Spectator 3 [Allegory of Public Credit.]

The Spectator No. 3 (3 March 1711).

Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison's allegory of Public Credit (which perhaps owes something to Philotime in Faerie Queene II.7.44-49) contrasts a set of anti-masquers representing the Jacobite threat, with masquers representing the Hanoverian succession. This is the first of several such allegories in the Spectator; see also the Visions of Mirzah, No. 159; the Grotto of Grief, No. 501; Calamities, No. 558; etc.

Addison acknowledges his debt to Spenser in Guardian No. 152: "I have also by this means revived several antiquated ways of Writing, which though very instructive and entertaining, had been laid aside, and forgotten for some Ages.... Though this kind of Composition was practiced by the finest Authors among the Ancients, our Countryman Spencer is the last Writer of Note who has applied himself to it with Success." The Spectators were published anonymously.

John Hughes: "I cannot however conclude this Essay on Allegory without observing, that we have had the satisfaction to see this kind of Writing very lately reviv'd by an excellent Genius among our selves, in the true Spirit of the Antients. I need only mention the Visions in the Tatler and Spectator, by Mr. Addison, to convince every one of this. The Table of Fame, the Vision of Justice; that of the different Pursuits of Love, Ambition, and Avarice; the Vision of Mirza, and several others; and especially that admirable Fable of the two Families of Pain and Pleasure, which are all imagin'd and writ with the greatest Strength and Delicacy, may give the Reader an Idea more than any thing I can say of the Perfection to which this kind of Writing is capable of being rais'd" Works of Spenser (1715) 1:lvi.

James Ralph: "Addison and his Advancement hardly need be mentioned, the Instance is so notorious; but every body may not so readily recollect, that his party-Services contributed more to it, than all his laudable Efforts to refine our Manners and perfect our Taste" The Case of Authors (1758) 34.

Charles Brockden Brown?: "In short, if we compare the state of society, private and public, as it existed previous and subsequent to the appearance of Addison and Steele, we shall not for a moment hesitate to assert, that not only Great Britain is indebted to these illustrious writers, for a most salutary revolution in the realms of literature and taste, for a mode of composition which in a mere literary view has been of great and progressive utility; but that a very large portion of the moral and political good which she now enjoys is to be ascribed to their exertions — to efforts which entitle them to the glorious appellations of genuine patriots and universal benefactors" "Effects of the Tatler, Spectator, &c." Literary Magazine and American Register [Philadelphia] 6 (October 1806) 279.

Newcastle Magazine: "This [Spenser's House of Pride] is, in truth, a glowing description, and I have no doubt has frequently been made a model by the authors of those fine allegories which are scattered through the Spectator" "Poetry of Spenser" NS 8 (December 1829) 546.

A blank verse rendition of this allegory was published in Walker's Hibernian Magazine (January 1796) 85-86.

In one of my late Rambles, or rather Speculations, I looked into the great Hall where the Bank is kept, and was not a little pleased to see the Directors, Secretaries, and Clerks, with all the other Members of that wealthy Corporation, ranged in their several Stations, according to the Parts they act in that just and regular Oeconomy. This revived in my Memory the many Discourses which I had both read and heard concerning the Decay of Publick Credit, with the Methods of restoring it, and which, in my Opinion, have always been defective, because they have always been made with an Eye to separate Interests, and Party Principles.

The Thoughts of the Day gave my Mind Employment for the whole Night, so that I fell insensibly into a kind of Methodical Dream, which dispos'd all my Contemplations into a Vision or Allegory, or what else the Reader shall please to call it.

Methought I returned to the Great Hall, where I had been the Morning before, but, to my Surprize, instead of the Company that I left there, I saw towards the Upper end of the Hall, a beautiful Virgin seated on a Throne of Gold. Her Name (as they told me) was Publick Credit. The Walls, instead of being adorned with Pictures and Maps, were hung with many Acts of Parliament written in Golden Letters. At the Upper end of the Hall was the Magna Charta, with the Act of Uniformity on the right Hand and the Act of Toleration on the left. At the Lower end of the hall was the Act of Settlement, which was placed full in the Eye of the Virgin that sat upon the Throne. Both the Sides of the Hall were covered with such Acts of Parliament as had been made for the Establishment of Publick Funds. The Lady seemed to set an unspeakable Value upon these several Pieces of Furniture, insomuch that she often refreshed her Eye with them, and often smiled with a Secret Pleasure as she looked upon them; but, at the same time, showed a very particular Uneasiness if she saw anything approaching that might hurt them. She appeared indeed infinitely timorous in all her Behaviour: And, whether it was from the Delicacy of her Constitution, or that she was troubled with Vapours, as I was afterwards told by one who I found was none of her Well-wishers, she changed Colour and startled at everything she heard. She was likewise (as I afterwards found) a greater Valetudinarian than any I had ever met with, even in her own Sex, and subject to such Momentary Consumptions, that in the twinkling of an Eye, she would fall away from the most florid Complexion and the most healthful State of Body, and wither into a Skeleton. Her Recoveries were often as sudden as her Decays, insomuch that she would revive in a Moment out of a wasting Distemper, into a Habit of the highest Health and Vigour.

I had very soon an Opportunity of observing these quick Turns and Changes in her Constitution. There sat at her Feet a Couple of Secretaries, who received every Hour Letters from all Parts of the World, which the one or the other of them was perpetually reading to her; and, according to the News she heard, to which she was exceedingly attentive, she changed Colour, and discovered many Symptoms of Health or Sickness.

Behind the Throne was a prodigious Heap of Bags of Mony, which were piled upon one another so high that they touched the Ceiling. The Floor, on her right Hand, and on her left, was covered with vast Sums of Gold that rose up in Pyramids on either side of her: but this I did not so much wonder at, when I heard, upon Enquiry, that she had the same Virtue in her Touch, which the Poets tell us a Lydian King was formerly possess'd of, and that she could convert whatever she pleas'd into that precious Metal.

After a little Dizziness, and confused Hurry of Thought, which a Man often meets with in a Dream, methoughts the Hall was alarm'd, the Doors flew open, and there entered half a dozen of the most hideous Phantoms that I had ever seen (even in a Dream) before that time. They came in two by two, though match'd in the most dissociable Manner, and mingled together in a kind of Dance. It would be tedious to describe their Habits and Persons, for which Reason I shall only inform my Reader that the first Couple were Tyranny and Anarchy, the second were Bigotry and Atheism, the third the Genius of a Common-Wealth, and a young Man of about twenty two Years of Age, whose Name I could not learn. He had a Sword in his right Hand, which in the Dance he often brandished at the Act of Settlement; and a Citizen, who stood by me, whisper'd in my Ear, that he saw a Sponge in his left Hand. The Dance of so many jarring Natures put me in Mind of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, in the Rehearsal, that danced together for no other end but to eclipse one another.

The Reader will easily suppose, by what has been before said, that the Lady on the Throne would have been almost frighted to Distraction, had she seen but any one of these Spectres; what then must have been her Condition when she saw them all in a Body? She fainted and dyed away at the Sight.

Et neque jam color est mixto candore rubori;
Nec vigor, et vires, et quae modo visa placebant;
Nec corpus remanet. — Ov. Met. Lib. 3.

There was as great a Change in the Hill of Mony Bags, and the Heaps of Mony, the former shrinking, and falling into so many empty Bags, that I now found not above a tenth part of them had been filled with Mony. The rest that took up the same Space, and made the same Figure as the Bags that were really filled with Mony, had been blown up with Air, and called into my Memory the Bags full of Wind, which Homer tells us his Hero receiv'd as a Present from Aeolus. The great Heaps of Gold, on either side the Throne, now appeared to be only Heaps of Paper, or little Piles of notched Sticks, bound up together in Bundles, like Bath-Faggots.

Whilst I was lamenting this sudden Desolation that had been made before me, the whole Scene vanished: in the Room of the frightful Spectres, there now entered a second Dance of Apparitions very agreeably matched together, and made up of very amiable Phantoms. The first Pair was Liberty, with Monarchy at her right hand: The second was Moderation leading in Religion; and the third a Person, whom I had never seen, with the Genius of Great Britain. At their first Entrance the Lady reviv'd, the Bags swell'd to their former Bulk, the piles of Faggots and Heaps of Paper changed into Pyramids of Guineas: And for my own Part I was so transported with Joy, that I awaked, tho' I must confess I would fain have fallen asleep again to have clos'd my Vision, if I could have done it.