« PředchozíPokračovat »
The man in disgrace shall immediately lose all his natural endowments, and he that finds favour have the attributes of an angel.' He would carry it so far as to say, “ It should not be only so in the opinion of the lower part of his court, but the men themselves shall think thus meanly or greatly of themselves, as they are out, or in the good graces of a court.'
A monarch who had wit and humour like Pharamond, must have pleasures which no man else can ever have opportunity of enjoying. He gave
fortune to none but those whom he knew could receive it without transport. He made a noble and generous use of his observations, and did not regard his ministers as they were agreeable to himself, but as they were useful to his kingdom. By this means, the king appeared in every officer of state ; and no man had a participation of the power, who had not a similitude of the virtue of Pharamond.
N° 77. TUESDAY, MAY 29, 1711.
Non convivere licet, nec urbe tota
MART. Epig. i. 87.
My friend Will Honeycomb is one of those sort of men who are very often absent in conversation, and what the French call a reveur and a distrait. A little before our club-time last night, we were walking together in Somerset-gardens, where Will had picked
up a small pebble of so odd a make, that he said he would present it to a friend of his, an eminent virtuoso. After we had walked some time, I made a full stop with my face towards the west, which Will knowing to be my usual method of asking what's o'clock, in an afternoon, immediately pulled out his watch, and told me we had seven minutes good. We took a turn or two more, when to my great surprise, I saw him squir away his watch a considerable way into the Thames, and with great sedateness in his looks put up the pebble, he had before found, in his fob. As I have naturally an aversion to much speaking, and do not love to be the messenger of ill news, especially when it comes too late to be useful, I lett him to be convinced of his mistake in due time, and continued my walk, reflecting on these little absences and distractions in mankind, and resolving to make them the sųbject of a future speculation.
I was the more confirmed'in my design, when I considered that they were very often blemishes in the characters of men of excellent sense; and helped to keep up the reputation of that Latin proverb, which Mr. Dryden has translated in the following lines :
Great wit to madness şure is near a'ly'd,
My reader does, I hope, perceive, that I distinguish a man who is absent, because he thinks of something else, from one who is absent, because he thinks of nothing at all. The latter is too innocent a creature to be taken notice of; but the distractions of the former may, I believe, be generally accounted for from one of these reasons.
* Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiæ.--Se. neca De Tranquil. Anim. cap. xv.
Either their minds are wholly fixed on some particular science, which is often the case of mathematicians and other learned men; or are wholly taken up with some violent passion, such as anger, fear, or love, which ties the mind to some distant object; or, lastly, these distractions proceed from a certain vivacity and fickleness in a man's temper, which while it raises up infinite numbers of ideas in the mind, is continually pushing it on, without allowing it to rest on any particular image. Nothing therefore is more unnatural than the thoughts and conceptions of such a man, which are seldom occasioned either by the company
he is in, or any of those objects which are placed before him. While you fancy he is admiring a beautiful woman, it is an even wager that he is solving a position in Euclid; and while you may imagine he is reading the Paris Gazette, it is far from being impossible, that he is pulling down and rebuilding the front of his country-house.
At the same time that I am endeavouring to expose this weakness in others, I shall readily confess that I once laboured under the same infirmity myself. The method I took to conquer it was a firm resolution to learn something from whatever I was obliged to see, or hear. There is a way of thinking, if a man can attain to it, by which he may
strike somewhat out any thing. I can at present observe those starts of good sense, and struggles of unimproved reason in the conversation of a clown, with as much satisfaction as the most shining periods of the most finished ora, tor; and can make a shift to command
attention at a puppet-show or an opera, as well as at Hamlet or Othello. I always make one of the company I am in; for though I say little myself, my attention to others, and those nods of approbation which I never bestow unmerited, sufficiently shew that I am among them. Whereas Will Honeycomb, though a fellow
of good sense, is every day doing and saying an huudred things, which he afterwards confesses, with a well-bred frankness, were somewhat mal a propos, and undesigned.
I chanced the other day to get into a coffee-house, where Will was standing in the midst of several auditors, whom he had gathered round him, and was giving them an account of the person and character of Moll Hinton. My appearance before him just put him in mind of me, without making him reflect that I was actually present. So that keeping his eyes full upon me, to the great surprise of his audience, he broke off his first harangue, and proceeded thus: - Why now there's my friend,' mentioning me by my name, ‘he is a fellow that thinks a great deal, but never opens his mouth; I warrant you he is now thrusting his short face into some coffee-house about 'Charge. I was his bail in the time of the Popish plot, when he was taken up for a jesuit.' - If he had looked on me a little longer, he had certainly described me so particularly, without ever considering what led him into it, that the whole company must necessarily have found me out; for which reason, remembering the old proverb, Out of sight out of mind,' I left the room; and upon meeting him an hour afterwards, was asked by him, with a great deal of good humour, in what part of the world I lived, that he had not seen me these three days.
Monsieur Bruyere has given us the character of an absent man with a great deal of humour, which he has pushed to an agreeable extravagance; with the heads of it I shall conclude my present paper.
• Menalcas,' says that excellent author, down in the morning, opens his door to go out, but shuts it again, because he perceives that he has his night-cap on; and examining himself further, finds that he is but half-shaved, that he has stuck his sword
on his right side, that his stockings are about his heels, and that his shirt is over his breeches. When he is dressed he goes to court, comes into the drawing-room, and walking bolt-upright under a branch of candlesticks, his wig is caught up by one of them, and hangs dangling in the air. All the courtiers fall a laughing, but Menalcas laughs louder than any of them, and looks about for the person that is the jest of the company. Coming down to the court gate he finds a coach, which taking for his own, he whips into it: and the coachman drives off, not doubting but he carries his master. As soon as he stops, Menalcas throws himself out of the coach, crosses the court, ascends the stair-case, and runs through all the chambers with the greatest familiarity; reposes himself on a couch, and fancies himself at home. The master of the house at last comes in; Menalcas rises to receive him, and desires him to sit down; he talks, muses, and then talks again. The gentleman of the house is tired and amazed; Menalcas is no less so, but is every moment in hopes that his impertinent guest will at last end his tedious visit. Night comes on, when Menalcas is hardly undeceived,
When he is playing at backgammon, he calls for a full glass of wine and water; it is his turn to throw; he has the box in one hand, and his glass in the other; and being extremely dry, and unwilling to lose time, he swallows down both the dice, and at the same time throws his wine into the tables. He writes a letter, and Aings the sand into the ink-bottle; he writes a second, and mistakes the superscription. A nobleman receives one of them, and upon opening it reads as follows: “ I would have you, honest Jack, immediately upon the receipt of this, take in hay enough to serve me the winter.” His farmer receives the other, and is amazed to see in it, “My lord, I received your grace's commands, with an entire submis