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It is not to be imagined how great an effect well-disposed lights, with proper forms and orders in assemblies, have upon some tempers. I am sure I feel it in so extraordinary a manner, that I cannot in a day or two get out of my imagination any very beautiful or disagreeable impression which I receive on such occasions. For this reason I frequently look in at the playhouse, in order to enlarge my thoughts, and warm my mind with some new ideas, that may be serviceable to me in my lucubrations. In this disposition I entered the theatre the other day, and placed myself in a corner of it very convenient for seeing without being myself observed. I found the audience hushed in a very deep attention, and did not question but some noble tragedy was just then in its crisis, or that an incident was to be unravelled which would determine the fate of a hero. While I was in this suspense, expecting every moment to see my old friend Mr. Betterton appear in all the majesty of distress, to my unspeakable amazement there came up a monster with a face be. tween his feet; and, as I was looking on, he raised himself on one leg in such a perpendicular posture, that the other grew in a direct line above his head. It afterwards twisted itself into the motions and wreathings of several different animals, and, after a great variety of shapes and transformations, went off the stage in the figure of a human creature. The admiration, the applause, the satisfaction of the audience, during this strange entertainment, is not to be expressed. I was very much out of countenance for my dear countrymen, and looked about with some apprehension, for fear any foreigner should be present. Is it possible, thought I, that human nature can rejoice in its disgrace, and take pleasure in seeing its own figure turned to ridicule, and distorted into forms that raise horror and aversion ? There is something dis. ingenuous and immoral in the being able to bear such a sight. Men of elegant and noble minds are shocked at seeing the characters of persons who deserve esteem for their virtue, knowledge, or services to their country, placed in wrong lights, and by misrepresentation made the subject of buffoonery. Such a nice abhor. rence is not indeed to be found among the vulgar; but, methinks, it is wonderful, that those who have nothing but the outward figure to distinguish them as men, should delight in seeing humanity abused, vilified, and disgraced. I must confess, there is nothing that more pleases me, in all that I read in books, or see among mankind, than such passages as represent human nature in its proper dignity. As
he has something in him very great and very mean. A skilful artist may draw an excellent picture of him in either of these views. The finest authors of antiquity have taken him on the more advantageous side. They cultivate the natural grandeur of the soul, raise in her a generous ambition, feed her with hopes of imInortality and perfection, and do all they can to widen the partition between the virtuous and the vicious, by making the difference betwixt them as great as between gods and brutes. In short, it is impossible to read a passage in Plato, Tully, and a thousand other ancient moralists, without being a greater and a better man for it. On the contrary, I could never read any of our modish French authors, or those of our own country, who are the imitators and admirers of that trifling nation, without being for some time out of humour with myself, and at every thing about me. Their business is, to depreciate human nature, and consider it under its worst appearances. They give mean interpretations and base motives to the worthiest actions; they resolve virtue and vice into constitution. In short, they endeavour to make no distinction between man and man, or between the species of men and that of brutes. As an instance of this kind of authors, among many others, let any one examine the celebrated Rochefoucault, who is the great philosopher for administering of consolation to the idle, the envious, and worthless part of mankind. I remember a young gentleman of moderate understanding, but great vivacity, who, by dipping into many authors of this nature, had got a little smattering of knowledge, just enough to make an atheist or a free-thinker, but not a philosopher or a man of sense. With these accomplishments, he went to visit his father in the country, who was a plain, rough, honest man, and wise, though not learned. The son, who took all opportunities to show his learning, began to establish a new religion in the family, and to enlarge the narrowness of their country notions; in which he succeeded so well, that he had seduced the butler by his table-talk, and staggered his eldest sister. The old gentleman began to be alarmed at the schisms that arose among his children, but did not yet believe his son's doctrine to be so pernicious as it really was, until one day talking of his setting dog, the son said, “he did not question but Tray was as immortal as any one of the family;' and in the heat of the argument told his father, ‘that, for his own part, he expected to die like a dog.' Upon which the old man, starting up in a very great passion, cried out, ‘Then, sirrah, you shall live like one;' and taking his canc in his hand, cudgelled him out of his system. This had so good an effect upon him, that he took up from that day, fell to reading good books, and is now a bencher in the Middle Temple. I do not mention this cudgelling part of the story with a design to engage the secular arm in matters of this nature; but certainly, if it ever exerts itself in affairs of opinion and speculation, it ought to do it on such shallow and despicable pretenders to knowledge, who endeuvour to give man dark and uncomfortable pros
man is a creature made up of different extremes, pects of his being, and destroy those princi
oples which are the support, happiness, and glory of all public societies, as well as private persons. I think it is one of Pythagoras's golden sayings, ‘That a man should take care above all things to have a duc respect for himself.' And it is certain, that this licentious sort of authors, who are for depreciating mankind, endeavour to disappoint and undo what the most refined spirits have been labouring to advance since the beginning of the world. The very design of dress, good-breeding, outward ornaments, and ceremony, were to lift up human nature, and set it off to an advantage. Architecture, painting, and statuary, were invented with the same design: as, indeed, every art and science contributes to the embellishment of life, and to the wearing off and throwing into shades the mean and low parts of our nature. Poetry carries on this great end more than all the rest, as may be seen in the following passage, taken out of sir Francis Bacon’s “Advancement of Learning,” which gives a truer and better account of this art than all the volumes that were ever written upon it. “Poetry, cspecially heroical, secms to be raised altogether from a noble foundation, which makes much for the dignity of man's nature. For seeing this sensible world is in dignity inferior to the soul of man, poesy seems to cndow human nature with that which history denies; and to give satisfaction to the mind, with at least the shadow of things, where the substance cannot be had. For, if the matter be thoroughly considered, a strong argument may be drawn from poesy, that a more stately greatness of things, a more perfect order, and a more beautiful variety, delights the soul of man, than any way can be found in nature since the fall. Wherefore, seeing the acts and events which arc the subjects of true history, are not of that amplitude as to content the mind of man, poesy is ready at hand to feign acts more heroical. Because true history reports the successes of busi. ness not proportionable to the merit of virtues and vices, poesy corrects it, and presents events and fortunes according to desert, and according to the law of providence: because true history, through the frequent satiety and similitude of things, works a distaste and misprision in the mind of man; poesy checreth and refresheth the soul, chaunting things rare and various, and full of vicissitudes. So as poesy serveth and conferreth to delectation, magnanimity, and morality; and, therefore, it may seem deservedly to have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise the mind, and exalt the spirit with high raptures, by proportioning the shows of things to the desires of the mind, and not submitting the mind to things, as reason and history do. And by these allurements and congruities, whereby it cherisheth the soul of man, joined also with consort of music, whereby it may more sweetly insinuate itself, it hath won such access, that it hath been in estimation even in rude times and barbarous nations, when other learning stood excluded.' But there is nothing which favours and falls in with this natural greatness and dignity of human nature so much as religion, which does
Therr has not some years been such a tumult in our neighbourhood as this evening about six. At the lower cnd of the lanc the word was given, that there was a great funeral coming by. The next moment came forward, and in a very hasty, instead of solemn manner, a long train of lights, when at last a footman, in very high youth and health, with all his force, ran through the whole art of beating the door of the house next to me, and ended his rattle with the true finishing rap. This did not only bring one to the door at which he knocked, but to that of every one in the lane in an instant. Among the rest, my country maid took the alarm, and immediately running to me, told me, “there was a fine, fine lady, who had three men with burial torches making way before her, carried by two men upon poles, with looking-glasses on each side of her, and one glass also before, she herself appearing the prettiest that cver was.” The girl was going on in her story, when the lady was come to my door in her chair, having mistaken the house. As soon as she entered I saw she was Mr. Isaac's scholar, by her speaking air, and the becoming stop she made when she began her apology. “You will be surprised, sir,’ said she, ‘that I take this liberty, who am utterly a stranger to you; besides that it may be thought an indecorum that I visit a man." She made here a pretty hesitation, and held her fan to her face; then, as if recovering her resolution, she proceeded—“But I think you have said, that men of your age are of no sex; therefore, I may be as free with you as one of my own. The lady did me the honour to consult me on some particular matters, which I am not at liberty to report. But, before she took her leave, she produced a long list of names, which she looked upon, to know whither she was to go next. ... I must confess, I could hardly forbear discovering to her, immediately, that I secretly laughed at the fantastical regularity she observed in throwing away her time; but I secincid to indulge her in it, out of a curiosity to hear her own sense of her way of life. “Mr. Bickerstaff,' said she, ‘you cannot imagine how much you are obliged to me, in staying thus long with you, having so many visits to make : and, indeed, if I had not hopes that a third part of those I am going to will be abroad, I should be unable to despatch them this evening."—" Madam," said I, are you in all this haste and perplexity, and only going to such as you have not a mind to see "— ‘Yes, sir,” said she, “I have several now with whom I keep a constant correspondence, and return visit for visit punctually cvery week, and vet we have not seen each other since last
ovember was twelvemonth.
She went on with a very good air, and fixing her eyes on her list, told me, “she was obliged to ride about three miles and a half before she arrived at her own house.' I asked “after what manner this list was taken; whether the persons writ their names to her, and desired that favour, or how she knew she was not cheated in her muster roll 7’—“The method we take,” says she, ‘is, that the porter or servant who comes to the door, writes down all the names who come to see us, and all such are entitled to a return of their visit.”—“But,' said I, ‘madam, I presume those who are searching for each other, and know one another by messages, may be understood as candidates only for each other's favour; and that, after so many how-do-ye-does, you proceed to visit or not, as you like the run of each other's reputation or fortune.”—“You understand it aright,” said she ; “and we become friends, as soon as we are convinced that our dislike to each other may be of any consequence: for, to tell you truly,” said she, “for it is in vain to hide any thing from a man of your penetration, general visits are not made out of good-will, but for fear of ill-will. Punctuality in this case is often a suspicious circumstance; and there is nothing so common as to have a lady say, “I hope she has heard nothing of what I said of her, that she grows so great with me !” But, indeed, my porter is so dull and negligent, that I fear he has not put down half the people I owe visits to.”—“Madam,” said I, ‘methinks it would be very proper if your gentleman-usher, or groom of the chamber, were always to keep an account, by way of debtor and creditor. I know a city lady who uses that method, which I think very laudable; for though you may possibly, at the court end of the town, receive at the door, and light up better than within Temple-bar, yet I must do that justice to my friends, the ladies within the walls, to own, that they are much more exact in their correspondence. The lady I was going to mention as an example, has always the second apprentice out of the countinghouse for her own use on her visiting-day, and he sets down very methodically all the visits which are made her. I remember very well, that on the first of January last, when she made up her account for the year 1708, it stood thus:
nomy, and was not afraid to go to the bottom of her affairs; and, therefore, ordered her apprentice to give her credit for my lady Easy's impertinent visits upon wrong days, and deduct only twelve per cent. He had orders also to subtract one and a half from the whole of such as she had denied herself to before she kept a day; and after taking those proper articles of
credit on her side, she was in arrear but five hundred. She ordered her husband to buy in a couple of fresh coach-horses; and with no other loss than the death of two footmen, and a churchyard cough brought upon her coachman, she was clear in the world on the tenth of February last, and keeps so before-hand, that she pays every body their own, and yet makes daily new acquaintances.” I know not whether this agreeable visitant was fired with the example of the lady I told her of, but she immediately vanished out of my sight, it being, it seems, as necessary a point of good-breeding, to go off as if you stole something out of the house, as it is to enter as if you came to fire it. I do not know one thing that contributes so much to the lessening the esteem men of sense have to the fair sex, as this article of visits. A young lady cannot be married, but all impertinents in town must be beating the tattoo from one quarter of the town to the other, to show they know what passes. If a man of honour should once in an age marry a woman of merit for her intrinsic value, the envious things are all in motion in an instant to make it known to the sisterhood as an indiscretion, and publish to the town how many pounds he might have had to have been troubled with one of them. After they are tired with that, the next thing is, to make their compliments to the married couple and their relations. They are equally busy at a funeral, and the death of a person of quality is always attended with the murder of several sets of coach-horses and chairmen. In both cases, the visitants are wholly unaffected, either with joy or sorrow ; for which reason, their congratulations and condolences are equally words of course; and one would be thought wonderfully ill-bred, that should build upon such expressions as encouragements to expect from them any instance of friendship. Thus are the true causes of living, and the solid pleasures in life, lost in show, imposture, and impertinence. As for my part, I think most of the misfortunes in families arise from the trifling way the women have in spending their time, and gratifying only their eyes and ears, instead of their reason and understanding. A fine young woman, bred under a visiting mother, knows all that is possible for her to be acquainted with by report, and sees the virtuous and the vicious used so indifferently, that the fears she is born with are abated, and desires indulged, in proportion to her love of that light and trifling conversation. I know I talk like an old man; but I must go on to say, that I think the general reception of mixed company, and the pretty fellows that are admitted at those assemblies, give a young woman so false an idea of life, that she is generally bred up with a scorn of that sort of merit in a man, which only can make her happy in marriage; and the wretch, to whose lot she falls, very often receives in his arms a coquette, with the refuse of a heart long before given away to a coxcomb.
Having received from the society of upholders sundry complaints of the obstinate and refractory behaviour of several dead persons, who have been guilty of very great outrages and
disorders, and by that means elapsed the proper time of their interment; and having, on the other hand, received many appeals from the aforesaid dead persons, wherein they desire to be heard before such their interment; I have set apart Wednesday, the twenty-first instant, as an extraordinary court-day for the hearing of both parties. If, therefore, any one can alledge why they, or any of their acquaintance, should or should not be buried, I desire they may be ready with their witnesses at that time, or that they will for ever after hold their tongues.
N. B. This is the last hearing on this subject.
As soon as I had placed myself in my chair of judicature, I ordered my clerk, Mr. Lillie, to read to the assembly, who were gathered togather according to notice, a certain declaration, by way of charge, to open the purpose of my session, which tended only to this explanation, that as other courts were often called to demand the execution of persons dead in law; so this was held to give the last orders relating to those who are dead in reason. The solicitor of the new company of upholders near the Hay-market, appeared in behalf of that useful society, and brought in an accusation of a young woman, who herself stood at the bar before me. Mr. Lil. lie read her indictment, which was in substance, “That, whereas, Mrs. Rebecca Pmdust, of the parish of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, had, by the use of one instrument called a looking-glass, and by the further use of certain attire, made either of cambrick, muslim, or other linen wares, upon her head, attained to such an evil art and magical force in the motion of her eyes and turn of her countenance, that she, the said Rebecca, had put to death several young men of the said parish ; and that the said young men had acknowledged in certain papers, commonly called love-letters, which were produced in court, gilded on the edges, and sealed with a particular war, with certain amorous and enchanting words wrought upon the said seals, that they died for the said Rebecca : and, whereas the said Rebecca persisted in the said evil practice; this way of lite the said society construed to be, according to former edicts, a state of death, and demanded an order for the interment of the said Rebecca.”
I looked upon the maid with great humanity, and desired her to make answer to what was said against her. She said, ‘It was indeed true, that she had practised all the arts and means she could, to dispose of herself happily in marriage, but thought she did not come under the censure expressed in Iny writings for the same;
and humbly hoped I would not condemn her for the ignorance of her accusers, who, according to their own words, had rather represented her killing, than dead.” She further alleged, “That the expressions mentioned in the papers written to her were become mere words, and that she had been always ready to marry any of those who said they died for her; but that they made their escape as soon as they found themselves pitied or believed.” She ended her discourse, by desiring I would for the future settle the meaning of the words “I die, in letters of love. Mrs. Pindust behaved herself with such an air of innocence, that she easily gained credit, and was acquitted. Upon which occasion, I gave it as a standing rule, ‘that any person, who, in any letter, billet, or discourse, should tell a woman he died for her, should, if she pleased, be obliged to live with her, or be immediately interred upon such their own confession, without bail or mainprize.” It happened, that the very next who was brought before me was one of her admirers, who was indicted upon that very head. A letter, which he acknowledged to be his own hand, was read, in which were the following words: “Cruel creature, I die for you.” It was observ. able that he took snuff all the time his accusation was reading. I asked him, ‘how he came to use these words, is he were not a dead man o' He told me, “he was in love with the lady, and did not know any other way of telling her so; and that all his acquaintance took the same method.' Though I was moved with compassion towards him, by reason of the weakness of his parts, yet for example-sake I was forced to answer, 'Your sentence shall be a warning to all the rest of your companions, not to tell lies for want of wit.' Upon this, he began to beat his snuff-box with a very saucy air; and opening it again, “Faith, Isaac,' said he, “thou art a very unaccountable old fellow.—Pr'ythee, who gave thee power of life and death What a-pox hast thou to do with ladies and lovers ? I suppose thou wouldst have a man be in company with his mistress, and say nothing to her. Ilost thou call breaking a jest, telling a lie Ha! is that thy wisdom, old stiffrump, ha!” He was going on with this insipid common-place mirth, sometimes opening his box, sometimes shutting it, then viewing the picture on the lid, and then the workmanship of the hinge, when, in the midst of his eloquence, I ordered his box to be taken from him; upon which he was inmediately struck speechless, and carried off stone dead. The next who appeared was a hole old follow of sixty. He was brought in by his relations, who desired leave to bury him. Upon requiring a distinct account of the prisoner, a credible witness deposed, “that he always rose at ten of the clock, played with his cat until twelve, smoked tobacco until one, was at dinner until two, then took another pipe, played at backgammon until six, talked of one madam Frances, an old mistress of his, until eight, repeated the same account at the tavern until ten, then returned home, took the other pipe, and then to bed.' I asked him, ‘what he had to say for
himself?”—“As to what,” said he, “they mention concerning Madam Frances 2 I did not care for hearing the Canterbury tale, and, therefore, thought myself seasonably interrupted by a young gentleman, who appeared in the behalf of the old man, and prayed an arrest of judgment; ‘for that he, the said young man, held certain lands by his, the said old man's, life.” Upon this, the solicitor of the upholders took an occasion to demand him also, and thereupon produced several evidences that witnessed to his life and conversation. It appeared, that each of them divided their hours in matters of equal moment and importance to themselves and to the public. They rose at the same hour: while the old man was playing with his cat, the young one was looking out of his window; while the old man was smoking his pipe, the young man was rubbing his teeth; while one was at dinner, the other was dressing; while one was at back-gammon, the other was at dinner; while the old fellow was talking of madam Frances, the young one was either at play, or toasting women whom he never conversed with. The only difference was, that the young man had never been good for any thing; the old man, a man of worth before he knew madam Frances. Upon the whole, I ordered them to be both interred together, with inscrip. tions proper to their characters, signifying, that the old man died in the year 1689, and was buried in the year 1700; and over the young one it was said, that he departed this world in the twenty-fifth year of his death. The next class of criminals were authors in prose and verse. Those of them who had produced any still-born work were immediately dismissed to their burial, and were followed by others, who, notwithstanding some sprightly issue in their life-time, had given proofs of their death by some posthumous children that bore no resemblance to their elder brethren. As for those who were the fathers of a mixed progeny, provided always they could prove the last to be a live child, they escaped with life, but not without loss of limbs; for, in this case, I was satisfied with amputation of the parts which were mortified. These were followed by a great crowd of superannmated benchers of the inns of court, senior fellows of colleges, and defunct statesmen; all whom I ordered to be decimated indifferently, allowing the rest a reprieve for one
year, with a promise of a free pardon in case of .
resuscitation. There were still great multitudes to be examined; but, finding it very late, I adjourned the court, not without the secret pleasure that I had done my duty, and furnished out a handsome execution. - •. Going out of the court, I received a letter, informing me, ‘that, in pursuance of the edict of justice in one of my late visions, all those of the fair sex began to appear pregnant who had run any hazard of it; as was manifest by a particular swelling in the petticoats of several ladies in and about this great city.' I must confess, I do not attribute the rising of this part of the dress to this occasion, yet must own, that I am
very much disposed to be offended with such a
TIE TATLER. - |
new and unaccountable fashion. I sha . . ever, pronounce nothing upon it, until I have examined all that can be said for and against it. And, in the mean time, think fit to give this notice to the fair ladies who are now making up their winter suits, that they may abstain from all dresses of that kind, until they shall find what judgment will be passed upon them; for it would very much trouble me, that they should put themselves to an unnecessary expense; and I could not but think myself to blame, if I should hereafter forbid them the wearing of such garments, when they have laid out money upon them, without having given them any previous admonition.
N. B. A letter of the sixteenth instant about one of the fifth, will be answered according to the desire of the party, which he will see in a few days.
No. 111..] Saturday, December 24, 1709.
Procul, O! Procul, este profani Hence, ye profane! far hence be gone!
Sheer-lane, December 23.
Tire watchman, who does me particular honours, as being the chief man in the lane, gave so very great a thump at my door last night, that I awakened at the knock, and o: self complimented with the usual salutation of, * Good-morrow, Mr. Bickerstaff; good-morrow, my masters all.' The silence and darkness of the night disposed me to be more than ordinarily serious ; and, as my attention was not drawn out among exterior objects by the avocations of sense, my thoughts naturally fell upon myself. I was considering, amidst the stillness of the night, what was the proper employment of a thinking being 2 what were the perfections it should propose to itself? and, what the end it should aim at 2 My mind is of such a particular cast, that the falling of a shower of rain, or the whistling of wind, at such a time, is apt to fill my thoughts with something awful and solemn. I was in this disposition, when our bellman began his midnight homily, which he has been repeating to us every winter night for these twenty years, with the usual exordium;
Oh! mortal man, thou that art born in sin!’
Sentiments of this nature, which are in themselves just and reasonable, however debased by the circumstances that accompany them, do not fail to produce their natural effect in a mind that is not perverted and depraved by wrong notions of gallantry, politeness, and ridicule. The temper which I now found myself in, as well as the time of the year, put me in mind of those lines in Shakspeare, wherein, according to his agreeable wildness of imagination, he has wrought a country tradition into a beautiful piece of poetry. In the tragedy of Hamlet, where the ghost vanishes upon the cock's crowing,” he takes occasion to mention its crowing
* This is a very ancient superstition. Philostratus. giving an account of the apparition of Achille's shade to Apollonius Tyaneus, says, that it vanished with a little glimmer as soon as the cock crowed.