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No. 073 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 73 Thursday, May 24, 1711.

‘… O Dea certe!’


It is very strange to consider, that a Creature like Man, who is sensible of so many Weaknesses and Imperfections, should be actuated by a Love of Fame: That Vice and Ignorance, Imperfection and Misery should contend for Praise, and endeavour as much as possible to make themselves Objects of Admiration.

But notwithstanding Man’s Essential Perfection is but very little, his Comparative Perfection may be very considerable. If he looks upon himself in an abstracted Light, he has not much to boast of; but if he considers himself with regard to it in others, he may find Occasion of glorying, if not in his own Virtues at least in the Absence of another’s Imperfections. This gives a different Turn to the Reflections of the Wise Man and the Fool. The first endeavours to shine in himself, and the last to outshine others. The first is humbled by the Sense of his own Infirmities, the last is lifted up by the Discovery of those which he observes in other men. The Wise Man considers what he wants, and the Fool what he abounds in. The Wise Man is happy when he gains his own Approbation, and the Fool when he Recommends himself to the Applause of those about him.

But however unreasonable and absurd this Passion for Admiration may appear in such a Creature as Man, it is not wholly to be discouraged; since it often produces very good Effects, not only as it restrains him from doing any thing [which [1]] is mean and contemptible, but as it pushes him to Actions [which [1]] are great and glorious. The Principle may be defective or faulty, but the Consequences it produces are so good, that, for the Benefit of Mankind, it ought not to be extinguished.

It is observed by Cicero,[2]–that men of the greatest and the most shining Parts are the most actuated by Ambition; and if we look into the two Sexes, I believe we shall find this Principle of Action stronger in Women than in Men.

The Passion for Praise, which is so very vehement in the Fair Sex, produces excellent Effects in Women of Sense, who desire to be admired for that only which deserves Admiration:

And I think we may observe, without a Compliment to them, that many of them do not only live in a more uniform Course of Virtue, but with an infinitely greater Regard to their Honour, than what we find in the Generality of our own Sex. How many Instances have we of Chastity, Fidelity, Devotion? How many Ladies distinguish themselves by the Education of their Children, Care of their Families, and Love of their Husbands, which are the great Qualities and Atchievements of Womankind: As the making of War, the carrying on of Traffic, the Administration of Justice, are those by which Men grow famous, and get themselves a Name.

But as this Passion for Admiration, when it works according to Reason, improves the beautiful Part of our Species in every thing that is Laudable; so nothing is more Destructive to them when it is governed by Vanity and Folly. What I have therefore here to say, only regards the vain Part of the Sex, whom for certain Reasons, which the Reader will hereafter see at large, I shall distinguish by the Name of Idols. An Idol is wholly taken up in the Adorning of her Person. You see in every Posture of her Body, Air of her Face, and Motion of her Head, that it is her Business and Employment to gain Adorers. For this Reason your Idols appear in all publick Places and Assemblies, in order to seduce Men to their Worship. The Play-house is very frequently filled with Idols; several of them are carried in Procession every Evening about the Ring, and several of them set up their Worship even in Churches. They are to be accosted in the Language proper to the Deity. Life and Death are in their Power: Joys of Heaven and Pains of Hell are at their Disposal: Paradise is in their Arms, and Eternity in every Moment that you are present with them. Raptures, Transports, and Ecstacies are the Rewards which they confer: Sighs and Tears, Prayers and broken Hearts, are the Offerings which are paid to them. Their Smiles make Men happy; their Frowns drive them to Despair. I shall only add under this Head, that Ovid’s Book of the Art of Love is a kind of Heathen Ritual, which contains all the forms of Worship which are made use of to an Idol.