Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

longing to it, who utter their political essays, and draw parallels out of Baker's "Chronicle'' to almost every part of her Majesty's reign. It was said of two antient authors, who had very different beauties in their style, " that if you took a word from one of them, you only spoiled his eloquence ; but if you took a word from the other, you spoiled his sense." I have often applied the first part of this criticism to several of these coffee-house speak. ers whom I have at present in my thoughts, though the character that is given to the last of those authors, is what I would recommend to the imitation of my loving countrymen. But it is not only prolic places of resort, but private clubs and conversations over a bottle, that are infested with this loquacious kind of animal, especially with that species which I comprehend under the name of a storyteller. I would earnestly desire these gentlemen to consider, that no point of wit or mirth at the end of a story can atone for the half hour that has been lost before they come at it. I would likewise lay it home to their serious consideration, whether they think that every man in the company has not a right to speak as well as themselves ? and whether they do not think they are invading another man's property, when they engross the time which should be divided equally among the company to their own private use?

What makes this evil the much greater in conversation is, that these humdrum companions seldom endeavour to wind up their narrations into a point of mirth or instruction, which might make some amends for the tediousness of them; but think they have a right to tell any thing that has happened within their memory. They look upon matter of fact to be a sufficient foundation for a story, and give us a long account of things, not because they

used to say,

are entertaining or surprizing, but because they are true. My ingenious kinsman, Mr. Humphry Wagstaff,

" the life of man is too short for a story-teller."

Methusalem might be half-an-hour in telling what o'clock it was : but as for us post-diluvians, we ought to do every thing in haste; and in our speeches, as well as actions, remember that our time is short. A man that talks for a quarter of an hour together in company, if I meet him frequently, takes up a great part of my span. A quarter of an hour may be reckoned the eight-and-forlieth part of ' a day, a day the three hundred and sixtieth part of a year, and a year the threescore and tenth part of life. By this moral arithmetic, supposing a man to be in the talking world one third part of the day, whoever gives another a quarter of an hour's hearing, makes hin a sacrifice of more than the four hundred thousandth part of his conversable life.

I would establish but one great general rule to be observed in all conversation, which is this, that men should not talk to please themselves, but those that hear them.” This would make them consider, whether what they speak be worth hearing; whether there be either wit or sense in what they are about to say : and, whether it be adapted to the time when, the place where, and the person to whom, it is spoken.

For the utter extirpation of these orators and story-tellers, which I look upon as very great pests of society, I have invented a watch which divides the minute into twelve parts, after the same manner that the ordinary watches are divided into hours : and will endeavour to get a patent, which shall oblige every club or company to provide themselves with one of these watches, that shall lie upon the VOL. V.

Z

[ocr errors]

N°263. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14,1710.

Minima contentos nocte Britannos. JUV. Sat. II. 161.
Britons contented with the shortest night.

From my own Apartment, Decemler 13. An old friend of mine being lately come to town, I went to see him on Tuesday last about eight o'clock in the evening, with a design to sit with him an hour or two, and talk over old stories; but, upon inquiry after him, I found he was gone to-bed. The next morning, as soon as I was up and dressed, and had dispatched a little business, I came again to my friend's house about eleven o'clock, with a design to renew my visit: but, upon asking for him, his servant told me he was just sat down to dinner. In short, I found that my old fashioned friend religiously adhered to the example of his forefathers, and observed the same hours that had been kept in the family ever since the Conquest.

It is very plain, that the night was much longer formerly in this island than it is at present. By the night, I mean that portion of time which nature has thrown into darkness, and which the wisdom of mankınd had formerly dedicated to rest and silence. This used to begin at eight o'clock in the evening, and conclude at six in the morning. The curfeu, or eight o'clock bell, was the signal throughout the nation for putting out their candles and going to-bed.

Our grandmothers, though they were wont to sit up the last in the family, were all of them fast asleep at the same hours that their daughters are busy at crimp and basset. Modern statesmen are concerting schemes, and engaged in the depth of politics, at the time when their forefathers were laid down quietly to rest, and had nothing in their heads but dreams. As we have thus thrown business and pleasure into the hours of rest, and by that means made the natural night but half as long as it should be, we are forced to piece it out with a great part of the morning ; so that near two-thirds of the nation lie fast asleep for several hours in broad day-light. This irregularity is grown so very fashionable at present, that there is scarce a lady of quality in GreatBritain that ever saw the sun rise. And, if the humour increases in proportion to what it has done of late

years, it is not impossible but our children may hear the bell-man going about the streets at nine o'clock in the morning, and the watch making their rounds until eleven. This unaccountable disposition in mankind to continue awake in the night, and sleep in the sun-shine, has made me inquire, whether the same change of inclination has happened to any other animals? For this reason, I desired a friend of mine in the country to let me know, whether the lark rises as early as he did formerly; and whether the cock begins to crow at bis usual hour? My friend has answered me, “ that his poultry are as regular as ever, and that all the birds and beasts of his neighbourhood keep the same hours that they have observed in the memory of man; and the same which, in all probability, they have kept for these five thousand years."

If you would see the inrovations that have been made among us in this particular, you may only Luok into the hours of colleges, where they still dine at elaren, and sup at six, which were doubtless the dents the wburie nation at the time when those priders were killed, but at present, the courts 11 juiste are alle opened in Westminster-hall at the time when Wim Kufus used to go to dinn in it. Ail business is driven furward. The land. Inutiks of 'st fathers, it I may so call them, are renosed, and planted further up into the day í inso. nauda, that lainatiaid our clergy will be obliged, if they expet full congregations, not to look any more upon tits gk in the morning as a canonical hour. In my own memory, the dinner has crept by de810** from twelve onluk to three, and where it will hix nobody knows,

I have sometimes thought to draw up a memorial in the behalf of Supper against Dinner, setting forth, that the said Dinner has made several in croachments upon the said Supper, and entered very tar upon his frontiers that he has banished him out of several families, and in all has driven him from his head quarters, and forced him to make his rareat into the hours of midnight ; and, in short, that he is now in danger of being entirely confounded and lost in a breakfast. Those who have read Lucian, and seen the complaints of the letter T against 8, upon account of many injuries and usurpations of the same nature, will not, I believe, think such a memorial forced and unnatural. If dinner las been thus postponed, or, it you please, kept back from time to time, you may be sure that it has been in compliance with the other business of the day, and that supper has still observed a proportionable distance, 'There is a venerable proverb, which we have all of us heard in our intancy, of "putting the children to-bed, and laying the goose to the dire." This was one of the jocular sayings of our foretathers, but may be properly uscd in the

« AnteriorContinuar »