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quitted. Upon which occasion, I gave it as a standing rule, “ that any person, who in any letter, bilJet, or discourse, should tell a woman he died for her, should, if she pleased, be obliged to live with her, or be immediately interred upon such their own confession, without bail or mainprize.”
It happened, that the very next who was brought be fore me was one of her admirers, who was indicted upon that very head. A letter, which he acknowledged to be his own hand, was read, in which were the following words, “ Cruel creature, I die for you." It was observable that he took snuff all the time his accusation was reading. I asked him, “ how he came to use these words, if he were not a dead man?" He told me, « he was in love with the lady, and did not know any other way of telling her so; and that all his acquaintance took the same method.” Though I was moved with compassion towards him, by reason of the weakness of his parts, yet for example-sake I was forced to answer, “ Your sentence shall be a warning to all the rest of your companions, not to tell lies for want of wit.” Upon this, he began to beat his snuff-box with a very saucy air; and opening it again, « Faith, Isaac," said he, “ thou art a very unaccountable old fellow-Pr’ythee, who gave thee power of life and death? What a-pox hast thou to do with ladies and lovers? I suppose thou wouldst have a man be in company with his mistress, and say nothing to her. Dost thou call breaking a jest, telling a lie? Ha? is that thy wisdom, old stiffrump, ha?” He was going on with this insipid common-place mirth, sometimes opening his box, sometimes shutting it, then viewing the picture on the lid, and then the workmanship of the hinge, when, in the midst of his eloquence, I ordered his box to be taken from him; upon which
he was immediately struck speechless, and carried off stone dead.
The next who appeared was a hale old fellow of sixty. He was brought in by his relations, who desired leave to bury him. Upon requiring a distinct account of the prisoner, a credible witness deposed, “ that he always rose at ten of the clock, played with his cat until twelve, smoaked tobacco until one, was at dinner until two, then took another pipe, played at back-gammon until six, talked of one Madam Frances, an old mistress of his, until eight, repeated the same account at the tavern until ten, then returned home, took the other pipe, and then to bed.” I asked him, “ what he had to say for himself?”_" As to what,” said he, “ they mention concerning Madam Francesa "
I did not care for hearing the Canterbury tale, and, therefore, thought myself seasonably interrupted by a young gentleman, who appeared in the behalf of the old man, and prayed an arrest of judgement; “ for that he the said young man held certain lands by his the said old man's life.” Upon this, the solicitor of the Upholders took an occasion to demand him also, and thereupon produced several evidences that witnessed to his life and conversation. It appeared, that each of them divided their hours in matters of equal moment and importance to themselves and to the public. They rose at the same hour: while the old man was playing with his cat, the young one was looking out of his window; while the old man was smoaking his pipe, the young man was rubbing his teeth; while one was at dinner, the other was dressing; while one was at back-gammon, the other was at dinner; while the old fellow was talking of Madam Frances, the young one was either at play, or toasting women whom he never
conversed with. The only difference was, that the young man had never been good for any thing; the old man, a man of worth before he knew Madam Frances. Upon the whole, I ordered them to be both interred together, with inscriptions proper to their characters, signifying, that the old man died in the year 1689, and was buried in the year 1709; and over the young one it was said, that he departed this world in the twenty-fifth year of his death.
The next class of criminals were authors in prose and verse. Those of them who had produced any still-born work were immediately dismissed to their burial, and were followed by others, who, notwithstanding some sprightly issue in their life-time, had given proofs of their death by some posthumous children, that bore no resemblance to their elder brethren. As for those who were the fathers of a mixed progeny, provided always they could prove the last to be a live child, they escaped with life, but not without loss of limbs; for, in this case, I was satisfied with amputation of the parts which were mortified.
These were followed by a great crowd of superannuated benchers of the inns of court, senior fellows of colleges, and defunct statesmen: all whom I ordered to be decimated indifferently, allowing the rest a reprieve for one year, with a promise of free para don in case of resuscitation.
There were still great multitudes to be examined; but, finding it very late, I adjourned the court, not without the secret pleasure that I had done my duty, and furnished out a handsome execution.
Going out of the court, I received a letter, informing me, “ that, in pursuance of the edict of justice in one of my late visions, all those of the fair sex began to appear pregnant who had run any hazard of it; as was manifest by a particular swelling in the petticoats of several ladies in and about
this great city." I must confess, I do not attribute the rising of this part of the dress to this occasion, yet must own, that I am very much disposed to be offended with such a new and unaccountable fashion. I shall, however, pronounce nothing upon it, until I have examined all that can be said for and against it. And, in the mean time, think fit to give this notice to the fair ladies who are now making up their winter suits, that they may abstain from all dresses of that kind, until they shall find what judgement will be passed upon them; for it would very much trouble me, that they should put themselves to an unnecessary expense; and I could not but think myself to blame, if I should hereafter forbid them the wearing of such garments, when they have laid out money upon them, without having given them any previous admonition.
N. B. A letter of the sixteenth instant about one of the fifth, will be answered according to the desire of the party, which he will see in a few days,
N°111. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 24, 1709,
-Procul, O! Procul, este profani! VIRG. Æn. VI. 258. Hence, ye profane! far hence be gone !
Sheer-lane, December 23. The watchman, who does me particular honours, as being the chief man in the lane, gave so very great a thump at my door last night, that I awakened
at the knock, and heard myself complimented with the usual salutation of, “ Good-morrow, Mr. Bickerstaff; good-morrow, my masters all.” The silence and darkness of the night disposed me to be more than ordinarily serious; and as my attention was not drawn out among exterior objects by the avocations of sense, my thoughts naturally fell upon myself. I was considering, amidst the stillness of the night, what was the proper employment of a thinking being? what were the perfections it should propose to itself? and what the end it should aim at? My mind is of such a particular cast, that the falling of a shower of rain, or the whistling of wind, at such a time, is apt to fill my thoughts with something awful and solemn. I was in this disposition, when our bellman began his midnight homily, which he has been repeating to us every winter-night for these twenty years, with the usual exordium ;
“ Oh! mortal inan, thou that art born in sin!”
Sentiments of this nature, which are in themselves just and reasonable, however debased by the circumstances that accompany them, do not fail to produce their natural effect in a mind that is not perverted and depraved by wrong notions of gallantry, politeness, and ridicule. The temper which I now found myself in, as well as the time of the year, put me in mind of those lines in Shakspeare, wherein, according to his agreeable wildness of imagination, he has wrought a country tradition into a beautiful piece of poetry. In the tragedy of Hamlet, where the ghost vanishes upon the cock's crowing, he takes occasion to mention its crowing all hours of the night about Christmas time, and to insinuate a kind of religious veneration for that season.