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No. 219. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1710.
HOR. SAT. I. 4. 82.
NEVER were men so perplexed as a select company of us were this evening with a couple of professed wits, who, through our ill fortune, and their own confidence, had thought fit to pin themselves upon a gentleman who had owned to them, that he was going to meet such and such persons, and named us one by one. These pert puppies immediately resolved to come with him ; and, from the beginning to the end of the night, entertained each other with impertinences to which we were perfect strangers. I am come home very much tired; for the affliction was so irksome to me, that it surpasses all other I ever knew, insomuch that I cannot reflect upon this sorrow with pleasure, though it is past.
An easy manner of conversation is the most desirable quality a man can have; and for that reason coxeombs will take upon them to be familiar with people whom they never saw before. What adds to the vexation of it is, that they will act upon the foot
of knowing you by fame; and rally with you, as they call it, by repeating what your enemies say of you; and court you, as they think, by uttering to your face, at a wrong time, all the kind things your friends speak of you in your absence.
These people are the more dreadful, the more they have of what is usually called wit: for a lively imagination, when it is not governed by a good understanding, makes such miserable havock both in conversation and business, that it lays you defenceless, and fearful to throw the least word in its way that may give it new matter for its further errors.
Tom Mercet has as quick a fancy as any one living; but there is no reasonable man can bear him half an hour. His purpose is to entertain, and it is of no consequence to him what is said, so it be what is called well said: as if a man must bear a wound with patience, because he that pushed at you came up with a good air and mien. That part of life which we spend in company is the most pleasing of all our moments; and therefore I think our behaviour in it should have its laws as well as the part of our being which is generally esteemed the more important. From hence it is, that from long experience I have made it a maxim, That however we may pretend to take satisfaction in sprightly mirth and high jollity, there is no great pleasure in any company where the basis of the society is not mutual good will. When this is in the room, every trifling circumstance, the most minute accident, the absurdity of a servant, the repetition of an old story, the look of a man when he is telling it, the most indifferent and the most ordinary occurrences, are matters which produce mirth and good-humour. I went to spend an hour after this manner with some friends, who enjoy it in perfection whenever they meet, when those destroyers above-mentioned came in
M fo de
TATLER. upon us.
There is not a man among them has any notion of distinction of superiority to one an. other, either in their fortunes or their talents, when they are in company,
Or if any reflection to the contrary occurs in their thoughts, it only strikes a delight upon their minds, that so much wisdom and power is in possession of one whom they love and esteem.
In these my Lucubrations, I have frequently dwelt upon
this one topic. The above maxim would make short work for us reformers; for it is only want of making this a position that renders some characters bad, which would otherwise be good. Tom Mercet means no man ill, but does ill to every body; His ambition is to be witty; and, to carry on that design, he breaks through all things that other people hold sacred. If he thought wit was no way to be used but to the advantage of society, that sprightliness would have a new turn, and we should expect what he is going to say with satisfaction instead of fear. It is no excuse for being mischievous, that a man is mischievous without malice: it be thought an atonement, that the ill was done not to injure the party concerned, but to divert the indifferent.
It is, methinks, a very great error, that we should not profess honesty in conversation, as much as in commerce.
If we consider, that there is no greater misfortune than to be ill received, where we love the turning a man to ridicule among his friends, we rob
It has been said
him of greater enjoyments than he could have pur-
of ridicule has done as much injury to the true relish of company in England.
Such satisfactions as arise from the secret comparison of ourselves to others, with relation to their inferior fortunes or merit, are mean and unworthy. The true and high state of conversation is, when men communicate their thoughts to each other upon such subjects, and in such a manner, as would be pleasant if there were no such thing as folly in the world; for it is but a low condition of wit in one man which depends upon folly in another.
P.S. I was here interrupted by the receipt of my letters, among which is one from a lady who is not a little offended at my translation of the discourse between Adam and Eve. She pretends to tell me my own, as she calls it, and
passages in my works, which tend to the utter disunion of man and wife. Her epistle will best express her. I have made an extract of it, and shall insert the most ma
" I suppose you know we women are not too apt to forgive: for which reason, before you concern yourself any further with our sex, I would advise you to answer what is said against you by those of your own. I inclose to you business enough, till you are ready for your promise of being witty. You must not expect to say what you please, without admitting others to take the same liberty. Marry come up! you a Censor? Pray read over all these pamphlets, and these notes upon your Lucubrations; by that time you shall hear further. It is, I suppose, from such as you that people learn to be censorious, for which I and all our sex have an utter aversion ; when once people come to take the liberty to wound reputations”
This is the main body of the letter ; but she bids me turn over, and there I findVOL. IV.
“ MR. BICKERSTAFF, “ If you will draw Mrs. Cicely Trippit according to the inclosed description, I will forgive you all."
TO ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, ESQUIRE,
your Petitioner is a general lover, who for some months last past has made it his whole business to frequent the bye-paths and roads near his dwelling, for no other
purpose but to hand such of the fair sex as are obliged to pass through them,
“ That he has been at great expense gloves to offer his hand with.
“ That towards the evening he approaches near
London, and employs himself as a convoy towards home.
“ Your Petitioner therefore most humbly prays,
that for such his humble services he
allowed the title of an Esquire.”
writ to upon gilt paper, by the title of Joshua Fair-