How those please the Imagination who treat of Subjects abstracted from Matter, by Allusions taken from it. What Allusions most pleasing to the Imagination. Great Writers how Faulty in this Respect. Of the Art of Imagining in General. The Imagination capable of Pain as well as Pleasure. In what Degree the Imagination is capable either of Pain or Pleasure.
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No. 422. Friday, July 4, 1712. Steele.
‘Haec scripsi non otii abundantia sed amoris erga te.’
I do not know any thing which gives greater Disturbance to Conversation, than the false Notion some People have of Raillery. It ought certainly to be the first Point to be aimed at in Society, to gain the good Will of those with whom you converse. The Way to that, is to shew you are well inclined towards them: What then can be more absurd, than to set up for being extremely sharp and biting, as the Term is, in your Expressions to your Familiars? A Man who has no good Quality but Courage, is in a very ill way towards making an agreeable Figure in the World, because that which he has superior to other People cannot be exerted, without raising himself an Enemy. Your Gentleman of a Satyrical Vein is in the like Condition. To say a Thing which perplexes the Heart of him you speak to, or brings Blushes into his Face, is a degree of Murder; and it is, I think, an unpardonable Offence to shew a Man you do not care, whether he is pleased or displeased. But won’t you then take a Jest? Yes: but pray let it be a Jest. It is no Jest to put me, who am so unhappy as to have an utter Aversion to speaking to more than one Man at a time, under a Necessity to explain my self in much Company, and reducing me to Shame and Derision, except I perform what my Infirmity of Silence disables me to do.
Callisthenes has great Wit accompanied with that Quality (without which a Man can have no Wit at all) a Sound Judgment. This Gentleman rallies the best of any Man I know, for he forms his Ridicule upon a Circumstance which you are in your Heart not unwilling to grant him, to wit, that you are Guilty of an Excess in something which is in it self laudable. He very well understands what you would be, and needs not fear your Anger for declaring you are a little too much that Thing. The Generous will bear being reproached as Lavish, and the Valiant, Rash, without being provoked to Resentment against their Monitor. What has been said to be a Mark of a good Writer, will fall in with the Character of a good Companion. The good Writer makes his Reader better pleased with himself, and the agreeable Man makes his Friends enjoy themselves, rather than him, while he is in their Company. Callisthenes does this with inimitable Pleasantry. He whispered a Friend the other Day,