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Grecian Coffee-house, July 27.
In the several capacities I bear, of astrologer, civilian, and physician, I have with great application studied the public emolument: to this end serve all my lucubrations, speculations, and whatever other labours I undertake, whether nocturnal or diurnal. On this motive am I induced to publish a neverfailing medicine for the spleen my experience in this distemper came from a very remarkable cure on my ever worthy friend Tom Spindle, who, through excessive gaiety, had exhausted that natural stock of wit and spirits he had long been blessed with; he was sunk and flattened to the lowest degree imaginable, sitting whole hours over the Book of Martyrs' and Pilgrim's Progress;' his other contemplations never rising higher than the colour of his urine, or the regularity of his pulse. In this condition I found him, accompanied by the learned Dr. Drachm, and a good old nurse. Drachm had prescribed magazines of herbs, and mines of steel. I soon discovered the malady, and descanted on the nature of it, until I convinced both the patient and his nurse, that the spleen is not to be cured by medicine, but by poetry. Apollo, the author of physic, shone with diffusive rays, the best of poets as well as of physicians; and it is in this double capacity that I have made my way; and have found sweet, easy, flowing numbers are oft superior to our noblest medicines. When the spirits are low, and nature sunk, the muse, with sprightly and harmonious notes, gives an unexpected turn with a grain of poetry; which I prepare without the use of mercury. I have done wonders in this kind; for the spleen is like the tarantula, the effects of whose malignant poison are to be prevented by no other remedy but the charms of music; for you are to understand,
that as some noxious animals carry antidotes for their own poisons, so there is something equally unaccountable in poetry; for though it is sometimes a disease, it is to be cured only by itself. Now I, knowing Tom Spindle's constitution, and that he is not only a pretty gentleman, but also a pretty poet, found the true cause of his distemper, was a violent grief, that moved his affections too strongly for during the late treaty of peace, he had writ a most excellent poem on that subject; and when he wanted but two lines in the last stanza for finishing the whole piece, there comes news that the French tyrant would not sign. Spindle in a few days took his bed, and had lain there still, had not I been sent for. I immediately told him there was great probability the French would now sue to us for peace. I saw immediately a new life in his eyes; and I knew that nothing could help him forward so well, as hearing verses which he would believe worse than his own. I read him, therefore, the Brussels Postscript; after which I recited some heroic lines of my own, which operated so strongly on the tympanum of his ear, that I doubt not but I have kept out all other sounds for a fortnight; and have reason to hope, we shall see him abroad the day before his poem.
This, you see, is a particular secret I have found out, viz. that you are not to choose your physician for his knowledge in your distemper, but for having it himself. Therefore I am at hand for all maladies arising from poetical vapours, beyond which I never pretend. For being called the other day to one in love, I took indeed their three guineas, and them my advice, which was to send for Esculapius*: Esculapius, as soon as he saw the patient, cries out, It is love! it is love! Oh! the unequal pulse! These are the symptoms a lover feels; such sighs, *Dr. Radcliffe.
such pangs, attend the uneasy mind; nor can our
Supine in Sylvia's snowy arms he lies,
From my own Apartment, July 27.
Tragical passion was the subject of the discourse where I last visited this evening; and a gentleman who knows that I am at present writing a very deep tragedy, directed his discourse in a particular manner to me. 'It is the common fault,' said he, "of you gentlemen who write in the buskin style, that you give us rather the sentiments of such who behold tragical events, than of such who bear a part in them themselves. I would advise all who pretend this way, to read Shakspeare with care; and they will soon be deterred from putting forth what is usually called tragedy. The way of common writers in this kind is rather the description than the expression of sorrow. There is no medium in these attempts, and you must go to the very bottom of the heart, or it is all mere language; and the writer of such lines is no more a poet, than a man is a physician for knowing the names of distempers, without the causes of them. Men of sense are professed
enemies to all such empty labours: for he who pretends to be sorrowful, and is not, is a wretch yet more contemptible than he who pretends to be merry and is not. Such a tragedian is only maudlin drunk.' The gentleman went on with much warmth; but all he could say had little effect upon me: but when I came hither, I so far observed his counsel, that I looked into Shakspeare. The tragedy I dipped into was Henry the Fourth.' In the scene where Morton is preparing to tell Northumberland of his son's death, the old man does not give him time to speak, but says,
The whiteness of thy cheeks
Is apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand;
And I my Percy's death, ere thou report'st it.
The image in this place is wonderfully noble and great; yet this man in all this is but rising towards his great affliction, and is still enough himself, as you see, to make a simile. But when he is certain of his son's death, he is lost to all patience, and gives up all the regards of this life; and since the last of evils is fallen upon him, he calls for it upon all the world.
Now let not nature's hand
Keep the wild flood confin'd; let order die,
Reading but this one scene has convinced me, that he, who describes the concern of great men, must have a soul as noble, and as susceptible of
high thoughts, as they whom he represents: I shall therefore lay by my drama for some time, and turn my thoughts to cares and griefs, somewhat below that of heroes, but no less moving. A misfortune, proper for me to take notice of, has too lately happened: the disconsolate Maria has three days kept her chamber for the loss of the beauteous Fidelia, her lap-dog. Lesbia herself did not shed more tears for her sparrow. What makes her the more concerned, is, that we know not whether Fidelia was killed or stolen ; but she was seen in the parlour window when the train-bands went by, and never since. Whoever gives notice of her, dead or alive, shall be rewarded with a kiss of her lady.
N° 48. SATURDAY, JULY 30, 1709.
They look on virtue as an empty name.
From my own Apartment, July 29.
THIS day I obliged Pacolet to entertain me with matter which regarded persons of his own character and occupation. We chose to take our walk on Tower-hill and as we were coming, from thence, in order to stroll as far as Garraway's*, I observed two men, who had but just landed, coming from the water-side. I thought there was something uncommon in their mien and aspect; but though they seemed by their visage to be related, yet there was
* Garraway kept a coffee-house at that time, opposite to the Royal Exchange, probably in the place where there is now a coffee-house well known by the same name.