The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,418 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

I have sometimes thought of compiling a System of Ethics out of the Writings of these corrupt Poets, under the Title of Stage Morality.  But I have been diverted from this Thought, by a Project which has been executed by an ingenious Gentleman of my Acquaintance.  He has compos’d, it seems, the History of a young Fellow, who has taken all his Notions of the World from the Stage, and who has directed himself in every Circumstance of his Life and Conversation, by the Maxims and Examples of the Fine Gentlemen in English Comedies.  If I can prevail upon him to give me a Copy of this new-fashioned Novel, I will bestow on it a Place in my Works, and question not but it may have as good an Effect upon the Drama, as Don Quixote had upon Romance.


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No. 447.  Saturday, August 2, 1712.  Addison.

        Phaemi polychroniaen meletaen emmenai, phile kai dae
        Tautaen anthropoisi teleutosan physin einai.]

There is not a Common Saying which has a better turn of Sense in it, than what we often hear in the Mouths of the Vulgar, that Custom is a second Nature.  It is indeed able to form the Man anew, and to give him Inclinations and Capacities altogether different from those he was born with.  Dr._ Plot_, in his History of Staffordshire, [1] tells us of an Ideot that chancing to live within the Sound of a Clock, and always amusing himself with counting the Hour of the Day whenever the Clock struck, the Clock being spoiled by some Accident, the Ideot continued to strike and count the Hour without the help of it, in the same manner as he had done when it was entire.  Though I dare not vouch for the Truth of this Story, it is very certain that Custom has a Mechanical Effect upon the Body, at the same time that it has a very extraordinary Influence upon the Mind.

I shall in this Paper consider one very remarkable Effect which Custom has upon Human Nature; and which, if rightly observed, may lead us into very useful Rules of Life.  What I shall here take notice of in Custom, is its wonderful Efficacy in making every thing pleasant to us.  A Person who is addicted to Play or Gaming, though he took but little delight in it at first, by degrees contracts so strong an Inclination towards it, and gives himself up so entirely to it, that it seems the only End of his Being.  The Love of a retired or busie Life will grow upon a Man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has been for some time disused.  Nay, a Man may Smoak, or Drink, or take Snuff, till he is unable to pass away his Time without it; not to mention our Delight in any particular Study, Art, or Science, rises and improves in Proportion to the Application which we bestow upon it.  Thus what was at first an Exercise, becomes at length an Entertainment.  Our Employments are changed into our Diversions.  The Mind grows fond of those Actions she is accustomed to, and is drawn with Reluctancy from those Paths in which she has been used to walk.

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