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ill-nature and a sterility of brain; especially when the subject will not admit of raillery, and their discourse has no pretension to satire but what is in their design to disoblige. I should be very glad, too, if you would take notice, that a daily repetition of the same overbearing insolence is yet more insupportable, and a confirmation of very extraordinary dulness. The sudden publication of this may have an effect upon a notorious offender of this kind, whose reformation would redound very much to the satisfaction and quiet of
"Your most humble servant,
N° 444. WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 1712.
The mountain labours.*
HOR. Ars Poet. v. 159.
T gives me much despair in the design of reforming the world by my speculations, when I find there always arise, from one generation to another, successive cheats and bubbles, as naturally as beasts of prey, and those which are to be their food. There is hardly a man in the world, one would think, so ignorant, as not to know that the ordinary quack-doctors, who publish their great abilities in little brown billets, distributed to all who pass by, are to a man impostors and murderers; yet such is the credulity of the vulgar, and the impudence of those professors, that the affair still goes on, and new promises, of what was never done before, are made every day. What aggravates the jest is, that even this promise has been made as long as the memory of man can trace it, yet nothing performed, and yet still prevails. As I was passing along to-day, a paper given into my hand, by a fellow without a nose, tells us as follows what good news is come to town, to wit, that there is now a certain cure for the French disease, by a gentleman just come from his travels.
"In Russel-court, over-against the Cannon-ball, at the Surgeons'-arms in Drury-lane, is lately come from his
Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu?-HOR. Ars Poet. v. 138.
travels, a surgeon who hath practised surgery and physic both by sea and land, these twenty-four years. He (by the blessing) cures the yellow-jaundice, green-sickness, scurvy, dropsy, surfeits, long sea-voyages, campaigns, and women's miscarriages, lying-in, &c. as some people that has been lame these thirty years can testify; in short, he cureth all diseases incident to men, women, or children."
If a man could be so indolent as to look upon this havoc of the human species, which is made by vice and ignorance, it would be a good ridiculous work to comment upon the declaration of this accomplished traveller. There is something unaccountably taking among the vulgar in those who come from a great way off. Ignorant people of quality, as many there are of such, dote excessively this way; many instances of which every man will suggest to himself, without my enumeration of them. The ignorants of lower order, who cannot, like the upper ones, be profuse of their money to those recommended by coming from a distance, are no less complaisant than the others, for they venture their lives from the same admiration.
"The doctor is lately come from his travels," and has "practised both by sea and land," and therefore cures "the green-sickness, long sea-voyages, campaigns, and lying-in." Both by sea and land!-I will not answer for the distempers called sea-voyages and campaigns; but I dare say those of green-sickness and lying-in might be as well taken care of if the doctor stayed ashore. But the art of managing mankind is only to make them stare a little, to keep up their astonishment, to let nothing be familiar to them, but ever to have something in their sleeve, in which they must think you are deeper than they are. There is an ingenious fellow, a barber of my acquaintance, who, besides his broken fiddle and a dried seamonster, has a twine-cord, strained with two nails at each end, over his window, and the words "rainy, dry, wet,” and so forth, written to denote the weather, according to the rising or falling of the cord. We very great scholars are not apt to wonder at this; but I observed a very honest fellow, a chance customer, who sat in the chair before me to be shaved, fix his eye upon this miraculous performance during the operation upon his chin and face. When those and his head also were cleared of all encumbrances and
excrescences, he looked at the fish, then at the fiddle, still grubbing in his pockets, and casting his eye again at the twine, and the words writ on each side; then altered his mind as to farthings, and gave my friend a silver sixpence. The business, as I said, is to keep up the amazement; and if my friend had had only the skeleton and kit, he must have been contented with a less payment. But the doctor we were talking of adds to his long voyages the testimony of some people "that has been thirty years lame." When I received my paper, a sagacious fellow took one at the same time, and read till he came to the thirty years' confinement of his friends, and went off very well convinced of the doctor's sufficiency. You have many of those prodigious persons, who have had some extraordinary accident at their birth, or a great disaster in some part of their lives. Any thing, however foreign from the business the people want of you, will convince them of your ability in that you profess. There is a doctor in Mouse-alley, near Wapping, who sets up for curing cataracts, upon the credit of having, as his bill sets forth, lost an eye in the emperor's service. His patients come in upon this, and he shews the muster-roll, which confirms that he was in his imperial majesty's troops; and he puts out their eyes with great success. Who would believe that a man should be a doctor for the cure of bursten children, by declaring that his father and grandfather were both bursten? But Charles Ingolston, next door to the Harp, in Barbican, has made a pretty penny by that asseveration. The generality go upon their first conception, and think no farther; all the rest is granted. They take it, that there is something uncommon in you, and give you credit for the rest. You may be sure it is upon that I go, when sometimes, 'let it be to the purpose or not, I keep a Latin sentence in my front; and I was not a little pleased, when I observed one of my readers say, casting his eye upon my twentieth paper, "More Latin still? What a prodigious scholar is this man!" But as I have here taken much liberty with this learned doctor, I must make up all I have said by repeating what he seems to be in earest in, and honestly to promise to those who will not receive him as a great man to wit," that from eight to twelve, and from two till six, he attends, for the good of the public, to bleed for threepence."
No 445. THURSDAY, JULY 31, 1712.
Tanti non es, ais. Sapis, Luperce.-MART. Epig. i. 118.
I'n't worth so much: you're in the right.
THIS is the day on which many eminent authors will probably publish their last words. I am afraid that few of our weekly historians, who are men that above all others delight in war, will be able to subsist under the weight of a stamp, and an approaching peace. A sheet of blank paper that must have this new imprimatur clapped upon it, before it is qualified to communicate any thing to the public, will make its way in the world but very heavily. In short, the necessity of carrying a stamp, and the improbability of notifying a bloody battle, will, I am afraid, both concur to the sinking of those thin folios, which have every other day retailed to us the history of Europe for several years last past. A facetious friend of mine, who loves a pun, calls this present mortality among authors, "The fall of the leaf."
I remember, upon Mr. Baxter's death, there was published a sheet of very good sayings, inscribed, "The last words of Mr. Baxter." The title sold so great a number of these papers, that about a week after there came out a second sheet, inscribed, "More last words of Mr. Baxter." In the same manner, I have reason to think that several ingenious writers, who have taken their leave of the public in farewell papers, will not give over so, but intend to appear again, though perhaps under another form, and with a different title. Be that as it will, it is my business, in this place, to give an account of my own intentions, and to acquaint my reader with the motives by which I act, in this great crisis of the republic of letters.
I have been long debating in my own heart, whether I
Aug. 1. 1712, the stamp-duty here alluded to took place, and every single half sheet paid a halfpenny to the queen. "Have you seen the red stamp? Methinks the stamping is worth a halfpenny. The Observator is fallen; the Medleys are jumbled together with the Flying-Post; the Examiner is deadly sick. The Spectator keeps up, and doubles its price.”—Swift's Works, cr. 8vo. vol. xix. p. 173.
should throw up my pen, as an author that is cashiered by the act of parliament which is to operate within this fourand-twenty hours, or whether I should still persist in laying my speculations, from day to day, before the public. The argument which prevails with me most on the first side of the question is, that I am informed by my bookseller he must raise the price of every single paper to two-pence, or that he shall not be able to pay the duty of it. Now as I desirous my readers should have their learning as cheap as possible, it is with great difficulty that I comply with him in this particular.
However, upon laying my reasons together in the balance, I find that those who plead for the continuance of this work have much the greater weight. For, in the first place, in recompense for the expense to which this will put my readers, it is to be hoped they may receive from every paper so much instruction as will be a very good equivalent. And, in order to this, I would not advise any one to take it in, who, after the perusal of it, does not find himself two-pence the wiser, or the better man for it, or who, upon examination, does not believe that he has had two-pennyworth of mirth or instruction for his money.
But I must confess there is another motive which prevails with me more than the former. I consider that the tax on paper was given for the support of the government; and as I have enemies who are apt to pervert every thing I do or say, I fear they would ascribe the laying down my paper, on such an occasion, to a spirit of malcontentedness, which I am resolved none shall ever justly upbraid me with. No, I shall glory in contributing my utmost to the public weal; and, if my country receives five or six pounds a day by my labours, I shall be very well pleased to find myself
so useful a member.
It is a received maxim, that no honest man should enrich himself by methods that are prejudicial to the community in which he lives; and by the same rule I think we may pronounce the person to deserve very well of his countrymen, whose labours bring more into the public coffers than into his own pocket.
Since I have mentioned the word enemies, I must explain myself so far as to acquaint my reader, that I mean only the insignificant party-zealots on both sides; men of