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No. 269. TUESDAY, JANUARY 8.
Ævo rarissima nostro
I was this morning surprised with a great knocking at the door, when my landlady's daughter came up to me and told me there was a man below desired to speak with me. Upon my asking her who it was, she told me it was a very grave elderly person, but that she did not know his name. I immediately went down to him, and found him to be the coachman of my worthy friend Sir Roger de Coverley. He told me that his master came to town last night, and would be glad to take a turn with me in Grays-Inn walks. As I was wondering in myself what had brought Sir Roger to town, not having lately received any letter from him, he told me that his master was come up to get a sight of Prince Eugene, and that he desired I would immediately meet him.
I was not a little pleased with the curiosity of the old knight, though I did not much wonder at it, having heard him say more than once in private discourse, that he looked upon Prince Eugenio (for so the knight always calls him) to be a greater man than Scanderbeg.
I was no sooner come into Grays-Inn walks, but I heard my friend upon the terrace hemming twice or thrice to himself with great vigour, for he loves to clear his pipes in good air (to make use of his own phrase) and is not a little pleased with any one who takes notice of the strength which he still exerts in his morning hems.
I was touched with a secret joy at the sight of the good old man, who before he saw me was engaged in conversation with a beggar-man that had asked an alms of him. I could hear my friend chide him for not finding out some work ; but at the same time saw him put his hand in his pocket and give him six-pence.
Our salutations were very hearty on both sides, consisting of many kind shakes of the hand, and several affectionate looks which we cast upon one another. After which the knight told me my good friend his chaplain was very well, and much at my service, and that the Sunday before, he had made a most incomparable sermon out of Doctor Barrow. I have left,' says he, all my affairs in his hands, and being willing to lay an obligation upon him, have deposited with him thirty marks, to be distributed among his poor parishioners.'
He then proceeded to acquaint me with the welfare of Will Wimble. Upon which he put his hand into his fob, and presented me in his name with a tobacco stopper, telling me that Will had been busy all the beginning of the winter in turning great quantities of them; and that he made a present of one to every gentleman in the country who has good principles, and smokes. He added, that poor Will was at present under great tribulation, for that Tom Touchy had taken the law of him for cutting some hazel sticks out of one of his hedges.
Among other pieces of news which the knight brought from his country seat, he informed me that Moll White was dead; and that about a month after her death the wind was so very high, that it blew down the end of one of his barns. But for my part,' says Sir Roger, 'I do not think that the old woman had any hand in it.'
He afterwards fell into an account of the diversions which had passed in his house during the holydays, for Sir Roger, after the laudable custom of his ancestors, always keeps open house at Christmas. I learned from him, that he had killed eight fat hogs for this season,
that he had dealt about his chines very liberally amongst his neighbours, and that in particular he had sent a string of hog's puddings with a pack of cards to every poor family in the parish. • I have often thought,' says Sir Roger, 'it
· Had made] The archness of making a sermon out of Dr. Barrow, will escape those who do not know that to make a sermon is the common phrase for preaching.
happens very well that Christmas should fall out in the middle of the 'winter. It is the most dead uncomfortable time of the year, when the poor people would suffer very much from their poverty and cold, if they had not good cheer, warm fires, and Christmas gambols to support them. I love to rejoice their poor hearts at this season, and to see the whole village merry in my great hall. I allow a double quantity of malt to my small beer, and set it a running for twelve days to every one that calls for it. I have always a piece of cold beef and a mince-pye upon the table, and am wonderfully pleased to see my tenants pass away a whole evening in playing their innocent tricks, and smutting one another. Our friend Will Wimble is as merry as any of them, and shews a thousand roguish tricks upon these occasions.'
I was very much delighted with the reflection of my old friend, which carried so much goodness in it. He then launched out into the praise of the late act of parliament for securing the church of England, and told me with great satisfaction, that he believed it already began to take effect; for that a rigid dissenter, who chanced to dine at his house on Christmas day, had been observed to eat very plentifully of his plumbporridge.
After having dispatched all our country matters, Sir Roger made several inquiries concerning the club, and particularly of his old antagonist Sir Andrew Freeport. He asked me with a kind of smile, whether Sir Andrew had not taken the advantage of his absence, to vent among them some of his republican doctrines; but soon after gathering up his countenance into a more than ordinary seriousness, Tell me truly,' says he, don't you think Sir Andrew had a hand in the pope's procession'but without giving me time to answer him, “Well, well,' says he, I know you are a wary man, and do not care to talk of public matters.'
The knight then asked me, if I had scen Prince Eugene; and made me promise to get him a stand in some convenient place where he might have a full sight of that extraordinary man, whose presence does so much
honour to the British nation. He dwest very long on the praises of this great general, and I found that since I was with him in the country, he had drawn many observations together out of his reading in Baker's Chronicle, and other authors, who always lie in his hall window, which very much redound to the honour of this prince.
Having passed away the greatest part of the morning in hearing the knight's reflections, which were partly private, and partly political, he asked me if I would smoke a pipe with him over a dish of coffee at Squire's. As I love the old man, I take a delight in complying with every thing that is agreeable to him, and accordingly waited on him to the coffee-house, where his venerable figure drew upon us the eyes of the whole room. He had no sooner seated himself at the upper end of the high table, but he called for a clean pipe, a paper
of tobacco, a dish of coffee, a wax candle, and the Supplement, with such an air of cheerfulness and good humour, that all the boys in the coffee-room (who seemed to take pleasure in serving him) were at once employed on his several errands, insomuch that nobody else could come at a dish of tea, till the knight had got all his conveniencies about him.
No. 271. THURSDAY, JANUARY 10.
Mille trahens varios adoerso sole colores.
I RECEIVE a double advantage from the letters of my correspondents: first, as they shew me which of my papers are most acceptable to them; and in the next place, as they furnish me with materials for new speculations. Sometimes, indeed, I do not make use of the letter itself, but form the hints of it into plans of my own invention; sometimes I take the liberty to change the language or thought into my own way of speaking
and thinking, and always (if it can be done without prejudice to the sense) omit the many compliments and applauses which are usually bestowed upon me.
Besides the two advantages above-mentioned, which I receive from the letters that are sent me, they give me an opportunity of lengthening out my paper by the skilful management of the subscribing part at the end of them, which perhaps does not a little conduce to the ease, both of myself and reader.
Some will have it, that I often write to myself, and am the only punctual correspondent I have. This ob. jection would indeed be material, were the letters I communicate to the public stuffed with my own commendations, and if, instead of endeavouring to divert or instruct my readers, I admired in them the beauty of my own performances. But I shall leave these wise conjectures to their own imaginations, and produce the three following letters for the entertainment of the day.
SIR, “I was last Thursday in an assembly of ladies, where there were thirteen different coloured hoods. Your Spectator of that day lying upon the table, they ordered me to read it to them, which I did with a very clear voice, till I came to the Greek verse at the end of it. I must confess, I was a little startled at its popping upon me so unexpectedly; however, I covered my confusion as well as I could, and after having muttered two or three hard words to myself, laughed heartily, and cried, • A very good jest, faith!' The ladies desired me to explain it to them; but I begged their pardon for that, and told them, that if it had been proper for them to hear, they may be sure the author would not have wrapt it up in Greek. I then let drop several expressions, as if there was something in it that was not fit to be spoken before a company of ladies. Upon which the matron of the assembly, who was dressed in a cherry-coloured hood, commended the discretion of the writer, for having thrown his filthy thoughts into Greek, which was likely to corrupt but few of his readers. At