I received some time ago a Proposal, which had a Preface to it, wherein the Author discoursed at large of the innumerable Objects of Charity in a Nation, and admonished the Rich, who were afflicted with any Distemper of Body, particularly to regard the Poor in the same Species of Affliction, and confine their Tenderness to them, since it is impossible to assist all who are presented to them. The Proposer had been relieved from a Malady in his Eyes by an Operation performed by Sir William Read, and being a Man of Condition, had taken a Resolution to maintain three poor blind Men during their Lives, in Gratitude for that great Blessing. This Misfortune is so very great and unfrequent, that one would think, an Establishment for all the Poor under it might be easily accomplished, with the Addition of a very few others to those Wealthy who are in the same Calamity. However, the Thought of the Proposer arose from a very good Motive, and the parcelling of our selves out, as called to particular Acts of Beneficence, would be a pretty Cement of Society and Virtue. It is the ordinary Foundation for Mens holding a Commerce with each other, and becoming familiar, that they agree in the same sort of Pleasure; and sure it may also be some Reason for Amity, that they are under one common Distress. If all the Rich who are lame in the Gout, from a Life of Ease, Pleasure, and Luxury, would help those few who have it without a previous Life of Pleasure, and add a few of such laborious Men, who are become lame from unhappy Blows, Falls, or other Accidents of Age or Sickness; I say, would such gouty Persons administer to the Necessities of Men disabled like themselves, the Consciousness of such a Behaviour would be the best Julep, Cordial, and Anodine in the feverish, faint and tormenting Vicissitudes of that miserable Distemper. The same may be said of all other, both bodily and intellectual Evils. These Classes of Charity would certainly bring down Blessings upon an Age and People; and if Men were not petrifyed with the Love of this World, against all Sense of the Commerce which ought to be among them, it would not be an unreasonable Bill for a poor Man in the Agony of Pain, aggravated by Want and Poverty, to draw upon a sick Alderman after this Form;
Mr. Basil Plenty,
You have the Gout and Stone, with Sixty thousand Pound Sterling; I have the Gout and Stone, not worth one Farthing; I shall pray for you, and desire you would pay the Bearer Twenty Shillings for Value received from,
SIR, Your humble Servant, Lazarus Hopeful.
Cripple-Gate, Aug. 29, 1712.
The Reader's own Imagination will suggest to him the Reasonableness of such Correspondence; and diversify them into a thousand Forms; but I shall close this as I began upon the Subject of Blindness. The following Letter seems to be written by a Man of Learning, who is returned to his Study after a Suspence of an Ability to do so. The Benefit he reports himself to have received, may well claim the handsomest Encomium he can give the Operator.
'Ruminating lately on your admirable Discourses on the Pleasures of the Imagination, I began to consider to which of our Senses we are obliged for the greatest and most important Share of those Pleasures; and I soon concluded that it was to the Sight: That is the Sovereign of the Senses, and Mother of all the Arts and Sciences, that have refined the Rudeness of the uncultivated Mind to a Politeness that distinguishes the fine Spirits from the barbarous Goût of the great Vulgar and the small. The Sight is the obliging Benefactress, that bestows on us the most transporting Sensations that we have from the various and wonderful Products of Nature. To the Sight we owe the amazing Discoveries of the Height, Magnitude, and Motion of the Planets; their several Revolutions about their common Centre of Light, Heat, and Motion, the Sun. The Sight travels yet farther to the fixed Stars, and furnishes the Understanding with solid Reasons to prove, that each of them is a Sun moving on its own Axis in the Centre of its own Vortex or Turbillion, and performing the same Offices to its dependant Planets, that our glorious Sun does to this. But the Enquiries of the Sight will not be stopped here, but make their Progress through the immense Expanse to the Milky Way, and there divide the blended Fires of the Galaxy into infinite and different Worlds, made up of distinct Suns, and their peculiar Equipages of Planets, till unable to pursue this Track any farther, it deputes the Imagination to go on to new Discoveries, till it fill the unbounded Space with endless Worlds.
The Sight informs the Statuary's Chizel with Power to give Breath to lifeless Brass and Marble, and the Painter's Pencil to swell the flat Canvas with moving Figures actuated by imaginary Souls. Musick indeed may plead another Original, since Jubal, by the different Falls of his Hammer on the Anvil, discovered by the Ear the first rude Musick that pleasd the Antediluvian Fathers; but then the Sight has not only reduced those wilder Sounds into artful Order and Harmony, but conveys that Harmony to the most distant Parts of the World without the Help of Sound. To the Sight we owe not only all the Discoveries of Philosophy, but all the Divine Imagery of Poetry that transports the intelligent Reader of Homer, Milton, and Virgil.
As the Sight has polished the World, so does it supply us with the most grateful and lasting Pleasure. Let Love, let Friendship, paternal Affection, filial Piety, and conjugal Duty, declare the Joys the Sight bestows on a Meeting after Absence. But it would be endless to enumerate all the Pleasures and Advantages of Sight; every one that has it, every Hour he makes use of it, finds them, feels them, enjoys them.
Thus as our greatest Pleasures and Knowledge are derived from the Sight, so has Providence been more curious in the Formation of its Seat, the Eye, than of the Organs of the other Senses. That stupendous Machine is compos'd in a wonderful Manner of Muscles, Membranes, and Humours. Its Motions are admirably directed by the Muscles; the Perspicuity of the Humours transmit the Rays of Light; the Rays are regularly refracted by their Figure, the black Lining of the Sclerotes effectually prevents their being confounded by Reflection. It is wonderful indeed to consider how many Objects the Eye is fitted to take in at once, and successively in an Instant, and at the same time to make a Judgment of their Position, Figure, or Colour. It watches against our Dangers, guides our Steps, and lets in all the visible Objects, whose Beauty and Variety instruct and delight.
The Pleasures and Advantages of Sight being so great, the Loss must be very grievous; of which Milton, from Experience, gives the most sensible Idea, both in the third Book of his Paradise Lost, and in his Sampson Agonistes.
To Light in the former.
--'Thee I revisit safe, And feel thy sovereign vital Lamp; but thou Revisit'st not these Eyes, that roul in vain To find thy piercing Ray, but find no Dawn'.
And a little after,
'Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet Approach of Ev'n and Morn,
Or Sight of vernal Bloom, or Summer's Rose,
Or Flocks or Herds, or human Face divine;
But Cloud instead, and ever-during Dark
Surround me: From the chearful Ways of Men
Cut off, and for the Book of Knowledge fair,
Presented--with an universal Blank
Of Nature's Works, to me expung'd and raz'd,
And Wisdom at one Entrance quite shut out'.
Again, in 'Sampson Agonistes'.
--'But Chief of all, O Loss of Sight! of thee I most complain; Blind among Enemies! O worse than Chains, Dungeon, or Beggary, or decrepid Age! Light, the prime Work of God, to me extinct, And all her various Objects of Delight Annull'd'--
--'Still as a Fool, In Power of others, never in my own, Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than Half: O dark! dark! dark! amid the Blaze of Noon: Irrecoverably dark, total Eclipse, Without all Hopes of Day!'
The Enjoyment of Sight then being so great a Blessing, and the Loss of it so terrible an Evil, how excellent and valuable is the Skill of that Artist which can restore the former, and redress the latter? My frequent Perusal of the Advertisements in the publick News-Papers (generally the most agreeable Entertainment they afford) has presented me with many and various Benefits of this kind done to my Countrymen by that skilful Artist Dr. Grant, Her Majesty's Oculist Extraordinary, whose happy Hand has brought and restored to Sight several Hundreds in less than Four Years. Many have received Sight by his Means, who came blind from their Mother's Womb, as in the famous Instance of Jones of Newington . I my self have been cured by him of a Weakness in my Eyes next to Blindness, and am ready to believe any thing that is reported of his Ability this way; and know that many, who could not purchase his Assistance with Money, have enjoy'd it from his Charity. But a List of Particulars would swell my Letter beyond its Bounds, what I have said being sufficient to comfort those who are in the like Distress, since they may conceive Hopes of being no longer miserable in this Kind, while there is yet alive so able an Oculist as Dr. Grant.
I am the SPECTATOR'S humble Servant, PHILANTHROPUS.
[Footnote 1: 'A Full and True Account of a Miraculous Cure of a young Man in Newington, &c,' was a pamphlet of 15 pages, published in 1709. William Jones was not born blind, and little benefited by the operation of the Doctor Grant, who in this pamphlet puffed himself.]Translation of motto: