« PreviousContinue »
To the fame.
OUR admired poet, I remember, fomewhere lays it down as a maxim,
The proper ftudy of mankind is man.
There cannot, indeed, be a more useful, nór, one should imagine, a more easy science: fo leffons of this kind are eve many ry moment forcing themselves upon our ob→ servation, that it should seem scarce poffible not to be well acquainted with the various turns and difpofitions of the human heart. And yet there are fo few who are really adepts in this article, that to say of a man, he knows the world, is generally esteemed a compliment of the most significant kind.
The reafon, perhaps, of the general ignorance which prevails in this fort of knowledge, may arife from our judging too much by univerfal principles. Whereas
there is a wonderful disparity in mankind, and numberless characters exist which cannot properly be reduced to any regular and fixed ftandard. Monfieur Pafchal obferves, that the greater fagacity any man poffeffes, the more originals he will discern among his fpecies; as it is the remark of Sir William Temple, that no nation under the fun abounds with so many as our own. Plutarch, if I remember right, is of opinion, that there is a wider difference between the individuals of our own kind, than what is obfervable between creatures of a feparate order; while Montaigne (who feems to have known human nature perfectly well) fuppofes the distance to be still more remote, and afferts that the diftinction is much greater between man and man, than between man and beast.
THE Comic writers have not, I think, taken all the advantage they might of this: infinite diverfity of humor in the human race. A judicious obferver of the world might fingle out abundant materials for ridicule, without having recourse to those worn-out characters which are for ever returning upon the ftage. If I were ac
quainted with any genius in this class of writers, I think I could furnish him with an original, which, if artfully represented and connected with proper incidents, might be very fuccefsfully introduced into comedy. The perfon I have in view is my neighbor Stilotes.
STILOTES in his youth was esteemed to have good sense and a tolerable taste for letters; as he gained fome reputation at the University in the exercises ufual' at that place. But as foon as he was freed from the restraint of tutors, the natural restleffness of his temper broke out, and he has never, from that time to this, applied himself for half an hour together to any single purfuit. He is extremely active in his difpofition; but his whole life is one inceffant whirl of trifles. He rifes, perhaps, with a full intent of amusing himself all thę morning with his gun; but before he has got half the length of a field, he recollects that he owes a vifit, which he muft inftantly pay accordingly his horfe is faddled, and he fets out. But in his way members that he has not given proper orders about such a flower, and he must abfolutely
folutely return, or the whole economy of his nuffery will be ruined. Thus, in whatever action you find him engaged, you may be fure it is the very reverse of what he propofed. Yet with all this quickness of transition and vivacity of fpirits, he is fo indolent in every thing that has the air of bufinefs, that he is at least two or three months before he can perfuade himself to open any letter he receives: and from the fame difpofition, he has fuffered the dividends of his ftocks to run on for many years without receiving a fhilling of the intereft. Stilotes is poffeffed of an estate in Dorsetshire, but that being the place where his chief bufinefs lies, he choofes conftantly to refide with a friend near London. This perfon fubmits to his humor and his company, in hopes that Stylotes will confider him in his will: but it is more than poffible, that he will never endure the fatigue of figning one. However, having here every thing provided for him but clothes and pocketmoney, he lives perfectly to his fatisfaction, in full employment without any real bufinefs; and while thofe who look after his eftate take care to fupply him with fuffi
cient to answer thofe two articles, he is entirely unconcerned as to all the reft: tho, when he is disposed to appear more than ordinarily important, he will gravely harangue upon the roguery of ftewards, and complain that his rents will fcarce maintain him in powder and fhot half the partridge feafon. In fhort, Stilotes is one of the moft extraordinary compounds of indolence and activity that I ever met with; and as I know you have a tafte for curiofities, I present you with his character as a rarity that merits a place in your collection. Adieu.
TO PHIDIPPU S.
Ar's well, my friend, that the age of transformation is no more; otherwife I fhould tremble for your severe attack upon the Muses, and expect to fee the story of your metamorphofis embellish the poetical miracles of fome modern Ovid. But it is long fince the fate of the Piërides has gained any credit in the world, and N 3