The Spectator, Volume 2. eBook

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too strong for the Reins of Reason and the Guidance of Judgment.
We may generally observe a pretty nice Proportion between the Strength of Reason and Passion; the greatest Genius’s have commonly the strongest Affections, as on the other hand, the weaker Understandings have generally the weaker Passions; and ’tis fit the Fury of the Coursers should not be too great for the Strength of the Charioteer.  Young Men whose Passions are not a little unruly, give small Hopes of their ever being considerable; the Fire of Youth will of course abate, and is a Fault, if it be a Fault, that mends every Day; but surely unless a Man has Fire in Youth, he can hardly have Warmth in Old Age.  We must therefore be very cautious, lest while we think to regulate the Passions, we should quite extinguish them, which is putting out the Light of the Soul:  for to be without Passion, or to be hurried away with it, makes a Man equally blind.  The extraordinary Severity used in most of our Schools has this fatal Effect, it breaks the Spring of the Mind, and most certainly destroys more good Genius’s than it can possibly improve.  And surely ’tis a mighty Mistake that the Passions should be so intirely subdued; for little Irregularities are sometimes not only to be borne with, but to be cultivated too, since they are frequently attended with the greatest Perfections.  All great Genius’s have Faults mixed with their Virtues, and resemble the flaming Bush which has Thorns amongst Lights.
Since, therefore the Passions are the Principles of human Actions, we must endeavour to manage them so as to retain their Vigour, yet keep them under strict Command; we must govern them rather like free Subjects than Slaves, lest while we intend to make them obedient, they become abject, and unfit for those great Purposes to which they were designed.  For my Part I must confess, I could never have any Regard to that Sect of Philosophers, who so much insisted upon an absolute Indifference and Vacancy from all Passion; for it seems to me a Thing very inconsistent for a Man to divest himself of Humanity, in order to acquire Tranquility of Mind, and to eradicate the very Principles of Action, because its possible they may produce ill Effects.

  I am, SIR,

  Your Affectionate Admirer,

  T. B.


[Footnote 1:  The Prince, ch. xlv, at close.]

* * * * *

No. 409.  Thursday, June 19, 1712.  Addison.

  ‘Musaeo contingere cuncta lepore.’


Gratian very often recommends the Fine Taste, [1] as the utmost Perfection of an accomplished Man.  As this Word arises very often in Conversation, I shall endeavour to give some Account of it, and to lay down Rules how we may know whether we are possessed of it, and how we may acquire that fine Taste of Writing, which is so much talked of among the Polite World.

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The Spectator, Volume 2. from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.