No. 71.

Tuesday, May 22, 1711. [Steele.

---Scribere jussit Amor. --Ovid.

THE entire Conquest of our Passions is so difficult a Work, that they who despair of it should think of a less difficult Task, and only attempt to Regulate them. But there is a third thing which may contribute not only to the Ease, but also to the Pleasure of our Life; and that is refining our Passions to a greater Elegance, than we receive them from Nature. When the Passion is Love, this Work is performed in innocent, though rude and uncultivated Minds, by the mere Force and Dignity of the Object. There are Forms which naturally create Respect in the Beholders, and at once Inflame and Chastise the Imagination. Such an Impression as this gives an immediate Ambition to deserve, in order to please. This Cause and Effect are beautifully described by Mr. Dryden in the Fable of Cymon and Iphigenia. After he has represented Cymon so stupid, that

He Whistled as he went, for want of Thought,

he makes him fall into the following Scene, and shews its Influence upon him so excellently, that it appears as Natural as Wonderful.

It happen'd on a Summer's Holiday,

That to the Greenwood-shade he took his Way;

His Quarter-staff; which he cou'd ne'er forsake,

Hung half before, and half behind his Back.

He trudg'd along unknowing what he sought,

And whistled as he went, for want of Thought.

By Chance conducted, or by Thirst constrain'd,

The deep recesses of the Grove gain'd;

Where in a Plain, defended by the Wood,

Crept thro' the matted Grass a Crystal Flood,

By which an Alabaster Fountain stood:

And on the Margin of the Fount was laid,

(Attended by her Slaves) a sleeping Maid,

Like Dian, and her Nymphs, when, tir'd with Sport,

To rest by cool Eurotas they resort:

The Dame herself the Goddess well express'd,

Not more distinguish'd by her Purple Vest,

Than by the charming Features of her Face,

And even in Slumber a superior Grace:

Her comely Limbs compos'd with decent Care,

Her Body shaded with a slight Cymarr;

Her Bosom to the View was only bare:

The fanning wind upon her Bosom blows,

To meet the fanning Wind the Bosom rose;

The fanning Wind and purling Streams continue her Repose.

The Fool of Nature stood with stupid Eyes

And gaping Mouth, that testify'd Surprise,

Fix'd on her Face, nor could remove his Sight,

New as he was to Love, and Novice in Delight:

Long mute he stood, and leaning on his Staff,

His Wonder witness'd with an Idiot Laugh;

Then would have spoke, but by his glimmering Sense

First found his want of Words, and fear'd Offence:

Doubted for what he was he should be known,

By his Clown-Accent, and his Country Tone.

But lest this fine Description should be excepted against, as the Creation of that great Master, Mr. Dryden, and not an Account of what has really ever happened in the World; I shall give you, verbatim, the Epistle of an enamoured Footman in the Country to his Mistress. Their Sirnames shall not be inserted, because their Passion demands a greater Respect than is due to their Quality. James is Servant in a great Family, and Elizabeth waits upon the Daughter of one as numerous, some Miles off of her Lover. James, before he beheld Betty, was vain of his Strength, a rough Wrestler, and quarrelsome Cudgel-Player; Betty a Publick Dancer at May-poles, a Romp at Stool-Ball: He always following idle Women, she playing among the Peasants: He a Country Bully, she a Country Coquet. But Love has made her constantly in her Mistress's Chamber, where the young Lady gratifies a secret Passion of her own, by making Betty talk of James; and James is become a constant Waiter near his Master's Apartment, in reading, as well as he can, Romances. I cannot learn who Molly is, who it seems walked Ten Mile to carry the angry Message, which gave Occasion to what follows.

To ELIZABETH-----------

My Dear Betty,

May 14, 1711.

Remember your bleeding Lover, who lies bleeding at the Wounds Cupid made with the Arrows he borrowed at the Eyes of Venus, which is your sweet Person.

Nay more, with the Token you sent me for my Love and Service offered to your sweet Person; which was your base Respects to my ill Conditions; when alas! there is no ill Conditions in me, but quite contrary; all Love and Purity, especially to your sweet Person; but all this I take as a jest.

But the sad and dismal News which Molly brought me, struck me to the Heart, which was, it seems, and is your ill Conditions for my Love and Respects to you.

For she told me, if I came Forty times to you, you would not speak with me, which Words I am sure is a great Grief to me.

Now, my Dear, if I may not be permitted to your sweet Company, and to have the Happiness of speaking with your sweet Person, I beg the Favour of you to accept of this my secret Mind and Thoughts, which hath so long lodged in my Breast; the which if you do not accept, I believe will go nigh to break my Heart.

For indeed, my Dear, I Love you above all the Beauties I ever saw in all my Life.

The young Gentleman, and my Master's Daughter, the Londoner that is come down to marry her, sat in the Arbour most part of last Night. Oh dear Betty, must the Nightingales sing to those who marry for Mony, and not to us true Lovers! Oh my dear Betty, that we could meet this Night where we used to do in the Wood!

Now, my Dear, if I may not have the Blessing of kissing your sweet Lips, I beg I may have the Happiness of kissing your fair Hand, with a few Lines from your dear self, presented by whom you please or think fit. I believe, if Time would permit me, I could write all Day; but the Time being short, and Paper little, no more from your never-failing Lover 'till Death,


Poor James! Since his Time and Paper were so short; I, that have more than I can use well of both, will put the Sentiments of his kind Letter (the Stile of which seems to be confused with Scraps he had got in hearing and reading what he did not understand) into what he meant to express.

Dear Creature,

Can you then neglect him who has forgot all his Recreations and Enjoyments, to pine away his Life in thinking of you? When I do so, you appear more amiable to me than Venus does in the most beautiful description that ever was made of her. All this Kindness you return with an Accusation, that I do not love you: But the contrary is so manifest, that I cannot think you in earnest. But the Certainty given me in your Message by Molly, that you do not love me, is what robs me of all Comfort, She says you will not see me: If you can have so much Cruelty, at least write to me, that I may kiss the Impression made by your fair Hand. I love you above all things, and, in my Condition, what you look upon with Indifference is to me the most exquisite Pleasure or Pain. Our young Lady, and a fine Gentleman from London, who are to marry for mercenary Ends, walk about our Gardens, and hear the Voice of Evening Nightingales, as if for Fashion-sake they courted those Solitudes, because they have heard Lovers do so. Oh Betty! could I hear these Rivulets murmur, and Birds sing while you stood near me, how little sensible should I be that we are both Servants, that there is anything on Earth above us. Oh I could write to you as long as I love you, till Death it self.


N.B. By the Words Ill-Conditions, JAMES means in a Woman Coquetry, in a Man Inconstancy.


1. The next couplet Steele omits:----

Where two beginning Paps were scarcely spy'd,

For yet their Places were but signify'd.

2. James Hirst, a servant to the Hon. Edward Wortley (who was familiar with Steele, and a close friend of Addison's), by mistake gave to his master, with a parcel of letters, one that he had himself written to his sweetheart. Mr. Wortley opened it, read it, and would not return it. 'No, James,' he said, 'you shall be a great man. This letter must appear in the Spectator.' And so it did. The end of the love story is that Betty died when on the point of marriage to James, who, out of love to her, married her sister.