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• After so long a letter, I am, without more ceremony,
• Your humble fervant, &c.'
FRIDAY, JULY 2.
Præsens, absens ut fies.
TER. EUN. Act. i. Sc. 2. Be present as if absent. IT I is a hard and nice subject for a man to speak of
himself, fays Cowley; it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. Let the tenour of his discourse be what it will upon this subject, it generally proceeds from vanity. An ostentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absur. dity he has committed, than be debarred from talk. ing of his own dear perfon.
Some very great writers have been guilty of this fault. It is observed of Tully in particular, that his works run very much in the first person, and that he takes all occasions of doing himself justice. • Does he think, says Brutus, that his consulthip • deserves more applause than my putting Cæfar to
death, because I am not perpetually talking of. " the ides of March, as he is of the nones. of De.
cember?' I need not acquaint my learned reader. that, in the ides of March, Brutus destroyed.Cæfar, and that Cicero quashed the conspiracy of Catiline. in the calends of December. How shocking foever this great man's talking of himself might have been to his contemporaries, I must confefs I am never better pleased than when he is on this subject. Such openings of the heart give a man a thorough infight into his personal character, and illustrate feveral pallages in the history of his life : Besides
that, there is some little pleasure in discovering the infirmity of a great man, and seeing how the opinion he has of himself agrees with what the world entertains of him.
The gentlemen of Port Royal, who were more eminent for their learning and their humility than any other in France, banished the way of speaking in the first person out of all their works, as rising from vain-glory and self-conceit. To shew their particular averfion to it, they branded this form of writing with the name of an Egotism; a figure not to be found among the ancient rhetoricians.
The most violent egotism which I have met with in the course of my reading, is that of Cardinal Wolsey, Ego et Rex meus, I and my King; as perhaps the most eminent egotist that ever appeared in the world was Montague, the author of the celebrated effays. This lively old Gascon has woven all his bodily infirmities into his works, and after having fpoken of the faults or virtues of any other man, immediately publishes to the world how it stands with himself in that particular. Had he kept his own counsel, he might have passed for a much better man, though perhaps he would not have been fo diverting an author. The title of an effay promifes perhaps a discourse upon Virgil, or Julius Cæfar; but when you look into it, you are sure to meet with more upon Monsieur Montague, th an of either of them. The younger Scaliger, who seems to have been no great friend to this author, after having acquainted the world that his father fold herrings, adds these words ; La grande failaise de Montague, qui a ecrit qu'il aimoit miex le vin blanc
-que diable a-t-on a faire de sçavoir ce qu'il aime ? For my part, says Montague, I am a great lover of your white wines What the devil signifies it to the public, says Scaliger, whether he is a lover of white zvines, or of red wines ?
I cannot here forbear mentioning a tribe of egotists, for whom I have always had a mortal aver. sion, I mean the authors of memoirs, who are never mentioned in any works but their own, and who raise all their productions out of this single figure of speech.
Most of our modern prefaces favour very strong. ly of the egotism. Every insignificant author fancies it of importance to the world, to know that he writ his book in the country, that he did it to pass away some of his idle hours, that it was published at the importunity of friends, or that his natural temper, studies, or conversation, directed him to the choice of his subject.
Id populus curat fcilicet. Such informations cannot but be highly improving to the reader:
In works of humour, especially when a man writes under a fictitious personage, the talking of one's self may give some diversion to the public ; but I would advise every other writer never to speak of himself, unless there be something very confi. derable in his character? Though I am sensible this rule will be of little use in the world, because there is no man who fancies his thoughts worth publithing, that does not look upon himself as a confiderable person.
I shall close this paper with a remark upon such as are egotists in conversation : These are generally the vain or shallow part of mankind, people being naturally full of themselves when they have nothing else in them. There is one kind of egotists which is very common in the world, though I do not remember that any writer has taken notice of them ; I mean those empty conceited fellows, who repeat as sayings of their own, or some of their particular friends, several jefts which were made before they were born, and which every one who has conversed
in the world has heard a hundred times over. A forward young fellow of my acquaintance was very guilty of this absurdity; he would be always laying a new scene for some old piece of wit, and telling us, that as he and fack Such-a-one were together, one or t'other of them had such a conceit on fuch an occasion; upon which he would laugh very heartily, and wonder the company did not join with him. When his mirth was over, I have often reprehended him out of Terence, Tuumne, obsecro te, hoc dictum erat ? vetus credidi. But finding him ftill incorrigible, and having a kindness for the young coxcomb, who was otherwise a good-natured fellow, I recommended to his perufal the Oxford and Cambridge jefts, with several little pieces of pleasantry of the fame nature. Upon the reading of them, he was under no finall confufion to find that all his jokes had passed through several edi. tions, and that what he thought was a new conceit, and had appropriated to his own use, had appeared in print before he or his ingenious friends were ever heard of. This had so good an effect upon him, that he is content at present to pass for a man of plain sense in his ordinary conversation, and is never facecious but when he knows his company.
MONDAY, JULY 5.
Magni nominis umbra.
LUCAN. 1. i. ver. 135. The shadow of a mighty name, I SHALL entertain my reader with two very curichimerical person, who I believe never writ to any body before.
Am descended from the ancient family of the
Blanks, a name well known among all men of * business. It is always read in those little white spaces of writing which want to be filled up,
and which for that reafon are called blank spaces, as of right appertaining to our family: For I confider
myself as the Lord of a manor, who lays his claim " to all wastes or spots of ground that are unappro• priated. I am a near kinsman to John a Styles and
John a Nokes ; and they, I am told, came in with the Conqueror, I am mentioned oftner in both houses of parliament than any other person in • Great Britain. My name is written, or, more * properly speaking, not written, thus,
I am one ihat can turn my hand to every thing, ' and appear under any shape whatsoever. I can 'make myself man, woman, or child. I am some? times metamorphosed into a year of our Lord, a
day of the month, or an hour of the day. I 'very often represent a fum of money, and am
generally the first subsidy that is granted to the • crown. I have now and then supplied the place
of several thousands of land soldiers, and have as frequently been employed in the sea-service.
Now, Sir, my complaint is this, that I am only 'made use of to serve a turn, being always discard' ed as soon as a proper person is found out to fill up my place.
you have ever been in the play-house before • the curtain rises, you see most of the front-boxes
filled with men of my family, who forthwith turn out and resign their stations upon the appearance of those for whom they are retained. • But the moft illuftrions branch of the Bhanks are those who are planted in high posts, until such time as persons of greater confequence can s be found out to supply them. One of those • Blanks is equally qualified for all offices, he can