« AnteriorContinuar »
provoked by the antic postures of a merry-andrew, who was to stand upon the stage and play his tricks in the eye of the performer. There were three competitors for the guinea. The first was a ploughman of a very promising aspect; his features were steady, and his muscles composed in so inflexible stupidity, that upon his first appearance every one gave the guinea for lost. The pickled herring however found the way to shake him; for upon his whistling a country jig, this unlucky wag danced to it with such a variety of distortions and grimaces, that the countryman could not forbear smiling upon him, and by that means spoiled his whistle, and lost the prize.
"The next that mounted the stage was an undercitizen of the Bath, a person remarkable among the inferior people of that place for his great wisdom and his broad band*. He contracted his mouth with much gravity, and, that he might dispose his mind to be more serious than ordinary, began the tune of The Children in the Wood, and went through part of it with good success; when on a sudden the wit at his elbow, who had appeared wonderfully grave and attentive for some time, gave him a touch upon the left shoulder, and stared him in the face with so bewitching a grin, that the whistler relaxed his fibres into a kind of simper, and at length burst out into an open laugh. The third who entered the lists was a footman, who, in defiance of the merry-andrew and all his arts, whistled a Scotch tune and an Italian sonata with so settled a countenance that he bore away the prize, to the great admiration of some hundreds of persons, who, as well as myself, were present at this trial of skill. Xow, Sir, I humbly conceive, whatever you have
* In 1707.
determined of the grinners, the wistlers ought to be encouraged, not only as their art is practised, without distortion, but as it improves country music, promotes gravity, and teaches ordinary people to keep their countenances, if they see any thing ridiculous in their betters; besides that it seems an entertainment very particularly adapted to the Bath, as it is usual for a rider to whistle to his horse when he would make his waters pass.
"I am, Sir, &c.
"After you have despatched these two important points of grinning and whisth'ng, I hope you will oblige the world with some reflections upon yawning, as I have seen it practised on a twelfth-night among other Christmas gambols at the house of a very worthy gentleman, who always entertains his tenants at that time of the year. They yawn for a Cheshire cheese, and begin about midnight, when the whole company is disposed to be drowsy. He that yawns widest, and at the same time so naturally as to produce the most yawns among his spectators, carries home the cheese. If you handle this subject as you ought, I question not but your paper will set half the kingdom a yawning, though I dare promise you it will never make any body fall asleep." No. 180. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 26,1711.
—Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.
Hok. Efist. i. 2. 14.
The monarch's folly makes the people rue.
The following letter has so much weight and good sense, that I cannot forbear inserting it, though it relates to a hardened sinner, whom I have very little hopes of reforming, viz. Lewis XIV. of France.
'' MR. SPECTATOR,
"Amidst the variety of subjects of which you have treated, I could wish it had fallen in your way to expose the vanity of conquests. This thought would naturally lead one to the French king, who has been generally esteemed the greatest conqueror of our age, till her majesty's armies had torn from him so many of his countries, and deprived him of the fruit of all his former victories. For my own part, if I were to draw his picture, I should be for taking him no lower than to the peace of Ryswick, just at the end of his triumphs, and before his reverse of fortune: and even then I should not forbear thinking his ambition had been vain, and unprofitable to himself and his people.
"As for himself, it is certain he can have gained nothing by his conquests, if they have not rendered him master of more subjects, more riches, or greater power. What I shall be able to offer upon these heads, I resolve to submit to your consideration.
"To begin then with his increase of subjects.
VOL. VII. p
From the time he came of age, and has been a manager for himself, all the people he had acquired were such only as he had reduced by his wars, and were left in his possession by the peace: he had conquered not above one third part of Flanders, and consequently no more than one third part of the inhabitants of that province.
"About one hundred years ago, the houses in that country were all numbered, and by a just computation the inhabitants of all sorts could not then exceed 750,000 souls. And if any man will consider the desolation by almost perpetual wars, the numerous armies that have lived almost ever since at discretion upon the people, and how much of their commerce has been removed for more security to other places, he will have little reason to imagine that their numbers have since increased; and therefore with one third part of that province that prince can have gained no more than one third part of the inhabitants, or 250,000 new subjects, even though it should be supposed they were all contented to live still in their native country, and transfer their allegiance to a new master.
"The fertility of this province, its convenient situation for trade and commerce, its capacity for furnishing employment and subsistence to great numbers, and the vast armies that have been maintained here, make it credible that the remaining two thirds of Flanders are equal to all his other conquests; and, consequently, by all he cannot have gained more than 750,000 new subjects, men, women, and children, especially if a deduction shall be made of such as have retired from the conqueror, to live under their old masters.
"It is time now to set his loss against his profit, and to show for the new subjects he had acquired, how many"old ones he had lost in the acquisition. I think that in his wars he has seldom brought less into the field in all places than 200,000 fighting men, besides what have been left in garrisons; and I think the common computation is, that of an army at the latter end of a campaign, without sieges or battle, scarce four-fifths can be mustered of those that came into the field at the beginning of the year. His wars at several times, till the last peace, have held about 20 years; and if 40,000 yearly lost, or a fifth part of his armies, are to be multiplied by 20, he cannot have lost less than 800,000 of his old subjects, all able-bodied men; a greater number than the new subjects he had acquired.
"But this loss is not all. Providence seems to have equally divided the whole mass of mankind into different sexes, that every woman may have her husband, and that both may equally contribute to the continuance of the species. It follows, then, that for all the men that have been lost, as many women must have lived single; and it were but charity to believe they have not done all the service they were capable of doing in their generation. In so long a course of years great part of them must have died, and all the rest must go off at last, without leaving any representatives behind. By this account he must have lost not only 800,000 subjects, but double that number, and all the increase that was reasonably to be expected from it.
"It is said in the last war there was a famine in his kingdom, which swept away two millions of his people. This is hardly credible. If the loss was only of one-fifth part of that sum, it was very great. But it is no wonder there should be famine, where so much of the people's substance is taken away for the king's use, that they have not sufficient left to provide against accidents; where so many of the men are taken from the plough to serve the king in his