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No 556. TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 1714.
Qualis ubi in lucem coluber mala gramina paftus,
So fhines, renew'd in youth, the crefted 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
into the world under the character of a man who pretends to talk like other people, until I had arfived at a full freedom of speech.
I fhall referve for another time the hiftory of fuch club or clubs of which I am now a talkative, but unworthy member; and shall here give an account of this furprifing change which has been produced in me, and which I look upon to be as remarkable an accident as any recorded in history, 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, instead of finding the use of my tongue, I was afraid that I had quite loft it. Betides, the unusual extension of my mufcles on this occafion, made my face ache on both fides, to fuch a degree, that nothing but an invincible refolution and perfeverance 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 ufed 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 myself, and to draw upon me the whole attention of those I converfed with, I ufed, for fome time to walk every morning in the Mall, and talk in chorus with a parcel of Frenchmen. I found 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 converfation, 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 myfelf 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-houfes have ever fince been my chief places of refort, where I have made the greatest improvements; in order to which I have taken a particular care never to be of the fame opinion with the man I converfed 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 served my turn; fome fancy me a great enemy to the French king, though in reality I only make use of him for a help to difcourfe. In fhort, I wrangle and difpute for exercife; 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.
word, I am quite another man to what I
Tam difpar fibi
Nil fuit unquam
HOR. Sat. iii. lib. 1. ver. 18.
Nothing was ever fo unlike itself.
My old acquaintance fcarce 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 pleafed 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 difcourse, 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 prefent at public difputes in the univerfity, 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 myself. 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 fhall think myself obliged for the future to speak always in truth and fincerity of heart. While a man is learn-ing to fence, he practises both on friend and foe; but when he is a mafter 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 muft here inform him, that the author of it is of no faction, that he is a friend to no interefts but thofe 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 used 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 wife 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 thofe which are peculiar to either.
If in a multitude of counsellors there is fafety, we ought to think ourselves the secureft nation in the world. Moft of our garrets are inhabited by ftatefnten, who watch o over 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 moft 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 pápers, to infpire my countrymen with a mutual good-will and benevo lence. 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, religion 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 Englifbman, and a lover of his country.
As for the perfons, concerned in this work, the names of all of them, or at least of fuch as defire it, fhall be published hereafter: Until which time I muft intreat the curious reader to fufpend his curiofity, and rather to confider what is written than who they are that write it.
Having thus adjusted all neceffary preliminaries with my reader, I fhall not trouble him with any more prefatory difcourfes, but proceed in my old method, and entertain him with fpe'culations on every useful fübject that falls in my way.