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pay, therefore, very little regard to the observations of some antiquated correspondents, who pretend to set up what they call the invariable notions of things, against the opinions and practice of people of condition. At the same time, I must observe, that, as there is a college in physic, and a faculty, as it is called in Scotland, in law; so, in fashion, there is a select body, who enjoy many privileges and immunities, to which pretenders, or inferior practitioners in the art, are by no means entitled. There is a certain grace in the rudeness, and wit in the folly, of a person of fashion, to which one of a lower rank has no manner of pretension.
I am afraid that our city, talking like a man who has travelled, is but a sort of mimic metropolis, and cannot fairly pretend to the same license of making a fool of itself as London or Paris. The circle, therefore, taking them in the gross, of our fashionable people here, have seldom ventured on the same beautiful irregularity in dress, in behaviour, or in manners, that is frequently practised by the leaders of the ton in the capitals of France or England.
With individuals, the same rule of subordination is to be observed; which, however, persons of extraordinary parts, of genius above their condition, are sometimes apt to overlook. I perceive, in the pit of the playhouse, some young men, who have got fuddled in punch, as noisy and as witty as the gentlemen in the boxes, who have been drinking Burgundy; and others, who have come sober from the counter, or the writing desk, give almost as little attention to the play as the men of 3,0001. a year.
My old school acquaintance, Jack Wouldbe, t’ other morning, had a neckcloth as dirty as a lord's, and picked his teeth after dinner for a quarter of an hour, by the assistance of the little mirror in the lid
of his toothpick case.
I take the first opportunity of giving him a friendly hint, that this practice is elegant only in a man who has made the tour of Europe.
Nature and fashion are two opposite powers, that have long been at variance with one another. The first is allowed to preside over the bulk of the people, known by the denomination of the vulgar; the last is peculiar to the higher orders of the state, and by her honours they have a title to be distinguished. Attention to interesting scenes, civility to those we ought to oblige, and propriety in public behaviour, belong to Nature, and are, therefore, the property
the people. It is a direct infringement on the rights of fashion, if the inferior members of the community shall laugh where they should cry, be noisy where they should be silent, rude where they should be civil, or dirty where they should be cleanly. These are the badges of greatness, and, like certain coats armorial, are only to be borne by illustrious personages.
These are matters in which, I think, I may venture to interpose my advice or animadversion. But as to some more delicate subjects, I am very doubtful whether they come within the limits of my jurisdiction, or how far it would be prudent in me to exercise it, if they did. I mean this as a general apology for not inserting a variety of letters from unknown correspondents, giving me information of certain irregularities in the manners and deportment of the fashionable world, which they desire may be taken immediate notice of in The Mirror. One, who writes under the signature of Rusticus, tells me that painting is now become so common a practice among our fine ladies, that he has oftener than once been introduced to a lady in the morning,
from whom, till he informed himself of her name, he was surprised to receive a courtesy at the play or the concert. Another, who subscribes himself Modestus, desires me to imitate the example of The Tatler, by animadverting, not on the large, but the small size of the petticoat, which, he says, has so shrunk up this winter, that there is more of the — ankle seen than he can find countenance to look at.
To the first of these correspondents I must answer, that I think the ladies, whose number, I am inclined to believe, is small, who choose to dress their faces in rouge or carmine, are exempted from all censure; they certainly do it to please themselves, as they know how much it is detested by the men. Or, perhaps, they are of that icy order of females who have made vows of perpetual celibacy, and thus varnish over their beauty, as virtuosi do certain delicate natural productions, which are meant to be looked at, but never to be touched. As to the complaint of Modestus, I can only account for the present shortness of the petticoat, from the attention of the ladies being so much engrossed about their heads, as to leave them no leisure to take care of the other extremity; as generals, who are anxious to cover one part of their works, are apt to leave an opposite quarter defenceless.
But the most serious complaint I have received, is a letter subscribed Censor, arraigning, with true Juvenalian severity, the conduct of a certain Club, which, in the words of my correspondent, tinues, in defiance of decency and good manners, to insult the public, in large characters, in the front of every newspaper in town. This,” he adds, my indignation the more, when I consider that several of its principal members are arrived at a
period of life which should teach decorum, at least, if it does not extinguish vice.”
In answer to this angry correspondent, I will tell him the following story: Some years ago, I happened to be in York at the time of the assizes. Dining one day in a tavern, with some gentlemen of that city and its neighbourhood, we were violently disturbed by the noise of somebody below, who hooted and hallooed, smacked his whip, and made his servants sound their French horns ; in short, rehearsed, during the whole time of our dinner, all “the glorious tumult of the chase.” Some of the company, after several ineffectual messages by the waiter, began to be angry, and to think of a very serious remonstrance with the sportsman below. But an elderly person, who sat opposite to me, pacified their resentment: “I know the gentleman who disturbs you,” said he; “his headpiece was never one of the best; but now, poor man! I believe we must let him alone. Since he is past running down the fox in the field, he must e'en be allowed to hunt him in the parlour.”
No. 85. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 1780.
Possum oblivisci qui fuerim? Non sentire qui sim? Quo caream
honore? Quâ gloriâ: Quibus liberis ? Quibus fortunis ?
CIT. AD ATT.
A PERIODICAL publication, such as The Mirror, is, from its nature, confined chiefly to prose compositions. My illustrious predecessor, The Spectator, has, however, sometimes inserted a little poem among his other essays; and his example has been imitated by most of his successors. Perhaps it may be from this cause, that among the variety of communications I have lately received, many of them consist of poetical compositions. I must observe, in general, to these correspondents, that, though the insertion of a poem now and then may not be altogether improper for a work of this kind, yet it is not every poetical composition that is fit for it. A poem may be possessed of very considerable merit, and may be entitled to applause, when published in a poetical collection, though from its subject, its length, or the manner in which it is written, it may not be suited to The Mirror. I hope my poetical correspondents, therefore, will receive this as an apology for their poems not being inserted, and will by no means consider their exclusion as proceeding from their being thought destitute of merit.
Among the poetical presents I have received, there is, however, one, which seems very well suited to a work of this kind. The gentleman from whom