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questions and just complaints, as soon as they come to my hands. The two following epistles relate to very great mischiefs in the most important articles of life, love and friendship.
“ Dorsetshire, Dec. 20. « MR. BICKERSTAFF, “ It is my misfortune to be enamoured of a lady that is neither very beautiful, very witty, por at all well-natured; but has the vanity to think she excels in all these qualifications, and therefore is cruel, insolent, and scornful. When I study to please her, she treats me with the utmost rudeness and illa manners: if I approach her person, she fights, she scratches me: if I offer a civil salute, she bites me; insomuch, that very lately, before a whole assembly of ladies and gentlemen, she ripped out a considerable part of my left cheek. This is no sooner done, but she begs my pardon iu the most handsome and becoming terms imaginable, gives herself worse language than I could find in my heart to do, lets me embrace her to pacify her while she is railing at herself, protests she deserves the esteem of no one living, says I am too good to contradict her when she thus accuses herself. This atones for all; tempts me to renew my addresses, which are ever returned in the same obliging manner. Thus, without some speedy relief, I am in danger of losing my whole face. Notwithstanding all this I doat upon her, and am satisfied she loves me, because she takes me for a man of sense, which I have been generally thought, except in this one instance. Your reflections upon
this strange amour would be very useful in these parts, where we are over-run with wild beauties and romps. I earnestly beg your assistance, either to deliver me from the power of
this unaccountable inchantment, or, by some proper animadversions, to civilize the behaviour of this agreeable rustic.
I am, Sir,
“ MR. BICKERSTAFF, “ I now take leave to address you in your character of Censor, and complain to you, that among the various errors in conversation which you have corrected, there is one which, though it has not escaped a general reproof, yet seems to deserve a more particular severity. It is an humour of jesting on disagreeable subjects, and insisting on the jest, the more it creates uneasiness; and this some men think they have a title to do as friends. Is the design of jesting to provoke? or does friendship give a privilege to say things with a design to shock? How can that be called a jest which has nothing in it but bitterness? It is generally allowed necessary, for the peace of company, that men should a little study the tempers of each other; but certainly that must be in order to shun what is offensive, pot to make it a constant entertainment. · The frequent repetition of what appears harsh, will unavoidably leave a rancour that is fatal to friendship; and I doubt much whether it would be an argumeut of a man's good-humour, if he should be rouzed by perpetual teazing, to treat those who do it as his enemies. In a word, whereas it is a common practice to let a story die, merely because it does not touch, I think such as mention one they find does, are as troublesome to society, and as unfit for it, as wags, men of figure, good talkers, or any other apes in conversation; and therefore, for the public, benefit, I hope you will cause them to be branded with such a name as they deserve.
I am, Sir, yours,
The case of Ebenezer is a very common one, and is always cured by neglect. These fantastical returns of affection proceed from a certain vanity in the other sex, supported by a perverted taste in ours. I must publish it as a rule, that no faults which proceed from the will, either in a mistress or a friend, are to be tolerated: but we should be so complaisant to ladies, as to let them displease when they aim at doing it. Pluck up a spirit, Ebenezer; recover the use of your judgment, and her faults will appear, or her beauties vanish. “Her faults begin to please me as well as my own," is a sentence very prettily put into the mouth of a lover by the comic poet*: but he never designed it for a maxim of life, but the picture of an imperfection. If Ebenezer takes my advice, the same temper which made her insolent to his love, will make her submissive to his indifference.
I cannot wholly ascribe the faults mentioned in the second letter, to the same vanity or pride in companions who secretly triumph over their friends, in being sharp upon them in things where they are most tender. But when this sort of behaviour does not proceed from that source, it does from barrenness of invention, and an inability to support a conversation in a way less offensive. It is the same poverty which makes men speak or write smuttily, that forces them to talk vexingly. As obscene language is an address to the lewd for applause, so are
* Congreve, see “ The Way of the World,” act i. sc. 3. VOL. V.
sharp allusions an appeal to the ill-natured. But mean and illiterate is that conversation, where one man exercises his wit to make another exercise his patience.
ADVERTISEMENT. ** Whereas Plagius has been told again and again, both in public and in private, that he preaches excellently well, and still goes on to preach as well as ever, and all this to a polite and learned audience: this is to desire, that he would not hereafter be so eloquent, except to a country congregation ; the proprietors of Tillotson's Works having consulted the learned in the law, whether preaching a sermon they have published, is not to be construed publishing their copy?
Mr. Dogood is desired to consider, that his story is severe upon a weakness, and not a folly.
N° 270. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1710.
Cum pulchris tunicis sumet nova consilia et spes.
HOR. 1 Ep. xviii. 33.
In gay attire when the rain coxcomb's drest,
From my own Apartment, December 29. ACCORDING to my late resolution, I take the holidays to be no improper season to entertain the town with the addresses of my correspondents, In my walks every day there appear all round me very great offenders in the point of dress. An armed taylor had the impudence yesterday in the Park to smile in my face, and pull off a laced hat to me, as it were in contempt of my authority and censure, However, it is a very great satisfaction that other people, as well as myself, are offended with these improprieties. The following notices, from persons of different sexes and qualities, are a sufficient instance how useful my Lucubrations are to the public.
“ Jack's Coffee-house, near Guildhall, Dec. 27.
“ COUSIN BICKERSTAFF, “ It has been the peculiar blessing of our family to be always above the smiles or frowns of fortune, and, by a certain greatness of mind, to restrain all irregular fondnesses or passions. From hence it is, that though a long decay, and a numerous descent, have obliged many of our house to fall into the arts of trade and business, no one person of us has ever made an appearance that betrayed our being unsatisfied with our own station of life, or has ever affected a mien or gesture unsuitable to it.
“ You have up and down in your writings very justly remarked, that it is not this or the other profession or quality among men that gives us honour or esteem, but the well or ill behaving ourselves in those characters. It is, therefore, with no small concern, that I behold in coffee-houses and public places my brethren, the tradesmen of this city, put off the smooth, even, and antient decorum of thriving citizens for a fantastical dress and figure improper for their persons and characters, to the ulter destruction of that order and distinction, which of right ought to be between St. James's and Milk-street, the Camp and Cheapside.