No. 460. Monday, August 18, 1712. [Parnell [1]]

--Decipimur Specie Recti--'

Our defects and Follies are too often unknown to us; nay, they are so far from being known to us, that they pass for Demonstrations of our Worth. This makes us easy in the midst of them, fond to shew them, fond to improve in them, and to be esteemed for them. Then it is that a thousand unaccountable Conceits, gay Inventions, and extravagant Actions must afford us Pleasures, and display us to others in the Colours which we ourselves take a Fancy to glory in: And indeed there is something so amusing for the time in this State of Vanity and ill-grounded Satisfaction, that even the wiser World has chosen an exalted Word to describe its Enchantments, and called it the Paradise of Fools.

Perhaps the latter part of this Reflection may seem a false Thought to some, and bear another Turn than what I have given: but it is at present none of my Business to look after it, who am going to confess that I have been lately amongst them in a Vision.

Methought I was transported to a Hill, green, flowery, and of an easie Ascent. Upon the broad Top of it resided squinteyed Error, and popular Opinion with many Heads; two that dealt in Sorcery, and were famous for bewitching People with the Love of themselves. To these repaired a Multitude from every Side, by two different Paths which lead towards each of them. Some who had the most assuming Air, went directly of themselves to Errour, without expecting a Conductor; others of a softer Nature went first to popular Opinion, from whence as she influenced and engaged them with their own Praises, she delivered them over to his Government.

When we had ascended to an open Part of the Summit where Opinion abode, we found her entertaining several who had arrived before us. Her Voice was pleasing; she breathed Odours as she spoke: She seemed to have a Tongue for every one; every one thought he heard of something that was valuable in himself, and expected a Paradise, which she promised as the Reward of his Merit. Thus were we drawn to follow her, till she should bring us where it was to be bestowed: And it was observable, that all the Way we went, the Company was either praising themselves for their Qualifications, or one another for those Qualifications which they took to be conspicuous in their own Characters, or dispraising others for wanting theirs, or vying in the Degrees of them.

At last we approached a Bower, at the Entrance of which Errour was seated. The Trees were thick-woven, and the Place where he sat artfully contrived to darken him a little. He was disguised in a whitish Robe, which he had put on, that he might appear to us with a nearer Resemblance to Truth: And as she has a Light whereby she manifests the Beauties of Nature to the Eyes of her Adorers, so he had provided himself with a magical Wand, that he might do something in Imitation of it, and please with Delusions. This he lifted solemnly, and muttering to himself, bid the Glories which he kept under Enchantment to appear before us. Immediately we cast our Eyes on that part of the Sky to which he pointed, and observed a thin blue Prospect, which cleared as Mountains in a Summer Morning when the Mists go off, and the Palace of Vanity appeared to Sight.

The Foundation hardly seemed a Foundation, but a Set of curling Clouds, which it stood upon by magical Contrivance. The Way by which we ascended was painted like a Rainbow; and as we went the Breeze that played about us bewitched the Senses. The Walls were gilded all for Show; the lowest Set of Pillars were of the slight fine Corinthian Order, and the Top of the Building being rounded, bore so far the Resemblance of a Bubble.

At the Gate the Travellers neither met with a Porter, nor waited till one should appear; every one thought his Merits a sufficient Passport, and pressed forward. In the Hall we met with several Phantoms, that rov'd amongst us, and rang'd the Company according to their Sentiments. There was decreasing Honour, that had nothing to shew in but an old Coat of his Ancestors Atchievements: There was Ostentation, that made himself his own constant Subject, and Gallantry strutting upon his Tiptoes. At the upper End of the Hall stood a Throne, whose Canopy glitter'd with all the Riches that Gayety could contrive to lavish on it; and between the gilded Arms sat Vanity, deck'd in the Peacock's Feathers, and acknowledged for another Venus by her Votaries. The Boy who stood beside her for a Cupid, and who made the World to bow before her, was called Self-Conceit. His Eyes had every now and then a Cast inwards to the Neglect of all Objects about him; and the Arms which he made use of for Conquest, were borrowed from those against whom he had a Design. The Arrow which he shot at the Soldier, was fledged from his own Plume of Feathers; the Dart he directed against the Man of Wit, was winged from the Quills he writ with; and that which he sent against those who presumed upon their Riches, was headed with Gold out of their Treasuries: He made Nets for Statesmen from their own Contrivances; he took Fire from the Eyes of Ladies, with which he melted their Hearts; and Lightning from the Tongues of the Eloquent, to enflame them with their own Glories. At the Foot of the Throne sat three false Graces. Flattery with a Shell of Paint, Affectation with a Mirrour to practise at, and Fashion ever changing the Posture of her Cloaths. These applied themselves to secure the Conquests which Self-Conceit had gotten, and had each of them their particular Polities. Flattery gave new Colours and Complections to all Things. Affectation new Airs and Appearances, which, as she said, were not vulgar, and Fashion both concealed some home Defects, and added some foreign external Beauties.

As I was reflecting upon what I saw, I heard a Voice in the Crowd, bemoaning the Condition of Mankind, which is thus managed by the Breath of Opinion, deluded by Errour, fired by Self-Conceit, and given up to be trained in all the Courses of Vanity, till Scorn or Poverty come upon us. These Expressions were no sooner handed about, but I immediately saw a general Disorder, till at last there was a Parting in one Place, and a grave old Man, decent and resolute, was led forward to be punished for the Words he had uttered. He appeared inclined to have spoken in his own Defence, but I could not observe that any one was willing to hear him. Vanity cast a scornful Smile at him; Self-Conceit was angry; Flattery, who knew him for Plain-dealing, put on a Vizard, and turned away; Affectation tossed her Fan, made Mouths, and called him Envy or Slander; and Fashion would have it, that at least he must be Ill-Manners. Thus slighted and despised by all, he was driven out for abusing People of Merit and Figure; and I heard it firmly resolved, that he should be used no better wherever they met with him hereafter.

I had already seen the Meaning of most part of that Warning which he had given, and was considering how the latter Words should be fulfilled, when a mighty Noise was heard without, and the Door was blackned by a numerous Train of Harpies crowding in upon us. Folly and Broken Credit were seen in the House before they entered. Trouble, Shame, Infamy, Scorn and Poverty brought up the Rear. Vanity, with her Cupid and Graces, disappeared; her Subjects ran into Holes and Corners; but many of them were found and carried off (as I was told by one who stood near me) either to Prisons or Cellars, Solitude, or little Company, the meaner Arts or the viler Crafts of Life. But these, added he with a disdainful Air, are such who would fondly live here, when their Merits neither matched the Lustre of the Place, nor their Riches its Expences. We have seen such Scenes as these before now; the Glory you saw will all return when the Hurry is over. I thanked him for his Information, and believing him so incorrigible as that he would stay till it was his Turn to be taken, I made off to the Door, and overtook some few, who, though they would not hearken to Plain-dealing, were now terrified to good purpose by the Example of others: But when they had touched the Threshold, it was a strange Shock to them to find that the Delusion of Errour was gone, and they plainly discerned the Building to hang a little up in the Air without any real Foundation. At first we saw nothing but a desperate Leap remained for us, and I a thousand times blamed my unmeaning Curiosity that had brought me into so much Danger. But as they began to sink lower in their own Minds, methought the Palace sunk along with us, till they were arrived at the due Point of Esteem which they ought to have for themselves; then the Part of the Building in which they stood touched the Earth, and we departing out, it retired from our Eyes. Now, whether they who stayed in the Palace were sensible of this Descent, I cannot tell; it was then my Opinion that they were not. However it be, my Dream broke up at it, and has given me Occasion all my Life to reflect upon the fatal Consequences of following the Suggestions of Vanity.


'I write to you to desire, that you would again touch upon a certain Enormity, which is chiefly in Use among the Politer and better-bred Part of Mankind; I mean the Ceremonies, Bows, Courtsies, Whisperings, Smiles, Winks, Nods, with other familiar Arts of Salutation, which take up in our Churches so much Time, that might be better employed, and which seem so utterly inconsistent with the Duty and true Intent of our entering into those Religious Assemblies. The Resemblance which this bears to our indeed proper Behaviour in Theatres, may be some Instance of its Incongruity in the above-mentioned Places. In Roman Catholick Churches and Chappels abroad, I my self have observed, more than once, Persons of the first Quality, of the nearest Relation, and intimatest Acquaintance passing by one another unknowing as it were and unknown, and with so little Notices of each other, that it looked like having their Minds more suitably and more solemnly engaged; at least it was an Acknowledgment that they ought to have been so. I have been told the same even of the Mahometans, with relation to the Propriety of their Demeanour in the Conventions of their erroneous Worship: And I cannot but think either of them sufficient and laudable Patterns for our Imitation in this Particular.

'I cannot help upon this Occasion remarking on the excellent Memories of those Devotionists, who upon returning from Church shall give a particular Account how two or three hundred People were dressed; a Thing, by reason of its Variety, so difficult to be digested and fixed in the Head, that 'tis a Miracle to me how two poor Hours of Divine Service can be Time sufficient for so elaborate an undertaking, the Duty of the Place too being jointly and, no doubt, oft pathetically performed along with it. Where it is said in Sacred Wit, that the Woman ought to have a Covering on her Head, because of the Angels [2] that last Word is by some thought to be metaphorically used, and to signify young Men. Allowing this Interpretation to be right, the Text may not appear to be wholly foreign to our present Purpose.

'When you are in a Disposition proper for writing on such a Subject, I earnestly recommend this to you, and am,


Your very humble Servant.


[Footnote 1: Thomas Parnell, the writer of this allegory, was the son of a commonwealthsman, who at the Restoration ceased to live on his hereditary lands at Congleton, in Cheshire, and bought an estate in Ireland. Born in 1679, at Dublin, where he became M.A. of Trinity College, in 1700 he was ordained after taking his degree, and in 1705 became Archdeacon of Clogher. At the same time he took a wife, who died in 1711. Parnell had been an associate of the chief Whig writers, had taste as a poet, and found pleasure in writing for the papers of the time. When the Whigs went out of power in Queen Anne's reign, Parnell connected himself with the Tories. On the warm recommendation of Swift, he obtained a prebend in 1713, and in May, 1716, a vicarage in the diocese of Dublin, worth £400 a year. He died in July, 1717, aged 38. Inheriting his father's estates in Cheshire and Ireland, Pamell was not in need. Wanting vigour and passion, he was neither formidable nor bitter as a political opponent, and in 1712 his old friends, Steele and Addison, were glad of a paper from him; though, with Swift, he had gone over to the other side in politics.]

[Footnote 2: I Corinthians xi. 10.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. Ars Poet. v. 25.
'Deluded by a seeming excellence.'