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to observe that large and terrible scythe which your governor affects to bear continually about him. Be pleased to remark the length and strength, the sharpness and hardness, of his nails and teeth; consider his baneful, abominable breath, enemy to life and matter, infectious and corrupting; and then reflect whether it be possible for any mortal ink and paper of this generation to make a suitable resistance. Oh! that your Highness would one day resolve to disarm this usurping maître du palais of his furious engines, and bring your empire hors de page.1
It were needless to recount the several methods of tyranny and destruction, which your governor is pleased to practice upon this occasion. His inveterate malice is such to the writings of our age, that of several thousands produced yearly from this renowned city, before the next revolution of the sun there is not one to be heard of. Unhappy infants! many of them barbarously destroyed, before they have so much as learnt their mother tongue to beg for pity. Some he stifles in their cradles; others he frights into convulsions, whereof they suddenly die; some he flays alive, others he tears limb from limb. Great numbers are offered to Moloch; and the rest, tainted by his breath, die of a languishing consumption.
But the concern I have most at heart is for our corporation of poets, from whom I am preparing a petition to your Highness, to be subscribed with the names of one hundred and thirty-six of the first rate, but whose immortal productions are never likely to reach your eyes, though each of them is now an humble and earnest appellant for the laurel, and has large comely volumes ready to show, for a support to his pretensions. The never-dying works of these illustrious persons, your governor, sir, has devoted to unavoidable death; and your Highness is to be made to believe that our age has never arrived at the honor to produce one single poet. We confess Immortality to be a great and powerful goddess, but in vain we offer up to her our devotions and our sacrifices, if your Highness's governor, who has usurped the priesthood, must, by an unparalleled ambition and avarice, wholly intercept and devour them.
To affirm that our age is altogether unlearned, and devoid of writers in any kind, seems to be an assertion so bold and so false, that I have been some time thinking the contrary may
1 Independent (having finished the term of service of a page).
almost be proved by uncontrollable demonstration. It is true, indeed, that although their numbers be vast, and their productions numerous in proportion, yet are they hurried so hastily off the scene that they escape our memory and elude our sight. When I first thought of this address, I had prepared a copious list of titles to present to your Highness, as an undisputed argument for what I affirm. The originals were posted fresh upon all gates and corners of streets; but, returning in a very few hours to take a review, they were all torn down, and fresh ones in their places. I inquired after them among readers and booksellers, but I inquired in vain; the memorial of them was lost among men; their place was no more to be found; and I was laughed to scorn for a clown and a pedant, without all taste and refinement, little versed in the course of present affairs, and that knew nothing of what had passed in the best companies of court and town. So that I can only avow in general to your Highness that we do abound in learning and wit; but to fix upon particulars is a task too slippery for my slender abilities. If I should venture in a windy day to affirm to your Highness that there is a large cloud near the horizon, in the form of a bear; another in the zenith, with the head of an ass; a third to the westward, with claws like a dragon; and your Highness should in a few minutes think fit to examine the truth, it is certain they would all be changed in figure and position. New ones would arise, and all we could agree upon would be that clouds there were, but that I was grossly mistaken in the zoography and topography of them.
But your governor perhaps may still insist, and put the question, What is then become of those immense bales of paper, which must needs have been employed in such numbers of books? Can these also be wholly annihilate, and so of a sudden, as I pretend? What shall I say in return of so invidious an objection? Books, like men their authors, have no more than one way of coming into the world, but there are ten thousand to go out of it, and return no more.
I profess to your Highness, in the integrity of my heart, that what I am going to say is literally true this minute I am writing; what revolutions may happen before it shall be ready for your perusal, I can by no means warrant; however, I beg you to accept it as a specimen of our learning, our politeness, and
our wit. I do therefore affirm, upon the word of a sincere man, that there is now actually in being a certain poet, called John Dryden, whose translation of Virgil was lately printed in a large folio, well bound, and, if diligent search were made, for aught I know, is yet to be seen. There is another, called Nahum Tate, who is ready to make oath that he has caused many reams of verse to be published, whereof both himself and his bookseller (if lawfully required) can still produce authentic copies, and therefore wonders why the world is pleased to make such a secret of it. There is a third, known by the name of Tom Durfey, a poet of a vast comprehension, a universal genius, and most profound learning. There are also one Mr. Rymer and one Mr. Dennis, most profound critics. There is a person styled Dr. Bentley, who has written near a thousand pages of immense erudition, giving a full and true account of a certain squabble of wonderful importance between himself and a bookseller; he is a writer of infinite wit and humor; no man rallies with a better grace, and in more sprightly turns. Farther, I avow to your Highness that with these eyes I have beheld the person of William Wotton, B.D., who has written a good sizable volume against a friend 1 of your governor (from whom, alas! he must therefore look for little favor), in a most gentlemanly style, adorned with the utmost politeness and civility, replete with discoveries equally valuable for their novelty and use, and embellished with traits of wit so poignant and so apposite that he is a worthy yokemate to his forementioned friend.
Why should I go upon farther particulars, which might fill a volume with the just eulogies of my contemporary brethren? I shall bequeath this piece of justice to a larger work, wherein I intend to write a character of the present set of wits in our nation. Their persons I shall describe particularly and at length, their genius and understandings in miniature.
In the meantime, I do here make bold to present your Highness with a faithful abstract, drawn from the universal body of all arts and sciences, intended wholly for your service and instruction. Nor do I doubt in the least but your Highness will peruse it as carefully, and make as considerable improvements, as other young princes have already done by the many volumes of late years written for a help to their studies.
1 Sir William Temple, who had taken the part of antiquity in the "quarrel of the ancients and moderns," while Wotton represented the latter. See Swift's Battle of the Books.
That your Highness may advance in wisdom and virtue, as well as years, and at last outshine all your royal ancestors, shall be the daily prayer of, Sir,
Your Highness's most devoted, &c.
A TALE OF A TUB
Once upon a time, there was a man who had three sons by one wife, and all at a birth; neither could the midwife tell certainly which was the eldest. Their father died while they were young; and upon his death-bed, calling the lads to him, spoke thus:
"Sons, because I have purchased no estate, nor was born to any, I have long considered of some good legacies to bequeath you; and at last, with much care, as well as expense, have provided each of you (here they are) a new coat. Now you are to understand that these coats have two virtues contained in them: one is, that with good wearing they will last you fresh and sound as long as you live; the other is, that they will grow in the same proportion with your bodies, lengthening and widening of themselves, so as to be always fit. Here, — let me see them on you before I die. So; very well; pray, children, wear them clean, and brush them often. You will find in my will (here it is) full instructions in every particular concerning the wearing and management of your coats; wherein you must be very exact, to avoid the penalties I have appointed for every transgression or neglect, upon which your future fortunes will entirely depend. I have also commanded in my will, that you should live together in one house like brethren and friends, for then you will be sure to thrive, and not otherwise."
Here, the story says, this good father died, and the three sors went all together to seek their fortunes.
I shall not trouble you with recounting what adventures they met for the first seven years, any farther than by taking notice that they carefully observed their father's will, and kept their coats in very good order; that they traveled through several countries, encountered a reasonable quantity of giants, and slew certain dragons.
Being now arrived at the proper age for producing themselves,
they came up to town, and fell in love with the ladies, but espe cially three, who about that time were in chief reputation, the Duchess d'Argent, Madame de Grands Titres, and the Countess d'Orgueil. On their first appearance, our three adventurers met with a very bad reception; and soon with great sagacity guessing out the reason, they quickly began to improve in the good qualities of the town: they writ, and rallied, and rhymed, and sung, and said, and said nothing; they drank, and fought, and slept, and swore, and took snuff; they went to new plays on the first night, haunted the chocolate-houses, beat the watch, and lay on bulks; they bilked hackney-coachmen, and ran in debt with shopkeepers; they killed bailiffs, kicked fiddlers down stairs, eat at Locket's, loitered at Will's;1 they talked of the drawing-room, and never came there; dined with lords they never saw; whispered a duchess, and spoke never a word; exposed the scrawls of their laundress for billetdoux of quality; came ever just from court, and were never seen in it; attended the levee sub dio; 2 got a list of peers by heart in one company, and with great familiarity retailed them in another. Above all, they constantly attended those committees of senators who are silent in the house and loud in the coffee-house, where they nightly adjourn to chew the cud of politics, and are encompassed with a ring of disciples, who lie in wait to catch up their droppings. The three brothers had acquired forty other qualifications of the like stamp, too tedious to recount, and by consequence were justly reckoned the most accomplished persons in the town; but all would not suffice, and the ladies aforesaid continued still inflexible. To clear up which difficulty I must, with the reader's good leave and patience, have recourse to some points of weight, which the authors of that age have not sufficiently illustrated.
For about this time it happened a sect arose, whose tenets obtained and spread very far, especially in the grand monde, and among everybody of good fashion. They worshiped a sort of idol, who, as their doctrine delivered, did daily create men by a kind of manufactory operation. This idol they placed in the highest part of the house, on an altar erected about three foot; he was shown in the posture of a Persian emperor, sitting
1 A leading coffee-house, in Covent Garden. Locket's was a restaurant near Charing Cross. The tailor.
2 In the open air; i. e. they stayed in the street.