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N° Thursday March 1, 1710-11.
Non fumum ex fulgore, fed ex fumo dare lucem
One with a flash begins, and ends in smoke;
HAVE obferved, that a Reader feldom perufes a book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or cholerick difpofition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right underftanding of an author. To gratify this curiofity, which is fo natural to a reader, I defign this paper and my next as prefatory difcourfes to my following writings, and fhall give fome account in them of the feveral perfons that are engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digefting, and correcting will fall to my
fhare, I must do myfelf the justice to open the work with my own hiftory.
I was born to a fmall hereditary eftate, which ac cording to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by the fame hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's time that it is at prefent, and has been delivered down from father to fon whole and entire without the lofs or acquifition of a fingle field or meadow, during the fpace of fix hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that when my mother was gone with child of me about three months, fhe dreamt that he was brought to bed of a Judge: Whether this might proceed from a law-fuit which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a juftice of the peace, I cannot determine; for I am not fo vain as to think it prefaged any dignity that I fhould arrive at in my future life, though that was the interpretation which the neigbourhood put upon it. The gravity of my behaviour at my very first appearance in the world, and all the time that I fucked, feemed to favour my mother's dream: For, as fhe has often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make ufe of my coral until they had taken away the bells from it.
As for the reft of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I fhall pass it over in filence. I find, that, during my nonage, I had the reputation of a very fallen youth, but was always a favourite of my fchoolmaster, who used to fay, that my parts were folid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the univerfity, before I diftinguished myfelf by a moft profound filence; for during the fpace of eight years, excepting in the publick exercifes of the college, fcarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever fpoke three fentences together in my whole life. Whilt I was in this learned body, I applied myself with fo much diligence to my ftudies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or the modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the death of my father, I was refolved to travel into foreign countries, and therefore left the univerfity, with the character of an odd unaccountable fel
low, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but fhew it. An infatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe, in which there was any thing new or ftrange to be feen; nay, to fuch a degree was my curiofity raised, that having read the controverfies of fome great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpofe to take the meafure of a pyramid: And as foon as I had fet myself right in that particular, returned to my native country with great fatisfaction.
I have paffed my latter years in this city, where I am frequently feen in moft publick places, though there are not above half a dozen of my select friends that know me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There is no place of general refort, wherein I do not often make my appearance; fometimes I am feen thrusting my head into a round of politicians at Will's, and liftning with great attention to the narratives that are made in thofe little circular audiences. Sometimes I fmoke a pipe at Child's, and while I feem attentive to nothing but the Poftman, overhear the converfation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's coffee-houfe, and fometimes join the little committee of politicks in the inner-room, as one who comes there to hear and improve. My face is likwife very well known at the Grecian, the CocoaTree, and in the theatres both of Drury-Lane and the Hay-Market. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years, and fometimes pafs for a few in the affembly of ftock-jobbers at Jona than's: In fhort, wherever I fee a clufter of people, I always mix with them, though I ever open my lips but in my own club.
Thus I live in the world rather as a fpectator of mankind, than as one of the fpecies, by which means I have made myself a fpeculative ftatefman, foldier, merchant, and artifan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well verfed in the theory of a husband or a father, and can difcern the errors in the ecomony, bufinefs, and diversion of others, better than thefe who are engaged in them; as ftanders-by difcover blots, which are apt to efcape A 6