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To the Busy-Body. Sir, You having set yourself up for a censuror morum (as I think you call it) which is said to mean a reformer of manners, I know no person more proper to be applied to for redress in all the grievances we suffer from want of manners in some people. You must know, I am a single woman, and keep a shop in this town for a livelihood. There is a certain neighbour of mine, who is really agreeable company enough, and with whom I have had an intimacy of some time standing; but of late she makes her visits so exceedingly often, and stays so very long every visit, that I am tired out of all patience. I have no manner of time at all to myself; and you, who seem to be a wise man, must needs be sensible, that every person has little secrets and privacies, that are not proper to be exposed even to the nearest friend. Now I cannot do the least thing in the world, but she must know about it; and it is a wonder I have found an opportunity to write you this letter. My misfortune is, that I respect her very well, and know not how to disoblige her so much as to tell her I should be glad to have less of her company; for if I should once hint such a thing, I am afraid she would resent it so as never to darken my door again. But, alas! Sir, I have not yet told you half my affliction. She has two children, that are just big enough to run about and do pretty mischief: these are continually along with mamma, either in my room or shop, if I have ever so many customers or people with me about business. Sometimes they pull the goods off my low shelves down to the ground, and perhaps where one of them has just been making water. My friend takes up the stuff, and cries, "Oh! thou little wicked mischievous rogue! But, however, it has done no great damage; it is only wet a little;" and so puts it up upon the shelf again. Sometimes they get to my cask of nails behind the counter, and divert themselves, to my great vexation, with mixing my ten-penny and eight-penny and four-penny together. I endeavour to conceal my uneasiness as much as possible, and with a grave look go to sorting them out. She cries, " Don't thee trouble thyself, neighbour. Let them play a little; I'll put all to rights before I go." But things are never so put to rights but that I find a great deal of work to do after they are gone. Thus, bir, I have all the trouble and pesterment of children, without the pleasure of calling them my own; and they are now so used to being here that they will be content nowhere else. If she would have been so kind as to have moderated her visits to ten times a day, and stayed but half an hour at a time, I should have been contented, and I believe never have given you this trouble. But this very morning they have so tormented me that I could bear no longer; for while the mother was asking me twenty impertinent questions, the youngest got to my nails, and with great delight rattled them by handfuls all over the floor; and the other at the same time made such a terrible din upon my counter with a hammer, that I grew half distracted. I was just then about to make myself a new suit of pinners; but in the fret and confusion I cut it quite out of all manner of shape, and utterly spoiled a piece of the first muslin. Pray, sir, tell me what I shall do; and talk a little against such uureasonable visiting in your next paper: though I would not have her affronted with me for a great deal; for sincerely I love her and her children, as well, I think, as a neighbour can, and she bnys a great many things in a year at my shop. But I would beg her to consider, that she uses me unmercifully, though I believe it is only for want of thought. But I have twenty things more to tell you besides all this: there is a handsome gentleman that has a mind (I don't question) to make love to me; but he can't get the opportunity to O dear, here she comes again; I must conclnde. Yours, &c.
Indeed, it is well enough, as it happens, that she is come to shorten this complaint, which I think is full long enough already, and probably would otherwise have been as long again. However, I must confess, I cannot help pitying my correspondent's case; and in her behalf, exhort the visitor to remember and consider the words of the wise man, "Withdraw thy foot from the house of thy neighbour, lest he grow weary of thee, and so hate thee." It is, I believe, a nice thing, and very difficult, to regulate our visits in such a manner, as never to give offence by coming too seldom, or too often, or departing too abruptly, or staying too long. However, in my opinion, it is safest for most people, in a general way, who are unwilling to disoblige, to visit seldom, and tarry but a little while in a place—notwithstanding pressing invitations, which are many times insincere: and though more of your company should be really desired, yet in this case, too much
reservedness is a fanlt more easily excused than the contrary.
Men are subject to various inconveniences merely through lack of a small share of courage, which is a quality very necessary in the common occurrences of life, as well as in a battle. How many impertinencies do we daily suffer with great uneasiness, becanse we have not courage enough to discover our dislike! And why may not a man use the boldness and freedom of telling his friends that their long visits sometimes incommode him? On this occasion, it may be entertaining to some of my readers, if I acquaint them with the Turkish manner of entertaining visitors, which 1 have from an anthor of unquestionable veracity, who assures us, that even the Turks are not so ignorant of civility and the arts of endearment, but that they can practise them with as much exactness as any other nation, whenever they have a mind to show themselves obliging.
"When you visit a person of quality (says he) and have talked over your business, or the compliments, or whatever concern brought you thither, he makes a sign to have things served in for the entertainment, which is generally a little sweetmeat, a dish of sherbet, and another of coffee; all which are immediately brought in by the servants, and tendered to all the guests in order, with the greatest care and awfulness imaginable. At last comes the finishing part of your entertainment, which is, perfuming the beards of the company; a ceremony which is performed in this manner. They have for the purpose a small silver chafing-dish, covered with a lid full of holes, and fixed upon a handsome plate. In this they put some fresh coals, and upon them a piece of lignum aloes; and shutting it up, the smoke immediately ascends with a grateful odour through the holes of the cover. This smoke is held under every one's chin, and offered as it were a sacrifice to his beard. The bristly idol soon receives the reverence done to it, and so greedily takes in and incorporates the gummy steam, that it retains the savour of it, and may serve for a nosegay a good while after.
"This ceremony may perhaps seem ridiculous at first hearing; but it passes among the Turks for a high gratification; and I will say this in its vindication, that its design is very wise and useful: for it is understood to give a civil dismission to the visitants, intimating to them, that the master of the house has business to do, or some other avocation, that permits them to go away as soon as they please; and the sooner after this ceremony the better. By this means you may, at any time, without offence, deliver yourself from being detained from your affairs by tedious and unseasonable visits; and from being constrained to use that piece of hypocrisy, so common in the world, of pressing those to stay longer with you, whom perhaps in your heart you wish a great way off for having troubled you so long already."
Thus far my anthor. For my own part, I have taken such a fancy to this Turkish custom, that for the future I shall put something like it in practice. I have provided a bottle of right French brandy for the men, and citron water for the ladies. After I have treated with a dram, and presented a pinch of my best snuff, I expect all company will retirej