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views, Medleys, and Examiners. Men, women, and children, contend who shall be the first bearers of them, and get their daily sustenance by spreading them. In short, when I trace in my mind a bundle of rags to a quire of Spectators, I find so many hands employed in every step they take through their whole progress, that while I am writing a Spectator, I fancy myself providing bread for a multitude.
If I do not take care to obviate some of my witty readers, they will be apt to tell me, that my paper, after it is thus printed and published, is still beneficial to the public on several occasions. I must confess I have lighted my pipe with my own works for this twelvemonth past: my landlady often sends up her little daughter to desire some of my old Spectators, and has frequently told me, that the paper they are printed on is the best in the world to wrap spice in. They likewise make a good foundation for a mutton-pie, as I have more than once experienced, and were very much sought for last Christmas by the whole neighbourhood.
It is pleasant enough to consider the changes that a linen fragment undergoes, by passing through the several hands above-mentioned. The finest pieces of Holland, when torn to tatters, assume a new whiteness more beautiful than their first, and often return in the shape of letters to their native country. A lady's shift may be metamorphosed into billet-doux, and come into her possession a second time. A beau may peruse his cravat after it is worn out, with greater pleasure and advantage than ever he did in a glass. In a word, a piece of cloth, after having officiated for some years as a towel or a napkin, may by this means be raised from a dunghill, and become the most valuable piece of furniture in a prince's cabinet.
The politest nations of Europe have endeavoured to vie with one another for the reputation of the finest printing: absolute governments, as well as republics, have encouraged an art which seems to be the noblest and most beneficial that was ever invented among the sons of men. The present king of France, in his pur
suits after glory, has particularly distinguished himself by the promoting of this useful art, insomuch that several books have been printed in the Louvre at his own expence, upon which he sets so great a value, that he considers them as the noblest presents he can make to foreign princes and ambassadors. If we look into the commonwealths of Holland and Venice, we shall find that in this particular they have made themselves the envy of the greatest monarchies. Elzevir and Aldus are more frequently mentioned than any pensioner of the one or doge of the other.
The several presses which are now in England, and the great encouragement which has been given to learning for some years last past, has made our own nation as glorious upon this account, as for its late triumphs and conquests. The new edition which is given us of Cæsar's Commentaries, has already been taken notice of in foreign gazettes, and is a work that does honour to the English press. It is no wonder that an edition should be very correct, which has passed through the hands of one of the most accurate, learned, and judicious writers this age has produced. The beauty of the paper, of the character, and of the several cuts with which this noble work is illustrated, makes it the finest book that I have ever seen; and is a true instance of the English genius, which, though it does not come the first into any art, generally carries it to greater heights than any other country in the world. I am particularly glad that this author comes from a British printing-house in so great a magnificence, as he is the first who has given us any tolerable account of our country.
My illiterate readers, if any such there are, will be surprised to hear me talk of learning as the glory of a nation, and of printing as an art that gains a reputation to a people among whom it flourishes. When men's thoughts are taken up with avarice and ambition, they cạnnot look upon any thing as great or valuable, which does not bring with it an extraordinary power or interest to the person who is concerned in it. But as I shall
never sink this paper so far as to engage with Goths and Vandałs, I shall only regard such kind of reasoners with that pity which is due to so deplorable a degree of stupidity and ignorance.
No. 371. TUESDAY, MAY 6.
Jamne igitur laudas quod de sapientibus unus
SHALL communicate to my reader the following letter for the entertainment of this day.
“ You know very well that our nation is more famous for that sort of men who are called Whims and Humourists, than any other country in the world ; for which reason it is observed that our English comedy excels that of all other nations in the novelty and variety of its characters.
“ Among those innumerable sets of Whims which our country produces, there are none whom I have regarded with more curiosity than those who have invented any particular kind of diversion for the entertainment of themselves or their friends. My letter shall single out those who take delight in sorting a company that has something of burlesque and ridicule in its appearance. I shall make myself understood by the following example. One of the wits of the last age, who was a man of a good estate, thought he never laid out his money better than in a jest. As he was one year at the Bath, observing that in the great confluence of fine people, there were several among them with long chins, a part of the visage by which he himself was very much distinguished, he invited to dinner half a score of these remarkable persons who had their mouths in the middle
of their faces. They had no sooner placed themselves about the table, but they began to stare upon one another, not being able to imagine what had brought them together. Our English proverb says,
'Tis merry in the hall,
all. It proved so in an assembly I am now speaking of, who seeing so many peaks of faces agitated with eating, drinking, and discourse, and observing all the chins that were present meeting together very often over the centre of the table, every one grew sensible of the jest, and came into it with so much good-humour, that they lived in strict friendship and alliance from that day forward.
“ The same gentleman some time after packed together a set of oglers, as he called them, consisting of such as had an unlucky cast in their eyes.
His diversion on this occasion was to see the cross bows, mistaken signs, and wrong connivances that passed amidst so many broken and refracted rays of sight.
“ The third feast which this merry gentleman exhibited was to the stammerers, whom he got together in a sufficient body to fill his table. He had ordered one of his servants, who was placed behind a skreen, to write down their table-talk, which was very easy to be done without the help of short-hand. It appears by the notes which were taken, that though their conversation never fell, there were not above twenty words spoken during the first course; that upon serving up the second, one of the company was a quarter of an hour in telling them, that the ducklins and sparrow-grass was very good; and that another took up the same time in declaring himself of the same opinion. This jest did not, however, go off so well as the former; for one of the guests being a brave man, and fuller of resentment than he knew how to express, went out of the room, and sent the facetious inviter a challenge in writing, which though it was afterwards dropped by the interposition of friends, put a stop to these ludicrous entertainments.
“ Now, sir, I dare say you will agree with me, that as there is no moral in these jests, they ought to be discouraged, and looked upon rather as pieces of unluckiness than wit. However, as it is natural for one man to refine upon the thought of another, and impossible for any single person, how great soever his parts may be, to invent an art, and bring it to its utmost perfection; I shall here give you an account of an honest gentleman of my acquaintance, who upon hearing the character of the wit above-mentioned, has himself assumed it, and endeavoured to convert it to the benefit of mankind. He invited half a dozen of his friends one day to dinner, who were each of them famous for inserting several redundant phrases in their discourse, as •D'ye hear me, D'ye see, That is, And so, sir.' Each of the guests making frequent use of his particular elegance, appeared so ridiculous to his neighbour, that he could not but reflect upon himself as appearing equally ridiculous to the rest of the company: by this means, before they had sat long together, every one talking with the greatest circumspection, and carefully avoiding his favourite expletive, the conversation was cleared of its redundancies, and had a greater quantity of sense, though less of sound in it.
“ The same well-meaning gentleman took occasion at another time, to bring together such of his friends as were addicted to a foolish habitual custom of swearing. In order to shew them the absurdity of the practice, he had recourse to the invention above-mentioned, having placed an amanuensis in a private part of the room. After the second bottle, when men open their minds without reserve, my honest friend began to take notice of the many sonorous but unnecessary words that had passed in his house since their sitting down at table, and how much good conversation they had lost by giving way to such superfluous phrases. What a tax, says he, would they have raised for the poor, had we put the laws in execution upon one another ? Every one of them took this gentle reproof in good part : upon which he told them, that knowing their conversation would