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wonder to hear that any business of consequence should be retarded by those little circumstances, which they represent to themselves as trifling and insignificant. I am mightily pleased with a porter's decision in one of Mr. Southern's plays, which is founded upon that fine distress of a virtuous woman's marrying a second husband, while her first was yet living. The first husband, who was supposed to have been dead, returning to his house after a long absence, raises a noble perplexity for the tragic part of the play. In the mean while, the nurse and the porter conferring upon the difficulties that would ensue in such a case, honest Sampson thinks the matter may be easily decided, and solves it very judiciously, by the old proverb, that if his first master be still living, "The man must have his mare again." There is nothing in my time, which has so much surprised and confounded the greatest part of my honest countrymen, as the present controversy between Count Rechteren and Monsieur Mesnager, which employs the wise heads of so many nations, and holds all the affairs of Europe in suspence.
Upon my going into a coffee-house yesterday, and lending an ear to the next table, which was encompassed with a circle of inferior politicians, one of them, after having read over the news very attentively, broke out into the following remarks. “I am afraid (says he) this unhappy rupture between the footmen at Utrecht, will retard the peace of Christendom. I wish the Pope may not be at the bottom of it. His holiness has a very good hand at fomenting a division, as the poor Swiss Cantons have lately experienced to their cost. If Monsieur What d'ye-call-him's domestics will not come to an accommodation, I do not know how the quarrel can be ended, but by a religious war."
Why, truly, (says a wiseacre, that sat by him,) were I as the King of France, I would scorn to take part with the footmen of either side: here's all
the business of Europe stands still, because Monsieur Mesnager's man has had his head broke. If Count Rectrum had given them a pot of ale after it, all would have been well, without any of this bustle; but they say he is a warm man, and does not care to be made mouths at."
Upon this, one, that had held his tongue hitherto, began to exert himself; declaring, "That he was very well pleased the plenipotentiaries of our Christian princes took this matter into their serious consideration; for that lacqueys were never so saucy and pragmatical, as they are now-a-days, and that he should be glad to see them taken down in the treaty of peace, if it might be done without prejudice to the public affairs.
One, who sat at the other end of the table, and seemed to be in the interests of the French King, told them, "That they did not take the matter right, for that his Most Christian Majesty did not resent this matter, because it was an injury done to Monsieur Mesnager's footmen; for (says he) what are Monsieur Mesnager's footmen to him? but because it was done to his subjects. Now, (says he,) let me tell you, it would look very odd for a subject of France to have a bloody nose, and his sovereign not to take notice of it. He is obliged in honour to defend his people against hostilities; and if the Dutch will be so insolent to a crowned head, as in any wise to cuff or kick those who are under his protection, I think he is in the right to call them to an account for it."
This distinction set the controversy upon a new foot, and seemed to be very well approved by most that heard it, until a little warm fellow, who declared himself a friend to the house of Austria, fell most unmercifully upon his Gallic Majesty, as encouraging his subjects to make mouths at their betters, and afterwards screening them from the punishment that was due to their insolence. To
which he added, "that the French nation was so addicted to grimace, that if there was not a stop put to it at the general congress, there would be no walking the streets for them in a time of peace, especially if they continued masters of the West-Indies. The little man proceeded with a great deal of warmth, declaring, that if the allies were of his mind, he would oblige the French King to burn his gallies, and tolerate the Protestant religion in his dominions, before he would sheath his sword." He concluded with calling Monsieur Mesnager, an insignificant prig.
The dispute was now growing very warm, and one does not know where it would have ended, had not a young man, of about one-and-twenty, who seems to have been brought up with an eye to the law, taken the debate into his hand, and given it as his opinion, that neither Count Rechteren nor Monsieur Mesnager had behaved themselves right in this affair. "Count Rechteren (says he) should have made affidavit that his servants had been affronted, and then Monsieur Mesnager would have done him justice, by taking away their liveries from them, or some other way, that he might have thought the most proper; for, let me tell you, if a man makes á mouth at me, I am not to knock the teeth out of it for his pains. Then again, as for Monsieur Mesnager, upon his servant's being beaten, why, he might have had his action of assault and battery. But as the case now stands, if you will have my opinion, I think they ought to bring it to referees."
I heard a great deal more of this conference, but I must confess with little edification; for all I could learn at last from these honest gentlemen, was, that the matter in debate was of too high a nature for such heads as theirs, or mine, to comprehend.
No. 482. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12.
Floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia libant.
WHEN I have published any single paper that falls in with the popular taste, and pleases more than ordinary, it always brings me in a great return of letters. My Tuesday's discourse, wherein I gave several admonitions to the fraternity of the henpecked, has already produced me very many correspondents; the reason I cannot guess at, unless it be that such a discourse is of general use, and every married man's money. An honest tradesman, who dates his letter from Cheapside, sends me thanks, in the name of a club, who, he tells me, meet as often as their wives will give them leave, and stay together till they are sent for home. He informs me, that my paper has administered great consolation to their whole club, and desires me to give some further account of Socrates, and to acquaint them in whose reign he lived; whether he was a citizen or a courtier, whether he buried Xantippe, with many other particulars for that, by his sayings, he appears to have been a very wise man, and a good Christian. Another, who writes himself Benjamin Bamboo, tells me, that being coupled with a shrew, he had endeavoured to tame her by such lawful means as those which I mentioned in my last Tuesday's paper, and that in his wrath he had often gone further than Bracton allows in those cases: but that for the future, he was resolved to bear it like a man of temper and learning, and consider her only as one who lives in his house to teach him philosophy. Tom Dapperwit says, that he agrees with me in that whole discourse, excepting only the last sentence, where I affirm the marriage state to be either a heaven or a hell. Tom has been at the charge of a penny upon
this occasion, to tell me, that by his experience it is neither one nor the other, but rather that middle kind of state commonly known by the name of purgatory.
The fair sex have likewise obliged me with their reflections upon the same discourse. A lady, who calls herself Luterpe, and seems a woman of letters, asks me whether I am for establishing the Salic law in every family, and why it is not fit that a woman who has discretion and learning, should sit at the helm, when the husband is weak and illiterate? Another, of a quite contrary character, subscribes herself Xantippe, and tells me, that she follows the example of her name-sake; for being married to a bookish man, who has no knowledge of the world, she is forced to take their affairs into her own hands, and to spirit him up now and then, that he may not grow musty, and unfit for conversation.
After this abridgment of some letters which are come to my hands upon this occasion, I shall publish one of them at large.
"You have given us a lively picture of that kind of husband who comes under the denomination of the henpecked; but I do not remember that you have ever touched upon one that is of the quite different character, and who, in several places of England, goes by the name of a cotquean. I have the misfortune to be joined for life with one of this character, who in reality is more a woman than I am. He was bred up under the tuition of a tender mother, till she had made him as good an housewife as herself. He could preserve apricots, and make jellies, before he had been two years out of the nursery. He was never suffered to go abroad, for fear of catching cold: when he should have been hunting down a buck, he was by his mother's side learning how to season it, or put it in crust; and