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at the breach of it. If he engages never to utter a syllable, he most punctually performs his promise; but then he has the knack of insinuating by a nod and a shrug well-timed, or a seasonable leer, as much as others can convey in express terms. It is difficult, in short, to determine, whether he is more to be admired for his resolution in not mentioning, or his ingenuity in disclosing, a secret. He is also excellent at a doubtful phrase,' as Hamlet calls it, or an ambiguous giving out;' and his conversation consists chiefly of such broken inuendoes, as

Well, I know-or, I could, an if I would

Or, if I list to speak-or, there be, an if there might, &c. Here he generally stops; and leaves it to his hearers to draw proper inferences from these piecemeal premises. With due encouragement, however, he may be prevailed on to slip the padlock from his lips, and immediately overwhelms you with a torrent of secret history, which rushes forth with more violence for having been so long confined.

Poor Meanwell, though he never fails to transgress, is rather to be pitied than condemned. To trust him with a secret, is to spoil his appetite, to break his rest, and to deprive him for а time of every earthly enjoyment. Like a man who travels with his whole fortune in his pocket, he is terrified if you approach him, and immediately suspects, that you come with a felonious intent to rob him of his charge. If he ventures abroad, it is to walk in some unfrequented place, where he is least in danger of an attack. At home, he shuts himself up from his family, paces to and fro in his chamber, and has no relief but from muttering over to himself, what he longs to publish to the world; and would gladly submit to the office of town-crier, for the liberty of proclaiming it in the market-place. At length, however, weary of his burden, and resolved to bear it no

longer, he consigns it to the custody of the first friend he meets, and returns to his wife with a cheerful aspect, and wonderfully altered for the better. Careless is perhaps equally undesigning, though not equally excusable. Intrust him with an affair of the utmost importance, on the concealment of which your fortune and happiness depend: he hears you with a kind of half attention, whistles a favourite air, and accompanies it with the drumming of his fingers upon the table. As soon as your narration is ended, or perhaps in the middle of it, he asks your opinion of his sword-knot, damns his tailor for having dressed him in a snuff-coloured coat, instead of a pompadour, and leaves you in haste to attend an auction; where, as if he meant to dispose of his intelligence to the best bidder, he divulges it, with a voice as loud as the auctioneer's; and when tax him with having played you false, he is heartily sorry for it, but never knew that it was to be a secret.

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To these I might add the character of the open and unreserved, who thinks it a breach of friendship to conceal any thing from his intimates; and the impertinent, who having by dint of observation made himself master of your secret, imagines he may lawfully publish the knowledge it has cost him so much labour to obtain, and considers that privilege as the reward due to his industry. But I shall leave these, with many other characters, which my reader's own experience may suggest to him, and conclude with prescribing, as a short remedy for this evil,-That no man may betray the counsel of his friend, let every man keep his own.

XXXII.

N° 120. THURSDAY, MAY 13, 1756.

Judicium subtile videndis artibus.

HOR.

A subtle fancy, and a judgment chaste,
Form the nice mixture of a genuine taste.

TASTE is at present the darling idol of the polite world, and the world of letters; and, indeed, seems to be considered as the quintessence of almost all the arts and sciences. The fine ladies and gentlemen dress with taste; the architects, whether Gothic or Chinese, build with taste; the painters paint with taste; the poets write with taste; critics read with taste; and, in short, fiddlers, players, singers, dancers, and mechanics themselves, are all the sons and daughters of Taste. Yet in this amazing superabundancy of taste, few can say what it really is, or what the word itself signifies. Should I attempt to define it in the style of a Connoisseur, I must run over the names of all the famous poets, painters, and sculptors, ancient and modern; and after having pompously harangued on the excellences of Apelles, Phidias, Praxiteles, Angelo, Rubens, Poussin, and Dominichino, with a word or two on all tasteful compositions, such as those of Homer, Virgil, Tasso, Dante, and Ariosto, I should leave the reader in wonder of my profound erudition, and as little informed as before. But as deep learning, though more flaming and pompous, is perhaps not always so useful as common sense, I shall endeavour to get at the true meaning of the word taste, by considering what it usually imports in familiar writings and ordinary conversation.

It is supposed by Locke, and other close reason

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ers, that words are intended as signs of our ideas; but daily experience will convince us, that words are often used to express no idea at all. Thus many persons, who talk perpetually of taste, throw it out as a mere expletive, without any meaning annexed to it. Bardolph, when demanded the meaning of the word accommodated, wisely explains it by saying, that accomodated, Sir, is- -a-a-a-accommodated, Sir, is as if one should say-a-accommodated:' and if, in like manner, you ask one of these people, What is taste? they will tell you that 'taste is a kind of a sort of a-a-a--; in short, taste is taste.' These talkers must be considered as absolute blanks in conversation, since it is impossible to learn the explanation of a term from them, as they affix no determinate meaning to any expression.

Among men of sense, whose words carry meaning in their sound, taste is commonly used in one of these two significations. First, when they give any person the appellation of a man of taste, they would intimate that he has a turn for the polite arts, as well as the lesser elegancies of life; and that from his natural bent to those studies, and his acquired knowledge in them, he is capable of distinguishing what is good or bad in any thing of that kind submitted to his judgment. The meaning at other times implied by a man of taste is, that he is not only so far an adept in those matters as to be able to judge of them accurately, but is also possessed of the faculty of executing them gracefully. These two significations will, perhaps, be more easily conceived, and clearly illustrated, when applied to our sensual taste. The man of taste, according to the first, may be considered as a bon vivant, who is fond of the dishes before him, and distinguishes nicely what is savoury and delicious, or flat and insipid, in the ingredients of each; according to the second, he may be re

garded as the cook who from knowing what things will mix well together, and distinguishing by a nice taste when he has arrived at that happy mixture, is able to compose such exquisite dishes.

Both these significations of the word will be found agreeable to the following definition of it, which I have somewhere seen, and is the only just description of the term, that I ever remember to have met with: Taste consists in a nice harmony between the fancy and the judgment.' The most chastised judgment, without genius, can never constitute a man of taste; and the most luxuriant imagination, unregulated by judgment, will only carry us into wild and extravagant deviations from it. To mix oil, vinegar, butter, milk, eggs, &c. incoherently together, would make an olio not to be relished by any palate and the man who has no goût for delicacies himself, will never compose a good dish, though he should ever so strictly adhere to the rules of La Chapelle, Hannah Glasse, and Martha Bradley. I confine myself at present chiefly to that signification of the word, which implies the capacity of exerting our own faculties in the several branches of taste, because that always includes the other.

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Having thus settled what taste is, it may not be unentertaining to examine modern taste by these rules: and, perhaps, it will appear, that, on the one hand, its most pleasing flights and ravishing elegancies are extravagant and absurd; and that, on the other hand, those who affect a correct taste in all their undertakings, proceed mechanically, without genius. The first species of taste, which gives a loose to the imagination, indulges itself in caprice, and is perpetually striking new strokes, is the chief regulator of the fashion. In dress, it has put hunting-poles into the hands of our gentlemen, and erected coaches and windmills on the heads of our

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