« AnteriorContinua »
same discerning author gave his friend when he enjoined him to deliver his book to Augustus:
« Si validus, si lætus erit, si denique poscet."
-When vexing cares are fied,
When well, when merry, when he asks to read."
1 Ep. xiii. 3.
You never begin to talk but when people are desirous to hear you; and I defy any one to be out of humour until you leave off. But I am led unawares into reflexions foreign to the original design of this epistle; which was to let you know, that some unfeigned admirers of your inimitable papers, who could, without any flattery, greet you with the salutation used to the eastern monarchs, viz. "O Spec, live for ever," have lately been under the same apprehensions with Mr. Philo-Spec; that the haste you have made to dispatch your best friends portends no long duration to your own short visage. We could not, indeed, find any just grounds for complaint in the method you took to dissolve that venerable body; no, the world was not worthy of your Divine. Will Honeycomb could not, with any reputation, live single any longer. It was higla time for the Templar to turn himself to Coke: and sir Roger's dying was the wisest thing he ever did in his life. It was, however, matter of great grief to us, to think that we were in danger of losing so elegant and valuable an entertainment. And we could not, without sorrow, reflect that we were likely to have nothing to interrupt our sips in the morning, and to suspend our coffee in mid-air, between our lips and right ear, but the ordinary trash of newspapers. We resolved, therefore, not to part with you so. But since, to make use of
your own allusion, the cherries began now to crowd the market, and their season was almost over, we consulted our future enjoyments, and endeavoured to make the exquisite pleasure that delicious fruit gave our taste as lasting as we could, and by drying them protract their stay beyond its natural date. We own that thus they have not a flavour equal to that of their juicy bloom; but yet, under this disadvantage, they pique the palate and become a salver better than any other fruit at its first appearance. To speak plain, there are a number of us who have begun your works afresh, and meet two nights in the week in order to give you a re-hearing. We never come together without drinking your health, and as seldom part without general expressions of thanks to you for our night's improvement. This we conceive to be a more useful institution than any other club whatever, not excepting even that of ugly Faces. We have one manifest advantage over that renowned society, with respect to Mr. Spectator's company. For though they may brag that you sometimes make your personal appearance amongst them, it is impossible they should ever get a word from you, whereas you are with us the reverse of what Phædria would have his mistress be in his rival's company, " present in your absence." We make you talk as much and as long as we please; and, let me tell you, you seldom hold your tongue for the whole evening. I promise myself you will look with an eye of favour upon a meeting which owes its original to a mutual emulation among its members, who shall show the most profound respect for your paper; not but we have a very great value for your person: and I dare say you can no where find four more sincere admirers, and humble, servants, than
N° 554. FRIDAY, DEC. 5, 1712.
-Tentanda via est, quâ me quoque possim
VIRG. Georg. iii. 9.
New ways I must attempt, my grovelling name
I AM obliged for the following essay, as well as for that which lays down rules out of Tully for pronunciation and action, to the ingenious author of a book just published, entitled An Ode to the Creator of the World, occasioned by the Fragments of Orpheus.
Ir is a remark, made as I remember by a celebrated French author, that no man ever pushed his capacity as far as it was able to extend. I shall not inquire whether this assertion be strictly true. may suffice to say, that men of the greatest application and acquirements can look back upon many vacant spaces, and neglected parts of time, which have slipped away from them unemployed; and there is hardly any one considering person in the world but is apt to fancy with himself, at some time or other, that if his life were to begin again he could fill it up better.
"The mind is most provoked to cast on itself this ingenuous reproach, when the examples of such men are presented to it as have far outshot the generality of their species in learning, arts, or any valuable improvements.
One of the most extensive and improved geniuses we have had any instance of in our own nation, or in any other, was that of sir Francis Bacon,
lord Verulam. This great man, by an extraordi nary force of nature, compass of thought, and indefatigable study, had amassed to himself such stores of knowledge as we cannot look upon without amazement. His capacity seemed to have grasped all that was revealed in books before his time; and, not satisfied with that, he began to strike out new tracks of science, too many to be travelled over by any one man in the compass of the longest life. These therefore he could only mark down, like imperfect coastings on maps, or supposed points of land, to be further discovered and ascertained by the industry of after-ages, who should proceed upon his notices or conjectures.
The excellent Mr. Boyle was the person who seems to have been designed by nature to succeed to the labours and inquiries of that extraordinary genius I have just mentioned. By innumerable experiments, he in a great measure filled up those plans and outlines of science, which his predecessor had sketched out. His life was spent in the pursuit of nature through a great variety of forms and changes, and in the most rational as well as devout adoration of its divine Author..
It would be impossible to name many persons who have extended their capacities as far as these two, in the studies they pursued; but my learned readers on this occasion will naturally turn their thoughts to a third *, who is yet living, and is likewise the glory of our own nation. The improvements which others had made in natural and mathematical knowledge have so vastly increased in his hands, as to afford at once a wonderful instance how great the capacity is of a human soul, and inexhaustible the subject of its inquiries; so true is that
+ Sir Isaac Newton
remark in holy writ, that "though a wise man seek to find out the works of God from the beginning to the end, yet shall he not be able to do it."
I cannot help mentioning here one character more of a different kind indeed from these, yet such an one as may serve to show the wonderful force of nature and of application, and is the most singular instance of an universal genius I have ever met with. The person I mean is Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian painter, descended from a noble family in Tuscany, about the beginning of the sixteenth century. his profession of history-painting he was so great a master, that some have affirmed he excelled all who went before him. It is certain that he raised the envy of Michael Angelo, who was his contemporary, and that from the study of his works Raphael himself learned his best manner of designing. He was a master too in sculpture and architecture, and skilful in anatomy, mathematics, and mechanics. The aqueduct from the river Adda to Milan is mentioned as a work of his contrivance. He had learned several languages, and was acquainted with the studies of history, philosophy, poetry, and music. Though it is not necessary to my present purpose, I cannot but take notice, that all who have writ of him mention likewise his perfection of body. The instances of his strength are almost incredible. He is described to have been of a well formed person, and a master of all genteel exercises. And lastly, we are told that his moral qualities were agreeable to his natural and intellectual endowments, and that he was of an honest and generous mind, adorned with great sweetness of manners. I might break off the account of him here, but I imagine it will be an entertainment to the curiosity of my readers, to find so
He was born in 1445, and died in 1520.