« PreviousContinue »
upon mature deliberation, think fit to take nobody's business wholly into my own hands; and, out of zeal for the public good, desigu to erect myself into a kind of censor morum; purposing, with your al. lowance, to make use of the Weekly Mercury as a vehicle, in which my remonstrances shall be conveyed to the world.
I ain sensible I hare, in this particular, undertaken a very unthankful office, and expect little besides my labour for my pains. - Nay, it is probable, I may displease a great number of your readers, who will not very well like to pay ten shillings a year for being told of their faults. But, as most people delight in censure, when they themselves are not the objects of it, if any are offended at my publicly exposing their private vices, I promise they shall have the satisfaction, in a very little time, of seeing their good friends and neighbours in the same circumstances.
However, let the fair sex be assured, that I shall always treat them and their affairs with the utmost decency and respect. I intend now and then to dedicate a-chapter wholly to their service; and if my lectures any way contribute to the embellishment of their minds and brightening of their understandings, without offending their modesty, I doubt not of having their favour and encouragement.
It is certain, that no country in the world produces naturally finer spirits thau ours, men of genius for every kind of science, and capable of acquiring to perfection every qualification that is in esteem among mankind. But as few here have The advantage of good books, for waat of which,
good conversation is still more scarce, it would, doubtless, have been very acceptable to your readers, if, instead of an old out.of-date article from Muscovy or Hungary, you had entertained them with some well-chosen extract from a good author. This I shall sometimes do, when I happen to have nothing of my own to say that I think of more copsequence. Sometimes, I purpose to deliver lectures of morality or philosophy, and (because I am naturally inclined to be meddling with things that do pot concern me) perhaps I may sometimes talk politics : and if I can, by any means, furnish out a weekly entertainment for the public, that will give a rational diversion, and at the same time be instructive to the readers, I shall think my leisure hours .well employed : and if you publish this, I hereby invite all ingenious gentlemen and others, that approve of such an undertaking, to my assistance and correspondence.
It is like, by this time, you have a curiosity to be acquainted with my name and character. As I do not aim at public praise, I design to remain concealed : and there are such numbers of our family and relations at this time in the country, that, though I have signed my name at full length, I am not under the least apprehension of being distinguished and discovered by it. My character, indeed, I would favour you with, but that I am cautious of praising myself, lest I should be told my trumpeter's dead : and I cannot fiud in my heart, at present, to say any thing to my own disadvantage.
It is very common with authors in their first performances, to talk to their readers thus : “ If this ,
meets with a suitable reception, or, if this should meet with due encouragement, I shall hereafter publish,” &c. This only manifests the value they put on their own writings, since they thiuk to frighten the public into their applause, by threateuing, that unless you approve what they have already wrote, they intend never to write again ; when perhaps it may not be a pin matter whether they ever do or no. As I have not observed the critics to be more favourable on this account, I shall always avoid saying any thing of the kind; and conclude with telling you, that if you send me a bottle of ink and a quire of paper by the bearer, you may depend on hearing farther from,
THE BUSY-BODY.-No. II. From Tuesday, February 4, to Tuesday, February
ON VULGAR DERISION.
All fools have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side.- Pope. MONSIEUR Rochefoucault tells us somewhere in his Memoirs, that the prince of Condé delighted much in ridicule, and used frequently to shut himself up for half a day together, in his chamber, with a gentleman, that was his favourite, purposely to divert himself with examining what was the foible, or ridiculous side, of every noted person in the court. That gentleman said afterwards in some company,
that he thought nothing was more ridiculous in any body, than this same humour in the prince; and I am somewhat inclined to be of this opinion. The general tendency there is among us to this embellishment, (which I fear has too often grossly imposed upon my loving countrymen instead of wit) and the applause it meets with from a rising generation, fill me with fearful apprehensions for the future repu. tation of my country: a young man of modesty (which is the most certain indication of large capacities) is hereby discouraged from attempting to make any figure in life : his apprehensions of being outlaughed will force him to continue in a restless obscurity, without having an opportunity of knowing his own merit himself, or discoveriug it to the world, rather than venture to expose himself in a place where a pun or a sneer shall pass for wit, noise for reason, and the strength of the argument be judged by that of the lungs. Among these witty gentlemen, let us take a view of Ridentius. What a contemptible figure does he make with his train of paltry admirers! This wight shall give himself an hour's diversion with the cock of a man's hat, the heels of his shoes, an unguarded expression in his discourse, or even some personal defect; and the height of his low ambition is to put some one of the company to the blush, who perhaps must pay an equal share of the reckoning with himself. If such a fellow makes laughing the sole end and purpose of his life, if it is necessary to his constitution, or if he has a great desire of growing suddenly fat, let him eat; let him give public notice where any dull stupid rogues may get a quart of four-penny for being laughed at; but it is barbarously unhandsome, when
friends meet for the benefit of conversation, and a proper relaxation from business, that one should be the butt of the company, and four men made merry at the cost of the fifth.
How different from this character is that of the good-natured, gay Eugenius! who never spoke yet but with a design to divert and please, and who was never yet balked in his intention. Eugenius takes more delight in applying the wit of his friends, than in being admired himself: and if any one of the company is so unfortunate as to be touched a little too nearly, he will make use of some ingenious artifice to turn the edge of ridicule another way, choosing rather to make himself a public jest, than be at the pain of seeing his friend in confusion.
Among the tribe of laughers I reckon the pretty gentlemen, that write satires, and carry them about in their pockets, reading them themselves in all company they happen to go into; taking advantage of the ill taste of the town, to make themselves fa. mous for a pack of paltry, low nonsense, for which they deserve to be kicked rather than admired, by all who have the least tincture of politeness. These I take to be the most incorrigible of all my readers; nay, I expect they will be squibbing at the Busy-Body himself. However, the only favour he begs of them is this; that if they cannot control their overbearing itch of scribbling, let him be attacked in downright biting lyrics; for there is no satire he dreads half so much as an attempt towards a panegyric.