Page images
PDF
EPUB

occult sciences, so I, my mother being a Welch woman, dedicated mine to genealogy, particularly that of our own family, which, for its antiquity and number, may challenge any in Great Britain. The Staffs are originally of Staffordshire, which took its name from them: the first that I find of the Staffs was one Jacobstaff, a famous and renowned astronomer, who by Dorothy his wife had issue seven'sons, viz. Bickerstaff, Longstaff, Wagstaff, Quarterstaff, Whitestaff, Falstaff, and Tipstaff. He also had a younger brother, who was twice married, and had five sons, viz. Distaff, Pikestaff, Mopstaff, Broomstaff, and Raggedstaff. As for the branch from whence you spring, I shall say very little of it, only that it is the chief of the Staffs, and called Bickerstaff, quasi Biggerstaff; as much as to say, the Great Staff, or Staff of Staffs ; and that it has applied itself to astronomy with great success, after the example of our aforesaid forefather. The descendants from Longstaff, the second son, were a rakish disorderly sort of people, and rambled from one place to another, until, in the time of Harry the Second, they settled in Kent, and were called Long-tails, from the long tails which were sent them as a punishment for the murder of Thomas-aBecket, as the legends say. They have always been sought after by the ladies; but whether it be to shew their aversion to popery, or their love to miracles, I cannot say. The Wagstaffs are a merry thoughtless sort of people, who have always been opinionated of their own wit; they have turned themselves mostly to poetry. This is the most numerous branch of our family, and the poorest. The Quarterstaffs are inost of them prize-fighters or deer-stealers: there have been so many of them hanged lately, that there are very few of that branch of our family left. The Whitestaffs s are all courtiers, and have had very considerable places. There have been some of them of that strength and dexterity, that five hundred of the ablest men in the kingdom have often tugged in vain to pull a staff out of their hands. The Falstaffs are strangely given to whoring and drinking: there are abundance of them in and about London. One thing is very remarkable of this branch, and that is, there are just as many women as men in it. There was a wicked stick of wood of this name in Harry the fourth's time, one Sir John Falstaff. As for Tipstaff, the youngest son, he was an honest fellow; but his sons, and his sons' sons, have all of them been the veriest rogues living: it is this unlucky branch that has stocked the nation with that swarm of lawyers, attorneys, serjeants, and bailiffs, with which the nation is over-run. Tipstaff, being a seventh son, used to cure the king's-evil; but his rascally descendants are so far from having that healing quality, that by a touch upon the shoulder, they give a man such an ill habit of body, that he can never come abroad afterwards. This is all I know of the line of Jacobstaff: his younger brother Isaacstaff, as I told you before, had five sons, and was married twice; his first wife was a Staff (for they did not stand upon false heraldry in those days) by whom he had one son, who, in process of time, being a schoolmaster and well read in the Greek, called himself Distaff, or Twice

$ This is evidently an allusion to the staff that is carried, as an ensign of his office, by the first lord of the treasury ; who is elsewhere humorously compared by Steele to an emmet distinguished from his fellows by a white straw.'

6 Members of the house of commons.

staff. He was not very rich, so he put his children out to trades; and the Distaffs have ever since been employed in the woollen and linen manufactures except myself, who am a genealogist. Pikestaff, the eldest son by the second venter, was a man of business, a downright plodding fellow, and withal so plain, that he became a proverb. Most of this family are at present in the army. Raggedstaff was an unlucky boy, and used to tear his clothes in getting birds nests, and was always playing with a tame bear his father kept. Mopstaff fell in love with one of his father's maids, and used to help her to clean the house. Broomstaff was a chimney-sweeper. The Mopstaffs and Broomstaffs are naturally as civil people as ever went out of doors; but alas! if they once get into ill hands, they knock down all before them. Pilgrimstaff ran away from his friends, and went strolling about the country: and Pipestaff was a wine-cooper. These two were the unlawful issue of Longstaff.

• N.B. The Canes, the Clubs, the Cudgels, the Wands, the Devil upon two Sticks, and one Bread, that goes by the name of Staff of Life, are none of our relations.

"I am,

DEAR COUSIN, From the Heralds

"Your humble servant, office, May 1, 1709.

'D. DISTAFF.'

St. James's Coffee-house, May 4. As political news is not the principal subject on which we treat, we are so happy as to have no occasion for that art of cookery which our brother newsmongers so much excel in; as appears by their excellent and inimitable manner of dressing up a second time for your taste the same dish which they gave you the day before, in case there come over no new pickles from Holland. Therefore, when we have nothing to say to you from the courts and camps, we hope still to give you somewhat new and curious from ourselves: the women of our house, upon occasion, being capable of carrying on the business, according to the laudable custom of the wives in Holland; but, without farther preface, take what we have not mentioned in our former relations.

Letters from Hanover of the thirtieth of the last month say, that the prince royal of Prussia arrived there on the 15th, and left that court on the second of this month, in pursuit of his journey to Flanders, where he makes the ensuing campaign. Those advices add, that the young prince Nassau, hereditary governour of Friesland, celebrated on the twenty-sixth of the last month his marriage with the beauteous princess of Hesse-Cassel, with a pomp and magnificence suitable to their age and quality.

Yesterday, at four in the morning, his grace the duke of Marlborough set out for Margate, and embarked for Holland at eight this morning. Yesterday also Sir George Thorold was declared alderman of Cordwainers Ward, in the room of his brother Sir Charles Thorold, deceased.

*** Any ladies who have any particular stories of their acquaintance, which they are willing privately to make public, may send them by the penny-post to Isaac Bickerstaff, esq. inclosed to Mr. John Morphew, near Stationers'-hall.

STEELE.

No 12. SATURDAY, MAY 7, 1709.

Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.

JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86.
Whatever good is done, whatever ill-
By human kind, shall this collection fill,

May 5. WHEN a man has engaged to keep a stage-coach, he is obliged, whether he has passengers or not, to set out: thus it fares with us weekly historians; but indeed, for my particular, I hope I shall soon have little more to do in this work, than to publish what is sent me from such as have leisure and capacity for giving delight, and being pleased in an elegant manner. The present grandeur of the British nation might make us expect, that we should rise in our public diversions, and manner of enjoying life, in proportion to our advancement in glory and power. Instead of that, survey this town, and you will find rakes and debauchees are your men of pleasure; thoughtless atheists and illiterate drunkards call themselves freethinkers; and gamesters, banterers, biters", swear ers, and twenty new-born insects more, are, in their

* This species of folly, which Rowe made the subject of a Comedy, may be explained by the following passage in Swift's Letter to the Rev. Dr. Tisdall: I'll teach you a way to out-wit Mrs. Johnson ; it is a new-fashioned way of being witty, and they call it 'a bite. You must ask a bantering question, or tell some damned lie in a serious

« PreviousContinue »