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THE TATLER, No. LXXIV.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 29, 1709.
Grecian Coffee-house, Sept. 29. This evening I thought fit to notify to the literati of this house, and by that means to all the world, that on Saturday the fifteenth of October next ensuing, I design to fix my first table of fame; and desire that such as are acquainted with the characters of the twelve most famous men that have ever appeared in the world, would send in their lists, or name any one man for that table, assigning also his place at it, before that time, upon pain of having such his man of fame postponed, or placed too high, for ever. I shall not upon any application whatever, alter the place which upon that day I shall give to any of these worthies. But whereas there are many who take upon them to admire this hero, or that author, upon secondhand, I expect each subscriber should underwrite his reason for the place he allots his candidate.
The thing is of the last consequence; for we are about settling the greatest point that ever has been debated in any age ; and I shall take precautions accordingly. Let every man who votes, consider that he is now going to give away that, for which the soldier gave up his rest, his pleasure, and his life; the scholar resigned his whole series of thought, his midnight repose, and his morning slumbers. In a word, he is, as I may say, to be judge of that afterlife, which noble spirits prefer to their very real beings. I hope I shall be forgiven therefore, if I make some objections against their jury, as they shall occur to me. The whole of the number by whom they are to be tried, are to be scholars. I am persuaded also that Aristotle will be put up by all of that class of men. However, in behalf of others, such as wear the livery of Aristotle, the two famous universities are called upon on this occasion : but I except the men of Queen's, Exeter, and Jesus colleges, in Oxford, who are not to be electors, * because he shall not be crowned from an implicit faith in his writings, but receive his honour from such judges as shall allow him to be censured. Upon this election, as I was just now going to say, I banish all who think, and speak after others, to concern themselves in it. For which reason, all illiterate distant admirers are forbidden to corrupt the voices by sending, according to the new mode, any poor students coals and candles t for their votes in behalf of such worthies as they pretend to esteem. All news-writers are also excluded, because they consider fame as it is a report which gives foundation to the filling up their rhapsodies, and not as it is the emanation or consequence of good and evil actions. These are excepted against as justly as butchers in case of life and death: their familiarity with the greatest names takes off the delicacy of their regard, as dealing in blood makes the lanii less tender of spilling it.
* The members of these three colleges were obliged, by their statutes, to keep to Aristotle for their texts.
+ This mode of bribery had been recently practised, in the election of Sir Benjamin Green as alderman of the ward of Queenhithe.
THE TATLER, * No. LXXXI.
SATURDAY, OCT. 15, 1709.
Hic manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi, --
VIRG. Æn. vi. 660.
Here Patriots live, who for their country's good,
From my own apartments, Oct. 14. There are two kinds of immortality; that which the soul really enjoys after this life, and that imaginary existence, by which men live in their fame and reputation. The best and greatest actions have proceeded from the prospect of the one, or the other of these; but my design is to treat only of those who have chiefly proposed to themselves the latter, as the principal reward of their labours. It was for this reason that I excluded from my Tables of Fame, all the great founders and votaries of religion; and it is for
This essay has been retained in all editions of Swift's works, though, in the edition of the Tatler, 1786, it is ascribed, for reabons there alleged, to Steele and Addison exclusively,
this reason also, that I am more than ordinarily anxious to do justice to the persons of whom I am now going to speak; for, since fame was the only end of all their enterprises and studies, a man cannot be too scrupulous in allotting them their due proportion of it. It was this consideration which made me call the whole body of the learned to my assistance; to many of whom I must own my obligations for the catalogues of illustrious persons, which they have sent me in upon this occasion. I yesterday employed the whole afternoon in comparing them with each other; which made so strong an impression upon my imagination, that they broke my sleep for the first part of the following night, and at length threw me into a very agreeable vision, which I shall beg leave to describe in all its particulars.
I dreamed that I was conveyed into a wide and boundless plain, that was covered with prodigious multitudes of people, which no man could number. In the midst of it there stood a mountain, with its head above the clouds. The sides were extremely steep, and of such a particular structure, that no creature which was not made in a human figure, could possibly ascend it. On a sudden there was heard from the top of it a sound like that of a trumpet; but so exceedingly sweet and harmonious, that filled the hearts of those who heard it with raptures, and gave such high and delightful sensations, as seemed to animate and raise human nature above itself. This inade me very much amazed to find so very few in that innumerable multitude, who had ears fine enough to hear or relish this music with pleasure: but my wonder abated, when, upon looking round me, I saw most of them attentive to three sirens clothed like goddesses, and distinguished by the names of Sloth, Ignorance, and Pleasure. They were seated on three rocks, amid a beautiful variety of groves, meadows, and rivulets, that lay on the borders of the mountain. While the base and grovelling multitude of different nations, ranks, and ages, were listening to these delusive deities; those of a more erect aspect, and exalted spirit, separated themselves from the rest, and marched in great bodies toward the mountain, from whence they heard the sound, which still grew sweeter, the more they listened to it.
On a sudden methought this select band sprang forward, with a resolution to climb the ascent, and follow the call of that heavenly music. Every one took something with him, that he thought might be of assistance to him in his march. Several had their swords drawn, some carried rolls of paper in their hands, some had compasses, others quadrants, others telescopes, and others pencils; some had laurels on their heads, and others buskins on their legs: in short, there was scarce any instrument of a mechanic art, or liberal science, which was not made use of on this occasion. My good demon, who stood at my right hand during the course of this whole vision, observing in me a burning desire to join that glorious company, told me," he highly approved that generous ardour with which I seemed transported; but, at the same time, advised me to cover my face with a mask all the while I was to labour on the ascent.” I took his counsel, without inquiring into his reasons. The whole body now broke into different parties, and began to climb the precipice by ten thousand different paths. Several got into little alleys, which did not reach far up the hill, before they ended and led no farther;