his company. Not so is the behaviour of Polyspherchon, at whose gate you are obliged to knock a considerable time before you gain admittance. At length, the door being opened to you by a maid or some improper servant, who wonders where the devil all the men are; and being asked if the gentleman is at home, answers, she believes so; you are conducted into a hall, or back-parlour, where you stay some time, before the gentleman, in a dishabille from his study or his garden, waits upon you, asks pardon, and assures you he did not expect you so soon.


Your guest being introduced into a drawing-room, is, after the first ceremonies, to be asked, whether he will refresh himself after his journey, before dinner (for which he is never to stay longer than the usual or fixed hour). this request is never to be repeated oftener than twice, and not in imitation of Calepus, who, as if hired by a physician, crams wine in a morning down the throats of his most temperate friends, their constitutions being not so dear to them as their present quiet.

When dinner is on the table, and the ladies have taken their places, the gentlemen are to be introduced into the eating-room, where they are to be seated with as much seeming indifference as possible, unless there be any present whose degrees claim an undoubted precedence. As to the rest, the general rules of precedence are by marriage, age, and profession. Lastly, in placing your guests, regard is rather to be had to birth than fortune; for though pursepride is forward enough to exalt itself, it bears a degradation with more secret comfort and ease than the former, as being more inwardly satisfied with itself, and less apprehensive of neglect or contempt.

The order in helping your guests is to be regulated by that of placing them; but here I must, with great sub

[blocks in formation]

mission, recommend to the lady at the upper end of the table, to distribute her favours as equally and as impartially as she can. I have sometimes seen a large dish of fish extend no farther than to the fifth person, and a haunch of venison lose all its fat before half the table had tasted it.

A single request to eat of any particular dish, how elegant soever, is the utmost I allow. I strictly prohibit all earnest solicitations, all complaints that you have no appetite, which are sometimes little less than burlesque, and always impertinent and troublesome.

And here, however low it may appear to some readers, as I have known omissions of this kind give offence, and sometimes make the offenders, who have been very well-meaning persons, ridiculous, I cannot help mentioning the ceremonial of drinking healths at table, which is always to begin with the lady's and next the master's of the house.

When dinner is ended, and the ladies retired, though I do not hold the master of the feast obliged to fuddle himself through complacence (and, indeed, it is his own fault generally, if his company be such as would desire it) yet he is to see that the bottle circulates sufficient to afford every person present a moderate quantity of wine, if he chooses it; at the same time permitting those who desire it, either to pass the bottle, or fill their glass as they please. Indeed, the beastly custom of besotting, and ostentatious contention for preeminence in their cups, seems at present pretty well abolished among the better sort of people.-An Essay on Conversation.

4. The Migration of Souls.

We now came to the banks of the great river Cocytus, where we quitted our vehicle, and passed the water in a boat,

after which we were obliged to travel on foot the rest of our journey; and now we met, for the first time, several passengers travelling to the world we had left, who informed us they were souls going into the flesh.

The two first we met were walking arm and arm in very close and friendly conference; they informed us that one of them was intended for a duke, and the other for a hackney-coachman. As we had not yet arrived at the place where we were to deposit our passions, we were all surprised at the familiarity which subsisted between persons of such different degrees; nor could the grave lady help expressing her astonishment at it. The future coachman then replied with a laugh, that they had exchanged lots; for that the duke had with his dukedom drawn a shrew for a wife, and the coachman only a single state.

As we proceeded on our journey, we met a solemn spirit walking alone with great gravity in his countenance : our curiosity invited us, notwithstanding his reserve, to ask what lot he had drawn. He answered with a smile, he was to have the reputation of a wise man with 100,000l. in his pocket, and that he was practising the solemnity which he was to act in the other world.

A little farther we met a company of very merry spirits, whom we imagined by their mirth to have drawn some mighty lot, but, on enquiry, they informed us they were to be beggars.

The farther we advanced, the greater numbers we met; and now we discovered two large roads leading different ways, and of very different appearance; the one all craggy with rocks, full as it seemed of boggy grounds, and every where beset with briars, so that it was impossible to pass. through it without the utmost danger and difficulty; the other, the most delightful imaginable, leading through the

most verdant meadows, painted and perfumed with all kinds of beautiful flowers; in short, the most wanton imagination could imagine nothing more lovely. Notwithstanding which, we were surprised to see great numbers crowding into the former, and only one or two solitary spirits choosing the latter. On enquiry, we were acquainted that the bad road was the way to Greatness, and the other to Goodness. When we expressed our surprise at the preference given to the former, we were acquainted that it was chosen for the sake of the music of drums and trumpets, and the perpetual acclamations of the mob, with which those who travelled this way were constantly saluted. We were told likewise, that there were several noble palaces to be seen, and lodged in, on this road, by those who had past through the difficulties of it (which indeed many were not able to surmount), and great quantities of all sorts of treasure to be found in it; whereas the other had little inviting more than the beauty of the way, scarce a handsome building, save one greatly resembling a certain house by the Bath, to be seen during that whole journey; and lastly, that it was thought very scandalous and mean-spirited to travel through this, and as highly honourable and noble to pass by the other.

We now heard a violent noise, when, casting our eyes forward, we perceived a vast number of spirits advancing in pursuit of one whom they mocked and insulted in all kinds. of scorn. I cannot give my reader a more adequate idea of this scene than by comparing it to an English mob conducting a pickpocket to the water; or by supposing that an incensed audience at a playhouse had unhappily possessed themselves of the miserable damned poet. Some laughed, some hissed, some squalled, some groaned, some bawled, some spit at him, some threw dirt at him. It was impossible not to ask who or what the wretched spirit was, whom

they treated in this barbarous manner; when to our great surprise, we were informed that it was a king: we were likewise told that this manner of behaviour was usual among the spirits to those who drew the lots of emperors, kings, and other great men, not from envy or anger, but mere derision and contempt of earthly grandeur: that nothing was more common than for those who had drawn these great prizes (as to us they seemed) to exchange them with tailors and cobblers; and that Alexander the Great, and Diogenes, had formerly done so: he that was afterwards Diogenes, having originally fallen on the lot of Alexander.

And now, on a sudden, the mockery ceased, and the king spirit, having obtained a hearing, began to speak as follows: for we were now near enough to hear him distinctly.


'I AM justly surprised at your treating me in this manner; since whatever lot I have drawn, I did not choose: if therefore it be worthy of derision, you should compassionate me, for it might have fallen to any of your shares. I know in how low a light the station to which fate hath assigned me is considered here, and that, when ambition doth not support it, it becomes generally so intolerable, that there is scarce any other condition for which it is not gladly exchanged: for what portion, in the world to which we are going, is so miserable as that of care? Should I therefore consider myself as become by this lot essentially your superior, and of a higher order of being than the rest of my follow-creatures: should I foolishly imagine myself without wisdom superior to the wise, without knowledge to the learned, without courage to the brave, and without goodness and virtue to the good and virtuous; surely so preposterous, so absurd a pride, would justly render me the object of

« VorigeDoorgaan »