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the Latins Nebulo; or the Greeks, Páokaż: as custom is the most powerful of all laws, and that the order of men we call sharpers are received amongst us, not only with permission, but favour, I thought it unjust to use them like persons upon no establishment; besides that it would be an unpardonable dishonour to our country, to let him leave us with an opinion, that our nobility and gentry keep company with common thieves and cheats: I told him, “they were à sort of tame hussars, that were allowed in our cities, like the wild ones in our camp; who had all the privileges belonging to us, but at the same time were not tied to our discipline or laws.' Aletheus, who is a gentleman of too much virtue for the age he lives in, would not let this matter be thus palliated; but told my · pupil, 'that he was to understand that distinction, quality, merit, and industry, were laid aside among us by the incursions of these civil hussars : who had got so much countenance, that the breeding and fashion of the age turned their way to the ruin of order and economy in all places where they are admitted.' But Sophronius, who never falls into heat upon any subject, but applies proper language, temper, and skill, with which the thing in debate is to be treated, told the youth, that gentleman had spoken nothing but what was literally true; but fell upon it with too much earnestness to give a true idea of that sort of people he was declaiming against, or to remedy the evil which he bewailed: for the acceptance of these men being an ill which had crept into the conversation-part of our lives, and not into our constitution itself, it must be corrected where it began: and consequently is to be amended only by
* The word 'rascal,' printed in Greek characters. VOL. II.
bringing raillery and derision upon the persons who are guilty, or those who converse with them. For the sharpers, continued he, “at present are not as formerly under the acceptation of pickpockets; but are by custom erected into a real and venerable body of men, and have subdued us to so very particular a deference to them, that though they are known to be men without honour or conscience, no demand is called a debt of honour so indisputably as theirs. You may lose your honour to them, but they lay none against you: as the priesthood in Roman Catholic countries can purchase what they please for the church, but they can alienate nothing from it. It is from this toleration, that sharpers are to be found among all sorts of assemblies and compa
and every talent amongst men is made use of by some one or other of the society for the good of their common cause : so that an unexperienced young gentleman is as often ensnared by his understanding as his folly; for who could be unmoved, to hear the eloquent Dromio explain the constitution, talk in the key of Cato, with the severity of one of the ancient sages, and debate the greatest question of state in a common chocolate or coffeehouse? who could, I say,
hear this generous
declamator, without being fired at his noble zeal, and becoming his professed follower, if he might be admitted ? Monoculus's gravity would be no less inviting to a beginner in conversation ; and the snare of his eloquence would equally catch one who had never seen an old gentleman so very wise, and yet so little severe. Many other instances of extraordinary men among the brotherhood might be produced; but every man, who knows the town, can supply himself with such examples without their being named,'—Will Vafer, who is skilful at find
ing out the ridiculous side of a thing, and placing it in a new and proper light, though he very
seldom talks, thought fit to enter into this subject.
He has lately lost certain loose sums, which half the income of his estate will bring in within seven years : besides which, he proposes to marry, to set all right. He was, therefore, indolent enough to speak of this matter with great impartiality. When I look around me,' said this easy gentleman, and consider in a just balance us bubbles, elder brothers, whose support our dull fathers contrived to depend upon certain acres, with the rooks, whose ancestors left them the wide world; I cannot but admire their fraternity, and contemn my own. Is not Jack Heyday much to be preferred to the knight he has bubbled ? Jack has his equipage, his wenches, and his followers: the knight, so far from a retinue, that he is almost one of Jack's. However, he is gay, you see, still; a florid outside.- His habit speaks the man.—And since he must unbutton, he would not be reduced outwardly; but is stripped to his upper coat. But though I have great temptation to it, I will not at this time give the history of the losing side ; but speak the effects of my thoughts, since the loss of my money, upon the gaining people. This ill fortune makes most men contemplative and given to reading; at least it has happened so to me; and the rise and fall of the family of sharpers in all ages has been my contemplation.'
I find, all times have had of this people : Homer, in his excellent heroic poem, calls them Myrmidons, who were a body that kept among themselves, and had nothing to lose ; therefore never spared either Greek or Trojan, when they fell in their way, upon a party. But there is a memorable verse, which gives us an account of what broke that whole body,
and made both Greeks and Trojans masters of the secret of their warfare and plunder. There is nothing so pedantic as many quotations ; therefore I shall inform you only, that in this battalion there were two officers called Thersites and Pandarus : they were both less renowned for their beauty than their wit; but each had this particular happiness, that they were plunged over head and ears in the same water which made Achilles invulnerable ; and had ever after certain gifts, which the rest of the world were never to enjoy. Among others, they were never to know they were the most dreadful to the sight of all mortals, never to be diffident of their own abilities, never to blush, or ever to be wounded but by each other. Though some historians say, gaming began among the Lydians to divert hunger, I could cite many authorities to prove it had its rise at the siege of Troy; and that Ulysses won the sevenfold shield at hazard. But be that as it may, the ruin of the corps of the Myrmidons proceeded from a breach between Thersites and Pandarus. The first of these was leader of a squadron, wherein the latter was but a private man; but having all the good qualities necessary for a partisan, he was the favourite of his officer. But the whole history of the several changes in the order of sharpers, from those Myrmidons to our modern men of address and plunder, will require that we consult some ancient manuscripts. As we make these inquiries, we shall diurnally communicate them to the public, that the Knights of the Industry may be better understood by the good people of England. These sort of men, in some ages,
sycophants and flatterers only, and were endued with arts of life to capacitate them for the conversation of the . rich and great; but now the
bubble courts the impostor, and pretends at the utmost to be but his equal. To clear up the reasons and causes in such revolutions, and the different conduct between fools and cheats, shall be one of our labours for the good of this kingdom. How therefore, pimps, footmen, fiddlers, and lackeys, are elevated into companions in this present age, shall be accounted for from the influence of the planet Mercury on this island; the ascendency of which sharper over Sol, who is a patron of the Muses and all honest professions, has been noted by the learned Job Gadbury,* to be the cause, that cunning and trick are more esteemed than art and science. It must be allowed also, to the memory of Mr. Partridge, late of Cecil-street in the Strand, that in his answer to an horary question, At what hour of the night to set a fox-trap in June 1705 ? he has largely discussed, under the character of Reynard, the manner of surprising all sharpers as well as him. But of these great points, after more mature deliberation.
ST. JAMES'S COFFEE-HOUSE, AUGUST 17.
66 TO ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, ESQ.
6 We have nothing at present new, but that we understand by some owlers,f old people die in France. Letters from Paris, of the tenth instant, N. S., say, that Monsieur d’Andre, Marquis d'Oraison, died at eighty-five: Monsieur Brumars, at one hundred and two years, died for love of his wife,
* Gadbury was an almanac-maker and astrologer.
† Owler signifies one who carries contraband goods; the word is perhaps derived from the necessity of carrying on an illicit trade by night.