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No. 325 (from The Spectator) Post by :freedom Category :Essays Author :Eustace Budgell Date :September 2011 Read :1960

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No. 325 (from The Spectator)

No. 325
Thursday, March 13, 1712. Budgell.

Quid frustra Simulacra fugacia captas?
Quod petis, est nusquam: quod amas avertere, perdes.
Ista repercussae quam cernis imaginis umbra est,
Nil habet ista sui; tecum venitque, manetque,
Tecum discedet si tu discedere possis.


WILL. HONEYCOMB diverted us last Night with an Account of a young Fellows first discovering his Passion to his Mistress. The young Lady was one, it seems, who had long before conceived a favourable Opinion of him, and was still in hopes that he would some time or other make his Advances. As he was one day talking with her in Company of her two Sisters, the Conversation happening to turn upon Love, each of the young Ladies was by way of Raillery, recommending a Wife to him; when, to the no small Surprize of her who languished for him in secret, he told them with a more than ordinary Seriousness, that his Heart had been long engaged to one whose Name he thought himself obliged in Honour to conceal; but that he could shew her Picture in the Lid of his Snuff-box. The young Lady, who found herself the most sensibly touched by this Confession, took the first Opportunity that offered of snatching his Box out of his Hand. He seemed desirous of recovering it, but finding her resolved to look into the Lid, begged her, that if she should happen to know the Person, she would not reveal her Name. Upon carrying it to the Window, she was very agreeably surprized to find there was nothing within the Lid but a little Looking-Glass, in which, after she had view'd her own Face with more Pleasure than she had ever done before, she returned the Box with a Smile, telling him, she could not but admire at his Choice.

WILL. fancying that his Story took, immediately fell into a Dissertation on the Usefulness of Looking-Glasses, and applying himself to me, asked, if there were any Looking Glasses in the Times of the Greeks and Romans; for that he had often observed in the Translations of Poems out of those Languages, that People generally talked of seeing themselves in Wells, Fountains, Lakes, and Rivers: Nay, says he, I remember Mr. Dryden in his Ovid tells us of a swingeing Fellow, called Polypheme, that made use of the Sea for his Looking-Glass, and could never dress himself to Advantage but in a Calm.

My Friend WILL, to shew us the whole Compass of his Learning upon this Subject, further informed us, that there were still several Nations in the World so very barbarous as not to have any Looking-Glasses among them; and that he had lately read a Voyage to the South-Sea, in which it is said, that the Ladies of Chili always dress their Heads over a Bason of Water.

I am the more particular in my Account of WILL'S last Night's Lecture on these natural Mirrors, as it seems to bear some Relation to the following Letter, which I received the Day before.


I have read your last Saturdays Observations on the Fourth Book of Milton with great Satisfaction, and am particularly pleased with the hidden Moral, which you have taken notice of in several Parts of the Poem. The Design of this Letter is to desire your Thoughts, whether there may not also be some Moral couched under that Place in the same Book where the Poet lets us know, that the first Woman immediately after her Creation ran to a Looking-Glass, and became so enamoured of her own Face, that she had never removed to view any of the other Works of Nature, had not she been led off to a Man. If you think fit to set down the whole Passage from Milton, your Readers will be able to judge for themselves, and the Quotation will not a little contribute to the filling up of your Paper.

Your humble Servant,
R. T.

The last Consideration urged by my Querist is so strong, that I cannot forbear closing with it. The Passage he alludes to, is part of Eves Speech to Adam, and one of the most beautiful Passages in the whole Poem.

That Day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awaked, and found my self repos d
Under a shade of flowrs, much wondering where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring Sound
Of Waters issu'd from a Cave, and spread
Into a liquid Plain, then stood unmoved
Pure as th' Expanse of Heavn: I thither went
With unexperienced Thought, and laid me down
On the green Bank, to look into the clear
Smooth Lake, that to me seemed another Sky.
As I bent down to look, just opposite,
A Shape within the watry Gleam appeared
Bending to look on me; I started back,
It started back; but pleas'd I soon returned,
Pleas'd it return'd as soon with answering Looks
Of Sympathy and Love; there I had fix d
Mine Eyes till now, and pined with vain Desire,
Had not a Voice thus warn'd me, What thou seest,
What there thou seest, fair Creature, is thy self,
With thee it came and goes: but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no Shadow stays
Thy coming, and thy soft Embraces, he
Whose Image thou art, him thou shalt enjoy
Inseparably thine, to him shalt bear
Multitudes like thy self, and thence be call'd
Mother of Human Race. What could I do,
But follow streight, invisibly thus led?
Till I espy'd thee, fair indeed and tall,
Under a Platan, yet methought less fair,
Less winning soft, less amiably mild,
Than that smooth watry Image: back I turn'd,
Thou following crydst aloud, Return fair Eve,
Whom flyst thou? whom thou flyst, of him thou art,
His Flesh, his Bone; to give thee Being, I lent
Out of my Side to thee, nearest my Heart,
Substantial Life, to have thee by my side
Henceforth an individual Solace dear.
Part of my Soul I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half!---With that thy gentle hand
Seized mine, I yielded, and from that time see
How Beauty is excell'd by manly Grace,
And Wisdom, which alone is truly fair.
So spake our general Mother,--


(The end)
Eustace Budgell's essay: No. 325 (from The Spectator)

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