« PreviousContinue »
i:ioDJ, not to tell lies for want of wic. Upon this he began to beat his snuff-box with a very saucy air, and opening it again, faith, Isaac, said he, thou art a very unaccountable old fellow—Pr'ythee, who gave thee power of life and death? What a-pox hast thou to do with Ladies and Lovers? I suppose thou wouldst have a man be in company with his mistress, and fay nothing to her. Dost thou call breaking a jest, telling a lie? Ha! is that thy wisdom, old stiffrump, ha? He was going on with this insipid common-place mirth, sometimes opening his box, sometimes (hutting it, then viewing the picture on the lid, and then the workmanship of the hinge, when in the midst of his eloquence I ordered his box to be taken from him j upon which he was immediately struck speechless, and carried off stone dead.
The next who appeared was a hale old fellow of sixty. He was brought in by his relations, who desired leave to bury him. Upon requiring a distinct account of the prisoner, a credible witness deposed, that he always rose at ten of the clock, played with his cat until twelve, smoaked tobacco until one, was at dinner until two, then took another pipe, played at back-gammon until fix, talked of one Madam Frances, an old mistress of his, until eight, repeated the fame account at the tavern until ten, then returned home, took the other pipe, and then to bed. I asked him, what he had to fay for himself? As to what, said he, they mention concerning "Madam Franca 1 did not care for hearing a Canterbury tale, and therefore thought myself seasonably interrupted by a young Gentleman, who appeared in the behalf of the old man, and prayed an arrest of judgment; for that he the said young man held certain lands by his the said old man's life. Upon this, the solicitor of the Upholders took an occasion to demand him also, and thereupon produced several evidences that witnessed to his life and conversation. It appeared, that each of them divided their hours ir. matters of equal moment and importance to themselves and to the public. They rose at the fame hour: While the old man was playing with his cat, the young one was looking out of his window; while the old man was smoaking his pipe, the young man was rubbing his teeth; while one was at
dinner, dinner, the other was dressing; whije one was at backgammon, the other was at dinner; while the old fellow was talking of Madam Frances, the young one was either at play, or toasting women whom he never conversed with. The only difference was, that the young man had never been good for any thing; the old man, a man . of worth before he knew Madam Frances. Upon the; whole, I ordered them to be both interred together, with inscriptions proper to their characters, signifying, that the old man died in the year 1689, and was buried in the year 1709. And over the young one it was said, that he departed this world in the twenty-fifth year of his death.
The next class of criminals were Authors in prose •and verse. Those of them who had produced any stillborn work, were immediately dismissed to their burial, and were followed by others, who notwithstanding somer sprightly issue in their life-time, had given proofs of their death by some posthumous children, that bore n» zesemblance to their elder brethren. As for those who> were the fathers of a mixed progeny, provided always they could prove the last to be a live child, they escaped! with life, but not without loss of limbs; for in this cafe, I was satisfied with amputation of the parts which wer» mortified.
These were followed by a great crowd of superannuated) Benchers of the Inns' of Court, Senior Fellows of Colleges, and defunct Statesmen; all whom I ordered to b» decimated indifferently, allowing the rest a reprieve foir one year, with a promise of a free pardon in case of resuscitation.
There were still great multitudes, to be examined, bus finding it very late, I adjourned the court; not without the secret pleasure that 1 had done my duty, and furnished out an handsome execution.
Going out of the court, I received a Letter, informing me, that in pursuance of the edict of justice in oae' «f my late visions, all those of the Fair Sex began to,' appear pregnant who had ran any hazard of it; as was? manifest by a particular swelling in the petticoass of several Ladies in and about this great city. I must confess, I do not attribute the rising of this part of the
P 3 drefe dress to this occasion, yet must own, that I am very much disposed to be offended with such a new and unaccountable fashion. I shall however pronounce nothing upon it, until 1 have examined all that can be said for and against it. And in the mean time, think fit to give this notice to the fair Ladies who are now making up their winter suits, that they may abstain from all dresses of that kind, until they shall find what judgment will be passed upon them; for it would very much trouble me, that they should put themselves to an unnecessary expence; and I could not but think myself to blame, if I should hereafter forbid them the wearing of such garments, when they have laid out money upon them, without having given them any previous admonition.
"N. B. A Letter of the sixteenth instant about one "of the fifth, will be answered according to the desire *' of the party, which he will see in a few days."
N°iii. Saturday, December 24, 1709.
■ Procul 0! Procul este prcfani! Hence, ye profane! far hence be gone!
Sheer-last, December 23.'
THE watchman, who does me particular honours, as being the chief man in the lane, gave so very great a thump at my door last night, that I awakened at the nock, and heard myself complimented with the usual salutation of, "Qood-morrow Mr. *' Bickerjiaff, Good-morrow my Masters all." The silence and darkness of the night disposed me to be more than ordinarily serious; and as iny attention was not drawn out among exterior objects, by the avocations of fense, my thoughts naturally fell upon myself. I was considering, amidst the stillness of the night, what was the proper employment of a thinking Being? what were the perfections it should propose to itself f and, what the end it Ihould aim at f my mind is of such a particular cast, that the falling of a shower of rain, or the whistling of wind, at such a time, is apt to fill my thoughts with something awful and solemn. I was in this disposition, when our bellman began his midnight homily, which he has been repeating to us every winternight for these twenty years, with the usual exordium;
"Oh! mortal man, thou that art born in sin!"
Sentiments of this nature, which are in themselves just and reasonable, however debased by the circumstances that accompany them, do not fail to produce their natural effect in a mind that is not perverted and depraved by wrong notions of gallantry, politeness, and ridicule. The temper which I now found myself in, as well as the time of the year, put me in mind of those lines in Shake/pear, wherein, according to his agreeable wild ness of imagination, he has wrought a country tradition into a beautiful piece of poetry. In the tragedy of Hamlet, where the ghost vanishes upon the cock's crowing, he takes occasion to mention its crowing all hours of the night about Christmas time, and to insinuate a kind of religious veneration for that season.
It faded on the crowing of the cock.
This admirable author, as well as the best and gravest men of all ages, and of all nations, seems to have had his mind thoroughly seasoned with religion, as is evident by many passages in his plays, that would not be susferecj by a modern audience; and are therefore certain instances, that the age he lived in had a much greater fense of virtue than the present.
It is indeed a melancholy reflection to consider, that the Britijh nation, which is now at a greater height oF glory for its councils and conquests, than it ever was before, should distinguish itself by a certain looseness of principles, and a falling off from those schemes of thinking, which conduce to the happiness and perfection of human nature. . This evil comes upon us from the works of a few solemn blockheads, that meet together with the zeal and seriousness of apost!es> to extirpate common fense, and propagate infidelity. These are wretches, who without any show of wi;, learning, or reason, publish their crude conceptions with an ambition of appearing more wife than the rest of mankind, upon no other pretence, than that of dissenting from them. One gets by heart a catalogue of title pages and editions j and immediately to become conspicuous, declares that he is an unbeliever. Anocher knows how.40 write a receipt, or cut up a dog, and forthwith argues against the immortality of the Sou!. I have known many a little wit in the ostentation of his parts, rally the truth of the Scripture, who was not able to read a chapter in it. These poor wretches talk blasphemy for want of discourse, and are rather the objects of scorn ox pity, than of our indignation; but the grave disputant, that reads and writes, and spends all his time in convincing himself and the world, that he is no better than a brute, ought to be whipped out of a government, as a blot to civil society, and a defamer os mankind. I love to consider an Infidel, whether distinguished by the title of Deist, Atheist, or Free-thinker, in three different lights, in his solitudes, his afflictions, and his last moments..
A wife man that lives up to the principles of reason and virtue, if one considers him in his solitude, as in taking in the system of the universe, observing the mutual dependence and harmony, by which the whole frame of it hangs together, beating down his passions, or swelling his thoughts with magnificent ideas of Providence, makes a nobler figure in the eye of an intelligent Being, than the greatest conqueror amidst all the pomps and solemnities of a triumph. On the contrary, .these js r>ot a more ridiculous animal than an Atheist in