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Percunctatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est,
THERE is a creature who has all the organs of
speech, a tolerable good capacity for conceiving what is said to it, togetber with a preity proper behaviour in all the occurrences of common life; but naturally very vacant of thought in itself, and therefore forced to apply itself to foreign assistances. Of this make is that man who is very inquisitive. You may often observe, that though he speaks as good sense as any man mpon any thing with which he is well acquainted, he cannot trust to the range of his own fancy to entertain himself upon that foundation, but goes on still to new inquiries. Thus, though you know he is fit for the most polite conversation, you shall see him very well contented to sit by a jockey, giving an account of the many revolutions in his horse's health, what potion he made him take, how that agreed with him, how afterwards he came to his stomach, and his exercise, or any the like impertinence; and be as well pleased as if you talked to him on the most important truths. This humour is far from making a man unhappy, though it may subject him to raillery; for he generally falls in with a person who seems to be born for him, which is your talkative fellow. It is so ordered, that there is a secret bent, as natural as the meeting of different sexes, in these two characters, to supply each other's wants. I had the honour the other day to sit in a public room, and saw an inquisi. tive man look with an air of satisfaction upon the approach of one of these talkers. The man of ready atterance sat down by him, and rubbing his head, lean.
ing on his arm, and' mahing an uneasy countenance, be began; “ There is no manner of news today, I cannot tell what is the matter with me, but I slept very ill last night; whether I canght cold or no, I know not, but I fancy I do not wear shoes thick enough for the weather, and I have conghed all this week: it must be so, for the custom of washing my head winter and summer with cold water, prevents any injury from the season entering that way; so it must come in at my feet; but I take no notice of it: as it comes, so it goes. Most of our evils proceed from too much tenderness; and our faces are naturally as little able to resist the cold as other parts. The Indian answered very well to an European, who asked him how he could go naked? I am all face."
I observed this discourse was as welcome to my general inqnirer as any other of more consequence could have been; but somebody calling our talker to another part of the room, the inquirer told the next man who sat by him, that Mr. Such-a-one, who was just gove from him, used to wash his head in cold water every morning; and so repeated almost verbatim all that had been said to him. The truth is, the inquisitive are the funnels of conversation; they do not take in any thing for their own use, but merely to pass it to another: they are the channels through which all the good and evil that is spoken in town are conveyed. Such as are offended at them, or think they suffer by their behaviour, may themselves mend that incon. venience; for they are not a malicious people, and if you will supply them, you may contradict any thing they have said before by their own mouths. A farther account of a thing is one of the gratefullest goods that can arrive to them: and it is seldom that they are more particular than to say, the town will have it, or I have it from a good hand; so that there is room for the town to know the matter more parti. cularly, and for a better band to contradict what was said by a good one.
I have not known this humour more ridiculous, than in a father, who has been earnestly solicitous to have an account how his son passed his leisure hours; if it be in a way thoroughly insignificant, there cannot be a greater joy than an inquirer discovers in seeing him follow so hopefully his own steps: but this hu. mour among men is most pleasant when they are say. ing something which is not wholly proper for a third person to hear, and yet is in itself indifferent. The other day there came in a well-dressed young fellow, and two gentlemen of this species immediately fell a whispering his pedigree. I could overhear, by breaks, She was his aunt; then an answer, Ay, she was of the mother's side: then again in a little lower voice, His father wore generally a darker wig; answer, Not much. But this gentleman wears higher heels to bis shoes.
As the inquisitive, in my opinion, are such merely from a vacancy in their own imaginations, there is nothing, methinks, so dangerous a3 to communicate secrets to them; for the same ternper of inquiry makes them as impertinently communicative: but no man, though he converses with them, need put himself in their power, for they will be contented with matters of less moment as well. When there is fuel enough, no matter what it is-Thus the ends of sentences in the newspapers, as,
“ this wants confirmation, this occasions many speculations, and time will discover the event,” are read by them, and considered not as mere expletives.
One may see now and then this humour accompanied with an insatiable desire of knowing what passes without turning it to any use in the world but merely their own entertainment. A mind which is gratified this way is adapted to humour and pleasantry, and formed for an unconcerned character in the world; and to be a mere spectator. This curiosity, without malice or self-interest, lays up in the imagination a magazine of circumstances which cannot but entertain
when they are produced in conversation. If one were to know, from the man of the first quality to the meanest servant, the different intrigues, sentiments, pleasures, and interests of mankind, would it not be the most pleasing entertainment imaginable to enjoy 80 constant a farce, as the observing mankind much more different from themselves in their secret thoughts and public actions, than in their nightcaps and long periwigs?
MELANCHOLY NOT RELIGION. Ægritudinem laudare, unam rem maxime detestabilem, quorum est tandem philosophorum ?
CIC. What kind of philosophy is it, to extol melancholy,
the most detestable thing in nature?
ABOUT av age ago, it was the fashion in England,
for every one that would be thought religious, to throw as much sanctity as possible into his face, and, in particular, to abstain from all appearances of mirth and pleasantry, which were looked upon as the marks of a carnal mind. The saint was of a sorrowful coun. tenance, and generally eaten up with spleeu and melancholy. A gentleman who was lately a great orna. ment to the learned world has diverted me more than once with an account of the reception which he met with from a very famous independent minister, wbo was head of a college in these times. This gentleman was then a young adventurer in the republic of letters, and just fitted out for the university with a good cargo of Latin and Greek. His friends were resolved that he should try his fortune at an election which was drawing near in the college, of which the independent minister whom I have before mentioned was governor. The youth, according to custom, waited on him in or
der to be examined. He was received at the door by a servant, who was one of that gloomy generation that were then in fashion. He conducted him, with great silence and seriousness, to a long gallery which was darkened at noon-day, and had only a single candle burning in it. After a short stay in this melancholy apartment, he was led into a chamber bung with black, where he entertained himself for some time by the glimmering of a taper, till at length the head of the col. lege came out to him, from an inner room, with half a dozen night.caps upon his head, and veligious horror in his countenance. The young man trembled; but his fears increaserl, when, instead of being asked what progress he had made in learning, lie was examined bow he abounded in grace. His Latin and Greek stood him in little steait; he was to give an account only of the state of his soul, whether he was of the number of the elect; what was the occasion of his conversion; npon what day of the month, and hour of the day it happened; how it was carried on, and when completed. The whole examination was summed up with one short question, namely, Whether he was prepared for death? The boy, who had been bred up by honest parents, was frighted out of his wits at the solemnity of the proceeding, and by the last dreadful interrogatory; so that upon making bis escape out of the house of mourning, he could never be brought a second time to the examination, as not being able to go through the terrors of it.
Notwithstanding this general form and outside of religion is pretty well worn out among us, there are mauy persons, who, by a natural uncheerfulness of heart, mistaken notions of piety, or weakness of understanding, love to indulge this uncomfortable way of life, and give up themselves a prey to grief and me. lancholy. Superstitious fears and groundless scruples cut them off from the pleasures of conversation, and all those social entertainments which are not only in