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No. 622. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1714.
- Fallentis semita vitæ.
HOR. Í Ep. xvüï. 103. -A safe private quiet, which betrays Itself to ease, and cheats away the days.
• In a former speculation you have observed, that true greatness doth not consist in that pomp and noise wherein the generality of mankind are apt to place it. You have there taken notice that virtue in obscurity often appears more illustrious in the eye of superior beings, than all that passes for grandeur and magnificence among men.
When we look back upon the history of those who have borne the parts of kings, statesmen, or commanders, they appear to us stripped of those outside ornaments that dazzle their contemporaries; and we regard their persons as great or little in proportion to the eminence of their virtues or vices. The wise sayings, generous sentiments, or disinterested conduct of a philosopher under mean circumstances of life, set him higher in our esteem than the mighty potentates of the earth, when we view them both through the long prospect of many ages. Were the memoirs of an obscure man, who lived up to the dignity of his nature and according to the rules of virtue, to be laid before us, we should find nothing in such a character which might not set him an a level with men of the highest stations. The following extract out of the private papers of an honest country gentleman, will set this matter in a
clear light. Your reader will, perhaps, conceive a greater idea of him from these actions done in secret, and without a witness, than of those which have drawn upon them the admiration of multitudes,
“In my twenty-second year I found a violent affection for my cousin Charles's wife growing upon me, wherein I was in danger of succeeding, if I had not upon that account begun my travels into foreign countries.
“A little after my return into England, at a private meeting with my uncle Francis, I refused the offer of his estate, and prevailed upon him not to disinherit his son Ned.
“ Mem. Never to tell this to Ned, lest he should think hardly of his deceased father; though he continues to speak ill of me for this very reason.
« Prevented a scandalous lawsuit betwixt my nephew Harry and his mother, by allowing her under-hand, out of my own pocket, so much money yearly as the dispute was about.
• Procured a benefice for a young divine, who is sister's son to the good man who was my tutor, and hath been dead twenty years.
" Gave ten pounds to poor Mrs. , my friend H- 's widow.
“Mem. To retrench one dish at my table, until I have fetched it up again.
“ Mem. To repair my house and finish my gardens, in order to employ poor people after harvesttime.
« Ordered John to let out goodman D 's sheep that were pounded, by night; but not to let his fellow-servants know it.
« Prevailed upon M. T. esq. not to take the law
of the farmer's son for shooting a partridge, and to give him his gun again.
“ Paid the apothecary for curing an old woman that confessed herself a witch.
“ Gave away my favourite dog, for biting a beggar.
“ Made the minister of the parish and a whig justice of one mind, by putting them upon explaining their notions to one another.
* Mem. To turn off Peter for shooting a doe while she was eating acorns out of his hand.
“When my neighbour John, who hath often injured me, comes to make his request to-morrow:
“Mem. I have forgiven him.
“ Laid up my chariot, and sold my horses, to relieve the poor in a scarcity of corn.
“ In the same year remitted to my tenants a fifth part of their rents.
“ As I was airing to-day I fell into a thought that warmed my heart, and shall, I hope, be the better for it as long as I live:
“ Mem. To charge my son in private to erect no monument for me, but not to put this in my last will."
No. 623. MONDAY, NOV. 22, 1714.
Sed mihi vel tellus optem priùs ima dehiscat;
VIRG. Æn. iv. 24.
I am obliged to my friend the love-casuist, for the following curious piece of antiquity, which I shall communicate to the public in his own words.
- You may remember that I lately trans. mitted to you an account of an ancient custom in the manors of East and West-Enborne, in the county of Berks, and elsewhere. “ If a customary tenant die, the widow shall have what the law calls her freebench, in all his copyhold lands, dum sola et casta fuerit; that is, while she lives single and chaste ; but if she commit incontinency she forfeits her estate ; yet if she will come into the court riding backward upon a black ram, with his tail in
her hand, and say the words following, the steward is bound by the custom to re-admit her to her freebench.
• Here I am,
land again.' After having informed you that my lord Coke observes, that this is the most frail and slippery tenure of any in England, I shall tell you, since the writing of that letter, I have, according to my promise, been at great pains in searching out the records of the black ram; and have at last met with the proceed. ings of the court-baron, held in that behalf, for the space of a whole day. The record saith, that a strict inquisition having been made into the right of the tenants to their several estates, by a crafty old steward, he found that many of the lands of the manor were, by default of the several widows, forfeited to the lord, and accordingly would have entered on the premises : upon which the good women demanded the “ benefit of the ram.” The steward, after having perused their several pleas, adjourned the court to Barnaby-bright*, that they might have day enough before them.
• The court being set, and filled with a great concourse of people, who came from all parts to see the solemnity; the first who entered was the widow Frontly, who had made her appearance in the last year's cavalcade. The register observes that
* Then the eleventh, now the twenty-second of June, being the longest day in the year.