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Pests of the Coffee houses
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 further, and in the open coffee-house, 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 spitting 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 anything 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 observations 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 are 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 anybody 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 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 anything 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 this 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 ;
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 since I came to town last, and has communicated to me as a secret, that he designed in a very short time to tell me a secret ; but I shall know what he means, he now assures me, in less than a fortnight's time.
But I must not omit the dearer part of mankind, I mean the ladies, to take up a whole paper upon grievances which concern the men only ; but shall humbly propose, that we change fools for an experiment only. A certain set of ladies complain they are frequently perplexed with a visitant who affects to be wiser than they are ; which character he hopes to preserve by an obstinate gravity, and great guard against discovering his opinion upon any occasion whatsoever. A painful silence has hitherto gained him no further advantage, than that as he might, if he had behaved himself with freedom, been excepted against but as to this and that particular, he now offends in the whole. To relieve these ladies, my good friends and correspondents, I shall exchange my dancing outlaw for their dumb visitant, and assign the silent gentleman all the haunts of the dancer; in order to which, I have sent them by the penny-post the following letters for their conduct in their new conversations :
'I have, you may be sure, heard of your irregularities without regard to my observations upon you ; but shall not treat you with so much rigour as you deserve. If you will give yourself the trouble to repair to the place mentioned in the postscript to this letter at seven this evening, you will be conducted into a spacious room well lighted, where there are ladies and music. You will see a young lady laughing next the window to the street ; you may take her out, for she loves you as well as she does any man, tho' she never saw you before. She never thought in her life, any more than yourself. She will not be surprised when you accost her, nor concerned when you leave her. Hasten from a place where you are laughed at, to one where you will be admired. You are of no consequence, therefore go where you will be welcome for being so.
'Your most humble servant.'
'The ladies whom you visit, think a wise man the most impertinent creature living, therefore you cannot be offended that they are displeased with you. Why will you take pains to appear wise, where you would not be the more esteemed for being really so? Come to us; forget the gigglers ; and let your inclination go along with you whether you speak or are silent; and let all such women as are in a clan or sisterhood, go their own way; there is no room for you in that company who are of the common taste of