No. 632. Monday, December 13, 1714.

--Explebo numerum, reddarque tenebris--'

The Love of Symmetry and Order, which is natural to the Mind of Man, betrays him sometimes into very whimsical Fancies. This noble Principle, says a French Author, loves to amuse it self on the most trifling Occasions. You may see a profound Philosopher, says he, walk for an Hour together in his Chamber, and industriously treading, at every Step, upon every other Board in the Flooring. Every Reader will recollect several Instances of this Nature without my Assistance. I think it was Gregorio Leti who had published as many Books as he was Years old; [1] which was a Rule he had laid down and punctually observed to the Year of his Death. It was, perhaps, a Thought of the like Nature which determined Homer himself to divide each of his Poems into as many Books, as there are Letters in the Greek Alphabet. Herodotus has in the same manner adapted his Books to the Number of the Muses, for which Reason many a Learned man hath wished there had been more than Nine of that Sisterhood.

Several Epic Poets have religiously followed Virgil as to the Number of his Books; and even Milton is thought by many to have changed the Number of his Books from Ten to Twelve, for no other Reason; as Cowley tells us, it was his Design, had he finished his Davideis, to have also imitated the Æneid in this Particular. I believe every one will agree with me, that a Perfection of this Nature hath no Foundation in Reason; and, with due Respect to these great Names, may be looked upon as something whimsical.

I mention these great Examples in Defence of my Bookseller, who occasioned this Eighth Volume of Spectators, because, as he said, he thought Seven a very Odd Number. On the other Side, several grave Reasons were urged on this important Subject; as in particular, that Seven was the precise Number of the Wise Men, and that the most Beautiful Constellation in the Heavens was composed of Seven Stars. This he allowed to be true, but still insisted, that Seven was an Odd Number; suggesting at the same time that if he were provided with a sufficient Stock of leading Papers, he should find Friends ready enough to carry on the Work. Having by this means got his Vessel launched and set afloat, he hath committed the Steerage of it, from time to time, to such as he thought capable of conducting it.

The Close of this Volume, which the Town may now expect in a little time, may possibly ascribe each Sheet to its proper Author.

It were no hard Task to continue this Paper a considerable Time longer, by the Help of large Contributions sent from unknown Hands.

I cannot give the Town a better Opinion of the SPECTATOR'S Correspondents, than by publishing the following Letter, with a very fine Copy of Verses upon a Subject perfectly new.

Dublin, Nov. 30, 1714.


'You lately recommended to your Female Readers, the good old Custom of their Grandmothers, who used to lay out a great Part of their Time in Needle-work: I entirely agree with you in your Sentiments, and think it would not be of less Advantage to themselves, and their Posterity, than to the Reputation of many of their good Neighbours, if they past many of those Hours in this innocent Entertainment, which are lost at the Tea-Table. I would, however, humbly offer to your Consideration, the Case of the Poetical Ladies; who, though they may be willing to take any Advice given them by the SPECTATOR, yet can't so easily quit their Pen and Ink, as you may imagine. Pray allow them, at least now and then, to indulge themselves in other Amusements of Fancy, when they are tired with stooping to their Tapestry. There is a very particular kind of Work, which of late several Ladies here in our Kingdom are very fond of, which seems very well adapted to a Poetical Genius: It is the making of Grotto's. I know a Lady who has a very Beautiful one, composed by her self, nor is there one Shell in it not stuck up by her own Hands. I here send you a Poem to the fair Architect, which I would not offer to herself, till I knew whether this Method of a Lady's passing her Time were approved of by the British SPECTATOR, which, with the Poem, I submit to your Censure, who am,

Your Constant Reader, and Humble Servant, A.B.

To Mrs.--on her _Grotto_.
A_ Grotto _so compleat, with such Design,
What Hands, Calypso, cou'd have form'd but Thine?
Each chequer'd Pebble, and each shining Shell,
So well proportion'd, and dispos'd so well,
Surprizing Lustre from thy Thought receive,
Assuming Beauties more than Nature gave.
To Her their various Shapes, and glossy Hue,
Their curious Symmetry they owe to You.
Not fam'd_ Amphion's _Lute,--whose powerful Call
Made Willing Stones dance to the_ Theban _Wall,
In more harmonious Ranks cou'd make them fall.
Not Ev'ning Cloud a brighter Arch can show,
Nor richer Colours paint the heav'nly Bow.
Where can unpolished Nature boast a Piece,
In all her Mossie Cells exact as This?
At the gay parti-color'd Scene--we start,
For Chance too regular, too rude for Art,
Charmed with the sight, my ravish'd Breast is fir'd
With Hints like those which ancient Bards inspir'd;
All the feign'd Tales by Superstition told,
All the bright Train of fabled Nymphs of Old,
Th' enthusiastick Muse believes are true,
Thinks the Spot sacred, and its Genius You.
Lost in wild Rapture, wou'd she fain disclose,
How by degrees the pleasing Wonder rose:
Industrious in a faithful Verse to trace
The various Beauties of the lovely Place;
And while she keeps the glowing Work in View,
Thro' ev'ry Maze thy Artful Hand pursue.
Oh were I equal to the bold Design,
Or cou'd I boast such happy Art as Thine!
That cou'd rude Shells in such sweet Order place,
Give common Objects such uncommon Grace!
Like them my well-chose Words in ev'ry Line,
As sweetly temper'd should as sweetly shine.
So just a Fancy shou'd my Numbers warm,
Like the gay Piece shou'd the Description charm.
Then with superior Strength my Voice I'd raise,
The echoing_ Grotto _shou'd approve my Lays,
Pleas'd to reflect the well-sung Founder's Praise.

[Footnote 1: His boast was that he had been the author of a book and father of a child for 20 years successively.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. vi. 545.
'The number I'll complete,
Then to obscurity well pleased retreat.'