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No. 40. SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 1759.
THE practice of appending to the narratives of public transactions more minute and domestic intelligence, and filling the newspapers with advertisements, has grown up by slow degrees to its present
Genius is shown only by invention. The man who first took advantage of the general curiosity that was excited by a siege or battle, to betray the readers of news into the knowledge of the shop where the best puffs and powder were to be sold, was undoubtedly a man of great sagacity, and profound skill in the nature of man. But when he had once shown the way, it was easy to follow him; and every man now knows a ready method of informing the public of all that he desires to buy or sell, whether his wares be material or intellectual; whether he makes clothes, or teaches the mathematics; whether he be a tutor that wants a pupil, or a pupil that wants a tutor.
Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.
Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement. I remember a wash-ball that had a quality truly wonderful-it gave an exquisite edge to the razor. And there are now to be sold, for ready money only, some ducets for bed-coverings, of down, beyond comparison, superior to what is call d otter-down, and in
deed such, that its many excellences cannot be here set forth. With one excellence we are made acquaintedit is warmer than four or five blankets, and lighter than
There are some, however, that know the prejudice of mankind in favour of modest sincerity. The vender of the beautifying fluid sells a lotion that repels pimples, washes away freckles, smooths the skin, and plumps the flesh; and yet, with a generous abhorrence of ostentation, confesses, that it will not restore the bloom of fifteen to a lady of fifty.
The true pathos of advertisements must have sunk deep into the heart of every man that remembers the zeal shown by the seller of the anodyne necklace, for the ease and safety of poor toothing infants, and the affection with which he warned every mother, that she would never forgive herself if her infant should perish without a necklace.
I cannot but remark to the celebrated author who gave, in his notifications of the camel and dromedary, so many specimens of the genuine sublime, that there is now arrived another subject yet more worthy of his pen. A famous Mohawk Indian warrior, who took Dieskaw the French general prisoner, dressed in the same manner with the native Indians when they go to war, with his face and body painted, with his scalpingknife, tom-ax, and all other implements of war! a sight worthy the curiosity of every true Briton! This is a very powerful description; but a critic of great refinement would say, that it conveys rather horror and terror. An Indian, dressed as he goes to war, may bring company together; but if he carries the scalping-knife and tom-ax, there are many true Britons that will never be persuaded to see him but through a grate.
It has been remarked by the severer judges, that the salutary sorrow of tragic scenes is too soon ef
faced by the merriment of the epilogue; the same inconvenience arises from the improper disposition of advertisements. The noblest objects may be so associated as to be made ridiculous. The camel and dromedary themselves might have lost much of their dignity between the true flour of mustard and the original Duffy's elixir; and I could not but feel some indignation when I found this illustrious Indian warrior immediately succeeded by a fresh parcel of Dublin butter.
The trade of advertising is now so near to perfection, that it is not easy to propose any improvement. But as every art ought to be exercised in due subordination to the public good, I cannot but propose it as a moral question to these masters of the public ear, Whether they do not sometimes play too wantonly with our passions, as when the registrar of lottery tickets invites us to his shop by an account of the prizes which he sold last year; and whether the advertising controvertists do not indulge asperity of language without any adequate provocation; as in the dispute about straps for razors, now happily subsided, and in the altercation which at present subsists concerning eau de luce?
In an advertisement it is allowed to every man to speak well of himself, but I know not why he should assume the privilege of censuring his neighbour. He may proclaim his own virtue or skill, but ought not to exclude others from the same pretensions.
Every man that advertises his own excellence should write with some consciousness of a character which dares to call the attention of the public. He should rem mber that his name is to stand in the same paper with those of the king of Prussia and the emperor of Germany, and endeavour to mase himself worthy of such association.
Some regard is likewise to be paid to posterity.
There are men of diligence and curiosity who treasure up the papers of the day merely because others neglect them, and in time they will be scarce. When these collections shall be read in another century, how will numberless contradictions be reconciled; and how shall fame be possibly distributed among the taylors and boddice-makers of the present age?
Surely these things deserve consideration. It is enough for me to have hinted my desire that these abuses may be rectified; but such is the state of nature, that what all have the right of doing, many will attempt without sufficient care or due qualifications.
No. 41. SATURDAY, JANUARY 27, 1759.
THE following letter relates to an affliction perhaps not necessary to be imparted to the public; but I could not persuade myself to suppress it, because I think I know the sentiments to be sincere, and I feel no disposition to provide for this day any other entertainment.
At tu quisquis eris, miseri qui cruda poetæ
NOTWITHSTANDING the warnings of philosophers, and the daily examples of losses and misfortunes which life forces upon our observation, such is the
absorption of our thoughts in the business of the present day, such the resignation of our reason to empty hopes of future felicity, or such our unwillingness to foresee what we dread, that every calamity comes suddenly upon us, and not only presses us as a burthen, but crushes as a blow.
There are evils which happen out of the common course of nature, against which it is no reproach not to be provided. A flash of lightning intercepts the traveller in his way. The concussion of an earthquake heaps the ruins of cities upon their inhabitants. But other miseries time brings, though silently, yet visibly, forward by its even lapse, which yet approach us unseen because we turn our eyes away, and seize us unresisted, because we could not arm ourselves against them but by setting them before us.
That it is vain to shrink from what cannot be avoided, and to hide that from ourselves which must some time be found, is a truth which we all know, but which all neglect, and perhaps none more than the speculative reasoner, whose thoughts are always from home, whose eye wanders over life, whose fancy dances after meteors of happiness kindled by itself, and who examines every thing rather than his own
Nothing is more evident than that the decays of age must terminate in death; yet there is no man, says Tully, who does not believe that he may yet live another year; and there is none who does not, upon the same principle, hope another year for his parent or his friend: but the fallacy will be in time detected; the year, the last day, must come. It has come, and is past. The life which made my own life pleasant is at an end, and the gates of death are shut upon my prospects.
The loss of a friend upon whom the heart was fixed, to whom every wish and endeavour tended, is