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No. 406 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 406
Monday, June 16, 1712. Steele.

‘Haec studia Adolescentiam alunt, Senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis solatium et perfugium praebet delectant domi, non impediunt foris; Pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur.’


The following Letters bear a pleasing Image of the Joys and Satisfactions of private Life. The first is from a Gentleman to a Friend, for whom he has a very great Respect, and to whom he communicates the Satisfaction he takes in Retirement; the other is a Letter to me, occasioned by an Ode written by my Lapland Lover; this Correspondent is so kind as to translate another of Scheffer’s Songs [1] in a very agreeable Manner. I publish them together, that the Young and Old may find something in the same Paper which may be suitable to their respective Taste in Solitude; for I know no Fault in the Description of ardent Desires, provided they are honourable.

Dear Sir,

You have obliged me with a very kind Letter; by which I find you shift the Scene of your Life from the Town to the Country, and enjoy that mixt State which wise Men both delight in, and are qualified for. Methinks most of the Philosophers and Moralists have run too much into Extreams, in praising entirely either Solitude or publick Life; in the former Men generally grow useless by too much Rest, and in the latter are destroyed by too much Precipitation: As Waters lying still, putrifie and are good for nothing; and running violently on, do but the more Mischief in their Passage to others, and are swallowed up and lost the sooner themselves. Those who, like you, can make themselves useful to all States, should be like gentle Streams, that not only glide through lonely Vales and Forests amidst the Flocks and Shepherds, but visit populous Towns in their Course, and are at once of Ornament and Service to them. But there is another sort of People who seem designed for Solitude, those I mean who have more to hide than to shew: As for my own Part, I am one of those of whom Seneca says, Tum Umbratiles sunt, ut putent in turbido esse quicquid in luce est. Some Men, like Pictures, are fitter for a Corner than a full Light; and I believe such as have a natural Bent to Solitude, are like Waters which may be forced into Fountains, and exalted to a great Height, may make a much nobler Figure, and a much louder Noise, but after all run more smoothly, equally and plentifully, in their own natural Course upon the Ground. The Consideration of this would make me very well contented with the Possession only of that Quiet which Cowley calls the Companion of Obscurity; but whoever has the Muses too for his Companions, can never be idle enough to be uneasie. Thus, Sir, you see I would flatter my self into a good Opinion of my own Way of Living; Plutarch just now told me, that ’tis in human Life as in a Game at Tables, one may wish he had the highest Cast, but if his Chance be otherwise, he is even to play it as well as he can, and make the best of it.
I am, SIR,
Your most obliged,
and most humble Servant.


The Town being so well pleased with the fine Picture of artless Love, which Nature inspired the Laplander to paint in the Ode you lately printed; we were in Hopes that the ingenious Translator would have obliged it with the other also which Scheffer has given us; but since he has not, a much inferior Hand has ventured to send you this.

It is a Custom with the Northern Lovers to divert themselves with a Song, whilst they Journey through the fenny Moors to pay a visit to their Mistresses. This is addressed by the Lover to his Rain-Deer, which is the Creature that in that Country supplies the Want of Horses. The Circumstances which successively present themselves to him in his Way, are, I believe you will think, naturally interwoven. The Anxiety of Absence, the Gloominess of the Roads, and his Resolution of frequenting only those, since those only can carry him to the Object of his Desires; the Dissatisfaction he expresses even at the greatest Swiftness with which he is carried, and his joyful Surprize at an unexpected Sight of his Mistress as she is bathing, seems beautifully described in the Original.