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No. 623. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1714.
Sed mihi vel tellus optem prius ima dehiscat,
But first let yawning earth a passage rend,
I AM obliged to my friend, the love-casuist *, for the following curious piece of antiquity, which I shall communicate to the public in his own words.
‹ Mr. SPECTATOR,
You may remember that I lately transmitted to you an account of an ancient custom in the manors of East and West Enborne, in the county of Berks, and elsewhere t. "If a customary tenant die, the widow shall have what the law calls her freebench, in all his copyhold lands, dum sola et casta fuerit; that is, while she lives single and chaste; but if she commits incontinency she forfeits her estate; yet if she will come into the court riding backward upon a black ram, with his tail in her hand, and say the words following, the steward is bound by the custom to re-admit her to her freebench,
"Here I am,
Riding upon a black ram,
See Nos. 591, 602, 605, 614, and 625.
And for my crincum crancum ;
After having informed you that my Lord Coke observes, that this is the most frail and slippery tenure of any in England, I shall tell you, since the writing of that letter, I have, according to my promise, been at great pains in searching out the records of the black ram; and have at last met with the proceedings of the court baron, held in that behalf, for the space of a whole day. The record saith, that a strict inquisition having been made into the right of the tenants to their several estates, by a crafty old steward, he found that many of the lands of the manor were, by default of the several widows, forfeited to the lord, and accordingly would have entered on the premises: upon which the good women demanded the benefit of the ram." The steward, after having perused their several pleas, adjourned the court to Barnaby-bright*, that they might have day enough before them.
"The court being set, and filled with a great concourse of people, who came from all parts to see the solemnity; the first who entered was the widow Frontley who had made her appearance in the last year's cavalcade. The register observes, that, finding it an easy pad-ram, and foreseeing she might have further occasion for it, she purchased it of the steward.
'Mrs. Sarah Dainty, relict of Mr. John Dainty, who was the greatest prude in the parish, came next in the procession. She at first made some difficulty of taking the tail in her hand; and was observed, in pronouncing the form of penance, to soften the two most emphatical words into clincum clancum: but the steward took care to make her speak plain English before he would let her have her land again.
The third widow that was brought to this worldly shame, being mounted upon a vicious ram, had the mis
* June 11th; nearly the longest day in the year,
fortune to be thrown by him; upon which she hoped to be excused from going through the rest of the ceremony; but the steward, being well versed in the law, observed very wisely upon this occasion, that the breaking of the rope does not hinder the execution of the criminal.
The fourth lady upon record was the widow Ogle, a famous coquette, who had kept half a score young fellows off and on for the space of two years; but having been more kind to her carter John, she was introduced with the huzzas of all her lovers about her.
Mrs. Sable appearing in her weeds, which were very new and fresh, and of the same colour with her whimsical palfrey, made a very decent figure in the solemnity.
Another, who had been summoned to make her appearance, was excused by the steward, as well knowing in his heart that the good squire himself had qualified her for the ram.
Mrs. Quick, having nothing to object against the indictment, pleaded her belly. But it was remembered that she made the same excuse the year before. Upon which the steward observed, that she might so contrive it, as never to do the service of the manor.
The widow Fidget, being cited into court, insisted that she had done no more since the death of her husbandthan what she used to do in his lifetime; and withal, desired Mr. Steward to consider his own wife's case if he should chance to die before her.
The next in order was a dowager of a very corpulent make, who would have been excused as not finding any ram that was able to carry her; upon which the steward commuted her punishment, and ordered her to make her entry upon a black ox.
The widow Maskwell, a woman who had long lived with a most unblemished character, having turned off her old chambermaid in a pet, was by that revengeful creature brought in upon the black ram nine times the same day.
Several widows of the neighbourhood, being brought upon their trial, shewed that they did not hold of the manor, and were discharged accordingly.
A pretty young creature who closed the procession came ambling in with so bewitching an air, that the
steward was observed to cast a sheep's eye upon her, and married her within a month after the death of his wife.
N. B. Mrs. Touchwood appeared, according to summons, but had nothing laid to her charge; having lived irreproachable since the decease of her husband, who left her a widow in the sixty-ninth of her age. year
'I am, SIR, &c.'
NO. 624. WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 1714.
Audire, atque togam jubeo componere, quisquis ̈·
HOR. Sat. iii. 1. 2. ver. 77.
Sit still, and hear, those whom proud thoughts do swell,. Those that look pale by loving coin too well; Whom luxury corrupts. MANKIND is divided into two parts, the busy and the idle. The busy world may be divided into the virtuous and the vicious. The vicious again into the covetous, the ambitious, and the sensual. The idle part of mankind are in a state inferior to any one of these. All the other are engaged in the pursuit of happiness, though often misplaced, and are therefore more likely to be attentive to such means as shall be proposed to them for that end. The idle, who are neither wise for this world nor the next, are emphatically called by Doctor Tillotson fools at large.' They propose to themselves no end, but run adrift with every wind. Advice therefore would be but thrown away upon them, since they would scarce take the pains to read it. I shall not fatigue any of this worthless tribe with a long harangue; but will leave them with this short saying of Plato, that labour is preferable to idleness, as brightness to rust.'
The pursuits of the active part of mankind are either in the paths of religion and virtue; or, on the other hand, in the roads to wealth, honours, or pleasure. I shall, therefore, compare the pursuits of avarice, ambition, and sensual delight, with their opposite virtues; and shall
consider which of these principles engages men in a course of the greatest labour, suffering, and assiduity. Most men, in their cool reasonings, are willing to allow that a course of virtue will in the end be rewarded the most amply; but represent the way to it as rugged and narrow. If therefore it can be made appear, that men struggle through as many troubles to be miserable, as they do to be happy, my readers may perhaps be persuaded to be good, when they find they shall lose nothing by it.
First, for Avarice. The miser is more industrious than the saint: the pains of getting, the fears of losing, and the inability of enjoying his wealth, have been the mark of satire in all ages. Were his repentance upon his neglect of a good bargain, his sorrow for being over-reached, his hope of improving a sum, and his fear of falling into want, directed to their proper objects, they would make so many different Christian graces and virtues. He may apply to himself a great part of saint Paul's catalogue of sufferings. In journeying often; in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often.'-At how much less expence might he lay up to himself treasures in heaven?' Or, if may in this place be allowed to add the saying of a great philosopher, he may provide such possessions as fear neither arms, nor men, nor Jove himself.'
In the second place, if we look upon the toils of ambition in the same light as we have considered those of avarice, we shall readily own that far less trouble is requisite to gain lasting glory than the power and reputation of a few years; or, in other words, we may with more ease deserve honour than obtain it. The ambitious man should remember Cardinal Wolsey's complaint,
Had I served God with the same application wherewith I served my king, he would not have forsaken me in my old age.' The cardinal here softens his ambition by the specious pretence of serving his king:' whereas his - words, in the proper construction, imply, that, if instead of being acted by ambition he had been acted by reli