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see I am something respected by others; though at the same time I understand by their behavior that I am considered by them as a man of a great deal of learning, but no knowledge of the world; insomuch that the Major sometimes, in the height of his military pride, calls me the philosopher ; and Sir Jeoffry, no longer ago than last night, upon a dispute what day of the month it was then in Holland, pulled his pipe out of his mouth, and cried, “ What does the scholar say to it?"
Our club meets precisely at six o'clock in the evening; but I did not come last night until half an hour after seven, by which means I escaped the battle of Naseby, which the Major usually begins at about three quarters after six. I found also that my good friend the Bencher had already spent three of his distichs, and only waited an opportunity to hear a sermon spoken of, that he might introduce the couplet* where " a stick" rhymes to “ecclesiastic." At my entrance into the room, they were naming a red petticoat and a cloak, by which I found that the Bencher had been diverting them with a story of Jack Ogle.†
I had no sooner taken my seat, but Sir Jeoffry, to show his good-will towards me, gave me a pipe of his own tobacco, and stirred up the fire. I look upon it as a point of morality
* In Hudibras.
† The story is thus given in the notes to the variorum edition of the Tatler, published in 1797. Ogle once rode “as a private gentleman, in the first troop of foot-guards, at that time under the command of the Duke of Monmouth. He had pawned his trooper's cloak, and to save appearances at a review, had borrowed his landlady's red petticoat, which he carried rolled up en croupe behind him. The Duke of Monmouth smoked it, and willing to enjoy the confusion of a dotection, gave order to cloak all, with which Ogle, after some hesitation, was obliged to comply. Although he could not cloak, he said he would petticoat with the best of them."--Vol. iii. p. 124.
to be obliged by those who endeavor to oblige me; and therefore, in requital for his kindness, and to set the conversation a-going, I took the best occasion I could to put him upon telling us the story of old Gantlett, which he always does with very particular concern. He traced up
his descent on both sides for several generations, describing his diet and manner of life, with his several battles, and particularly the one in which he fell. This Gantlett was a game-cock, upon whose head the knight, in his youth, had won five hundred pounds and lost two thousand. This naturally set the Major upon the account of Edge-hill fight, and ended in a duel of Jack Ogle's.
Old Reptile was extremely attentive to all that was said, though it was the same he had heard every night for these twenty years, and upon all occasions winked upon his nephew to mind what passed.
This may suffice to give the world a taste of our innocent conversation, which we spun out till about ten of the clock,
maid came with a lantern to light me home. I could not but reflect with myself, as I was going out, upon the talkative humor of old men, and the little figure which that part of life makes in one who cannot employ his natural propensity in discourses which would make him venerable. I must own it makes me very melancholy in company when I hear a young man begin a story; and have often observed, that one of a quarter of an hour long in a man of five-andtwenty, gathers circumstances every time he tells it, until it grows into a long Canterbury tale of two hours by the time he is threescore.
The only way of avoiding such a trifling and frivolous old age, is to lay up in our way to it such stores of knowledge and observation as make us useful and agreeable in our declining years. The mind of man in a long life will become a
magazine of wisdom or folly, and will consequently discharge itself in something impertinent or improving. For which reason, as there is nothing more ridiculous than an old trifling story-teller, so there is nothing more venerable than one who has turned his experience to the entertainment and advantage of mankind.
In short, we, who are in the last stage of life, and are apt to indulge ourselves in talk, ought to consider if what we speak be worth being heard, and endeavor to make our discourse like that of Nestor, which Homer compares to the flowing of honey for its sweetness.
I am afraid I shall be thought guilty of this excess I am speaking of, when I cannot conclude without observing, that Milton certainly thought of this passage in Homer, when, in his description of an eloquent spirit, he says
“His tongue dropped manna."*
* We cannot miss the opportunity of adding to this account of the members of the Trumpet Club, that of another associate, whose character is drawn by Steele in a previous number, and is one of the finest that ever proceeded from his pen. It shows his contempt of that absurdest of all the passions of mortality--Pride. The reader will take notice of the exquisite expression “insolent benevolence;" and the “ very insignificant fellow, but exceeding gracious.”
“ The most remarkable (he says) of the persons whose disturbance arises from Pride, and whom I shall use all possible diligence to cure, are such as are hidden in the appearance of quite contrary habits and dispositions. Ainong such, I shall in the first place take care of one who is under the most subtle species of pride that I have observed in my whole experience.
“ This patient is a person for whom I have great respect, as being an old courtier and a friend of mine in my youth. The man has but a bare subsistence, just enough to pay his reckoning with us at the Trumpet; but, by having spent the beginning of his life in the hearing of great men and persons in power, he is always promising to do good
FROM THE ESSAYS.
the Choice Spirits. The name was entirely suited to my taste; I was a lover of mirth, good-humor, and even sometimes of fun, from my
childhood. As no other passport was requisite but the payment of two shillings at the door, I introduced myself without farther ceremony to the members, who were already assembled, and had for some time begun upon business. The grand, with a mallet in his hand, presided at the head of the table. I could not avoid, upon my entrance, making use of all my skill in physiognomy, in order to discover that superiority of genius in men who had taken a title so superior to the rest of mankind. I expected to see the lines of every face marked with strong thinking; but, though I had some skill in this science, I could for my life discover nothing but a pert simper, fat or profound stupidity.
My speculations were soon interrupted by the grand, who
offices, to introduce every man he converses with into the world ; will desire one of ten times his substance to let him see him sometimes, and hints to him that he does not forget him. He answers to matters of' no consequence with great circumspection ; but, however, maintains a general civility in his words and actions, and an insolent benevolence to all whom he has to do with. This he practises with a grave tone and air; and though I am his senior by twelve years, and richer by forty pounds per annum, he had yesterday the impudence to commend me to my face, and tell me ' he should always be ready to encourage me.' In a word, he is a very insignificant fellow, but exceeding gracious. The best return I can make him for his favors is to carry him myself to Bedlam, and see him well taken care of.”—Tatler, No. 127.
had knocked down Mr. Spriggins for a song. I was upon this whispered by one of the company who sat next me, that I should now see something touched off to a nicety, for Mr. Spriggins was going to give us Mad Tom in all its glory. Mr. Spriggins endeavored to excuse himself; for, as he was to act a madman and a king, it was impossible to go through the part properly without a crown and chains. His excuses were over-ruled by a great majority, and with much vociferation. The president ordered up the jack-chain ; and, instead of a crown, our performer covered his brows with an inverted jordan. After he had rattled his chain and shook his head, to the great delight of the whole company, he began his song. As I have heard few young fellows offer to sing in company that did not expose themselves, it was no great disappointment to me to find Mr. Spriggins among the number : however, not to seem an odd fish, I rose from my seat in rapture, cried out, “ Bravo! encore !" and slapped the table as loud as any of the rest.
The gentleman who sat next me seemed highly pleased with my taste, and the ardor of my approbation; and, whispering, told me I had suffered an immense loss, for, had I come a few minutes sooner, I' might have heard “ Geeho Dobbin" sung in a tip-top manner, by the pimple-nosed spirit at the president's right elbow; but he was evaporated before I came.
As I was expressing my uneasiness at this disappointment, I found the attention of the company employed upon a fat figure, who, with a voice more rough than the Staffordshire giant's, was giving us the “Softly sweet, in Lydian measure," of Alexander's Feast. After a short pause of admiration, to this succeeded a Welsh dialogue, with the humors of Teague and Taffy; after that came on Old Jackson, with a story between every stanza; next was sung the Dust