Friday, March 23, 1711. Steele.
[Greek: Kynos ommat’ ech_on …]
Among the other hardy Undertakings which I have proposed to my self, that of the Correction of Impudence is what I have very much at Heart. This in a particular Manner is my Province as SPECTATOR; for it is generally an Offence committed by the Eyes, and that against such as the Offenders would perhaps never have an Opportunity of injuring any other Way. The following Letter is a Complaint of a Young Lady, who sets forth a Trespass of this Kind with that Command of herself as befits Beauty and Innocence, and yet with so much Spirit as sufficiently expresses her Indignation. The whole Transaction is performed with the Eyes; and the Crime is no less than employing them in such a Manner, as to divert the Eyes of others from the best use they can make of them, even looking up to Heaven.
There never was (I believe) an acceptable Man, but had some awkward Imitators. Ever since the SPECTATOR appear’d, have I remarked a kind of Men, whom I choose to call Starers, that without any Regard to Time, Place, or Modesty, disturb a large Company with their impertinent Eyes. Spectators make up a proper Assembly for a Puppet-Show or a Bear-Garden; but devout Supplicants and attentive Hearers, are the Audience one ought to expect in Churches. I am, Sir, Member of a small pious congregation near one of the North Gates of this City; much the greater Part of us indeed are Females, and used to behave our selves in a regular attentive Manner, till very lately one whole Isle has been disturbed with one of these monstrous Starers: He’s the Head taller than any one in the Church; but for the greater Advantage of exposing himself, stands upon a Hassock, and commands the whole Congregation, to the great Annoyance of the devoutest part of the Auditory; for what with Blushing, Confusion, and Vexation, we can neither mind the Prayers nor Sermon. Your Animadversion upon this Insolence would be a great favour to,
Your most humble servant,
I have frequently seen of this Sort of Fellows; and do not think there can be a greater Aggravation of an Offence, than that it is committed where the Criminal is protected by the Sacredness of the Place which he violates. Many Reflections of this Sort might be very justly made upon this Kind of Behaviour, but a Starer is not usually a Person to be convinced by the Reason of the thing; and a Fellow that is capable of showing an impudent Front before a whole Congregation, and can bear being a publick Spectacle, is not so easily rebuked as to amend by Admonitions. If therefore my Correspondent does not inform me, that within Seven Days after this Date the Barbarian does not at least stand upon his own Legs only, without an Eminence, my friend WILL. PROSPER has promised to take an Hassock opposite to him, and stare against him in Defence of the Ladies. I have given him Directions, according to the most exact Rules of Opticks, to place himself in such a Manner that he shall meet his Eyes wherever he throws them: I have Hopes that when WILL. confronts him, and all the Ladies, in whose Behalf he engages him, cast kind Looks and Wishes of Success at their Champion, he will have some Shame, and feel a little of the Pain he has so often put others to, of being out of Countenance.
It has indeed been Time out of Mind generally remarked, and as often lamented, that this Family of Starers have infested publick Assemblies: And I know no other Way to obviate so great an Evil, except, in the Case of fixing their Eyes upon Women, some Male Friend will take the Part of such as are under the Oppression of Impudence, and encounter the Eyes of the Starers wherever they meet them. While we suffer our Women to be thus impudently attacked, they have no Defence, but in the End to cast yielding Glances at the Starers: And in this Case, a Man who has no Sense of Shame has the same Advantage over his Mistress, as he who has no Regard for his own Life has over his Adversary. While the Generality of the World are fetter’d by Rules, and move by proper and just Methods, he who has no Respect to any of them, carries away the Reward due to that Propriety of Behaviour, with no other Merit but that of having neglected it.