Page images
PDF

As one who long in populous city pent, Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air, Forth issuing on a summer's morn, to breathe Among the pleasant villages and farms Adjoin'd, from each thing met conceives delight: The sinell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine, Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound. Those who are conversant in the writings of polite authors, receive an additional entertainment from the country, as it revives in their memories those charming descriptions, with which such authors do frequently abound. I was thinking of the foregoing beautiful simile in Milton, and applying it to myself, when I observed to the windward of me a black cloud falling to the earth in long trails of rain, which made me betake myself for shelter to a house I saw at a little distance from the place where I was walking. As I sat in the porch, I heard the voices of two or three persons, who seemed very earnest in discourse. My curiosity was raised when I heard the names of Alexander the Great and Artaxerxes; and as their talk seemed to run on ancient heroes, I concluded there could not be any secret in it; for which reason I thought I might very fairly listen to what they said. After several parallels between great men, which appeared to me altogether groundless and chimerical, I was surprised to hear one say, that he valued the Black Prince more than the duke of Vendosme. How the duke of Vendosme should become a rival of the Black Prince, I could not conceive: and was more startled when I heard a second affirm with great vehemence, that if the emperor of Germany was not going off, he should like him better than either of them. He added, that though the season was so changeable, the duke of Marlborough was in blooming beauty. I was wondering to myself from whence they had received this odd intelligence; especially when I heard them mention the names of several other great generals, as the prince of Hesse, and the king of Sweden, who, they said, were both running away. To which they added, what I entirely agreed with them in, that the crown of France was very weak, but that the marshal Villars still kept his colours. At last one of them told the company, if they would go along with him, he would show them a chimney-sweeper and a painted lady in the same bed, which he was sure would very much please them. The shower, which had driven them as well as myself into the house, was now over : and as they were passing by me into the garden, I asked them to let me be one of their company. The gentleman of the house told me, “if I delighted in flowers, it would be worth my while; for that he believed he could show me such a blow of tulips, as was not to be matched in the whole country.' I accepted the offer, and immediately found that they had been talking in terms of gardening, and that the kings and generals they had mentioned were only so many tulips, to which the gardeners, according to their usual custom, had given such high titles and appellations of honour. I was very much pleased and astonished at the glorious show of these gay vegetables, that

arose in great profusion on all the banks about us. Sometimes I considered them with the eye of an ordinary spectator, as so many beautiful objects varnished over with a natural gloss, and stained with such a variety of colours, as are not to be equalled in any artificial dyes or tinctures. Sometimes I considered every leaf as an claborate piece of tissue, in which the threads and fibres were woven together into different configurations, which gave a different colouring to the light as it glanced on the several parts of the surface. Sometimes I considered the whole bed of tulips, according to the notion of the greatest mathematician and philosopher that ever lived,” as a multitude of optic instruments, designed for the separating light into all those

various colours of which it is composed.

I was awakened out of these my philosophical speculations, by observing the company often seemed to laugh at me. I accidentally praised a tulip as one of the finest I ever saw ; upon which they told me, it was a common Fool's Coat. Upon that I praised a second, which it seems was but another kind of Fool's Coat. I had the same fate with two or three more; for which reason I desired the owner of the garden to let me know which were the finest of the flowers; for that I was so unskilful in the art, that I thought the most beautiful were the most valuable, and that those which had the gayest colours were the most beautiful. The gentleman smiled at my ignorance. He seemed a very plain honest man, and a person of good sense, had not his head been touched with that distemper which Hippocrates calls the Tox,zzouava, Tulippomania; insomuch that he would talk very rationally on any subject in the world but a tulip.

He told me, “that he valued the bed of flowers which lay before us, and was not above twenty yards in length and two in breadth, more than he would the best hundred acres of land in England;’ and added, “that it would have been worth twice the money it is, if a foolish cookmaid of his had not almost ruined him the last winter, by mistaking a handful of tulip-roots for a heap of onions, and by that means,’ says he, “made me a dish of porridge that cost me abore a thousand pounds sterling. He then showed me what he thought the finest of his tulips, which I found received all their value from their rarity and oddness, and put me in mind of your great fortunes, which are not always the greatest beauties.

I have often looked upon it as a piece of happiness, that I have never fallen into any of these fantastical tastes, nor esteemed any thing the more for its being uncommon and hard to be met with. For this reason, I look upon the whole country in spring-time as a spacious garden, and make as many visits to a spot of daisies, or a bank of violets, as a florist does to his borders or parterres. There is not a bush in blossom within a mile of me which I am not acquainted with, nor scarce a daffodil or cowslip that withers away in my neighbourhood without my missing it. I walked home in this temper of mind through

* Sir Isaac Newton.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

NEveR were men so perplexed as a select company of us wore this evening with a couple of professed wits, who, through our ill-fortune, and their own confidence, had thought fit to pin themselves upon a gentleman who had owned to them, that he was going to meet such and such persons, and named us one by one. These pert puppies immediately resolved to come with him; and from the beginning to the end of the night entertained each other with impertinences, to which we were perfect strangers. I am come home very much tired; for the affliction was so irksome to me, that it surpasses all other I ever knew, insomuch that I cannot reflect upon this sorrow with pleasure, though it is past. An easy manner of conversation is the most desirable quality a man can have; and for that reason coxcombs will take upon them to be familiar with people whom they never saw beforc. What adds to the vexation of it is, that they will act upon the foot of knowing you by fame; and rally with you, as they call it, by repeating what your enemies say of you; and court you, as they think, by uttering to your shoe, at a wrong time, all the kind things your friends speak of you in your absence. These people are the more dreadful, the more they have of what is usually called wit: for a lively imagination, when it is not governed by a good understanding, makes such miserable havock both in conversation and business, that it lays you defenceless, and fearful to throw the least word in its way, that may give it new matter for its further errors. Tom Mercet has as quick a fancy as any one living ; but there is no reasonable man can bear him half an hour. His purpose is to entertain, and it is of no consequence to him what is said, so it be what is called well said; as if a man must bear a wound with patience, because he that pushed at you came up with a good air and mien. That part of life which we spend in com. pany is the most pleasing of all our moments; and therefore I think our behaviour in it should have its laws, as well as the part of our being which is generally esteemed the more important. From hence it is, that from long experience I have made it a maxim, That however we may pretend to take satisfaction in sprightly mirth and high jollity, there is no great pleasure in

any company where the basis of the society is not mutual good-will. When this is in the room, every triling circumstance, the most minute accident, the absurdity of a servant, the repetition of an old story, the look of a man when he is telling it, the most indifferent and the most ordinary occurrences, are matters which produce mirth and good-humour. I went to spend an hour after this manner with some friends, who enjoy it in persection whenever they meet, when those destroyers above-mentioned came in upon us. There is not a man among then who has any notion of distinction of superiority to one another, either in their fortunes or their talents, when they are in company. Or if any reflection to the contrary occurs in their thoughts, it only strikes a delight upon their minds, that so much wisdom and power is in possession of one whom they love and esteem. n these my lucubrations, I have frequently dwelt upon this one topic. The above maxim would make short work for us reformers; for it is only want of making this a position that renders some characters bad, which would otherwise be good. Tom Mercet means no man ill, but does ill to every body. His ambition is to be witty; and to carry on that design, he breaks through all things that other people hold sacred. If he thought that wit was no way to be used but to the advantage of society, that sprightliness would have a new turn; and we should expect what he is going to say with satisfaction instead of sear. It is no excuse for being mischievous, that a man is mischievous without malice; nor will it be thought an atonement, that the ill was done not to injure the party concerned, but to divert the indiflorent. It is, methinks, a very great error, that we should not profess honesty in conversation, as much as in commerce. If we consider, that there is no greater misfortune than to be ill-received ; where we love the turning a man to ridicule among his friends, we rob him of greater enjoyments than he could have purchased by his wealth; yet he that laughs at him would, perhaps, be the last man who would hurt him in this case of less consequence. It has been said, the history of Don Quixotte utterly destroyed the spirit of gallantry in the Spanish nation ; and I believe we may say much more truly, that the humour of ridicule has done as much injury to the true relish of company in England. Such satisfactions as arise from the secret comparison of ourselves to others, with relation to their inferior fortunes or merit, are mean and unworthy. The true and high state of conversation is, when inen communicate their thoughts to each other upon such subjects, and in such a manner, as would be pleasant if there was no such thing as folly in the world; for it is but a low condition of wit in one man, which depends upon folly in another. P. S. I was here interrupted by the receipt of my letters, among which is one from a lady, who is not a little offended at my translation of the discourse between Adam and Eve. She pretends to tell me my own, as she calls it, and quotes several passages in my works, which tend to the utter disunion of man and wife. Her epistle will best express her. I have made an extract of it, and shall insert the most material passages. “I suppose you know we women are not too apt to forgive : for which reason, before you concern yourself any further with our sex, I would advise you to answer what is said against you by those of your own. I inclose to you business enough, until you are ready for your promise of being witty. You must not expect to say what you please, without admitting others to take the same liberty. Marry come up! you a Censor 7 Pray read over all these painphlets, and these notes upon your lucubrations; by that time you shall hear further. It is, I suppose, from such as you, that people learn to be censorious, for which I and all our sex have an utter aversion; when once people come to take the liberty to wound reputations This is the main body of the letter; but she bids me turn over, and there I find “Mr. Bickerstaff, If you will draw Mrs. Cicely Trippet, according to the inclosed des. cription, I will forgive you all.' “To Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire : “The humble petition of Joshua Fairlove, of Stepney, showeth: “That your petitioner is a general lover, who, for some months last past, has made it his whole business to frequent the by-paths and roads near his dwelling, for no other purpose but to hand such of the fair sex as are obliged to pass through them. ‘That he has been at great expense for clean gloves to offer his hand with. ‘That towards the evening he approaches near London, and employs himself as a convoy towards home. ‘Your petitioner therefore mosthumbly prays, that for such his humble services, he may be allowed the title of an Esquire.”

Mr. Morphew has orders to carry the proper instruments; and the petitioner is hereafter to be writ to upon gilt paper, by the title of Joshua Fairlove, Esquire.

No. 220.] Tuesday, September 5, 1710.

Insani sapiens nomen ferat, tequis iniqui,
Ultra quain satis est, virtutein si petat psam.
Hor. 1 Ep. vi. 15.

Even virtue, when pursu'd with warmth extreme, Turns into vice, and fools the sages fame. Francis.

From my own Apartment, September 4.

HAviNg received many letters filled with compliments and acknowledgments for my late useful discovery of the political barometer, I shall here communicate to the public an account of my ecclesiastical thermometer, the latter giving as manifest prognostications of the changes and revolutions in Church, as the former does of those in State; and both of them being abso. lutely necessary for every prudent subject who is resolved to keep what he has, and get what he can.

The church-thermometer, which I am now to

treat of, is supposed to have been invented in the reign of Henry the Eighth, about the time when that religious prince put some to death for owning the pope's supremacy, and others for denying transubstantiation. I do not find, however, any great use made of this instrument, until it fell into the hands of a learned and vigilant priest or minister, for he frequently wrote himself both one and the other, who was some time vicar of Bray. This gentleman lived in his vicarage to a good old age; and, after having

seen several successions of his neighbouring

clergy either burned or banished, departed this. life with the satisfaction of having never deserted his flock, and died vicar of Bray. As this glass was first designed to calculate the different degrees of heat in religion, as it raged in popery, or as it cooled and grew temperate in the Reformation; it was marked at several distances, after the manner our ordinary thermometer is to this day, viz. ‘Extreme Heat, Sultry Heat, Very Hot, Hot, Warm, Teunperate, Cold, Just Freezing, Frost, Hard Frost, Great Frost, Extreme Cold.” It is well known, that Toricelius, the inven

tor of the common weather-glass, made the experiment in a long tube, which held thirty-two feet of water ; and that a more modern virtuoso, finding such a machine altogether unwieldy and useless, and considering that thirty-two inches of quicksilver weighed as much as so many feet of water in a tube of the same circumference, invented that sizeable instrument which is now in use. After this manner, that I might adapt the thermometer I am now speaking of to the present constitution of our Church, as divided into High and Low, I have made some necessary variations both in the tube and the fluid it contains. In the first place, I ordered a tube to . be cast in a planetary hour, and took care to seal it hermetically, when the sun was in conjunction with Saturn. I then took the proper precautions about the fluid, which is a compound of two very different liquors; one of them a spirit drawn out of a strong heady wine; the other a particular sort of rock-water, colder than ice, and clearer than crystal. The spirit is of a red fiery colour, and so very apt to ferment, that unless it be mingled with a proportion of the water, or pent up very close, it will burst the vessel that holds it, and fly up in fume and smoke. The water, on the contrary, is of such a subtle piercing cold, that, unless it be mingled with a proportion of the spirits, it will sink almost through every thing that it is put into ; and seems to be of the same nature as the water mentioned by Quintus Curtius, which, says the historian, could be contained in nothing but in the hoof, or, as the Oxford manuscript has it, in the skull of an ass. The thermometer is marked according to the following figure; which I set down at length, not only to give my reader a clear idea of it, but also to fill up my paper :

Ignorance.

Persecution.

Wrath.

Zeal.

Church.

Moqeration.

Lukewarmness. Infidelity. Ignorance.

The reader will observe, that the church is placed in the middle point of the glass, between Zeal and Moderation; the situation in which she always flourishes, and in which every good Englishman wishes her, who is a friend to the constitution of his country. However, when it mounts to Zeal, it is not amiss; and when it sinks to Moderation, is still in a most admirable ...temper. The worst of it is, that when once it begins to rise, it has still an inclination to ascend; insomuch that it is apt to climb up from Zeal to Wrath, and from Wrath to Persecution, which always ends in Ignorance, and very often proceeds from it. In the same manner it frequently takes its progress through the lower half of the glass; and when it has a tendency to fall, will gradually descend from Moderation to Lukewarinness, and from Lukewarmness to Infidelity, which very often terminates in Ignorance, and always proceeds from it. It is a common observation, that the ordinary thermometer will be affected by the breathing of people who are in the room where it stands; and indeed it is almost incredible to conceive, how the glass I am now describing, will fall by the breath of a multitude crying “Popery; or, on the contrary, how it will rise when the same multitude, as it sometimes happens, cry out in the same breath, ‘The church is in danger.’ As soon as I had finished this my glass, and adjusted it to the above-mentioned scale of religion; that I might make proper experiments with it, I carried it under my cloak to several coffee-houses, and other places of resort about this great city. At Saint James's coffee-house the liquor stood at Moderation; but at Will's, to my great surprise, it subsided to the very lowest mark on the glass. At the Grecian, it mounted but just one point higher; at the Rainbow it still ascended two degrees; Child's fetched it up to Zeal; and other adjacent coffee-houses, to Wrath. It fell in the lower half of the glass as I went further into the city, until at length it scttled at Moderation, where it continued all the time I staid about the Exchange, as also while I passed by the Bank. And here I cannot but take notice that, through the whole course of my remarks, I never observed my glass to rise at the same time the stocks did. To complete the experiment, I prevailed upon a friend of mine, who works under me in the Occult Sciences, to make a progress with my glass through the whole island of Great Britain; and after his return, to present me with a register of his observations. I guessed beforehand at the temper of several places he passed through, by the characters they have had time out of mind. Thus, that facetious divine, Dr. Fuller, speaking of the town of Banbury, near a hundred years ago, tells us, it was a place famous for cakes and zeal, which I find by my glass is true to this day as to the latter part of this description; though I must confess, it is not in the same reputation for cakes that it was in the time of that learned author; and thus of other

places. In short, I have now by me, digested in an alphabetical order, all the counties, corporations, and boroughs in Great Britain, with their respective tempers, as they stand related to my thermometer. But this I shall keep to myself, because I would by no means do anything that may seem to influence any ensuing elections.

The point of doctrine which I would propagate by this my invention, is the same which was long ago advanced by that able teacher Horace, out of whom I have taken my text for this discourse. We should be careful not to overshoot ourselves in the pursuits even of virtue. Whether Zeal or Moderation be the point we aim at, let us keep fire out of the one, and frost out of the other. But, alas! the world is too wise to want such a precaution. The terms High church and Low church, as commonly used, do not so much denote a principle, as they distinguish a party. They are like words of battle, they have nothing to do with their original signification; but are only given out to keep a body of men together, and to let them know friends from enemies.

I must confess I have considered, with some little attention, the influence which the opinions of these great national sects have upon their practice; and do look upon it as one of the unaccountable things of our times, that multitudes of honest gentlemen, who entirely agree in their lives, should take it in their heads to differ in their religion.

No. 221.] Thursday, September 7, 1710.

—Sicut meus est mos, -

Nescio quid ineditans nugarum, et totus in illis. Hor. 1 Sat. ix. 1.

Musing, as wont, on this and that,

Such trifles, as I know not what. Francis.

From my own Apartment, September 6.

As I was this morning going out of my house, a little boy in a black coat delivered me the following letter. Upon asking who he was, he told me, that he belonged to my lady Gimcrack. I did not at first recollect the name; but, upon inquiry, I found it to be the widow of sir Nicholas, whose legacy I lately gave some account o to the world. The letter ran thus:

“Mr. Bickerstaff, I hope you will not be surprised to receive a letter from the widow Gimcrack. You know, sir, that I have lately lost a very whimsical husband, who, I find, by one of your last week's papers, was not altogether a stranger to you. When I married this gentleman, he had a very handsome estate; but upon buying a set of microscopes, he was chosen a Fellow of the Royal Society; from which time I do not remember ever to have heard him speak as other people did, or talk in a manner that any of his family could understand him. He used, however, to pass away his time very innocently in conversation with several members of that learned body: for which reason, I never advised him against their company for several years, until at last I found his brain quite turned with their discourses. The first symptom which he discovered of his being a virtuoso, as you call him, poor man' was about fifteen years ago; when he gave me positive orders to turn off an old weeding woman, that had been employed in the family for some years. He told me, at the same time, that there was no such thing in nature as a weed, and that it was his design to let his garden produce what it pleased; so that, you may be sure, it makes a very pleasant show as it now lies. About the same time he took a humour to ramble up and down the country, and would often bring home with him his pockets full of moss and pebbles. This, you may be sure, gave me a heavy heart; though at the same time I must needs say, he had the character of a very honest man, notwithstanding he was reckoned a little weak, until he began to sell his estate, and buy those strange baubles that you have taken notice of Upon midsummer-day last, as he was walking with me in the fields, he saw a very odd-coloured butterfly just before us. I observed that he immediately changed colour, like a man that is surprised with a piece of good luck; and telling me, that it was what he had looked for above these twelve years, he threw off his coat, and followed it. I lost sight of them both in less than a quarter of an hour; but my husband continued the chace over hedge and ditch until about sunset; at which time, as I was afterwards told, he caught the butterfly as she rested herself upon a cabbage, near five miles from the place where he first put her up. He was here lifted from the ground by some passengers in a very fainting condition, and brought home to me about midnight. His violent exercise threw him into a fever, which grew upon him by degrees, and at last carried him off. In one of the intervals of his distemper he called to me, and, after having excused himself for running out his estate, he told me, that he had always been more industrious to improve his mind than his fortune, and that his family must rather value themselves upon his memory as he was a wise man, than a rich one. He then told me that it was a custom among the Romans for a man to give his slaves their liberty when he lay upon his death-bed. I could not imagine what this meant, until, after having a little composed himself, he ordered me to bring him a flea which he had kept for several months in a chain, with a design, as he said, to give it its manumission. This was done accordingly. He then made the will, which I have since seen printed in your works word for word. Only I must take notice, that you have omitted the codicil, in which he left a large Concha Veneris, as it is there called, to a Member of the Royal Society, who was often with him in his sickness, and assisted him in his will. And now, sir, I come to the chief business of my letter, which is to desire your friendship and assistance in the disposal of those many rarities and curiosities which lie upon my hands. If you know any one that has an occasion for a parcel of dried spiders, I will sell them a pennyworth. I could likewise let any §". have a bargain of 3

cockle-shells. I would also desire your advice whether I had best sell my beetles in a lump, or by retail. The gentleman above-mentioned, who was my husband's friend, would have me make an auction of all his goods, and is now drawing up a catalogue of every particular for that purpose, with the two following words in great letters over the head of them, Auctio Gimcrackiana. But, upon talking with him, I begin to suspect he is as mad as poor sir Nicholas was. Your advice in all these particulars will be a great piece of charity to, sir, your most humble servant,

• ELIZABETH GIMCRACK.”

I shall answer the foregoing letter, and give the widow my best advice, as soon as I can find out chapmen for the wares which she has to put off. In the mean time, I shall give my reader the sight of a letter, which I have received from another female correspondent by the same post.

‘Good MR. Bickenstaff, I am convinced by a late paper of yours, that a passionate wo. man, who among the common people goes under the name of a scold, is one of the most insupportable creatures in the world. But, alas ! sir, what can we do 2 I have made a thousand vows and resolutions every morning, to guard myself against this frailty; but have generally broken them before dinner, and could never in my life hold out until the second course was set upon the table. What most troubles me is, that my husband is as patient and good-natured as your own worship, or any man living, can be. Pray give me some directions, for I would observe the strictest and scverest rules you can think of to cure myself of this distemper, which is apt to fall into my tongue every moment.—I am, sir, your most humble servant, &c.”

In answer to this most unfortunate lady, I must acquaint her, that there is now in town an ingenious physician of my acquaintance, who undertakes to cure all the vices and defects of the mind by inward medicines or outward applications. I shall give the world an account of his patients and his cures in other papers, when I shall be more at leisure to treat upon this subject. I shall only here inform my correspondent, that, for the benefit of such ladies as are troubled with virulent tongues, he has prepared a cold bath, over which there is fastened, at the end of a long pole, a very conve. nient chair, curiously gilt and carved. When the patient is seated in this chair, the doctor lifts up the pole, and gives her two or three total immersions in the cold bath, until such time as she has quite lost the use of speech. This operation so effectually chills the tongue, and refrigerates the blood, that a woman, who at her entrance into the chair is extremely passionate and sonorous, will come out as silent and gentle as a lamb. The doctor told me, he would not practice this experiment upon women of fashion, had not he seen it made upon those of meaner condition with very good effect.

« PreviousContinue »