**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

No. 095 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No 95
Tuesday, June 19, 1711.

Curae Leves loquuntur, Ingentes Stupent. [1]

Having read the two following Letters with much Pleasure, I cannot but think the good Sense of them will be as agreeable to the Town as any thing I could say either on the Topicks they treat of, or any other. They both allude to former Papers of mine, and I do not question but the first, which is upon inward Mourning, will be thought the Production of a Man who is well acquainted with the generous Earnings of Distress in a manly Temper, which is above the Relief of Tears. A Speculation of my own on that Subject I shall defer till another Occasion.

The second Letter is from a Lady of a Mind as great as her Understanding. There is perhaps something in the Beginning of it which I ought in Modesty to conceal; but I have so much Esteem for this Correspondent, that I will not alter a Tittle of what she writes, tho’ I am thus scrupulous at the Price of being Ridiculous.


‘I was very well pleased with your Discourse upon General Mourning, and should be obliged to you if you would enter into the Matter more deeply, and give us your Thoughts upon the common Sense the ordinary People have of the Demonstrations of Grief, who prescribe Rules and Fashions to the most solemn Affliction; such as the Loss of the nearest Relations and dearest Friends. You cannot go to visit a sick Friend, but some impertinent Waiter about him observes the Muscles of your Face, as strictly as if they were Prognosticks of his Death or Recovery. If he happens to be taken from you, you are immediately surrounded with Numbers of these Spectators, who expect a melancholy Shrug of your Shoulders, a Pathetical shake of your Head, and an Expressive Distortion of your Face, to measure your Affection and Value for the Deceased: But there is nothing, on these Occasions, so much in their Favour as immoderate Weeping. As all their passions are superficial, they imagine the Seat of Love and Friendship to be placed visibly in the Eyes: They judge what Stock of Kindness you had for the Living, by the Quantity of Tears you pour out for the Dead; so that if one Body wants that Quantity of Salt-water another abounds with, he is in great Danger of being thought insensible or ill-natured: They are Strangers to Friendship, whose Grief happens not to be moist enough to wet such a Parcel of Handkerchiefs. But Experience has told us, nothing is so fallacious as this outward Sign of Sorrow; and the natural History of our Bodies will teach us that this Flux of the Eyes, this Faculty of Weeping, is peculiar only to some Constitutions. We observe in the tender Bodies of Children, when crossed in their little Wills and Expectations, how dissolvable they are into Tears. If this were what Grief is in Men, Nature would not be able to support them in the Excess of it for one Moment. Add to this Observation, how quick is their Transition from this Passion to that of their Joy. I won’t say we see often, in the next tender Things to Children, Tears shed without much Grieving. Thus it is common to shed Tears without much Sorrow, and as common to suffer much Sorrow without shedding Tears. Grief and Weeping are indeed frequent Companions, but, I believe, never in their highest Excesses. As Laughter does not proceed from profound Joy, so neither does Weeping from profound Sorrow. The Sorrow which appears so easily at the Eyes, cannot have pierced deeply into the Heart. The Heart distended with Grief, stops all the Passages for Tears or Lamentations.

‘Now, Sir, what I would incline you to in all this, is, that you would inform the shallow Criticks and Observers upon Sorrow, that true Affliction labours to be invisible, that it is a Stranger to Ceremony, and that it bears in its own Nature a Dignity much above the little Circumstances which are affected under the Notion of Decency. You must know, Sir, I have lately lost a dear Friend, for whom I have not yet shed a Tear, and for that Reason your Animadversions on that Subject would be the more acceptable to’,