« PreviousContinue »
show your teeth ? Rub them no longer, dear Shoestring *: do no premeditate murder: do not for ever whiten. Oh! that for my quiet and his own they were rotten!
But I will forget him; and give my hand to the courteous Umbra. He is a fine man indeed, but the soft creature bows below my apron-string, before he takes it; yet, after the first ceremonies, he is as familiar as my physician, and his insignificancy makes me half ready to complain to him of all I would to my doctor. He is so courteous, that he carries half the messages of ladies' ails in town to their midwives and nurses. He understands too the art of medicine as far as to the cure of a pimple, or a rash. On occasions of the like importance, he is the most assiduous of all men living, in consulting and searching precedents from family to family ; then he speaks of his obsequiousness and diligence in the style of real services. If you sneer at him, and thank him for his great friendship, he bows, and says, " Madam, all the good offices in my power, while I have any knowledge or credit, shall be at your service. The consideration of so shallow a being, and the intent application with which he pursues trifies, has made me carefully reflect upon that sort of men we usually call an impertinent: and I am, upon mature deliberation, so far from being offended with him, that I am really obliged to him; for though he will take you aside, and talk half an hour to you upon matters wholly insignificant with the most solemn air, yet I consider that these things are of weight in his imagination, and he thinks he is communicating what is
* Sir William Whitlocke, knt. Member for Oxon, Bencher of the Middle Temple: he is the learned knight mentioned, Tat, No 43.
for my service. If, therefore, it be a just rule to judge of a man, by his intention, according to the equity of good breeding, he that is impertinently kind or wise, to do you service, ought in return to have a proportionable place both in your affection and esteem; so that the courteous Umbra deserves the favour of all his acquaintance ; for though he never served them, he is ever willing to do it, and believes he does it. - As impotent kindness is to be returned with all our abilities to oblige; so impotent malice is to be treated with all our force to depress it. For this reason, Fly-blow (who is received in all the families in town, through the degeneracy and iniquity of their manners) is to be treated like a knave, though he is one of the weakest of fools: he has by rote, and at second hand, all that can be said of any man of figure, wit, and virtue, in town. Name a man of worth, and this creature tells you the worst passage of his life. Speak of a beautiful woman, and this puppy will whisper the next man to him, though he has nothing to say of her. He is a fly that feeds on the sore part, and would have nothing to live on if the whole body were in health. You may know him by the frequency of pronouncing the particle but; for which reason I never heard him spoke of with common charity, without using my but against him : for a friend of mine saying the other day, “Mrs. Distaff has wit, goodhumour, virtue, and friendship ;' this oaf added, • But she is not handsome. Coxcomb! the gentleman was saying what I was, not what I was not,'
St. James's Coffee-house, July 6. The approaches before Tournay have been carried on with great success; and our advices from the camp before that place of the eleventh instant, say, that they had already made a lodgment on the glacis. Two hundred boats were come up the Scheld with the heavy artillery and ammunition, which would be employed in dismounting the enemy's defences, and raised on the batteries the fifteenth. A great body of miners are summoned to the camp, to countermine the works of the enemy. We are convinced of the weakness of the garrison by a certain account that they called a council of war, to consult whether it was not advisable to march into the citadel, and leave the town defenceless. We are assured, that when the confederate army was advancing towards the camp of Marshal Villars, that general dispatched a courier to his master with a letter, giving an account of their approach, which concluded with the following words: • The day begins to break, and your Majesty's army is already in order of battle. Before noon I hope to have the honour of congratulating your Majesty on the success of a great action : and you shall be very well satisfied with the Marshal Villars.'
*** Mrs. Distaff hath received the Dialogue dated Monday evening, which she has sent forward to Mr. Bickerstaff at Maidenhead: and in the mean time gives her service to the parties.
It is to be noted, that when any part of this paper appears dull, there is a design in it.
N°39. SATURDAY, JULY 9, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines-
nostri est farrago libelli.
Juv. Sat. i. 85, 86.
By Isaac BICKERSTAFF, Esquire.
Grecian Coffee-house, July 7. As I am called forth by the immense love I bear to my fellow-creatures, and the warm inclination I feel within me, to stem, as far as I can, the prevailing torrent of vice and ignorance; so I cannot more properly pursue that noble impulse, than by setting forth the excellence of virtue and knowledge in their native and beautiful colours. For this reason, I made my late excursion to Oxford, where those qualities appear in their highest lustre, and are the only pretences to honour and distinction, Superiority is there given in proportion to men's advancement in wisdom and learning ; and that just rule of life is so universally received among those happy people, that you shall see an earl walk bareheaded to the son of the meanest artificer, in respect to seven years more worth and knowledge than the nobleman is possessed of. In other places they bow to men's fortunes, but here to their understandings. It is not to be expressed, how pleasing the order, the discipline, the regularity of their lives, is to a philosopher, who has by many years' experience in the world, learned to contemn every thing but what is revered in this mansion of select and well-taught spirits. The magnificence of their palaces, the greatness of their revenues, the sweetness of their groves and retirements, seem equally adapted for the residence of princes and philosophers; and a familiarity with objects of splendour, as well as places of recess, prepares the inhabitants with an equanimity of their future fortunes, whether humble or illustrious. How was I pleased, when I looked round at St. Mary's, and could, in the faces of the ingenious youth, see ministers of state, chancellors, bishops, and judges. Here only is human life! Here only the life of man is that of a rational being! Here men understand, and are employed in works worthy their noble nature. This transitory being passes away in an employment not unworthy a future state, the contemplation of the great decrees of Providence. Each man lives as if he were to answer the questions made to Job, - Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who shut up the sea with doors, and said, Hitherto thou shalt come, and no farther ?' Such speculations make life agreeable, and death welcome.
But, alas ! I was torn from this noble society by the business of this dirty, mean world, and the cares of fortune; for I was obliged to be in London against the seventh day of the term, and accordingly governed myself by my Oxford almanack*, and came last night; but find, to my great astonishment, that this ignorant town began the term
* The humour of this paper is not peculiarly restricted to the Oxford Almanack for the year 1709 : it is equally applicable to all the Oxford Almanacks before or since that period, being founded on the difference between the University terms and the Law terms, just as obvious now as it was then; as may be seen by comparing the Oxford with the London Almanack.