Page images
PDF
EPUB

classical scholars, and would think it an unpardonable sin to read Virgil or Martial with so little taste as they do divine service.

* This indifferency seems to me to arise from the endeavour of avoiding the imputation of cant, and the false notion of it. It will be proper, therefore, to trace the original and signification of this word. • Cant' is, by some people, derived from one Andrew Cant, who, they say, was a presbyterian minister in some illiterate part of Scotland, who by exercise and use had obtained the faculty, alias gift, of talking in the pulpit in such a dialect, that it is said he was understood by none but his own 'congregation, and not by all of them. Since master Cant's time, it has been understood in a larger sense, and signifies all sudden exclamations, whinings, unusual tones, and in fine all praying and preaching, like the unlearned of the Presbyterians. But I hope a proper elevation of voice, a due emphasis and accent, are not to come within this description. So that our readers may still be as unlike the Presbyterians as they please. The dissenters (I mean such as I have heard) do indeed elevate their voices, but it is with sudden jumps from the lower to the higher part of them; and that with so little sense or skill, that their elevation and cadence is bawling and muttering. They make use of an emphasis, but so improperly, that it is often placed on some very insignificant particle, as upon if' orand.' Now, if these improprieties have so great an effect on the people, as we see they have, how great an influence would the service of our church, containing the best prayers that ever were composed, and that in terms most affecting, most humble, and most expressive of our wants, and dependence on the object of our worship, disposed in most proper order, and void of all confusion; what influence, I say, would these prayers

[blocks in formation]

have, were they delivered with a due emphasis, and apposite rising and variation of voice, the sentence concluded with a gentle cadence, and, in a word, with such an accent and turn of speech as is peculiar to prayer?

* As the matter of worship is now managed, in dissenting congregations, you find insignificant words and phrases raised by a lively vehemence; in our own churches, the most exalted sense depreciated, by a dispassionate indolence. I remember to have heard Dr.

S e * say in his pulpit, of the Common Prayer, that, at least, it was as perfect as any thing of human institution. If the gentlemen who err in this kind would please to recollect the many pleasantries they have read upon those who recite good things with an ill grace, they would go on to think that what in that case is only ridiculous, in themselves is impious. But leaving this to their own reflections, I shall conclude this trouble with what Cæsar said upon the irregularity of tone in one who read before him, “ Do you read or sing? If you sing, you sing very ill.”+

- Your most humble servant.'

* Probably Dr. Smalridge.
+ Si legis, cantas: si cantas, male cantas.

N° 148. MONDAY, AUGUST 20, 1711.

- Exempta juvat spinis è pluribus una.

Hor. 2 Ep. ii. 212. Better one thorn pluck'd out, than all remain. My correspondents assure me, that the enormities which they lately complained of, and I published an account of, are so far from being amended, that new evils arise every day to interrupt their conversation, in contempt of my reproofs. My friend who writes from the coffee-house near the Temple, informs me that the gentleman who constantly sings a voluntary in spite of the whole company, was more musical than ordinary after reading my paper; and has not been contented with that, but has danced up to the glass in the middle of the room, and practised minuet-steps to his own humming. The incorrigible creature has gone still farther, and in the open coffeehouse, with one hand extended as leading a lady in it, he has danced both French and country-dances, and admonished his supposed partner by smiles and nods to hold up her head and fall back, according to the respective facings and evolutions of the dance. Before this gentleman began this his exercise, he was pleased to clear his throat by coughing and spiting a full half hour; and as soon as he struck up, he appealed to 'an attorney's clerk in the room, whether he hit as he ought, Since you from death have saved me?' and then asked the young fellow (pointing to a chancery-bill under his arm) whether that was an opera-score he carried or not? Without staying for an answer, he fell into the exercise above

mentioned, and practised his airs to the full house who were turned upon him, without the least shame or repentance for his former transgressions.

I am to the last degree at a loss what to do with this young fellow, except

I declare him an outlaw, and pronounce it penal for any one to speak to him in the said house which he frequents, and direct that he be obliged to drink his tea and coffee without sugar, and not receive from any person whatsoever any thing above mere necessaries.

As we in England are a sober people, and generally inclined rather to a certain bashfulness of behaviour in public, it is amazing whence some fellows come whom one meets with in this town; they do not at all seem to be the growth of our island; the pert, the talkative, all such as have no sense of the observation of others, are certainly of foreign extraction. As for my part, I am as much surprised when I see a talkative Englishman, as I should be to see the Indian pine growing on one of our quickset hedges. Where these creatures get sun enough, to make them such lively animals and dull men, is above my philosophy.

There are another kind of impertinents which a man is perplexed with in mixed company, and those

your loud speakers. These treat mankind as if we were all deaf; they do not express but declare themselves. Many of these are guilty of this outrage out of vanity, because they think all they say is well; or that they have their own persons in such veneration, that they believe nothing which concerns them can be insignificant to any body else. For these people's sake, I have often lamented that we cannot close our ears with as much ease as we can our eyes.

It is

very uneasy that we must necessarily be under persecution. Next to these bawlers, is a troublesome creature who comes with the air of your

are

friend and your intimate, and that is your whisperer. There is one of them at a coffee-house which I myself frequent, who observing me to be a man pretty well made for secrets, gets by me, and with a whisper tells me things which all the town knows. It is no very hard matter to guess at the source of this impertinence, which is nothing else but a method or mechanic art of being wise. You never see any frequent in it, whom you can suppose to have any thing in the world to do. These persons are worse than bawlers, as much as a secret enemy is more dangerous than a declared one.. I wish that • my coffee-house friend would take this for an intimation, that I have not heard one word he has told me for these several years; whereas he now thinks me the most trusty repository of his secrets. The whisperers have a pleasant way of ending the close conversation, with saying aloud, - Do not you think so ? Then whisper again, and then aloud,' but you know that person :' then whisper again. The thing would be well enough, if they whispered to keep the folly of what they say among friends ; but, alas, they do it to preserve the importance of their thoughts. I am sure I could name you more than one person whom no man living ever heard talk upon any subject in nature, or ever saw in his whole life with a book in his hand, that, I know not how, can whisper something like knowledge of what has and does pass in the world ; which you would think he learned from some familiar spirit that did not think him worthy to receive the whole story. But in truth whisperers deal only in half accounts of what they entertain you with. A great help to their discourse is, That the town says, and people begin to talk very freely, and they had it from persons too considerable to be named what they will tell you when things are riper.' My friend has winked upon me any day sing came to

« PreviousContinue »