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My fairest, my espous'd, my latest found,
Such whispering wak'd her, but with stariled ege
O sole! in whom my thoughts find all repose,
Milton's Par. Lost, b. v. l. 1, &c.
N° 264. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16, 1710.
Hor. 1 Od. iij. 2.
From my own Apartment, December 15. BOCCALINI, in his Parnassus,' indicts a laconic writer for speaking that in three words which he might have said in two, and sentences him for his punishment to read over all the works of Guicciardini. This Guicciardini is so very prolix and circumstantial in his writings, that I remember our countryman, Doctor Donne, speaking of that majestic and concise manner in which Moses has described the creation of the world, adds, that if such an author as Guicciardini were to have writte
on such a subject, the world itself would not have been able to have contained the books that gave the history of its creation.'
I look upon a tedious talker, or what is generally known by the name of a story-teller, to be much more insufferable than even a prolix writer. An author may be tossed out of your hand and thrown
aside when he grows dull and tiresome; but such liberties are so far from being allowed towards your orators in common conversation, that I have known a challenge sent a person for going out of the room abruptly, and leaving a man of honour in the midst of a dissertation. This evil is at present so very common and epidemical, that there is scarce a coffeehouse in town that has not some speakers belonging 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 ancient 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 speakers 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 public 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 story-teller. 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 are entertaining or surprising, but because they are true.
My ingenious kinsman, Mr. Humphry Wagstaff, used to say, “the life of man is too short for a storyteller.'
Methusalem might be half an hour in telling what o'clock it was : but as for us post-diluvians, we ought to do everything 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-fortieth 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 him 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 table, as an hour-glass is often placed near the pulpit, to measure out the length of a discourse.
I shall be willing to allow a man one round of my watch, that is, a whole minute, to speak in; but if he exceeds that time, it shall be lawful for any of the company to look
upon the watch, or to call him down to order.
Provided, however, that if any one can make it appear he is turned of threescore, he may take two, or, if he pleases, three rounds of the watch, without giving offence. Provided also, that this rule be not construed to extend to the fair sex, who shall still be at liberty to talk by the ordinary watch that is now in use. I would likewise earnestly recommend this little automaton, which may be easily carried in the pocket without any encumbrance, to all such as are troubled with this infirmity of speech, that upon pulling out their watches, they may have frequent occasion to consider what they are doing, and by that means cut the thread of the story short, and hurry to a conclusion. I shall only add, that this watch, with a paper of directions how to use it, is sold at Charles Lillie's. I am afraid a Tatler will be thought a very
improper paper to censure this humour of being talkative; but I would have my readers know, that there is a great difference between tattle and loquacity, as I shall shew at large in a following Lucubration; it being my design to throw away a candle upon that subject, in order to explain the whole art of tattling in all its branches and subdivisions.
N° 265. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1710.
Arbiter bic igitur factus de lite jocosa.
Ovid. Met. iji. 331.
CONTINUATION OF THE JOURNAL OF THE COURT
OF HONOUR, &c. As soon as the court was sat, the ladies of the bench presented, according to order, a table of all the laws now in force relating to visits and visitingdays, methodically digested under their respective heads, which the Čensor ordered to be laid
the table, and afterward proceeded upon the business of the day.
Henry Heedless, Esquire, was indicted by Colonel Touchy, of her majesty's trained-bands, upon an action of assault and battery ; for that he, the said Mr. Heedless, having espied a feather upon the shoulder of the said colonel, struck it off gently with the end of a walking-staff, value three-pence. It appeared, that the prosecutor did not think himself injured until a few days after the aforesaid blow was given him; but that having ruminated with himself for several days, and conferred upon it with other officers of the militia, he concluded, that he had in effect been cudgelled by Mr. Heedless, and that he ought to resent it accordingly. The counsel for the prosecutor alleged, that the shoulder was the tenderest part in a man of honour; that it had a natural antipathy to a stick; and that every touch of it, with any thing made in the fashion of a cane, was to be interpreted as a wound in that part, and a