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vision, and could not forbear acting with his foot what he had in his thoughts; so that unluckily striking his basket of brittle ware, which was the foundation of all his grandeur, he kicked his glasses to a great distance from him into the street, and broke them into ten thousand pieces.
No. 536. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14.
O verè Phrygiæ, neque enim Phryges !- VIRG. As I was the other day standing in my bookseller's shop, a pretty young thing, about eighteen years of age, stept out of her coach, and brushing by me, beckoned the man of the shop to the further end of his counter, where she whispered something to him with an attentive look, and at the same time presented him with a letter: after which, pressing the end of her fan upon his hand, she delivered the remaining part of her message, and withdrew. I observed in the midst of her discourse, that she flushed, and cast an eye upon me over her shoulder, having been informed by my bookseller, that I was the man of the short face, whom she had so often read of. Upon her passing by me, the pretty blooming creature smiled in my face, and dropped me a curtsey. She scarce gave me time to return her salute, before she quitted the shop with an easy skuttle, and stepped again into her coach, giving the footman directions to drive where they were bid. Upon her departure, my bookseller gave me a letter, subscribed, "To the ingenious Spectator," which the young lady had desired him to deliver into my own hands, and to tell me, that the speedy publication of it would not only oblige herself, but a whole tea-table of
friends. I opened it, therefore, with a resolution to publish it, whatever it should contain, and am sure, if any
male readers will be so severely critical as not to like it, they would have been as well pleased with it as myself, had they seen the face of the pretty scribe. 6 MR. SPECTATOR,
London, Nov. 1712. You are always ready to receive any useful hint or proposal, and such, I believe, you will think one that may put
, you in a way to employ the most idle part of the kingdom ;
I mean that part of mankind who are known by the name of the women's-men, or beaus, &c. MR. SPECTATOR, you are sensible these pretty gentlemen are not made for any manly employments, and for want of business are often as much in the vapours as the ladies. Now what I propose is this, since knotting is again in fashion, which has been found a very pretty amusement, that you would recommend it to these gentlemen, as something that may make them useful to the ladies they admire. And since it is not inconsistent with any game, or other diversion, for it may be done in the playhouse, in their coaches, at the tea-table, and in short, in all places where they come for the sake of the ladies, (except at church; be pleased to forbid it there, to prevent mistakes,) it will be easily complied with. It is, beside, an employment that allows, as we see by the fair sex,
many graces, which will make the beaus more readily come into it; it shows a white hand and a diamond ring to great advantage; it leaves the eyes at full liberty to be employed as before, as also the thoughts, and the tongue. In short, it seems in every respect so proper, that it is needless to urge it further, by speaking of the satisfaction these male-knotters will find, when they see their work mixed up in a fringe, and worn by the fair lady for whom and with whom it was done. Truly, MR. SPECTATOR, I cannot but be pleased I have hit upon something that these gentlemen are capable of; for it is sad so considerable a part of the kingdom (I mean for numbers) should be of no manner of use. I shall not trouble you further at this time, but only to say, that I am always your reader, and generally your admirer,
“ C. B." “ P. S. The sooner these fine gentlemen are set to work, the better; there being at this time several fine fringes that stay only for more hands."
I shall, in the next place, present my reader with the description of a set of men who are common enough in the world, though I do not remember that I have yet taken notice of them, as they are drawn in the following letter. “ MR. SPECTATOR,
Since you have lately, to so good purpose, enlarged upon conjugal love, it is to be hoped you will discourage every practice that rather proceeds from a regard to interest,
than to happiness. Now you cannot but observe, that most of our fine young ladies readily fall in with the direction of the graver sort, to retain in their service, by some small encouragement, as great a number as they can of supernumerary and insignificant fellows, which they use like whifflers, and commonly call “ Shoeing-borns." These are never designed
. to know the length of the foot, but only, when a good offer comes, to whet and spur him up to the point. Nay, it is the opinion of that grave lady, Madam Matchwell, that it is absolutely convenient for every prudent family to have several of these implements about the house, to clap on as occasion serves, and that every spark ought to produce a certificate of his being a shoeing-horn, before he be admitted as a shoe.
A certain lady, whom I could name if it was necessary, has at present more shoeing-horns of all sizes, countries, and colours in her service, than ever she had new shoes in her life. I have known a woman make use of a shoeing-horn for several years, and finding him unsuccessful in that function, convert him at length into a shoe. I am mistaken if your friend, Mr. William Honeycomb, was not a cast shoeinghorn before his late marriage. As for myself, I must frankly declare to you, that I have been an arrant shoeing-horn for
, above these twenty years. I served my first mistress in that capacity above five of the number, before she was shod. I confess, though she had many who made their applications to her, I always thought myself the best shoe in her shop, and it was not till a month before her marriage that I discovered what I was.
This had like to have broke my heart, and raised such suspicions in me, that I told the next I made love to, upon receiving some unkind usage from her, that I began to look upon myself as no more than her shoeing-horn. Upon which, my dear, who was a coquette in her nature, told me I was hypochondriacal, and that I might as well look upon myself to be an egg or a pipkin. But in a very short time after, she gave me to know that I was not mistaken in myself. It would be tedious to recount to you the life of an unfortunate shoeing-horn, or I might entertain you with a very long and melancholy relation of my sufferings. Upon the whole, I think, sir, it would very well become a man in your post to determine in what cases a woman may be allowed, with honour, to make use of a shoeing-horn, as also to declare whether a maid on this side five and twenty, or a
widow who has not been three years in that state, may be granted such a privilege, with other difficulties which will naturally occur to you upon that subject.
“I am, sir,
No. 538. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17.
Finem tendere opus. HoR. SURPRISE is so much the life of stories, that every one aims at it who endeavours to please by telling them. Smooth delivery, an elegant choice of words, and a sweet arrangement, are all beautifying graces; but not the particulars in this point of conversation which either long command the attention, or strike with the violence of a sudden passion, or occasion the burst of laughter which accompanies humour. I have sometimes fancied that the mind is in this case like a traveller who sees a fine seat in haste; he acknowledges the delightfulness of a walk set with regularity, but would be uneasy if he were obliged to pace it over, when the first view had let him into all its beauties from one end to the other.
However, a knowledge of the success which stories will have when they are attended with a turn of surprise, as it has happily made the characters of some, so has it also been the ruin of the characters of others. There is a set of men who outrage truth, instead of affecting us with a manner in telling it ; who overleap the line of probability, that they may be seen to move out of the common road; and endeavour only to make their hearers stare, by imposing upon them with a kind of nonsense against the philosophy of nature, or such a heap of wonders told upon their own knowledge, as it is not likely one man should ever have met with.
I have been led to this observation by a company into which I fell accidentally. The subject of Antipathies was a proper field wherein such false surprisers might expatiate, and there were those present who appeared very fond to show in it its full extent of traditional history. Some of them, in a learned manner, offered to our consideration the
miraculous powers which the effluviums of cheese bave over bodies whose pores are disposed to receive them in a noxious manner: others gave an account of such who could indeed bear the sight of cheese, but not the taste; for which they brought a reason from the milk of their nurses. Others again discoursed, without endeavouring at reasons, concerning an unconquerable aversion which some stomachs have against a joint of meat when it is whole, and the eager inclination they have for it, when, by its being cut up, the shape which had affected them is altered. From thence they passed to eels, then to parsnips, and so from one aversion to another, till we had worked up ourselves to such a pitch of complaisance, that when the dinner was to come in, we inquired the name of every dish, and hoped it would be no offence to any in the company, before it was admitted. When we had sat down, this civility amongst us turned the discourse from eatables to other sorts of aversions; and the eternal cat, which plagues every conversation of this nature, began then to engross the subject. One had sweated at the sight of it, another had smelled it out as it lay concealed in a very distant cupboard ; and he who crowned the whole set of these stories, reckoned up the number of times in which it had occasioned him to swoon away. At last, says he, that you may
be all satisfied of my invincible aversion to a cat, I shall give an unanswerable instance :
“As I was going through a street of London, where I never had been till then, I felt a general damp and a faintness all over me, which I could not tell how to account for, till I chanced to cast my eyes upwards, and found that I was passing under a signpost on which the picture of a cat was hung."
The extravagance of this turn in the way of surprise, gave a stop to the talk we had been carrying on: some were silent because they doubted, and others because they were conquered in their own way; so that the gentleman had opportunity to press the belief of it upon us, and let us see that he was rather exposing himself than ridiculing others.
I must freely own that I did not, all this while, disbelieve everything that was said; but yet I thought some in the company had been endeavouring who should pitch the bar farthest; that it had, for some time, been a measuring cast, and at last
friend of the cat and sign-post had thrown beyond them all.