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

It would be as difficult a Task to reckon up these different kinds of Idols, as Milton’s was [3] to number those that were known in Canaan, and the Lands adjoining. Most of them are worshipped, like Moloch, in Fire and Flames. Some of them, like Baal, love to see their Votaries cut and slashed, and shedding their Blood for them. Some of them, like the Idol in the Apocrypha, must have Treats and Collations prepared for them every Night. It has indeed been known, that some of them have been used by their incensed Worshippers like the Chinese Idols, who are Whipped and Scourged when they refuse to comply with the Prayers that are offered to them.

I must here observe, that those Idolaters who devote themselves to the Idols I am here speaking of, differ very much from all other kinds of Idolaters. For as others fall out because they Worship different Idols, these Idolaters quarrel because they Worship the same.

The Intention therefore of the Idol is quite contrary to the wishes of the Idolater; as the one desires to confine the Idol to himself, the whole Business and Ambition of the other is to multiply Adorers. This Humour of an Idol is prettily described in a Tale of Chaucer; He represents one of them sitting at a Table with three of her Votaries about her, who are all of them courting her Favour, and paying their Adorations: She smiled upon one, drank to another, and trod upon the other’s Foot which was under the Table. Now which of these three, says the old Bard, do you think was the Favourite? In troth, says he, not one of all the three. [4]

The Behaviour of this old Idol in Chaucer, puts me in mind of the Beautiful Clarinda, one of the greatest Idols among the Moderns. She is Worshipped once a Week by Candle-light, in the midst of a large Congregation generally called an Assembly. Some of the gayest Youths in the Nation endeavour to plant themselves in her Eye, whilst she sits in form with multitudes of Tapers burning about her. To encourage the Zeal of her Idolaters, she bestows a Mark of her Favour upon every one of them, before they go out of her Presence. She asks a Question of one, tells a Story to another, glances an Ogle upon a third, takes a Pinch of Snuff from the fourth, lets her Fan drop by accident to give the fifth an Occasion of taking it up. In short, every one goes away satisfied with his Success, and encouraged to renew his Devotions on the same Canonical Hour that Day Sevennight.

An Idol may be Undeified by many accidental Causes. Marriage in particular is a kind of Counter-Apotheosis, or a Deification inverted. When a Man becomes familiar with his Goddess, she quickly sinks into a Woman.

Old Age is likewise a great Decayer of your Idol: The Truth of it is, there is not a more unhappy Being than a Superannuated Idol, especially when she has contracted such Airs and Behaviour as are only Graceful when her Worshippers are about her.

Considering therefore that in these and many other Cases the Woman generally outlives the Idol, I must return to the Moral of this Paper, and desire my fair Readers to give a proper Direction to their Passion for being admired; In order to which, they must endeavour to make themselves the Objects of a reasonable and lasting Admiration. This is not to be hoped for from Beauty, or Dress, or Fashion, but from those inward Ornaments which are not to be defaced by Time or Sickness, and which appear most amiable to those who are most acquainted with them.


[Footnote 1: that]

[Footnote 2: ‘Tuscul. Quaest.’ Lib. v. Sec. 243.]

[Footnote 3: ‘Paradise Lost’, Bk. I.]

[Footnote 4: The story is in ‘The Remedy of Love’ Stanzas 5–10.]