No. 392. Friday, May 30, 1712. Steele.

Per Ambages et Ministeria Deorum Præcipitandus est liber Spiritus.'


The Transformation of Fidelio into a Looking-Glass.

I was lately at a Tea-Table, where some young Ladies entertained the Company with a Relation of a Coquet in the Neighbourhood, who had been discovered practising before her Glass. To turn the Discourse, which from being witty grew to be malicious, the Matron of the Family took occasion, from the Subject, to wish that there were to be found amongst Men such faithful Monitors to dress the Mind by, as we consult to adorn the Body. She added, that if a sincere Friend were miraculously changed into a Looking-Glass, she should not be ashamed to ask its Advice very often. This whimsical Thought worked so much upon my Fancy the whole Evening, that it produced [a very odd Dream. [1]]

Methought, that as I stood before my Glass, the Image of a Youth, of an open ingenuous Aspect, appeared in it; who with a small shrill Voice spoke in the following manner.

The Looking-Glass, you see, was heretofore a Man, even I, the
unfortunate Fidelio. I had two Brothers, whose Deformity in Shape
was made out by the Clearness of their Understanding: It must be
owned however, that (as it generally happens) they had each a
Perverseness of Humour suitable to their Distortion of Body. The
eldest, whose Belly sunk in monstrously, was a great Coward; and
tho' his splenetick contracted Temper made him take fire
immediately, he made Objects that beset him appear greater than they
were. The second, whose Breast swelled into a bold Relievo, on the
contrary, took great pleasure in lessening every thing, and was
perfectly the Reverse of his Brother. These Oddnesses pleased
Company once or twice, but disgusted when often seen; for which
reason the young Gentlemen were sent from Court to study
Mathematicks at the University.
I need not acquaint you, that I was very well made, and reckoned a
bright polite Gentleman. I was the Confident and Darling of all the
Fair; and if the Old and Ugly spoke ill of me, all the World knew it
was because I scorned to flatter them. No Ball, no Assembly was
attended till I had been consulted. Flavia colour'd her Hair before
me, Celia shew'd me her Teeth, Panthea heaved her Bosom, Cleora
brandished her Diamonds; I have seen Cloe's Foot, and tied
artificially the Garters of Rhodope.
'Tis a general Maxim, that those who doat upon themselves, can have
no violent Affection for another: But on the contrary, I found that
the Women's Passion for me rose in proportion to the Love they bare
to themselves. This was verify'd in my Amour with Narcissa, who was
so constant to me, that it was pleasantly said, had I been little
enough, she would have hung me at her Girdle. The most dangerous
Rival I had, was a gay empty Fellow, who by the Strength of a long
Intercourse with Narcissa, joined to his natural Endowments, had
formed himself into a perfect Resemblance with her. I had been
discarded, had she not observed that he frequently asked my Opinion
about Matters of the last Consequence: This made me still more
considerable in her Eye.
Tho' I was eternally caressed by the Ladies, such was their Opinion
of my Honour, that I was never envy'd by the Men. A jealous Lover of
Narcissa one day thought he had caught her in an Amorous
Conversation; for tho' he was at such a Distance that he could hear
nothing, he imagined strange things from her Airs and Gestures.
Sometimes with a serene Look she stepped back in a listning Posture,
and brightened into an innocent Smile. Quickly after she swelled
into an Air of Majesty and Disdain, then kept her Eyes half shut
after a languishing Manner, then covered her Blushes with her Hand,
breathed a Sigh, and seemd ready to sink down. In rushed the furious
Lover; but how great was his Surprize to see no one there but the
innocent Fidelio, with his Back against the Wall betwixt two
It were endless to recount all my Adventures. Let me hasten to that
which cost me my Life, and Narcissa her Happiness.
She had the misfortune to have the Small-Pox, upon which I was
expressly forbid her Sight, it being apprehended that it would
increase her Distemper, and that I should infallibly catch it at the
first Look. As soon as she was suffered to leave her Bed, she stole
out of her Chamber, and found me all alone in an adjoining
Apartment. She ran with Transport to her Darling, and without
Mixture of Fear, lest I should dislike her. But, oh me! what was her
Fury when she heard me say, I was afraid and shockd at so loathsome
a Spectacle. She stepped back, swollen with Rage, to see if I had
the Insolence to repeat it. I did, with this Addition, that her
ill-timed Passion had increased her Ugliness. Enraged, inflamed,
distracted, she snatched a Bodkin, and with all her Force stabbed me
to the Heart. Dying, I preserv'd my Sincerity, and expressed the
Truth, tho' in broken Words; and by reproachful Grimaces to the last
I mimick'd the Deformity of my Murderess.
Cupid, who always attends the Fair, and pity'd the Fate of so useful
a Servant as I was, obtained of the Destinies, that my Body should
be made incorruptible, and retain the Qualities my Mind had
possessed. I immediately lost the Figure of a Man, and became
smooth, polished, and bright, and to this day am the first Favourite
of the Ladies.


[Footnote 1: [so odd a Dream, that no one but the SPECTATOR could believe that the Brain, clogged in Sleep, could furnish out such a regular Wildness of Imagination.]

Translation of motto:
'By fable's aid ungovern'd fancy soars,
And claims the ministry of heavenly powers.'