« PreviousContinue »
a new gown with powder.' To which it was answered, that he was no lawyer, but a clergyman.' Upon a wager of a pot of coffee, we overtook him, and your petitioner was soon convinced she had lost.
"Your petitioner, therefore, desires your worship to cite the clergyman before you, and to settle and adjust the length of canonical periwigs, and the quantity of powder to be made use of in them, and to give such other directions as you shall think fit.
"And your petitioner," &c.
Query, Whether this gentleman be not chaplain to a regiment, and, in such case, allow powder accordingly?
After all that can be thought on these subjects, I must confess that the men who dress with a certain ambition to appear more than they are, are much more excusable than those who betray, in the adorning their persons, a secret vanity and inclination to shine in things, wherein, if they did succeed, it would rather lessen than advance their character. For this reason, I am more provoked at the allegations relating to the clergyman than any other hinted at in these complaints. I have indeed a long time, with much concern, observed abundance of pretty fellows in sacred orders, and shall in due time let them know that I pretend to give ecclesiastical as well as civil censures. A man well-bred and well-dressed in that habit, adds to the sacredness of his function an agreeableness not to be met with among the laity. I own I have spent some evenings among the men of wit of that profession with an inexpressible delight. Their habitual care of their character gives such a chastisement to their fancy, that all which they utter
in company is as much above what you meet with in other conversations, as the charms of a modest, are superior to those of a light, woman. I therefore earnestly desire our young missionaries from the universities to consider where they are, and not dress, and look, and move, like young officers. It is no disadvantage to have a very handsome white hand: but, were I to preach repentance to a gallery of ladies, I would, methinks, keep my gloves on. I have an unfeigned affection to the class of mankind appointed to serve at the altar, therefore am in danger of running out of my way, and growing too serious on this occasion; for which reason I shall end with the following epistle, which, by my interest in Tom Trot, the penny-post, I procured a copy of.
'TO THE REV. MR. RALPH INCENSE, CHAPLAIN TO THE COUNTESS DOWAGER OF BRUMPTON.
'I heard and saw you preach last Sunday. I am an ignorant young woman, and understood not half you said: but ah! your manner, when you held up both hands toward our pew! Did your to win me to Heaven or yourself?
• Your humble servant,
Mr. Procterstaff, of Clare-hall, in Cambridge, is received as a kinsman, according to his request, bearing date the 20th instant.
The distressed son of Esculapius is desired to be more particular.
No. 271. TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 1710-11.
THE printer having informed me, that there are as many of these Papers printed as will make four volumes, I am now come to the end of my ambition in this matter, and have nothing further to say to the world under the character of Isaac Bickerstaff. This work has, indeed, for some time, been disagreeable to me, and the purpose of it wholly lost, by my being so long understood as the author. I never designed in it to give any man any secret wound by my concealment, but spoke in the character of an old man, a philosopher, a humourist, an astrologer, and a censor, to allure my reader with the variety of my subjects, and insinuate, if I could, the weight of reason with the agreeableness of wit. The general purpose of the whole has been to recommend truth, innocence, honour, and virtue, as the chief ornaments of life; but I considered, that severity of manners was absolutely necessary to him who would censure others, and for that reason, and that only, chose to talk in a mask. I shall not carry my humility so far as to call myself a vicious man, but at the same time must confess, my life is at best but pardonable. And, with no greater character than this, a man would make but an indifferent progress in attacking prevailing and fashionable vices, which Mr. Bickerstaff has done with a freedom of spirit,
that would have lost both its beauty and efficacy, had it been pretended to by Mr. Steele.
As to the work itself, the acceptance it has met with is the best proof of its value; but I should err against that candour, which an honest man should always carry about him, if I did not own, that the most approved pieces in it were written by others, and those which have been most excepted against, by myself. The hand that has assisted me in those noble discourses upon the immortality of the soul, the glorious prospects of another life, and the most sublime ideas of religion and virtue, is a person who is too fondly my friend ever to own them; but I should little deserve to be his, if I usurped the glory of them*. I must
acknowledge at the same time, that I think the finest strokes of wit and humour in all Mr. Bickerstaff's Lucubrations, are those for which he also is beholden to him.
As for the satirical parts of these writings, those against the gentlemen who profess gaming are the most licentious; but the main of them I take to come from losing gamesters, as invectives against the fortunate for in very many of them I was very little else but the transcriber. If any have been more particularly marked at, such persons may impute it to their own behaviour, before they were touched upon, in publicly speaking their resentment against the author, and professing they would support any man who should insult him. When I mention this subject, I hope major-general Davenport, brigadier Bisset, and my lord Forbes, will accept of my thanks for their frequent good offices, in professing their readiness to
* Addison was the assistant here alluded to. VOL. IV.
No. 271. partake any danger that should befall me in so just an undertaking, as the endeavour to banish fraud and cozenage from the presence and conversation of
But what I find is the least excusable part of all this work is, that I have, in some places in it, touched upon matters which concern both Church and State. All I shall say for this is, that the points I alluded to, are such as concerned every Christian and freeholder in England; and I could not be cold enough to conceal my opinion on subjects which related to either of those characters. But politics apart.
I must confess it has been a most exquisite pleasure to me to frame characters of domestic life, and put those parts of it which are least observed into an agreeable view; to inquire into the seeds of vanity and affectation, to lay before my readers the emptiness of ambition: in a word, to trace human life through all its mazes and recesses, and show much shorter methods than men ordinarily practise, to be happy, agreeable, and great.
But to inquire into men's faults and weaknesses has something in it so unwelcome, that I have often seen people in pain to act before me, whose modesty only makes them think themselves liable to censure. This, and a thousand other nameless things, have made it an irksome task to me to personate Mr. Bickerstaff any longer; and I believe it does not often happen that the reader is delighted where the author is displeased.
All I can now do for the further gratification of the town is, to give them a faithful index and explication of passages and allusions, and sometimes of persons intended in the several scattered parts of the work. At the same time, I shall discover which