The following Letters have in them Reflections which will seem of Importance both to the Learned World and to Domestick Life. There is in the first an Allegory so well carry'd on, that it cannot but be very pleasing to those who have a Taste of good Writing; and the other Billets may have their Use in common Life.
As I walked t'other Day in a fine Garden, and observed the great Variety of Improvements in Plants and Flowers beyond what they otherwise would have been, I was naturally led into a Reflection upon the Advantages of Education, or Moral Culture; how many good Qualities in the Mind are lost, for want of the like due Care in nursing and skilfully managing them, how many Virtues are choaked, by the Multitude of Weeds which are suffered to grow among them; how excellent Parts are often starved and useless, by being planted in a wrong Soil; and how very seldom do these Moral Seeds produce the noble Fruits which might be expected from them, by a Neglect of proper Manuring, necessary Pruning, and an artful Management of our tender Inclinations and first Spring of Life: These obvious Speculations made me at length conclude, that there is a sort of vegetable Principle in the Mind of every Man when he comes into the World. In Infants the Seeds lie buried and undiscovered, till after a while they sprout forth in a kind of rational Leaves, which are Words; and in due Season the Flowers begin to appear in Variety of beautiful Colours, and all the gay Pictures of youthful Fancy and Imagination; at last the Fruit knits and is formed, which is green, perhaps, first, and soure, unpleasant to the Taste, and not fit to be gathered; till ripened by due Care and Application, it discovers itself in all the noble Productions of Philosophy, Mathematicks, close Reasoning, and handsome Argumentation: And these Fruits, when they arrive at a just Maturity, and are of a good Kind, afford the most vigorous Nourishment to the Minds of Men. I reflected further on the intellectual Leaves beforementioned, and found almost as great a Variety among them as in the vegetable World. I could easily observe the smooth shining Italian Leaves; the nimble French Aspen always in Motion; the Greek and Latin Evergreens, the Spanish Myrtle, the English Oak, the Scotch Thistle, the Irish Shambrogue, the prickly German and Dutch Holly, the Polish and Russian Nettle, besides a vast Number of Exoticks imported from Asia, Africk, and America. I saw several barren Plants, which bore only Leaves, without any Hopes of Flower or Fruit: The Leaves of some were fragrant and well-shaped, of others ill-scented and irregular. I wonder'd at a Set of old whimsical Botanists, who spent their whole Lives in the Contemplation of some withered Ægyptian, Coptick, Armenian, or Chinese Leaves, while others made it their Business to collect in voluminous Herbals all the several Leaves of some one Tree. The Flowers afforded a most diverting Entertainment, in a wonderful Variety of Figures, Colours and Scents; however, most of them withered soon, or at best are but Annuals. Some professed Florists make them their constant Study and Employment, and despise all Fruit; and now and then a few fanciful People spend all their Time in the Cultivation of a single Tulip, or a Carnation: But the most agreeable Amusement seems to be the well chusing, mixing, and binding together these Flowers, in pleasing Nosegays to present to Ladies. The Scent of Italian Flowers is observed, like their other Perfume, to be too strong, and to hurt the Brain; that of the French with glaring, gaudy Colours, yet faint and languid; German and Northern Flowers have little or no Smell, or sometimes an unpleasant one. The Antients had a Secret to give a lasting Beauty, Colour, and Sweetness to some of their choice Flowers, which flourish to this Day, and which few of the Moderns can effect. These are becoming enough and agreeable in their Season, and do often handsomely adorn an Entertainment, but an Over-fondness of them seems to be a Disease. It rarely happens to find a Plant vigorous enough, to have (like an Orange-Tree) at once beautiful shining Leaves, fragrant Flowers, and delicious nourishing Fruit.
SIR, Yours, &c.
August 6, 1712.
You have given us in your Spectator of Saturday last, a very excellent Discourse upon the Force of Custom, and its wonderful Efficacy in making every thing pleasant to us. I cannot deny but that I received above Two penny-worth of Instruction from your Paper, and in the general was very well pleased with it; but I am, without a Compliment, sincerely troubled that I cannot exactly be of your Opinion, That it makes every thing pleasing to us. In short, I have the Honour to be yoked to a young Lady, who is, in plain English, for her Standing, a very eminent Scold. She began to break her Mind very freely both to me and to her Servants about two Months after our Nuptials; and tho' I have been accustomed to this Humour of hers this three Years, yet, I do not know what's the Matter with me, but I am no more delighted with it than I was at the very first. I have advised with her Relations about her, and they all tell me that her Mother and her Grandmother before her were both taken much after the same Manner; so that since it runs in the Blood, I have but small Hopes of her Recovery. I should be glad to have a little of your Advice in this Matter: I would not willingly trouble you to contrive how it may be a Pleasure to me; if you will but put me in a Way that I may bear it with Indifference, I shall rest satisfied.
Your very humble Servant.
P. S. I must do the poor Girl the Justice to let you know, that this Match was none of her own chusing, (or indeed of mine either;) in Consideration of which I avoid giving her the least Provocation; and indeed we live better together than usually Folks do who hated one another when they were first joined: To evade the Sin against Parents, or at least to extenuate it, my Dear rails at my Father and Mother, and I curse hers for making the Match.
I like the Theme you lately gave out extremely, and should be as glad to handle it as any Man living: But I find myself no better qualified to write about Money, than about my Wife; for, to tell you a Secret which I desire may go no further, I am Master of neither of those Subjects.
Aug. 8, 1712.
I desire you would print this in Italick, so as it may be generally taken Notice of. It is designed only to admonish all Persons, who speak either at the Bar, Pulpit, or any publick Assembly whatsoever, how they discover their Ignorance in the Use of Similes. There are in the Pulpit it self, as well as other Places, such gross Abuses in this Kind, that I give this Warning to all I know, I shall bring them for the Future before your Spectatorial Authority. On Sunday last, one, who shall be nameless, reproving several of his Congregation for standing at Prayers, was pleased to say, One would think, like the Elephant, you had no Knees. Now I my self saw an Elephant in Bartholomew-Fair kneel down to take on his Back the ingenious Mr. William Penkethman.
Your most humble Servant.
T.Translation of motto: