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N° 392. FRIDAY, MAY 30, 1712.
Per ambages et ministeria deorum
The Transformation of Fidelio into a Looking-glass.
• MR. SPECTATOR, I was lately at a tea-table, where some young ladies entertained the company with a relation of a coquette in the neighbourhood, who had been discovered practising before her glass. To turn the discourse, which from being witty grew to be malicious, the matron of the family took occasion from the subject to wish that there were to be found amongst men such faithful monitors to dress the mind by, as we consult to adorn the body. She added that, if a sincere friend were miraculously changed into a looking-glass, she should not be ashamed to ask its advice very often. This whimsical thought worked so much upon my fancy the whole evening, that it produced a very odd dream.
Methought that, as I stood before iny glass, the image of a youth of an open ingenuous aspect appeared in it, who with a shrill voice spoke in the following manner:
“The looking-glass you see was heretofore a man, even I the unfortunate Fidelio.' I had two brothers, whose deformity in shape was made up by the clearness of their understandings. It must be owned, however, that (as it generally happens) they had each a perverseness of humour suitable to their distortion of body. The eldest, whose belly sunk in monstrously, was a great coward; and, though his splenetic contracted temper made him take fire immediately, he made objects that beset him appear greater than they were. The second, whose breast swelled into a bold relievo, on the contrary took great pleasure in lessening every thing, and was perfectly the reverse of his brother. These oddnesses pleased company once or twice, but disgusted when often seen; for which reason, the young gentlemen were sent from court to study mathematics at the university.
“ I need not acquaint you, that I was very well made, and reckoned a bright polite gentleman. I was the confidant and darling of all the fair; and if the old and ugly spoke ill of me, all the world knew it was because I scorned to flatter them. No ball, no assembly, was attended until I had been consulted. Flavia coloured her hair before me, Celia shewed me her teeth, Panthea heaved her bosom, Cleora brandished her diamond; I have seen Chloe's foot, and tied artificially the garters of Rhodope.
“ It is a general maxim, that those who dote upon themselves can have no violent affection for another: but, on the contrary, I found that the women's passion rose for me in proportion to the love they bore to themselves. This was verified in my amour with Narcissa, who was so constant to me, that it was pleasantly said, had I been little enough, she would have hung me at her girdle. The most dangerous rival I had was a gay empty fellow, who by the strength of a long intercourse with Narcissa, joined to his natural endowments, had formed himself into a perfect resemblance with her. I had been discarded, had she not observed that he frequently asked my opinion about matters of the last consequence. This made me still more considerable in her eye.
“ Though I was eternally caressed by the ladies, such was their opinion of my honour, that I was never envied by the men. A jealous lover of Narcissa one day thought he had caught her in an amorous conversation : for, though he was at such a distance that he could hear nothing, he imagined strange things from her airs and gestures. Sometimes with a serene look she stepped back in a listening posture, and brightened into an innocent smile.. Quickly after she swelled into an air of majesty and disdain, then kept her eyes half shut after a languishing manner, then covered her blushes with her hand, breathed a sigh, and seemed ready to sink down. In rushed the furious lover; but how great was his surprise to see no one there but the innocent Fidelio, with his back against the wall betwixt two windows !
“ It were endless to recount all my adventures. Let me hasten to that which cost me my life, and Narcissa her happiness.
“ She had the misfortune to have the small-pox, upon which I was expressly forbid her sight, it being apprehended that it would increase her distemper, and that I should infallibly catch it at the first look. As soon as she was suffered to leave her bed, she stole out of her chamber, and found me all alone in an adjoining apartment. She ran with transport to her darling, and without mixture of fear lest I should dislike her. But, oh me! what was her fury when she heard me say, I was afraid and shocked at so loathsome a spectacle! She stepped back, swollen with rage, to see if I had the insolence to repeat it. I did, with this addition, that her ill-timed passion had increased her ugliness. Enraged, inflamed, distracted, she snatched a bodkin, and with all her force stabbed me to the heart. Dying, I preserved my sincerity, and expressed the truth, though in broken words; and by reproachful
grimaces to the last I mimicked the deformity of my murderess.
,“ Cupid, who always attends the fair, and pitied the fate of so useful a servant as I was, obtained of the destinies, that my body should remain incorruptible, and retain the qualities my mind had possessed. I immediately lost the figure of man, and became sinooth, polished, and bright, and to this day am the first favourite of the ladies."'_T.
N° 393. SATURDAY, MAY 31, 1712.
Nescio quâ præter solitum dulcedine læti.
Virg. Georg. i. 412. Unusual sweetness purer joys inspires. LOOKING over the letters that have been sent me, I chanced to find the following one, which I received about two years ago from an ingenious friend who was then in Denmark. · DEAR SIR,
Copenhagen, May 1, 1710. The spring with you has already taken possession of the fields and woods. Now is the season of solitude, and of moving complaints upon trivial sufferings. Now the griefs of lovers begin to flow, and their wounds to bleed afresh. I too, at this distance from the softer climates, am not without my discontents at present. You perhaps may laugh at me for a most romantic wretch, when I have disclosed to you the occasion of my uneasiness; and yet I cannot help thinking my unhappiness real, in being confined to a region which is the very reverse of Paradise. The seasons here are all of them unpleasant, and the country quité destitute of rural charms. I have not heard a bird sing, nor a brook murmur, nor a breeze whisper, neither have I been blest with the sight of a flowery meadow, these two years. Every wind here is a tempest, and every water a turbulent ocean. I hope, when you reflect a little, you will not think the grounds of my complaint in the least frivolous and unbecoming a man of serious thought; since the love of woods, of fields and flowers, of rivers and fountains, seems to be a passion implanted in our natures the most early of any, even before the fair sex had a being.
I am, Sir, &c.'
Could I transport myself, with a wish, from one country to another, I should choose to pass my winter in Spain, my spring in Italy, my summer in England, and my autumn in France. Of all these seasons there is none that can vie with the spring for beauty and delightfulness. It bears the same figure among the seasons of the year, that the morning does among the divisions of the day, or youth among the stages of life. The English summer is pleasanter than that of any other country in Europe, on no other account but because it has a greater mixture of spring in it. The mildness of our climate, with those frequent refreshments of dews and rains that fall among us, keep up a perpetual cheerfulness in our fields, and fill the hottest months of the year with a lively verdure.
In the opening of the spring, when all nature begins to recover herself, the same animal pleasure which makes the birds sing, and the whole brute creation rejoice, rises very sensibly in the heart of man. I know none of the poets who have observed so well as Milton those secret overflowings of gladness which diffuse themselves through the mind of