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periods; but grew so very hoarse upon it, that for three days together, instead of finding the use of my tongue, I was afraid that I had quite lost it. Besides, the unusual extension of my muscles on this occasion made my face ache on both sides to such a degree, that nothing but an invincible resolution and perseverance could have prevented me from falling back to my monosyllables.
I afterward made several essays towards speaking; and that I might not be startled at my own voice which has happened to me more than once, I used to read aloud in my chamber, and have often stood in the middle of the street to call a coach, where I knew there was none within hearing.
When I was thus grown pretty well acquainted with my own voice, I laid hold of all opportunities to exert it. Not caring however to speak much by myself, and to draw upon me the whole attention of those I conversed with, I used for some time to walk every morning in the Mall, and talk in chorus with a parcel of Frenchmen. I found my modesty greatly relieved by the communicative temper of this nation, who are so very sociable as to think they are never better company than when they are all opening at the same time.
I then fancied I might receive great benefit from female conversation, and that I should have a convenience of talking with the greater freedom when I was not under any impediment of thinking: I therefore threw myself into an assembly of ladies, but could not for my life get in a word among them; and found that if I did not change my company I was in danger of being reduced to my primitive taciturnity.
The coffee-houses have ever since been my chief places of resort, where I have made the greatest improvements; in order to which I have taken a parti
cular care never to be of the same opinion with the man I conversed with. I was a tory at Button's, and a whig at Child's, a friend to the Englishman, or an advocate for the Examiner, as it best served my turn: some fancy me a great enemy to the French king, though in reality I only make use of him for a help to discourse. In short, I wrangle and dispute for exercise; and have carried this point so far, that I was once like to have been run through the body for making a little too free with my betters. In a word, I am quite another man to what I was. -Nil fuit unquam
Tam dispar sibi.
Nothing was ever so unlike itself.
HOR. 1 Sat. iii. 18.
My old acquaintance scarce knew me; nay, I was asked the other day by a Jew at Jonathan's whether I was not related to a dumb gentleman, who used to come to that coffee-house? But I think I never was better pleased in my life than about a week ago, when, as I was battling it across the table with a young Templar, his companion gave him a pull by the sleeve, begging him to come away, for that the old prig would talk him to death.
Being now a very good proficient in discourse, I shall appear in the world with this addition to my character, that my countrymen may reap the fruits of my new-acquired loquacity.
Those who have been present at public disputes in the university know that it is usual to maintain heresies for argument's sake. I have heard a man a most impudent Socinian for half an hour, who has been an orthodox divine all his life after. I have taken the same method to accomplish myself in the gift of utterance, having talked above a twelvemonth, not so much for the benefit of my hearers, as of myself. But, since I have now gained the fa
culty I have been so long endeavouring after, I intendto make a right use of it, and shall think myself obliged for the future to speak always in truth and sincerity of heart. While a man is learning to fence, he practises both on friend and foe; but when he is a master in the art, he never exerts it but on what he thinks on the right side.
That this last allusion may not give my reader a wrong idea of my design in this paper, I must here inform him, that the author of it is of no faction; that he is a friend to no interests but those of truth and virtue; nor a foe to any but those of vice and folly. Though I make more noise in the world than I used to do, I am still resolved to act in it as an indifferent spectator. It is not my ambition to increase the number either of wigs or tories, but of wise and good men; and I could heartily wish there were not faults common to both parties, which afford me sufficient matter to work upon, without descending to those which are peculiar to either.
If in a multitude of counsellors there is safety, we ought to think ourselves the securest nation in the world. Most of our garrets are inhabited by statesmen, who watch over the liberties of their country, and make a shift to keep themselves from starving by taking into their care the properties of their fellow-subjects.
As these politicians of both sides have already worked the nation into a most unnatural ferment, I shall be so far from endeavouring to raise it to a greater height, that, on the contrary, it shall be the chief tendency of my papers to inspire my countrymen with a mutual good-will and benevolence. Whatever faults either party may be guilty of, they are rather inflamed than cured by those reproaches which they cast upon one another. The most likely method of rectifying any man's conduct is by recom
mending to him the principles of truth and honour, religion and virtue; and so long as he acts with an eye to these principles, whatever party he is of, he cannot fail of being a good Englishman, and a lover of his country.
As for the persons concerned in this work, the names of all of them, or at least of such as desire it, shall be published hereafter; until which time I must entreat the courteous reader to suspend his curiosity, and rather to consider what is written than who they are that write it.
Having thus adjusted all necessary preliminaries with my reader, I shall not trouble him with any more prefatory discourses, but proceed in my old method, and entertain him with speculations on every useful subject that falls in my way.
N° 557. MONDAY, JUNE 21, 1714.
Quippe domum timet ambiguam, Tyriosque bilingues.
He fears the ambiguous race, and Tyrians double-tongued.
"THERE is nothing,' says Plato, 'so delightful as the hearing or the speaking of truth.' For this reason there is no conversation so agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without an intention to deceive.
Among all the accounts which are given of Cato, I do not remember one that more redounds to his honour than the following passage related by Plutarch. As an advocate was pleading the cause of his client before one of the prætors, he could only produce a single witness in a point where the law
required the testimony of two persons; upon which the advocate insisted on the integrity of that person whom he had produced; but the prætor told him, that where law required two witnesses he would not accept of one, though it were Cato himself. Such a speech from a person who sat at the head of a court of justice, while Cato was still living, shews us, more than a thousand examples, the high reputation this great man had gained among his contemporaries upon the account of his sincerity.
When such an inflexible integrity is a little softened and qualified by the rules of conversation and good breeding, there is not a more shining virtue in the whole catalogue of social duties. A man however ought to take great care not to polish himself out of his veracity, nor to refine his behaviour to the prejudice of his virtue.
This subject is exquisitely treated in the most elegant sermon of the great British preacher. I shall beg leave to transcribe out of it two or three sentences as a proper introduction to a very curious letter, which I shall make the chief entertainment of this speculation.
The old English plainness and sincerity, that generous integrity of nature, and honesty of disposition, which always argues true greatness of mind, and is usually accompanied with undaunted courage and resolution, is in a great measure lost among us.
The dialect of conversation is now-a-days so swelled with vanity and compliment, and so surfeited (as I may say) of expressions of kindness and respect, that if a man that lived an age or two ago should return into the world again, he would really want a dictionary to help him to understand his own language, and to know the true intrinsic value of the phrase in fashion; and would hardly at first believe * Archbishop Tillotson, vol. ii. sermon i. p. 7. edit. in folio.