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N° 535. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1712
Spem longam reseces.
Hol. 1 (d. xi. 7. Cut short vain hope. My four hundred and seventy-first speculation turn
upon the subject of hope in general. I design this paper as a speculation upon that vain and foolish hope, which is misemployed on temporal objects, and produces many sorrows and calamities in human life.
It is a precept several times inculcated by Horace, that we should not entertain a hope of any thing in life which lies at a great distance from us. The shortness and uncertainty of our time here makes such a kind of hope unreasonable and absurd. The grave lies unseen between us and the object which we reach after. Where one man lives to enjoy the good he has in view, ten thousand are cut off in the pursuit of it.
It happens likewise unluckily, that one hope no sooner dies in us but another rises up in its stead. We are apt to fancy that we shall be happy and satisfied if we possess ourselves of such and such particular enjoyments ; but either by reason of their emptiness, or the natural inquietude of the mind, we have no sooner gained one point, but we extend our hopes to another. We still find new inviting scenes and landscapes lying behind those which at a distance terminated our view.
The natural consequences of such reflections are these ; that we should take care not to let our hopes run out into too great a length; that we should sufficiently weigh the objects of our hope, whether
they be such as we may reasonably expect from them what we propose in their fruition, and whether they are such as we are pretty sure of attaining, in case our life extend itself so far. If we hope for things which are at too great a distance from us, it is possible that we may be intercepted by death in our progress towards them. If we hope for things of which we have not thoroughly considered the value of, our disappointment will be greater than our pleasure in the fruition of them. If we hope for what we are not likely to possess, we act and think in vain, and make life a greater dream and shadow than it really is.
Many of the miseries and misfortunes of life proceed from our want of consideration, in one or all of these particulars. They are the rocks on which the sanguine tribe of lovers daily split, and on which the bankrupt, the politician, the alchymist, and projector, are cast away in every age. Men of warm imaginations and towering thoughts are apt to overlook the goods of fortune which are near them, for something that glitters in the sight at a distance; to neglect solid and substantial happiness, for what is showy and superficial; and to contemn that good which lies within their reach, for that which they are not capable of attaining. Hope calculates its schemes for a long and durable life ; presses forward to imaginary points of bliss; grasps at impossibilities; and consequently very often insnares men into beggary, ruin, and dishonour.
What I have here said may serve as a moral to an Arabian fable, which I find translated into French by Monsieur Galland. The fable has in it such a wild but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and that he will consider himself, if he reflects on the several amusements of hope which have
sometimes 'passed in his mind, as a near relation to the Persian glassman.
Alnaschar, says the fable, was a very idle fellow that never would set his hand to any business during his father's life. When his father died, he left him to the value of a hundred drachmas in Persian money. Alnaschar, in order to make the best of it, laid it out in glasses, bottles, and the finest earthen
These he piled up in a large open basket, and, having made choice of a very little shop, placed the basket at his feet; and leaned his back upon the wall, in expectation of customers. As he sat in this posture, with his eyes upon the basket, he fell into a most amusing train of thought, and was overheard by one of his neighbours, as he talked to himself in the following manner : "This basket,' says he, • cost me at the wholesale merchant's a hundred drachmas, which is all I have in the world. I shall quickly make two hundred of it, by selling it in retail. These two hundred drachmas will in a very little while rise to four hundred, which of course will amount in time to four thousand. Four thousand drachmas cannot fail of making eight thousand. As soon as by this means I am master of ten thousand, I will lay aside my trade of a glassman, and turn jeweller. I shall then deal in diamonds, pearls, and all sorts of rich stones. When I have got together as much wealth as I well can de· sire, I will make a purchase of the finest house I can find, with lands, slaves, eunuchs, and horses. I shall then begin to enjoy myself, and make a noise in the world. I will not however stop there, but still continue my traffic, until I have got together a hundred thousand drachmas. When I have thus made myself master of a hundred thousand drachmas, I shall naturally set myself on the foot of a prince, and will demand the grand vizier's daughter in marriage, after having represented to that minister the information which I have received of the beauty, wit, discretion, and other high qualities which his daughter possesses. I will let him know, at the same time, that it is my intention to make him a present of a thousand pieces of gold on our marriage night. As soon as I have married the grand vizier's daughter, I will buy her ten black eunuchs, the youngest and the best that can be got for money. I must afterward make my father-in-law a visit, with a great train and equipage. And when I am placed at his right hand, which he will do of course, if it be only to honour his daughter, I will give him the thousand pieces of gold which I promised him ; and afterward, to his great surprise, will present him another purse of the same value, with some short speech : as,“ Sir, you see I am a man of my word: I always give more than I promise."
• When I have brought the princess to my house, I shall take particular care to breed in her a due respect for me before I give the reins to love and dalliance. To this end I shall confine her to her own apartment, make her a short visit, and talk but little to her. Her women will represent to me, that she is inconsolable by reason of my unkindness, and beg me with tears to caress her, and let her sit down by me; but I shall still remain inexorable, and will turn my back upon her all the first night. Her mother will then come and bring her daughter to me, as I am seated upon my sofa. The daughter, with tears in her eyes, will fling herself at my feet, and beg of me to receive her into my favour. Then will I, to imprint in her a thorough veneration for my person, draw up my legs and
spurn her from me with my foot, in such a manner that she shall fall down several paces from the sofa.'
Alnaschar was entirely swallowed up in this chi
merical vision, and could not forbear acting with his foot what he had in his thoughts ; so that unluckily striking his basket of brittle ware, which was the foundation of all his grandeur, he kicked his glasses to a great distance from him into the street, and broke them into ten thousand pieces.
N° 536. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 1712.
O veræ Phrygiæ, neque enim Phryges!–Virg. Æn. ix. 617. O ! less than women in the shapes of men.
.-DRYDEN. As I was the other day standing in my bookseller's shop, a pretty young thing about eighteen years of age stepped out of her coach, and, brushing by me, beckoned the man of the shop to the farther end of his counter, where she whispered something to him, with an attentive look, and at the same time presented him with a letter: after which, pressing the end of her fan upon his hand, she delivered the remaining part of her message, and withdrew. I observed, in the midst of her discourse, that she flushed, and cast an eye upon me over her shoulder, having been informed by my bookseller that I was the man of the short face whom she had so often read of. Upon her passing by me, the pretty blooming creature smiled in my face, and dropped me a courtesy. She scarce gave me time to return her salute, before she quitted the shop with an easy skuttle, and stepped again into her coach, giving the footmen directions to drive where they were bid. Upon her departure, my bookseller gave me a letter superscribed To the ingenious Spectator,' which