No. 241. Thursday, December 6, 1711. Addison.

--Semperque relinqui Sola sibi, semper longam incomitata videtur Ire viam--


Though you have considered virtuous Love inmost of its Distresses, I do not remember that you have given us any Dissertation upon the Absence of Lovers, or laid down any Methods how they should support themselves under those long Separations which they are sometimes forced to undergo. I am at present in this unhappy Circumstance, having parted with the best of Husbands, who is abroad in the Service of his Country, and may not possibly return for some Years. His warm and generous Affection while we were together, with the Tenderness which he expressed to me at parting, make his Absence almost insupportable. I think of him every Moment of the Day, and meet him every Night in my Dreams. Every thing I see puts me in mind of him. I apply myself with more than ordinary Diligence to the Care of his Family and his Estate; but this, instead of relieving me, gives me but so many Occasions of wishing for his Return. I frequent the Rooms where I used to converse with him, and not meeting him there, sit down in his Chair, and fall a weeping. I love to read the Books he delighted in, and to converse with the Persons whom he esteemed. I visit his Picture a hundred times a Day, and place myself over-against it whole Hours together. I pass a great part of my Time in the Walks where I used to lean upon his Arm, and recollect in my Mind the Discourses which have there passed between us: I look over the several Prospects and Points of View which we used to survey together, fix my Eye upon the Objects which he has made me take notice of, and call to mind a thousand [agreeable] Remarks which he has made on those Occasions. I write to him by every Conveyance, and contrary to other People, am always in good Humour when an East-Wind blows, because it seldom fails of bringing me a Letter from him. Let me entreat you, Sir, to give me your Advice upon this Occasion, and to let me know how I may relieve my self in this my Widowhood.

I am, SIR, Your most humble Servant,


Absence is what the Poets call Death in Love, and has given Occasion to abundance of beautiful Complaints in those Authors who have treated of this Passion in Verse. Ovid's Epistles are full of them. Otway's Monimia talks very tenderly upon this Subject. [1]

--It was not kind To leave me like a Turtle, here alone, To droop and mourn the Absence of my Mate._ _When thou art from me, every Place is desert: And I, methinks, am savage and forlorn. Thy Presence only tis can make me blest, Heal my unquiet Mind, and tune my Soul.

The Consolations of Lovers on these Occasions are very extraordinary. Besides those mentioned by Asteria, there are many other Motives of Comfort, which are made use of by absent Lovers.

I remember in one of Scudery's Romances, a Couple of honourable Lovers agreed at their parting to set aside one half Hour in the Day to think of each other during a tedious Absence. The Romance tells us, that they both of them punctually observed the Time thus agreed upon; and that whatever Company or Business they were engaged in, they left it abruptly as soon as the Clock warned them to retire. The Romance further adds, That the Lovers expected the Return of this stated Hour with as much Impatience, as if it had been a real Assignation, and enjoyed an imaginary Happiness that was almost as pleasing to them as what they would have found from a real Meeting. It was an inexpressible Satisfaction to these divided Lovers, to be assured that each was at the same time employ'd in the same kind of Contemplation, and making equal Returns of Tenderness and Affection.

If I may be allowed to mention a more serious Expedient for the alleviating of Absence, I shall take notice of one which I have known two Persons practise, who joined Religion to that Elegance of Sentiments with which the Passion of Love generally inspires its Votaries. This was, at the Return of such an Hour, to offer up a certain Prayer for each other, which they had agreed upon before their Parting. The Husband, who is a Man that makes a Figure in the polite World, as well as in his own Family, has often told me, that he could not have supported an Absence of three Years without this Expedient.

[Strada, in one of his Prolusions, [2]] gives an Account of a chimerical Correspondence between two Friends by the Help of a certain Loadstone, which had such Virtue in it, that if it touched two several Needles, when one of the Needles so touched [began [3]], to move, the other, tho at never so great a Distance, moved at the same Time, and in the same Manner. He tells us, that the two Friends, being each of them possessed of one of these Needles, made a kind of a Dial-plate, inscribing it with the four and twenty Letters, in the same manner as the Hours of the Day are marked upon the ordinary Dial-plate. They then fixed one of the Needles on each of these Plates in such a manner, that it could move round without Impediment, so as to touch any of the four and twenty Letters. Upon their Separating from one another into distant Countries, they agreed to withdraw themselves punctually into their Closets at a certain Hour of the Day, and to converse with one another by means of this their Invention. Accordingly when they were some hundred Miles asunder, each of them shut himself up in his Closet at the Time appointed, and immediately cast his Eye upon his Dial-plate. If he had a mind to write any thing to his Friend, he directed his Needle to every Letter that formed the Words which he had occasion for, making a little Pause at the end of every Word or Sentence, to avoid Confusion. The Friend, in the mean while, saw his own sympathetick Needle moving of itself to every Letter which that of his Correspondent pointed at. By this means they talked together across a whole Continent, and conveyed their Thoughts to one another in an Instant over Cities or Mountains, Seas or Desarts.

If Monsieur Scudery, or any other Writer of Romance, had introduced a Necromancer, who is generally in the Train of a Knight-Errant, making a Present to two Lovers of a Couple of those above-mentioned Needles, the Reader would not have been a little pleased to have seen them corresponding with one another when they were guarded by Spies and Watches, or separated by Castles and Adventures.

In the mean while, if ever this Invention should be revived or put in practice, I would propose, that upon the Lovers Dial-plate there should be written not only the four and twenty Letters, but several entire Words which have always a Place in passionate Epistles, as Flames, Darts, Die, Language, Absence, Cupid, Heart, Eyes, Hang, Drown, and the like. This would very much abridge the Lovers Pains in this way of writing a Letter, as it would enable him to express the most useful and significant Words with a single Touch of the Needle.


[Footnote 1: Orphan, Act II.]

[Footnote 2: [In one of Strada's Prolusions he] Lib. II. Prol. 6.]

[Footnote 3: [begun], and in first reprint.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. iv. 466.
'All sad she seems, forsaken, and alone;
And left to wander wide through paths unknown.'