning Lectures with a
becoming Seriousness and Attention. My Publisher tells me, that there
are already Three Thousand of them distributed every Day: So that if I
allow Twenty Readers to every Paper, which I look upon as a modest
Computation, I may reckon about Threescore thousand Disciples in
_London_ and _Westminster_, who I hope will take care to distinguish
themselves from the thoughtless Herd of their ignorant and unattentive
Brethren. Since I have raised to myself so great an Audience, I shall
spare no Pains to make their Instruction agreeable, and their Diversion
useful. For which Reasons I shall endeavour to enliven Morality with
Wit, and to temper Wit with Morality, that my Readers may, if possible,
both Ways find their account in the Speculation of the Day. And to the
End that their Virtue and Discretion may not be short transient
intermitting Starts of Thought, I have resolved to refresh their
Memories from Day to Day, till I have recovered them out of that
desperate State of Vice and Folly, into which the Age is fallen. The
Mind that lies fallow but a single Day, sprouts up in Follies that are
only to be killed by a constant and assiduous Culture. It was said of
_Socrates_, that he brought Philosophy down from Heaven, to inhabit
among Men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me, that I have
brought Philosophy out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges,
to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-tables, and in Coffee-houses.

I would therefore in a very particular Manner recommend these my
Speculations to all well-regulated Families, that set apart an Hour in
every Morning for Tea and Bread and Butter; and would earnestly advise
them for their Good to order this Paper to be punctually served up, and
to be looked upon as a Part of the Tea Equipage.

Sir _Francis Bacon_ observes, that a well-written Book, compared with
its Rivals and Antagonists, is like _Moses’s_ Serpent, that immediately
swallow’d up and devoured those of the _AEgyptians_. I shall not be so
vain as to think, that where the SPECTATOR appears, the other publick
Prints will vanish; but shall leave it to my Readers Consideration,
whether, Is it not much better to be let into the Knowledge of
ones-self, than to hear what passes in _Muscovy_ or _Poland_; and to
amuse our selves with such Writings as tend to the wearing out of
Ignorance, Passion, and Prejudice, than such as naturally conduce to
inflame Hatreds, and make Enmities irreconcileable.

In the next Place, I would recommend this Paper to the daily Perusal of
those Gentlemen whom I cannot but consider as my good Brothers and
Allies, I mean the Fraternity of Spectators who live in the World
without having any thing to do in it; and either by the Affluence of
their Fortunes, or Laziness of their Dispositions, have no other
Business with the rest of Mankind but to look upon them. Under this
Class of Men are comprehended all contemplative Tradesmen, titular
Physicians, Fellows of the Royal Society, Templers that are not given to
be contentious, and Statesmen that are out of business. In short, every
one that considers the World as a Theatre, and desires to form a right
Judgment of those who are the Actors on it.

There is another Set of Men that I must likewise lay a Claim to, whom I
have lately called the Blanks of Society, as being altogether
unfurnish’d with Ideas, till the Business and Conversation of the Day
has supplied them. I have often considered these poor Souls with an Eye
of great Commiseration, when I have heard them asking the first Man they
have met with, whether there was any News stirring? and by that Means
gathering together Materials for thinking. These needy Persons do not
know what to talk of, till about twelve a Clock in the Morning; for by
that Time they are pretty good Judges of the Weather, know which Way the
Wind sits, and whether the Dutch Mail be come in. As they lie at the
Mercy of the first Man they meet, and are grave or impertinent all the
Day long, according to the Notions which they have imbibed in the
Morning, I would earnestly entreat them not to stir out of their
Chambers till they have read this Paper, and do promise them that I will
daily instil into them such sound and wholesome Sentiments, as shall
have a good Effect on their Conversation for the ensuing twelve Hours.

But there are none to whom this Paper will be more useful than to the
female World. I have often thought there has not been sufficient Pains
taken in finding out proper Employments and Diversions for the Fair
ones. Their Amusements seem contrived for them rather as they are Women,
than as they are reasonable Creatures; and are more adapted to the Sex,
than to the Species. The Toilet is their great Scene of Business, and
the right adjusting of their Hair the principal Employment of their
Lives. The sorting of a Suit of Ribbons is reckoned a very good
Morning’s Work; and if they make an Excursion to a Mercer’s or a
Toy-shop, so great a Fatigue makes them unfit for any thing else all the
Day after. Their more serious Occupations are Sowing and Embroidery, and
their greatest Drudgery the Preparation of Jellies and Sweetmeats. This,
I say, is the State of ordinary Women; tho’ I know there are Multitudes
of those of a more elevated Life and Conversation, that move in an
exalted Sphere of Knowledge and Virtue, that join all the Beauties of
the Mind to the Ornaments of Dress, and inspire a kind of Awe and
Respect, as well as Love, into their Male-Beholders. I hope to encrease
the Number of these by publishing this daily Paper, which I shall always
endeavour to make an innocent if not an improving Entertainment, and by
that Means at least divert the Minds of my female Readers from greater
Trifles. At the same Time, as I would fain give some finishing Touches
to those which are already the most beautiful Pieces in humane Nature, I
shall endeavour to point out all those Imperfections that are the
Blemishes, as well as those Virtues which are the Embellishments, of the
Sex. In the mean while I hope these my gentle Readers, who have so much
Time on their Hands, will not grudge throwing away a Quarter of an Hour
in a Day on this Paper, since they may do it without any Hindrance to

I know several of my Friends and Well-wishers are in great Pain for me,
lest I should not be able to keep up the Spirit of a Paper which I
oblige myself to furnish every Day: But to make them easy in this
Particular, I will promise them faithfully to give it over as soon as I
grow dull. This I know will be Matter of great Raillery to the small
Wits; who will frequently put me in mind of my Promise, desire me to
keep my Word, assure me that it is high Time to give over, with many
other little Pleasantries of the like Nature, which men of a little
smart Genius cannot forbear throwing out against their best Friends,
when they have such a Handle given them of being witty. But let them
remember, that I do hereby enter my Caveat against this Piece of

Joseph Addison: the spectator n. 519

No. 519. Saturday, October 25, 1712. Addison.

‘Inde Hominum pecudumque genus, vitaeque volantum,
Et quae marmoreo fert Monstra sub aequore pontus.’


Though there is a great deal of Pleasure in contemplating the material
World, by which I mean that System of Bodies into which Nature has so
curiously wrought the Mass of dead Matter, with the several Relations
which those Bodies bear to one another; there is still, methinks,
something more wonderful and surprizing in Contemplations on the World
of Life, by which I mean all those Animals with which every Part of the
Universe is furnished. The Material World is only the Shell of the
Universe: The World of Life are its Inhabitants.

If we consider those parts of the Material World which lie the nearest
to us, and are therefore subject to our Observations and Enquiries, it
is amazing to consider the Infinity of Animals with which it is stocked.
Every part of Matter is peopled: Every green Leaf swarms with
Inhabitants. There is scarce a single Humour in the Body of a Man, or of
any other Animal, in which our Glasses do not discover Myriads of living
Creatures. The Surface of Animals is also covered with other Animals,
which are in the same manner the Basis of other Animals, that live upon
it; nay, we find in the most solid Bodies, as in Marble it self,
innumerable Cells and Cavities that are crouded with such imperceptible
Inhabitants, as are too little for the naked Eye to discover. On the
other hand, if we look into the more bulky parts of Nature, we see the
Seas, Lakes and Rivers teeming with numberless kinds of living
Creatures: We find every Mountain and Marsh, Wilderness and Wood,
plentifully stocked with Birds and Beasts, and every part of Matter
affording proper Necessaries and Conveniencies for the Livelihood of
Multitudes which inhabit it.

The Author of the _Plurality of Worlds_ [1] draws a very good Argument
from this Consideration, for the _peopling_ of every Planet; as indeed
it seems very probable from the Analogy of Reason, that if no Part of
Matter, which we are acquainted with, lies waste and useless, those
great Bodies which are at such a Distance from us should not be desart
and unpeopled, but rather that they should be furnished with Beings
adapted to their respective Situations.

Existence is a Blessing to those Beings only which are endowed with
Perception, and is in a manner thrown away upon dead Matter, any further
than as it is subservient to Beings which are conscious of their
Existence. Accordingly we find, from the Bodies which lie under our
Observation, that Matter is only made as the Basis and Support of
Animals, and that there is no more of the one, than what is necessary
for the Existence of the other.

Infinite Goodness is of so communicative a nature, that it seems to
delight in the conferring of Existence upon every Degree of [Perceptive
[2]] Being. As this is a Speculation, which I have often pursued with
great Pleasure to my self, I shall enlarge farther upon it, by
considering that part of the Scale of Beings which comes within our

There are some living Creatures which are raised but just above dead
Matter. To mention only that Species of Shell-fish, which are form’d in
the Fashion of a Cone, that grow to the Surface of several Rocks, and
immediately die upon their being sever’d from the Place where they grow.
There are many other Creatures but one Remove from these, which have no
other Sense besides that of Feeling and Taste. Others have still an
additional one of Hearing; others of Smell, and others of Sight. It is
wonderful to observe, by what a gradual Progress the World of Life
advances through a prodigious Variety of Species, before a Creature is
form’d that is compleat in all its Senses; and even among these there is
such a different Degree of Perfection in the Sense which one Animal
enjoys beyond what appears in another, that though the Sense in
different Animals be distinguished by the same common Denomination, it
seems almost of a different Nature. If after this we look into the
several inward Perfections of Cunning and Sagacity, or what we generally
call Instinct, we find them rising after the same Manner, imperceptibly
one above another, and receiving additional Improvements, according to
the Species in which they are implanted. This Progress in Nature is so
very gradual, that the most perfect of an inferior Species comes very
near to the most imperfect of that which is immediately above it.

The exuberant and overflowing Goodness of the Supreme Being, whose Mercy
extends to all his Works, is plainly seen, as I have before hinted, from
his having made so very little Matter, at least what falls within our
Knowledge, that does not swarm with Life: Nor is his Goodness less seen
in the Diversity, than in the Multitude of living Creatures. Had he only
made one Species of Animals, none of the rest would have enjoyed the
Happiness of Existence; he has, therefore, _specified_ in his Creation
every degree of Life, every Capacity of Being. The whole Chasm in
Nature, from a Plant to a Man, is filled up with diverse Kinds of
Creatures, rising one over another, by such a gentle and easy Ascent,
that the little Transitions and Deviations from one Species to another,
are almost insensible. This intermediate Space is so well husbanded and
managed, that there is scarce a degree of Perception which does not
appear in some one part of the World of Life. Is the Goodness, or Wisdom
of the divine Being, more manifested in this his Proceeding?

There is a Consequence, besides those I have already mentioned, which
seems very naturally deducible from the foregoing Considerations. If the
Scale of Being rises by such a regular Progress, so high as Man, we may
by a parity of Reason suppose that it still proceeds gradually through
those Beings which are of a Superior Nature to him; since there is an
infinitely greater space and room for different Degrees of Perfection,
between the Supreme Being and Man, than between Man and the most
despicable Insect. This Consequence of so great a variety of Beings
which are superior to us, from that variety which is inferior to us, is
made by Mr. _Lock_, in a Passage which I shall here set down, after
having premised, that notwithstanding there is such infinite room
between Man and his Maker for the Creative Power to exert it self in, it
is impossible that it should ever be filled up, since there will be
still an infinite Gap or Distance between the highest created Being, and
the Power which produced him.

_That there should be more_ Species _of intelligent Creatures above
us, than there are of sensible and material below us, is probable to
me from hence; That in all the visible corporeal World, we see no
Chasms, or no Gaps. All quite down from us, the descent is by easy
steps, and a continued Series of things, that in each remove differ
very little one from the other. There are Fishes that have Wings, and
are not Strangers to the airy Region: and there are some Birds, that
are Inhabitants of the Water; whose Blood is cold as Fishes, and their
Flesh so like in taste, that the Scrupulous are allowed them on
Fish-days. There are Animals so near of kin both to Birds and Beasts,
that they are in the middle between both: Amphibious Animals link the
Terrestrial and Aquatick together; Seals live at Land and at Sea, and
Porpoises have the warm Blood and Entrails of a Hog; not to mention
what is confidently reported of Mermaids or Sea-Men. There are some
Brutes, that seem to have as much Knowledge and Reason, as some that
are called Men; and the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms are so nearly
join’d, that if you will take the lowest of one, and the highest of
the other, there will scarce be perceived any great difference between
them: and so on till we come to the lowest and the most inorganical
parts of Matter, we shall find every where that the several Species
are linked together, and differ but in almost insensible degrees. And
when we consider the infinite Power and Wisdom of the Maker, we have
reason to think that it is suitable to the magnificent Harmony of the
Universe, and the great Design and infinite Goodness of the Architect,
that the_ Species _of Creatures should also, by gentle degrees, ascend
upward from us towards his infinite Perfection, as we see they
gradually descend from us downwards: Which if it be probable, we have
reason then to be persuaded, that there are far more_ Species _of
Creatures above us, than there are beneath; we being in degrees of
Perfection much more remote from the infinite Being of God, than we
are from the lowest State of Being, and that which approaches nearest
to nothing. And yet of all those distinct Species, we have no clear
distinct_ Ideas. [3]

In this System of Being, there is no Creature so wonderful in its
Nature, and which so much deserves our particular Attention, as Man, who
fills up the middle Space between the Animal and Intellectual Nature,
the visible and invisible World, and is that Link in the Chain of
Beings, which has been often termed the _nexus utriusque Mundi_. So that
he who in one respect is associated with Angels and Arch-Angels, may
look upon a Being of infinitei Perfection as his Father, and the highest
Order of Spirits as his Brethren, may in another respect say to
_Corruption, thou art my Father, and to the Worm, thou art my Mother and
my Sister_. [4]

[Footnote 1: Fontenelle, _Entretiens sur la Pluralite des Mondes_.
Troisieme Soir.]

[Footnote 2: [Preceptive] and in first reprint.]

[Footnote 3: Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. III. ch. vi. Sec.

[Footnote 4: Job. xvii. 14.

Samuel Johnson n. The Rambler n. 5

No. 5. TUESDAY, APRIL 3, 1750

Et nunc omnis ager, nunc omnis parturit arbos:
Nunc frondent sillvæ: nunc formosissimus annus. VIRG. Ec. iii. v. 56.

Now ev’ry field, now ev’ry tree is green;
Now genial Nature’s fairest face is seen. ELPHINSTON.

EVERY man is sufficiently discontented with some circumstances of his present state, to suffer his imagination to range more or less in quest of future happiness, and to fix upon some point of time, in which, by the removal of the inconvenience which now perplexes him, or acquisition of the advantage which he at present wants, he shall find the condition of his life very much improved.

When this time, which is too often expected with great impatience, at last arrives, it generally comes without the blessing for which it was desired; but we solace ourselves with some new prospect, and press forward again with equal eagerness.

It is lucky for a man, in whom this temper prevails, when he turns his hopes upon things wholly out of his own power; since he forbears then to precipitate his affairs, for the sake of the great event that is to complete his felicity, and waits for the blissful hour with less neglect of the measures necessary to be taken in the mean time.

I have long known a person of this temper, who indulged his dream of happiness with less hurt to himself than such chimerical wishes commonly produce, and adjusted his scheme with such address, that his hopes were in full bloom three parts of the


year, and in the other part never wholly blasted. Many, perhaps, would be desirous of learning by what means he procured to himself such a cheap and lasting satisfaction. It was gained by a constant practice of referring the removal of all his uneasiness to the coming of the next spring; if his health was impaired, the spring would restore it; if what he wanted was at a high price, it would fall its value in the spring.

The spring indeed did often come without any of these effects, but he was always certain that the next would be more propitious; nor was ever convinced, that the present spring would fail him before the middle of summer; for he always talked of the spring as coming till it was past, and when it was once past, every one agreed with him that it was coming.

By long converse with this man, I am, perhaps, brought to feel immoderate pleasure in the contemplation of this delightful season; but I have the satisfaction of finding many whom it can be no shame to resemble, infected with the same enthusiasm; for there is, I believe, scarce any poet of eminence, who has not left some testimony of his fondness for the flowers, the zephyrs, and the warblers of the spring. Nor has the most luxuriant imagination been able to describe the serenity and happiness of the golden age, otherwise than by giving a perpetual spring, as the highest reward of uncorrupted innocence.

There is, indeed, something inexpressibly pleasing


in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature. The cold and darkness of winter, with the naked deformity of every object on which we turn our eyes, make us rejoice at the succeeding season, as well for what we have escaped as for what we may enjoy; and every budding flower, which a warm situation brings early to our view, is considered by us as a messenger to notify the approach of more joyous days.

The spring affords to a mind, so free from the disturbance of cares or passions as to be vacant to calm amusements, almost every thing that our present state makes us capable of enjoying. The variegated verdure of the fields and woods, the succession of grateful odours, the voice of pleasure pouring out its notes on every side, with the gladness apparently conceived by every animal, from the growth of his food, and the clemency of the weather, throw over the whole earth an air of gaiety, significantly expressed by the smile of nature.

Yet there are men to whom these scenes are able to give no delight, and who hurry away from all the varieties of rural beauty, to lose their hours and divert their thoughts by cards or assemblies, a tavern dinner, or the prattle of the day.

It may be laid down as a position which will seldom deceive, that when a man cannot bear his own company, there is something wrong. He must fly from himself, either because he feels a tediousness in life from the equipoise of an empty mind, which,


having no tendency to one motion more than another, but as it is impelled by some external power, must always have recourse to foreign objects; or he must be afraid of the intrusion of some unpleasing ideas, and perhaps is struggling to escape from the remembrance of a loss, the fear of a calamity, or some other thought of greater horrour.

Those whom sorrow incapacitates to enjoy the pleasures of contemplation, may properly apply to such diversions, provided they are innocent, as lay strong hold on the attention; and those, whom fear of any future affliction chains down to misery, must endeavour to obviate the danger.

My considerations shall, on this occasion, be turned on such as are burthensome to themselves merely because they want subjects for reflection, and to whom the volume of nature is thrown open without affording them pleasure or instruction, because they never learned to read the characters.

A French author has advanced this seeming paradox, that very few men know how to take a walk; and, indeed, it is true, that few know how to take a walk with a prospect of any other pleasure, than the same company would have afforded them at home.

There are animals that borrow their colour from the neighbouring body, and consequently vary their hue as they happen to change their place. In like manner it ought to be the endeavour of every man to derive his reflections from the objects about him; for it is to no purpose that he alters his position,


if his attention continues fixed to the same point. The mind should be kept open to the access of every new idea, and so far disengaged from the predominance of particular thoughts, as easily to accommodate itself to occasional entertainment.

A man that has formed this habit of turning every new object to his entertainment, finds in the productions of nature an inexhaustible stock of materials upon which he can employ himself, without any temptations to envy or malevolence; faults, perhaps, seldom totally avoided by those, whose judgment is much exercised upon the works of art. He has always a certain prospect of discovering new reasons for adoring the sovereign Author of the universe, and probable hopes of making some discovery of benefit to others, or of profit to himself. There is no doubt but many vegetables and animals have qualities that might be of great use, to the knowledge of which there is not required much force of penetration, or fatigue of study, but only frequent experiments, and close attention. What is said by the chemists of their darling mercury, is, perhaps, true of every body through the whole creation, that if a thousand lives should be spent upon it, all its properties would not be found out.

Mankind must necessarily be diversified by various tastes, since life affords and requires such multiplicity of employments, and a nation of naturalists is neither to be hoped, nor desired; but it is surely not improper to point out a fresh amusement to those who languish in health, and repine in plenty,


for want of some source of diversion that may be less easily exhausted, and to inform the multitudes of both sexes, who are burdened with every new day, that there are many shows which they have not seen.

He that enlarges his curiosity after the works of nature, demonstrably multiplies the inlets to happiness; and, therefore, the younger part of my readers, to whom I dedicate this vernal speculation, must excuse me for calling upon them, to make use at once of the spring of the year, and the spring of life; to acquire, while their minds may be yet impressed with new images, a love of innocent pleasures, and an ardour for useful knowledge; and to remember, that a blighted spring makes a barren year, and that the vernal flowers, however beautiful and gay, are only intended by nature as preparatives to autumnal fruits.


Samuel Johnson the Idler n. 31

by  Samuel Johnson The Idler‘ no. 31, Saturday, 18th November 1758

Many moralists have remarked, that Pride has of all human vices the widest dominion, appears in the greatest multiplicity of forms, and lies hid under the greatest variety of disguises; of disguises, which, like the moon’s veil of brightness, are both its lustre and its shade, and betray it to others, tho’ they hide it from ourselves.

It is not my intention to degrade Pride from this pre-eminence of mischief, yet I know not whether Idleness may not maintain a very doubtful and obstinate competition.

There are some that profess Idleness in its full dignity, who call themselves the Idle, as Busiris in the play calls himself the Proud; who boast that they do nothing, and thank their stars that they have nothing to do; who sleep every night till they can sleep no longer, and rise only that exercise may enable them to sleep again; who prolong the reign of darkness by double curtains, and never see the sun but to tell him how they hate his beams; whose whole labour is to vary the postures of indulgence, and whose day differs from their night but as a couch or chair differs from a bed.

These are the true and open votaries of Idleness, for whom she weaves the garlands of poppies, and into whose cup she pours the waters of oblivion; who exist in a state of unruffled stupidity, forgetting and forgotten; who have long ceased to live, and at whose death the survivors can only say, that they have ceased to breathe.

But Idleness predominates in many lives where it is not suspected; for being a vice which terminates in itself, it may be enjoyed without injury to others; and is therefore not watched like Fraud, which endangers property, or like Pride, which naturally seeks its gratifications in another’s inferiority. Idleness is a silent and peaceful quality, that neither raises envy by ostentation, nor hatred by opposition; and therefore no body is busy to censure or detect it.

As Pride sometimes is hid under humility, Idleness is often covered by turbulence and hurry. He that neglects his known duty and real employment, naturally endeavours to crowd his mind with something that may bar out the remembrance of his own folly, and does any thing but what he ought to do with eager diligence, that he may keep himself in his own favour.

Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials, and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of Idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought. I was once told by a great master, that no man ever excelled in painting, who was eminently curious about pencils and colours.

There are others to whom Idleness dictates another expedient, by which life may be passed unprofitably away without the tediousness of many vacant hours. The art is, to fill the day with petty business, to have always something in hand which may raise curiosity, but not solicitude, and keep the mind in a state of action, but not of labour.

This art has for many years been practised by my old friend Sober, with wonderful success. Sober is a man of strong desires and quick imagination, so exactly balanced by the love of ease, that they can seldom stimulate him to any difficult undertaking; they have, however, so much power, that they will not suffer him to lie quite at rest, and though they do not make him sufficiently useful to others, they make him at least weary of himself.

Mr. Sober’s chief pleasure is conversation; there is no end of his talk or his attention; to speak or to hear is equally pleasing; for he still fancies that he is teaching or learning something, and is free for the time from his own reproaches.

But there is one time at night when he must go home, that his friends may sleep; and another time in the morning, when all the world agrees to shut out interruption. These are the moments of which poor Sober trembles at the thought. But the misery of these tiresome intervals, he has many means of alleviating. He has persuaded himself that the manual arts are undeservedly overlooked; he has observed in many trades the effects of close thought, and just ratiocination. From speculation he proceeded to practice, and supplied himself with the tools of a carpenter, with which he mended his coal-box very successfully, and which he still continues to employ, as he finds occasion.

He has attempted at other times the crafts of the Shoemaker, Tinman, Plumber, and Potter; in all these arts he has failed, and resolves to qualify himself for them by better information. But his daily amusement is Chemistry. He has a small furnace, which he employs in distillation, and which has long been the solace of his life. He draws oils and waters, and essences and spirits, which he knows to be of no use; sits and counts the drops as they come from his retort, and forgets that, whilst a drop is falling, a moment flies away.

Poor Sober! I have often teased him with reproof, and he has often promised reformation; for no man is so much open to conviction as the Idler, but there is none on whom it operates so little. What will be the effect of this paper I know not; perhaps he will read it and laugh, and light the fire in his furnace; but my hope is that he will quit his trifles, and betake himself to rational and useful diligence.