« PreviousContinue »
by that only means avoided the danger and imputation she so much dreaded.
I was once myself in agonies of grief that are unutterable, and in so great a distraction of mind, that I thought myself even out of the possibility of receiving comfort. The occasion was as follows: When I was a youth in a part of the army
which was then quartered at Dover, I fell in love with an agreeable young woman, of a good family in those parts, and had the satisfaction of seeing my addresses kindly received, which occasioned the perplexity I am going to relate.
We were in a calm evening diverting ourselves upon the top of the cliff with the prospect of the sea, and trifling away the time in such little fondnesses as are most ridiculous to people in business, and most agreeable to those in love.
In the midst of these our innocent endearments, she snatched a paper of verses out of my hand, and ran away with them. I was following her, when on a sudden the ground, though at a considerable distance from the verge of the precipice, sunk under her, and threw her down from so prodigious an height upon such a range of rocks, as would have dashed her into ten thousand pieces, had her body been made of adamant. It is much easier for my reader to imagine my state of mind upon such an occasion, than for me to express it. I said to myself, 'It is not in the power of heaven to relieve me!' When I awaked," equally transported and astonished, to see myself drawn out of an affliction which the very moment before appeared to me altogether inextricable.
The impressions of grief and horror were so lively on this
1 This story forms the subject of a long eulogium in Beattie's Dissertations Moral and Critical.-G,
• When I awaked. Inimitably contrived, not to tell us that this adventure was a dream, till we come to the catastrophe of it.
occasion, that while they lasted, they made me more miserable than I was at the real death of this beloved person, (which happened a few months after, at a time when the match between us was concluded).inasmuch as the imaginary death was untimely, and I myself in a sort an accessary; whereas her decease had at least these alleviations, of being natural and inevitable.
The memory of the dream I have related, still dwells so strongly upon me, that I can never read the description of DoverCliff in Shakespear's tragedy of King Lear, without a fresh sense of my escape. The prospect from that place is drawn with such proper incidents, that whoever can read it without growing giddy, must have a good head, or a very bad one.*
Come on, sir, here's the place. Stand still! how fearful
1 Was this Addison's reading, or that of some edition he consulted ?-G.
a A quibble, not much to the credit of the writer. For, by a good head, is here meant, a head that does not turn and grow giddy at the sight of a precipice: and by a bad one, is meant a head, that leaves a man ivsensible to the force of this description. But these two heads may grow together on the same shoulders. The thought, then, is a false one, and the opposition is only in the sound, not in the sense.
No. 119. THURSDAY, JANUARY 12, 1709.
In tenui labor.
Sheer-Lane, January 11 I have lately applied myself with much satisfaction to the curious discoveries that have been made by the help of microscopes, as they are related by authors of our own and other nations. There is a great deal of pleasure in prying into this world of wonders, which nature has laid out of sight, and seems industrious to conceal from us. Philosophy had ranged over all the visible creation, and began to want objects for her inquiries, when the present age, by the invention of glasses, opened a new and inexhaustible magazine of rarities, more wonderful and amazing than
of those which astonished our forefathers. I was yesterday amusing myself with speculations of this kind, and reflecting upon myriads of animals that swim in those little seas of juices that are contained in the several vessels of an human body. While my mind was thus filled with that secret wonder and delight, I could not but look upon myself as in an act of devotion, and am very well pleased with the thought of the great heathen anatomist, who calls his description of the parts of an human body, 'An Hymn to the Supreme Being. The reading of the day produced in my imagination an agreeable morning's dream, if I may call it such: for I am still in doubt, whether it passed in my sleeping or waking thoughts." However it was, I fancied that my good genius stood at my bed's head, and entertained me with the following discourse ; for upon my rising, it dwelt so strongly upon me, that I writ down the substance of it, if not the
i Galen.-De usu partium.-G.
• Waking thoughts. Finely observed, to intimate that what follows, how fantastic soever it may seem, hath its foundation in truth and fact. very
words. If (said he) you can be so transported with those productions of nature which are discovered to you by those artificial eyes that are the works of human invention, how great will your surprise be, when you shall have it in your power to model your own eye as you please, and adapt it to the bulk of objects, which, with all these helps, are by infinite degrees too minute for your perception. We who are unbodied spirits, can sharpen our sight to what degree we think fit, and make the least work of the creation distinct and visible. This gives us such ideas as cannot possibly enter into your present conceptions. There is not the least particle of matter which may not furnish one of us sufficient employment for a whole eternity. We can still divide it, and still open it, and still discover new wonders of Providence, as we look into the different texture of its parts, and meet with beds of vegetables, mineral and metallic mixtures, and several kinds of animals that lie hid, and as it were lost in such an endless fund of matter. I find you are surprised at this discourse ; but as your reason tells you there are infinite parts in the smallest portion of matter, it will likewise convince you, that there is as great a variety of secrets, and as much room for discoveries, in a particle no bigger than the point of a pin, as in the globe of the whole earth. Your microscopes bring to sight shoals of living creatures in a spoonful of vinegar ; but we, who can distinguish them in their different magnitudes, see among them sev eral huge Leviathans, that terrify the little fry of animals about them, and take their pastime as in an ocean, or the great deep. I could not but smile at this part of his relation, and told him, I doubted not but he could give me the history of several invisible giants, accompanied with their respective dwarfs, in case that any of these little beings are of an human shape. You may assure yourself (said he) that we see in these little animals different natures, instincts, and modes of life, which correspond to what you observe in creatures of bigger dimensions. We descry millions of species subsisted on a green leaf, which your glasses represent only in crowds and swarms.
What appears to your eye but as hair or down rising on the surface of it, we find to be woods and forests, inhabited by beasts of prey, that are as dreadful in those their haunts, as lions and tigers in the deserts of Libya. I was much delighted with his discourse, and could not forbear telling him, that I should be wonderfully pleased to see a natural history of imperceptibles, containing a true account of such vegetables and animals as grow and live out of sight. Such disquisitions (answered he) are very suitable to reasonable creatures; and you may be sure, there are many curious spirits amongst us who employ themselves in such amusements. For as our hands, and all our senses, may be formed to what degree of strength and delicacy we please, in the same manner as our sight, we can make what experiments we are inclined to, how small soever the matter be in which we make them. I have been present at the dissection of a mite, and have seen the skeleton of a flea. I have been shown a forest of numberless trees, which has been picked out of an acorn. Your microscope can show you in it a compleat oak in miniature ; and could you suit all your organs as we do, you might pluck an acorn from this little oak, which contains another tree; and so proceed from tree to tree, as long as you would think fit to continue your disquisitions. It is almost impossible (added he) to talk of things so remote froin common life, and the ordinary notions which mankind receive from blunt and gross organs of sense, without appearing extravagant and ridiculous. You have often seen a dog opened,"
* Subsisted. Subsist, has no participle passive. He should have said “subsisting."
• I wonder that a man of Mr. Addison's humanity could speak of open