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stance can there be of a weak and pusillanimous temper, than for a man to pass his whole life in opposition to his own sentiments? or not to dare to be what he thinks he ought to be?
Singularity, therefore, is only vicious when it makes men act contrary to reason, or when it puts them upon distinguishing themselves by trifles. As for the first of these, who are singular in any thing that is irreligious, immoral, or dishonourable, I believe every one will easily give them up. I shall therefore speak of those only who are remarkable for their singularity in things of no importance; as in dress, behaviour, conversation, and all the little intercourses of life. In these cases, there is a certain deference due to custom; and, notwithstanding there may be a colour of reason to deviate from the multitude in some particulars, a man ought to sacrifice his private inclinations and opinions to the practice of the public. It must be confessed, that good sense often makes an humourist; but then it unqualifies him for being of any moment in the world, and renders him ridiculous to persons of a much inferior understanding.
I have heard of a gentleman in the north of England, who was a remarkable instance of this foolish singularity. He had laid it down as a rule within himself, to act in the most indifferent parts of life according to the most abstracted notions of reason and good sense, without any regard to fashion or example. This humour broke out at first in many little oddnesses: he had never any stated hours for his dinner, supper, or sleep; because, said he, we ought to attend the calls of nature, and not to set our appetites to our meals, but bring our meals to our appetites. In his conversation with country gentlemen he would not make use of a phrase that was not strictly true: he never told any of them that he was his humble servant, but that he was his well-wisher, and would rather be thought a malcontent than drink the king's health when he was not dry. He would thrust his head out of his chamber window every morning, and, after having gaped for fresh air about half an hour, repeat fifty verses as loud as he could bawl them, for the benefit of his lungs; to which end he generally took them out of Homer; the Greek tongue, especially in that author, being more deep and sonorous, and more conducive to expecto
ration than any other. He had many other particularities, for which he gave sound and philosophical reasons. this humour still grew upon him, he chose to wear a turban instead of a periwig; concluding very justly, that a bandage of a clean linen about his head was much more wholesome, as well as cleanly, than the caul of a wig, which is soiled with frequent perspirations. He after wards judiciously observed, that the many ligatures in our English dress must naturally check the circulation of the blood; for which reason he made his breeches and his doublet of one continued piece of cloth, after the manner of the hussars. In short, by following the pure dictates of reason, he at length departed so much from the rest of his countrymen, and indeed from his whole species, that his friends would have clapped him into Bedlam, and have begged his estate; but the judge, being informed that he did no harm, contented himself with issuing out a commission of lunacy against him, and putting his estate into the hands of proper guardians.
The fate of this philosopher puts me in mind of a remark in Monsieur Fontenelle's Dialogues of the Dead. The ambitious and the covetous,' says he, are madmen to all intents and purposes, as much as those who are shut up in dark rooms; but they have the good luck to have numbers on their side; whereas the frenzy of one who is given up for a lunatic, is a frenzy hors d'œuvre; that is, in other words, something which is singular in its kind, and does not fall in with the madness of a multitude.
The subject of this essay was occasioned by a letter which I received not long since, and which, for want of room at present, I shall insert in my next paper.
No. 577. FRIDAY, AUGUST 6, 1714.
-Hoc tolerabile, si non
This might be borne with, if you did not rave.
THE letter mentioned in my last paper is as follows:
Juv. Sat. vi. ver. 613.
You have so lately decried that custom, too much in use amongst most people, of making themselves the subjects of their writings and conversation, that I had some difficulty to persuade myself to give you this trouble, till I had considered that though I should speak in the first person, yet I could not be justly charged with vanity, since I shall not add my name; as also, because what I shall write, will not, to say the best, redound to my praise; but is only designed to remove a prejudice conceived against me, as I hope, with very little foundation. My short history is this.
I have lived for some years last past altogether in London, till about a month ago an acquaintance of mine, for whom I have done some small services in town, invited me to pass part of the summer with him at his house in the country. I accepted his invitation, and found a very hearty welcome. My friend, an honest plain man, not being qualified to pass away his time. without the reliefs of business, has grafted the farmer upon the gentleman, and brought himself to submit even to the servile parts of that employment, such as inspecting his plough, and the like. This necessarily takes up some of his hours every day; and, as I have no relish for such diversions, I used at these times to retire either to my chamber, or a shady walk near the house, and entertain myself with some agreeable author. Now, you must know, Mr. Spectator, that when I read, especially if it be poetry, it is very usual with me, when I meet with any passage or expression which strikes me much, to pronounce it aloud, with that tone of the voice which I think agreeable to the sentiments there expressed; and
to this I generally add some motion or action of the body. It was not long before I was observed by some of the family in one of these heroic fits, who thereupon received impressions very much to my disadvantage. This however I did not soon discover, nor should have done probably, had it not been for the following accident. I had one day shut myself up in my chamber, and was very deeply engaged in the second book of Milton's Paradise Lost. I walked to and fro with the book in my hand; and, to speak the truth, I fear I made no little noise; when, presently coming to the following lines:>
-On a sudden open fly,
I in great transport threw open the door of my chamber, and found the greatest part of the family standing on the outside in a very great consternation. I was in no less confusion, and begged pardon for having disturbed them; addressing myself particularly to comfort one of the children who received an unlucky fall in this action, while he was too intently surveying my meditations through the key-hole. To be short, after this adventure I easily observed that great part of the family, especially the women and children, looked upon me with some apprehensions of fear; and my friend himself, though he still continues his civilities to me, did not seem altogether easy: I took notice that the butler was never after this accident ordered to leave the bottle upon the table after dinner. Add to this, that I frequently overheard the servants mention me by the name of " the crazed gentleman, the gentleman a little touched, the mad Londoner," and the like. This made me think it high time for me to shift. my quarters, which I resolved to do the first favourable opportunity; and was confirmed in this resolution by a young lady in the neighbourhood who frequently visited us, and who one day, after having heard all the fine things I was able to say, was pleased with a scornful smile to bid me 66 go to sleep."
The first minute I got to my lodgings in town I set pen to paper to desire your opinion, whether, upon the evidence before you, I am mad or not. I can bring cer
tificates that I behave myself soberly before company, and I hope there is at least some merit in withdrawing to be mad. Look you, Sir, I am contented to be esteemed a little touched, as the phrase is, but should be sorry to be madder than my neighbours; therefore, pray let me be as much in my senses as you can afford. I know I could bring yourself as an instance of a man who has confessed talking to himself; but yours is a particular case, and cannot justify me, who have not kept silence any part of my life. What if I should own myself in love? You know lovers are always allowed the comfort of soliloquy.- -But I will say no more upon this subject, because I have long since observed, the ready way to be thought mad is to contend that you are not so; as we generally conclude that man drunk who takes pains. to be thought sober. I will therefore leave myself to your determination; but am the more desirous to be thought in my senses, that it may be no discredit to you when I assure you, that I have always been very much Your admirer.
· P. S. If I must be mad, I desire the young lady may believe it is for her."
The humble Petition of John a Nokes and John a Styles,
THAT your petitioners have had causes depending in Westminster-hall above five hundred years, and that we despair of ever seeing them brought to an issue; that your petitioners have not been involved in these law-suits out of any litigious temper of their own, but by the instigation of contentious persons; that the young lawyers in our inns of court are continually setting us together by the ears, and think they do us no hurt, because they plead for us without a fee; that many of the gentlemen of the robe have no other clients in the world besides us two; but when they have nothing else to do, they make us plaintiffs and defendants, though they were never retained by either of us; that they traduce, condemn, or acquit us, without any manner of regard to our reputations and good names in the world. Your petitioners, therefore, being thereunto encouraged by the favour