Page images

in concerns of this kind is to be looked upon as heroic bravery, in which a man leaves the species only as he soars above it. What greater instance can there be of a weak and pufillanimous temper, than for a man to pass his whole life in opposition to his own sentiments ? or not to dare to be what he thinks he ought to be?

SINGULARITY, therefore, is only vicious when it makes men act contrary to reason, or when it puts them upon distinguishing themselves by trifles. As for the first of these, who are singular in any thing that is irreligious, immoral, or dishonourable, I believe every one will easily give them up. I shall therefore speak of those only who are remarkable for their fingularity in things of no importance, as in dress, behaviour, conversation, and all the little intercourses of life. In these cases there is a certain deference due to custom; and notwithstanding there may be a colour of reason to deviate from the multitude in some particulars, a man ought to sacrifice his private inclinations and opinions to the practice of the public. It must be confessed that good sense often makes a humorist; but then it unqualifies him for being of any moment in the world, and renders him ridiculous to perfons of a much inferior understanding.

I have heard of a gentleman in the north of England, who was a remarkable instance of this foolish singularity. He had laid it down as a rule within himself, to act in the most indifferent parts of life according to the most abftracted notions of reason and good sense, without any regard to fashion or example. This humour broke out at first in many little oddnesses : he had never any stated hours for his dinner, fupper, or sleep; because, said he, we ought to attend the calls of nature, and not set our appetites to our meals, but bring our meals to our appetites. . In his conversation with country gentlemen, he would not make use of a phrase that was not strictly true : he never told any of them, that he was his humble servant, but that he was his well-wisher; and would rather be thought a malecontent, than drink the king's health when he was not a-dry. He would thrust his head out of his chamber-window.every morning, and after having gaped for fresh air about half an hour, repeat fifty verses as loud as he could bawl them for the benefit of his lungs;


to which end he generally took them out of Homer, the Greek tongue, especially in that author, being more deep and fonorous, and more conducive to expectoration, than any other. He had many other particularities, for which : he gave found and philosophical reasons. As this humour still grew upon him, he chose to wear a turban instead of a periwig; concluding very justly, that a bandage of clean linen about his head was much more wholesome, as well as cleanly, than the caul of a wig, which is foiled with frequent perfpirations. He afterwards judiciously observed, that the many ligatures in our English diess must naturally check the circulation of the blood; for, which reason, he made his breeches and his doublet of: one continued piece of cloth, after the manner of the. Husars. In thort, by following the pure dictates of reason, he at length departed so much from the rest of his. countrymen, and indeed from his whole species, that his . frier.ds would have clapped him into Bedlam, and have begged his cstate; but the judge being informed that he did no harm, contented himself with issuing out a commission of lunacy against him, and putting his estate into the hands: . of proper guardians.

The fate of this philosopher puts me in mind of a re-. mark in Monsieur Fontenelle's dialogues of the dead.' • The ambitious and the covetous,' says he, "are madó * men to all intents and purposes, as much as those who

shut up in dark rooms; but they have the good luck • to have numbers on their fide; whereas the frenzy of

one who is given up for a lunatic, is a frenzy hors: d'oeuvre ;' that is, in other words, something which is .. singular in its kind, and does not fall in with the madness of a multitude.

The subject of this essay was occasioned by a letter which I received not long since, and which, for want of : room at present, I shall insert in my next paper.



N° 577.

Friday, August 6.

-Hoc tolerabile, fi non Et furere incipias

Juv. Sat. 6. v. 613.

This might be borne with, if you did not rave.

T lows.

HE letter mentioned in my last paper, is as follows.

: ,

[ocr errors]


U have fo lately decried that custom, too much,

in • the subjects of their writings and conversation, that I had some difficulty to persuade myself to give you this trouble, till i had considered that though I should speak in

the first person, yet I could not be justly charged with • vanity, since I shall not add my name; as also, because what I shall write will not, to say the best, redound to

my praise; but is only designed to remove a preju• dice conceived against me, as I hope, with very little · foundation. My short history is this.

I have lived for some years last part altogether in London, till about a month ago an acquaintance of mine, • for whom I have done some small services in town, in• vited me to pass part of the summer with him at his - house in the country. I accepted his invitation, and • found a very hearty welcome. My friend, an honest plain man, not being qualified to pass away his time without

the reliefs of business, has grafted the farmer upon the ' gentleman, and brought himself to submit even to the servile parts of that employment, such as inspecting his

plough, and the like. This necessarily takes up fome • of his hours every day; and as I have no relish for • such diversions, I used at these times to retire either to

my chamber, or a shady walk near the house, and en* tertain myself with some agreeable author. 'must know, Mr Spectator, that when I read, especially • if it be poetry, it is very usual with me, when I meet

" with

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Now you

[ocr errors]

• with any paffage or expression which strikes me much, to • pronounce it aloud with that tone of the voice, which I think agreeable to the sentiments there expressed; and to this I generally add some motion or action of the body. It was not long before I was observed by some of • the family in one of these heroic fits, who thereupon

received impressions very much to my disadvantage. This • however I did not soon discover, nor should have done • probably, had it not been for the following accident. I

had one day shut myself up in my chamber, and was very • deeply engaged in the second book of Milton's Paradise

Lojt. I walked to and fro with the book in my hand, • and, to speak the truth, I fear I made no little noise ; when presently coming to the following lines,

[ocr errors]

-On a sudden open fly,
With impetuous recoil and jarring found,
Tb'infernal doors, and on their hinges grate
Harsi thunder, &c.

upon me with

• I in great transport threw open the door of my chamber, and found the greatest part of the family standing on the outside in a very great consternation. I was in no less confusion, and begged pardon for having disturb. cd them; addresling myself particularly to comfort one • of the children, who received an unlucky fall in this ac• tion, whilst he was too intently surveying my medita• tions, through the key-hole. To be short, after this ad• venture I easily observed that great part of the family,

especially the women and children, looked • some apprehenfions of fear; and my friend himself, * though he still continued his civilities to me, did not seem • altogether easy; I took notice, that the butler was never · after this accident ordered to leave the bottle upon the • table after dinner. Add to this, that I frequently over• heard the servants mention me by the name of the cra• zed gentleman, the gentleman a little touched, the mad' Londoner, and the like. This made me think it high . time for me to shift my quarters, which I resolved to do

the first handsome opportunity; and was confirmed in • this resolution by a young lady in the neighbourhood who frequently visited us, and who one day, after ha

• ving

[ocr errors]

ving heard all the fine things I was able to say, was pleased with a scornful smıle to bid me go to sleep. • The first minute I got to my lodgings in town, I set pen to paper to desire your opinion, whether, upon the • evidence before you, I am mad or not. I can bring • certificates that i behave myself soberly before company, and I hope there is at least some merit in withdraw

ing to be mad. Look you, Sir, I am contented to be • esteemed little touched, as they phrase it, but should • be sorry to be madder than my neighbours; therefore, pray

let me be as much in my senses as you can afford. I know I could bring yourself as an instance of a man who has confessed talking to himself; but yours is a particular case, and cannot justify me, who have not kept silence any part of my life. What if I should own 'myself in love? You know lovers are always allowed • the comfort of foliloquy.- -But I will say no more

upon this subject, because I have long since observed, • the ready way to be thought mad, is to

ontend that you are not so; as we generally conclude that man drunk, who takes pains to be thought sober. I will therefore

leave myself to your determination ; but am the more • desirous to be thought in my senses, that it may be ne

discredit to you when I assure you, that I have always • been very much

Your Admirer.'


« P.S. If I must be mad, I desire the young lady may • believe it is for her.'

The humble petition of John a Nokes and John a Stiles,

HAT your petitioners have had caufes depend-

ing in Westminster-hall above five hundred years, and that we despair of ever seeing them brought to an * issue ; that your petitioners have not been involved in - these law-suits out of any litigious temper

of their own, . but by the instigation of contentious persons; that the

young lawyers in our inns of court are continually setting

us together by the ears, and think they do us no hurt, * because they plead for us without a fée; that many of


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »