Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
To see Ourselves as Others see Us
By Joseph Addison (16721719)
(Spectator, NO. 34.)
THE CLUB of which I am a member, is very luckily composed of such persons as are engaged in different ways of life, and deputed as it were out of the most conspicuous classes of mankind; by this means I am furnished with the greatest variety of hints and materials, and know everything that passes in the different quarters and divisions, not only of this great city, but of the whole kingdom. My readers too have the satisfaction to find, that there is no rank or degree among them who have not their representative in this club, and that there is always some body present who will take care of their respective interests, that nothing may be written or published to the prejudice or infringement of their just rights and privileges.
I last night sat very late in company with this select body of friends, who entertained me with several remarks which they and others had made upon these my speculations, as also with the various success which they had met with among their several ranks and degrees of readers. Will. Honeycomb told me, in the softest manner he could, that there were some ladies (but for your comfort, says Will., they are not those of the most wit) that were offended at the liberties I had taken with the opera and the puppet-show: that some of them were likewise very much surprized, that I should think such serious points as the dress and equipage of persons of quality, proper subjects for raillery.
He was going on, when Sir Andrew Freeport took him up short, and told him, that the papers he hinted at had done great good in the city, and that all their wives and daughters were the better for them: and further added, that the whole city thought themselves very much obliged to me for declaring my generous intentions to scourge vice and folly as they appear in a multitude, without condescending to be a publisher of particular intrigues and cuckoldoms. In short, says Sir Andrew, if you avoid that foolish beaten road of falling upon aldermen and citizens, and employ your pen upon the vanity and luxury of courts, your paper must needs be of general use.
Upon this my friend the templar told Sir Andrew, that he wondered to hear a man of his sense talk after that manner; that the city had always been the province for satire; and that the wits of King Charless time jested upon nothing else during his whole reign. He then shewed, by the examples of Horace, Juvenal, Boileau, and the best writers of every age, that the follies of the stage and court had never been accounted too sacred for ridicule, how great soever the persons might be that patronized them. But after all, says he, I think your raillery has made too great an excursion, in attacking several persons of the Inns of Court; and I do not believe you can shew me any precedent for your behaviour in that particular.
My good friend Sir Roger de Coverley, who had said nothing all this while, began his speech with a pish! and told us, that he wondered to see so many men of sense, so very serious upon fooleries. Let our good friend, says he, attack every one that deserves it: I would only advise you, Mr. Spectator, applying himself to me, to take care how you meddle with country squires: they are the ornaments of the English nation; men of good heads and sound bodies! and let me tell you, some of them take it ill of you that you mention fox-hunters with so little respect.
By this time I found every subject of my speculations was taken away from me by one or other of the club; and began to think myself in the condition of the good man that had one wife who took a dislike to his grey hairs, and another to his black, till by their picking out what each of them had an aversion to, they left his head altogether bald and naked.
While I was thus amusing with my self, my worthy friend the clergy-man, who, very luckily for me, was at the club that night, undertook my cause. He told us, that he wondered any order of persons should think themselves too considerable to be advised: that it was not quality, but innocence which exempted men from reproof: that vice and folly ought to be attacked wherever they could be met with, and especially when they were placed in high and conspicuous stations of life. He further added, that my paper, would only serve to aggravate the pains of poverty, if it chiefly exposed those who are already depressed, and in some measure turned into ridicule, by the meanness of their conditions and circumstances. He afterwards proceeded to take notice of the great use this paper might be of to the publick, by reprehending those vices which are too trivial for the chastisement of the law, and too fantastical for the cognizance of the pulpit. He then advised me to prosecute my undertaking with chearfulness; and assured me, that whoever might be displeased with me, I should be approved by all those whose praises do honour to the persons on whom they are bestowed.
The whole club pays a particular deference to the discourse of this gentleman, and are drawn into what he says as much by the candid and ingenuous manner with which he delivers himself, as by the strength of argument and force of reason which he makes use of. Will. Honeycomb immediately agreed, that what he had said was right; and that for his part, he would not insist upon the quarter which he had demanded for the ladies. Sir Andrew gave up the city with the same frankness. The templar would not stand out: and was followed by Sir Roger and the Captain: who all agreed that I should be at liberty to carry the war into what quarter I pleased; provided I continued to combat with criminals in a body, and to assault the vice without hurting the person.
This debate, which was held for the good of mankind, put me in mind of that which the Roman triumvirate were formerly engaged in, for their destruction. Every man at first stood hard for his friend, till they found that by this means they should spoil their proscription. And at length, making a sacrifice of all their acquaintance and relations, furnished out a very decent execution.
Having thus taken my resolutions to march on boldly in the cause of virtue and good sense, and to annoy their adversaries in whatever degree or rank of men they may be found, I shall be deaf for the future to all the remonstrances that shall be made to me on this account. If Punch grow extravagant, I shall reprimand him very freely: if the stage becomes a nursery of folly and impertinence, I shall not be afraid to animadvert upon it. In short, if I meet with any thing in city, court, or country, that shocks modesty or good manners, I shall use my utmost endeavours to make an example of it. I must however intreat every particular person, who does me the honour to be a reader of this paper, never to think himself, or any one of his friends or enemies, aimed at in what is said: for I promise him, never to draw a faulty character which does not fit at least a thousand people; or to publish a single paper, that is not written in the spirit of benevolence and with a love to mankind.