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No. 562.

FRIDAY, JULY 2.

-Præsens, absens ut fies.

Ter. Eun. A&. i. Sc. 2.
Be present as if absent.

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T is a hard and nice subject for a man to speak of

himself, says Cowley; it grates his own heart to Jay any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. Let the tenour of his discourse be what it will upon this subject, it generally proceeds from vanity. An often. tatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absurdity he has committed, than be debarred from talking of his own dear person.

Some very great writers have been guilty of this fault. It is observed of Tully in particular, that his works run very much in the first person, and that he takes all occasions of doing himself justice. Does

he think, says Bruths, that his consulship deferves • more applause than my putting Gæfar to death, • because I am not perpetually talking of the ides of March, as he is of the nones of December?! I need not acquaint my learned reader that, in the ides of March, Brutus destroyed Casar, and that Cicero quashed the conspiracy of Catiline in the calends of December. How shocking foever this great man's talking of himself might have been to bis contemporaries, I must confefs I am never better pleafed than when he is on this subject. Such openings of the heart give a man a thorough infight into his perfonal character, and illustrate feveral passages in the history of his life: besides, that there is some little

pleasure

pleasure in discovering the infirmity of a great man, and seeing how the opinion he has of himself agrees with what the world entertains of him.

The gentlemen of Port Royal, who were more eminent for their learning and their humility than any other in France, banished the way of speaking in the first person out of all their works, as arising from vain-glory and self-conceit. To fhew their particular aversion to it, they branded this form of writing with the name of an Egotism; a figure not to te found among

the ancient rhetoricians. The most violent egotism which I have met with in the course of my reading, is that of Cardinal Wolfey, Ego et Rex meus, I and my King; as perhaps the most eminent egotist that ever appeared in the world was Montagne, the author of the celebrated essays. This lively old Gascon has woven all his bodily infirmities into his works, and after having spoken of the faults or virtues of any other man, im . mediately publishes to the world how it stands with himself in that particular. Had he kept his own counfel, he might have passed for a much better mar, though perhaps he would not have been so diverting an author. The title of an essay promises perhaps a discourse upon Virgil, or Julius Cæsar ; but when you look into it, you are sure to meet with more usupon Monsieur Montagne, than of either of them. The younger Scaliger, who seems to have been no great friend to this author, after having acquainted the world that his father fold herrings, adds these word: La grande faidaise de Montagne, qui a ecrit qu'il aimoit mieux la vin blanc--que diable a-t-on afaire de sçavoir ce qu'il aime ? For my part, says Mon! tagne, I am a great lover of your white winesWhat the devil signifies it to the public, says Scali. ger, whether he is a lover of white wines, or of red wines ? I cannot here forbear mentioning a tribe of ego

tists,

tists, for whom I have always had a mortal aversion, I mean the authors of memoirs, who are never mentioned in any works but their own, and who raise all their productions out of this single figure of speech.

Most of our modern prefaces favour very strongly of the egotism. Every insignificant author fancies it of importance to the world, to know that he writ his book in the country, that he did it to pafs away some of his idle hours, that it was published at the importunity of friends, or that his natural temper, ftudies, or conversation, directed bim to the choice of his subject.

Id populus curat fcilicet.

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Such informations cannot but be highly improving to the reader.

In works of humour, especially when a man writes under a fictitious personage, the talking of one's self may give fome diversion to the public ; but I would advise every other writer never to speak of himself, unless there be fomething very confiderable in his character? Though I am fenfible this rule will be of little use in the world, because there is no man who fancies his thoughts worth publishing, that does not look upon himfelf as a considerable person.

I shall close this paper with a remark upon such kas are egotists in conversatior : these are generally the vain or shallow part of mankind, people being naturally full of themselves when they have nothing else in them. There is one kind of egotists, which is very common in the world, though I do not remember that any writer has taken notice of them ; I mean those empty, conceited fellows, who repeat, as sayings of their own, or some of their particular friends, several jests which were made before they were born, and which every one who has converfed

in the world has heard a bundred times over. A for. ward young fellow of my acquaintance was very guilty of this absurdity; he would be always laying a new scene for some old piece of wit, and telling us, that as he and fack Such-a-one were together, one or the other of them had such a conceit on such an occafion; upon which he would laugh very heartily, and wonder the company did not join with him. When his mirth was over, I have often reprehended him out of Terence, Tuumne, obsecro te, hoc di&tum erat? vetus credidi. But finding him still incorrigible, and having a kindness for the young coxcomb, who was otherwise a good-natured fellow, I recommended to his perusal the Oxford and Cambridge jefts, with feveral little pieces of pleasantry of the same nature. Upon the reading of them, he was under no small confusion to find, that all.his jokes had passed through several editions, and that what he thought was a new conceit, and had appropriated to his own use, had ap , peared in print before he or his ingenious friends were ever heard of. This had so good an effect upon him, that he is content at present to pass for a man of plain sense in his ordinary conversation, and is never facerious but when he knows his company,

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Magni nominis umbra.

Lucan. 1. i, ver. 135. The shadow of a mighty name.

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SHALL entertain my readers with two very curi.

ous letters. The first of them comes from chimerical person, who, I believe, never writ to any body.before. VOL. VIII.

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(SIR, "I am descended from the ancient family of the « Blanks, a name well known among all men of • business. It is always read in those little white • spaces of writing which want to be filled up, and " which for that reason are called blank spaces, as of

right appertaining to our family: for I consider myself as the Lord of a manor, who lays bis claim to all wastes or spots of ground that are unappro.

priated. I am a near kinsman to John a Styles and * John a Nokes; and they, I am told, came in with

the Conqueror. I am mentioned oftener in both • houses of parliament than any other person in Great Britain. My name is written, or, more

properly speaking, not written, thus,
I ain one that can turn my hand to any thing, and
appear under any fhape whatsoever. 'I can make

myself man, woman, or child. I am sometimes ( metamorphosed into a year of our Lord, a day of • the month, or an hour of the day. I very often • represent a sum of money, and am generally the « first subGdy that is granted to the crown. I have ( now and then supplied the place of several thou« sands of land-foldiers, and have as frequently been

employed in the sea-service.

« Now, Sir, my complaint is this, that I am only " made use of to serve a turn, being always discarded

foon as a proper person is found out to fill up my • place. clf

you have ever been in the play-house before the curtain rises, you see most of the front boxes · filled with nien of my family, who forth with turn

out and resign their stations upon the appearance • of those for whom they are retained.

< But the most illustrious branch of the Blanks are " those who are planted in high posts, until such time • as persons of greater confequence can be found out " to supply them. One of those Blanks is equally, qualified for all offices; he can serve in time of

Deed

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as

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