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.
which he finds:  Nature fails him, and being forced to his old Shift, he has Recourse to Witticism.  This passes indeed with his soft Admirers, and gives him the Preference to Virgil in their Esteem.’

Were not I supported by so great an Authority as that of Mr. Dryden, I should not venture to observe, That the Taste of most of our English Poets, as well as Readers, is extremely Gothick.  He quotes Monsieur Segrais [7] for a threefold Distinction of the Readers of Poetry:  In the first of which he comprehends the Rabble of Readers, whom he does not treat as such with regard to their Quality, but to their Numbers and Coarseness of their Taste.  His Words are as follow: 

Segrais has distinguished the Readers of Poetry, according to their Capacity of judging, into three Classes. [He might have said the same of Writers too, if he had pleased.] In the lowest Form he places those whom he calls Les Petits Esprits, such thingsas are our Upper-Gallery Audience in a Play-house; who like nothing but the Husk and Rind of Wit, prefer a Quibble, a Conceit, an Epigram, before solid Sense and elegant Expression:  These are Mob Readers.  If Virgil and Martial stood for Parliament-Men, we know already who would carry it.  But though they make the greatest Appearance in the Field, and cry the loudest, the best on’t is they are but a sort of French Huguenots, or Dutch Boors, brought over in Herds, but not Naturalized; who have not Lands of two Pounds per Annum in Parnassus, and therefore are not privileged to poll.  Their Authors are of the same Level, fit to represent them on a Mountebank’s Stage, or to be Masters of the Ceremonies in a Bear-garden:  Yet these are they who have the most Admirers.  But it often happens, to their Mortification, that as their Readers improve their Stock of Sense, (as they may by reading better Books, and by Conversation with Men of Judgment) they soon forsake them.’

I [must not dismiss this Subject without [8]] observing that as Mr. Lock in the Passage above-mentioned has discovered the most fruitful Source of Wit, so there is another of a quite contrary Nature to it, which does likewise branch it self out into several kinds.  For not only the Resemblance, but the Opposition of Ideas, does very often produce Wit; as I could shew in several little Points, Turns and Antitheses, that I may possibly enlarge upon in some future Speculation.


[Footnote 1:  ‘Essay concerning Human Understanding’, Bk II. ch.  II (p. 68 of ed. 1690; the first).]

[Footonote 2: 

’If Wit has truly been defined as a Propriety of Thoughts and Words, then that definition will extend to all sorts of Poetry...  Propriety of Thought is that Fancy which arises naturally from the Subject, or which the Poet adapts to it.  Propriety of Words is the cloathing of these Thoughts with such Expressions as are naturally proper to them.’

Dryden’s Preface to ’Albion and Albanius’.]

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The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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