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I remember to have read in Diodorus Siculus an account of a very active little animal, which I think he calls the ichneumon, that makes it the whole business of his life to break the eggs of the crocodile, which he is always in search after. This instinct is the more remarkable, because the ichneumon never feeds upon the eggs he has broken, nor any other way
finds his account in them. Were it not for the incessant labours of this industrious animal, Egypt, says the historian, would be over-run with crocodiles; for the Egyptians are so far from destroying those pernicious creatures, that they worship them as gods.
If we look into the behaviour of ordinary partizans, we shall find them far from resembling this disinterested animal; and rather acting after the example of the wild Tartars, who are ambitious of destroying a man of the most extraordinary parts and accomplishments, as thinking that upon his decease the same talents, whatever post they qualified him for, enter of course into his destroyer.
As in the whole train of my speculations I have endeavoured as much as I am able to extinguish that pernicious spirit of passion and prejudice, which rages with the same violence in all parties, I am still the more desirous of doing some good in this particular, because I observe that the spirit of party reigns more in the country than in the town. It here contracts a kind of brutality and rustic fierceness, to which men of a politer conversation are wholly strangers. It extends itself even to the return of the bow and the hat ? and at the same time that the heads of parties preserve towards one another an outward show of good-breeding, and keep up a perpetual intercourse of civilities, their tools that are dispersed in these outlying parts will not so much as mingle together at a cock-match. This humour fills the country with several periodical meetings of Whig jockies and Tory fox-hunters; not to mention the innumerable curses, frowns, and whispers it produces at a quarter-sessions.
I do not know whether I have observed in any of my former papers, that my friends Sir Roger de Coverley and Sir Andrew Freeport are of different principles, the first of them inclined to the landed and the other to the monied interest. This humour is so moderate in each of them, that it proceeds no farther than to an agreeable raillery, which very often diverts the rest of the club. I find however
I that the knight is a much stronger Tory in the country than in town, which, as he has told me in my ear, is absolutely necessary for the keeping up his interest. In all our journey from London to his house, we did not so much as bait at a Whig inns or if by chance the coachman stopped at a wrong place, one of Sir Roger's servants would ride up to his master full speed, and whisper to him that the master of the house was against such an one in the last election. This often betrayed us into hard beds and bad cheer; for we were not so inquisitive about the inn as the innkeeper; and provided our landlord's principles were sound, did not take any notice of the staleness of his provisions. This I found still the more inconvenient, because the better the host was, the worse generally were his accommodations; the fellow knowing very well that those who were his friends would take up with coarse diet and an hard lodging. For these reasons, all the while I was upon the road I dreaded entering into an house of any one that Sir Roger had applauded for an honest man.
Since my stay at Sir Roger's in the country, I daily find more instances of this narrow party-bumour. Being upon a bowling-green at a neighbouring market-town the other day, (for that is the place where the gentlemen of one side meet once a week) I observed a stranger among them.of a better presence and genteeler behaviour than ordinary , but was much surprised, that notwithstanding he was a very fair bettor, no body would take him up. But upon inquiry I found, that he was one who had given a disagreeable yote in a former parliament, for which reason there was not a man upon that bowling-green who would have so much correspondence with him as to win bis money of him.
Among other-instances of this nature, I must not omit one which concerns myself. Will Wimble was the other day relating several strange stories that he had picked up, no body knows where, of a certain great man; and upon my staring at him, as, one that was surprised to hear such things in the country which had never been so much as whispered in the town, Will stopped short in the thread of his discourse, and after dinner asked my friend Sir Roger in his ear if he was sure that I was not a fanatic.
It gives me a serious concern to see such a spirit of dissension in the country; not only as it destroy's virtue and common sense, and renders us in a manner-barbarians towards one another, but as it perpetuates our animosities, widens our breaches, and transmits our present passions and prejudices to our posterity. For my own part, I am sometimes afraid that I discover the seeds of a civil war in these our divisions; and therefore cannot but bewail, as in their first principles, the 'miseries and calamities of our children.
NO 127. THURSDAY, JULY 26, 1711.
-Quantum est in rebus inane !
PERS. Sat. i. ver. l. How much of emptiness we find in things! It is our custoin at Sir Roger's, upon the comingin of the post, to sit about a pot of coffee, and hear the old knight read Dyer's Letter : which he does with his spectacles upon his nose, and in an audible voice, smiling very often at those little strokes of satire, which are so frequent in the writings of that
author. I afterwards communicate to the knight such packets as I receive under the quality of Spectator. The following letter chancing to please him more than ordinary, I shall publish it at his request.
MR. SPECTATOR, • You have diverted the town almost a whole month at the expence of the country, it is now high time that you should give the country their revenge. Since your withdrawing from this place, the fair sex are run into great extravagancies. Their petticoats, which began to heave and swell before
us, are now blown up into a most enormous concave, and rise every day more and more. In short, Sir, since our women know themselves to be out of the eye of the Spectator, they will be kept within no compass. You praised them a little too soon, for the modesty of their head-dresses; for as the humour of a sick person is often driven out of one limb into another, their superfluity of ornaments, instead of being entirely banished, seems on. ly fallen from their heads upon their lower parts. What they have lost in height they make up in hreadth, and, contrary to all rules of architecture, widen the foundations at the same time that they shorten the superstructure. Were they, like Spanish jennets, to impregnate by the wind, they could not have thought on a more proper invention. But as we do not hear any particular use in this petticoat, or that it contains any thing more than what was supposed to be in those of scantier make, we are wonderfully at a loss about it.
• The women give out, in defence of these wide bottoms, that they are airy, and very proper for the season; but this I look upon to be only a pretence, and a piece of art, for it is well known we have not had a more moderate summer these many years, so that it is certain the heat they complain of cannot be in the weather. Besides, I would fain ask thèse tender constitutioned ladies, why they should. require more cooling than their mothers before them?
"I find several speculative persons are of opinion that our sex has of late years been very saucy, and tliat the hoop-petticoat is made use of to keep us at a distance. It is most certain, that a woman's honour cannot be better intrenched than after this manner, in circle within circle, amidst such a variety of out works and lines of circumvallation. A female who is thus invested in whalebone, is sufficiently secured against the approaches of an ill-bred fellow, who might as well think of Sir George Etherege's way of making “ Love in a T'ub"*, as in the midst of so many hoops.
Among these various conjectures, there are men of superstitious tempers, who look upon the hoop. petticoat as a kind of prodigy. Some will have it that it portends the downfall of the French king, and observe that the farthingal appeared in England a little before the ruin of the Spanish monarchy. Others are of opinion that it foretels battle and bloodshed, and believe it of the same prognostication as the tail of a blazing star. For my part, I am apt to think it is a sign that multitudes are coming into the world rather than going out of it.
“The first time I saw a lady dressed in one of these petticoats, I could not forbear blaming her in my own thoughts for walking abroad when she was
so hear her time;' but soon recovered myself out of my error, when I found all the modish part of the sex as far gone as herself. It is generally thought some crafty women have thus betrayed their companions into hoops, that they might make them accessory to their own concealments, and by that means escape the censure of the world ; as wary generals have sometimes dressed two or three dozen of their friends in their own habit, that they might not draw upon themselves any particular attacks from the enemy. The strutting petticoat smooths all distinctions, levels the mother with the daughter,
* In the comedy so called, Aet iv. scene 6, Dufoy, a Frenchinan, carries a tub about the stage on his shoulders, his head coming tbrough a hole at the upper epd.