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No. 6. SATURDAY, May 24, 1758.
Ταμειον αρελης γεναία γυνη. .
The lady who had undertaken to ride on one horse a thousand miles in a thousand hours, has completed her journey in little more than two-thirds of the time stipulated, and was conducted through the last mile with triumphal honours. Acclamation shouted before her, and all the flowers of the spring were scattered in her way.
Every heart ought to rejoice when true merit is distinguished with public notice. I am far from wishing either to the Amazon or her horse any diminution of happiness or fame, and cannot but lament that they were not more amply and suitably rewarded.
There was once a time when wreaths of bays or oak were considered as recompenses equal to the most wearisome labours and terrific dangers, and when the miseries of long marches and stormy seas were at once driven from the remembrance by the fragrance of a garland.
If this heroine had been born in ancient times, she might perhaps have been delighted with the simplicity of ancient gratitude; or if any thing was wanting to full satisfaction, she might have supplied the deficiency with the hope of deification, and anticipated the altars that would be raised, and the vows that would be made, by future candidates for equestrian glory, to the patroness of the race and the goddess of the stable.
But fate reserved her for a more enlightened age which has discovered leaves and flowers to be transitory things; which considers profit as the end of honour; and rates the event of every undertaking only by the money that is gained or lost. In these days to strew the road with daises and lilies, is to mock merit and delude hope. The toyman will not give his jewels, nor the mercer measure out his siks, for vegetable coin. A primrose, though picked up under the feet of the most renowned courser, will neither be received as a stake at cards, nor procure a seat at an opera, nor buy candles for a rout, nor lace for a livery. And though there are many virtuosos, whose sole ambition is to possess something which can be found in no other hand, yet some are more accustomed to store their cabinets by theft than purcbase, and none of them would either steal or buy one of the flowers of gratulation till he knows that all the rest are totally destroyed.
Little therefore did it avail this wonderful lady to be received, however joyfully, with such obsolete and barren ceremonies of praise. Had the way been covered with guineas, though but for the tenth part of the last mile, she would bave considered her skill and diligence as not wbolly lost ; and might have rejoiced in the speed and perseverance which had left her such superfluity of time, that she could at leisure gagather her reward without the danger of Atalanta's miscarriage.
So much ground could not, indeed, have been paved with gold but at a large expense, and we are at present engaged in war, which demands and enforces frugality. But common rules are made only for common life, and some deviation from general policy may be allowed in favour of a lady, that rode a thousand miles in a thousand hours.
Since the spirit of antiquity so much prevails amongst us, that even on this great occasion we have given flowers instead of money, let us at least complete our imitation of the ancients, and endeavour to transmit to posterity the memory of that virtue, wbich we consider as superior to pecuniary recompense. Let an equestrian statue of this heroine be erected, near the starting-post on the heath of New-market, to fill kindred souls with emulation, and tell the grand-daughters of our grand-daughters what an English maiden has once performed.
As events, however illustrious, are soon obscured if they are entrusted to tradition, I think it necessary, that the pedestal should be inscribed with a concise account of this great performance. The composition of this narrative ought not to be committed rashly to improper hands. If the Rhetoricians of New-market, who may be supposed likely to conceive in its full strength the dignity of the subject, should undertake to express it, there is danger lest they admit some phrases which, though well understood at present, may be ambiguous in another century. If posterity should read on a public monument, that the lady carried her horse a thousand miles in a thousand hours' they may think that the statue and inscription are at variance, because one will represent the horse as carrying his lady, and the other tell that the lady carried her horse.
Some doubts likewise may be raised by speculatists, and some controversies be agitated among historians, concerning the motive as well as the manner of the action. As it will be known, that this wonder was performed in a time of war, some will suppose that the lady was frighted by invaders, and fled to preserve her life or her chastity : others will conjecture, that she was thus honoured for some intelligence carried of the enemy's designs; some will think that she brought news of a victory; others, that she was commissioned to tell of a conspiracy; and some will congratulate themselves on their acuter penetration, and find, that all these notions of patriotism and public spirit are improbable and chimerical; they will confidently tell, that she only ran away from her guardians, and that the true causes of her speed were fear and love.
Let it therefore be carefully mentioned, that by this performance, .she won her wager; and, lest this should, by any change of manners, seem an inadequate or incredible incitement, let it be added, that at this time the original motives of human actions had lost their influence; that the love of praise was extinct; the fear of infamy was become ridiculous; and the only wish of an Englishman was, to win his wager.
No. 7. SATURDAY, May 27, 1758.
One of the principal amusements of the Idler is to read the works of those minute historians, the writers of news, who, though contemptuously overlooked by the composers of bulky volumes. are yet necessary in a nation where much wealth produces much leisure, and one part of the people has nothing to do but to observe the lives and fortunes of the other.
To us, who are regaled every morning and evening with intelligence, and are supplied from day to day with materials for conversation, it is difficult to conceive how man can subsist without a news-paper, or to what entertainment companies can assemble, in those wide regions of the earth that have neither Chronicles nor Magazines, neither Gazettes nor Advertisers, neither Journals nor Evening-Posts.
There are never great numbers in any nation, whdse reason or invention can find employment for their tongues, who can raise a pleasing discourse from their own stock of sentiments, and images ; and those few who have qualified themselves by speculation for general disquisitions, are soon left without an audience. The common talk of men must relate to facts in which the talkers have, or think they have, an interest ; and where such facts cannot be known, the pleasures of society will be merely sensuałThus the natives of the Mahometan empires, who approach most nearly to European civility, have no higher pleasures at their convivial assemblies than to hear a piper, or gaze upon a tumbler, and no company can keep together longer than they are diverted by sounds or sbows.
All foreigners remark, that the knowledge of the common people of England is greater than that of any other vulgar. This superiority we undoubtedly owe to the rivulets of intelligence, which are continually trickling among us, which every one may catch, and of which every one partakes.
This universal diffusion of instruction is, perhaps, not wholly without its inconveniencies; it certainly fills the nation with superficial disputants; enables those to talk who were born to work ; and affords information sufficient to elate vanity, and stiffen obstinacy, but too little to enlarge the mind into complete skill for full comprehension.
Whatever is found to gratify the public, will be multiplied by the emulation of venders beyond necessity or use. This plenty indeed produces cheapness, but cheapness always ends in negligence and depravation.
The compilation of a news-paper is often committed to narrow and mercenary minds, not qualified for the talk of delighting or instructing ; who are content to fill their paper, with whatever matter, without industry to gather, or discernment to select.
Thus journals are daily multiplied without increase of knowledge. The tale of the morning paper is told again in the evening, and the narratives of the evening are brought again in the morning. These repetitions, indeed, waste time, but they do not shorten it. The most eager pursuer of news is tired before he has completed his labour, and many a man who enters the coffee-house in his night-gown and slippers, is called away to his shop, or his dinner, before he has well considered the state of Europe.
It is discovered by Reamur, that spiders might make silk, if they could be persuaded to live in peace together. The writers of news, if they could be confederated, might give more pleasure to the public. The morning and evening authors might divide an event between them; a single action, and that not of much importance, might be gradually discovered so as to vary a whole week with joy, anxiety, and conjecture.
We know that a French ship of war was lately taken by a ship of England ; but this event was suffered to burst upon us all at once, and then what we knew already was echoed from day to day, and from week to week.
Let us suppose these spiders of literature to spin together,
and inquire to what an extensive web such another event might be regularly drawn, and how six morning and six evening writers might agree to retail their articles.
On Monday morning the captain of a ship might arrive, who left the Friseur of France, and the Bulldog, Capt. Grim, in sight of one another, so that an engagement seemed unavoidable.
Monday evening.- A sound of cannon was heard off Cape Finisterre, supposed to be those of the Bulldog and Friseur.
Tuesday morning. It was this morning reported that the Bulldog engaged the Friseur, yard-arm and yard-arm, three glasses and a half, but was obliged to sheer off for want of powder. It is hoped that inquiry will be made into this affair in a proper place.
Tuesday evening.--The account of the engagement be. tween the Bulldog and Friseur was premature.
Wednesday morning.--Another express is arrived, which brings news, that the Friseur had lost all her masts, and three hundred of her men, in the late engagement; and that Captain Grim is come into barbour much shattered.
Wednesday evening. -We hear that the brave Captain Grim, having expended his powder, proposed to enter the Friseur sword in hand; but that his lieutenant, the nephew of a certain nobleman, remonstrated against it.
Thursday morning.-- We wait impatiently for a full account of the late engagement between the Bulldog and Friseur.
Thursday evening. It is said that the order of the bath will be sent to Captain Grim.
Friday morning.--A certain lord of the Admiralty has been heard to say of a certain captain, that, if he had done his duty, a certain French ship might have been taken. It was not thus that merit was rewarded in the days of Cromwell.
Friday evening.There is a certain information at the Admiralty, that the Friseur is taken, after aresistance of about two hours.
Saturday morning.--A letter from one of the gunners of the Bulldog mentions the taking of the Friseur, and attributes their success wholly to the bravery and resolution of Captain Grim, who never owed any of his advancement to borough-jobbers, or any other corrupters of the people.
Saturday evening.-Captain Grim arrived at the Admiralty, with an account that he engaged the Friseur, a ship of equal force with his own, off cape Finisterre, and took her after an obstinate resistance, having killed one hundred and