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went out of the room, and sent the facetious inviter a challenge in writing. which though it was afterwards dropped by the interposition of friends, put a stop to these ludicrous entertainments.
“Now, sir, I dare say you will agree with me, that as there is no moral in these jests, they ought to be discouraged, and looked upon rather as pieces of unluckiness than wit. However, as it is natural for one man to refine upon the thought of another, and impossible for any single person, how great soever his parts may be, to invent an art, and bring it to its utmost perfection; I shall here give you an account of an honest gentleman of my acquaintance, who upon hearing the character of the wit above-mentioned, has himself assumed it, and endeavoured to convert it to the benefit of mankind. He invited half a dozen of his friends one day to dinner, who were each of them famous for inserting several redundant phrases in their discourse, as 'D'ye hear me, D'ye see, That is, And so, sir. Each of the guests making frequent use of his particular elegance, appeared so ridiculous to his neighbour, that he could not but reflect upon himself as appearing equally ridiculous to the rest of the company: by this means, before they had sat long together, every one talking, with the greatest circumspection, and carefully avoiding his favourite expletive, the conversation was cleared of its redundancies, and had a greater quantity of sense, though less of sound in it.
“The same well-meaning gentleman took occasion at another time, to bring together such of his friends as were addicted to a foolish habitual custom of swearing. In order to shew them the absurdity of the practice, he had recourse to the invention abovementioned, having placed an amanuensis in a private part of the
After the second bottle, when men open their minds without reserve, my honest friend began to take notice of the many sonorous but unnecessary words that had passed in his house since their sitting down at table, and how much good conversation
they had lost by giving way to such superfluous phrases. What a tax, says he, would they have raised for the poor, had we put the laws in execution upon one another ? Every one of them took this gentle reproof in good part: upon which he told them, that knowing their conversation would have no secrets in it, he had ordered it to be taken down in writing, and for the humoursake would read it to them if they pleased. There were ten sheets of it, which might have been reduced to two, had there not been those abominable interpolations, I have before mentioned. Upon the reading of it in cold blood, it looked rather like a conference of fiends than of men. In short, every one trembled at himself upon hearing calmly what he had pronounced amidst the heat and inadvertency of discourse.
“ I shall only mention another occasion wherein he made use of the same invention to cure a different kind of men, who the pests of all polite conversation, and murder time as much as either of the two former, though they do it more innocently; I mean that dull generation of story-tellers. My friend got together about half a dozen of his acquaintance, who were infected with this strange malady. The first day one of them sitting down, entered upon the siege of Namur, which lasted till four o'clock, their time of parting. The second day a North Briton took possession of the discourse, which it was impossible to get out of his hands so long as the company staid together. The third day was engrossed after the same manner by a story of the same length. They at last began to reflect upon this barbarous way of treating one another, and by this means awakened out of that lethargy with which each of them had been seized for several years.
"As you have somewhere declared, that extraordinary and uncommon characters of mankind are the game which you delight in, and as I look upon you to be the greatest sportsman, or, if you please, the Nimrod among this species of writers, I thought this discovery would not be unacceptable to you.
“I am, sir,” &c.
Love was the mother of poetry, and still produces, among the most ignorant and barbarous, a thousand imaginary distresses and poetical complaints. It makes a footman talk like Oroondates, and converts a brutal rustic into a gentle swain. The most ordinary plebeian or mechanic in love, bleeds and pines away with a certain elegance and tenderness of sentiments which this passion naturally inspires.
These inward languishings of a mind infected with this softness, have given birth to a phrase which is made use of by all the melting tribe, from the highest to the lowest, I mean that of dying for love.
Romances, which owe their very being to this passion, are full of these metaphorical deaths. Heroes and heroines, knights, squires, and damsels, are all of them in a dying condition. There is the same kind of mortality in our modern tragedies, where every one gasps, faints, bleeds, and dies. Many of the poets, to describe the execution which is done by this passion, represent the fair sex as basilisks that destroy with their eyes; but I think Mr. Cowley has with greater justness of thought compared a
beautiful woman to a porcupine, that sends an arrow from every part.
I have often thought, that there is no way so effectual for the cure of this general infirmity, as a man's reflecting upon the motives that produce it. When the passion proceeds from the sense of any virtue or perfection in the persons beloved, I would by no means discourage it; but if a man considers that all his heavy complaints of wounds and deaths rise from some little affectations of coquetry, which are improved into charms by his own fond imagination, the very laying before himself the cause of his distemper, may be sufficient to effect the cure of it.
It is in this view that I have looked over the several bundles of letters which I have received from dying people, and composed out of them the following bill of mortality, which I shall lay before my reader without any further preface, as hoping that it may be useful to him in discovering those several places where there is most danger, and those fatal arts which are made use of to destroy the heedless and unwary.
Lysander, slain at a puppet-show on the third of September.
T. S. wounded by Zelinda's scarlet stocking, as she was stepping out of a coach.
Will. Simple, smitten at the Opera by the glance of an eye that was aimed at one who stood by him.
Tho. Vainlove, lost his life at a ball.
Tim. Tattle, killed by the tap of a fan on his left shoulder by Coquetilla, as he was talking carelessly with her in a bowwindow.
Sir Simon Softly, murdered at the play-house in Drury-lane by a frown.
Philander, mortally wounded by Cleora, as she was adjusting her tucker.
Ralph Gapely, Esq. hit by a random shot at the ring.
W. W. killed by an unknown hand, that was playing with the glove off upon the side of the front-box in Drury-lane.
Sir Christopher Crazy, Bart. hurt by the brush of a whalebone petticoat.
Sylvius, shot through the sticks of a fan at St. James's church.
Damon, struck through the heart by a diamond necklace.
Thomas Trusty, Francis Goosequill, William Meanwell, Edward Callow, Esqs. standing in a row, fell all four at the same time, by an ogle of the Widow Trapland.
Tom Rattle, chancing to tread upon a lady's tail as he came out of the playhouse, she turned full upon him, and laid him dead upon the spot.
Dick Tastewell, slain by a blush from the Queen's box in the third act of the Trip to the Jubilee.
Samuel Felt, haberdasher, wounded in his walk to Islington by Mrs. Susannah Cross-stitch, as she was clambering over a stile.
R, F. T, W. S, I. M, P. &c. put to death in the last birth-day
Roger Blinko, cut off in the twenty-first year of his age by a whitewash.
Musidorus, slain by an arrow that flew out of a dimple in Belinda's left cheek.
Ned Courtly, presenting Flavia with her glove (which she had dropped on purpose) she received it, and took away his life with a curtsey. John Gosselin, having received a slight hurt from a pair