No. 532. Monday, November 10, 1712. Steele.

--Fungor vice cotis, acutum Reddere quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi.'

It is a very honest Action to be studious to produce other Men's Merit; and I make no scruple of saying I have as much of this Temper as any Man in the World. It would not be a thing to be bragged of, but that it is what any Man may be Master of who will take Pains enough for it. Much Observation of the Unworthiness in being pained at the Excellence of another, will bring you to a Scorn of yourself for that Unwillingness: And when you have got so far, you will find it a greater Pleasure than you ever before knew, to be zealous in promoting the Fame and Welfare of the Praise-worthy. I do not speak this as pretending to be a mortified self-denying Man, but as one who has turned his Ambition into a right Channel. I claim to my self the Merit of having extorted excellent Productions from a Person of the greatest Abilities, [1] who would not have let them appear by any other Means; to have animated a few young Gentlemen into worthy Pursuits, who will be a Glory to our Age; and at all Times, and by all possible Means in my Power, undermined the Interests of Ignorance, Vice, and Folly, and attempted to substitute in their Stead, Learning, Piety, and good Sense. It is from this honest Heart that I find myself honoured as a Gentleman-Usher to the Arts and Sciences. Mr. Tickell and Mr. Pope have, it seems, this Idea of me. The former has writ me an excellent Paper of Verses in Praise, forsooth, of my self; and the other enclosed for my perusal an admirable Poem, [2] which, I hope, will shortly see the Light. In the mean time I cannot suppress any Thought of his, but insert his Sentiment about the dying Words of Adrian. I won't determine in the Case he mentions; but have thus much to say in favour of his Argument, that many of his own Works which I have seen, convince me that very pretty and very sublime Sentiments may be lodged in the same Bosom without diminution to its Greatness.


'I was the other day in Company with five or six Men of some Learning; where chancing to mention the famous Verses which the Emperor Adrian spoke on his Death-bed, they were all agreed that 'twas a Piece of Gayety unworthy that Prince in those Circumstances. I could not but dissent from this Opinion: Methinks it was by no means a gay, but a very serious Soliloquy to his Soul at the Point of his Departure: in which Sense I naturally took the Verses at my first reading them when I was very young, and before I knew what Interpretation the World generally put upon them:

'_Animula vagula, blandula,
Hospes Comesque corporis,
Quæ nunc abibis in loca?
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec (ut soles) dabis Joca!_
'_Alas, my Soul! thou pleasing Companion of this Body, thou fleeting
thing that art now deserting it! whither art thou flying? to what
unknown Region? Thou art all trembling, fearful, and pensive. Now
what is become of thy former Wit and Humour? thou shall jest and be
gay no more._

I confess I cannot apprehend where lies the Trifling in all this; 'tis the most natural and obvious Reflection imaginable to a dying Man: and if we consider the Emperor was a Heathen, that Doubt concerning the Future Fate of his Soul will seem so far from being the Effect of Want of Thought, that 'twas scarce reasonable he should think otherwise; not to mention that here is a plain Confession included of his Belief in its Immortality. The diminutive Epithets of Vagula, Blandula, and the rest, appear not to me as Expressions of Levity, but rather of Endearment and Concern; such as we find in Catullus, and the Authors of Hendeca-syllabi after him, where they are used to express the utmost Love and Tenderness for their Mistresses--If you think me right in my Notion of the last Words of Adrian, be pleased to insert this in the Spectator; if not, to suppress it.' [3]

I am, &c.

To the supposed Author of the 'Spectator'.

'In Courts licentious, and a shameless Stage,
How long the War shall Wit with Virtue wage?
Enchanted by this prostituted Fair,
Our Youth run headlong in the fatal Snare;
In height of Rapture clasp unheeded Pains,
And suck Pollution thro' their tingling Veins.
Thy spotless Thoughts unshock'd the Priest may hear,
And the pure Vestal in her Bosom wear.
To conscious Blushes and diminish'd Pride,
Thy Glass betrays what treach'rous Love would hide;
Nor harsh thy Precepts, but infused by stealth,
Please while they cure, and cheat us into Health.
Thy Works in_ Chloe's _Toilet gain a part,
And with his Tailor share the the Fopling's Heart:
Lash'd in thy Satire, the penurious Cit
Laughs at himself, and finds no harm in Wit:
From Felon Gamesters the raw Squire is free,
And _Britain_ owes her rescu'd Oaks to thee.
His Miss the frolick Viscount dreads to toast,
Or his third Cure the shallow Templar boast;
And the rash Fool who scorn'd the beaten Road,
Dares quake at Thunder, and confess his God.
The brainless Stripling,--who, expell'd to Town,
Damn'd the stiff College and pedantick Gown,
Aw'd by thy Name, is dumb, and thrice a Week
Spells uncouth _Latin,_ and pretends to _Greek._
A sauntring Tribe! such born to wide Estates,
With Yea and No in Senates hold Debates:
At length despis'd, each to his Fields retires,
First with the Dogs, and King amidst the Squires;
From Pert to Stupid sinks supinely down,
In Youth a Coxcomb, and in Age a Clown.
Such Readers scorned, thou wings't thy daring Flight
Above the Stars, and tread'st the Fields of Light;
Fame, Heav'n and Hell, are thy exalted Theme,
And Visions such as _Jove_ himself might dream;
Man sunk to Slav'ry, tho' to Glory born,
Heaven's Pride when upright, and depraved his Scorn.
Such Hints alone could _British Virgil_ lend,
And thou alone deserve from such a Friend:
A Debt so borrow'd, is illustrious Shame,
And Fame when shar'd with him is double Fame.
So flush'd with Sweets, by Beauty's Queen bestow'd,
With more than mortal Charms. _Æneas_ glow'd.
Such genrous Strifes _Eugene_ and _Marlbro'_ try,
And as in Glory, so in Friendship vie.
Permit these Lines by Thee to live--nor blame
A Muse that pants and languishes for Fame;
That fears to sink when humbler Themes she sings,
Lost in the Mass of mean forgotten things.
Receiv'd by Thee, I prophesy my Rhymes
The Praise of Virgins in succeeding Times:
Mix'd with thy Works, their Life no Bounds shall see,
But stand protected, as inspir'd by thee.
So some weak Shoot, which else would poorly rise,
_Jove's_ Tree adopts, and lifts him to the Skies;
Through the new Pupil fost'ring Juices flow,
Thrust forth the Gems, and give the Flow'rs to blow
Aloft; immortal reigns the Plant unknown,
With borrow'd Life, and Vigour not his own.' [4]


Mr. John Sly humbly sheweth,

'That upon reading the Deputation given to the said Mr. John Sly, all Persons passing by his Observatory behaved themselves with the same Decorum, as if your Honour your self had been present.

That your said Officer is preparing, according to your Honour's secret Instructions, Hats for the several kind of Heads that make Figures in the Realms of Great Britain, with Cocks significant of their Powers and Faculties.

That your said Officer has taken due Notice of your Instructions and Admonitions concerning the Internals of the Head from the outward Form of the same. His Hats for Men of the Faculties of Law and Physick do but just turn up, to give a little Life to their Sagacity; his military Hats glare full in the Face; and he has prepared a familiar easy Cock for all good Companions between the above-mentioned Extreams. For this End he has consulted the most Learned of his Acquaintance for the true Form and Dimensions of the Lepidum Caput, and made a Hat fit for it.

Your said Officer does further represent, That the young Divines about Town are many of them got into the Cock Military, and desires your Instructions therein.

That the Town has been for several Days very well behaved; and further your said Officer saith not.


[Footnote 1: Addison.]

[Footnote 2: The Temple of Fame.]

[Footnote 3: Pope republished this in his 'Letters' in 1735, adding a metrical translation of Adrian's lines:

Ah, fleeting spirit! wandering fire, That long hast warm'd my tender breast, Must thou no more this frame inspire? No more a pleasing, cheerful guest? Whither, ah, whither art thou flying, To what dark, undiscovered shore? Thou seem'st all trembling, shivering, dying, And wit and humour are no more.

Two days after the insertion of this letter from Pope, Steele wrote to the young poet (Nov. 12):

'I have read over your "Temple of Fame" twice; and cannot find anything amiss of weight enough to call a fault, but see in it a thousand thousand beauties. Mr. Addison shall see it to-morrow: after his perusal of it I will let you know his thoughts. I desire you would let me know whether you are at leisure or not? I have a design which I shall open a month or two hence, with the assistance of a few like yourself. If your thoughts are unengaged I shall explain myself further.'

This design was the Guardian, which Steele was about to establish as the successor to the Spectator; and here we find him at work on the foundations of his new journal while the finishing strokes are being given to the Spectator. Pope in his reply to Steele said (Nov. 16):

'I shall be very ready and glad to contribute to any design that tends to the advantage of mankind, which, I am sure, all yours do. I wish I had but as much capacity as leisure, for I am perfectly idle (a sign I have not much capacity). If you will entertain the best opinion of me, be pleased to think me your friend. Assure Mr. Addison of my most faithful service; of every one's esteem he must be assured already.'

About a fortnight later, returning to the subject of Adrian's verses, Pope wrote to Steele in reply to subsequent private discussion of the subject (Nov. 29):

'I am sorry you published that notion about Adrian's verses as mine; had I imagined you would use my name, I should have expressed my sentiments with more modesty and diffidence. I only wrote to have your opinion, and not to publish my own, which I distrusted.'

Then after defending his view of the poem, and commenting upon the Latin diminutives, he adds,

'perhaps I should be much better pleased if I were told you called me "your little friend," than if you complimented me with the title of "a great genius," or "an eminent hand," as Jacob [Tonson] does all his authors.'

Steele's genial reply produced from Pope, as final result of the above letter to the Spectator, one of the most popular of his short pieces. Steele wrote (Dec. 4):

'This is to desire of you that you would please to make an ode as of a cheerful dying spirit; that is to say, the Emperor Adrian's "animula vagula," put into two or three stanzas for music. If you will comply with this, and send me word so, you will very particularly oblige RICHARD STEELE.'

This was written two days before the appearance of the last number of his Spectator. Pope answered,

'I do not send you word I will do, but have already done the thing you desire of me,'

and sent his poem of three stanzas, called THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL.

'Vital spark of heavenly flame,' &c.

These two letters were published by Warburton, but are not given by Pope in the edition of his correspondence, published in 1737, and the poem has no place in the collected works of 1717. It has been said that if the piece had been written in 1712 Steele would have inserted it in the Spectator. But it was not received until the last number of the Spectator had been published. Three months then elapsed before the appearance of the Guardian, to which Pope contributed eight papers. Pope, on his part, would be naturally unwilling to connect with the poem the few words he had sent with it to Steele, saying,

'You have it (as Cowley calls it) just warm from the brain. It came to me the first moment I waked this morning. Yet, you will see, it was not so absolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head not only the verses of Adrian, but the fine fragment of Sappho, &c.'

The &c. being short for Thomas Flatman, whose name would not have stood well by that of Sappho, though he was an accomplished man in his day, who gave up law for poetry and painting, and died in 1688, one of the best miniature painters of his time, and the author of 'Songs and Poems,' published in 1674, which in ten years went through three editions. Flatman had written:

'When on my sick-bed I languish, Full of sorrow, full of anguish, Fainting, gasping, trembling, crying, Panting, groaning, speechless, dying; Methinks I hear some gentle spirit say, "Be not fearful, come away!"']

[Footnote 4: From Thomas Tickell.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 304.
'I play the whetstone; useless, and unfit
To cut myself, I sharpen other's wit.'