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SATIRES AND LAMPOONS.
anguish. I have often observed a passage in Socrates's behaviour at his death », in a light wherein none of the critics have considered it. That excellent man, entertaining his friends, a little before he drank the bowl of poison, with a discourse on the immortality of the soul, at his entering upon it, says, that he does not believe any the most comic genius can censure him for talking upon such a subject at such a time. This passage, I think, evidently glances upon Aristophanes, who writ a comedy n on purpose to 'ridicule
the discourses of that divine philosopher. It has been observed 10 by many writers, that Socrates was so little moved at this piece
of buffoonery, that he was several times present at its being acted upon the stage, and never expressed the least resentment at it. But, with submission, I think the remark I have here made shews us, that this unworthy treatment made an impression upon his mind, though he had been too wise to discover it.
When Julius Cæsar was lampooned by Catullus, he invited him to a supper, and treated him with such a generous civility, that he made the poet his friend ever after. Cardinal Mazarin gave
the same kind of treatment to the learned Quillet, who had 20 reflected upon his Eminence in a famous Latin poem. The
Cardinal sent for him, and after some kind expostulations upon what he had written, assured him of his esteem, and dismissed him with a promise of the next good abbey that should fall, which he accordingly conferred upon him in a few months after. This had so good an effect upon the author, that he dedicated the second edition of his book to the Cardinal, after having expunged the passages which had given him offence.
Sextus Quintus was not of so generous and forgiving a temper. Upon his being made pope, the statue of Pasquin n was one night 30 dressed in a very dirty shirt, with an excuse written under it, that
he was forced to wear foul linen, because his laundress was made a princess. This was a reflexion upon the pope's sister, who, before the promotion of her brother, was in those mean circumstances that Pasquin represented hern. As this pasquinade made a great noise in Rome, the pope offered a considerable sum of money to any person that should discover the author of it. The author relying upon his Holiness's generosity, as also on some private overtures which he had received from him, made the discovery himself; upon which the pope gave him the reward he had promised, but at the same time, to disable the satirist for the
future, ordered his tongue to be cut out, and both his hands to knows that all the kings in Europe were his tributaries. Nay, he had laid the Sophy of Persia under contribution. ferently towards the wits of the age who had reproached them,
chopped offn. Aretine is too trite an instancen. Every one is
a letter of his extant, in which he makes his boasts that Though, in the various examples which I have here drawn together, these several great men behaved themselves
difthey all of them plainly shewed that they were very sensible of 10 their reproaches, and consequently that they received them as
very great injuries. For my own part, I would never trust a man that I thought was capable of giving these secret wounds; and cannot but think that he would hurt the person, whose reputation he thus assaults, in his body or in his fortune, could he do it with the same security. There is indeed something very barbarous and inhuman in the ordinary scribblers of lampoons. An innocent young lady shall be exposed, for an unhappy feature; a father of a family turned to ridicule, for some domestic calamity; a wife
be made uneasy all her life, for a misinterpreted word or action; 20 nay, a good, a temperate, and a just man, shall be put out of
countenance by the representation of those qualities that should do him honour. So pernicious a thing is wit when it is not tempered with virtue and humanity.
I have indeed heard of heedless inconsiderate writers, that without any malice have sacrificed the reputation of their friends and acquaintance, to a certain levity of temper, and a silly ambition of distinguishing themselves by a spirit of raillery and satire: as if it were not infinitely more honourable to be a good-natured
man, than a wit. Where there is this little petulant humour in 30 an author, he is often very mischievous without designing to be
For which reason I always lay it down as a rule, that an indiscreet man is more hurtful than an ill-natured one; for as n the latter will only attack his enemies, and those he wishes ill to; the other injures indifferently both friends and foes. I cannot forbear, on this occasion, transcribing a fable out of Sir Roger
"A L'Estrange 1, which accidentally lies before me,
company waggish boys were watching of frogs at the side of a pond, and still as any of them put up their heads, they'd be pelting the
down again with stones. Children, says one of the frogs, you never 40 consider, that though this may be play to you, it is death to us.'
As this week is in a manner set apart and dedicated to serious thoughts, I shall indulge myself in such speculations as may not be altogether unsuitable to the season ; and in the mean time, as the settling in ourselves a charitable frame of mind is a work very proper for the time, I have in this paper endeavoured to expose that particular breach of charity which has been generally overlooked by divines, because they are but few who can be guilty of it.-C.
No. 451. The subject of libellous writings continued ; severe condemnation of the practice ; quotation from Bayle.
Jam sævus apertam
HoR, Epist, ii, 1. 148. There is nothing so scandalous to a government, and de10 testable in the eyes of all good men, as defamatory papers and
pamphlets; but, at the same time, there is nothing so difficult to tame as a satirical author.
An angry writer, who cannot appear in print, naturally vents his spleen in libels and lampoons. A gay old woman, says the fable, seeing all her wrinkles represented in a large looking-glass, threw it upon the ground in a passion, and broke it into a thousand pieces; but as she was afterwards surveying the fragments, with a spiteful kind of pleasure, she could not forbear uttering herself in the following
soliloquy: "What have I got by this revengeful blow of mine ? 20 I have only multiplied my deformity, and see an hundred ugly faces where before I saw but one.'
It has been proposed, to oblige every person that writes a book, or a paper, to swear himself the author of it, and enter down in a public register his name and place of abode.
This, indeed, would have effectually suppressed all printed scandal, which generally appears under borrowed names or under none at all. But it is to be feared, that such an expedient would not only destroy scandal, but learning: it would operate
promiscuously, and root up the corn and tares together. Not 30 to mention some of the most celebrated works of piety, which
have proceeded from anonymous authors, who have made it their merit to convey to us so great a charity in secret, there are few works of genius that come out at first with the author's
before he owns them; and, I believe, very few who are capable of writing would set pen to paper, if they knew before hand
The writer generally makes a trial of them in the world they must not publish their productions but on such con
my own part, I must declare, the papers I present are like fairy favours, which shall last no longer than the author is concealed. of calumny and defamation, is, that all sides are equally
That which makes it particularly difficult to restrain these great names, whose interests he propagates by such vile and infamous methods. I have never yet heard of a ministry who
among us at present, that it is become a kind of national crime”, I cannot but look upon the finest strokes of satire which are with the appearances of truth, to be the marks of an evil mind, and highly criminal in themselves. Infamy, like other punish
any private person.
Cicero ”, that, though there were very few cap40 ital punishments in the twelve tables, a libel or lampoon which
of it, and that every dirty scribbler is countenanced by
inflicted an examplary punishment on an author that has supported their cause with falsehood and scandal, and treated in a
most cruel manner the names of those who have been looked upon as their rivals and antagonists. Would a government set an everlasting mark of their displeasure upon one of those infamous writers, who makes his court to them by tearing to pieces the reputation of a competitor, we should quickly
an end put to this race of vermin, that are a scandal to government, and a reproach to human nature.
Such a proceeding would make a minister of state shine in history, and would fill all mankind with a just abhorrence of persons who should treat him so unworthily, and employ against him those arms which he scorned to make use of against his enemies.
I cannot think that any one will be so unjust as to imagine what I have here said is spoken with respect to any party or faction. Every
one who has in him the sentiments either of a Christian or
gentleman, cannot but be highly offended at this 30 wicked and ungenerous practice, which is so much in use and distinguishes
us from all the governments that lie about us. particular persons, and which are supported even direction and distribution of the magistrate,
Accordingly we learn from of
ments, is and not of a fragment
took away the good name of another was to be punished by death. But this is far from being our case.
Our satire is nothing but ribaldry and Billingsgate. Scurrility passes for wit ; and he who can call names in the greatest variety of phrases is looked upon to have the shrewdest pen. By this means the honour of families is ruined ; the highest posts and greatest titles are rendered cheap and vile in the sight of the people; the noblest virtues and most exalted parts exposed to the con
tempt of the vicious and the ignorant. Should a foreigner, who 10 knows nothing of our private factions, or one who is to act
his part in the world when our present heats and animosities are forgot; should, I say, such an one form to himself a notion of the greatest men of all sides in the British nation, who are now living, from the characters which are given them in some or other of those abominable writings which are daily published among us, what a nation of monsters must we appear!
As this cruel practice tends to the utter subversion of all truth and humanity among us, it deserves the utter detes20 tation and discouragement of all who have either the love of
their country, or the honour of their religion at heart. I would therefore earnestly recommend it to the consideration of those who deal in these pernicious arts of writing, and of those who take pleasure in the reading of them. As for the first, I have spoken of them in former papers, and have not stuck to rank them with the murderer and assassin. Every honest man sets as high a value upon a good name as upon life itself; and I cannot but think that those who privily assault
the one would destroy the other, might they do it with the 30 same security and impunity.
As for persons who take pleasure in the reading and dispersing of such detestable libels, I am afraid they fall very little short of the guilt of the first composers. By a law of the emperors Valentinian and Valens », it was made death for any person not only to write a libel, but if he met with one by chance, not to tear or burn it. But, because I would not be thought singular in my opinion of this matter, I shall conclude my paper with the words of Monsieur Bayle, who was a man of great freedom of
thought, as well as of exquisite learning and judgment. 40
'I cannot imagine, that a man who disperses a libel is less