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THE BUSY-BODY.—NO. I.
I Design this to acquaint you, that I, who have long been one of your courteous readers, have lately entertained some thought of setting up for an author myself; not out of the least vanity, I assure you, or desire of showing my parts, but purely for the good of my country.
I have often observed with concern, that your Mercury is not always equally entertaining. The delay of ships expected in, and want of fresh advices from Europe, make it frequently very dull; and I find the freezing of our river has the same effect on news as trade. With more concern have I continually observed the growing vices and follies of my country-folk; and though reformation is properly the concern of every man, that is, every one ought to mend one; yet it is too true in this case, that what is every body's business is no body's business; and the business is done accordingly. I therefore, upon mature deliberation, think fit to take no body's business wholly into my own hands; and, out of zeal for the public good, design to erect myself into a kind of censor morum; purposing, with your allowance, to make use of the Weekly Mercury as a vehicle in which my remonstrances shall be conveyed to the world.
I am sensible I have in this particular undertaken a very unthankful office, and expect little besides my labor for my pains. Nay, it is probable, I may displease a great number of your readers, who will not very well like to pay ten shillings a year for being told of their faults. But as most people delight in censure when they themselves are not the objects of it, if any are offended at my publicly exposing their private vices, I promise they shall have the satisfaction, in a very little time, of seeing their good friends and neighbors in the same circumstances.
However, let the fair sex be assured, that I shall always treat them and their affairs with the utmost decency and respect. I intend now and then to dedicate a chapter wholly to their service; and if my lectures any way contribute to the embellishment of their minds, and brightening of their understandings, without offending their modesty, I doubt not of having their favor and encouragement.
It is certain, that no country in the world produces naturally finer spirits than ours; men of genius for every kind of science, and capable of acquiring to perfection every qualification that is in esteem among mankind. But as few here have the advantage of good books, for want of which good conversation is still more scarce, it would doubtless have been very acceptable to your readers, if, instead of an old out-of-date article from Muscovy or Hungary, you had entertained them with some well-chosen extract from a good author. This I shall sometimes do, when I happen to have nothing of my own to say that I think of more consequence. Sometimes I purpose to deliver lectures of morality or philosophy, and (because I am naturally inclined to be meddling with things that do not concern me) perhaps I may sometimes talk politics. And if I can by any means furnish out a weekly entertainment for the public that will give a rational diversion, and at the same time be instructive to the readers, I shall think my leisure hours well employed; and if you publish this, I hereby invite all ingenious gentlemen and others (that approve of such an undertaking) to my assistance and correspondence.
It is like by this time, you have a curiosity to be acquainted with my name and character. As I do not aim at public praise, I design to remain concealed; and there are such numbers of our family and relations at this time in the country, that though I have signed my name at full length, I am not under the least apprehension of being distinguished and discovered by it. My characterj
indeed, I would favor you with, but that I am cautious of praising myself, lest I should be told my trumpeters dead; and I cannot find in my heart at present, to say any thing to my own disadvantage.
It is very common with authors, in their first performances, to talk to their readers thus: If this meets with a suitable reception, or, if this should meet with due encouragement, I shall hereafter publish, &c. This only manifests the value they put on their own writings, since they think to frighten the public into their applause, by threatening, that unless you approve what they have already wrote, they intend never to write again; when perhaps it may not be a pin matter, whether they ever do or no. As I have not observed the critics to be more favorable on this account, I shall always avoid saying any thing of the kind; and conclude with telling you, that if you send me a bottle of ink and a quire of paper by the bearer, you may depend on hearing further from, Sir, your most humble servant,
THE BUSY-BODY.—NO. II.
From Tuesday, Feb. 4, to Tuesday, Feb. J1, 1728-9
All fools have still an itc hing to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side.—Pope.
Monsieur de la Rochefoucault tells us somewhere in his Memoirs, that the Prince of Conde delighted much in ridicule, and used frequently to shut himself up for half a day together in his chamber, with a gentleman that was his favorite, purposely to divert himself with examining what was the foible or ridiculous side of every noted person in the court. That gentleman said afterwards in some company, that he thought nothing was more ridiculous in any body, than this same humor in the prince; and I am somewhat inclined to be of this opinion. The general tendency there is among us to this embellishment (which I fear has too often grossly imposed upon my loving countrymen instead of wit), and the applause it meets with from a rising generation, fill me with fearful apprehensions for the future reputation of my country; a young man of modesty (which is the most certain indication of large capacities) is hereby discouraged from attempting to make any figure in life; his apprehensions of being outlaughed, will force him to continue in a restless obscurity, without having an opportunity of knowing his own merit himself or discovering it to the world, rather than venture to oppose himself in a