The Spectator, Volume 2. eBook

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[Footnote 1:  Spectaret Populum ludis attentius ipsis.-Hor.]

[Footnote 2:  Acted Saturday, October 20.]

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No. 209.  Tuesday, October 30, 1711.  Addison.

  [Greek:  Gynaikos oudi chraem anaer laeizetai
  Esthlaes ameinon, oude rhigion kakaes.]


There are no Authors I am more pleased with than those who shew human Nature in a Variety of Views, and describe the several Ages of the World in their different Manners.  A Reader cannot be more rationally entertained, than by comparing the Virtues and Vices of his own Times with those which prevailed in the Times of his Forefathers; and drawing a Parallel in his Mind between his own private Character, and that of other Persons, whether of his own Age, or of the Ages that went before him.  The Contemplation of Mankind under these changeable Colours, is apt to shame us out of any particular Vice, or animate us to any particular Virtue, to make us pleased or displeased with our selves in the most proper Points, to clear our Minds of Prejudice and Prepossession, and rectify that Narrowness of Temper which inclines us to think amiss of those who differ from our selves.

If we look into the Manners of the most remote Ages of the World, we discover human Nature in her Simplicity; and the more we come downwards towards our own Times, may observe her hiding herself in Artifices and Refinements, Polished insensibly out of her Original Plainness, and at length entirely lost under Form and Ceremony, and (what we call) good Breeding.  Read the Accounts of Men and Women as they are given us by the most ancient Writers, both Sacred and Prophane, and you would think you were reading the History of another Species.

Among the Writers of Antiquity, there are none who instruct us more openly in the Manners of their respective Times in which they lived, than those who have employed themselves in Satyr, under what Dress soever it may appear; as there are no other Authors whose Province it is to enter so directly into the Ways of Men, and set their Miscarriages in so strong a Light.

Simonides,[1] a Poet famous in his Generation, is, I think, Author of the oldest Satyr that is now extant; and, as some say, of the first that was ever written.  This Poet flourished about four hundred Years after the Siege of Troy; and shews, by his way of Writing, the Simplicity, or rather Coarseness, of the Age in which he lived.  I have taken notice, in my Hundred and sixty first Speculation, that the Rule of observing what the French call the bienseance, in an Allusion, has been found out of later Years; and that the Ancients, provided there was a Likeness in their Similitudes, did not much trouble themselves about the Decency of the Comparison.  The Satyr or Iambicks of Simonides, with which

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