Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

by this time found the inconvenience of an utter ignorance in rural distinctions. The future part of my journey afforded me yet farther means of conviction. I was exposed to the danger of three quicksands, by calling a girl “ sweetheart," instead of "madam;" and was within a foot of rushing down a precipice, by calling another “ forsooth,” who might easily have told me how to avoid it. In short, I found myself well or ill used, as I happened, or not, to suit my salutations to people's ideas of their own rank. Towards the last part of my stage, I was to pass a brook, so much swelled by land floods, that the proper way through it was undistinguishable. A well-dressed gentleman was passing a bridge on my left hand. It was here of muchi importance for me to succeed in my enquiry. I was, therefore, meditating within myself which might be the most endearing of all appellations; and, at last, besought him to give me some instructions, under the name of " Honest Friend." He was not seemingly so much pleased as I assured inyself he would be, and trudged onward without reply. After this, I had not gone many steps (out of the path, for so it proved) before I found myself and horse plunged headlong into the brook; and my late honest friend in a laughter at our downfal. I made a shift, however, to recover both myself and horse; and, after a few more difficulties, arrived at the end of my journey. I have since made strict enquiry into the due application of such inferior titles, and may, perhaps, communicate them to you, on some future occasion. In the mean time, you may, if you please, consider the vast importance of superior titles, when there is no one so inconsiderable but there is also a mind that it can influence. When you reflect on this subject, you will, perhaps, be less severe on your friend who, you tell me, is now trafficing for this species of dignity.

Learn to be wise, then from others' harm; and do not forget to observe decorum, on every occasion that you may have to address hiin for the future. Pretend no more at the close of your epistle to be his faithful servant, much less his affectionate one. Tender your services with great respect, if you do not choose to do it with profound veneration. He will certainly have no more to do with sincerity and truth. Remember,

« Male si palpere, recalcitrat.”

I. OF MODESTY AND IMPUDENCE.

When a man of genius does not print, he discovers himself by nothing more than by his abilities in dispute. However, let him shew solidity in his opinions, together with ease, elegance, and vivacity in his expressions; yet if an impudent face be found to baffle him, he shall be judged inferior in other respects. I mean, he will grow cheap in inixed company: for as to select judges, they will forin their opinions by another scale: with these, a single epistle, penned with propriety, will more effectually prove his wit, than an hundred defects in his conversation will demonstrate the reverse. It is true, there is nothing displays a genius, I mean a quickness of genius, more than a dispute; as two dia. monds, encountering, contribute to each other's lustre. But perhaps the odds is much against the man of taste in this particular. . Bashfulness is

more frequently connected with good sense, than we find assurance: and impudence, on the other hand, is often the mere effect of downright stupidity. On this account the man of genius has as much the advantage of his antagonist, as a race-horse, carrying a small weight, bas over his rival that bears a larger : modesty, like the weight to which I allude not suffering it's owner to exert his real strength; which effrontery is allowed to do, without let or impediment.

It may be urged, and justly enough, that it is common to be partial to the modest man; and that diffidence makes good amends for any restraint it lays us under, by the prejudice it gives every hearer in our lavour. But indeed this can only happen where it meets with the most ingenuous judges. Otherwise a laugh will carry the day, with which the ignorant side is generally best accommodated. In order to put these antagonists on a somewhat more equal footing, I have invented the following instrument; for the sole structure and sale of which, I am not without hopes of procuring a patent. What I mean is an artificial laugher. There are few so little conversant in toys, but must have seen instruments mechanically framed to counterfeit the voices of different birds. The quail-pipe is brought to such perfection as even to delnde the very species. The cuckow has been mimicked with no less accuracy. Would it not then be an easy matter to represent the laugh of this empty tribe, which has in itself something artificial; and is not more affected than it is particular? For the convenience of the person that bears it, it's dimensions should be so contrived, as that it might be played on in his pocket. Does it not seem feasible, that a laughter of this kind may be

brought to answer every purpose of that noise which it resembles? If there be occasion for an expletive, let the owner seek it in his fob; as his antagonist would find his account in a loud oath or an empty pun. If there be need of a good sounding cadence at the close of a common period, it may not be amiss to harmonize a sentence by what may be called a finishing stroke. This instrument is so contrived as to produce all the variety of a human laugh; and this variation is to be regulated, not by the nature of your subject, nor the wit or humour of a repartee, but by the disposition of the company, and the proper minute for such an interlude. But to become a master of the said machine, let the candidate for applause frequent the company of vociferous disput: ants: among whom he may soon learn how to perform a conversation. One or two of these instruments I have already finished, tho' not, indeed, to the perfection at which I expect they may soon arrive. A gentleman visited me the other day, who has the justest claim that can be, to the use of them; having nothing in his character that can obscure the greatest merit, but the greatest modesty. I communicated my invention, desiring him to make trial of it, on the first occasion. He did so; and when I saw him next, gave me leave to publish the following account of it's efficacy in my next advertisement. . The first time I employed it,' said my friend, was in a sort of controversy with a beau ! who had contrived means, by the use of his snuff-box, to supply both want of language and of thought. In this manner he prolonged his argument; and really to the company, which consisted of ladies, discovered more sagacity without thinking, than I could do by it's assistance. I bethought myself immediately of your instrument and had recourse to it. I observed in what part of his discourse he most employed his fingers, and had suddenly recourse to mine, with equal emphasis and significancy. The art was not discovered, ere I had routed my antagonist; having seated myself in a dark corner, where my operations were not discernible. I observed, that as he found himself more closely pressed, he grew more and more assiduous in his application to his snuff-box, much as an otter closely pursued is forced to throw up bubbles that shew bis distress. I therefore discovered gradually less and less occasion for speaking; and for thinking, none at all. I played only a flourish in answer to the argument at his fingers' ends; and after a while found him as mortal in this part as in any other. When his cause was just expiring, after a very long pursuit, and many fruitless turnings and evasions in the course of it, I sounded my instrument, with as much alacrity as a huntsman does his horn on the death of a hare.

The next whom I engaged was a more formidable disputant; and I own, with a sense of gratitude, that your instrument alone could render me a match for him. His strength of argument was his strength of lungs; and he was, unquestionably, an able antagonist. However, if your machine put me on a par with him, I think I may say, without vanity, that in point of reason I had the upper hand. shall only add, that as it was habitual for him to answer arguments by vociferation, so it became needless for me to give him any answer of a better kind.“ "Thus far my friend: I do not question but there will appear artists, that shall undertake to instruct the diffident, the submissive, and the bashful how to

« ZurückWeiter »