Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

but even among those who should have more polite ideas of things, you see a set of people who invert the design of conversation, and make frequent mention of ungrateful subjects; nay, mention them because they are ungrateful; as if the perfection of society were in knowing how to offend on the one part, and how to bear an offence on the other. In all parts of this populous town, you find the merry world made up of an active and a passive companion; one who has good-nature enough to suffer all his friend shall think fit to say, and one who is resolved to make the most of his good-humour to shew his parts. In the trading part of mankind, I have ever observed the jest went by the weight of purses, and the ridicule is made up by the gains which arise from it. Thus the packer allows the clothier to say what he pleases; and the broker has his countenance ready to laugh with the merchant, though the abuse is to fall on himself, because he knows that, as a go-between, he shall find his account in being in the good graces of a man of wealth. Among these just and punctual people the richest man is ever the better jester; and they know no such thing as a person who shall pretend to a superior laugh at a man, who does not make him amends by opportunities of advantage in another kind; but among people of a different way, where the pretended distinction in company is only what is raised from sense and understanding, it is very absurd to carry on'a rough raillery so far, as that the whole discourse should turn upon each other's infirmities, follies, or misfortunes.

I was this evening with a set of wags of this class. They appear generally by two and two; and what is most extraordinary, is, that those very persons who are most together appear least of a mind when joined by other company. This evil proceeds from

an indiscreet familiarity, whereby a man is allowed to say the most grating thing imaginable to another, and it shall be accounted weakness to shew an impatience for the unkindness. But this and all other deviations from the design of pleasing each other when we meet, are derived from the interlopers in society; who want capacity to put in a stock among regular companions, and therefore supply their wants by stale histories, sly observations, and rude hints, which relate to the conduct of others. All cohabitants in general run into this unhappy fault; men and their wives break into reflections, which are like so much Arabic to the rest of the company; sisters and brothers often make the like figure, from the same unjust sense of the art of being intimate and familiar. It is often said, such a one cannot stand the mention of such a circumstance; if he cannot, I am sure it is for want of discourse, or a worse reason, that any companion of his touches upon it.

Familiarity, among the truly well-bred, never gives authority to trespass upon another in the most minute circumstance; but it allows to be kinder than we ought otherwise to presume to be. Eusebius has wit, humour, and spirit, but there never was a man in his company who wished he had less; for he understands familiarity so well, that he knows how to make use of it in a way that neither makes himself or his friend contemptible; but if any one is lessened by his freedom, it is he himself, who always likes the place, the diet, and the reception, when he is in the company of his friends. Equality is the life of conversation; and he is as much out who assumes to himself any part above another, as he who considers himself below the rest of the society. Familiarity in inferiors is sauciness; in superiors, condescension; neither of which are to have being among companions, the very word implying that they are to be equal. When, therefore, we have abstracted the company from all considerations of their quality or fortune, it will immediately appear, that to make it happy and polite, there must nothing be started which shall discover that our thoughts run upon any such distinctions. Hence it will arise, that benevolence must become the rule of society, and he that is most obliging must be most diverting: This

way of talking I am fallen into from the reflection that I am, wherever I go, entertained with some absurdity, mistake, weakness, or ill-luck, of some man or other, whom not only I, but the person who makes me those relations, has a value for. It would therefore be a great benefit to the world, if it could be brought to pass, that no story should be a taking one, but what was to the advantage of the person of whom it is related. By this means, he that is now a wit in conversation, would be considered as a spreader of false news is in business.

But above all, to make a familiar fit for a bosom friend, it is absolutely necessary that we should always be inclined rather to hide than rally each other's infirmities. To suffer for a fault is a sort of atonement; and nobody is concerned for the offence for which he has made reparation.

P.S. I have received the following letter, which rallies me for being witty sooner than I designed ; but I have now altered my resolution, and intend to be facetious until the day in October heretofore mentioned, instead of beginning from that day. MR. BICKERSTAFF,

Sept. 6, 1710. By your own reckoning, you came yesterday about a month before the time

you

looked yourself, much to the satisfaction of Your most obliged, humble servant,

PLAIN ENGLISH,

St. James's Coffee-house, September 15. Advices from Madrid of the eighth say, the duke of Anjou with his court, and all the councils, were preparing to leave that place in a day or two, in order to remove to Valladolid. They add, that the palace was already unfurnished.

N° 226. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 1710.

Juvenis quondam, nunc femina, Cæneus,
Rursus et in veterem fato revoluta figuram.

VIRG. Æn, vi. 448.
Cæneus, a woman once, and once a man;
But ending in the sex she first began.--DRYDEN.

From my own Apartment, September 18. It is one of the designs of this paper to transmit to posterity an account of any thing that is monstrous in my own times. For this reason, I shall here publish to the world the life of a person who was neither man nor woman; as written by one of my ingenious correspondents, who seems to have imitated Plutarch in that multifarious erudition, and those occasional dissertations, which he has wrought into the body of his history. The life I am putting out is that of Margery, alias John Young, commonly known by the name of Doctor Young; who, as the town very well knows, was a woman that practised physic in a nian's clothes, and, after having had two wives, and several children, died about a month since.

[ocr errors]

'I here make bold to trouble you with a short account of the famous Doctor Young's life, which

son

you may call, if you please, a second part of the farce of the Sham Doctor. This perhaps will not seem so strange to you, who, if I am not mistaken, have somewhere mentioned with honour your sister Kirleus, as a practitioner both in physic and astrology; but, in the common opinion of mankind, a she-quack is altogether as strange and astonishing a creature, as the Centaur that practised physic in the days of Achilles, or as King Phys in the Rehearsal. Æsculapius, the great founder of your art, was particularly famous for his beard, as we may conclude from the behaviour of a tyrant, who is branded by heathen historians as guilty both of sacrilege and blasphemy; having robbed the statue of Æsculapius of a thick bushy golden beard, and then alleged for his excuse, That it was a shame the should have a beard, when his father Apollo had none.

This latter instance, indeed, seems something to favour a female professor, since, as I have been told, the ancient statues of Apollo are generally made with the head and face of a woman: nay, I have been credibly informed by those who have seen them both, that the famous Apollo, in the Belvidera, did very much resemble Doctor Young. Let that be as it will, the Doctor was a kind of Amazon in physic, that made as great devastations and slaughters as any of our chief heroes in the art, and was as fatal to the English in these our days, as the famous Joan d'Arc was in those of our forefathers.

'I do not find any thing remarkable in the life which I am about to write till the year 1695; at which time the Doctor, being about twenty-three years old, was brought to-bed of a bastard-child. The scandal of such a misfortune gave so great an uneasiness to pretty Mrs. Peggy, for that was the name by which the Doctor was then called, that she

« ZurückWeiter »