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I cannot forbear reading the motto before I fill and light,) and really it gives a greatful relish to every whiff; each paragraph is fraught either with useful or delightful notions, and I never fail of being highly diverted or improved. The variety of your subjects surprises me as much as a box of pictures did formerly, in which there was only one face, that by pulling some pieces of isinglass over it, was changed into a grave senator or a Merry-Andrew, a patched lady or a nun, a beau or a black-a-more, a prude or a coquette, a country esquire or a conjuror, with many other different representations very entertaining (as you are) though still the same at the bottom. This was a childish amusement, when I was carried away with outward appearance, but you make a deeper impression, and affect the secret springs of the mind; you charm the fancy, sooth the passions, and insensibly lead the reader to that sweetness of temper that you so well describe; you rouse generosity with that spirit, and inculcate humanity with that ease, that he must be miserably stupid that is not affected by you. I cannot say, indeed, that you have put impertinence to silence, or vanity out of countenance; but, methinks, you have bid as fair for it as any man that ever appeared upon a public stage; and offer an infallible cure of vice and folly, for the price of one penny. And since it is usual for those who receive benefit by such famous operators, to publish an advertisement, that others may reap the same advantage, I think myself obliged to declare to all the world, that having for a long time been splenetic, ill-natured, froward, suspicious, and unsociable, by the application of your medicines, taken only with half an ounce of right Virginia
tobacco, for six successive mornings, I am become open, obliging, officious, frank, and hospitable.
The careful father and humble petitioner hereafter mentioned, who are under difficulties about the just management of fans, will soon receive proper advertisements relating to the professors in that behalf, with their places of abode and mcthods of teaching.
July, 5, 1711.
'IN your Spectator of June the 27th, you transcribe a letter sent to you from a new sort of muster-master, who teaches ladies the whole exercise of the fan; I have a daughter just come to town, who though she has always held a fan in her hand at proper times, yet she knows no more how to use it according to true discipline, than an awkward school-boy does to make use of his new sword. I have sent for her on purpose to learn the exercise, she being already very well accomplished in all other arts which are necessary for a young lady to understand; my request is, that you will speak to your correspondent on my behalf, and in your next paper let me know what he expects, either by the month or the quarter, for teaching and where he keeps his place of rendezvous. I have a son too, whom I would fain have taught to gallant fans, and should be glad to know what the gentleman will have for teaching them both, I finding fans for practice at my own
expense. This information will in the highest
Your most humble servant,
'As soon as my son is perfect in this art (which I hope will be in a year's time, for the boy is pretty apt), I design he shall learn to ride the great horse (although he is not yet above twenty years old) if his mother, whose darling he is, will venture him.
TO THE SPECTATOR.
'The humble Petition of Benjamin Easy, Gent.
'THAT it was your petitioner's misfortune to walk to Hackney church last sunday, where to his great amazement he met with a soldier of your own training; she furls a fan, recovers a fan, and goes through the whole exercise of it to admiration. This well-managed officer of your's has, to my knowledge, been the ruin of above five young gentlemen besides myself, and still goes on laying waste wheresoever she comes, whereby the whole village is in great danger. Our humble request is therefore, that this bold Amazon be ordered immediately to lay down her arms, or that you would issue forth an order, that we who have been thus injured may meet at the place of general rendezvous, and there be taught to manage our snuff-boxes in such manner as we may be an equal match for her;
And your petitioner shall ever pray, &c.
No. 135. SATURDAY, AUGUST 4, 1711.
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia
HOR. 1 Sat. x. 9.
Let brevity dispatch the rapid thought.
I HAVE Somewhere read of an eminent person who used in his private offices of devotion to give thanks to heaven that he was born a Frenchman: for my own part, I look upon it as a peculiar blessing that I was born an Englishman. Among many other reasons, I think myself very happy in my country, as the language of it is wonderfully adapted to a man who is sparing of his words, and an enemy to loquacity.
As I have frequently reflected on my good fortune in this particular, I shall communicate to the public my speculations upon the English tongue, not doubting but they will be acceptable to all my curious readers.
The English delight in silence more than any other European nation, if the remarks which are made on us by foreigners are true. Our discourse is not kept up in conversation, but falls into more pauses and intervals than in our neighbouring countries; as it is observed, that the matter of our writings is thrown much closer together, and lies in a narrower compass than is usual in the works of foreign authors: for, to favour our natural taciturnity, when we are obliged to utter our thoughts, we do it in the shortest way we are able, and give as quick a birth to our conceptions as possible.
This humour shews itself in several remarks that we may make upon the English language. As first of all by its abounding in monosyllables, which gives us an opportunity of delivering our thoughts in few sounds. This indeed takes off
from the elegance of our tongue, but at the same time expresses our ideas in the readiest manner, and consequently answers the first design of speech better than the multitude of syllables, which make the words of other languages more tunable and sonorous. The sounds of our English words are commonly like those of string music, short and transient, which rise and perish upon a single touch; those of other languages are like the notes of wind instruments, sweet and swelling, and lengthened out into variety of modulation.
In the next place we may observe that where the words are not monosyllables, we often make them so, as much as lies in our power, by our rapidity of pronunciation; as it generally happens in most of our long words which are derived from the Latin, where we contract the length of the syllables that gives them a grave and solemn air in their own language, to make them more proper for dispatch, and more conformable to the genius of our tongue. This we may find in a multitude of words, as liberty, conspiracy, theatre, orator,' &c.
The same natural aversion to loquacity has of late years made a very considerable alteration in our language, by closing in one syllable the termination of our præterfect tense, as in these words 'drown'd, walk'd arriv'd,' for drowned, walked, arrived,' which has very much disfigured the tongue, and turned a tenth part of our smoothest words into so many clusters of consonants. This is the more remarkable, because the want of vowels in our language has been the general complaint of our politest authors, who nevertheless are the men that have made these retrenchments, and consequently very much increased our former scarcity.