« НазадПродовжити »
it a pretty tragical story, and pleases for no other reason but because it is a copy of nature. There is even a despicable simplicity in the verse; and yet because the sentiments appear genuine and unaffected, they are able to move the mind of the most polite reader with inward meltings of humanity and compassion. The incidents grow out of the subject, and are such as are the most proper to excite pity; for which reason the whole narration has something in it very moving, notwithstanding the author of it (whoever he was) has delivered it in such an abject phrase and poorness of expression, that the quoting any of it would look like a design of turning it into ridicule. But though the language is mean, the thoughts, as I have before said, from one end to the other, are natural, and therefore cannot fail to please those who are not judges of language, or those who, notwithstanding they are judges of language, have a true and unprejudiced taste of nature. The condition, speech,
and behaviour of the dying parents, with the age, innocence, and distress of the children, are set forth in such tender circumstances, that it is impossible for a reader of common humanity not to be affected with them. As for the circumstance of the robin-red-breast, it is indeed a little poetical ornament; and to shew the genius of the author amidst all his simplicity, it is just the same kind of fiction which one of the greatest of the Latin poets has made use of upon a parallel occasion ; I mean that passagein Horace,where he describes himself when he was a child, fallen asleep in a desert wood,and covered with leaves by the turtles that took pity on him.
• Me fabulosæ vulture in Appulo, Altricis extra limen Apulia,
Ludo fatigatumque somno Fronde novâ puerum pulumbes Texere
4 Od. iii.
Me when a child, as tir'd with play
The gentle doves protecting found,
I have heard that the late Lord Dorset, who had the greatest wit tempered with the greatest candour, and was one of the finest critics as well as the best poets of his age, had a numerous collection of old English ballads, and took a particular pleasure in the reading of them. I can affirm the same of Mr. Dryden, and know several of the most refined writers of our present age who are of the same humour.
I might likewise refer my reader to Moliere's thoughts on this subject, as he expressed them in the character of the Misanthrope; but those only who are endowed with a true greatness of soul and genius, can divest themselves of the little images of ridicule, and admire nature in her simplicity and nakedness. As for the little conceited wits of the age, who can only shew their judgment by finding fault, they cannot be supposed to admire these productions which have nothing to recommend them but the beauties of nature, when they do not know how to relish even those compositions that, with all the beauties of nature, have also the additional advantages of art.
N° 86. FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 1711.
Heu quàm difficile est crimen non prodere vultu!
(vid. Met. ii. 447. How in the looks does conscious guilt appear!
There are several arts, which all men are in some measure masters of, without having been at the pains of learning them. Every one that speaks or reasons is a grammarian and a logician, though he may be wholly unacquainted with the rules of grammar or logic, as they are delivered in books and systems. In the same manner, every one is in some degree a master of that art which is generally distinguished by the name of Physiognomy; and naturally forms to himself the character or fortune of a stranger, from the features and lineaments of his face. We are no sooner presented to any one we never saw before, but we are immediately struck with the idea of a proud, a reserved, an affable, or a good-natured man; and upon our first going into a company of strangers, our benevolence or aversion, awe or contempt, rises naturally towards several particular persons, before we have heard them speak a single word, or so much as know who they are.
Every passion gives a particular cast to the countenance, and is apt to discover itself in some feature or other. I have seen an eye curse for half an hour together, and an eye-brow call a man a scoundrel. Nothing is more common than for lovers to complain, resent, languish, despair, and die in dumb show. For my own part, I am so apt to frame a notion of every man's humour or circumstances by his looks, that I have sometimes employed myself from Charing-Cross to the Royal-Exchange in drawing the characters of those who have passed by me. When I see a man with a sour riveli'd face, I cannot forbear pitying his wife: and when I meet with an open ingenuous countenance, think on the happiness of his friends, his family, and relations
I cannot recollect the author of a famous saying to a stranger who stood silent in his company,
Speak, that I may see thee.' But, with submission, I think we may be better known by our looks than by our words, and that a man's speech is much more easily disguised than his countenance. In this case, however, I think the air of the whole face is much more expressive than the lines of it. The truth of it is, the air is generally nothing else but the inward disposition of the mind made visible.
Those who have established physiognomy into an art, and laid down rules of judging men's tempers by their faces, have regarded the features much more than the air. Martial has a pretty epigram on this subject:
Crine ruber, niger ore, breris pede, lumine læsus :
Epig. liv. 12. Thy beard and head are of a different dye; Short of one foot, distorted in an eye: With all these tokens of a kuave complete, Should'st thou be honest, thou’rt a devilish cheat. I have seen a very ingenious author on this subject, who founds his speculations on the supposition, that as a man hath in the mould of his face a remote likeness to that of an ox, a sheep, a lion, a hog, or any other creature; he hath the same resemblance in the frame of his mind, and is subject to those pas
sions which are predominant in the creature that
appears in his countenance. Accordingly he gives the prints of several faces that are of a different mould, and by a little overcharging the likeness, discovers the figures of these several kinds of brutal faces in human features. * I remember, in the life of the famous Prince of Conde, the writer observes, the face of that prince was like the face of an eagle, and that the prince was very well pleased to be told so. In this case therefore we may be sure, that he had in his mind some general implicit notion of this art of physiognomy which I have just now mentioned; and that when his courtiers told him his face was made like an eagle's, he understood them in the same manner as if they had told him, there was something in his looks, which shewed him to be strong, active, piercing, and of a royal descent. Whether or no the different motions of the animal spirits, in different passions, may have any effect on the mould of the face when the lineaments are pliable and tender, or whether the same kind of souls require the same kind of habitations, I shall leave to the consideration of the curious. In the mean time I think nothing can be more glorious than for a man to give the lie to his face, and to be an honest, just, good-natured man, in spite of all those marks and signatures which nature seems to have set upon him for the contrary. This very often happens among those, who instead of being exasperated by their own looks, or envying the looks of others, apply themselves entirely to the cultivating of their minds, and getting those beauties which are more lasting, and more ornamental. I have seen many an amiable piece of deformity; and
* This doubtless refers to Raptista della Porta's famous book De humana Physiognomia : which has run through many editions both in Latin and Italian. He died in 1615.