« AnteriorContinua »
This natural impatience to look into futurity, and to know what accidents may happen to us hereafter, has given birth to many ridiculous arts and inventions. Some found their prescience on the lines of a man's hand, others on the features of his face: some on the signatures which nature has impressed on his body, and others on his own hand-writing: some read men's fortunes in the stars, as others have searched after them in the entrails of beasts, or the flight of birds. Men of the best sense have been touched more or less with these groundless horrors and presages of futurity, upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature. Can any thing be more surprising than to consider Cicero,* who made the greatest figure at the bar and in the senate of the Roman commonwealth, and at the same time outshined all the philosophers of antiquity in his library and in his retirements, as busying himself in the college of augurs, and observing with a religious attention after what manner the chickens pecked the several grains of corn which were thrown to them?
Notwithstanding these follies are pretty well worn out of the minds of the wise and learned in the present age, multitudes of weak and ignorant persons are still slaves to them. There are numberless arts of prediction among the vulgar, which are too trifling to enumerate; and infinite observation of days, numbers, voices, and figures, which are regarded by them as portents and prodigies. In short, every thing prophecies to the superstitious man ; there is scarce a straw, or a rusty piece of iron, that lies in his way by accident.
* This censure of Cicero seems to be unfounded; for it is said of him, that he wondered how one augur could meet another without laughing in his face.
It is not to be conceived how many wizards, gipsies, and cunning men, are dispersed through all the counties and market-towns of Great Britain, not to mention the fortune-tellers and astrologers, who live very comfortably upon the curiosity of several well-disposed persons in the cities of London and Westminster.
Among the many pretended arts of divination, there is none which so universally amuses as that by dreams. I have indeed observed in a late speculation, that there have been sometimes, upon very extraordinary occasions, supernatural revelations made to certain persons by this means; but as it is the chief business of this paper to root out popular errors, I must endeavour to expose the folly and superstition of those persons, who, in the common and ordinary course of life, lay any stress upon things of so uncertain, shadowy, and chimerical a nature. This I cannot do more effectually than by the following letter, which is dated from a quarter of the town that has always been the habitation of some prophetic Philomath; it having been usual, time out of mind, for all such people as have lost their wits, to resort to that place either for their cure or for their instruction.
Moorfields, Oct. 4, 1712. "Having long considered whether there be any trade wanting in this great city, after having surveyed very attentively all kinds of ranks and professions, I do not find in any quarter of the town an oneiro-critic, or, in plain English, an interpreter of dreams. For want of so useful a person there are several good people who are very
much puzzled in this particular, and dream a whole year together without being ever the wiser for it. I hope I am pretty well qualified for this office, having studied by candle-light all the rules of art which have been laid down upon this subject. My great uncle by my wife's side was a Scotch highlander, and second-sighted. I have four fingers and two thumbs upon one hand, and was born on the longest night of the year. My Christian and surname begin and end with the same letters. I am lodged in Moorfields, in a house that for these fifty years has always been tenanted by a conjuror.
• If you had been in company, so much as myself, with ordinary women of the town, you must know that there are many of them who every day in their lives, upon seeing or hearing of any thing that is unexpected, cry, “My dream is out;" and cannot go to sleep in quiet the next night, until something or other has happened which has expounded the visions of the preceding one. There are others who are in very great pain for not being able to recover the circumstances of a dream, that made strong impressions upon them while it lasted. In short, sir, there are many whoše waking thoughts are wholly employed on their sleeping ones. For the benefit therefore of this curia ous and inquisitive part of my fellow-subjects, I shall in the first place tell those persons what they dreamt of, who fancy they never dream at all. In the next place I shall make out any dream, upon hearing a single circumstance of it; and in the last place, I shall expound to them the good or bad fortune which such dreams portend. If they do not presage good luck, I shall desire nothing for my pains; not questioning at the same time, that those who consult me will be so reasonable as to afford me a moderate share out of any considerable estate, profit or emolument, which I shall discover to them. I interpret to the poor for nothing, on condition that their names may be inserted in public advertisements, to attest the truth of such my interpretations. As for people of quality, or others who are indisposed, and do not care to come in person, I can interpret their dreams by seeing their water. I set aside one day in the week for lovers; and interpret by the great for any gentlewoman who is turned of sixty, after the rate of a half a crown per week, with the usual allowances for good luck. I have several rooms and apartments fitted up at reasonable rates, for such as bave not conveniencies for dreaming at their own houses.
• Titus TROPHONIUS.' N.B. I am not dumb.'
No. 506. FRIDAY, OCT. 10, 1712.
Candida perpetuo reside, concordia, lecto,
Tamque pari semper sit Venus equa jugo.
MART. 4 Epig. xiii. 7.
THE following essay is written by the gentleman to whom the world is obliged for those several
excellent discourses which have been marked with the letter X.
I HAVE somewhere met with a fable that made Wealth the father of Love. It is certain that a mind ought at least to be free from the apprehensions of want and poverty, before it can fully attend to all the softnesses and endearments of this passion; notwithstanding, we see multitudes of married people, who are utter strangers to this delightful passion amidst all the affluence of the most plentiful fortunes.
It is not sufficient to make a marriage happy, that the humours of two people should be alike. I could instance an hundred pair, who have not the least sentiment of love remaining for one another, yet are so like in their humours, that, if they were not already married, the whole world would design them for man and wife.
The spirit of love has something so extremely fine in it, that it is very often disturbed and lost, by some little accidents, which the careless and unpolite never attend to, until it is gone past recovery.
Nothing has more contributed to banish it from a married state, than too great a familiarity, and laying aside the common rules of decency. Though I could give instances of this in several particulars, I shall only mention that of dress. The beaux and belles about town, who dress purely to catch one another, think there is no further occasion for the bait, when their first design has succeeded. But besides the too common fault in point of neatness, there are several others which I do not remember to have seen tanched upon, but in one of our modern come.