Imágenes de páginas

would think should not be desired so much as to be counterseited: yet even this vanity, trifling as it is, produces innumerable narratives, all equally false; but more or less credible in proportion to the fkill or confidence of the rejater. How many may a man ©f disfusive converfation count among his acquaintances, whofe lives have been signalized by numberless escapes; who never crofs the river but in a storm, or take a journey into the country without more adventures than besel the knights-errant of ancient times in pathless forests or enchanted castles! How many must he know, to whom portents and prodigies are of daily occurrence; and for whom nature is hourly working wonders invisible to every other eye, only to supply them with subjects of converfation!

Others there are that amuse themselves with the dissemination of falsehood, at greater hazard of detection and disgrace; men marked out by some lucky planet for univerfal confidence and friendship, who have been consulted in every difficulty, entrusted with every secret, and summoned to every tranfaction: it is the supreme selicity of these men, to stun all companies with noisy insormation; to still doubt, and overbear opposition, with certain knowledge or authentic intelligence. A liar of this kind, with a strong memory or brisk imagination, is often the oracle of an obscure club, and, till time discovers his impostures, dictates to his hearers with uncontrouled authority; for is a publick question be started, he was present at the debate; is a new fashion be mentioned, he was at court the first day of its appearance$ is a new persormance of literature draws the

Q 4. attention.

attention of the peblick, he has patronised the author, and seen his work in manuscript; is a criminal of eminence be condemned to die, he often predictcdl his fate, and endeavoured his reformation: and who that lives at a distance from the scene of action, will dare to contradict a man, who reports from his own eyes and ears, and to whom all persons and affairs arc thus intimately known?

This kind of falsehood is generally successful for a time, because ic is practised at first with timidity and caution: but the profperity of the liar is of shore duration; the reception of one story is always an incitement to the forgery of another less probable; and he goes on to triumph over tacit credulity, till pride or reason rises up against him, and his companions will no longer endure to see him wiser than themselves.

It is apparent, that the inventors of all these fictions intend some exaltation of themselves, and are led off by the pursuit of honour from their attendance \ipon truth: their narratives always imply some consequence in favour of their courage, their fagacity, or their activity, their familiarity with the learned, or (heir reception among the great; they are always bribed by the present pleasure of seeing themselves superior to thofe that surround them, and receivingthc homage of silent attention and envious admiration.

But vanity is sometimes excited to fiction by less visible gratifications: the present age abounds with • a race ot liars who are content with the consciousness of ralichood, and whose pride is to deceive others without any gain or glory to themselves. Of this tribe it is the supreme pleasure to remark a lady id


the playhouse or the park, and to publish, under the character of a man suddenly enamoured, an advertisement in the pews of the next day, containing a minute description of her person and her dress. From this artifice, however, no other efsect can be expected, than perturbations which the writer can never see, and conjectures of which he never can be insormed: some mischief, however, he hopes he has done f and to have done mischief, is of some importance. He sets his invention to work again, and . produces a narrative of a robbery or a murder, with all the circumstances of time and place accurately adjusted. This is a jest of greater efsect and longer duration: is he fixes his scene at a proper distance, he may for several days keep a wise in terror for her husband, or a mother for her son; and please himself with reflecting, that by his abilities and address some addition is made to the miseries of lise.

There is, I think, an ancient law of Scotland, by which leasing-making was capitally punished. I am, indeed, far from desiring to increase in this kingdom the number of executions; yet I cannot but think, that they who destroy the confidence of society, weaken the credit of intelligence, and interrupt the security of lise; harass the delicate with shame, and perplex the timorous with alarms; might very properly be awakened to a sense of their crimes, by denunciations of a whipping-post or pillory: since many are so insensible of right and wrong, that they have no standard of action but the law; nor seel guilts but as they dread punishment.

Numb, 53. Tuesday, My 8, 1753.

ffuisquisius faiimur Maiui. Vug.

Each has bis lot, and bears the fate he drew.

8 I R, Fleet, May 6,

IN consequence of my engagements, I address you once more from the habitations of misery. In this place, from which business and pleasure are equally excluded, and in which our only employment and diversion is to hear the narratives of each other, I might much sooner have gathered materials for a letter, had I not hoped to have been reminded of my promise: but since I find myself placed in the regions of oblivion, where I am no less neglected by you than by the rest of mankind, I resolved no longer to wait for solicitation, but stole early this evening from between gloomy sullenness and riotous merriment, to give you an account of part of my companions!

One of the most eminent members of our club is Mr. Edward Scamper, a man of whose name the Olympic heroes would not have been ashamed. Ned was born to a small estate, which he determined to improve i and therefore, as soon as he became of ape, mortgaged part of his land to buy a mare and stallion, and bred horses for the course. He was at first very successful, and gained several of the king's plates, as h,c is now every day boasting, at the expense

pence of very little more than ten times their value. At last, however, he discovered, that victory brought him more honour than profit: resolving, therefore, to be rich as well as illustrious, he replenished his pockets by another mortgage, became on a sudden a daring better, and resolving not to trust a jockey with his fortune, rode his horse himself, distanced two of his competitors the first heat, and at last won the race, by forcing his horse on a descent to full speed at the hazard of his neck. His estate was thus repaired, and some friends that had no fouls advised him to' give Over; but Ned now knew the way to riches, and therefore without caution increased his expeoces. From this hour he talked and dreamed of nothing but a horse-race; and rising soon to the summit of equestrian reputation, he was constantly expected on every course, divided all his time between lords and jockies, and, as the unexperienced regulated their betts by his example, gained a great deal of money by laying openly on one horse and secretly on the other. Ned was now so sure of growing rich, that he involved his estate in a third mortgage, borrowed money of all his friends, and risqued his whole fortune upon Bay-Lincoln. He mounted with beating heart, started fair and won the first heat; but in the second, as he was pushing against the foremost of his rivals, his girth broke, his shoulder was dislocated, and before he was dismissed by the surgeon, two bailiffs fastened upon him, and he faw Newmarket no more. His daily amusement for sour years has been to blow the signal for starting, to make imaginary matches, to repeat the pedigree of


« AnteriorContinuar »