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tender of the reputation of his country, in point of wit and good sense, has determined to take all manner of writings in verse or prose, that pretend to either, under his immediate cognizance; and, accordingly, hereby prohibits the publishing any such for the future till they have first passed his examination, and received his imprimatur; for which he demands as a fee only sixpence per sheet.
N.B. He nevertheless permits to be published all satirical remarks on the Busy-Body, the above prohibition notwithstanding, and without examination, or requiring the said fees; which indulgence the small wits in and about this city are advised gratefully to accept and acknowledge.
The gentleman who calls himself Sirronio is directed, on receipt of this, to burn his great book of Crndities.
P. S. In compassion to that young man, on account of the great pains he has taken, in consideration of the character I have just received of him, that he is really good-natured, and on condition he shows it to no foreigner or stranger of sense, I have thought fit to reprieve his said great book of Crndities from the flames till farther order.
Noli me tangere.
I had resolved, when I first commenced this design, on no account to enter into a public dispute with any man; for I jndged it would be equally unpleasant to me and my readers, to see this paper filled with contentious wrangling, answers, replies, &c. which is a way of writing that is endless, and,
VOL. I. C
at the same time, seldom contains any thing that is either edifying or entertaining. Yet, when such a considerable man as Mr.*** finds himself concerned so warmly to accuse and condemn me, as he has done in Keimer's last Instructor, I cannot forbear endeavouring to say something in my own defence, from one of the worst of characters that could be given me by a man of worth. But as I have many things of more consequence to offer the public, I declare that I will never, after this time, take notice of any accusations, not better supported with truth and reason; much less may every little scribbler, that shall attack me, expect an answer from the Busy-Body.
The sum of the charge delivered against me, either directly or indirectly, in the said paper, is this: not to mention the first weighty sentence concerning vanity and ill-nature, and the shrewd intimation that I am without charity, and therefore can have no pretence to religion, I am represented as guilty of defamation and scandal, the odiousness of which is apparent to every good man, and the practice of it opposite to Christianity, morality, and common justice, and, in some cases, so far below all these, as to be inhuman; as a blaster of reputations; as attempting, by a pretence, to screen myself from the imputation of malice and prejndice; as using a weapon, which the wiser and better part of mankind hold in abhorrence; and as giving treatment which the wiser and better part of mankind dislike on the same principles, and for the same reason, as they do assassination, &c.; and all this is inferred and conclnded from a character I have wrote in my Number III.
In order to examine the justice and truth of this heavy charge, let us recur to that character. And here we may be surprised to find what a trifle has raised this mighty clamour and complaint, this . grierous accusation!—The worst thing said of the person, in what is called my gross description (be he who he will to whom my accuser has applied the character of Cretico), is, that he is a sour philosopher, crafty, but not wise. Few human characters can be drawn that will not fit somebody, in so large a country as this; but one would think, supposing I meant Cretico a real person, I had sufficiently manifested my impartiality, when I said, in that very paragraph, that Cretico is not without virtue; that there are many good things in him, and many good actions reported of him; which must be allowed in all reason very much to overbalance in his favour those worst words, sour tempered, and cunning. Nay, my very enemy and accuser must have been sensible of this, when he freely acknowledges, that he has been seriously considering, and cannot yet determine, which he would choose to be, the Cato or Cretico of that paper; since my Cato is one of the best of characters. Thus much in my own vindication. As to the only reasons there given why I ought not to continue drawing characters, viz. Why should any man's picture be published which he never sat for; or his good name taken from him any more than his money or possessions, at the arbitrary will of another, &c. I have but this to answer: the money or possessions, I presume, are nothing to the purpose; since no man can claim a right either to those or a good name, if he has acted so as to for- feit them. And are not the public the only jndges what share of reputation they think proper to allow any man? Supposing I was capable, and had an inclination, to draw all the good and bad characters in America, why should a good man be offended with me for drawing good characters? And if I draw ill ones, can they fit any but those that deserve them? And ought any but such to be concerned that they have their deserts? I have as great an aversion and abhorrence for defamation and scandal as any man, and would, with the utmost care, avoid being guilty of such base things: besides, I am very sensible and certain, that if I should make use of this paper to defame any person, my reputation would be sooner hurt by it than his; and the Busy Body would quickly become detestable; becanse, in such a case, as is justly observed, the pleasure arising from a tale of wit and novelty soon dies away in generous and honest minds, and is followed with a secret grief, to see their neighbours calumniated. But if I myself was actually the worst man in the province, and any one should draw my true character, would it not be ridiculous in me to say, he had defamed and scandalized me, unless he had added in a matter of truth? If any thing is meant by asking why any man's picture should be published which he never sat for? it must be, that we should give no cha. racter without the owner's consent. If I discern the wolf disguised in harmless wool, and contriving the destruction of my neighbour's sheep, must I have his permission before I am allowed to discover and prevent him? If I know a man to be a designing knave, must I ask his consent, to bid my friends beware of him? If so, then, by the same rule, supposing the Busy-Body had really merited all his enemy had charged him with, his consent likewise ought to have been obtained, before so terrible an accusation was published against him.
I shall conclnde with observing, that in the last paragraph save one of the piece now examined, much ill nature and some good sense are coinhabitants, as he expresses it. The ill nature appears, in his endeavouring to discover satire, where I intended no such thing, but quite the reverse: the good sense is this; that drawing too good a character of any one is a refined manner of satire, that may be as injurious to him as the contrary, by bringingou an examination that undresses the person; and in the haste of doing it, he may happen to be stripped of what he really owns and deserves. As I am censor, I might punish the first, but I forgive it. Yet I will not leave the latter unrewarded; but assure my adversary, that in consideration of the merit of those four lines, I am resolved to forbear injuring him on any account in that refined manner.
I thank my neighbour P* * * W*•«lfor his kind letter.
The lions complained of shall be muzzled.