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most ingenious and renowned fellow-labourer, the Postman : and it is to this talent in him that I impute the loss of my upholsterer's intellects. That unfortunate tradesman has, for years past, been the chief orator in ragged assemblies, and the reader in alley coffee-houses. He was yesterday surrounded by an audience of that sort, among whom I sat unobserved, through the favour of a cloud of tobacco, and saw him with the Postman in his hand, and all the other papers safe under his elbow. He was intermixing remarks, and reading the Paris article of May the thirtieth, which says, “That it is given out that an express arrived this day with advice, that the armies were so near in the plain of Lens, that they cannonaded each other.’ ‘Ay, ay, here we shall have sport.’ “And that it was highly probable the next express would bring us an account of an engagement.’ ‘They are welcome as soon as they please.’ ‘Though some others say that the same will be put off until the second or third of June, because the Marshal Villars expects some further reinforcements from Germany, and other parts, before that time.” “What does he put it off for 2 Does he think our horse is not marching up at the same time? But let us see what he says further.’ “They hope that Monsieur Albergotti, being encouraged by the presence of so great an army, will make an extraordinary defence.’ ‘Why then, I find Albergotti is one of those that love to have a great many on their side. Nay, I say that for this paper, he makes the most natural inferences of any of them all.’ ‘The Elector of Bavaria, being uneasy to be without any command, has desired leave to come to court, to communicate a certain project to his majesty. —Whatever it be, it is said, that prince is suddenly expected ; and then we shall have a more certain account of his project, if this report has any foundation.” “Nay, this paper never imposes upon us; he goes upon sure grounds; for he will not be positive the Elector has a project, or that he will come, or if he does come at all ; for he doubts, you see, whether the report has any foundation.’ What makes this the more lamentable is, that this way of writing falls in with the imaginations of the cooler and duller part of her Majesty's subjects. The being kept up with one line contradicting another; and the whole, after many sentences of conjecture, vanishing in a doubt whether there is anything at all in what the person has been reading, puts an ordinary head into a vertigo, which his natural dulness would have secured him from. Next to the labours of the Postman, the upholsterer took from under his elbow honest Ichabod Dawks's Letter, and there, among other speculations, the historian takes upon him to say, ‘That it is discoursed that there will be a battle in Flanders before the armies separate, and many will have it to be to-morrow, the great battle of Ramillies being fought on a Whitsunday.” A gentleman, who was a wag in this company, laughed at the expression, and said, “By Mr. Dawks's favour, I warrant you, if we meet them on Whitsunday or Monday we shall not stand upon the day with them, whether it be before or after the holidays.” An admirer of this gentleman stood up, and told a neighbour at a distant table the conceit ; at which indeed we were all very merry. These reflections, in the writers of the transactions of the times, seize the noddles of such as were not born
to have thoughts of their own, and consequently lay a weight upon everything which they read in print. But Mr. Dawks concluded his paper with a courteous sentence, which was very well taken and applauded by the whole company. “We wish, says he, “all our customers a merry Whitsuntide and many of them. Honest Ichabod is as extraordinary a man as any of our fraternity, and as particular. His style is a dialect between the familiarity of talking and writing, and his letter such as you cannot distinguish whether print or manuscript, which gives us a refreshment of the idea from what has been told us from the press by others. This wishing a good Tide had its effect upon us, and he was commended for his salutation, as showing as well the capacity of a bellman as a historian. My distempered old acquaintance read, in the next place, the account of the affairs abroad in the Courant : but the matter was told so distinctly, that these wanderers thought there was no news in it; this paper differing from the rest, as a history from a romance. The tautology, the contradiction, the doubts, and wants of confirmations, are what keep up imaginary entertainments in empty heads and produce neglect of their own affairs, poverty, and bankruptcy, in many of the shop-statesmen; but turn the imaginations of those of a little higher orb into deliriums of dissatisfaction, which is seen in a continual fret upon all that touches their brains, but more particularly upon any advantage obtained by their country, where they are considered as lunatics, and therefore tolerated in their ravings. What I am now warning the people of is, that the newspapers of this island are as pernicious to weak heads in England, as ever books of chivalry to Spain; and therefore shall do all that in me lies, with the utmost care and vigilance imaginable, to prevent these growing evils.
BOCCALINI, in his Parnassus, indicts a laconic writer for speaking that in three words which he might have said in two, and sentences him for his punishment to read over all the works of Guicciardini. This Guicciardini is so very prolix and circumstantial in his writings, that I remember our countryman, Doctor Donne, speaking of that majestic and concise manner in which Moses has described the creation of the world, adds, “that if such an author as Guicciardini were to have written on such a subject, the world itself would not have been able to have contained the books that gave the history of its creation.’ I look upon a tedious talker, or what is generally known by the name of a story-teller, to be much more insufferable than even a prolix writer. An author may be tossed out of your hand, and thrown aside when he grows dull and tiresome ; but such liberties are so far from being allowed towards your orators in common conversation, that I have known a challenge sent a person for going out of the room abruptly, and leaving a man of honour in the midst of a dissertation. This evil is at present so very common and epidemical, that there is scarce a coffee-house in town that has not some speakers belonging to it, who utter their political essays, and draw parallels out of