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account of duels, that there was a great exactness in avoiding all advantage that might possibly be between the combatants.
Col. Plume. That is true, Sir; for the weapons were always equal.
Mr. Sage. Yes, Sir; but suppose an active adroit strong man had insulted an awkward, or a feeble, or an unpractised sword's-man?
Col. Plume. Then, Sir, they fought with pistols. "Mr. Sage. But, Sir, there might be a certain advantage that way; for a good marksman will be sure to hit his man at twenty yards distance; and a man whose hand shakes (which is common to men that debauch in pleasures, or have not used pistols out of their holsters) will not venture to fire, unless he touches the person he shoots at. Now, Sir, I am of opinion, that one can get no honour in killing a man, if one has it all rug,' as the gamesters say, when they have a trick to make the game secure, though they seem to play upon the square.
Sir Mark. In truth, Mr. Sage, I think such a fact must be murder in a man's own private conscience, whatever it may appear to the world.
Col. Plume. I have known some men so nice, that they would not fight but upon a cloak with pistols.
Mr. Sage. I believe a custom well established would outdo the grand monarch's edict ?;
Sir Mark. And bullies would then leave off their long swords. But I do not find that a very pretty fellow can stay to change his sword when he is insulted by a bully with a long diego ; though his own at the same time be no longer than a pen-knife; which will certainly be the case if such little swords are in
7 Spec. N° 97,
mode. Pray, colonel, how was it between the hectors of your time, and the very topping fellows?
Col. Plume. Sir, long swords happened to be generally worn in those times.
Mr. Sage. In answer to what you were saying, Sir Mark, give me leave to inform you, that your knightserrant (who were the very pretty fellows of those ancient times) thought they could not honourably yield, though they had fought their own trusty weapons to the stumps; but would venture as boldly with the page's leaden sword, as if it had been of enchanted metal. Whence, I conceive, there must be a spice of romantic gallantry in the composition of that very pretty fellow.
Sir Mark. I am of opinion, Mr. Sage, that fashion governs a very pretty fellow; nature, or common sense, your ordinary persons, and sometimes men of fine parts.
Mr. Sage. But what is the reason, that men of the most excellent sense and morals, in other points, associate their understandings with the very pretty fellows in that chimæra of a duel ?
Sir Mark. There is no disputing against so great a majority.
Mr. Sage. But there is one scruple, colonel Plume, and I have done. Do not you believe there may be some advantage even upon a cloak with pistols, which a man of nice honour would scruple to take?
Col. Plume. Faith, I cannot tell, Sir; but since one may reasonably suppose that, in such a case, there can be but one so far in the wrong as to occasion matters to come to that extremity, I think the chance of being killed should fall but on one; whereas, by their close and desperate manner of fighting, it may very probably happen to both.
Sir Mark. Why, gentlemen, if they are men of such nice honour, and must fight, there will be no fear of foul play, if they threw up cross or pile who should be shot.
N° 40. TUESDAY, JULY 12, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.
JUV. Sat. i, 85, 86.
Wills Coffee-house, July 11. Letters from the city of London give an account of a very great consternation that place is in at present, by reason of a late inquiry made at Guildhall, whether a noble person ' has parts enough to deserve the enjoyment of the great estate of which he is possessed? The city is apprehensive, that this precedent may go farther than was at first imagined. The person against whom this inquisition is set up by his relations, is a peer of a neighbouring kingdom, and has in his youth made some few bulls, by which it is insinuated, that he has forfeited his goods and chattels. This is the more astonishing, in that there are many
his lordship, and who, though they are idiots, do not only possess, but have also themselves acquired great
· Richard, fifth viscount Wenman.
estates, contrary to the known laws of this realm, which vest their possessions in the crown.
There is a gentleman in the coffee-house at this time exhibiting a bill in chancery against his father's younger brother, who by some strange magic has arrived at the value of half a plumb, as the citizens call an hundred thousand pounds; and in all the time of growing up to that wealth, was never known in any of his ordinary words or actions to discover any proof of reason. Upon this foundation my friend has set forth, that he is illegally master of his coffers, and has writ two epigrams to signify his own pretensions and sufficiency for spending that estate. He has inserted in his plea some things which I fear will give offence; for he pretends to argue, that though a man has a little of the knave mixed with the fool, he is nevertheless liable to the loss of goods; and makes the abuse of reason as just an avoidance of an estate as the total absence of it. This is what can never pass; but witty men are so full of themselves, that there is no persuading them; and my friend will not be convinced, but that upon quoting Solomon, who always used the word Fool as a term of the same signification with Unjust, and makes all deviation from goodness and virtue to come under the notion of folly;--I say, he doubts not, but by the force of this authority, let his idiot uncle appear never so great a knave, he shall prove him a fool at the same time.
This affair led the company here into an examination of these points; and none coming here but wits, what was asserted by a young lawyer, that a lunatic is in the care of the chancery, but a fool in that of the crown, was received with general indignation. • Why that?' says old Renault. Why that? Why must a fool be a courtier more than a madman? This is the iniquity of this dull age. I remember the time when it went on the mad side ;-all your top wits were scourers, rakes, roarers, and demolishers of windows. I knew a mad lord, who was drunk five years together, and was the envy of that age, who is faintly imitated by the dull pretenders to vice and madness in this. Had he lived to this day, there had not been a fool in fashion in the whole kingdom.' When Renault had done speaking, a very worthy man assumed the discourse: • This is,' said he, Mr. Bickerstaff, a proper argument for you to treat of in your article from this place; and if you would send your Pacolet into all our brains, you would find, that a little fibre or valve, scarce discernible, makes the distinction between a politician and an idiot. We should, therefore, throw a veil upon those unhappy instances of human nature, who seem to breathe without the direction of reason and understanding, as we should avert our eyes with abhorrence from such as live in perpetual abuse and contradiction to these noble faculties. Shall this unfortunate man he divested of his estate, because he is tractable and indolent, runs in no man's debt, invades no man's bed, nor spends the estate he owes his children and his character ; when one who shews no sense above him, but in such practices, shall be esteemed in his senses, and possibly may pretend to the guardianship of him who is no ways his inferior, but in being less wicked? We see old age brings us indifferently into the same impotence of soul, wherein nature has placed this lord.'