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Gregory Goosequill, esquire;' to which the other replies by a note, · To Nehemiah Dashwell, esquire, with respect;' in a word, it is now populus armigerorum, a people of esquires. And I do not know but, by the late act of naturalization, foreigners will assume that title, as part of the immunity of being Englishmen. All these improprieties flow from the negligence of the Herald's-office. Those gentlemen in party-coloured habits do not so rightly, as they ought, understand themselves; though they are dressed cap-a-pee in hieroglyphics, they are inwardly but ignorant men. I asked an acquaintance of mine, who is a man of wit, but of no fortune, and is forced to appear as a jack-pudding on the stage to a mountebank : Prythee, Jack, why is your coat of so many colours ?' He replied, “ I act a fool; and this spotted dress is to signify, that every man living has a weak place about him ; for I am knight of the shire, and represent you all. I wish the heralds would know as well as this man does, in his way, that they are to act for us in the case of our arms and appellations : we should not then be jumbled together in so promiscuous and absurd a manner. I design to take this matter into further consideration; and no man shall be received as an esquire, who cannot bring a certificate that he has conquered some lady's obdurate heart; that he can lead up a country-dance; or carry a message between her and her lover, with address, secrecy, and diligence. A squire is properly born for the service of the sex, and his credentials shall be signed by three toasts and one prude, before his title shall be received in my office.
Will's Coffee-house, May 23. On Saturday last was presented The Busy Body, a comedy, written (as I have heretofore remarked) by a woman 3. The plot and incidents of the play are laid with that subtilty of spirit which is peculiar to females of wit, and is very seldom well performed by those of the other sex, in whom craft in love is an act of invention, and not, as with women, the effect of nature and instinct.
To-morrow will be acted a play, called, The Trip to the Jubilee 4. This performance is the greatest instance that we can have of the irresistible force of proper action. The dialogue in itself has something too low to bear a criticism upon it: but Mr. Wilks enters into the part with so much skill, that the gallantry, the youth, and gaiety of a young man of a plentiful fortune, are looked upon with as much indulgence on the stage, as in real life, without any of those intermixtures of wit and humour, which usually prepossess us in favour of such characters in other plays.
St. James's Coffee-house, May 23. An authentic letter from Madam Maintenon to Monsieur Torcy has been stolen by a person about him, who has communicated a copy of it to some of the dependants of a minister of the allies. That epistle is writ in the inost pathetic manner imaginable, and in a style which shews her genius, that has so long engrossed the heart of this great monarch.
• I RECEIVED yours, and am sensible of the address and capacity with which you have hitherto transacted the great affair under your management. You. well observe, that our wants here are not to be con
3 Mrs. Centlivre. See N° 15.
cealed : and that it is vanity to use artifices with the knowing men with whom you are to deal. Let me beg you, therefore, in this representation of our circumstances, to lay aside art, which ceases to be such when it is seen, and make use of all your skill to gain us what advantages you can from the enemy's jealousy of each other's greatness; which is the place where only you have room for any dexterity. If you have any passion for your unhappy country, or any affection for your distressed master, come home with peace. Oh heaven! do I live to talk of Lewis the Great, as the object of pity? The king shews a great uneasiness to be informed of all that passes : but at the same time, is fearful of every one who appears in his presence, lest he should bring an account of some new calamity. I know not in what terms to represent my thoughts to you, when I speak of the king with relation to his bodily health. Figure to yourself that immortal man, who stood in our public places represented with trophies, armour, and terrors, on his pedestal : consider, the invincible, the great, the good, the pious, the mighty, which were the usual epithets we gave him, both in our language and thoughts. I say, consider him whom you knew the greatest and most glorious of monarchs, and now think you see the same man an unhappy lazar, in the lowest circunstances of human nature itself, without regard to the state from whence he is fallen. I write from his bed-side: he is at present in a slumber. I have many, many things to add ; but my tears flow too fast, and my sorrow is too big for utterance".
· I am, &c.' STEELE.
5 See N° 23, 24, and 26. This letter is supposed to have had Steele himself for its author, and not Madame Maintenon.
N° 20. THURSDAY, MAY 26, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli,
JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86.
White's Chocolate-house, May 24. It is not to be imagined how far prepossession will run away with people's understandings, in cases wherein they are under present uneasiness. The following narration is a sufficient testimony of the truth of this observation.
I had the honour the other day of a visit from a gentlewoman (a stranger to me) who seemed to be about thirty. Her complexion is brown; but the air of her face has an agreeableness which surpasses the beauties of the fairest women. There appeared in her look and mien a sprightly health : and her eyes had too much vivacity to become the language of complaint, which she began to enter into. She seemed sensible of it; and therefore, with downcast looks, said she, “Mr. Bickerstaff, you see before you the unhappiest of women; and therefore, as you are esteemed by all the world both a great civilian, as well as an astrologer, I must desire your advice and assistance, in putting me in a method of obtaining a divorce from a marriage, which I know the law will pronounce void.'- Madam,' said I, your grievance is of such a nature, that you must be very ingenuous in representing the causes of your complaint, or I cannot give you the satisfaction you desire.'--'Sir,'
she answers, I believe there would be no need of half your skill in the art of divination, to guess why a woman would part from her husband.'— It is true, said I ; ' but suspicions, or guesses at what you mean, nay certainty of it, except you plainly speak it, are no foundation for a formal suit.' She clapped her fan before her face; 'My husband,' said she, is no more an husband' (here she burst into tears) than one of the Italian singers.'
"Madam,' said I, the affliction you complain of is to be redressed by law; but, at the same time, consider what mortifications you are to go through, in bringing it into open court: how will you be able to bear the impertinent whispers of the people present at the trial, the licentious reflections of the pleaders, and the interpretations that will in general be put upon your conduct by all the world? How little (will they say) could that lady command her passions ! Besides, consider, that curbing our desires is the greatest glory we can arrive at in this world, and will be most rewarded in the next.' She answered, like a prudent matron: “Sir, if you please to remember the office of matrimony, the first cause of its institution is that of having posterity. Therefore, as to the
curbing desires, I am willing to undergo any absti· nence from food as you please to enjoin me; but I cannot, with any quiet of mind, live in the neglect of a necessary duty, and an express commandment, “ Increase and multiply".' Observing she was learned, and knew so well the duties of life, I turned my arguments rather to dehort her from this public procedure by examples than precepts. Do but consis der, madam, what crowds of beauteous women live in nunneries, secluded for ever from the sight and conversation of men, with all the alacrity of spirit