Page images

abated that upstart pride, which most young men are apt to take in their own abilities; than which nothing can be more irksome to all their acquaintance, or a greater impediment to their own real improvement. A pert scholar, whenever he enters a room of company, immediately assumes a superiority in discourse, and thinks himself obliged to correct all improprieties in thought or expression. You must

speak by the card," as Hamlet says, or expect the censure of this superficial coxcomb. If, according to the common form of speech, you say, that there is either heat in fire, or coldness in ice, he will inform you, that you deliver yourself very inaccurately, as Mr. Locke has fully demonstrated; he will tell you, you cannot prove, that two and two make four, or that you are alive yourself. These, and a thousand other observations equally impertinent, he is continually making, to the no small uneasiness and perplexity of the ladies and honest country gentlemen.

• What is still a greater misfortune, is, that a man of this cast is never likely to know any better: for, having raked together a few metaphysical distinctions and scholastic refinements, he thinks he has laid up a sufficient fund of knowledge for his whole life: he despises all common sense (which is the best sense) through an ambition of appearing particular and as for the advice or opinion of others, those he thinks himself indispensably bound to disregard; inasmuch as such submission implies some inferiority, which he would by no means be thought to labour under. Such a disposition as this I take to be the sure and infallible token of confirmed ignorance: a melancholy instance of the depravity of human nature, that the less we know, the more we presume; and the fewer advances we have made towards true knowledge, the less occasion we think we have of any farther improvement.

In the second place, if I may be allowed to judge of what I cannot possibly have experienced, I take it to be the greatest benefit to a young person to meet with early disappointments in life: for sooner or later every one must have his share of them; and the sooner we meet with some of them the better. By this means the mind is easily made familiar with crosses and vexations, and is not thrown off its balance by every thwarting and wayward accident: by this means we submit to ills and troubles, as the necessary attendants on mankind: as on a rainy day we make ourselves quiet and contented, but hope for sunshine on the morrow. And, indeed, there seems to be a strong analogy between the inclemency of the weather attacking our bodies, and the storms of afflictions which batter our minds. The rain will beat and the wind will roar, let us use our utmost endeavours to the contrary; but by inuring our persons to the vicissitudes of the seasons, and using other proper methods, we shall feel no very sensible inconvenience from them. In like manner, all our skill and art cannot prevent or elude the rubs and disasters, to which we are liable; but if by degrees, and early in life, we are hardened and accustomed to them, and if by the help of reason and sound philosophy we arm and fortify ourselves against them, they may still perhaps reach us, but their shocks will be quite weak and languid: and we may say of the darts of Fortune, as Virgil says of Priam, when he hurled a javelin at Pyrrhus,

Telum imbelle sine ictu


Short of its aim, and impotent to wound,

The feeble shaft falls hurtless to the ground.

Thus you see, Mr. Town, that out of a seeming evil I have discovered a real good: and I am certain, if this method of reasoning could be made universal,

we should find much fewer murmurers against the present distribution and order of things. I am, Sir, yours, &c.


B. A.'

'I am so great an admirer of the fair sex, that I never let a tittle of their vendible writings escape me. I bought this year the Lady's Diary, merely because it was advertised as the Woman's Almanack, which I construed the Almanack composed by a woman: but I find I have been mistaken in my supposition. It is not the work of a female. The Christian name of the author, I have reason to believe, is Marmaduke; unless I misunderstand a most curious copy of verses, describing a most superb entertainment, of fish, flesh, pies and tarts, exhibited upon New Year's day, 1755. His surname remains as great an enigma as any in his book. His coadjutors, contributors, or assistants, are Messieurs Walter Trott, Timothy Nabb, Patrick Ocavannah, John Honey, Henry Season, and others. I honour these gentlemen and their works: but I own my chief delight is in reading over the riddles and unriddles, the questions and the answers of Miss Sally West, Cælia, Miss Nancy Evelyn, Miss E. S., Miss Atkinson, Enira, and other choice little feminine spirits of the age. Riddles are so becoming, and appear so pretty, when dandled about by ladies, that they may be compared to soft, smooth, painted, waxen babies, dressed up in a proper manner for misses to play with, from eighteen to fourscore. But above all, I must take this opportunity of congratulating dear Miss Fanny Harris, who, I find, "has given an elegant solution to a prize problem by a fluxionary calculus founded on the properties of tangents," and by that means has run away with no less than twelve diaries for this important year 1756. As this young lady is justly called

"the honour of her sex," and deals entirely in the properties of tangents, I fear she will never descend so low as riddleme riddlemeree; and therefore I must humbly offer, by the vehicle of your paper, Mr. Town, a small riddle, invented with much pains and thought by myself, to the solution of those three ingenious spinsters, Miss Polly Walker, Miss Grace Tetlow, and Miss Ann Rickaby, to appear in the Lady's Diary of 1757, and to receive upon appearance, as a premium, one complete set of the Connoisseur in pocket volumes, to be the property of one or more of these three ladies, who shall explain my Enigma. Fire and water mix'd together,

Add to this some salt and tin;
Tell me, ladies, tell me whether

In this mixture there is sin?

The solution itself, if not truly explained by the Three Graces, to whom I now address it, shall apyear by your permission, in the first Connoisseur after next New Year's day.

I am, Sir, your humble servant,

N° 108. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1756.

Ter centum tonat ore Deos, Erebumque, Chaosque, Tergeminamque Hecaten, tria Virginis ora Dianæ-VIRGIL. Dire execrations split your ears asunder,

Death! and Damnation! Furies! Blood! and Thunder!

As there are some vices which the vulgar have presumed to copy from the great, so there are others which the great have condescended to borrow from the vulgar. Among these I cannot but set down the

shocking practice of cursing and swearing; a practice, which (to say nothing at present of its impiety and profaneness) is low and indelicate, and places

a man of quality on the same level with the chairman at his door. A gentleman would forfeit all pretensions to that title, who should choose to embellish his discourse with the oratory of Billingsgate, and converse in the style of an oyster-woman: but it is accounted no disgrace to him, to use the same coarse expressions of cursing and swearing with the meanest of the mob. For my own part, I cannot see the difference between a By Gad or a Gad demme, minced and softened by a genteel pronunciation from well-bred lips, and the same expression bluntly bolted out from the broad mouth of a porter or hackney-coachman.

I shall purposely wave making any reflections on the impiety of this practice, as I am satisfied they would have but little weight with the beau-monde or the canaille. The swearer of either station devotes himself piecemeal, as it were, to destruction; pours out anathemas against his eyes, his heart, his soul, and every part of his body; nor does he scruple to extend the same good wishes to the limbs and joints of his friends and acquaintance. This they both do with the same fearless unconcern; but with this only difference, that the gentleman-swearer damns himself and others with the greatest civility and goodbreeding imaginable.

My predecessor, the Tatler, gives us an account of a certain humorist, who got together a party of noted swearers to dinner with him, and ordered their discourse to be taken down in short-hand; which being afterward repeated to them, they were extremely startled and surprised at their own common talk. A dialogue of this nature would be no improper supplement to Swift's Polite Conversation;

« PreviousContinue »