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would not dare to stand up in this manner before a whole congregation of politicians, ' notwithstanding the long and tedious harangues and dissertations which they daily utter in private circles, to the breaking of many honest tradesmen, the seducing of several eminent citizens, the making of numberless malcontents, and to the great detriment and disquiet of her majesty's subjects.”
I do heartily concur with my ingenious friends of the abovementioned coffee-house in these their proposals; and because I apprehend there may be reasons to put an immediate stop to the grievance complained of, it is my intention, that, until such time as the aforesaid pulpits can be erected, every orator do place himself within the bar, and from thence dictate whatsoever he shall think necessary for the public good.
And further, because I am very desirous that proper ways and means should be found out for the suppressing of story-tellers and fine-talkers in all ordinary conversations whatsoever, I do insist, that in every private club, company, or meeting over a bottle, there be always an elbow-chair placed at the table; and that as soon as any one begins a long -story, or extends his discourse beyond the space of one minute, he be forthwith thrust into the said elbow-chair, unless upon any of the company's calling out, “ to the chair,” he breaks off abruptly, and holds his tongue.
There are two species of men, notwithstanding any thing that has been here said, whom I would exempt from the disgrace of the elbow-chair. The first are those buffoons that have a talent of mimicking the speech and behaviour of other persons, and turning all their patrons, friends, and acquaintance, into ridicule. I look upon your Pantomime as a legion in a man, or at least to be, like Virgil's
monster, “ with an hundred mouths, and as many tongues."
Linguæ centum sunt, oraquce centum ; and, therefore, would give him as much time to talk in, as would be allowed to the whole body of persons he represents, were they actually in the company which they divert by proxy.
Provided, however, that the said Pantomime do not, upon any pretence whatsoever, utter any thing in his own particular opinion, language, or character.
I would likewise, in the second place, grant an exemption from the elbow-chair to any person who treats the company, and by that means may be
supposed to pay for his audience. A guest cannot take it ill, if he be not allowed to talk in his turn by a person who puts his mouth to a better employment, and stops it with good beef and mutton. In this case the guest is very agreeably silenced, and seems to hold bis tongue under that kind of bribery which the antients called bos in lingua*.
If I can once extirpate the race of solid and substantial humdrums, i hope, by my wholesome and repeated advices, quickly to reduce the insignificant tittle-tattles, and matter-of-fact-men, that abound in every quarter of this great city.
Epictetus, in his little system of morality, prescribes the following rule with that beautiful simplicity which shines through all his precepts: ware that thou never tell thy dreams in company; for, notwithstanding thou mayest take a pleasure in telling thy dreams, the company will take no pleasure in hearing them.”
* An allusion to the image of a bull, ox, or cow, stamped upon the money then, and there in cuirent use, whence the coin was then called los.
This rule is conformable to a maxim which I have laid down in a late Paper, and must always inculcate into those of my readers who find in themselves an inclination to be very talkative and impertinent, “ that they should not speak to please themselves, but those that hear them."
It has been often observed by witty essay-writers, that the deepest waters are always the most silent; that empty vessels make the greatest sound; and tinkling cymbals the worst music. The marquis of Halifax, in his admirable " Advice to a Daughter," tells her, “ that good sense has always something sullen in it:" but as sullenness does not imply silence, but an ill-natured silence, I wish his lord. ship had given a softer name to it. Since I am engaged unawares in quotations, I must not omit the satire which Horace has written against this impertinent talkative companion; and which, I think, is fuller of humour than any other satire he has written. This great author, who had the nicest taste of conversation, and was himself a most agreeable companion, had so strong an antipathy to a great talker, that he was afraid some time or other, it would be mortal to him; as he has very humourously described it in his conversation with an impertinent fellow, who had like to have been the death of him.
Interpellandi locus hic erat! Est tibi mater,
HOR, 1 Sat. ix. 26.
Have you no mother, sister, friends,
N° 269. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1710.
-Hæ nugæ seria ducunt
HOR. Ars Poet. 4.
Trifles such as these
my own Apartment, December 27. I FIND my correspondents are universally offended at me for taking notice so seldom of their letters, and I fear people have taken the advantage of my silence to go on in their errors; for which reason I shall hereafter be more careful to answer all lawful questions and just complaints, as soon as they come to my hands. The two following epistles relate to very great mischiefs in the most important articles of life, love and friendship.
« It is
“ Dorsetshire, Dec. 20. « MR. BICKERSTAFF,
my misfortune to be enamoured of a lady that is neither very beautiful, very witty, nor at all well-natured; but has the vanity to think she excels in all these qualifications, and therefore is cruel, insolent, and scornful. When I study to please her, she treats me with the utmost rudeness and illmanners: if I approach her person, she fights, she scratches me: if I offer a civil salute, she bites me; insomuch, that very lately, before a whole assembly of ladies and gentlemen, she ripped out a considerable part of my left cheek. This is no sooner done, but she begs my pardon iu the most handsome and becoming terms imaginable, gives herself worse language than I could find in my heart to do, lets me embrace her to pacify her while she is railing at herself, protests she deserves the esteem of no one living, says I am too good to contradict her when she thus accuses herself. This atones for all; tempts me to renew my addresses, which are ever returned in the same obliging manner. Thus, without some speedy relief, I am in danger of losing my whole face. Notwithstanding all this, I doat upon her, and am satisfied she loves me, because she takes me for a man of sense, which I have been generally thought, except in this one instance. Your reflections upon this strange amour would be very useful in these parts, where we are over-run with wild beauties and romps. I earnestly beg your assistance, either to deliver me from the