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as I have been conversant rather with the greater ode, as I think the critics call it, I must be so humble as to make a request to Mr. Powel and desire him to apply his thoughts to answering the difficulties with which my kinsman, the author of the following letter, seems to be embarrassed.
'To my honoured kinsman, ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Το Esquire.
From Mother Gourdon's at Hedington, near Oxon, June 16.
Had the family of the Beadlestaffs, whereof I, though unworthy, am one, known of your being lately at Oxon, we had in our own name, and in the university's, as it is our office, made you a compliment: but your short stay here robbed us of an tunity of paying our due respects, and you of receiving an ingenious entertainment, with which we at present divert ourselves and strangers. A puppetshow at this time supplies the want of an act. since the nymphs of this city are disappointed of a luscious music-speech, and the country ladies of hearing their sons or brothers speak verses; yet the vocal machines, like them, by the help of a prompter, say things as much to the benefit of the audience, and almost as properly as their own. The licence of a Terra Filius is refined to the well-bred satire of Punchenello. Now, cousin Bickerstaff, though Punch has neither a French night-cap, nor long pockets, yet you must own him to be a pretty fellow, a very pretty fellow: nay, since he seldom leaves the company without calling son of a whore, demanding satisfaction, and duelling, he must be owned a smart fellow, too. Yet by some indecencies towards the ladies, he seems to be of a third character distinct from any you have yet touched upon. A young gentleman who sat next me (for I had the curiosity
of seeing this entertainment) in a tufted gown, red stockings, and long wig (which I pronounce to be tantamount to red heels, and a dangling cane) was enraged when Punchenello disturbed a soft love scene with his ribaldry. You would oblige us mightily, by laying down some rules for adjusting the extravagant behaviour of this Almanzor of the play, and by writing a treatise on this sort of dramatic poetry, so much favoured, and so little understood, by the learned world.
'From its being conveyed in a cart after the Thespian manner, all the parts being recited by one person, as the custom was before Eschylus, and from the behaviour of Punch, as if he had won the goal, you may possibly deduce its antiquity, and settle the chronology, as well as some of our modern critics. In its natural transitions from mournful to merry; as from the hanging of a lover to dancing upon the rope; from the stalking of a ghost to a lady's presenting you with a jig, you may discover such a decorum, as is not to be found elsewhere than in our tragi-comedies. But I forget myself; it is not for me to dictate: I thought fit, dear cousin, to give you these hints, to shew you that the Beadlestaffs do not walk before men of letters to no purpose; and that though we do but hold up the train of arts and sciences, yet, like other pages, we are now and then let into our ladies' secrets. I am your affec
From my own Apartment, July 22.
I am got hither safe, but never spent time with so little satisfaction as this evening; for you must know I was five hours with three merry, and two honest fellows. The former sang catches; and the latter even died with laughing at the noise they made.
"Well,' says Tom Bellfrey, 'you scholars, Mr. Bickerstaff, are the worst company in the world.'-'Ay,' says his opposite, you are dull to night; pr'ythee be merry. With that I huzzaed, and took a jump across the table, then came clever upon my legs, and fell a laughing. 'Let Mr. Bickerstaff alone,' says one of the honest fellows; when he is in a good humour, he is as good company as any man in England.' He had no sooner spoke but I snatched his hat off his head, and clapped it upon my own, and burst out a laughing again: upon which we all fell a laughing for half an hour. One of the honest fellows got behind me in the interim, and hit me a sound slap on the back; upon which he got the laugh out of my hands; and it was such a twang on my shoulders that I confess he was much merrier than I. I was half angry; but resolved to keep up the good-humour of the company; and after hallooing as loud as I could possibly, I drank off a bumper of claret, that made me stare again. Nay,' says one of the honest fellows, Mr. Isaac is in the right, there is no conversation in this; what signifies jumping, or hitting one another on the back? let us drink about.' We did so from seven of the clock until eleven; and now I am hither, and, after the manner of the wise Pythagoras, begin to reflect upon the passages of the day. I remember nothing but that I am bruised to death; and as it is my way to write down all the good things I have heard in the last conversation, to furnish my paper, I can from this only tell you my sufferings and my bangs.
I named Pythagoras just now, and I protest to you, as he believed men after death entered into other species, I am now and then tempted to think other animals enter into men, and could name several on two legs, that never discover any sentiments
above what is common with a species of a lower kind; as we see in these bodily wits with whom I was to-night, whose parts consist in strength and activity; but their boisterous mirth gives me great impatience for the return of such happiness as I enjoyed in a conversation last week. Among others in that company we had Florio, who never interrupted any man living when he was speaking; or ever ceased to speak but others lamented that he had done. His discourse ever arises from the fulness of the matter before him, and not from ostentation or triumph of his understanding; for though he seldom delivers what he need fear being repeated, he speaks without having that end in view; and his forbearance of calumny or bitterness is owing rather to his good-nature than his discretion; for which reason he is esteemed a gentleman perfectly qualified for conversation, in whom a general good-will to mankind takes off the necessity of caution and circumspection.
We had at the same time that evening the best sort of companion that can be, a good-natured old man. This person in the company of young men meets with veneration for his benevolence; and is not only valued for the good qualities of which he is master, but reaps an acceptance from the pardon he gives to other men's faults: and the ingenuous 'sort of men with whom he converses, have so just a regard for him, that he rather is an example, than a check, to their behaviour. For this reason, as Senecio never pretends to be a man of pleasure before youth, so young men never set up for wisdom before Senecio: so that you never meet, where he is, those monsters of conversation, who are grave or gay above their years. He never converses but with followers of nature and good sense, where all that is uttered is only the effect of a communicable tem
per, and not of emulation to excel their companions; all desire of a superiority being a contradiction to that spirit which makes a just conversation, the very essence of which is mutual good will. Hence it is, that I take it for a rule, that the natural, and not the acquired man, is the companion. Learning, wit, gallantry, and good-breeding, are all but subordinate qualities in society, and are of no value, but as they are subservient to benevolence, and tend to a certain manner of being or appearing equal to the rest of the company; for conversation is composed of an assembly of men, as they are men, and not as they are distinguished by fortune: therefore he who brings his quality with him into conversation, should always pay the reckoning; for he came to receive homage, and not to meet his friends.
But the din about my ears from the clamour of the people I was with this evening, has carried me beyond my intended purpose, which was to explain upon the order of merry fellows; but I think I may pronounce of them, as I heard good Senecio, with the spice of the wit of the last age, say, viz. 'That a merry fellow is the saddest fellow in the world.'
N° 46. TUESDAY, JULY 26, 1709.
Non bene conveniunt, nec in una sede morantur,
OVID. Met. ii. 28.
-Love but ill agrees with kingly pride.
White's Chocolate-house, July 25.
WE see every day volumes written against that tyrant of human life called Love; and yet there is no help found against his cruelties, or barrier against