« VorigeDoorgaan »
No. 556. TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 1714.
Qualis ubi in lucem coluber mala gramina paftus,
So fhines, renew'd in youth, the crested fnake,
PON laying down the office of SPECTATOR, I acquainted the world with my defign of electing a new club, and of opening my mouth in it after a moft folemn manner. Both the election and the ceremony are now paft; but not finding it fo eafy, as I at firft imagined, to break through a fifty years filence, I would not venture in
to the world under the character of a man who pretends to talk like other people, until I had arrived at a full freedom of speech.
I fhall reserve for another time the hiftory of such club or clubs of which I am now a talkative, but unworthy member; and shall here give an account of this furprising change which has been produced in me, and which I look upon to be as remarkable an accident as any recorded in hiftory, fince that which happened to the fon of Crafus, after having been many years as much tongue tied as myself.
Upon the first opening of my mouth, I made a fpeech, confifting of about half a dozen well-turned periods; but grew fo very hoarfe upon it, that, for three days together, inftead of finding the ufe of my tongue, I was afraid that I had quite loft it. Befides, the unusual extenfion of my muscles on this occafion, made my face ache on both fides, to fuch a degree, that nothing but an invincible refolution and perfe verance could have prevented me from falling back to my monofyllables.
I afterwards made feveral effays towards fpeaking; and, that I might not be startled at my own voice, which has happened to me more than once, I used to read aloud in my chamber, and have often ftood in the middle of the street to call a coach, when I knew there was none within hearing.
When I was thus grown pretty well acquainted: with my own voice, I laid hold of all opportunities to exert it. Not caring, however, to fpeak much by myfelf, and to draw upon me the whole attention of thofe I converfed with, I used, for fome time, to walk every morning in the Mall, and talk in chorus with a parcel of Frenchmen. I found my modefty greatly relieved by the communicative temper of this nation, who are fo very fociable as to think, they are never better company, than when they are all opening at the fame time.
I then fancied I might receive great benefit from female conversation, and that I should have a convenience of talking with the greater freedom, when I was not under any impediment of thinking: I therefore threw myself into an affembly of ladies, but could not, for my life, get in a word among them; and found, that if I did not change my company, I was in danger of being reduced to my primitive taciturnity.
The coffee-houses have ever fince been my chief places of refort, where I have made the greatest improvements; in order to which I have taken a parti>cular care never to be of the fame opinion with the man I conversed with. I was a Tory at Button's, and a Whig at Child's, a friend to the Englishman, or an advocate for the Examiner, as it beft ferved my turn; fome fancy me a great enemy to the French king, though, in reality, I only make ufe of him for a help to difcourfe. In fhort, I wrangle and difpute for exercise; and have carried this point fo far, that I was once like to have been run through the body for making a little too free with my betters.
In a word, I am quite another man to what I was.
Nil fuit unquam
Tam difpar fibi
HOR Sat. iii. lib. i. ver. 18.
Nothing was ever fo unlike itself.
My old acquaintance scarce knew me; nay, I was afked the other day by a few at Jonathan's, whether I was not related to a dumb gentleman, who used to come to that coffee-house? But I think I never was better pleased in my life than about a week ago, when, as I was battling it across the table with a young templar, his companion gave him a pull by the fleeve, begging him to come away, for that the old prig would talk him to death.
Being now a very good proficient in discourse, I fhall appear in the world with this addition to my character, that my countrymen may reap the fruits of my new-acquired loquacity.
Those who have been present at public disputes in the university, know, that it is ufual to maintain herefies for argument's fake. I have heard a man a most impudent Socinian for half an hour, who has been an orthodox divine all his life after. I have taken the fame method to accomplish myself in the gift of utterance, having talked above a twelve-month, not fo much for the benefit of my hearers, as of myfelf. But, fince I have now gained the faculty I have been fo long endeavouring after, I intend to make a right use of it, and shall think myself obliged for the future to speak always in truth and fincerity of heart While a man is learning to fence, he practises both on friend and foe; but, when he is a master in the art, he never exerts it but on what he thinks the right fide,
That this last allufion may not give my reader a wrong idea of my defign in this paper, I must here inform him, that the author of it is of no faction ; that he is a friend to no interefts but those of truth and virtue, nor a foe to any but thofe of vice and folly. Though I make more noife in the world than I ufed to do, I am ftill refolved to act in it as an indifferent Spectator. It is not my ambition to increase the number either of Whigs or Tories, but of wise and good men, and I could heartily with there were no faults common to both parties, which afford me fufficient matter to work upon, without defcending to those which are peculiar to either.
If in a multitude of counsellors there is fafety, we ought to think ourselves the fecureft nation in the world. Most of our garrets are inhabited by ftatesmen, who watch over the liberties of their country, and make a fhift to keep themfelves from
ftarving, by taking into their care the properties of their fellow-fubjects.
As these politicians of both fides have already worked the nation into a most unnatural ferment, I fhall be fo far from endeavouring to raise it to a greater height, that, on the contrary, it fhall be the chief tendency of my papers, to inspire my countrymen with a mutual good-will and benevolence. Whatever faults either party may be guilty of, they are rather inflamed than cured by those reproaches which they caft upon one another. The most likely method of rectifying any man's conduct, is by recommending to him the principles of truth and honour, reli gion and virtue; and fo long as he acts with an eye to these principles, whatever party he is of, he cannot fail of being a good Englishman, and a lover of his country.
As for the perfons concerned in this work, the names of all of them, or at least of such as defire it, fhall be published hereafter: until which time I must entreat the curious reader to fufpend his curiofity, and rather to confider what is written, than who they are that write it.
Having thus adjufted all neceffary preliminaries with my reader, I shall not trouble him with any more prefatory discourses, but proceed in my old method, and entertain him with fpeculations on every useful subject that falls in my way.
VOL. VIII. ·† B