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After fo long a letter, I am, without more ce

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Be prefent as if abfent.

T is a hard and nice fubject for a man to speak of himfelf, fays Cowley; it grates his own heart to fay any thing of difparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. Let the tenour of his difcourfe be what it will upon this fubject, it generally proceeds from vanity. An oftentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an abfurdity he has committed, than be debarred from talking of his own dear perfon.

Some very great writers have been guilty of this. fault. It is obferved of Tully in particular, that his works run very much in the firft perfon, and that he takes all occafions of doing himself justice. Does he think, fays Brutus, that his confulfhip deferves more applaufe than my putting Cafar 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 deftroyed.Cæfar, and that Cicero quafhed the confpiracy of Catiline in the calends of December. How fhocking 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 fubject. Such openings of the heart give a man a thorough infight into his perfonal character, and illuftrate feveral paffages in the hiftory of his life: Befides


that, there is some little pleasure in difcovering the infirmity of a great man, and feeing 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 perfon out of all their works, as rifing from vain-glory and felf-conceit. To fhew their particular averfion to it, they branded this form of writing with the name of an Egotifm; a figure not to be found among the ancient rhetoricians.

The most violent egotifm which I have met with in the course of my reading, is that of Cardinal Wolfey, 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 Gafcon 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 ftands with himfelf in that particular. Had he kept his own counfel, he might have paffed for a much better man, though perhaps he would not have been fo diverting an author. The title of an effay promifes perhaps a difcourfe upon Virgil, or Julius Cafar; but when you look into it, you are fure to meet with more upon Monfieur Montague, than of either of them. The younger Scaliger, who feems to have been no great friend to this author, after having acquainted the world that his father fold herrings, adds these words; La grande faidaife de Montague, qui a ecrit qu'il aimoit miex le vin blanc

que diable a-t-on a faire de fçavoir ce qu'il aime? For my part, fays Montague, I am a great lover of your white winesWhat the devil fignifies it to the public, fays Scaliger, whether he is a lover of white vines, or of red wines ?

I cannot

I cannot here forbear mentioning a tribe of egotifts, for whom I have always had a mortal averfion, I mean the authors of memoirs, who are never mentioned in any works but their own, and who raife all their productions out of this fingle figure of speech.

Moft of our modern prefaces favour very strongly of the egotifm. Every infignificant 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 fome of his idle hours, that it was published at the importunity of friends, or that his natural temper, ftudies, or converfation, directed him to the choice of his fubject.

-Id populus curat fcilicet.

Such informations cannot but be highly improving to the reader.

In works of humour, efpecially when a man writes under a fictitious perfonage, the talking of one's felf may give fome diverfion to the public; but I would advise every other writer never to speak of himself, unless there be fomething very confiderable in his character? Though I am fenfible this rule will be of little ufe in the world, because there is no man who fancies his thoughts worth publishing, that does not look upon himself as a confiderable perfon.

I fhall clofe this paper with a remark upon fuch as are egotists in converfation: Thefe are generally the vain or fhallow part of mankind, people being naturally full of themselves when they have nothing elfe in them. There is one kind of egotifts which is very common in the world, though I do not remember that any writer has taken notice of them ; I mean thofe empty conceited fellows, who repeat as fayings of their own, or fome of their particular friends, feveral jefts which were made before they were born, and which every one who has converfed


in the world has heard a hundred times over. A forward young fellow of my acquaintance was very guilty of this abfurdity; he would be always laying a new scene for fome old piece of wit, and telling us, that as he and Jack Such-a-one were together, one or t'other of them had fuch a conceit on fuch an occafion; 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, obfecro 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 feveral little pieces of pleafantry of the fame nature. Upon the reading of them, he was under no finall confufion to find that all his jokes had paffed through feveral editions, and that what he thought was a new conceit, and had appropriated to his own ufe, had appeared in print before he or his ingenious friends were ever heard of. This had fo good an effect upon him, that he is content at prefent to pafs for a man of plain fenfe in his ordinary converfation, and is never facetious but when he knows his company.

No 563.



Magni nominis umbra.

LUCAN. 1. i. ver. 135.

The fhadow of a mighty name.

SHALL entertain my reader with two very curious letters. The firft of them comes from a chimerical perfon, who I believe never writ to any body before.



• SIR,



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Aм defcended from the ancient family of the Blanks, a name well known among all men of bufinefs. It is always read in thofe little white fpaces 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 myfelf as the Lord of a manor, who lays his claim to all waftes or fpots of ground that are unappropriated. I am a near kinfman to John a Styles and John a Nokes; and they, I am told, came in with the Conqueror. I am mentioned oftner in both houfes of parliament than any other person in 'Great Britain. My name is written, or, more properly fpeaking, not written, thus,

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I am one that can turn my hand to every thing, ⚫ and appear under any fhape whatsoever. I can make myself man, woman, or child. I am fometimes metamorphofed into a year of our Lord, a day of the month, or an hour of the day. I very often reprefent a fum of money, and am generally the firft fubfidy that is granted to the crown. I have now and then fupplied the place of feveral thousands of land foldiers, and have as frequently been employed in the fea-fervice.

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Now, Sir, my complaint is this, that I am only made use of to ferve a turn, being always discard'ed as foon as a proper person is found out to fill up my place.

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If you have ever been in the play-houfe before the curtain rifes, you see most of the front-boxes 'filled with men of my family, who forthwith turn out and refign their stations upon the appearance of thofe for whom they are retained.

But the moft illuftrions branch of the Blanks are those who are planted in high posts, until fuch time as perfons of greater confequence can be found out to fupply them. One of those Blanks is equally qualified for all offices, he can • ferve

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