THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF COMMON SENSE: AN HISTORICAL ALLEGORY
Veluti in Speculum
Printed for Montagu Lawrence, London, 1769.
The author, having being asked by a friend 'To what great personnage he intended to dedicate his book?,' answered 'To the Public.' At that grand tribunal, from whose sentence there can be no appeal, he willingly submits to be tried. And, as the candour and justice of that court has never yet been impeached, he shall most patiently acquiesce to their judication, whether he is acquitted or condemned.
It has hitherto been so usual for biographers to give some account of the ancestors — at least as far back as the great-grandfather — of the person whose history they are about to publish, that I fear the reader will think it an unpardonable fault in an author who sits down to write his own life and adventures, without knowing with certainty anything more of the pedigree of his family than the immediate parents that produced him.
In excuse for such defect, in a work of this kind, I shall give two reasons; the first is, that the traditional account of our family seems to myself so very improbable, that I would not attempt to impose upon others. The second, that though the good natured part of the world might credit it, yet I should make myself liable to the charge of vanity and ostentation by relating it. A reflection of all others I have principally endeavoured to avoid.
Let it suffice then that I was born at Athens, much about the time of that memorable contention between Neptune and Minerva for the naming of this city, in which the latter prevailed. My Mother, whose name was TRUTH, had been betrothed the year before to a person of singular gravity and distinction, whose name was WISDOM. But it so happened, or rather was so contrived, that a vain young fellow, who had long paid his addresses to my Mother unsuccessfully, lay in wait for WISDOM on his return home in the evening before the day of their intended nuptials, tripped up his heels and confined him in a cellar, where he was found the next day, when he had the mortification to hear that his mistress was married to his rival wit, who had deceived her and the company present by assuming the air and deportment of WISDOM. The confusion, amazement and distraction of my Mother, upon the discovery of this most horrible cheat, may be more easily conceived than described, and I know not what might have been the consequence if my Father had not — by a singular presence of mind, which indeed never failed him — instantly mitigated the first transports of her passion. 'Madam,' cried he, upon his knees before her, 'behold the most miserable of all human beings — miserable by making you so, but still more wretched in having perpetrated this most horrid crime against my own inclination. Believe me Madam, however paradoxical it may appear to you, I never loved you! But hurried on by an unaccountable hidden impulse, which I must call Divine, I have been driven to commit an act my nature shudders at. This is surely the work of the gods, who would not suffer WISDOM to be wedded to TRUTH lest the offspring of such a conjunction might prove to be more than mortal, and excite envy and distraction throughout the inhabitants of this earth.'
When he had done speaking, the chiefs and elders of the city, among whom my Father had many friends, surrounded my Mother, and having, by their great eloquence and authority, convinced her that the young man was really inspired, and that the gods must be obeyed, she bowed and became reconciled to her fate.
But though the good disposition of my Mother, and the reverence and great respect which she constantly paid to all religious ceremonies, had induced her to receive, without murmuring, this young man for her husband. Yet it was not likely that any true conjugal felicity could possibly subsist between two persons so extremely opposite in their natures, and different in their principles, for my Father, who, as before has been hinted, was extravagently vain and fond of flattery, would frequently pervert the plain meaning of things, and even calumniate my Mother herself, in order to acquire the reputation of being what he called clever. This passion for admiration frequently carried him into bad company, where the needy and profligate expected always to be entertained by him, as a reward for their noisy applause and empty approbation of his conduct.
This kind of dissipated life, which very soon impaired his health and impoverished his fortune, began to grow exceedingly irksome to my Mother; and though she was naturally easy in her temper and patient under afflictions, yet she could not help, at times, remonstrating against his preposterous behaviour; in doing which, she seldom minced the matter, but spoke her real sentiments without any equivocation or disguise. It must so acknowledged, however, that this sort of ingenious reprimand must be infinitely provoking to a man who had been flattered into a belief that those very actions my Mother so much inveighed against were the most brilliant actions of his life. In short, each day furnished new matter for fresh strife and animosity, and the domestic altercation growing too loud to be concealed within the walls of their own house, the whole city rung of it. My Father and my Mother were then obliged to submit their cause to the public, and each implored the protection of their fellow citizens, but with very unequal success. My Father's story, being tricked up with all the art and elegance of oratory, made my Mother's plain tale appear cold and uninteresting. My Father was justified and cleared by the very first people of every charge that had been alleged against him — whilst my poor Mother durst not shew her face abroad for some time afterwards. By this means, my Father obtained a divorce, according to the forms of law in that country, a few months before I made my appearance into the world.
I have said, in the foregoing chapter, that my Mother durst not shew her face abroad for some time, fearing that she might be insulted by the populace, who had been violently incensed against her, by the cruel insinuations of my Father. Notwithstanding this very disagreeable situation, she kept up her spirits, and comforted herself with the hopes that she should sooner or later regain her former good character, and triumph over all her enemies. She was not deceived; for Providence, that directs all things to their right end, very soon brought about and accomplished her utmost wishes — and that by a means the most agreeable in the world to my Mother. It seems that, on the very day of my Mother's unhappy marriage, WISDOM set out upon a tour through Egypt, as well to divert and shake off his mind that chagrin and melancholy which so severe a disappointment must have occasioned, as to avoid the sneers and scoffs he might naturally expect from an infatuated multitude.
The news of my Father's divorce had no sooner reached Egypt, than WISDOM set out upon his return to Athens; where he arrived on the day, and, as I have been told, almost at the very moment of my birth. Decency, of which WISDOM was a strict observer, obliged him to decline his intended visit to my Mother, until that time, which custom had prescribed and the most intimate friends had never ventured to violate, was elapsed.
It will be proper here to mention that, before his entering the city, he had disguised his person in such a manner as not to be discovered by the most accurate observer; and therefore passed unnoticed to by his own house, where he was informed, by his trusty female domestic PRUDENCE of the situation my Mother was then in, and that my Father had declared him (WISDOM) dead; and of which he had given a most entertaining and circumstantial account. WISDOM, who was not at all disconcerted or surprised by the manœuvres of WIT, determined to remain quiet and secret at home till he had an interview with my Mother; which happened, as will be seen in the following chapter.
Though WISDOM's return was entirely unknown to the people of Athens, yet PRUDENCE, with whom my Mother had kept up a constant correspondence during his absence, had given her the earliest information of his arrival, and his intention of renewing his former intimacy. Nothing could be more cordially received by my Mother than this news, nor did Father Time, who always lingers with the absent and flies with the present lover, ever in her opinion, limp along so slowly as upon this occasion; at length, however, this dreary month expired, and the long expected visitor appeared. Here, gentle reader, stop for a moment, and figure to yourself, if you can, the first emotions of the mind which such an interview between two such persons must excite — guess likewise, if you can, at my Mother's delicate feelings, thus circumstanced, and in her weak state so unable to support it, and then forbear, if thou can'st, to commiserate the unhappy situation of so amiable a couple.
As all description must fall far short of what the sensible reader will suggest to himself upon these tender trials of our humanity, I will beg leave to throw a veil over their present sufferings, and come to that point of time wherein WISDOM found it absolutely necessary to break this dreadful silence; who, qualified as he was supposed to be for the most arduous undertakings, found occasion for all his fortitude and philosophy to collect and support himself in this. Suppose then my Mother recovering from that trance-like state, in which she had remained for some minutes, opening her eyes, and WISDOM his mouth, who addresses her in in the following words:
'Madam, I rejoice extremely to see those eyes opened, which I greatly feared were closed for ever. Let me conjure you to be comforted; be assured that, if my sincerest regard and esteem can contribute to your happiness, you have it — you always had it, even from the earliest dawn of reason I contemplated your virtue, and was never perfectly easy when I lost sight of you. Yes, Madam, though the gods have not permitted us the happiness of being joined together by the sacred ties of matrimony, yet, by those gods, I swear to preserve an eternal friendship for you and your posterity; and, as an immediate earnest of my future intentions, I beg you will permit me to adopt, from this moment, the infant child you have been so lately delivered of; who, though he be the son of my mortal foe, is still the offspring of my favourite TRUTH.'
When WISDOM had done speaking, my Mother, with a countenance full of content, and adorned with an ineffable smile of approbation and gratitude, inclined her body gently and said, 'Can you forgive me, good Sir!, loaded as I am already with obligations to you, if I wish to add to them by begging you would suffer your maid PRUDENCE, whom I know you do not choose to part with, to nurse and educate my child, in order to make him more worthy of your notice and esteem.' WISDOM, having had this in contemplation before my Mother mentioned it, granted her request without the least hesitation.
These principal points being settled to the entire satisfaction of both parties, the next material object of their consideration was the re-establishment of my Mother's character, a thing, they imagined, not so easily accomplished when they considered how vilely her conduct had been misrepresented by my Father and his adherents. In a matter of such consequence, it was thought proper to have a consultation with their best friends and nearest relations; among the latter was a cousin-german of WISDOM's — a person possessed of quick parts and a lively imagination, fruitful in expedients, and rapid in the execution of every project which a redundancy of ideas never failed to supply. He was, indeed, rather negligent of his own family affairs, but was very willing and ready to settle those of others. He had an excellent knack at reconciling paradoxes, and had a great contempt for all things that wanted no explanation.
This gentleman, whose name was GENIUS, intruded himself into the consultation, and though his opinion was not asked, he was the first to give it — which he did in the following manner.
'It gives me an inexpressible pleasure, my good friends, at this critical conjuncture, when I find you so embarrassed, that I should thus fortunately happen to fall in amongst you. It has been the business of my life to serve mankind by rectifying mistakes, clearing up perplexed points, banishing error, and conciliating the most inveterate differences betwixt man and man. I shall therefore proceed to give my advice in this affair without further ceremony. My opinion then is that this lady should not at first venture to stir out of her own house without a mask, for...' 'For what?' interrupted my Mother, with so stern a countenance, that GENIUS, with all his effrontery, was for a few moments struck dumb.
'Madam,' resumed GENIUS, 'permit me only to give my sentiments freely and without interuption: then blame me if you can. In the first place, I take it for granted that your going abroad for the air is a thing absolutely necessary on account of your health. I suppose it is needless to tell you that I am an old and intimate acquaintance of your late husband — that I am very frequently with him, and that he seldom does anything of moment without consulting me. Be assured then, Madam, that he bears you no good will — that he has designs against you; and that he is at this very instant meditating — but the rules of friendship forbid a plainer discovery. I think I have already said enough to prove that, without some overtures for an accommodation, it would not be safe for you to venture abroad without a mask.'
At the repetition of the word mask, my Mother's colour went and came; which WISDOM perceived, and looking upon his kinsman as little better than a spy amongst them, accosted him thus: 'We were sufficiently acquainted, Sir, with the evil intentions of your friend towards this lady, before we had the pleasure of seeing you; therefore cannot think ourselves obliged to you for your information. Your method for defeating his intentions is certainly the most effectual way of carrying them into execution; for nothing can be a stronger mark of guilt than disguise, of which your friend would presently avail himself. Your proposal of an accommodation we reject with scorn. In short, we are sorry you have given yourself and us so much trouble to so little purpose. I have but one word more to say, which I hope you will always remember: that advice unasked is always ill received.'
GENIUS, finding that the duplicity of his behaviour had discovered the trap which he was about to lay for my Mother, thought it was high time to depart; which he did immediately, but with a counterfeited air of satisfaction. He flew directly to my Father, who was waiting with impatience for his return, and very anxious to know the result of his embassy; he did not wait long for it. GENIUS, without sitting down, and half out of breath as he was with running thither, very soon communicated the whole that had passed at my Mother's house, and indeed a good deal more, for having having a violent propensity to talking, and a great facility in his delivery, he could seldom confine his narration within the narrow limits of a plain matter of fact. So, in this place, he dwelt much upon the fine things he had said of my Father, and the many arguments he had used to bring about a reconciliation, without hinting a syllable that he had betrayed him by declaring his evil intentions against my Mother — a circumstance of all others that he was charged not to mention a tittle of. For my Father, finding by this time, that my Mother and her friends began to gain ground of him in the opinion of the world, wished for nothing more earnestly than the appearance, at least, of being upon good terms with her. This expectation he saw entirely frustrated by the indiscretion of GENIUS, whom he found WISDOM had been too many for.
In this chapter, before I proceed any further, methinks it will not be improper to obviate an objection which the sagacious reader may naturally enough make to the probability of this part of my history.
'How is it possible,' says the Critic, 'that a person should be able to give an account of the transactions which happened in his family forty years before, and at the time he was an infant of a month old? I say forty years before, for surely he could not be less when he began to write his own life. I will allow you that, after he grew up, he might have been informed of all the material occurrences, and perhaps some private anecdotes of his family and friends, but he is not content with that, truly, but has the assurance to give you every minute circumstance, every conversation, even to the very words of the speaker, that passed upon such and such occasions, ridiculous and absurd to the greatest degree.'
In answer to this heavy charge brought against me, I must beg leave to remind the reader that WISDOM's maid, PRUDENCE, was assigned to me as my nurse. She was a very good sort of woman, and was remarkable for being the first female who ever kept a regular diary of her own actions, and of those with whom she was connected. Many ladies since have attempted it, but their registers never exceeded a fortnight — God knows why. PRUDENCE continued her's to the day of her death; my Mother contributed everything in her power to make it interesting: and I am only the faithful transcriber of their memoirs.
I left my Father in the sixth chapter very much chagrined and out of humour with his friend GENIUS. He found upon cross-examining him that, instead of conciliating matters, he had made the breach much wider than ever. And as my Father had been frequently deceived and drawn into scrapes by him upon former occasions, he could not help reproaching himself for having trusted him again in this. However, notwithstanding the dilemma he was then in, and the difficulty he foresaw of ever gaining credit with my Mother, he was still determined not to give it up without making one other effort; and therefore resolved upon writing my Mother the following letter.
GENIUS, who, while my Father was writing, was looking over his shoulder, marched off full of rage and resentment for such an affront put upon him; but he flattered himself that the following billet, which he immediately dispatched to my Mother, would turn the tables in his favour.
My Mother, who was all goodness herself, and never better pleased than when she found a reformation in others, must necessarily feel great satisfaction in the perusal of my Father's letter: but how astonished was she, upon reading the billet from GENIUS, which followed close upon the heels of the other! She read it over and over, and every time with more perplexity. 'Could any man make such a request of another? Or could any man grant such request? Or give up his reputation to serve his friend? Impossible! Yet, how could GENIUS know the contents of my late husband's letter, if he had not been consulted upon it? 'Tis quite a riddle to me.' Here she threw down the two letters and, reclining her head upon her hand, grew silent and thoughtful, when WISDOM, according to his usual custom, made his appearance; and perceiving an anxiety in the countenance of my Mother, enquired the cause of it. My Mother, without answering, pointed to the letters upon the table, which he took up and read carefully over; and while he was so doing, my Mother kept her eyes fixed upon him, in hopes to discover his sentiments by his looks. After WISDOM had done reading, he said, 'Madam, do not make yourself uneasy about the apparent contradictions which these letters contain — 'tis not in my power, with any degree of precision, to ascertain how the true fact stands: but I verily believe, that the protestations of your late husband are sincere; and that my kinsman GENIUS has, by some means or other, had a sight of his letter without his knowledge, before it was sent away. If my conjecture is right, it will fully account for the perfidy of GENIUS, and justify the sincerity of WIT. At all events, Madam, I would advise you to be merciful in your answer, and to forgive all past offences, as he never can have it in his power to hurt you more; and I would likewise enclose a copy of GENIUS's letter to shew your contempt of it, and to convince him that you place some dependence on his promises.' My Mother, well pleased with every thing that he directed, took her pen and wrote the following answer which WISDOM dictated.
My Father, who was a man of very quick feelings and great sensibility, had no sooner read the two first lines of my Mother's letter, than he let it fall from his hands, and began to peruse, with great eagerness, that of GENIUS, which flung him into such violent agitations, that he stamped about the room like a madman, — swore he would put him to death instantly; and was actually rushing forth precipitately to execute this rash resolution, when he providentially happened to kick my Mother's letter before him. He took it up and read it hastily over, without seeming to understand it; but a second reading began to calm the fury of his passion, which the postscript entirely subdued. The fit of rage being over, he set himself down to consider very dispassionately what method he should pursue in so delicate and complicated a circumstance; and after racking his brain for some time, and torturing the subject into all the shapes his imagination could suggest, he at last determined upon what will be found in the next chapter.
My Father, upon cool reflection, had many reasons for not breaking with his friend GENIUS. In the first place, my Mother seemed to make my Father's forgiveness of him a preliminary to the intended peace of the family; besides that, if GENIUS was not to be included in the treaty, be would certainly invent some plot to prevent its taking place. But the reason, of all others, which weighed most with my Father, was that he had been very busy for some months past in writing a dramatic piece, which the circumscribed situation of his finances obliged him to bring up on the stage as soon as possible. He had carried it on with great spirit and propriety, and much to his own satisfaction, till he came to the winding-up of the fable, or what is called the catastrophe of the play. Here he stuck fast, and wanted the assistance of his friend to get him out; he resolved therefore to make GENIUS a visit forthwith, whom he found at home full of gaiety and good humour as usual. The conversation that passed between them upon this occasion, I find in the diary of PRUDENCE, under the form of a dialogue, as follows:
GENIUS. Well, have you had any answer to your letter yet from Madam Stiff-Rump?
GENIUS read the answer, blushed for the first time, threw his arms about my Father's neck, and promised to execute the commission with great punctuality.
GENIUS performed his promise the next day; but I do not find any particulars entered in the diary of what passed at this interview, more than that he was received with great civility by my Mother and WISDOM.
WISDOM — that a general act of oblivion in regard to all differences, was agreed to — that my Father had consented to give me up to my Mother, for which GENIUS was to be guarantee, and that an early day was appointed for the ratification of those preliminaries by my Father.
If I had any other intention, by this work, than that of being esteemed a faithful narrator of matters of fact; if I had any design or inclination to follow the example of my predecessors — those authors who write for present pay and good quarters, whose lucubrations are valued by measurement and, like the operators in brick and mortar, are paid by the rod: I say, if this were my view, I have here a fair opportunity of filling up a page at least with the ceremonial of any Father's first visit to my Mother. But as I find no voucher for this in the diary, it would not be consistent with the character I profess, to make words amongst friends. These four personnages being met, viz. my Father, Mother, WISDOM and GENIUS, the usual compliments over, and the business which brought them together settled to the satisfaction of all parties, their hearts began to glow with an uncommon warmth and professions of friendship passed on all sides,there was an openess in their countenances, a freedom in their expressions, and a delicacy in their sentiments which the reader — if he has ever quarrelled with his friend and made it up again — may easily conceive without my assistance. My Father, after the first emotions of the general joy were pretty well subsided, took an opportunity to introduce his favourite subject of conversation: the theatre. Upon this topic he displayed his talents to the greatest advantage — he criticised and reviled all the performances that had been exhibited for some years, in which he was strongly joined by his friend GENIUS. And after they had exhausted all their raillery upon the modern writers, my Father, addressing himself to WISDOM, said, 'Sir, I have wrote a Comedy, which indeed is not yet finished, but...' 'Pray, Sir,' says WISDOM, 'what may be the subject of it?' 'The subject,' replied my Father, 'why I told you it was not yet finished, therefore can't explain myself upon that point. Not that I think the subject material, but for dialogue, sentiment, brilliancy of expression and repartee I think this will be a masterpiece.' 'Ha! It will do, it will do,' cried GENIUS. 'I don't know,' says WISDOM, 'how to answer you without reading your piece; but as comedy is a representation of human life, in which the foibles, follies, and vices of mankind should be ridiculed and discountenanced, I am of opinion that the dialogue should be easy and unaffected; the sentiment such as the persons represented may be thought capable of; and the language free from that unnatural brilliancy of expression and repartee which you seem so delighted with. Lastly, the subject, or rather the fable, should be interesting, otherwise it may be more properly called a conversation than a comedy.' At this period, my Mother, who never liked any thing that was fabulous, grew tired of the dispute and withdrew. So that PRUDENCE could make no record of what passed in her absence, all we know of the matter is that my Mother, upon entering the room just before their departure, found them all in good humour.
By this time, my Mother, through the conduct and encouragement of her good friend WISDOM, had recovered her health and spirits, and was visiting daily and visited by the most respectable people of the city. She had still many enemies, particularly amongst the female part of the world, who were not made so by any malpractices of my Father; for instance, all those ladies who were diametrically opposite to her in their principles, manners, and fashions could not bear her. When she went to public places, she was indeed neat and clean as hands could make her; but then her dress was plain even to a proverb. She was rather low in her stature, which subjected her frequently to be overlooked in large assemblies; but when she was found out, her greatest enemies could not help pronouncing her beautiful. She had been accustomed so to the calumnies of the world, that she heard them with the greatest indifference; and yet there was a piece of scandal thrown out against her at this time, which, though groundless as the rest, reflecting upon her honour, seemed to touch her nearly. Indeed it gives me pain to recite an anecdote of my Mother which probably would have ruined any other woman in the world but herself: but the dignity of history requires it. Be it known then, that there was a certain fine fantastic lady who thought so well of herself that she supposed every person that saw her was her admirer, and in this disposition of mind, imagined that she might pick and choose a partner for life whereever she pleased. At length this same lady, whose name was VANITY, took it into her head to throw out the lure of invitation to WISDOM — not that she had the least passion for him, but she flattered herself that such an alliance would raise her character and give her vast superiority over her own sex. WISDOM saw the bait, but he behaved with such coldness as amounted to a refusal. Her bosom swelled with resentment, and her faculties were instantly at work to be revenged of him. It has been observed, by various authors, that invention seldom fails the females upon these occasions. VANITY conceived a notion of killing two birds with one stone by including my Mother — whom she never liked — in her plan of revenge. For this purpose, she presently forged a plausible tale with variety of circumstances, all tending to corroborate the veracity of the fiction, of which the sum total was, that though WISDOM and TRUTH were not really married, yet there wanted nothing but the ceremony to make them man and wife.
I say, my Mother was at first hurt at this slander, but it did not last long, for when it was once known that WISDOM had rejected the offer of VANITY, it was discovered to be the mere invention of an enraged and disappointed woman. If my Mother had been capable of resentment, or had the least tincture of malice in her composition, the incident that happened soon after must have furnished the greatest matter of triumph.
Not long after the town had been set right, in regard to the foregoing particular, a boy, about four years old, arrived in this city from a very distant part of the country where he had been nursed and brought up with great privacy, but was now carried to the house of VANITY, who undertook the care of him — as she said — for a relation, whose child he was. The boy was exceeding lively and active, and withal played so many comical tricks, that she gave him the nickname of Monkey, though his real name — as it afterwards turned out — was HUMOUR. He had something so inexpressibly ridiculous in his countenance, that no one could behold him without laughing. In short, everybody was fond of the boy, my Father in particular — who was an old acquaintance of VANITY's — grew so enamoured of him, that the neighbours began to suspect something which GENIUS — who was privy to all my Father's secrets — soon put out of all dispute. For one day, playing with the boy as usual at one end of the room, without perceiving that there were three ladies at the other, he says to him, 'My little man, you're more like your father than your mother.' 'Ay,' says the boy, 'pray who is my father?' 'Why, WIT is your father and VANITY is your mother, child.' The discovery was made — the ladies burst out a laughing, the town feasted upon it for a fortnight, and what was best of all, VANITY durst not shew her face abroad for a month.
From the time my Father and his friend GENIUS left my Mother's house, they had been wholly taken up in putting the finishing strokes to the comedy, which was now completed. The managers of the theatre received it, and promised to bring it out with all possible expedition. During this interval, my Father made frequent visits to my Mother and WISDOM, not on account of the pleasure he took in their company, but with an intention to gain the favour and protection of the latter to his play and, if possible, to prevail upon him to write the prologue: he succeeded in both. WISDOM, commiserating the necessities of my Father and knowing that his subsistence for the next year entirely depended upon the success of this piece, was willing to give it a lift; for though the play was not much suited to his taste, yet as he found nothing in it immoral or shocking to the ear of modesty, he thought it not derogatory to his character to support it. At length the night of performance came: the house was crammed, and the most striking figure in it was VANITY, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, and seated in the most conspicuous part of the theatre; my Mother and WISDOM did not make their appearance till the prologue was over — it was received with silent admiration, but was thought by the multitude to be rather too grave. The play began and went on all the way, till near the conclusion, with a roar of applause for, as my Father had before said, so it turned out; the dialogue, repartee, etc., were admirable and pleased beyond expression. But somehow or other, towards the latter end of the performance, the audience, whose attention had hitherto been taken up with the very smart things that had been said by every person in the drama, male and female, now began to perceive that there was no fable nor plot; and when the play was over, they seemed inclinable to hiss rather than clap, to which the insolent countenance of VANITY did not a little contribute; and it was generally thought at last that the comedy would have been damned if WISDOM had not stood up and given his nod of approbation. The epilogue was written by GENIUS: the subject of it was an apogee for the life of the author, in which my Father's amours and foibles were delicately touched; and what added much to the spirit of it was that it was spoken by his spurious brat HUMOUR, who — though he has been a plague to me ever since I can remember anything, I must do him the justice to say — became soon after the very life and joy of the stage.
VANITY had the grace to withdraw before HUMOUR spoke the epilogue.
My Father returned from the theatre delighted with the success of his piece; VANITY was quite charmed with the performance of her illegitimate son; WISDOM was happy that his prologue had passed unnoticed by the vulgar; and my Mother was pleased because everybody else was. In the diary of PRUDENCE, I find no more more said of this theatrical business than that the play was dragged on and supported for a few nights by the assistance of friends, and then died away. That my Father, whose reputation as an author stood high in the literary world, had disposed of the copy before it was acted, for a good round sum, which he preferred to immortality. This very reasonable recruit of his finances left him at liberty to consider the best and most expeditious method to make his son HUMOUR useful to the stage and profitable to himself. In order to do this, he set about giving him the three great accomplishments: dancing, fencing, and music; reading and writing did not enter into his plan of education, for in his treatise lately published, called the Theatrical Guide, he demonstrated that nothing was more prejudical to a comedian than literary knowledge. That he had observed the few amongst them who could read and write, had a grave cast of muscles arising, as he supposes, from a conscious superiority in point of learning over the rest of their brethren. That, for the same reason, may be highly proper for a tragedian, whose deportment should consist in grace and dignity: but that, for a dancer, is downright poison, as it intoxicates his head and takes from the agility of his heels.
HUMOUR was not taught to read and write, but he made a very quick progress in his other studies; and my Father had the satisfaction of seeing the doctrine he had laid down verified and established in the example of his son, who very soon became a favourite dancer in the grotesque style, and was received with great applause in those parts of low comedy to which his age and stature were suitable.
And now I think it is high time to say something of myself, which I have avoided as long as I could, for reasons that will, and must, be seen presently. There is a certain pride annexed to the freehold of human nature, which excites a desire to appear well in the opinion of mankind; and a repugnancy, of course, to the discovery of anything that might make him appear otherwise. In this latter situation am I; for as I know but too well, the early part of my life — even from the first dawn of reason, to almost my twentieth year — will make but an unfavourable impression of me upon the reader, it is not unnatural to declare that I set about it with some reluctance.
I find in the diary of PRUDENCE, innumerable remarks relative to the progress of my infancy, which a fond mother might think necessary, but would be too tedious and trifling to trouble the reader with. I shall therefore only just observe that the periods of cutting my teeth, walking, speaking, etc., happened much later than to children in general; that I took no notice of objects at the usual time; and that I knew not my letters when others of the same age could read distinctly. When I was old enough to be sent to a public school, my backwardness in learning and want of parts were too conspicuous not to be observed by the rest of the boys, in whose eyes I soon became contemptible. In short, I was ridiculed and laughed at by the whole school, insomuch that if Providence — who is all just — had not given me one necessary quality as an equivalent for dullness, I must have sunk under it. I mean patience. This I had in a very high degree, and this supported me under all my difficulties; the boys grew tired of whipping a top that would not spin, and at length began to pity what they could not provoke.
However partial my Mother might be to the failings of her only son, she had long perceived, with silent concern, my want of abilities, but never had the courage to mention it to her friend WISDOM, who, seeing the distress of her mind, took the disagreeable task off her hands and spared her blushes by saying, 'Madam, the uneasiness you have suffered for some time, on account of your son, has not escaped me; and as I participate of every good or evil that befalls you, I take the liberty to congratulate you, on the happiness you are likely to enjoy from so hopeful a child. I see you are surprised Madam, and — if I may judge by your looks — you think I speak a language foreign to my heart. Believe me no, your son's parts are not yet budded forth, and when they are, he will not appear like that summer tree HUMOUR, who blossoms, bears fruit, and drops his leaves within the year, but he will flourish like the cedar of Lebanon, and the fools of the world shall be glad to shelter themselves beneath his branches — he will become a comfort and companion to his mother, and the candid tribunal to which all good men will make their appeal.'
This sudden and unexpected presage of my future importance, and that from a man she regarded as an oracle, operated very forcibly on the passions of my Mother — a torrent of gladness overflowed her heart, and tears of joy trickled down her cheeks.
Notwithstanding this very favourable prognostic of WISDOM, which indeed had given my Mother entire satisfaction, yet people in general entertained very different notions of me — they could not conceive that anything less than a miracle was capable of making me a rational creature. And this opinion was very pleasing to those who were the natural and declared enemies of my Mother and WISDOM. In particular, VANITY made herself very happy in drawing comparisons between that surprising production HUMOUR, and the booby son of Madam TRUTH, as she was pleased to call me, and at the same time would fling out malicious insinuations to the prejudice of my Mother, as that it was impossible such a lifeless animal as myself could be the son of her friend WIT. My Father too, though he had art enough to conceal his joy from those to whom it would have given offence, could not help secretly rejoicing at the visible disparity of understanding between his natural and unnatural son. While friends and foes were thus variously busied, some in ironically pitying, others in really comforting my Mother, I jogged on at school in a harmless plain John Trot way, without offending or being offended by anybody. I began — as I hinted in the last chapter — to live upon tolerable terms with my school-fellows, that is, I enjoyed the negative happiness of not being tormented. This did not last long, for, as I was not expert at those games which boys usually delight in, nor excelling in those bodily exercises that require spirit and activity, I was generally shut out, and left to invent amusements for myself; this naturally inclined me to industry, and to employ those hours in study which other boys spent in play: so that the extraordinary pains I took made ample amends for my want of parts, and I was enabled by this means to cut as good a figure as the best of them. My master saw it and encouraged me in it; but at the same it encouraged or rather enraged the boys, who used me so exceedingly ill: so that, patient as I was, I could no longer forbear complaining of it to my Mother, who advised WISDOM about it, and I was immediately taken home and provided with a private tutor. I had now just entered my thirteenth year, and from this time of my return to my Mother's house, to that of my leaving it again, includes the happiest era of my life. Indulged by a fond mother in every reasonable recreation that could at once delight and instruct, guarded by PRUDENCE, and conducted by the cautious hand of WISDOM, how can I ever forget those halcyon days that flowed with uninterrupted felicity?
My tutor was a man of sound understanding and good parts; he had been bred to Letters, but his principal pursuit was Natural History — especially those branches of it that were most beneficial to mankind. WISDOM had made choice of him as a proper person to direct the studies of a young man, whom they had long since intended for the profession of Physick. My Mother was the more solicitous about making me a physician, on account of an unconquerable aversion she had — and it was born with her — to all quacks and empirical practitioners. These gentry, knowing her to be their inveterate enemy, seldom let a day pass without offering her some personal affront that was injurious to her reputation; and what made it still more provoking, she was informed that my Father and his friend GENIUS were mean enough, for a paltry gratuity, to give their assistance and join against her. I say, my Mother — poor woman — wished me to be a doctor in the hope that I might, some time or other, be able — like another Hercules — to cut off the head of this medicinal Hydra. WISDOM expected no such wonders from me, though he was unwilling to deprive my Mother of so pleasing a prospect, by convincing her of the impossibility of ever carrying it in execution.
Amongst the number of these never failing doctors, there was one who took the lead, and far surpassed all the rest of his brethren in confidence and effrontery; for, by the art and management of my Father and his adherents, he gained such credit with the town as to convince them that he had, by certain magic powers, extracted an essence and tincture from common and well known plants, which contained more virtues than the plants themselves ever possessed.
The disorders for which these arcana were infallible are too numerous to be recited here. And though the doctor gave evidence against himself, whenever he made his appearance in public, by exhibiting in his own person a complication of disorders, yet the people were too infatuated to believe their own eyes. There is a circumstance in this doctor's life, which however trivial it may appear to the reader, I cannot forbear mentioning: long before he commenced as a physician he was engaged in writing for the booksellers upon almost every subject — Physick excepted — that could be thought of; he had a fluent pen, and dispatched a great deal of business in a little time, which answered the purposes of his employers. But the doctor, finding his pay inadequate to the luxuriancy of his appetite, quitted this employment for the more lucrative occupation of quackery; this he succeeded in beyond expectation. But as there is no earthly happiness without its counterpoise of misery, so it happened with the doctor — the ease and indolence, into which this affluence of fortune had thrown him, did by degrees accumulate those chronic diseases which his nostrums could not cure, and which would have been prevented by living as formerly the life of a peripatetic philosopher.
My tutor and I pursued our studies with great harmony and satisfaction to each other. We frequently walked out together into the fields to collect those medicinal plants and flowers on which he expatiated with great elegance and propriety. But these entertaining amusements were often interrupted by the impertinence of that natural half-brother of mine HUMOUR, who took every opportunity of falling in my way in order to ridicule my gravity and put me out of countenance. One day in particular, when I was alone, he met me and attacked me thus: 'Your servant brother, what! have they trusted you out by yourself? Upon my word, it is very imprudent in them, some accident or other will happen to you, but I'll see you safe home'. He was going on in this sneering way, when I stoped him short by saying: 'Young man, I have hitherto born your jokes and ribaldry patiently, which, if you persist in, I shall chastise you for in a manner you will not like. Your mother is much to blame for encouraging you in this behaviour. You and I were not made for companions; you are very well in your place, I mean the theatre, where I shall always applaud you according to your merit: but remember for the future, if you should casually meet me anywhere, that you do not affect to know me. Farewell.' My gentleman was thunderstruck with this reprimand; he did not imagine that I had understanding enough to know, or spirit enough to resent, an affront. He had been taught to believe that I was a common chopping block, where every Jack Pudding might cut and come again with impunity. He found himself mistaken, and marched of with great precipitation; and I think, after this interview, he never ventured to be personally impertinent to me again — though he did everything in his power behind my back to bring my character into disrepute. My Father and GENIUS, who had hitherto only looked upon me as a poor creature below their notice, began to suspect that there was something in me, which years and experience might ripen into knowledge, and were therefore struck with an apprehension that I should, some time or other, become a formidable enemy to the infallibillity of quackery. They had both entered themselves into the empirical service, and were consequently sworn foes to the regularly bred practitioners in Physick. In this disposition of mind, they were meditating a most severe stroke against the faculty; an account of which will be seen by and by.
It was presently proclaimed by HUMOUR — who was bad at keeping a secret — that his Father and GENIUS were about a farce, that would destroy all the physicians and save all their patients; but, as it is not ready to be produced, I shall leave them at it, and proceed to speak of an affair of a more serious nature that happened in our family.
The nation had long laboured under many difficulties, from the precarious and uncertain situation of its laws. They had been so altered and explained away, that no precise idea could be affixed to them, nor any decrees made in the courts of judicature, that were satisfactory to the parties; the property of the individual lay at the mercy of a more powerful neighbour. The people grew outrageous, and nothing could restrain or satisfy them till the government promised them a new body of laws. For this purpose, the chiefs and nobles were called together when there happened to be present among them one to whom they all looked up and in whom they were willing to trust their lives and fortunes. He was indeed a man of great learning, knowledge and virtue: his name was Solon; he undertook, with the assistance of WISDOM, to form these laws. After some time spent in this great and necessary work, they were at length finished, read to the people, and received by them with universal joy and approbation. The government, to commemorate this happy event, ordained an annual day of festivity at which were present all the persons of rank in the nation. My Mother, you may be sure, would not be absent at a time when her friend WISDOM, with his colleague Solon, were to receive the grateful acknowledgments of so grand an assembly. She was there, and infinitely delighted, both with the entertainment and the other ceremonies, when on a sudden, after drinking a glass of wine, she was observed to turn pale, and presently fainted away. She was removed into the air, where she recovered from her fainting, which was followed by sickness and vomiting; she was carried home, where we must leave her for a moment. VANITY was at this entertainment, and set with secret vexation to hear and see the encomiums and civilities that were bestowed on WISDOM and my Mother; but she concealed her disgust, and had even hypocrisy enough to congratulate my Mother on the honours that had befallen her family. But to return to my Mother. After she got home, she grew worse and worse; her vomitings were without intermission, and violent griping pains had seized her bowels. Her life was thought to be in great danger; however, at length, by the use of proper remedies, the symptoms were mitigated. The next day her complaint returned, but not so bad; in short, it was many days before she got the better of it. The physician who attended her gave it as his opinion that my Mother had been poisoned at the late banquet. It was the general topic of conversation; but nobody pretended to guess at the culprit. Very soon after, Time — that unriddles all things — brought out a circumstance which amounted to almost a proof of the person concerned in this horrid attempt. HUMOUR was one morning with his mother, who went out of the room upon some occasion, and left her pocket book upon the table. The young spark no sooner cast his eye upon it, than he longed to know what it might contain, and his insatiable curiosity prompted him to borrow it for a while. When his mother returned, he took a hasty leave and flew to the house of a theatrical friend — where he intended to open his budget. The reader will easily recollect that HUMOUR could neither read nor write, and was therefore under a necessity of acquainting his friend with what he had done, in order to come at the contents of the book; his friend, complying with his request, opened it and found therein many loose papers and some memorandums written in the book itself — all which he read over to him, except the two following lines:
Since poison does its power deny,|
'Tis plain that TRUTH will never die.
HUMOUR, having satisfied his curiosity, began to think how he might replace the book, and avoid his mother's anger; he knew she would immediately miss it, and that he would be the suspected person. He consulted his friend upon it, who had a design that HUMOUR never dreamt of. It seems that, through the influence of my Father and VANITY over the managers of the theatre, many of this player's favourite parts in comedy had been taken from him and given to HUMOUR. He was therefore determined to be revenged of the whole family, and thought this an excellent opportunity. He told HUMOUR that it was impossible to deceive his Mother, or to prevent the discovery; that he thought the best thing he could do was to carry the book to WISDOM, to acknowledge the indiscretion, and to implore his protection and authority to conciliate matters with his Mother; and that he might carry his scheme into execution with more certainty, and shew at the same time his friendship for HUMOUR, if he offered his service to negotiate this business for him. This plan was agreed to by HUMOUR with great expressions of gratitude. Away went the player to seek out WISDOM, to whom he was an utter stranger, and was likewise ignorant of his place of abode; it was therefore some time before he found him. He delivered the book, and explained the nature of his embassy, but without laying any stress on the stipulated reconciliation of the mother and son. WISDOM made him no other answer than that he would take care of it. When the player had made his exit, WISDOM began to consider how he should act in so critical a conjuncture. He knew very well that the distich before mentioned was the handwriting of VANITY; but as this circumstance alone would not be sufficient to convict her, he thought it best to conceal from my Mother, what — from her strong aversion to doubts and uncertainties — would give her pain to no purpose. He therefore determined to send the book back to the owner with the following letter:
Upon the assurances which HUMOUR had received from the player, that WISDOM had undertaken to procure his pardon from his Mother, he ventured to pay her a visit. He put on a very penitential face, and fell upon his knees before her; but the violent reception he met with — though the manner of it never transpired to the public — wrought a strange alteration in the temper and disposition of the young man, who frequently broke out in a contemptible mimicry of personal infirmities, or an unwarrantable derision of human frailties.
The history of the pocket book was never communicated to my Mother, which the reader may wonder at, till he is informed that it was not entered in the diary of PRUDENCE, and that from the age of fifteen I depend principally upon my own memory and notes for materials; though I shall have frequent occasions for those of PRUDENCE. My Father had now finished his farce, from which he expected both reputation and profit; he was not disappointed in either, for it met with great applause and full houses. The indifferent reception of his former comedy was not so much owing to the deficiency of his plan, etc., as to the want of that local satire and personal abuse with which this piece abounded. The design of this farce, which was called The Consultation, I can only give the following imperfect account of.
The first scene introduces a man and his wife entering at different doors, wringing their hands, and waiting with great impatience the coming of three physicians to visit their daughter, who lay at the point of death; this scene is spun out with expatiating on the virtues of their child and the impossibility of surviving the loss of her, when a servant announces the arrival of the doctors and the parents make their exits.
In the next material scene appear the doctors sitting in consultation. Their first discourse is about the general news of the town, which introduces the story of my Mother being poisoned. This brings on an enquiry into the cause, effects, and cure of poisons. The dispute grows warm — they all three differ in opinion, and, after much time spent without ascertaining anything, the youngest physician tells them that it is high time to think about their patient; that she cannot last long without relief. The two old doctors declare it a lost case, but ask him if he has anything to propose; the young one recommends Dr._____ Powder, the old ones are of opinion it might cure her, but will not risk their reputation for any person's life. The young one finds out an expedient to save both, by proposing to send for the apothecary, and directing him to get some of Dr. _____ Powder, and make it up instead of the medicine which they should prescribe. The apothecary comes; he is sworn to secrecy with the three doctors upon the dispensatory, then they all take their leave and depart.
In the next scene, the husband and wife appear in great joy for the recovery of their daughter, when the apothecary's boy enters with a message from his master to the doctors; which, by mistake, he delivers to the husband: the purport of the message was to know whether the physicians meant to give the patient any more of the powder — if they did, that it must be got before the doctor went to his country house, or it could not be had that day.
The second act opens with the second meeting of the physicians, who plume themselves and congratulate each other on their success, in the presence of the patient's father; he seems highly delighted with what they had done, and extols their merit to the stars: but, at the very instant they are expecting their fees, he makes the appointed sign, when half a dozen servants rush in with broom-staffs, and beat the doctors off the stage.
In the next scene, the young lady makes her appearance with her father and mother, who all enjoy the trick they have put upon the doctors. The father then wishes his daughter a long continuance of her health, and tells her that he hopes this severe illness has cured her of her passion for Florio — the daughter promises (in the usual style) that she will never do anything against the father's consent.
In the next scene, the daughter receives a letter from Florio, in which he acquaints her with what he had done and what he had suffered for her sake; that he had impersonated the youngest physician of the three, in order to introduce that powder, in which he had always the highest confidence, and begs her to make use of this circumstance to work upon her father, etc.
In the last scene, the whole affair is unravelled; and the father can no longer refuse his daughter to the man who had so happily preserved her.
My Mother and WISDOM, who were both present on the first night of performance, shewed their disapprobation of the piece in two very different ways: my Mother quitted the theatre at the beginning of the first act, and WISDOM fell fast asleep in the middle of the second.
Having now gone through my own minority, and given the reader such anecdotes of my relations and friends as may enable him to form a tolerable judgment of their characters and dispositions, I shall proceed with my history, in which — though I shall myself be the principal actor — that of my nearest kin will unavoidably be intermixed.
About this time, I set out upon my travels; as well with an intention to prosecute my particular studies in the profession of physick, as to acquire a general knowledge of men and things. The travels of most modern gentlemen have been limited to the tour of Europe, but nothing less than the circuit of the terrestrial globe would satisfy my unbounded curiosity; I passed to the utmost extremities of the east, and from thence by the south, to the west, and so on through the north. And though I found no great inducements to stay me long in any place I came to, yet it took me up more than a hundred years in visiting the different nations of the earth. Whether it was that, at this time of my travelling, I had not arrived to that degree of understanding which is necessary to conceive things rightly; or whether the world was really immersed in barbarism and obscurity, I can't tell: but certain I am that I was not at all pleased with the people, nor did they seem to relish me much better. Thus, out of conceit and dissatisfied with everything I had met with in the four quarters of the globe, I returned to Athens in hopes of finding that peace of mind which every traveller, who has a laudable partiality for his native country, must have experienced. But how great was my surprise, and how terrible my disappointment! The Grecian empire had become the shadow of what it was when I left it; Carthage had been destroyed [146 BC], and many of the great cities were tributary to the all-conquering Romans. To add to my unhappiness, I found the disagreements and animosities in our family were greater than ever; my Mother had impaired her health by watching and attending upon WISDOM, who was seized with a lethargy at the time of his falling asleep at the farce; and my Father, with his coadjutors GENIUS, VANITY and HUMOUR, had taken the advantage of WISDOM's incapacity to make vice fashionable, and to introduce every kind of luxury and debauchery, even amongst the Senate, who had received the wages of corruption from the city of Rome.
However, some time before my arrival, WISDOM recovered from his indisposition, and was soon informed of the miserable situation of public affairs, and of the helping hand my Father had lent towards it.
He pitied the misfortunes of his country, but saw the impossibility of preventing the impending ruin: he took his part accordingly, and acquainted me with his design of quitting Greece and going to Rome, whither he had been strongly pressed to come by his correspondent Cicero, who at that time stood in need of his assistance; but that the business on which he was going might not be frustated by the intrigues and cabals of our family, he desired that we might be all called together, when he would propose something to our consideration which he hoped would be agreed to by everyone. The parties were all summoned and met: WISDOM, after apologizing for bringing us together, told us that he had always looked upon the unhappy misunderstandings, which had subsisted among us ever since we were a family, with the greatest concern; that, as the cause of these differences — being nothing less than a contradiction in our tempers, dispositions and capacities — cannot be removed, the effect must continue; that the evils arising from it were manifold both to ourselves and to the community in general; and that he knew of but one expedient to prevent it for the future, which was to conform to an article of separation which he had drawn up. He then produced a paper containing words to the following purport.
Whereas divers and sundry evils, grievances and misfortunes, both of a private and public nature, have frequently happened, and which have been owing to certain contentions and animosities between the following parties, namely, WISDOM, TRUTH, COMMON SENSE, and PRUDENCE, of the first part, and WIT, GENIUS, VANITY and HUMOUR, of the second part. And whereas it is apprehended that the said contentions etc. may, if not timely prevented, be productive of still greater mischiefs etc. throughout the face of the whole earth: the parties aforesaid — who never meant more than the destruction of each other — have taken it into consideration
for the good of mankind; and finding that the said contentions etc. cannot be remedied, or the said evils prevented, but by a proper separation of the said parties, they do therefore covenant and agree, and it is hereby covenanted and agreed by and for the said parties jointly and separately, in the manner following.
These articles were immediately signed, without any demur — which was expected — on the part of our opponents, who, on the contrary, seemed highly pleased to be freed from that restraint upon their actions and conduct which the severity of WISDOM had hitherto imposed.
Things being thus amicably settled, WISDOM and my Mother repaired to Rome, where they found things in a most distracted state, and his friend Cicero embroiled in those troubles which soon after cost him his life and Rome its liberty. My Father and HUMOUR, finding that PRUDENCE and myself were left behind, took the advantage of the power the articles had given them and departed for Rome likewise. Upon the death of Cicero [43 BC], WISDOM and my Mother quitted Rome and retired to an obscure corner of Italy, where they lived many years unknown and unnoticed. They were soon succeeded by GENIUS and VANITY; and the whole party being now got together, in a place where people of their character were much courted and caressed, they gave loose to their inclinations, and passed through every scene of luxury and licentiousness without control. They remained here during the whole reign of Augustus [30 BC - 14 AD]; a reign so distinguished for its splendour and magnificence, and marked by all historians as the epoch of men of learning and brilliant parts. But here I must beg leave to set the modern world right, who have been deceived by the traditional accounts which historians have given of the names of those authors whose works are universally admired; for example, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Martial, Catullus, and many more, were only the amanuenses or transcribers of those literary productions to which their names are prefixed. They were all actually written, or at least dictated, by my Father and his friend GENIUS. This information I had from my Mother, whose veracity has never been yet called in question. This small specimen of historical misrepresentation must convince us how little we ought to rely on what we read and hear; and though this discovery may give umbrage to the majority of mankind, who are predisposed to credit what their forefathers believed, yet the love of justice and candour would not suffer me to let the imposition pass upon the world any longer.
I have as yet said little or nothing of myself in my physical capacity. The troubles in which I found my native country involved, on my return from my travels, together with the sudden separation of our family, have not given me an opportunity. I had, in the course of my studies, gone through every branch of physick and surgery, but in my practice I confined myself chiefly to one, namely that of lunacy — in which I had already performed many notable cures during my tour round the world. I was very early inclined to take this department in physick from the observations I had made upon human nature. I had reasoned myself into a belief that many chronic bodily diseases took their rise originally from a distempered brain; and, in pursuing this idea, I had formed a hypothesis — to which perhaps my brethren will not give their assent — that maniacal complaints have their paroxysms and intermissions, and that they are as contagious and communicative as any cutaneous disorders whatsoever. If my conjecture should be ill-founded, how, in the name of wonder, are we to account for those daily instances which seem to justify this supposition? A man is seized with a phrenzy — draws his sword — declares he will put all the people to death, of a distant country — which he never saw or has had the least intercourse with — unless they will acknowledge him for their lord and master; this is communicated to those about him; they give it to others: and so, in the space of a few hours, the contagion catches like the electrical fire, and the whole nation are stark staring mad. A further proof of the disease being infectious is the similiarity of the symptoms: every man of them, as soon as he is taken ill, draws his sword and vows destruction likewise to the same innocent people; and their frantic rage even supports them under the fatigue of journeying on foot several hundred miles to fight with they don't know who, and to return they don't know how: till at length, by hard lodging, slender diet, and plentiful phlebotomy, they recover their sences with the loss only of a leg or an arm. I must confess that I have never known this species of madness attack any but great personnages, such as rulers of kingdoms and commanders of armies; if they escape, the nation over which they preside remain perfectly free from infection. But, alas, this seldom happens; for I cannot help thinking that this distemper is radical and hereditary; and that it is the very same disease which has baffled the utmost efforts of the wisest physicians, vulgarly called the King's Evil. We see it sometimes lie dormant for twenty or thirty years together, without any one maniacal symptom, but then it breaks out with greater fury than ever. Happy, singularly happy, is that nation which experiences in it's sovereign, the mens sana in corpore sano, that is, a king «sound both in body and mind».
In the progress of this work, I shall endeavour to support the doctrine I have advanced, by various examples in their proper places, but without observing that chronological order, which, I hope, will be a matter of indifference to all my readers, except those few who choose to begin at the end of a book, so that they may know, before their neighbours, the drift and design of the author.
Those convivial times, in which I left my Father and his partisans deeply engaged, began now to decline. They were succeeded by that great era of the world, that memorable event to which we shall always look up with awe and reverence: it was nothing less than the birth of Christ. This drew my Mother and WISDOM from their obscurity: they stood forth the champions of Christianity, and sustained this great cause against all the torrent of defamation and abuse which an ignorant and an unenlightened multitude could throw out against it; their whole care and attention was devoted to this glorious undertaking, and they had the happiness to obtain,
after a struggle of many years, the completion of their wishes in the establishment of the Christian religon throughout the greatest part of Europe, etc. My Father and his troop, from being raised to the highest pitch of human glory, in the court of Augustus, were now fallen so low as to become the objects of pity and compassion. They were grown so indigent as to want the common necessaries of life. They had long strolled about the country in a beggarly manner, without meeting with anybody charitable enough to take them in, and were at last reduced to take refuge in a small hamlet on the Barbary Coast; and, as if Providence had not sufficiently mortified them for their pride and insolence in prosperity, their misfortunes were augmented by another calamity. VANITY, unable to bear patiently this great reverse of fortune, was run mad; and my Father, in a very humble and penitential letter, begged my assistance and advice. PRUDENCE, who had never left me, since the departure of my Mother to Rome, would have dissuaded me from going to her; her objections were: first, the length of the journey; next, the probability that it was nothing but a piece of artifice to get me there to relieve their necessities; lastly, that it was not likely I could be of any great service to her in her disorder, as she had been always rather insane from her cradle. Notwithstanding the reasonableness of this advice, and the regard I had for her opinion, yet my humanity would not permit me to refuse.
I set out directly, and performed my journey with all possible dispatch. Upon on my arrival in Barbary, after much search and difficulty, I found the habitation of these unfortunate people. It was a small, low cabin, in the sides of which time had made many a chasm for the winds to pass and repass without the least interruption.
There was a fire in the middle of the apartment, and round it sat our four worthies. But as there was no outlet for the smoke except the door, I should have been at a loss to distinguish them from each other if I had not known their voices. However, I did meet with an interval from obscurity long enough to discover that my Father, GENIUS, and HUMOUR had upon their backs the tattered remains of those gaudy trappings which once cut a figure in the splended court of Augustus. VANITY had a blanket about her shoulders, and her head fantastically dressed. Ridiculous as this must appear to me, I could not help thinking it no bad emblem of the fall of the Roman Empire.
But though their outward habiliments were somewhat masqueradish, yet they preserved the same cast and character of countenance as formerly; there was life and spirit in my Father, the point-blank piercing eye of GENIUS, and the laughter-loving face of HUMOUR. VANITY seemed rather disconcerted, but great allowance must be made for her dress; her chamber robe was certainly very unbecoming.
After much conversation with my Father about family affairs, and enquiring into the chapter of accidents which brought them under this uncourtly roof, I began to examine my patient. Her answers to my questions were very irrational, and her looks extravagantly wild, which, during the discourse with my Father, I had not observed; and upon scrutinizing a little further into the matter, I perceived she was only acting her parts, and that the surmise of PRUDENCE was but too well founded. I determined within myself not to let them know that I had seen through their design; and therefore ordered her to be closely confined, and prescribed for her as if she had been really mad. The other part of PRUDENCE's prophecy was presently fulfilled by my Father, who began to consult with me about ways and means for their present support. I very willingly gave him what I had brought with me for that purpose, and promised him an annual supply, until they should be in a situation to provide for themselves. Upon taking leave of my Father, I saw (over his shoulder) HUMOUR winking at GENIUS and putting his finger up to his nose, to signify that I had been taken in.
After I got back and had acquainted PRUDENCE with what I had done, she reproached me, as I expected, with not taking her advice, and told me that I might have spent my time much better, both in regard of profit and reputation; that I had been very much wanted since I was gone; that it was very hard that kingdoms and crowned heads were to wait while I was visiting such paltry people; and that the King of Persia and the Great Mogul had both sent for
me in great haste. I replied that, when I passed through those countries many years ago, I found the people so bigoted, ignorant and superstitious, that I could do nothing with them, and that the King of Persia and the Great Mogul must excuse me, for I was determined for the future to limit my practice to Europe only.
To give the reader a circumstantial account of the transactions of myself and family, during the remaining part of the Dark Ages, into which we are now got, would prove but a very indifferent entertainment. I shall just touch upon some occurrences which happened between this time and that of the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet II [in 1453], and so get on as soon as may be to a period of time that must be more interesting to a modern reader.
My Mother and WISDOM had been all this while employed in the establishment of Christanity; I had not seen either of them for many years, for it so fell out that in whatever part of the world they were, I was seldom wanted or sent for in my profession. An incident, however, brought us together, to my great joy, sooner than I expected. The emperor Constantine had been committing many violent acts of lunacy, and the last of them was that of hunting down some poor unfortunate kings upon the banks of the Rhine, and afterwards exposing them to the wild beasts, to be torn to pieces for his diversion. I was immediately sent for. I found him walking in a disorderly manner upon the side of the river; I saw there was no time to be lost, and that the ordinary methods of cure would not be efficiently expeditious to prevent the contagion from spreading: something was to be done instantly — I even soused him over head and ears in the river and kept him under water till he was almost drowned, and then took him out as cool as a cucumber. A few corroborative medicines afterwards, to strenghten his understanding, brought him to reason. WISDOM and my Mother had long meditated a design of converting this same emperor to Christianity, and now hearing that he had recovered his senses, thought it a proper opportunity to make the attempt; in short, like another Cæsar, they came, saw and overcame.
The joy which so unexpected a meeting must create in the hearts of three people united by every tie of blood and friendship, the reader will suppose must have been excessive. My Mother hung upon my neck for some minutes and, as soon her tears would permit her to speak, she begged that we might make a vow never to part more. But WISDOM, who saw further into the wonderful ways of Providence, forbad this rash resolution, and by convincing her that we were born for the benefit of mankind, shewed the necessity of my being ready and willing to alleviate the miseries of the world whenever I should be called upon.
I informed them of my journey to Barbary, and the wretched condition in which I found my Father and his family. WISDOM told me that he was acquainted with all their transactions both before and since my visit; that they had left Barbary and were now strolling about Germany, performing interludes and exhibiting puppet shews in ridicule of our new religion; that they had many blind followers, and picked up a handsome livelihood, though by very scandalous means; and that it would be highly proper to withdraw the annual stipend I had allowed them, as it was wicked to support people who made so bad a use of those excellent talents which God had given them. I had received repeated messages from PRUDENCE to return, and WISDOM advised me to depart privately, without distressing my Mother by taking leave; which I did accordingly.
As I am a great enemy to prolixity both in writing and speaking, I shall, in this chapter, give a general account of my practice amongst kings, popes, emperors, etc. without entering — at least not at present — into the particular circumstances of their cases. I have been concerned for most if not all of them, and with tolerable good success, considering everything. I should certainly have succeeded better if I might have had my own way: but, alas, it was not once in fifty times that I had either the opportunity or the liberty to treat my patients as I had done Constantine, though the case required it ever so much. The settled forms and ceremonies, in attending a monarch, make very much against both the patient and the physician — the ministry and great people about him are first to be informed of your intentions and method of cure; and, if this suits not with their opinion and inclination, you are dismissed without going any further. Nay, to their shame be it spoken, I have more than once suffered the indignity of being kicked down stairs by the lords in waiting; and this treatment, I found afterwards, was not owing to any objection they had to my mode of proceeding, but because they chose that their monarch should remain as he was: but I had like to have fared much worse, when I attended a certain northern potentate — the grandees of the state had a great mind to hang me because I proposed to syringe the ears of the king, who was so very deaf that I could not make him understand a single word I said to him. In my attendance upon the popes I found myself more at liberty in this respect — the whole conclave seemed very desirous that I should exercise all my medical faculties; and some of the oldest cardinals begged me often, with tears in their eyes, to try any remedy, even the most desperate, rather than suffer His Holiness to expose himself by those ungodly passions. Of all the lunatic popes that have been my patients, I do not remember one who was not brought into that melancholy situation, by qualms of conscience on the score of religion. If any temporal affair was the subject, nobody talked more rationally or agreeably: but touch the jarring string, and the paroxysm instantly came on — then they began to mutter certain words to themselves, which had no relation to anything on earth or to the waters under the earth, such as infallibility, transubstantiation, etc. etc.
I had the self-satisfaction, though not the honour, of curing many of these gentlemen; for, strange at it may appear, when they were quite recovered, and had paid me the proper acknowledgments, they laid me under an injunction not to promulgate it during their natural natural lives: but, on the contrary, to declare to the world that I left them as I found them. I kept my word with them; but I never attended another pope after the Reformation by Martin Luther [31 October 1517].
Thus having frequently been complimented with the honour of curing kings whom I never saw, and denied the reputation I had actually deserved, I began to perceive that the middle path of life was the road to preferment and happiness.
Arts, sciences, and literature were again revived at this time under the auspices and protection of a private family at Florence called the Medicis. My Father and his friends quitted their shameful occupation, and changed their quarters from Germany to Italy. Fortune was once more favourable to them — they were received with great respect and civility by all the better sort of people and, in return, they did everything in their power to entertain and oblige. GENIUS, who could turn his hand to anything, set about painting, sculpture, and architecture; in which, though it was so long since he had done anything in that way, that it was quite new to him, he excelled all his cotemporaries — witness the productions which are shewn us to this day under the feigned names of Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. My Father fell to his old trade of scribbling, and wrote those books which were given afterwards to Tasso, Ariosto, etc. These achievements gained them immortal honour, in which VANITY came in for her share. She had left her chamber-robe in Germany, and was now strutting about as gay as peacock. She had, indeed, some reason to be proud, for the Duke of Tuscany was smitten with her charms, and had been tampering with HUMOUR to negotiate the business of obtaining her for a mistress: the duke tempted him with the offer of a very considerable place at court. HUMOUR refused the place, but undertook the business: he told the duke that he should be very glad to have the honour of serving him in any capacity that was suitable to his character; that as he had not been used to a court, and knew nobody there, he should be like a fish out of water; and that he should think himself extremely happy with a moderate stipend, and the liberty of living amongst his own acquaintance. The duke desired him to think and choose for himself; that he should have anything he asked, but pressed him not to lose time in managing this affair, on which his happiness entirely depended. HUMOUR immediately informed his father and mother of the duke's design, and they managed matters so artfully, as to keep up the fire of his passion, by a continual rennovation of hope, but succeeded by a perpetual disappointment.
The frequent repetition of their tricks and artifices at length turned the duke's head, and I was sent for to him. My second visit was to my Father and his family, whom I congratulated on the extraordinary change of their condition, but — what is incredible after my kindness to them — they affected not to know me.
VANITY, looking upon me as a person she had never seen before, said with a sneer, 'I suppose, Sir, you are the strange doctor that was sent for to the duke? Pray, Sir, how does he do?' 'He is poisoned, Madam.' 'Poisoned,' says she. Who could poison him?' 'The same person, Madam, that poisoned my Mother.' She seemed a little disturbed with this reply, but I left her to chew upon it.
I went to visit my patient a second time and from thence to the Privy Council, who were waiting to know my opinion of the case. I told them that the Duke would do well, but that there was one thing necessary to be done, which was to send VANITY out of the country. Madam was forthwith ordered away, and HUMOUR chose to accompany her, for fear of being laid by the heels for the duplicity of his behaviour to the Duke.
I forgot to mention before that PRUDENCE came with me upon this expedition, and that she had upon our arrival got intelligence of every circumstance relative to the Duke's insanity. The advantage I found from her conduct upon this occasion determined me never to go anywhere without her for the future.
The Reformation in Germany by Martin Luther had made great advances. My Mother and WISDOM being deeply engaged in this work, and having promoted the Protestant cause with remarkable ardour and firmness, had created to themselves many and violent enemies in the opposing parties; and this is the reason why they have never since resided in any country which has a papist for its sovereign. My Father and his family were free-thinkers, and therefore did not trouble their heads about ecclesiastic disputes; they preferred that religion to all others which allowed the greatest indulgencies.
I was now preparing to leave Florence; VANITY and her son HUMOUR were packed off; and the Duke was recovered from his insanity. PRUDENCE, who had not seen my Mother or WISDOM for many years, was flattering herself with the happiness she should enjoy in our intended visit to them, when Dame Fortune turned things topsy-turvy, and frustrated in a moment our most sanguine expectations. The affair was this: the Duke had no sooner recovered his senses, than he began to make enquiry after VANITY. The lords-in-waiting did not know how to behave upon so critical an occasion; they gave him some evasive answer, which served only to increase his suspicions. He was determined to come to the bottom of it. He called his Privy Council together; but before they met, a certain nobleman, who had been at the head of the last administration, took an opportunity to inform his highness that VANITY was banished from Florence by my advice, and by the authority of his ministry. The Duke went immediately to the council chamber, dismissed the great officers of state, and appointed others in their places, of which the informing nobleman before mentioned was at the head. The loss of their places was the only punishment they suffered for the offence against their prince, but mine was much more severe. VANITY was forthwith recalled, and a prosecution at law was commenced against me by order of government. I was charged with high crimes and misdemeanours; the principal of which were, first, that I had given it as my opinion in council, that the Duke's indisposition could not be cured without the banishment of VANITY; secondly, that that I had declared His Highness had been poisoned by VANITY. To the first of these charges I was advised by my council to plead guilty, and save the court the trouble of entering into it; which might encline them to be favourable in their sentence. As to the second charge, I did not suppose it possible to bring any proof to support it, for I was very sure that I had never said a syllable upon the subject, except the hint I had given to VANITY, which was no evidence at all. In short, the trial came on, and when my council put them to the proof of what I was charged with in the second indictment, to my great astonishment, they produced a paper on which was wrote, with my own hand, the following words: "Aug. 18, 1560, the Duke of Tuscany poisoned by VANITY". The judge upon the bench, was a man of great parts and experience, his abilities in the law, and his attachment to the reigning prince, had made him very respectable at court, and reverenced by the inferior practitioners; to the entire satisfaction of whom, he had often exemplified, that the success of a cause did not so much depend on the merits, as on the management of the jury. And in this particular instance, he took extraordinary pains to make himself understood by the gentlemen of the jury, lest they should make some mistake, and acquit the delinquent whom he intended to punish. I was accordingly found guilty, and sentenced to pay a large fine, and to suffer two years imprisonment. That the reader may not remain in the dark about the paper evidence on which I was convicted, it is necessary to tell him that it had been a custom with me to make my daily memorandums on loose papers and, afterwards at my leisure, enter them into my register. The persons employed in managing the prosecution against me had got intelligence of my manner of going on, and therefore bribed my own servant to steal my papers, and so were wicked enough to make one man a thief and to convict another of defamation.
I was conducted to prison under a strong guard, and amidst an infinite crowd of spectators who were very clamorous; for they had taken it into their heads that the hand of power had directed the hand of justice to find me guilty. However true this might be, I took every method I could think of to pacify them; which, after some time, had the desired effect.
VANITY was returned; she had been to Court. The Duke was again moved at her first appearance, and indeed it would have been very extraordinary if he had not, for she was a siren that nobody could listen to without being infatuated by her charms; the only safeguard against her deceitful allurements was a thorough consciousness of one's own unworthiness. The Duke relapsed into his old disorder, and I had an intimation given me by a second-hand courtier that I might procure my enlargment by undertaking once more the cure of His Highness. Before I gave any answer, I took time to consider of it, and to consult with PRUDENCE, who I found was very much averse to the proposal. 'What?' says she, 'have you not been kicked downstairs, threatened with hanging, fined and imprisoned?' And will you again trust to the empty promises of ministers, who never keep their word but when it coincides with their interest? Or can you depend upon a capricious prince who acts more like a madman when he is in his senses than when he is out of them? No, 'tis better to lose your liberty for a few months, than to run the risk of losing your reputation for ever.'
Though I did not require pressing to take the part which PRUDENCE advised, yet, I confess that I am always well pleased to find her opinion agree with my own. I rejected all further treaty, and determined with myself to bear patiently the lingering time of my cruel captivity. I was here in this school of adversity, at full leisure to contemplate and moralize on the seeming contradictions of human nature. I looked back to that time of day and those places wherein learning and the fine arts were utterly unknown; there, said I, I met with naked honesty and common humanity, but here, where polite literature and the sciences have been carried to that pitch, as to raise man above himself and bring him nearer to the deity — here, in this enlightned country, I have been prosecuted as a criminal, when I should have been rewarded as a benefactor to the prince and the public. How can this be accounted for? Surely, one would imagine that refinement and iniquity went hand in hand through the Universe. I was going on in this reverie, when I was interrupted by a gentle rap at my door. I bade the person walk in, and there entered a tall lank figure of a man, with a sallow complexion and melancholy countenance; but there was a certain wildness in his eye, which plainly denoted that all was not right within. I desired him to set down; and, as I knew him not, begged to be informed who he was, and how I came to be honoured with this visit. He then, after making some handsome apologies for the intrusion, began in the following manner.
'My name, Sir, is Michael Isterio, of the city of Seville; once the happiest man in all Spain, but now the most miserable. I shall be as concise as possible in the relation of my story, without omitting those circumstances which are necessary to form a proper judgment of my case.
You must know, Sir, that when I arrived at the age of nineteen, my father signified his desire that I should marry; and at the same time asked me what I thought of Teresa, the daughter of our neighbour Don Podrano, for a wife. I told him that I thought it impossible for any person to dislike her, but that a lady of her beauty, accomplishments and fortune, could never condescend to think. — Pshaw, pshaw, said my father, you talk like a simpleton; I have settled matters with her father already, who has promised to speak to his daughter upon the subject, as soon as he hears from me that you approve of it. I'll be answerable for her consent; she
would not dare to disoblige her father; I'll about it directly. My father soon returned and acquainted me that he had fixed the next day for my visiting the lady. But how, Sir, said I, if Teresa should, merely in obedience to her father, agree to give me her hand without her heart? Or suppose she should at this very time have a passion for another? Sir, said he, you may suppose what you please, but I suppose that if you meet with a favourable reception
tomorrow, your supposes will all fall to the ground. Here he left me to consider of it. My father was a man of good understanding, but had nothing of that sensibility or delicacy which are but too often the source of our miseries and misfortunes. I knew very well that Teresa
was greatly sought after, and that her father's house was much frequented by several young gentlemen, who far surpassed me in all those qualifications that render men amiable in the eyes of the fair sex. I had little reason to expect that a person of my cold reserved behaviour could be at all agreeable to a lady of her lively disposition. I own that had long secretly sighed for this fair one, but should never have made it known, if my father had not interposed his authority and paved the way for the discovery. I waited for the approaching hour of appointment with fear and trembling; and, if I might be allowed to guess at what criminals feel when they are brought before their judge, I should imagine it must resemble the agitation of my mind upon my first appearance before Teresa. When I left home, I
had settled my plan of address, and had formed a conversation apropos to the occasion, which I thought might be very easily introduced: but when I came into her presence, it all vanished instantly, and left me deprived of utterance — more like an inanimate statue than a living lover. To be sure my behaviour was beyond measure ridiculous. She saw my confusion, and did everything she could to relieve me. My visit was very short; I came away highly pleased with my mistress's conduct, but much dissatisfied with my own. However, I prosecuted my suit, and found myself every day more at my ease, and Teresa still more charming. But though her behaviour to me was in every respect irreproachable, I was so conscious of my own imperfections in the art of pleasing that I was never thoroughly convinced she had that regard for me which a husband is entitled to. And yet things were gone too far to retract; nor, indeed, did I wish to break it off if I could have done it with honour.
This sufficiently confirmed what I had suspected; I immediately prepared to follow Don Alonso to Florence, whither he was to set out for the next day, as Resident from the Court of Spain: I arrived here two days ago, and sent him a challenge, which he was cowardly enough to answer by a Peace-Officer, who brought me to this prison, where I am to remain until I ask Don Alonso's pardon. What would you advise me to?'
Here the Spaniard ended his tale, and I dismissed him with this admonition: 'Your wife, Sir, is certainly chaste; your suspicions are ill founded; you think too humbly of yourself and too highly of other men. The lady, who is the cause of the Duke's disease, would presently cure yours; a little conversation with her would convince you that you are quite another kind of man from what you imagine. Go, seek her out; throw yourself first in her way, and then at your lady's feet, and be happy.'
During my confinement I had many patients whose cases were so exceedingly singular that a description of them would look look more like invention than true history. I shall, therefore, pass them over in silence.
A little before the expiration of my emprisonment, I received a letter from my Mother informing me that WISDOM and she were then in England, where they willed very much to see me; they had become favourites in that Court, and WISDOM was frequently consulted by the reigning Queen Elizabeth. I had no inducement to make my stay at Florence longer than needs must; and therefore, as soon as I was at liberty, I took my departure for England on board a Genoese vessel. In our passage, we passed by that very formidable fleet called the Spanish Armada, which was destined for the invasion of England. We arrived at Dover in 1588, from whence I set out directly for London. Here PRUDENCE and I had the happiness of meeting again with my Mother and WISDOM in a country and at a time the most suitable to our respective inclinations. I had nothing to do at Court, though I often went there, but to amuse myself; they did not stand in need of my assistances. My chief employment, in my profession, was in visiting the fanatics and papists, of which the latter were, several times, mad enough to attempt the life of their lawful sovereign; this I was always so lucky as to prevent, though I could never thoroughly cure the disease. At the time of my emprisonment in Florence, it seems my father, GENIUS and HUMOUR made a trip to London, where, upon their arrival, they made an acquaintance with a person belonging to the Playhouse; this man was a profligate in his youth, and, as some say, had been a deer-stealer, others deny it. But be that as it will, he certainly was a thief from the time he was first capable of distinguishing anything; and therefore it is immaterial what articles he dealt in. My Father and his friends made a sudden and violent intimacy with this man, who, feeling that they were a negligent careless people, took the first opportunity that presented itself to rob them of everything he could lay his hands on, and the better to conceal his theft, he told them, with an affected concern, that one misfortune never comes alone — that they had been actually informed against, as persons concerned in an assassination plot, now secretly carrying on by Mary Queen of Scots against the Queen of England; that he knew their innocence, but they must not depend upon that: nothing but quitting the country could save them. They took his word and marched off forthwith for Holland. As soon as he had got fairly rid of them, he began to examine the fruits of his ingenuity. Amongst my Father's baggage, he presently cast his eye upon a commonplace book, in which was contained an infinite variety of modes and forms to express all the different sentiments of the human mind, together with rules for their combinations and connections upon every subject or occasion that might occur in dramatic writing. He found too, in a small cabinet, a glass possessed of very extraordinary properties, belonging to GENIUS and invented by him; by the help of this glass he could not only approximate the external surface of any object, but even penetrate into the deep recesses of the soul of man, and so discover all the passions and note their various operations in the human heart. In a hat-box, wherein all the goods and chattels of HUMOUR were deposited, he met with a mask of curious workmanship; it had the power of making every sentence that came out of the mouth of the wearer, appear extremely pleasant and entertaining — the jocose expression of the features was exceedingly natural, and it had nothing of that shining polish common to other masks, which is too apt to cast disagreeable reflections.
In what manner he had obtained this ill-gotten treasure was unknown to everybody but my Mother, WISDOM, and myself; and we should not have found it out if the mask, which upon all other occasions is used as a disguise, had not made the discovery. The mask of HUMOUR was our old acquaintance, but we agreed, though much against my Mother's inclination, to take no notice of the robbery, for we conceived that my Father and his friends would easily recover their loss, and were likewise apprehensive that we could not distress this man without depriving his country of its greatest ornament.
With these materials, and with good parts of his own, he commenced playwriter; how he succeeded is needless to say when I tell the reader that his name was Shakespear.
Though WISDOM was in high estimation at this court, and had the satisfaction of seeing his advice and opinions in general pursued both by the Queen and her administration, yet there were many things which displeased him; he plainly perceived that my Mother was not always treated with that respect which was due to a woman of her character. The storm, which was then brewing up against the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots, in particular gave much umbrage to my Mother. They withdrew from Court, and retired to a remote part of the country, where they remained till a violent death at length put an end to the complicated miseries of that unhappy princess.
My Father and his family were but ill-off in Holland; a country whose sole attention was fixed on acquiring riches, by trade and industry, had very little relish for the performances of my Father or the works of GENIUS. The people of Amsterdam looked upon those of London and Paris as madmen in encouraging such useless animals. However, HUMOUR, though he had lost his mask, put a good face upon the matter, and often rallied their misfortunes so agreeably that they found a certain portion of adversity was no bad ingredient towards the composition of happiness. VANITY was still in Florence, and the Duke remained in the same situation I left him; but with the contagion beginning to spread itself among the nobility, the common people began to grow clamorous, and were determined to remove the cause before the evil became general. They took the opportunity when VANITY was going to the opera to seize her and carry her on board a vessel provided for the purpose, and so shipped her off for Amsterdam, where she arrived to the great joy of the noble family before mentioned; this acquisition to the triumvirate was regarded by that Republic as a calamity to the state, which they soon made appear by discountenancing VANITY wherever she came. The bad reception they met with, and the decreasing situation of their finances, obliged them to form some plan by which they might conceal their persons and recruit their common purse; they called a council, and it was presently agreed to take up the ancient but ignoble trade of fortune-telling. It must be acknowledged that there never were four people better qualified for such an undertaking. They immediately changed their quarters to another part of the city, where my Father and GENIUS assumed the exterior appearances of second-sighted Egyptians just arrived from Grand Cairo. VANITY pulled off her patches and newly dressed herself, and HUMOUR added two pair of breeches to those he had on already; and thus equipped, they passed for a trader and his wife, newly come from Rotterdam. They had likewise other habits and disguises suitable to the different characters they were to represent; my Father acted the part of the doctor, and GENIUS, in an outward room, condescended to play his servant in which to acquit himself well, required abilities equal to his master. The business of VANITY and HUMOUR was to insinuate themselves among the people, and to come at the private histories as different families. My Father and GENIUS began their conjuration by publishing flaming handbills, setting forth not only their former predictions, but foretelling things both of a private and public nature, which were to happen and actually did so in the space of a few days. These events gained them great credit in their profession; the people being unacquainted with their abilities, and the confederacy which was carried on, looked upon their performances as something preternatural. They had great variety of customers, whose credulity at once filled their pockets and afforded them much entertainment. They went on for some time with prodigious success, till an untoward accident entirely blew up their plan of operations, and demolished them root and branch; the affair was this:
A lady neither young nor handsome, who had been crossed in love some years before, was desirous of knowing if ever she she should marry, and to whom. My Father told her that she would, in three days at such a place and hour, meet a person who would salute her in a very civil manner; that he was a Venetian nobleman of very high rank, and would be soon Doge of Venice; and that it must be her own fault if she did not marry him. The lady departed vastly pleased with her destiny, and HUMOUR was ordered to hold himself in readiness to act the Venetian at the time appointed. The lady did not fail being at the rendezvous; and HUMOUR, accosting her with an air of consequence mixed with kindness, declared that he had never till that moment seen the woman that could make him happy. He begged to have the honour of drinking coffee with her at her own house that afternoon; the lady consented, and everything passed at this meeting to the satisfaction of both parties. But when HUMOUR took his leave, at that very instant a relation of the lady's entered, who asked her immediately who the gentleman was that went out. She told him it was a Venetian nobleman that... 'A Venetian nobleman! replied the relation laughing, 'by heavens, he's a common sailor; I saw him yesterday in a jacket and trousers. There is something so peculiarly jocular in his face that I should know him amongst a thousand.' In short, the gentleman was so positive in his assertion that the lady at last confessed she had been to the conjurer, and everything relative to that transaction. The gentleman, without delay, applied to a magistrate, who granted his warrant for apprehending them. It happened very unlucky that they should be detected on that day, for they intended to have left Holland the next. And this last stroke of their art was not meant to be carried into execution, but merely to see how far the lady's faith would extend. When the officer went to execute his warrant, he found them in a burst of laughter at the account HUMOUR had been giving them of his reception: but as soon as they perceived the paper of authority, they all changed countenance; and what added to their mortification, the officer obliged them to go along with him, habited as they were, through the streets to the house of correction. My Father in his conjurer's dress, marched first; GENIUS as his servant followed him; VANITY in the apparel of a burgomaster's wife went next; and HUMOUR, the noble Venetian, brought up the rear. Indeed they were not closely confined like criminals, nor did they receive any corporal punishment, but they were informed that they could not be released without getting some persons of credit to appear to their characters, and giving security for their future good behaviour. This they knew was impossible to procure in that country, for they had not a single friend in the whole United Provinces. They were therefore under a necessity of applying elsewhere; and for that purpose drew up the following petition, which was addressed to all kings, potentates and princes of every denomination, and to all others of any rank and condition whom it may concern.
My Mother and WISDOM were long since returned to London; during their absence, many extraordinary events had been brought about, which gave them both great uneasiness. WISDOM, indeed, was too much the philosopher not to be reconciled to the slippery dealings of Dame Fortune, and to take the motley world as he found it, but it was not so with my Mother. Certainly no woman was ever worse calculated to live in a great city, where false reports are daily propagated and supported to serve some vile purpose — where vice prevails and impious men bear sway; and where modest merit is turned out-of-doors, to make room for bare-faced flattery and impudent assertion. These were things which my Mother could never hear with patience, and, I think, she took them too much to heart; for though the parties were entire strangers to her, she could not help being grieviously affected by it — for which WISDOM often rebuked her, but it did not make the least alteration in her conduct. PRUDENCE advised her to quit this scene of noise and iniquity and retire to some unfrequented solitude, whither she offered to accompany her. But this scheme was objected to both by WISDOM and myself; he could not bear the thoughts of parting with my Mother, nor could I think of living without PRUDENCE. Chapter XII.
The Commonwealth, which followed the fatal catastrophe of King Charles I [30 January 1649], every one knows was distracted for some time, with civil commotions both in Church and State, until that masterpiece of cunning and dissimmulation, Oliver Cromwell, quieted all by usurping the regal authority, with the scriptures in one hand and the sword in the other. My Mother, who was, at the beginning of the last reign, remarkably alert and vivacious, had, towards the end of it, lost all her spirits; she was bore down by the torrent of abuse and impudent falshoods, which the regicides themselves had the assurance to allege in justification of their bloody proceedings. WISDOM used many arguments with my Mother to reconcile her to the necessity of the times. Amongst others, he told her that Charles was certainly an honest man, an indulgent father, and good Christian: that Cromwell was none of these, but that he possessed, in a very high degree, all those qualities which are requisite in the composition of a great prince; that England would derive good out of this evil, which must furnish a lasting lesson to all future monarchs, how they attempt to extend their prerogative to the prejudice of the liberties of their subjects.
Soon after the good Queen Elizabeth drew her last breath [24 March 1603], and relinquished her earthly crown for one more glorious in the regions of bliss and happiness, my Mother was seized with a violent fever, from which, however, she escaped with life, but it deprived her of her speech; that is, it left such a hoarsness that she could only speak in a whisper. This malady continued throughout the whole reign of James I [24 March 1603- 27 March 1625]; but though this was a mortifying circumstance to her, it was rather a fortunate one to our family, to whom only she could whisper her grievances. It she had been able to speak out, she would have met with so many provoking occasions for her resentment at this time, that I don't know what might have been the consequence to her family. We took all possible precaution to keep from her knowledge every piece of intelligence that might give her offence; but the infamous and cruel treatment which was inflicted upon our friend and favourite Sir Walter Raleigh, made such a noise in the world, that my Mother must have been deaf and dumb not to have heard it. She silently lamented this poor gentleman's hard fate, and PRUDENCE could not help owning that her sorrow was well founded.
Upon the accession of Charles I to the throne of England [27 March 1625], my Mother recovered her voice; and, as if she meant to make amends for her lost time, she flew about and visited all public places. In the House of Commons, those celebrated speeches made at the beginning of this reign, in opposition to the arbitrary proceedings of the crown, were directed by WISDOM and supported by her. With such powerful advocates, it is no wonder that the patriotic party carried their point: but, as it too often happens, the success of their negotiations began to intoxicate the minds of the people, and gave an opening to those crafty designing men, who, under the mask of religion, overturned the state and changed the form of government. At the intercession of PRUDENCE, I acted the part of a moderator between the king and his subjects, and endeavoured to conquer the inflammatory disorder before it reached the vital parts, but notwithstanding copious bleedings and many medicines were administered, the brain was distempered; and I found that nothing but taking off the head of the constitution could save the body from a total mortification. But as this was a remedy which humanity forbad me to recommend, I kept my opinion to myself, and left my patient in the hands of some certain bold practitioners, who soon afterwards performed the operation without the least degree of feeling or remorse.
Upon the death of the Protector [3 September 1658], or rather at the restoration of monarchy, which happened soon after [19 May 1660], things wore a very different aspect; a new scene presented itself to all Europe: pride, cant and hypocrisy retired to make room for intrigue, luxury and obscenity; the psalm-singing times of Oliver were changed to the dancing days of Charles II; the people had been sick and surfeited with the outward and visible signs of religion in the Commonwealth, and were therefore now determined to preserve no sign or appearance of it at all.
My Mother and WISDOM went to Holland, at the invitation and earnest request of De Witt, their friend and, at that time, a leading man in the Republic. My Father and his family, after they had been honourably discharged from their confinement, made the best of their way for France, where they lived rather sparingly than splendidly, till Louis XIV came of age, who, falling desparately in love with VANITY, took her into keeping, and never parted with her to his dying day. Though this prince had as many concubines as King Solomon, yet none was so great a favourite, or had such absolute power over him as VANITY: witness his stupendous buildings, magnificent shews and public entries; the thousands and ten thousands which he slew or caused to be slain, and all to satisfy her pride and ambition. My Father's affairs, by this connection, were put in a flourishing situation. As soon as he heard that my Mother and WISDOM had left London, his friend GENIUS and he repaired thither. They were exceedingly well received at that court, and very soon became the darlings of Charles and his associates. But it turned out afterwards that their journey to London was not merely to gratify their inclinations at that gay court; they were employed as the secret agents or rather spies of Louis about the person of Charles, who was too much absorbed in pleasure ever to have suspected their real designs. VANITY furnished them with proper instructions from time to time how to act; and HUMOUR performed the part of a regular courier betwixt Paris and London. This business had been going on for some time, when I one day met HUMOUR, in the streets of London, disguised in the habit of a Dutch skipper; he would have avoided me, but when he found that I was determined he should acknowledge me, he excused his shyness, by saying that he really supposed his passing me by unnoticed would be very agreeable to me, as he well remembered that I had formerly laid such an injunction upon him. I owned that was very true, but at the same time I reminded him that we had been upon good terms ever since that little misunderstanding, and therefore he must have some other reasons for endeavouring to conceal himself from me, which, however, I did not desire to be acquainted with. I then congratulated him on the brilliant figure his father made in the British courts and on the valuable attachment of his Mother to the French king. He told me that he was just come from Holland, which I might perceive by his dress, and that he should set out for Paris in a few days to visit his Mother. I begged the favour of troubling him with a line to his Mother, and so we parted.
I could easily discern from the duplicity of his behaviour that there was some negotiation carrying on, which I was not to be informed of, and my design in writing to VANITY was to extract the secret from her, which I thought probable enough, as she was naturally ostentatious and fond of shewing her consequence and authority. I had not once set eyes on my Father or GENIUS since their arrival in England, which was not at all extraordinary for PRUDENCE and I, during this whole reign, had never been at Court, and my Father and GENIUS had seldom been out of it. The manners and customs of the people in general were very conformable to the profligate conduct of their superiors; and verified to a tittle, what the poet says; Regis ad exemplum, totus componitur orbis; Their king's example, subjects follow, as hounds will cry, when huntsmen hollow.
Sick of these national vices and public calamities, and urged by a strong desire of visiting my Mother and WISDOM, we turned our thoughts towards Holland. It happened very opportunely for us that our good friend Sir William Temple was just upon his departure for that place in a public character. I mentioned our intentions to him, and told him I should be ready to attend him the moment I had heard from France, which I expected every hour. The very next day HUMOUR left a packet at my house directed for me, the size of which surprised me a good deal. Upon opening it, I found a large plan of instructions for forming a treaty of peace between France, Spain, the United Provinces and England, it likewise contained the following short letter:
My Mother and WISDOM were long since returned to London; during their absence, many extraordinary events had been brought about, which gave them both great uneasiness. WISDOM, indeed, was too much the philosopher not to be reconciled to the slippery dealings of Dame Fortune, and to take the motley world as he found it, but it was not so with my Mother. Certainly no woman was ever worse calculated to live in a great city, where false reports are daily propagated and supported to serve some vile purpose — where vice prevails and impious men bear sway; and where modest merit is turned out-of-doors, to make room for bare-faced flattery and impudent assertion. These were things which my Mother could never hear with patience, and, I think, she took them too much to heart; for though the parties were entire strangers to her, she could not help being grieviously affected by it — for which WISDOM often rebuked her, but it did not make the least alteration in her conduct. PRUDENCE advised her to quit this scene of noise and iniquity and retire to some unfrequented solitude, whither she offered to accompany her. But this scheme was objected to both by WISDOM and myself; he could not bear the thoughts of parting with my Mother, nor could I think of living without PRUDENCE.
The Commonwealth, which followed the fatal catastrophe of King Charles I [30 January 1649], every one knows was distracted for some time, with civil commotions both in Church and State, until that masterpiece of cunning and dissimmulation, Oliver Cromwell, quieted all by usurping the regal authority, with the scriptures in one hand and the sword in the other. My Mother, who was, at the beginning of the last reign, remarkably alert and vivacious, had, towards the end of it, lost all her spirits; she was bore down by the torrent of abuse and impudent falshoods, which the regicides themselves had the assurance to allege in justification of their bloody proceedings. WISDOM used many arguments with my Mother to reconcile her to the necessity of the times. Amongst others, he told her that Charles was certainly an honest man, an indulgent father, and good Christian: that Cromwell was none of these, but that he possessed, in a very high degree, all those qualities which are requisite in the composition of a great prince; that England would derive good out of this evil, which must furnish a lasting lesson to all future monarchs, how they attempt to extend their prerogative to the prejudice of the liberties of their subjects.
My dearest Life,
It was pretty plain from the contents of this letter that the packet was intended for my Father, though by mistake directed to me; and we must suppose that there was a billet meant by the writer for me, which was addressed to my Father. I hastened immediately to Sir William and communicated the whole affair, when we agreed to seal up the packet and send it to my Father; and, without waiting for my supposed letter, to set out directly for Holland. Sir William, by being possessed of their private plan of operations, was the better enabled to defeat them. How he succeeded in his negotiation at the Hague is sufficiently well known. This blunder must necessarily convince my Father that I was now no stranger to the machinations carrying on between London and Paris. He knew that I was gone to Holland, and that our family were engaged in the support of the States General. He forthwith meditated a blow which might at once totally annihilate the Dutch nation, and involve us in the common ruin. To accomplish this humane project, he set VANITY to work upon Louis: it was no sooner said than done; everyone knows how the Low Countries were overrun by an immense French army; the devastation they made and the cruelties they committed, whilst Charles, intoxicated with the fumes of debauchery, remained a tame spectator of the impending ruin of his natural allies, and James contributed everything in his power to complete their destruction. But it so happened that the same man, who at this time gained immortal honour by saving his country, did some years afterwards wrest the sceptre out of the hands of James, whom Providence never intended for the ruler over a free people.
Upon the demise of Charles II [6 February 1685], my Father and GENIUS returned to France; and our family came over with the glorious Prince of Orange to England, a little before the abdication of that despotic papist James II [11 December 1688].
The operations and influence of VANITY upon the mind of Louis XIV began to shew itself in the most extraordinary manner. He was now mad enough to think of giving laws to all Europe; he sent out his fleets and armies to conquer nations and kingdoms, which he could not keep, at the expense of the blood and treasure of his own country. The distresses which these quixotic schemes brought brought upon the French nation put the sensible and thinking part of the people upon trying every expedient that might possibly divert their monarch from his ambitious pursuits. The reigning favourites for the time being, Madams Vallière, Montespan and Scarron, were engaged in the interest of those who wished to restore peace and plenty to their starving countrymen; they used all their arts and racked their inventions to furnish rational entertainments and social amusements for Louis, but they met with such opposition from those in the War Department who grew fat on the spoils of the public, together with the ascendency which VANITY still retained over him, that all their endeavours proved ineffectual. The last effort they made towards relieving the general distress, and recovering the king, was the forming an association consisting of all the first people who were independent of the court. This they called the Committee of Grievances: and here they came to a resolution to invite me over to France, and to make me great offers if I would attend His Majesty in my physical capacity; but I excused myself by saying that I could be of no service to him without having free access to his person, which, I apprehended, was impossible unless the present great officers of state were removed. VANITY, who had secret intelligence of all that passed in their committee, took special care to frustrate every attempt to change the adminstration so this stratagem fell to the ground, and the war was continued with greater fury than ever.
That accidents will befall mankind, in spite of all the guard and precaution that that human knowledge is capable of, the following anecdote of myself will sufficiently evince.
It was just after I had sent back my answer to the invitation I had received from the Committee of Grievances in France, that my Mother, WISDOM, PRUDENCE and myself were talking and moralizing on the subject of ambitious princes when a hard rap at the door put a stop to our conversation. The servant entered and told me there was a clergyman at the door in a coach who begged the favour to speak with me if I was at leisure. I bad him shew the gentleman in, and proper compliments being passed, he told me that he had the honour to be chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury; that he was ordered by His Grace to present his best respects to me, and that he should be much obliged to me if I would call upon him that evening. I expressed my concern that my old friend should have any occasion for me, and then enquired into the cause of his indisposition. The chaplain replied, 'That His Grace went out in the morning very well to the Cabinet Council, but whether it was owing to any disagreement or altercation that might have happened there, or what it really was, he could not tell; but that it is certain he came home much disturbed in his mind, and that he muttered to himself my name frequently. Upon which,' continued the chaplain, 'I asked His Grace if he would have you sent for. Yes, says he, I should be glad if you would fetch him, but I would not have any of the servants the family know it, therefore take a hackney coach and go instantly.' When the chaplain had done speaking, I told him I was ready to attend him. We got into the coach, and away we drove up one street and down another, but to my thinking — for it was very dark — we did not approach at all towards the Archbishop's, at which I expressed my surprise to the chaplain, who said, 'It is very true, Sir; I forgot to tell you that His Grace is gone to a friend's house to meet you, to avoid being suspected.' At length the coach stopped, and we entered the house through a long passage which led to a small parlour, where the chaplain left me, and said he would acquaint His Grace that I was come. When I was left alone, I began to survey the room I was in, which I found so shabbily furnished that I could not help wondering where I was got to, and how the Archbishop could make choice of such a place to meet him at; but perhaps, said I to myself, the poor gendeman is disordered in his mind, and that will account for everything. I then sat down again and waited contentedly for a full hour, without seeing or hearing a living creature. My patience being quite exhausted, I knocked upon the floor with my cane, for there was no bell in the room, when in came a man whom by his dress and appearance I should have judged to be a low kind of tradesman. I desired to know whether His Grace was still in the house, or gone home again, and why I was detained so long without seeing him. He answered, with a smile upon his countenance, that His Grace was not here; that he wished with all his heart he was, both for his sake and my own, because he would have been a good companion for me, and he should have been well paid for his keeping. At these words I perceived that I had been trappanned into some place of confinement, and upon asking him what was become of the clergyman that accompanied me thither, he stopped me short by saying, 'God bless your Honour, he is no more a clergymen than I am. In short, Sir, you are my prisoner, and so make yourself as easy as you can. You shall want for nothing that this town affords. Give your orders, and they shall be obeyed. But you must not expect to know from me why or wherefore you are brought here; all I am allowed to tell you is that your confinement will not be long.' Here my jailor withdrew, and left me to ruminate on this extraordinary event. PRUDENCE was not surprised that I did not return that night, because she imagined I stayed to sit up with the Archbishop. But when she sent in the morning, how great was her astonishment to hear I had never been there; and as I never went upon a journey without acquainting her with it, she concluded some misfortune must have happened to me. In short, after many days had passed and no tidings of me, my relations and friends began to give me over for lost. I was the general topic of the whole town, and there were a thousand different stories raised, as is customary upon these occasions. My Mother and PRUDENCE were ready to run wild about it, and WISDOM, with all his philosophy, could not help shewing visible marks of concern. He applied to government, and got the Secretary of State to publish the following advertisement by authority:
Whereas an impostor who assumed the character of chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, did, on Thursday the fifth Instant, at seven in the evening, come to the house of COMMON SENSE, and then and there did request the said COMMON SENSE to go along with him to visit the Archbishop; which was accordingly complied with. Now the said COMMON SENSE having never been heard of since that evening, his friends are under the most alarming apprehensions for his safety. And His Majesty out of his wonted goodness and humanity, and from a personal regard to so useful a member of community, doth hereby offer a reward of five hundred pounds to any person or persons who shall discover and bring to justice the imposter aforesaid. And His Majesty further offers his most gracious pardon to any others who may have been unwarily drawn in to be concerned in this transaction, and are now willing to give information thereof; the imposter aforesaid only excepted.
While this advertisement was circulating about the world, the town shewed their ingenuity by their curious conjectures, about what was become of me; but the strangest report of all was that, as I had been a known and avowed enemy to the Catholic religion, the Pope had hired
some ruffians to kidnap me and carry me off — and to corroborate this opinion, they observed that I was missing on the 5th of November, which was the very same day the popish plot was discovered in the reign of James I.
However merry the people were pleased to make themselves with my misfortune, I certainly passed my time miserably enough, having nobody to converse with but my jailor, who, to do him justice, behaved better than most men of his rank and occupation generally do.
When I had been in this situation about three weeks, my jailor came into my room one evening with a cheerful countenance, and told me that the hour of my deliverance was at hand; that he had orders to set me at liberty, and was ready to wait upon me to a coach whenever I pleased. The reader may suppose that I did not make the gentleman wait longer than was necessary to get my hat and cane. So we set out, and after walking some time in the dark, I found we were got into Cheapside, opposite to a stand of coaches, one of which he immediately called, and putting me into it, without saying a word, bad the coachman drive to my house, and then wished me a good night. When my jailor had left me, I ordered the coachman to drive to a certain obscure coffee-house where I was not known; from whence I sent a line to PRUDENCE, signifying my approach, which might prevent any violent emotions of joy in my Mother on my sudden appearance. Before my arrival at home, which was within an hour of my writing to PRUDENCE, the news of my return was spread half over the town; and, in two hours more, the public did me the honour to testify their general joy by the ringing of bells, bonfires etc. The first four or five days were entirely taken up in receiving the congratulatory visits of my friends, and many others to whom I was not the least known before; but it was now become the fashion to shew respect to me — as they called it — and I was therefore obliged to bear with their impertinence. This public respect, which would have made some men proud, was soon succeeded by a species of scurrility that would have made some men angry: they had neither of these effects upon me. It seems the town began to criticize the history of my adventure, and they could by no means reconcile it to probability that a man should decoy me away, confine me for for three weeks, pay my expenses during that time, then set me at liberty, and all this, for no one reason that anybody could find out.
This objection being started, was soon improved into a universal belief that I had purposely concealed myself, and that my relations had invented a «Canterbury Tale» about the Archbishop's chaplain, to see how it would operate upon the people, and to try whether the King and Government would interest themselves on my behalf. My Mother was much scandalized, and made very uneasy by these malicious insinuations. But a few days cleared up the whole affair to the satisfaction of every one, except those who had been very industrious in propagating the report, and were now afraid of being laughed at for their ingenuity.
This discovery was made by the following letter from Mme Scarron to my Mother:
These letters being immediately published, the people as soon changed their sentiments, and were so exasperated against GENIUS, that they would have torn him to pieces if they could have found him: but the bird was flown — he had made his escape to France.
Of all the frailties incident to human nature, there is none so commonly met with as that brain-fed fancy: credulity. Every individual has a spice of it; we are all too apt to be warped into a belief that those things will come to pass, which our sanguine wishes spur us on to expect. And though probability be ever so much against us, self-conceit stands sentry at the door, shutting up every avenue by which reason might enter, and we enjoy the swelling bubble till it bursts. The credulous man, abstractly and unconnected with mankind, is a harmless inoffensive creature; but when mixed with the community, if he happens to have a lively imagination and an alluring tongue, he becomes a more dangerous animal than a mad ox in a crowd. He improves a gentle hint into an absolute certainty, and from a small spark kindles such a flame, as all the engines of understanding cannot presently extinguish. But that the uninformed reader may not misunderstand me, by confounding credulity with faith, I will beg leave to explain myself. Credulity is the child of irrationality, and the parent of fiction; faith is the offspring of judgement, and the Mother of religion; the former is the produce of moral crudities; the latter is the fruit of a good digestion. There are innumerable examples to support this doctrine; and the reader would go before me, if I were disposed to trouble him with them. Yet there is one, which falling under my physical capacity, I cannot forbear taking notice of: in a treatise on the venereal disease, published not long ago, we find the following observation:
I have not only seen the disease — meaning a gonorrhoea — recur with all the symptoms of its first stage in consequence of a turtle feast; but have once known a running with inflammation brought on by the same means, in a sober married man, who had been free from infection many years — at least I could not trace it to any other source.
This is surely a curious specimen of artless credulity. How would the man of faith have behaved upon this occasion? The man of faith, who requires not mathematical demonstration for his belief, provided that there are the appearances of truth to support it, would, in this case, have concluded that the venereal virus was produced by the common ordinary methods of female intercourse. But the man of credulity, delighting in everything that is surprising and unaccountable, chose rather to give credit to the assertion of the sober married man, and his not to be suspected wife: and therefore laid the blame upon the harmless innocent turtle, who could not possibly deny the charge brought against him. Whether the author had any quarrel with the proprietors of the sugar colonies, or whatever was his motive for aspersing the characters of those nutritious natives of America, I know not, but certainly the hypothesis is singular. I beg pardon for this digression, which I was led into from reflecting on the contrariety of conjectures formed upon my adventure in the last chapter.
King William, the glorious deliverer of his country, had now been dead about seven years, and the great Duke of Marlborough, with WISDOM at his right hand, and my Mother on his left, was making rapid conquests upon the continent, and heaping up those immense riches and honours which no general before him ever experienced, or perhaps so well deserved.
At this time, my Father and his son HUMOUR thought proper to come over to England, but they kept their arrival in London a secret, till they could bring about a reconciliation with me; without which, their appearance in public might be dangerous, as their known attachment to VANITY and GENIUS must render them suspected of being accomplices in the trick lately practised upon me. There was another circumstance which made my Father's situation still more critical: he knew that at the beginning of this reign, Her Majesty had put me into the Commission of the Peace, and he apprehended that I might possibly use the power of a magistrate to bring him and his son before me upon examination. This determined him to write me the following letter:
The perusal of this letter perplexed me not a little; I could not but remember the treatment I had met with on the Barbary Coast, my imprisonment in Florence, and the ridiculous figure I made at Athens after the performance of his farce called The Consultation. But for all that, there was a stroke towards the end of his letter, which operated so forcibly on my feelings, that it quashed all resentment, and when he came upon his trial, in foro conscientiæ, compassion became his advocate, and pleaded his cause so delicately that the jury acquitted him without going out of court. PRUDENCE was subpœned upon the trial, but I took care to keep her out of the way. In plain English, I did not consult PRUDENCE about the matter, being well assured that she would have raised so many unanswerable objections to a reconciliation with my Father, that I most have sinned against conviction by consenting to it. I therefore sent my Father the following answer, without saying a word to PRUDENCE upon the subject:
When I had dispatched my messenger with this answer, I acquainted PRUDENCE with what I had done. Her countenance, that index of the mind, before she had uttered a word, sufficiently declared her sentiments upon the point in question; but if that might deceive, her language could not, for a woman's opinion is never better known than when she speaks the very reverse of what she thinks. PRUDENCE was very apt to make use of the ironical style; she did so upon this occasion. 'Sir,' says she, 'I congratulate you on the happiness of this new acquisition — my sentiments entirely coincide with yours — but methinks it was cruel of you not to let me be concerned in so honourable a negotiation; the alliance is certainly respectable; the public will approve the measure and applaud your judgment; and your Mother and WISDOM will be overjoyed in this interesting coalition, which doubtless will constitute the cement of felicity between your family and friends.' I heard all this, and a great deal more, very patiently; and though I understood her meaning perfectly well, I chose to take her words in the literal sense. 'Madam,' says I, 'it gives me the greatest pleasure imaginable to find that this affair meets with your approbation; indeed it was no more than I expected, but I purposely avoided giving you any hint of my intention till the completion of it, well
knowing that joy is doubled when it comes upon us suddenly and unforeseen.' Here, bursting out into a laugh, she cried, 'And did you really think I was in earnest?' 'Certainly, Madam, says I, 'but if I am to read you backwards, permit me once for all to tell you a piece of my mind. I acknowledge that you are generally right; that your schemes in life are, for the most part, attended with success; and it would be very extraordinary if it happened otherwise. Your plan of operations is formed on so narrow a scale, that the whole fabric lies within the compass of your own ken; and nothing can possibly intervene to disturb your sober system, but what must be in your own power immediately to prevent. Your limited notions are circumscribed by caution; you risk nothing for the public utility that might prejudice your own character; you want the common feelings of a friend; to supply the wants of others, you contribute only your advice, and sparingly, that it seldom amounts to more than a cautionary hint against danger. Were your principles to be adopted by the whole human species, the business of life could not be carried on; there would have been no heroes, patriots, projectors or philosophers in the world; the mutual intercourse of mankind must have stood still, for want of that confidence which
constitutes it's existence. In short, Madam, whatever you may think of my Father — whose conduct, by the by, I do not pretend to justify — he is a useful member of community; his sprightly conversation soothes the rugged path of life, and reconciles us to that burthen of anxious care we all must bear about us. And I should imagine that if somewhat of your severity was exchanged for a certain portion of his levity, you would be both the better for it: but then the public would be the worse for it. You are, at present, both perfect characters; and when mixed amongst the multitude, like instruments in a concert, you serve to strengthen and harmonize the whole. I should be very sorry, Madam, to find that what I have said has given you the least offence, as it was meant merely to make you know your self.' 'Far from it,' says she, 'I acknowledge the portrait you have drawn to be a striking likeness of me, and my behaviour next Wednesday will convince you that it does not displease me.'
My Father and his son came to dinner at the time appointed, and were exceeding pleasant and entertaining; PRUDENCE too put on her best looks, and was more than than ordinarily cheerful. After dinner, my Father told me that he should take it as a favour if I would accompany him to the play; his intention by this, as he owned, was to make it manifest to the town that our reconciliation had taken place. I readily consented, and we went accordingly. While we were talking over our family affairs, between the acts, my Father said the great obstacle to his happiness still subsisted, and must for ever remain unless I would use my interest to get it removed: that upon the return of my Mother and WISDOM to London, which he apprehended would be very soon, he should be obliged to quit this country, and that necessity might perhaps force him once more to take refuge in the arms of that faithless woman VANITY. That he could never be put on a respectable footing with mankind, which he flattered himself I wished to see, until the Articles of Separation are cancelled; that if this could be brought about, he would engage to extricate GENIUS from the trammels of VANITY, and bring him over to England, where he would be no contemptible acquisition.
Struck with the reasonableness of this remonstrance, I promised to sollicit the consent of my Mother and WISDOM to annihilate the Articles of Separation. When the play was over, we parted with many professions of kindness to each other.
I have before just cursorily mentioned that I had the honour to be put into the Commission of the Peace. And an honour it certainly is, when the magistrate, dispensing nothing but justice, scorns to turn his office into a lucrative trading shop by committing legal robberies on the most miserably wretched of all God's creatures. As I did not participate of the justiciary emoluments, so neither was I molested with those shocking beings to whose company my brethren of the quorum had not the least objection. They indeed had brought that art to perfection which the alchemists of old vainly boasted of: they could extract pure sterling ore from the very scum of the earth, and were become refiners upon human misery. Now, if two of the fair sex happened to quarrel over their cups, and one of them applied to me for justice, I generally convinced her that she was wrong, and sent her away, without any diminution of her property, to make it up with her neighbour. This advice was seldom well relished by the party, who did not come to me to be told she was wrong, but — pardon the intrusion of a pun — to be warranted right, and my office, therefore, very soon came into disrepute amongst the vulgar.
A piece of justiciary business which came before me at this time, being attended with some uncommon circumstances, I beg leave to lay it before the reader.
It was before my usual time of rising in the morning that my servant came to inform me there were, below, a constable, two watchmen, and a lady whom they had brought in custody from the Round House. I put on my clothes and attended them; but before I had well asked the constable the ordinary questions upon these occasions, I was civilly interrupted by the lady, who begged I would not administer an oath to these people because she was very apprehensive that they would perjure themselves; and that she should take it as a favour if I would only receive their simple testimony against her, to which she would answer fully and satisfactorily.
I complied with her request, and began with enquiring how she came into their custody.
1st Watchman. Please, your Worship, I was going my first round last night, just as the clock struck nine; exactly at nine, for I always mind my duty. Please, your Worship, I have been a watchman, man and boy in this parish.
I took this lady immediately into a back room, when, to my infinite surprise, upon the alteration of the voice — which had hitherto been feigned to carry on the deceit — I found it was my facetious half-brother HUMOUR. It seems my Father and he went upon this frolic to visit an intimate friend, on whom HUMOUR was to pass for a lady just arrived from Paris. I reproved him for his folly, and then returned to my office, where I reprimanded the watchmen very severely for their scandalous behaviour, and assured them that if I had not interceeded with the lady to pardon them, it would have gone hard with them both.
I asked HUMOUR to stay for breakfast, but he excused himself by saying that he could not think of appearing before PRUDENCE in that disguise.
My Mother and WISDOM, who had been, during the whole course of the war, coadjutors to the Duke of Marlborough, now saw plainly that the expense of carrying it on lay chiefly upon the English, and that the burthen of it was become too heavy for the nation to bear any longer. They remonstrated against the continuance of the war: but the Duke, for very obvious reasons, differed in opinion with them. They left him and returned to England; His Grace was soon afterwards removed from his employments.
Upon the arrival of my Mother and WISDOM in London, my Father pressed me strongly to negotiate the business of setting aside the Articles of Separation. I did so, and with some difficulty got their consent to annul the articles upon certain conditions, which were these. First, that my Father should oblige himself, by a bond under his hand and seal, never to appear publicly with VANITY, either in London or any other part of this country. Secondly, that he should never write, publish, or declare, anything derogatory to the honour and character of my Mother and WISDOM. Thirdly, that if he should be charged with a breach of either of these articles, the matter in dispute should be left to my determination. Fourthly, that upon conviction, he should immediately quit the kingdom or forfeit five hundred pounds.
A bond to this purpose was drawn up and executed by my Father, who could not help jocosely observing that he never saw a law instrument that did not contain something superfluous; for example, says he, the obliging me to quit the kingdom was unnecessary — the five hundred pounds penalty, to a man that is penniless, implies banishment; for I should certainly prefer freedom in any country to imprisonment in this.
After this affair was settled, my Father was overjoyed to find himself once more at liberty; and I must do him the justice to say that he very soon fulfilled his promise of bringing GENIUS over to England. The national benefits accruing from his great abilities soon became apparent, by the improvements in arts, sciences, and manufactures, which, however, the good Queen Anne did not live to see brought to any great perfection, being now arrived at that period which, levelling all distinctions, puts the princess and the peasant upon an equal footing. And I will put a period to this chapter, short as it is, before I relate the transactions of our family which happened in the reign of George I.
Though it has been already said that my Mother and WISDOM strongly opposed the continuance of the war, yet the reader is not to infer from thence that they were of the Tory party. On the contrary, they supported the Whig cause with all their power. As a proof of it, at the beginning of this reign, WISDOM was appointed one of the great officers of state, and generally made one in His Majesty's private parties of recreation. I had likewise the honour to be nominated of the Privy Council. My Father and HUMOUR might have had employments in the king's household, though they modestly declined. I was not displeased at it, for they really had no talents for business, and they would only have brought some disgrace upon the family by accepting them. My Mother, according to her custom in former reigns, never came to Court but upon very extraordinary occasions.
I hope I shall not be accused of ostentation for transcribing the following verses, which my Father sent me upon the union of our family. I own the compliment to myself is rather strong, but, as a faithful historian, I think myself obliged to give it to the reader as I find it.
Of old, when WISDOM chose to wed,|
E're COMMON SENSE was born.
Fair TRUTH believ'd in all he said,
And fix'd the nuptial morn.
But fate, at whose decrees we guess,
Just at the nuptial hour,
Sent WIT disguis'd in WISDOM's dress,
To crop this beauteous flower.
Thus pair'd, not match'd, 'twas past recall.
Each other view'd with scorn.
'Till fortune made amends for all,
When COMMON SENSE was born.
By PRUDENCE bred on WISDOM's plan,
Beneath TRUTH's watchful eye;
'Twould sink the dignity of man,
If COMMON SENSE should die.
While I was reading these lines to PRUDENCE, I observed her to screw up her mouth and rub her eyebrows; the sure prognostics of future altercation. She had no passion for reading books, nor did she think the better of those who were were esteemed learnèd; her principal pursuit had been the art of acquiring all the comforts of life, with the least hazard and expense; her knowledge consisted chiefly in the well governing a family; she went constantly to market in all weathers, and made as hard bargains as if she had been the purveyor to a workhouse. Upon these occasions she never took a servant with her, because she said the shopkeepers would make her pay more for her things; but when she had completed her cargo, she consigned it to a basket-woman, whom she never trusted out of her sight, but made her walk before her home, and then generally quarrelled with the poor woman about paying the freight. She was a great critic in weights and measures, and could calculate the duration of knife-cloths and table-linen better than Sir Isaac Newton. She was seldom declamatory, except when she scolded the servants or when she gave them directions; in doing which, like other declaimers, she repeated the same thing many times over, but she never forgot to reserve a saving clause, by which she might alter her opinion whenever she pleased. The only books she kept by her were Robinson Crusoe — a treatise on health and long life, to which was added, The Art of Cookery, Pickling, etc., and the Holy Bible. The first of these, she said, would teach you to live without what is called the necessaries of life; the second would shew you how to enjoy affluence with safety; and the last would administer a spiritual cordial to the mind, whenever the body had lost all relish for earthly enjoyments. But with all these rare qualities, which certainly imply some degree of understanding, PRUDENCE had no sort of taste for the liberal arts: and, what was worst of all, she conversed literally in the vulgar tongue, which the reader will be presently convinced of. When I had finished reading my Father's paper of verses, she unscrewed her mouth and began thus.
'Well, Sir, and what are you to give him for this pandergerick, as you call it? I know he's as poor as a church-mouse; if you don't pay him well, he'll write a lamperoon upon you next, and call you all to pieces. I have no notion of being praised by such fellows; I look upon them all no better than beggars; they come here now and then in a shabby full-trimmed coat, that was once black, and an old ty-wigg not worth half-a-crown; and they swagger about as if they were somebody; but they never go away without borrowing money of you; I never liked your varse-making poet-men, as you call 'em : They had better get their living by some honest employment, instead of rhyming to set folks together by the ear; if they must be scribbling, why don't they writs a boem upon housewifry, to teach us how to go the nearest way to work; but they are too extravagant for that, I warrant you; I wonder how he came to bring my name in question; I don't rightly understand his meaning, but if he has said anything scandalous of me, I shall give him as good as he brings, I can assure him; and as for his...'
Here the sudden appearance of my Father silenced PRUDENCE, and put a stop to her rebromand, as she would have called it, which I was not sorry for; and yet the nature of my Father's errand to me at this time seemed in some measure to justify what she had been saying of him. He came to desire I would subscribe to an heroic poem, which he intended to publish in about six months from that time. I very willingly paid the demand, and asked to see his list of subscribers. He told me that I was the first person he had waited upon, being desirous of having the honour of my name at the head of his list, which would be the strongest inducement to all men of taste to become subscribers. Then taking out of his pocket a sheet of blank paper, folded in columns, he very genteely presented to me, and begged I would keep it, and sollicit the subscription amongst my friends. This was a business I did not very well like, but, as I did not care to disoblige him, I undertook it. I then made bold to enquire how far he had gone with the work, and what might be the subject of it? He replied that as yet it was only in embryo; that he had not committed his thoughts to paper, because he could not absolutely determine whether to make Louis XIV, Charles XII of Sweden, or Oliver Cromwell, the hero of his poem: and then he pressed me to make choice of any one of the three. I told him that if it was a matter of such indifference to him, whom he celebrated, he might, in my opinion, pitch upon a properer person than any of the three he had mentioned. That the first was, indeed, a munificent prince and a great encourager of the arts, but for all the other actions of his life, which had ambition for their motive, he deserved the curses rather than the blessings of his people. The second, supported by the irrational principles of predestination, was a hero upon stilts; he thought himself invulnerable till his time was come. No wonder therefore that he surpassed all others in feats of courage, as much as he fell short of them in acts of humanity. The third, with all the great abilities which are necessary to form a hero, had too much hypocrisy and dissimulation to merit immortality. 'What do you think of the Duke of Marlborough?' said I. 'The very thing,' answered my Father, 'he shall be the man. For you must know, it is my opinion that every real hero must be born a prince, though every real prince is not fortunate enough to have been born a hero.' 'True,' said I, 'and I hope you won't think I flatter you when I say: your muse attends whenever you think fit, but every author was not born a wit.'
My Father finished his poem within the time fixed by his proposals, and published it under the title of The Campaign.
Upon the death of Louis XIV , which happened about four years before this time, VANITY was turned out of doors; the Regent of France would have nothing to say to her. From being the principal favourite of the greatest monarch in Europe, she was obliged to take up with a subaltern officer of his household. It is true he was a very pretty fellow, and though his pay was but small, he had all the advantages of dress and equipage to set him off, which he procured by laying certain court ladies under contribution. We were told that he was kept by no less than three females of the first rank in France, but his head run on nothing but VANITY, who was not a little enamoured of him for no other reason but because he had captivated all the beauties he came near. The death of Louis brought this joyful pair, who had long sighed for each other, together. But their happiness did not continue long; VANITY insisted upon accompanying him to all public places, to make her triumph over her own sex the more conspicuous. This very soon created such hatred and disgust, in those ladies who had hitherto supported him in luxury and extravagance, that they withdrew their benefactions. His expensive way of living had been rather increased since his connection with VANITY, and his income had been reduced to the mere pay of a subaltern officer. The consequences were debts, duns, and distresses. He sold off his equipage and all his finery, even to his clothes. Thus stripped of all personal ornaments he made his private entry into a jail; where VANITY left her Narcissus to contemplate, between bare walls, on the misery into which his self-admiration had plunged him.
VANITY, well pleased with having sufficiently humbled this man of the sword, had a strong inclination to attack a dignified man of the gown. The Bishop of ______ was a person remarkable for his exemplary piety and sanctity of manners; he had passed through life with a very respectable character, and was now verging upon the vale of years, when he was all at once seized with a violent desire of becoming a popular preacher, a thing which till now he had always most carefully avoided. This infatuation operated so forcibly on his mind that he was ready to hold forth at all places and upon all public occasions, even without without any solicitation. VANITY had cast her eye upon this prelate from the time she quitted the unfortunate subaltern, and she now thought there was a fair opportunity to make her advances. The next time the bishop preached, VANITY went to church and placed herself in a pew directly fronting him. As soon as he appeared in the pulpit, VANITY gave a crack with her fan which was heard by the whole congregation and noticed by the bishop with a look of severity. But during this whole discourse, in which time he frequently had his eye on VANITY, it was observable that the muscles of his face, rounding by degrees into complacency, formed at length a countenance full of satisfaction and content, and before he finished his sermon he convinced his auditors that the lady was by no means disagreeable to him.
When church was over, some people who had been spoke to beforehand for that purpose, requested it of the bishop that he would print the sermon. His Lordship answered in his usual phrase, that they were too good; this was an expression to which he had so habituated himself that he made use of it upon all occasions, right or wrong, which often subjected him to the ridicule of his acquaintances. As soon as the sermon was published, the Bishop sent one of them immediately to VANITY, with a handsome card of compliments. She was extremely well pleased with the present, not that the reading of it would afford her any pleasure, but it furnished her with a fair excuse for visiting his Lordship to thank him for the civility, which was all she wanted. The next day VANITY tricked herself out with all the art that female invention is capable of, to allure and captivate the heart of the poor doting bishop. He received her, not as a stranger with common politeness, but with the emotions of rapture. 'Madam,' says he, taking her by the hand, 'you are too good in condescending to visit an old man tottering under age and infirmities. May I ask how I came to be honoured...' 'Is it possible,' interrupted VANITY, 'that you should be at a loss to guess the cause of my paying my duty to your Lordship? But now I recollect, perhaps it was left at my house by some mistake, and not by your orders; if so, I am not the distinguished happy creature I thought myself.' 'O, no, no, no mistake,' replied the Bishop, 'you mean the sermon; a bagatelle, a mere bagatelle.' 'My Lord,' cried VANITY, 'your Lordship may take what liberties you please with your own, but I would never forgive any other person that could be base enough to throw out the most distant hint of disparagement upon so noble a production.' 'You are too good, you are too good, Madam,' replied the bishop, with tears in his eyes. 'My Lord,' says VANITY, 'you are too modest; I never was so moved with a discourse since I came into the world; my senses were charmed and my mind informed at the same instant. And then your delivery! O your delivery, 'tis too much to bear...' Here she affected to faint away with ecstasy, and the old gentleman staggering up to her, began to chase her temples, and called for water; but she presently recovered, and cried, 'Where am I? Surely I have been in a paradise, and if I mistake not,' — looking steadfastly at the bishop — 'this is the guardian angel that conducted me there.' 'Madam, compose yourself a little,' says the bishop, 'you are too good, you are too good.' Here VANITY paused for a few minutes, and then making an apology for the trouble she had given his Lordship, offered to depart; but the bishop would not suffer her to go out into the air so soon after her indisposition, and therefore pressed her to stay and take a family dinner with him, which she, with much seeming reluctance, accepted of.
What passed between the bishop and VANITY, the remaining part of that day, is unknown to me; for my Father's letter from Paris, of which the foregoing account is a copy, goes on to say that VANITY took up her abode with the bishop; and insisted, as she had done before with the officer, upon appearing with him wherever he went. This gave a handle to his enemies — for every man has enemies — to revile his character, which had been irreproachable for more than half a century before. His friends indeed pitied him, but they could afford him no relief; as they did not foresee, neither could they prevent, the fatal catastrophe which soon succeeded his short lived pleasure of imagination. VANITY constantly attended the Bishop to church and, one Sunday, when he was ascending the pulpit, she had the audacity to trip up the stairs after him, where she kept herself concealed till he began his discourse, and then she became manifest to the whole congregation; for as she was every now and then peeping over the good man's shoulder, there was not a person in the church — the bishop excepted — who did not observe her. When the sermon was over, there was a buzz and a whisper run through all the congregation; and, in a few days, the affair made such a noise in the world that government thought proper to take it up; the consequence of which was that the bishop was silenced from preaching, without any reason being assigned to him for the prohibition.
This unexpected adverse stroke of fortune, happening at a time when he thought he had attained the utmost pitch of oratorical perfection, smote the poor old man to the earth; he withered like a tender plant, struck by the blasting breath of the noxious north-east. He took to his bed, and found no consolation but in the arms of her who had been his undoing; VANITY stuck close to him, and influenced him to make a will in her favour. He languished many days without the least hopes of recovery; at length the melancholy moment came that was to separate him for ever from the world and VANITY. He fixed his eyes upon her, regardless of his friends that stood round him, and, with his last expiring breath, his faltering tongue uttered something like: 'Ma ... Madam, you ... are ...too good.' And died.
His family and relations were very much affected, both with the cause and manner of his dying. And being desirous that mankind might derive some good from his unhappy example, they were determined that VANITY should have no hand in his funeral. They buried him as privately as possible, and put upon his grave a plain stone, on which were written these words: Humanum est errare.
In the postscript of my Father's French letter, I find that VANITY was highly pleased with this last exploit; and that by giving loose to her natural inclinations, she had made such rapid conquests all over Europe that, from the time of Louis XIV's death to this present 1726, she had been entertained by more than three hundred different persons, who were all grievous sufferers by her, except one. This was a despairing melancholy lunatic; he indeed had the good fortune, by her magic art, to be converted into an imaginary straw-crowned monarch.
It has been hinted before that GENIUS had made great improvements in all the arts and sciences; and that he had projected many schemes which, in the end, proved very beneficial to the English nation. But then, like many other projectors who have laid an excellent foundation for the public good, he was generally ruined before he could complete the superstructure; and those who came after him reaped the fruits of his inventon.
The severe treatment which GENIUS often met with from mankind will scarcely be credited by those who were not witnesses of the real facts; the world, not satisfied with robbing him of that fame and those emoluments to which he was justly entitled, did frequently charge him with being the author of many stupid productions that he knew nothing at all of. The South-Sea Bubble, which happened a few years ago , was at first fathered upon GENIUS; and though it was afterwards well known to have been the wicked contrivance of certain City scriveners, who had profound skill in vulgar arithmetic, yet when such pains had been taken to fix the stigma upon a man's character 'twas no very easy matter to wipe it off.
The infinity of plays, poems, pamphlets and essays that were charged to his account was enough to provoke a person of his nice taste and imagination; but then, on the other hand, GENIUS was, occasionally, apt to be very provoking. In all matters where form and punctilio were necessary to be observed, or — to speak in the modern phrase, though perhaps, more unintelligibly — in the etiquette of a ceremonial, he was quite horrid. Decorum, and what is called the pink of politeness, were his bane; and the bon ton gave him the heartburn. He seldom made his appearance in public places without HUMOUR at his heels; they were as constantly seen together as Castor and Pollux; and whatever one said, the other generally approved. He never distinguished or caressed mankind according to the rank they bore in life, but according to their natural or acquired talents. I have known him more than once, in a great assembly, repeat a bon mot to a duchess; and after she had expressed her approbation of it, tell her he was very glad she liked it; that he could assure Her Grace it was tout nouveau, for he had it but just before from one of the honest Irish chairmen that carried him there. This method of artfully extracting the plaudit of a duchess to the bon mot of a chairman, could not fail giving offence; but GENIUS was too much taken up with the sentiment itself, to observe that the courteous smile it had raised upon the countenance of Her Grace was now changed to a frown of contempt, since the plebian author was known. In things of this kind, it must be confessed that GENIUS did not feel like a person of fashion: and yet, when his reputation was attacked, or his name usurped by false pretenders to parts and abilities, no man felt quicker or resented it sooner. But his indignation was often raised beyond all patience when he saw his title profaned by those dexterous conveyancers who know just enough of the law to avoid the punishment they deserve. Those masters of arts who have found out the secret of concentering the emoluments and advantages of all the other arts in one — the art of transferring every man's property they meet with into their own funds, without being purchasers; those civil well-bred gentlemen who are admitted into the society of the very first people; to many of whom, it is feared, they have communicated their fatal secret, after stripping them of all they had in the world. These were neither highwaymen, house-breakers, nor street-robbers, but an animal more pernicious than any of the three: they were gamesters.
In this year , George I took his final leave of the world, and I will now take my leave of the reader, at least for the present; if he wishes to know anything more of our family, he may possibly find it in a second volume this time twelvemonth.
1. Herbert Lawrence, The Life and Adventures of Common Sense: An Historical Allegory, Lawrence, London, 1769.
2. Historical figures ...
Book II : Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), Roman philosopher, statesman and constitutionalist; Gaius Valerius Catullus (c.84 BC – c.54 BC), Roman poet; Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC), Virgil, classical Roman poet; Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC), Horace, Roman lyric poet; Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC – 17 AD), Ovid, Roman poet; Marcus Valerius Martialis (c.40 AD - c.103 AD), Martial, Roman poet; Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (272-337), Constantine the Great, 57th Emperor of the Roman Empire (306-337); Mehmed II (1432-1481), also called Mahomet II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1444-1446 and 1451-1481); Akbar the Great Mogul (1542-1605), 3rd Mughal Emperor (1556-1605); Martin Luther (1483-1546), German priest, professor of theology, and pivotal figure of the Protestant Reformation; Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici (c.1360-1429), founder of the Medici Bank and first patron of the arts in the Medici family; Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (1475-1521), Pope Leo X (1513-1527); Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet; Raffaello Sanzio da Urbin, better known as Raphael, Italian painter and architect; Tiziano Vecelli (c.1489-1576), better known as Titian, Italian painter; Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), Italian poet; Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), Italian poet; Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574), Duke of Florence (1537-1574), 1st Grand Duke of Tuscany (1569-1574) — incidentally, the words "Aug. 18, 1560, the Duke of Tuscany poisoned by VANITY" †, supposèdly hand-written by the author (COMMON SENSE), are chronologically anomalous; Elizabeth Tudor (1533-1603), Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland (1558-1603); William Shakspere (baptized 26 April 1564), William Shakespeare, supposèd author of the Shakespearean canon of poems, sonnets, and plays; Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), Queen regnant of Scotland (1542-1567), Queen consort of France (1559-1560); James Stuart (1566-1625), King James VI of Scotland (1567-1625), King James I of England and Ireland (1603-1625); Walter Raleigh (c.1554-1618), writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, and explorer; Charles Stuart (1600-1649), Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland (1625-1649); Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), First Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (1653-1658); Charles Stuart (1630-1685), King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland (1660-1685); Johan de Witt (1625–1672), Grand Pensionary of the States of Holland (1653-1672); Sir William Temple (1628-1699), statesman and essayist; Louis XIV (1638-1715), King of France and of Navarre (1643-1715); James Stuart (1633-1701), King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland (1685-1688); Willem III, Prince of Orange (1650-1702), Stadtholder William III of Orange (1672-1702), King William III of England, Scotland and Ireland (1689-1702).
Book III : Françoise d'Aubigné (1635-1719), known as Madame Scarron whilst married to Paul Scarron (1651-1660), then as Madame de Maintenon, morganatic second wife of Louis XIV (1685-1715); Louise de La Vallière (1644-1710), unofficial mistress of Louis XIV (1661-1667); Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1641-1707), Madame de Montespan, official mistress of Louis XIV (1667-1677); Thomas Tenison (1636-1715), Archbishop of Canterbury (1694-1715); Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham (1647-1730) — incidentally, he could not have been the supposèd author of the letter dated 14 November 1700 ‡, since he was Secretary of State only in the years 1689-1693 and 1702-1704; John Churchill (1650-1722), 1st Duke of Marlborough (1689-1722); Anne Stuart(1665-1714), Queen Anne of England, Scotland and Ireland (1702-1707), Queen Anne of Great Britain and Ireland (1707-1714); George Ludwig, House of Hanover (1660-1727), Prince-Elector of Hanover (1698-1727), King George I of Great Britain and Ireland (1702-1727); Charles XII, House of Pfalz-Zweibrücken (1682-1718), King of the Swedish Empire (1697-1718); Isaac Newton (1642-1727), physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian; Philippe-Charles d'Orléans (1674-1723), Regent of France (1715-1723).
3. Transcription by Dr. Roger Peters [Home Page].