No. 286. Monday, January 28, 1712. Steele.

Nomina Honesta prætenduntur vitiis.

York, Jan. 18, 1712.

Mr. Spectator,

I pretend not to inform a Gentleman of so just a Taste, whenever he pleases to use it; but it may not be amiss to inform your Readers, that there is a false Delicacy as well as a true one. True Delicacy, as I take it, consists in Exactness of Judgment and Dignity of Sentiment, or if you will, Purity of Affection, as this is opposed to Corruption and Grossness. There are Pedants in Breeding as well as in Learning. The Eye that cannot bear the Light is not delicate but sore. A good Constitution appears in the Soundness and Vigour of the Parts, not in the Squeamishness of the Stomach; And a false Delicacy is Affectation, not Politeness. What then can be the Standard of Delicacy but Truth and Virtue? Virtue, which, as the Satyrist long since observed, is real Honour; whereas the other Distinctions among Mankind are meerly titular. Judging by that Rule, in my Opinion, and in that of many of your virtuous Female Readers, you are so far from deserving Mr. Courtly's Accusation, that you seem too gentle, and to allow too many Excuses for an enormous Crime, which is the Reproach of the Age, and is in all its Branches and Degrees expresly forbidden by that Religion we pretend to profess; and whose Laws, in a Nation that calls it self Christian, one would think should take Place of those Rules which Men of corrupt Minds, and those of weak Understandings follow. I know not any thing more pernicious to good Manners, than the giving fair Names to foul Actions; for this confounds Vice and Virtue, and takes off that natural Horrour we have to Evil. An innocent Creature, who would start at the Name of Strumpet, may think it pretty to be called a Mistress, especially if her Seducer has taken care to inform her, that a Union of Hearts is the principal Matter in the Sight of Heaven, and that the Business at Church is a meer idle Ceremony. Who knows not that the Difference between obscene and modest Words expressing the same Action, consists only in the accessary Idea, for there is nothing immodest in Letters and Syllables. Fornication and Adultery are modest Words: because they express an Evil Action as criminal, and so as to excite Horrour and Aversion: Whereas Words representing the Pleasure rather than the Sin, are for this Reason indecent and dishonest. Your Papers would be chargeable with something worse than Indelicacy, they would be Immoral, did you treat the detestable Sins of Uncleanness in the same manner as you rally an impertinent Self-love and an artful Glance; as those Laws would be very unjust, that should chastise Murder and Petty Larceny with the same Punishment. Even Delicacy requires that the Pity shewn to distressed indigent Wickedness, first betrayed into, and then expelled the Harbours of the Brothel, should be changed to Detestation, when we consider pampered Vice in the Habitations of the Wealthy. The most free Person of Quality, in Mr. Courtly's Phrase, that is, to speak properly, a Woman of Figure who has forgot her Birth and Breeding, dishonoured her Relations and her self, abandoned her Virtue and Reputation, together with the natural Modesty of her Sex, and risqued her very Soul, is so far from deserving to be treated with no worse Character than that of a kind Woman, (which is doubtless Mr. Courtly's Meaning, if he has any,) that one can scarce be too severe on her, in as much as she sins against greater Restraints, is less exposed, and liable to fewer Temptations, than Beauty in Poverty and Distress. It is hoped therefore, Sir, that you will not lay aside your generous Design of exposing that monstrous Wickedness of the Town, whereby a Multitude of Innocents are sacrificed in a more barbarous Manner than those who were offered to Moloch. The Unchaste are provoked to see their Vice exposed, and the Chaste cannot rake into such Filth without Danger of Defilement; but a meer SPECTATOR may look into the Bottom, and come off without partaking in the Guilt. The doing so will convince us you pursue publick Good, and not meerly your own Advantage: But if your Zeal slackens, how can one help thinking that Mr. Courtly's Letter is but a Feint to get off from a Subject, in which either your own, or the private and base Ends of others to whom you are partial, or those [of] whom you are afraid, would not endure a Reformation?

I am, Sir, your humble Servant and Admirer, so long as you tread in the Paths of Truth, Virtue, and Honour.


Trin. Coll. Cantab. Jan. 12, 1711-12.

It is my Fortune to have a Chamber-Fellow, with whom, tho I agree very well in many Sentiments, yet there is one in which we are as contrary as Light and Darkness. We are both in Love: his Mistress is a lovely Fair, and mine a lovely Brown. Now as the Praise of our Mistresses Beauty employs much of our Time, we have frequent Quarrels in entering upon that Subject, while each says all he can to defend his Choice. For my own part, I have racked my Fancy to the utmost; and sometimes, with the greatest Warmth of Imagination, have told him, That Night was made before Day, and many more fine Things, tho without any effect: Nay, last Night I could not forbear saying with more Heat than Judgment, that the Devil ought to be painted white. Now my Desire is, Sir, that you would be pleased to give us in Black and White your Opinion in the Matter of Dispute between us; which will either furnish me with fresh and prevailing Arguments to maintain my own Taste, or make me with less Repining allow that of my Chamber-Fellow. I know very well that I have Jack Cleveland[1] and Bonds Horace on my Side; but then he has such a Band of Rhymers and Romance-Writers, with which he opposes me, and is so continually chiming to the Tune of Golden Tresses, yellow Locks, Milk, Marble, Ivory, Silver, Swan, Snow, Daisies, Doves, and the Lord knows what; which he is always sounding with so much Vehemence in my Ears, that he often puts me into a brown Study how to answer him; and I find that I am in a fair Way to be quite confounded, without your timely Assistance afforded to,


Your humble Servant,


T. [2]

[Footnote 1: Cleveland celebrates brown beauties in his poem of the Senses Festival. John Bond, who published Commentaries on Horace and Persius, Antony à Wood calls a polite and rare critic whose labours have advanced the Commonwealth of Learning very much.]

[Footnote 2: [Z.]]

Translation of motto:
TACIT. Ann. I. xiv. c. 21.
'Specious names are lent to cover vices.'