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all hours of the night about Christmas time,
and to insinuate a kind of religious veneration
for that season.
This admirable author, as well as the best and greatest men of all ages, and of all nations, seems to have had his mind thoroughly seasoned with religion, as is evident by many passages in his plays, that would not be suffered by a modern audience; and are, therefore, certain instances that the age he lived in had a much greater sense of virtue than the present.
It is, indeed, a melancholy reflection to consider, that the British nation, which is now at a greater height of glory for its councils and conquests than it ever was before, should distinguish itself by a certain looseness of principles, and a falling-off from those schemes of thinking, which conduce to the happiness and perfection of human nature. This evil comes upon us from the works of a few solemn blockheads, that meet together, with the zeal and seriousness of apostles, to extirpate common sense, and propagate infidelity. These are the o who, without any show of wit, learning, or reason, publish their crude conceptions with an ambition of appearing more wise than the rest of mankind, upon no other pretence than that of dissenting from them. One gets by heart a catalogue of title-pages and editions; and, immediately to become conspicuous, declares that he is an unbeliever. Another knows how to write a receipt, or cut up a dog, and forthwith argues against the immortality of the soul. I have known many a little wit, in the ostentation of his parts, rally the truth of the scripture, who was not able to read a chapter in it. These poor wretches talk blasphemy for want of discourse, and are rather the objects of scorn or pity, than of our indignation; but the grave disputant," that reads and writes, and spends all his time in convincing himself and the world that he is no better than a brute, ought to be whipped out of government, as a blot to civil society, and a defamer of mankind. I love to consider an infidel, whether distinguished by the title of deist, atheist, or free-thinker, in three different lights, in his solitudes, his afflictions, and his last moments.
A wise man that lives up to the principles of reason and virtue, if one considers him in his solitude, as in taking in the system of the universe, observing the mutual dependence and harmony, by which the whole frame of it hangs together, beating down his passions, or swelling his thoughts with magnificent ideas of Providence, makes a nobler figure in the eye of an intelligent being, than the greatest conqueror amidst all the pomps and solemnities of a triumph. On the contrary, there is not a more
* Perhaps the nuthor here alludes to Toland; for we are told, by a contemporary witer, that ‘He was once the butt of the Tatler."
ridiculous animal than an atheist in his retirement. His mind is incapable of rapture or elevation. He can only consider himself as an insignificant figure in a landscape, and wandering up and down in a field or a meadow, under the same terms as the meanest animal about him, and as subject to as total a mortality as they ; with this aggravation, that he is the only one amongst them, who lies under the apprehension of it. In distresses, he must be of all creatures the most helplesss and forlorn; he feels the whole pressure of a present calamity, without being relieved by the memory of any thing that is past, or the prospect of any thing that is to come. Annihilation is the greatest blessing that he proposes to himself, and a halter or a pistol the only refuge he can fly to. But if you would behold one of these gloomy miscreants in his poorest figure, you must consider him under the terrors, or at the approach, of death. About thirty years ago I was a shipboard with one of these vermin, when there arose a brisk gale, which could frighten nobody but himself. Upon the rolling of the ship, he fell upon his knees, and confessed to the chaplain, “that he had been a vile athcist, and had denied a Supreme Being ever since he came to his estate.” The good man was astonished, and a report immediately ran through the ship, ‘that there was an atheist upon the upper deck.’ Several of the common seamen, who had never heard the word before, thought it had been some strange fish; but they were more surprised when they saw it was a man, and heard out of his own mouth, that he never believed until that day that there was a God. As he lay in the agonies of confession, one of the honest tars whispered to the boatswain, “that it would be a good deed to heave him overboard.' But we were now within sight of port, when of a sudden the wind fell, and the penitent relapsed, begging all of us that were present, “as we were gentlemen, not to say anything of what had passed.’ He had not been ashore above two days, when one of the company began to rally him upon his devotion on shipboard, which the other denied in so high terms, that it produced the lie on both sides and ended in a duel. The atheist was run through the body, and after some loss of blood, became as good a Christian as he was at sea, until he found that his wound was not mortal. He is at present one of the free-thinkers of the age, and now writing a pamphlet against several received opinions concerning the existence of fairies. As i have taken upon me to censure the aults of the age and country in which I live, I should have thought myself inexcusable to have passed over this crying one, which is the subject of my present discourse. I shall therefore, from time to time, give my countrymen particular cautions against this distemper, of the mind, that is almost become fashionable, and by that means more likely to spread. have somewhere either read or heard a very memorable sentence, “that a man would be a most insupportable monster, should he have the faults that are incident to his years, constitution, profession, family, religion, age, and country;' and yet every man is in danger of them all. For this reason, as I am an old man, I take particular care to avoid being covetous, and telling long stories. As I am choleric, I forbear not only swearing, but all interjections of fretting, as pugh or pish and the like. As I am a layman, I resolve not to conceive an aversion for a wise and a good man, because his coat is of a different colour from mine. As I am descended of the ancient family of the Bickerstaffs, I never call a man of merit an upstart. As a protestant, I do not suffer my zeal so far to transport me, as to name the pope and the devil together. As I am fallen into this degenerate age, I guard myself particularly against the folly I have been now speaking of And, as I am an Englishman, I am very cautious not to hate a stranger, or despise a poor Palatine.
No. 112.) Tuesday, December 27, 1709.
Accedat suavitas quaedam oportet sermonum, atque moruin, handguaquam mediocre condimentum unicitia?: tristitia autem, et in omni re severitas absit. Habet illa quiden gravitatem, sed amicitia remission esse debet, et liberior, et dulcior, et ad omnem colnitatem facilitatemque proclivior. - Cic. De Amicitia.
* There should be added a certain sweetness of dis. course and manners, which is no inconsiderable sauce to friendship. But by all means throw out sadness and severity in every thing. There is something of gravity indeed in it; but friendship requires a greater remissness, freedom, and pleasantness, and an inclination to good teluper and affability.
Sheer-lane, December 26.
As I was looking over my letters this morning, I chanced to cast my eye upon the following one, which came to my hands about two months ago from an old friend of mine, who, as I have since learned, writ the agreeable epistle inserted in my paper of the third of the last month. It is of the same turn with the other, and may be looked upon as a specimen of right country letters.
“SIR,-This sets out to you from my summerhouse upon the terrace, where I am enjoying a few hours sunshine, the scanty sweet remains of a fine autumn. The year is almost at the lowest; so that, in all appearance, the rest of my letters between this and spring will be dated from my parlour fire, where the little fond prattle of a wife and children will so often break in upon the connexion of my thoughts, that you will easily discover it in my style. If this winter should prove as severe as the last, I can tell you beforehand, that I am likely to be a very miserable man, through the perverse temper of my eldest boy. When the frost was in its extremity, you must know that most of the blackbirds, robins, and finches of the parish, whose music had entertained me in the summer, took refuge under my roof. Upon this, my care was, to rise every morning before day, to set open my windows for the reception of the cold and the hungry, whom, at the same time, I relieved with a very plentiful alms, by strewing corn and seeds upon the floor and shelves. But Dicky, without any regard to the laws of hosPitality, considered the casements as so many
traps, and used every bird as a prisoner at discretion. Never did tyrant exercise more various cruelties. Some of the poor creatures he chased to death about the room; others he drove into the jaws of a blood-thirsty cat; and even in his greatest acts 9f mercy, either clipped the wings, or singed the tails, of his innocent captives. You will laugh, when I tell you I sympathized with every bird in its misfortunes; but I believe you will think me in the right for bewailing the child's unlucky humour. On the other hand, I am extremely pleased to see his younger brother carry a universal benevolence towards every thing that has life. When he was between four and five years old, I caught him weeping over a beautiful butterfly, which he chanced to kill as he was playing with it; and I am informed, that this morning he has given his brother three-halfpence, which was his whole estate, to spare the life of a tom-tit. These are at present the matters of greatest moment within my observation, and I know are too trifling to be communicated to any but so wise a man as yourself, and from one who has the happiness to be your most faithful, and most obedient servant.”
The best critic that ever wrote, speaking of some passages in Homer which appear extravagant or frivolous, says, indeed, that they are dreams, but the dreams of Jupiter. My friend's letter appears to me in the same light. One sees him in an idle hour; but at the same time in the idle hour of a wise man. A great mind has something in it too severe and forbidding, that is not capable of giving itself such little relaxations, and of condescending to these agreeable ways of trifling. Tully, when he celebrates the friendship of Scipio and Laelius, who were the greatest as well as the politest men of their age, represents it as a beautiful passage in their retirement, that they used to gather up shells on the sea-shore, and amuse themselves with the variety of shape and colour which they met with in those little unregarded works of nature. The great Agesilaus could be a companion to his own children, and was surprised by the ambassadors of Sparta, as he was riding among them upon a hobby-horse. Augustus, indeed, had no play-fellows of his own begetting; but is said to have passed many of his hours with little Moorish boys at a game of marbles, not unlike our modern taw. There is, methinks, a pleasure in seeing great men thus fall into the rank of mankind, and entertain themselves with diversions and amusements that are agreeable to the very weakest of their species. I must frankly confess, that it is to me a beauty in Cato's character, that he would drink a cheerful bottle with his friend; and I cannot but own, that I have seen with great delight, one of the most celebrated authors of the last age feeding the ducks in St. James's Park. By instances of this nature, the heroes, the statesmen, the philosophers, become as it were, familiar with us, and grow the more amiable, the less they endeavour to appear awful. A man who always acts in the severity of wisdom, or the haughtiness of quality, seems to move in a personated part. It looks too constrained and theatrical, for a man to be always in that character which distinguishes him from others; besides that the slackening and unbending our 1ninds on some occasions, makes them exert themselves with greater vigour and alacrity, when they return to their proper and natural state. As this innocent way of passing a leisure hour is not only consistent with a great character, but very graceful in it; so there are two sorts of people to whom I would most earnestly recommend it. The first are those who are uneasy out of want of thought; the second are those who are so out of a turbulence of spirit.
in a country life, and am therefore forced to entertain myself as well as I can with my little dog and cat. They both of them sit by my fire every night, expecting my coming home with impatience ; and, at my entrance, never fail of running up to me, and bidding me welcome, each of them in his proper language. As they have been bred up together from their infancy, and seen no other company, they have learned each other's manners, so that the dog often gives himself the airs of a cat, and the cat, in several of her motions and gestures, affects the behaviour of the little dog. When they are at play, I often make one with them: and some
The first are the impertinent, and the second times please myself with considering how much
the dangerous part of mankind. It grieves me to the very heart, when I see several young gentlemen, descended of honest
reason and instinct are capable of delighting each other. Thus, you see, I have communicated to you, the material occurrences in my family,
parents, run up and down, hurrying from one with the same freedom that you use to me, as I
end of the town to the other, calling in at every place of resort, without being able to fix a quarter of an hour in any, and in a particular haste without knowing for what. It would, methinks, be some consolation, if I could persuade these precipitate young gentlemen to compose this restlessness of mind, and apply themselves to any amusement, how trivial soever, that might give them employment, and keep them out of harm's way. They cannot imagine how great a relief it would be to them, if they could grow sedate enough to play for two or three hours at a game of push-pin. But these busy, idle animals are only their own tormentors. The turbulent and dangerous are for embroiling coun
cils, stirring up seditions, and subverting constitutions, out of a mere restlessness of temper away of his snuff-box, remains still unburied;
and an insensibility of all the pleasures of life that are calin and innocent. It is impossible for a man to be so much employed in any scene of action, as to have great and good affairs enough to fill up his whole time; there will still be chasms and empty spaces, in which a working mind will employ itself to its own prejudice, or that of others, unless it can be at ease in the exercise of such actions as are in themselves indifferent. Ilow often have I wished, for the good of the nation, that several famous politicians could take any pleasure in feeding dnoks' I look upon an able statesman out of business, like a huge whale, that will endeavour to overturn the ship, unless he has an empty cask to play with. But to return to my good friend and correspondent: I am afraid we shall both be laughed at, when I confess, that we have often gone out into the field to look upon a bird's nest; and have more than once taken an evening's walk together on purpose to see the sun set. I shall conclude with my answer to his foregoing letter:— -
* DFAR sir, I thank you for your obliging letter, and your kindness to the distressed, who will doubtless express their gratitude to you themselves the next spring. As for Dick, the tyrant, I must desire you will put a stop to his proceedings; and, at the same time, take care that his little brother be no loser by his mercy to the tom-tit. For my own part, I am excluded all conversation with animals that delight only
am, with the same sincerity and affection, your most faithful humble servant, - “ISAAC HiCKERSTAFF.”
No. 113.] Thursday, December 29, 1709.
—Ecce iterum Crispinus ! - Jur.
Once more Crispinus comes upon the stage. Hay-market, December 23.
Winer EAs, the gentleman that behaved himself in a very disobedient and obstinate manner at his late trial in Sheer-lane, on the twentieth instant, and was carried off dead upon taking
the company of upholders, not knowing other-. wise how they should be paid, have taken his goods in execution, to defray the charge of his funeral. His said effects are to be exposed to sale by auction, at their office in the Hay-market, on the fourth of January next, and are as follows. A very rich tweezer-case, containing twelve instruments for the use of each hour in the day. Four pounds of scented snuff, with three gilt snuff-boxes; one of them with an invisible hinge, and a looking glass in the lid. Two more of ivory, with the portraitures on their lids of two ladies of the town; the originals . to be seen every night in the side-boxes of the playhouse. A sword, with a steel diamond hilt, never drawn but once at May-fair. Six clean packs of cards, a quart of orangeflower-water, a pair of French scissars, a toothpick-case, and an eye.brow brush. A large glass case, containing the linen and clothes of the deceased ; among which are, two embroidered suits, a pocket perspective, a dozen pair of red-heeled shoes, three pair of red silk stockings, and an amber-headed cane. The strong box of the deceased, wherein were found, five billet-doux, a Bath shilling, a crooked sixpence, a silk garter, a lock of hair, and three broken fans. A press for books; containing, on the upper shelf, . Three bottles of diet-drink.
Two boxes of pills.
A syringe, and other mathematical instruments.
On the second shelf are several miscellaneous works; as,
And an almanack for the year seventeen hundred.
On the third shelf,
A bundle of letters unopened, endorscd.in the hand of the deceased, ‘Letters from the old Gentleman.”
Lessons for the flute.
Toland’s ‘Christianity not mysterious :' and a paper filled with patterns of several fashionable stuffs.
On the lower shelf,
A pair of snuffers.
A French grammar.
A mourning hatband; and half a bottle of usquebaugh.
There will be added to these goods, to make a complete auction, a collection of gold snuffboxes and clouded canes, which are to continue in fashion for three months after the sale.
The whole are to be set up and prized by Charles Bubbleboy, who is to open the auction with a speech. -
I find I am so very unhappy, that, while I am busy in correcting the folly and vice of one sex, several exorbitances break out in the other. I have not thoroughly examined their new fashioned petticoats, but shall set aside one day in the next week for that purpose. The following petition on this subject was presented to Ine this morning :
“The humble petition of William Jingle, Coach-maker and Chair-maker, of the liberty of Westminster;
“To Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, Censor of Great Britain ; *
“Showcth,--That upon the late invention of Mrs. Catherine Cross stich, mantua-maker, the petticoats of ladies were too wide for entering into any coach or chair which was in use before the said invention. ‘That for the service of the said ladies, your petitioner has built a round chair, in the form of a lantern, six yards and a half in circumference, with a stool in the centre of it; the said vehicle being so contrived, as to receive the passenger by opening in two in the middle, and closing mathematically when she is seated. - ‘That your petitioner has also invented a coach for the reception of one lady only, who is to be let in at the top. ‘That the said coach has been tried by a lady's woman in one of these full potticoats, who was let down from a balcony, and drawn up again by pullies, to the great satisfaction of her lady and all who behold her. ‘Your petitioner, therefore, most humbly prays, that, for the encouragement of ingenuity
and useful inventions, he may be heard before you pass sentence upon the petticoats aforesaid. ‘And your petitioner, &c." I have likewise received a female petition, signed by several thousands, praying that I would not any longer deser giving judgment in the case of the petticoat, many of them having put off the making new clothes, until such time as they know what verdict will pass upon it. I do therefore, hereby certify to all whom it may concern, that I do design to set apart Tuesday next for the final determination of that matter, having already ordered a jury of matrons to be impannellcd, for the clearing up of any difficult points that may arise in the trial. Being informed that several dead men, in and about this city, do keep out of the way and abscond, for fear of being buried ; and, being willing to respite their interment, in consideration of their families, and in hopes of their amendment, I shall allow them certain privileged places, where they may appear to one another, without causing any let or molestation to the living, or receiving any, in their own persons, from the company of upholders. Between the hours of seven and nine in the morning, they may appear in safety at St. James's coffee-house, or at White's, if they do not keep their beds, which is more proper for
| men in their condition. From nine to eleven, I
allow them to walk from Story's to Rosamond's pond* in the Park, or in any other public walks which are not frequented by the living at that time. Between eleven and three, they are to vanish and keep out of sight until three in the afternoon, at which time they may go to the Exchange until five ; and then, if they please, divert themselves at the Hay-market, or Drurylane, until the play begins. It is further grantcd in favour of these persons, that they may be received at any table where there are more present than seven in number: provided that they do not take upon them to talk, judge, commend, or find fault with any speech, action, or behaviour of the living. In which case, it shall be lawful to seize their persons at any place or hour whatsoever, and to convey their bodies to the next undertaker's; any thing in this advertisement to the contrary notwithstanding.
No. 114.] Saturday, December 31, 1709.
T't in vità. sic in studiis, pulcherrimum et humanissimum existino, severitate in coniitute inque miscere, he illa in trislitiain, haic in pctulantiala procolat. Pian. Epist.
As in a man's life, so in his studies, I think it the most heantiful and humane thing in the world, so to mingle gravity with pleasantry that the one may not sink into inelancholy, nor the other rise up into wan
toliness. Sheer-lane, December, 30.
I was walking about my chamber this morning in a very gay humour, when I saw a coach stop at my door, and a youth about fifteen alighting out of it, whom I perceived to be the eldest son of my bosom friend that I gave some account of in my paper of the seventeenth of the last month. I felt a sensible pleasure rising in me at the sight of him, my acquaintance having begun with his father when he was just such a stripling, and about that very age. When he came up to me, he took me by the hand, and burst out in tears. I was extremely moved, and immediately said, ‘Child, how does your father do?” He began to reply, “My mother ” but could not go on for weeping. I went down with him into the coach, and gathered out of him, ‘that his mother was then dying, and that, while the holy man was doing the last offices to her, he had taken that time to come and call me to his father, who, he said, would certainly break his heart, if I did not go and comfort him.” The child's discretion in coming to me of his own head, and the tenderness he showed for his arents, would have quite overpowered me, had } not resolved to fortify myself for the seasonable performances of those duties which I owed to my friend. As we were going, I could not but reflect upon the character of that excellent woman, and the greatness of his grief for the loss of one who has ever been the support of him under all other afflictions. How, thought I, will he be able to bear the horror of her death, that could not, when I was lately with him, speak of a sickness, which was then past, without sorrow ! We were now got pretty far into Westminster, and arrived at my friend's house. At the door of it. I met Favonius, not without a secret satisfaction to find he had been there. I had formerly conversed with him at this house; and as he abounds with that sort of virtue and knowledge which makes religion beautiful, and never leads the conversation into the violence and rage of party-disputes, I listened to him with great pleasure. Our discourse chanced to be upon the subject of death, which he treated with such a strength of reason, and greatness of soul, that, instead of being terrible, it appeared to a mind rightly cultivated, altogether to be contemned, or rather to be desired. As I met him at the door, I saw in his face a certain glowing of grief and humanity, heightened with an air of fortitude and resolution, which, as I afterwards found, had such an irresistible force, as to suspend the pains of the dying, and the lamentation of the nearest friends who attended her. I went up directly to the room where she lay, and was met at the entrance by my friend, who, notwithstanding his thoughts had been composed a little before, at the sight of me turned away his face and wept. The little family of children renewed the expressions of their sor. row according to their several ages and degrees of understanding. The eldest daughter was in tears, busied in attendance upon her mother; others were kneeling about the bed side; and what troubled me most was, to see a little boy, who was too young to know the reason, weeping only because his sister did. The only one in the room who seemed resigned and comforted was the dying person. At my approach to the bed side, she told me, with a low broken voice, ‘This is kindly done—Take care of your friend —do not go from him " She had before taken
* Story's Gate, at one end of the Birdcage-walk, still retains its name: but Rosamond’s-pond the other
end, has been filled up within these few years,
leave of her husband and children, in a manner proper for so solemn a parting, and, with a gracefulness peculiar to a woman of her character. My heart was torn in pieces, to see the husband on one side, suppressing and keeping down the swellings of his grief, for fear of dis. turbing her in her last moments; and the wife, even at that time, concealing the pains she endured, for fear of increasing his affliction. She kept her eyes upon him for some moments after she grew speechless, and soon after closed them for ever. In the moment of her departure, my friend, who had thus far commanded himself, gave a deep groan, and fell into a swoon by her bed side. The distraction of the children, who thought they saw both their parents expiring together, and now lying dead before them, would have melted the hardest heart; but they soon perceived their father recover, whom I helped to remove into another room, with a resolution to accompany him until the first pangs of his affliction were abated. I knew consolation would now be impertinent; and therefore contented myself to sit by him, and condole with him in silence. For I shall here use the method of an ancient author, who, in one of his epistles, relating the virtues and death of Macrinus's wife, cxpresses himself thus: “I shall suspend my advice to this best of friends, until he is made capable of receiving it by those three great remedies, the necessity of submission, length of time, and satiety of grief.'
In the mean time, I cannot but consider, with much cominiseration, the melancholy state of one who has had such a part of himself torn from him, and which he misses in every circumstance of life. His condition is like that of one who has lately lost his right arm, and is every moment offering to help himself with it. He does not appear to himself the same person in his house, at his table, in company, or in retirement; and loses the relish of all the pleasures and diversions that were before entertaining to him by her participation of them. The most agreeable objects recall the sorrow for her with whom he used to enjoy them. This additional satisfaction, from the taste of pleasures in the society of one we love, is admirably described by Milton, who represents Eve, though in Paradise itself, no further pleased with the beautiful objects around her, than as she sees them in company with Adam, in that passage so inexpressibly charming :"
“With thee conversing. I forget all time; All seasons, and their change; all please alike. Sweet is the breath of inorin, her rising sweet With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the sun, When first on this delightful land he spreads His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower, Glistening with dow; fragrant the fertile earth After soft showers; and sweet the coming on Of grateful evening mild: the silent night, ... With this her solemn bird, and this fair inoon, And these the gems of heaven, her starry train. But neither breath of morn when she ascends With charm of parliest birds: nor rising sun On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower, Glistering with dew ; nor fragrance after showers; Nor grateful evening mild: nor silent night, With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon, Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet."
* Paradise Lost, book iv. ver, 630.