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The business of these philosophers in society is to check the flights and sallies of those volatile beings who are subject to be carried away by imagination and fancy, or, in other words, to act as a counterpoise against genius; of the vices of mankind they take little notice, but they are at great pains to correct their vanity. They have various receipts for curing this evil; the ordinary method is, by keeping stern silence and an unmoved visage in companies which are disposed to be cheerful. This taciturnity, it well kept up, never fails in the end to work a cure upon festivity according to the first principle of Thales: if the Damper looks morose, every body wonders what the moody gentleman is displeased with, and each in his turn suspects himself in the fault; if he only looks wise, all are expecting when the dumb oracle will utter, and in the mean time his silence infects the whole circle; if the Damper seasons his taciturnity with a shrug of the shoulders, or a shake of the head, judiciously thrown in, when any talkative fellow raises a laugh, 'tis ten to one if the mortified wit ever opens his mouth again for that evening; if a story is told in his company, and the teller makes a slip in a date, or a name, a true Damper may open, provided it is done agreeably to the rules of his order, by setting the storyteller right with much gravity, and adjusting the mistake so deliberately that the spirit of the story shall be sure to evaporate before the commentator has properly settled his correction of the text. If any lucky wit chances to say what is called a good thing, and the table applauds, it is a Damper's duty to ask an explanation of the joke, or whether that was all, and what t'other gentleman said, who was the butt of the jest, and other proper questions of the like sort.

If one of the company risks a sally for the sake of good fellowship, which is a little on the wrong side of truth, or not strictly

reducible to proof, a Damper may with great propriety set him right in the matter of fact, and demonstrate, as clear as two and two make four, that what he has said may be mathematically confuted, and that the merry gentleman is mistaken. A Damper is to keep a strict watch over the morals of the company, and not to suffer the least indiscretion to escape in the warmth of conviviality; on this occasion he must be ready to call to order, and to answer for his friend to the company, that he has better principles than he affects to have; that he should be sorry such and such an opinion went out against him; and that he is certain he forgot himself, when he said so and so. If any glance is made at private characters, however notorious, a Damper steps in with a recommendation of candour, and inveighs most pathetically against the sin of evil speaking. He is never merry in

company, except when any one in it is apparently out of spirits, and with such a one he is always exceedingly pleasant.

A Damper is so professed an enemy to flattery that he never applies it in ever so small a degree even to the most diffident: he never cheers a young author for fear of marring his modesty, never sinks truths because they are disagreeable, and if any one is rashly enjoying the transports of public fame on account of some successful production in art or science, the Damper kindly tells him what such and such a critic has scoffingly said on the occasion, and if nothing better offers, lowers his triumphs with a paragraph from a newspaper, which his thoughtless friend might else have overlooked. He is remarkably careful not to spoil young people by making allowances for spirits or inexperience, or by indulging them in an opinion of their persons or accomplishments. He has many excellent apothegms in his mouth ready to recommend to those who want them, such as to be

merry and wise:-a grain of truth is better than an ounce of wit ; :-a fool's bolt is soon shot, but a wise man keeps his within the quiver ;-he that was only taught by himself had a fool to his master ;-and many more of the like sort.

The following letter will serve to show in what sort of estimation this sect of Dampers was held by a Roman author, who was one of the finest gentlemen of his time.

PLINY TO RESTITUTUS*. “I cannot forbear pouring out my indignation before you

in a letter, since I have no opportunity of doing so in person, against a certain behaviour which gave me some offence in an assembly, where I was lately present. The company was entertained with the recital of a very finished performance: but there were two or three persons among the audience, men of great genius in their own and a few of their friends' estimation, who sat like so many mutes, without so much as moving a lip or a hand, or once rising from their seats, even to shift their posture. But to what purpose, in the name of good sense, all this wonderous air of wisdom and solemnity, or rather indeed (to give it its true appellation) of this proud indolence? Is it not downright folly, or even madness, thus to be at the expense of a whole day merely to commit a piece of rudeness, and leave bim an enemy whom

you

visited as a friend? Is a man conscious that he possesses a superior degree of eloquence than the person whom he attends upon on such an occasion ? So much the rather ought he to guard against every appearance of envy, as a passion that always implies inferiority wherever it resides. But whatever a man's talent may be, whether greater,

* Melmoth's translation.

or equal, or less than his friend's, still it is his interest to give him the approbation he deserves : if greater or equal, because the higher his glory rises whom you equal or excel, the more considerable yours must necessarily be: if less, because if one of more exalted abilities does not meet with applause, neither possibly can you. For my own part, I honour and revere all who discover any degree of merit in the painful and laborious art of oratory; for eloquence is a high and haughty dame, who scorns to reside with those that despise her. But perhaps you are not of this opinion ; yet who has a greater regard for this glorious science, or is a more candid judge of it than yourself? In confidence of which, I chose to vent 'my indignation particularly to you, as not doubting you would be the first to share with me in the same sentiments. Farewell.”

The Romans were much in the habit of reading their unpublished performances to select parties, and sometimes no doubt put the patience and politeness of their hearers to a severe trial: I conceive that this practice does not obtain to any great degree amongst us at present: neither is it a thing to be recommended to young authors, except under peculiar circumstances; for they certainly expose themselves and their hearers to a situation very delicate at best, and which sometimes leads to unpleasant consequences. I am aware how much is to be expected from the judicious remarks of a critic who will correct with all the malice of a friend; yet a man so qualified and disposed is not easily found, and does not often fall within the list of an author's acquaintance: men, who read their works in circles, or to any but the most select friends, read for no other purpose but for admiration and applause; they cannot possibly expect criticism, and it is accordingly agreed upon by all, but the sect of the Dampers, either to

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keep out of such circles, or to

рау. their quota when the reckoning is cast up. Few, but men of quick and lively parts, are forward to recite such societies, and these are the very men who are most pained by neglect; for I think it is a remark, with as few exceptions to it as most general remarks have, that brilliant talents are attended with extreme sensibility, and the effects of sensibility bear such resemblance to the effects of vanity, that the undiscerning multitude are too apt to confound them.

These are the men who, in their progress through • life, are most frequently misunderstood, and generally less pitied than they ought to be.

Now a Damper will tell you that he is consulting such a man's good, and lowering his vanity, when he is sporting with his feelings, and will take merit to himself for the discipline he gives bim: but humanity will reflect, that the same spirits, which are prone to exult upon success, are proportionably agonized by the failure of it, and will therefore prompt us to a gentler treatment of such persons.

The sums which are expended in this nation upon those refined enjoyments, which are produced by the expertness of the hands and the ingenuity of the head, are certainly very great; and men are therefore apt to exclaim,“ See what encouragement this country gives to arts and sciences !" If money were the standard measure of encouragement, there could be no dispute in the case; but so long as men have a feeling for their pride, as well as for their pocket, money alone will not encourage and promote the genius of a nation; it is the grace of doing a favour which constitutes its merit; it is from the manners of the great, that the man of rising talents is to draw that inspiriting consideration of himself, that stimulating pride of nature, which are to push his efforts towards perfection.

A limner will take a canvass and chalk out a

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