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I have some time ago spoken of a treatise written by Mr. Weaver on this subject, which is now, I understand, ready to be published. This work sets this matter in a very plain and advantageous light; and I am convinced from it, that if the art was under proper regulations, it would be a mechanic way of implanting insensibly, in minds not capable of receiving it so well by any other rules, a sense of good-breeding and virtue.
Were any one to see Marianne * dance, let him be never so sensual a brute, I defy him to entertain any thoughts but of the highest respect and esteem towards her. I was showed last week a picture in a lady's closet, for which she had an hundred different dresses, that she could clap on round the face on purpose to demonstrate the force of habits in the diversity of the same countenance. Motion, and change of posture and aspect, has an effect no less surprising on the person of Mariamne when she
Chloe is extremely pretty, and as silly as she is pretty. This idiot has a very good ear, and a most agreeable shape; but the folly of the thing is such, that it smiles so impertinently, and affects to please so sillily, that while she dances you see the simpleton from head to foot. For you must know (as trivial as this art is thought to be) no one was ever a good dancer that had not a good understanding. If this be a truth, I shall leave the reader to judge, from that maxim, what esteem they ought to have for such impertinents as fly, hop, caper, tumble, twirl, turn round, and jump over their heads; and, in a word, play a thousand pranks which many animals can do better than a man, instead of per
* Probably Mrs. Bicknell.
forming to perfection what the human figure only is capable of performing.
It may perhaps appear odd, that I, who set up for a mighty lover at least of virtue, should take so much pains to recommend what the soberer part of mankind look upon to be a trifle; but, 'under favour of the soberer part of mankind, I think they have not enough considered this matter, and for that reason only disesteem it. I must also, in my own justification, say, that I attempt to bring into the service of honour and virtue every thing in nature that can pretend to give elegant delight. It may possibly be proved, that vice is in itself destructive of pleasure, and virtue in itself conducive to it. If the delights of a free fortune were under proper regulations, this truth would not want much argument to support it; but it would be obvious to every man, that there is a strict affinity between all things that are truly laudable and beautiful, from the highest sentiment of the soul to the most indifferent gesture of the body. T.
N°467. TUESDAY, AUGUST 26, 1712.
Quodcunque meæ, poterunt audere Comane,
TIBULL. ad Messalem, I Eleg. iv. 240
By adding to my page Messala's name. The love of praise is a passion deeply fixed in the mind of every extraordinary person; and those who are most affected with it, seem most to partake of that particle of the divinity which distinguishes mankind from the inferior creation. The Supreme Being himself is most pleased with praise and thanksgiving: the other part of our duty is but an acknowledgment of our faults, whilst this is the immediate adoration of his perfections. 'Twas an excellent observation, that we then only despise commendation when we cease to deserve it : and we have still extant two orations of Tully and Pliny, spoken to the greatest and best princes of all the Roman emperors, who, no doubt, heard with the greatest satisfaction, that even the most disinterested persons, and at so large a distance of time, cannot read without admiration. Cæsar thought his life consisted in the breath of praise, when he professed he had lived long enough for himself, when he had for his glory. Others have sacrificed themselves for a name which was not to begin till they were dead, giving away themselves to purchase a sound which was not to
commence till they were out of hearing. But by merit and superior excellencies, not only to gain, but whilst living, to enjoy a great and universal reputation, is the last degree of happiness which we can hope for here. Bad characters are dispersed abroad with profusion, I hope for example's sake, and (as punishments are designed by the civil power) more for the deterring the innocent, than the chastising the guilty. The good are less frcquent, whether it be that there are indeed fewer originals of this kind to copy after, or that, through the malignity of our nature, we rather delight in the ridicule than the virtues we find in others. However, it is but just, as well as pleasing, even for variety, sometimes to giye the world a representation of the bright side of human nature, as well as the dark and gloomy. The desire of imitation may, perhaps, be a greater incentive to the practice of what is good, than the aversion we may conceive at what is blameable : the one immediately directs you what you should do, whilst the other only shows what you should avoid; and I cannot at present do this with more satisfaction, than by endeavouring to do some justice to the character of Mauilius.
It would far exceed my present design, to give a particular description of Manilius through all the parts of his excellent life. I shall now only draw him in his retirement, and pass over in silence the various arts, the courtly manners, and the undesigning honesty by which he attained the honours he has enjoyed, and which now give a dignity and veneration to the ease he does enjoy. 'Tis here that he looks back with pleasure on the waves and billows through which he has steered to so fair an haven : he is now intent upon the practice of every virtue, which a great knowledge and use of mankind has discovered to be the most useful to them. Thus in
his private domestic employments he is no less glorious than in his public; for it is in reality a more difficult task to be conspicuous in a sedentary inactive life, than in one that is spent in hurry and business: persons engaged in the latter, like bodies violently agitated, from the swiftness of their motion have a brightness added to them, which often vanishes when. they are at rest; but if it then still remain, it must be the seeds of intrinsic worth that thus shine out without any foreign aid or assistance.
His liberality in another might also bear the name of profusion: he seems to think it laudable even in the excess, like that river which most enriches when it overflows*. But Manilius has too perfect a taste of the pleasure of doing good, ever to let it be out of his power; and for that reason he will have a just economy and a splendid frugality at home, the fountain from whence those streams should fow which he disperses abroad. He looks with disdain on those who propose their death, as the time when they are to begin their munificence: he will both see and enjoy (which he then does in the highest degree) what he bestows himself; he will be the living executor of his own bounty, whilst they who have the happiness to be within his care and patronage, at once pray for the continuation of his life and their own good fortune: No one is out of the reach of his obligations; he knows how, by proper and becoming methods, to raise himself to a level with those of the highest rank; and his good-nature is a sufficient warrant against the want of those who are so unhappy as to be in the very lowest. One may say of him, as Pindar bids his muse say of Theron,
• Swear, that Theron sure has sworn,
* The Nile.