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Advantages of a Talent for d'.scerning Times and Seaftns.
and marks, that true good-manners have set up for all men to (leer by? Jokes out of season, unpleasant truths touched upon inciiuiouily,/>/;.«A >;ttrstions (as they arc culled) put without any preface or refinement, manual caresses compounded of hugs and flaps and squeezes, more resembling the gambols of a bear than the actions of a gentleman, are sure to follow upon the overflowing ebullitions of a vulgar familiarity broke loose from all restraints. It is a painful necessity men of sensibility are under, when they find themselves compelled to dt aw back from the eager advances of an honest heart, only because the shock of in good-humour is too violent to be endured ) it is very wounding to a social nature to check festivity in any degree, but there is nothing (inks the spirits so effectually as boisterous mirth, nobody so apt to overact his character as a jolly fellow, and stunned with the vociferation of his own tongue, to forget that every other man is silent and suffering i In short, it is a. very difficult thing to be properly happy and veil pleased with the company we are in, and none but men of good education, great discernment and nice feelings know how to be familiar, These rural gentry are great dealers in long stories of their own uninteresting atchieveinents, they require of you to Httend to the narrative of their paltry squabbles and bickerings with their neighbours; they are extremely eloquent upon the laws against poachers, upon turnpike roads and new inclosures; and all these topics they will thrust in by the neck and shoulders, to the exclusion of all others.
Plain-speaking, if we consider it simply as a mark of truth and honesty, is doubtless a very meritorious quality, but experience teaches that it is too frequently under bad management, and obtruded on society out of time and season in such a manner as to be highly inconvenient and offensive. People are not always in a fit humour to be
told of their faults, and these nlainspeaking friends sometitrus perform their office so clumsily, that we are inclined to suspect they are more interested to bring us to present shame than future reformation; It is a common observation with them, when things turn cut amiss, to put us in mind how they dissuaded us from such and such an undertaking, that they foresaw what would happen, and that the event is neither more nor less than they expected and predicted. These retorts, cast in our teeth in the very moment of vexation, are what very sew tempers, when galled with disappointment, can patiently put up with ; they may possibly be the pure result of zeal and sincerity, but they are so void of contrivance, and there is so little delicacy in the timing of them, that it is a very rare case indeed, when they happen to be well understood and kindly taken. The fame want of sensibility towards human infirmities, that will not spare us in the moments of vexation, will make no allowances for the mind's debility in the hours of grief and sorrow; If a friend of this fort surprises us in the weakness of the foul, when death perhaps has robbed us of some beloved object, it is not to contribute a tear, but to read ns a lecture, that he comes; when the heart is agonised, the temper is irri. table; and as a moralises of this sort is almost sure to find his admonitions take the contrary effect from what he intended, he is apt to mistake an occasional impatience in us for a natural one, and leaves us with the impression that we are men, who are ill prepared against the common vicissitudes of life, and endowed with a very small share os fortitude and resignation; this early misconception of our character ia the course of time leads him to a no. ther, for he no sooner finds us recovered to a proper temper of mind, than he calls to mind our former impatience, and comparing it with our present tranquillity concludes upon appearances.
pearances, that we are men of light and trivial natures, subject indeed to tits and Harts of pailion, but incapable of retention; and as he has then a fine subject for displaying his powers of ptain-speaking, he reminds us of our former inattention to his good advice, and takes credit for having told us over and over again that we ought not to give way to violent sorrow, and that we could not change the course of things by our complaining of them. Thus, for want of calculating times and seasons, he begins to think dcspifegly of us, and we in spite of all his sincerity grow tired of him and dread his company.
Before I quit this subject I must also have a word with the valetudinarians, and I wish from my heart I could cure them of their complaints,— that species I mean which comes under my notice as an Observer, without intruding upon the more important province of the physician. Now as this island of our's is most happily supplied with a large and learned body of professors under every medical description and character, whether operative or deliberative, and all these stand ready *t the call and devoted to the service os the sick or maimed, whether it be on foot, on horseback, or on wheels, to resort to them in their distresses, it cannot be for want of help that the valetudinarian states his case to all companies so promiscuously. Let the whole family of death be arrayed on one side, and the whole army of physic, regulars and irregulars, be drawn out on the other, and I will venture to fay, that for every possible disc; fe in the ranks of the besieger, there shall be a champion in the garrison ready to turn out and give him battle: Let all who are upon the sick list in the community be laid out between the camps, and let the respective combatants fight it out over the bodies, but let the" forces of life and health have no share in the fray: Why should their peace be disturbed, or
their society contaminated by the infectious communication ? It is as much out of time and place for a man to be giving the dairy of bis disease in company, who are met for social purposes, as it "is for a doctor to be talking politics or scandal in a sick man's chamber 5 yet so it is that each party are for ever out of character j the chatterer disgusts his patient by an inattention to his complaints, and the valetudinarian disgusts his company by the enumeration of them, and both are cqually out of season.
Every man's observation may furnish him with instances not here enumerated, but if what I have said shall seem to merit more consideration than I have been able to give it in the compass of this paper, my readers may improve on the hint, and society cannot fail to prosit by their reflections.
Letter from H. Posthumous, complaining of a certain Writer who had published a Colleclion os hit Memoirs, 13V*.
IF I am rightly advised, the Jaws of England have provided no remedy for an injury, which I have received from a certain gentleman, who. sets me at defiance, and whom I am not conscious of having offended in the smallest article in life. My case is as follows :—Some time ago I went into the South of France for the recovery of my health, which (thank God) I have so far affected, that I should think I was at this very moment enjoying as good a stock of spirits and strength, as I have enjoyed for many years of my life past, if I was not outfaced by the gentleman in question, who swears I am dead, and has proceeded so far as to publish me dead to all the world, with a whole volume os memoirs which I have no remembrance of, aud of sayings which I never said.
I think this is very hard upon me, and if there is no redress for such proceedings, but that a man must be printed dead, whenever any fanciful fellow chuses to write a book of memoirs, I must take the freedom to fay this is no country to live in; and let my ingenious biographer take it how he will, I /hall still maintain to his face that I am alive, and I do not fee why my word in such a case mould not go as far as his.
There is yet another thing I will venture to fay, that I did never in the whole course of my life utter onf half, or even one tenth part of the smart repartees and bon-mots he is pleased to impute to me: I don't know what he means by laying such things at my door; I defy any one of my acquaintance to fay I was a wit, which I always considered as another name for an ill-tempered fellow. I do acknowledge, that I have lived upon terms of acquaintance with my biographer, and have passed some social hours in his company, but I never suspected he was minuting down every foolisti thing that escaped my lips in the unguarded moments of convivial gaiety; if I had, I would have avoided him like the pestilence. It is hard upon a man, let me tell you, Sir, very hard indeed, to find his follies upon record, and I could almost wish his words were true, and that I were dead in earnest, rather than live to read such nonsense, and find myself made the father of it.
Judge of my surprize, when passing along Vigo-lane upon a friendly call, as I intended it, to this very gentleman of whom I complain, I took up a volume from a stall in a whitey-brown paper binding, and opening it at the title-page met my own face, staring me out of countenance full in the front: I started back with horror; nature never gave me any reason to be fond os my own features; I never survey my face but when 1 shave myself, and then I am ashamed of it j 1 trust it is
no true type of my heart, for it is a sorry sample of nature's handy-work, to fay no worse os it. What the devd tempted him to stick it there I cannot guess, any more than I can at his publishing a bundle of nonsensical sayings and doings, which I detest and disavow. As for his printing my last will and testament, and disposing of my poor personals at pleasure, I care little about it; if he had taken only my money and spared my life, I would not have complained.
And now what is my redress? I apply myself to you in ray distress as an author, whose book is in pretty general circulation, and one, as I perceive, who assaults no man's living fame and character ; I desire therefoie you will take mine into your protection, and if you can think of any thing to deter the world in future from such flippancies, you are welcome to make what use you please of this letter; for as I have always strove to do what little service I could to the living, when I was allowed to be. one of their number, so now I am voted out of their company, I would gladly be of some use to the dead.
Your's, whilst I lived,
P. S. I am sorry I did not leave you something in my will, as I believe you deserve it as well, and want it more than some that are in it. If I live to die a second time, I will be, sure to remember you.
As I am not versed in the law of libels, I know not what advice to give in Postiumous's cafe, whom I would by no means wish to fee entangled in further difficulties ; though I think he might fairly fay to his biographer with a courtly poet of this cearuiy, Oh! libel me with all things butthy praise.
The practice, which some of our public news-writers are in, of treating dieir readers with a farrago of puerile anecdotes and scrapes of characters, has probably led the way to a very
foolish fashion, which is gaining ground amongst us: No sooner does a great man die, than the small wits creep into his coffin, like the swarm of bees in the carcase of Samson's lion, to make honey siom his corpse. It is high time that the good fense of the nation should correct, this impertinence.
I have availed myself os Posthuracus's permission to publish his letter, and I (hall without scruple subjoin to it one os a very different sort, which I have received sromi a correspondent whose name I do not mean to expose; it is with some reluctance I introduce it into this work, because it brings a certain person upon the stage whom I have no desire to exhibit oftener than I can help; but as I think it will be a consolation to Posthumous to shew him others in the fame hazard with himself, I hope my readers will let it pass with this apology.
I Am a man, who fay a great many good things myself, and hear many good things said by others; for I frequent clubs and coffee-rooms in all parts of the town, attend the pleadings in Westminster Hall, am remarkably fond of the company of men of genius, and never miss a dinner at the Mansion-House up»n my Lord Mayor's day.
I am in the habit of committing to paper every thing of this sort, whether it is of my own saying, or any other person's, when I am convinced I myself mould have said it, is he had not: These I call my conscientious witticisms, and give them a leaf in my common-place book to themselves.
I have the pleasure to tell you that my collection is now become not only considerable in bulk, but (that I may speak humbly of its merit) I will also lay, that it is to the full as good, and far more creditable to any gentleman's character, than the books, which have been published about a certain great
• Addressed to
wit lately deceased, whose memory has been so completely dissected by the operators in Stationer's Hall.
Though I have as much respect for posterity as any man can entertain for persons he is not acquainted with, still I cannot understand how a post-obit of this sort can profit me in my life, unless I could make it over to some purchaser upon beneficial conditions. Now, as there are people in the world who have done many famous actions without having once uttered a real good thing, as it is called, I should think my collection might be an acceptable purchase to a gentleman os this description, and such an one should have it a bargain, as I would be very glad to give a finishing to his character, which I can best compare to a coat of Adams's plaistcr on a well-built house.
For my own part, being neither more nor less than a haberdasher of small wares, and having scarcely rambled beyond the boundaries of the bills of mortality, since I was out of my apprenticeship, I have not the presumption to think the anecdotes of my own life important enough for posthumous publication; neither do I suppose my writings, (though pretty numerous, as my books will testify, and many great names standing amongst them, which it is probable 1 shall never cross out) will be thought so interesting to the public, as to come into competition with the lively Memoirs of a BMamj and a BadJcley, who furnish so many agreeable records of many noble families, and are the solace of more than half the toilets in town and country.
But to come more closely to the chief purport of this letter—It was about a fortnight ago, that I crossed upon you in the Poultry near the shopdoor of your worthy bookseller: I could not help giving a glance at your looks, and methought there was a morbid sallowness in your complexion, and a sickly languor in your eye, that indicated speedy dissolution: I watched
you the Observer.
you for some time, and as you turned ment you received from your employ
into the (hop remarked the totaJ want ers on your return, will be amusing
of energy in your step. I know who anecdotes; and as it is generally fup
1 am saying this to, and therefore am posed you havs not amassed any veiy
not afraid of startling you by my ob- great fortune by the plunder of the
servations, but if you actually perceive public, your narrative will be read
those threatening symptoms, which I without raising any envy in the leader, which will be so much in your fa
must rest upon the collection I IhJl
took notice of, it may probably be your with to lay in some store for a journey you are soon to take. You
have always been a friend and custom- supply you with, and when the world er to me, and there is nobody, I shall comes to understand how many excelmore readily serve .than yourself: 1 lent things you said, and how much have long noticed with regret the vc- more wit you had than any of your ry little favour you receive from your contemporaries gave you credit for, contemporaries, and shall gladly con- they will begin to think you had not tribute to your kinder reception from fair play whilst you was alive, and posterity; now I flatter myself, if you who knows but they may take it in adopt my collection, you will at least mind to raise a monument to you by be celebrated for your sayings, what- subscription amongst other merry fel
ever may become of your writings.
As for your private history, if I may guess from certain events, which have been reported to me, you may with a little allowable embellifnmcnt make up a decent life of it. It was
lows of your day?
I am your's,
I desire my correspondent will accept this short but serious answer: If I am so near the end of my life, as he
with great pleasure I heard t'other supposes, it will behove me to wind it
day, that you was stabbed by a monk up in another manner from what he
in Portugal, broke your limbs in Spain, suggests: I therefore shall not treat
and poisoned with a sallad at Paris; with my friend the haberdaflier for
these withyour adventures at sea, your his small wares, sufferings at Bayonnc, and the treat
Rejl. flions on the Statute Law s/'Englahd.
Ihave often been surprised, that among all the acc&unts and criticisms of new books, with which our reviews and other periodical publications abound, we never meet with any mention of a volume which appeals annually, and which every description of persons is much more interested to be well acquainted with,than even with the Royal Society's annual volume of Philosophical Transactions, or with the Antiquariesbiennial or triennial volume (I know not which) of the Archæologia. I mean the annual volume of the Statutes. I have the mote won
dered at this, not only on account of the bulk and importance of the work, but likewise because I have never met with any composition which afforded more room for pointing out inconsistencies and grammatical errors, (a sett of criticism, in which, I observe Reviewers particularly delight) than do the statutes at large. The only way, in which I have been able to account with any degree of satisfaction to my > self for this extraordinary omission, is by supposing that the Reviewers, after reading this publication over nod over at- jin, iu oidtr to Jo their tintv to the