« PreviousContinue »
N° 246. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1710.
-Vitiis nemo sine nascitur; optimus ille
Hor. 1 Sat. iii. 68.
FRANCIS. From my own Apartment, November 3. When one considers the turn which conversation takes in almost every set of acquaintance, club, or assembly, in this town or kingdom, one cannot but observe, that in spite of what I am every day saying, and all the moral writers since the beginning of the world have said, the subject of discourse is generally upon one another's faults. This, in a great measure, proceeds from self-conceit, which were to be endured in one or other individual person; but the folly has spread itself almost over all the species; and one cannot only say, Tom, Jack, or Will, but in general, " that man is a coxcomb.” From this source it is, that any excellence is faintly received, any imperfection unmercifully exposed. But if things were put in a true light, and we would take time to consider, that man, in his very nature, is an imperfect being, our sense of this matter would be immediately altered, and the word imperfection would not carry an unkinder idea than the word humanity. It is a pleasant story that we, forsooth, who are the only imperfect creatures in the universe, are the only beings that will not allow of imperfection. Somebody has taken notice, that we stand in the middle of existencies, and are, by this one circumstance, the most unbappy of all others. The brutes are guided by instinct, and know no sorrow; the angels have knowledge, and they are happy ; but men are governed by opinion, which is I know not what mixture of instinct and knowledge, and
are neither indolent nor happy. It is very
observable, that critics are a people between the learned and the ignorant, and, by that situation, enjoy the tranquillity of neither.
As critics stand among men, so do men in general between brutes and angels. Thus every man, as he is a critic' and a coxcomb, until improved by reason and speculation, is ever forgetting himself, and laying open the faults of others.
At the same time that I am talking of the cruelty of urging people's faults with severity, I cannot but bewail some which men are guilty of for want of admonition. These are such as they can easily mend, and nobody tells them of, for which reason I shall make use of the penny-post (as I have with success to several young ladies about turning their eyes, and holding up their heads) to certain gentlemen, whom I remark habitually guilty of what they may reform in a moment. There is a fat fellow, whom I have long remarked wearing his breast open in the midst of winter, out of an affectation of youth. I have therefore sent him just now the following letter in my physical capacity :
“ From the twentieth instant to the first of May next, both days inclusive, I beg of you to button your waistcoat from your collar to your waistband. I am your most humble servant,
“ ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Philomath."
There is a very handsome well-shaped youth that frequents the coffee-houses about Charing-Cross, and ties a very pretty ribbon with a cross of jewels at his breast. This being something new, and a thing in which the gentleman may offend the Herald's-office, I have addressed myself to him as I am Censor.
“ Dear Countryman, “ Was that ensign of honour which you wear, given you by a prince or a lady that you have served? If you bear it as an absent lover, please to hang it on a black ribbon; if as a rewarded soldier, you may
licence to continue the red.
BICKERSTAFF, Censor." These little intimations do great service, and are very useful, not only to the persons themselves, but to inform others how to conduct themselves towards them.
Instead of this honest private method, or a friendly one face to face, of acquainting people with things in their power to explain or amend, the usual way among people is to take no notice of things you can help, and nevertheless expose you for those you cannot.
Plumbeus and Levis are constantly in each other's company; they would, if they took proper methods, be very agreeable companions ; but they so extravagantly aim at what they are unfit for, and each of them rallies the other so much in the wrong place, that, instead of doing each other the offices of friends, they do but instruct the rest of the world to laugh at them with more knowledge and skill. Plumbeus is of a saturnine and sullen complexion; Levis of a mercurial and airy disposition. Both these gentlemen have but very slow parts, but would make a very good figure did they pursue what they ought. If Plumbeus would take to business, he would, in a few years, know the forms of orders so well as to direct and dictate with so much ease, to be thought a solid, able, and, at the same time, a sure man of dispatch. Levis, with a little reading, and coming more into company, would soon be able to write a song, or lead up a
country-dance. Instead of these proper pursuits, in obedience to their respective geniuses, Plumbeus endeavours to be a man of pleasure, and Levis the man of business.
appears in their speech, and in their dress; Plumbeus is ever egregiously fine, and talking something like wit: Levis is ever extremely grave, and, with a silly face, repeating maxims. These two pardon each other for affecting what each is incapable of, the one to be wise, and the other gay; but are extremely critical in their judgments of each other in their way towards what they pretend to. Plumbeus acknowledges Levis to be a man of great reach, because it is what Plumbeus never cared for being thought himself, and Levis allows Plumbeus to be an agreeable rake for the same reason. Now were these dear friends to be free with each other, as they ought to be, they would change characters, and be both as commendable, instead of being as ridiculous, as their capacities will admit of.
Were it not too grave, all that I would urge on this subject is, that men are bewildered when they consider themselves in any other view than that of strangers, who are in a place where it is no great matter whether they can, or unreasonable to expect they should, have every thing about them as well as at their own home. This way of thinking is, perhaps, the only one that can put this being in a proper posture for the ease of society. It is certain, that this would reduce all faults into those which proceed from malice, or dishonesty; it would quite change our manner of beholding one another, and nothing that was not below a man's nature, would be below his character. The arts of this life would be proper advances towards the next; and a very good man would be a very fine gentleman. As it is now, human life is inverted, and we have not learned half the knowledge of this world before we
are dropping into another. Thus, instead of the raptures and contemplations which naturally attend a well-spent life from the approach of eternity, even we old fellows are afraid of the ridicule of those who are born since us, and ashamed not to understand, as well as peevish to resign, the mode, the fashion, the ladies, the fiddles, the balls, and what not. Dick Reptile, who does not want humour, is very pleasant at our club when he sees an old fellow touchy at being laughed at for any thing that is not in the mode, and bawls in his ear,
Pry'thee do not mind him; tell him thou art mortal.”
N° 247. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 1710.
Edepol, nad nos æque sumus omnes invisæ viris
Ter. Hecyr. II. iii. I.
Mr. BICKERSTAFF. From my own Apartment, November 6. My brother having written the above piece of Latin, desired me to take care of the rest of the ensuing Paper. Towards this he bid me answer the following letter, and said, nothing I could write properly on the subject of it would be disagreeable to the motto. It is the cause of my sex, and I therefore enter upon it with great alacrity. The epistle is literally thus :
Edinburgh, October 23. “ Mr. Bickerstaff, “ I presume to lay before you an affair of mine, and begs you'le be very sinceir in giving me your