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should have been troubled for, had I not heard from whence it proceeded. We were no sooner sat down, but after having looked upon me a little while, My dear, (says she turning to her husband) you may now see the stranger that was in the candle last night. Soon after this, as they began to talk of family affairs, a little boy at the lower end of the table told her, that he was to go into join-hand on Thursday. Thursday? (says she) no, child, if it please God, you shall not begin upon Childermas-day; tell your writing-master that Friday will be foon encugh. I was reflecting with myself on the oddness of her fancy, and wondering that any body would establish it as a rule to lose a day in every week. In the midst of these my musings, she desired me to reach her a little falt
knife, which I did in such a trepidation and hurry of obedience, that I let it drop by the way; at .which she immediately startled, and said it fell towards her. - Upon this I looked very blank; and, observing the concern of the whole table, began to consider myself, with some confusion, as a person that had brought a disaster upon the family. The lady however recovering herself after a little space, faid to her husband, with a sigh, My dear, misfortunes. never come single. My friend, I found, acted but an underpart at his table, and being a man of more goodnature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to. fall in with all the passions and humours of his yokefellow : Do not you remember, child, (says she) that the pigeon-house fell the very afternoon that our careless
vench Spilt the salt upon the table? Yes, (says he) my. dear, and the next post brought us an account of the battle of Almanza. The reader may guess at the figure I made, after having done all this mischief. I difpatched my dinner as soon as I could, with
my usual taciturnity; when, to my utter confusion, the lady feeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying them across one another upon my plate, desired me that I would humour her so far as to take them out of that figure, and place them fide by side. What the absurdity was which I had committed I did not know, but I suppose there was some traditionary superscition in it;, and therefore in obedience to the lady of the
house, I disposed of my knife and fork in two parallel
It is not difficult for a man to see that a person has
There is nothing so inconfiderable, which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognoftics. A rusty nail, or a crooked pin, shoot up
I remember I was once in a mixt assembly, that was full of noise and mirth, when on a sudden an old woman unluckily observed there were thirteen of us in company This remark struck a panic terror into several who were present, insomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room ; but a friend of mine talsing notice that one of our female companions was big with child, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, instead of portending one of the company should die, 'it plainly foretold one of them should be born. Had not my friend found this expedient to break the omen, I question not but half the women in the company would have fallen fick that very night.
An old maid, that is troubled with the vapours, produces infinite disturbances of this kind among
her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt, of a great family, who is one of these antiquated Sibyls, that forbodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing apparitions, and hearing death-watches ; and was the other day almost frighted out of her wits by the great house-dog, that howled in the stable at a time when she lay ill of the tooth-ach. Such an extravagant cast of mind engages multitudės of people, not only in impertinent terrors, but in fupernumerary duties of life, and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the soul of man. The horror with which we entertain the thoughts of death (or indeed of any future evil) and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a melancholy mind with innumerable apprehensions and suspicions, and consequently dispose it to the observation of such groundless prodigies and predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wise men to retrench the evils of life by the reasonings of philofophy ; it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the sentiments of superstition. For my own part, I should be very
much troubled were I endowed with this divining quality, though it should inform me truly of every thing that can befall me. I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any misery, before it actually arrives.
I know but one way of fortifying my foul againft these gloomy presages and terrors of mind, and that is, by fecuring to myself the friendship and protection of that Being who disposes of events, and governs futurity. He fees, at one view, the whole thread of my existence; not only that part of it which I have already passed through, but that which runs forward into all the depths of eternity. When I lay me down to sleep, I recommend myself to his care : when I awake, I give myself up to his direction.
Amidst all the evils that threaten me, I will look up to him for help, and question not but he will either avert them, or turn them to my advantage. Though I know neither the time nor the manner of the death I am to die, I am not at all solicitous
about it ; because I am sure that he knows them both, and that he will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
At Venus obscuro gradientes aëre fepfit,
Virg. Æn. 1. ver. 415.
SHALL here communicate to the world a couple of letters, which I believe will give the reader as good an entertainment as any that I am able to furnish him with, and therefore shall make no apology for them.
To the SPECTATOR, &C.
• I AM one of the directors of the society for the reformation of manners, and therefore think myself
a proper person for your correspondence. I have ! thoroughly examined the present state of religion in • Great Britain, and am able to acquaint you with the
predominant vice of every market-town in the whole
illand. I can tell you the progress that virtue has • made in all our cities, boroughs, and corporations ; • and know as well the evil practices that are com• mitted in Berwick or Exeter, as what is done in my
own family. In a word, sir, I have my correspondents in the remotest parts of the nation, who send me up punctual accounts from time to time of all the • little irregularities that fall under their notice in • their several districts and divisions.
• I am no less acquainted with the particular quarters and regions of this great town, than with the different
parts and distributions of the whole nation. I can ` describe every parish by its impieties, and can tell
you in which of our streets lewdness prevails, which gaming has taken the possession of, and where drunkennefs has got the better of them both. When I am
disposed to raise a fine for the poor, I know the lanes ' and alleys that are inhabited by common swearers. • When I would encourage the hospital of Bridewell, ' and improve the hempen manufacture, I am very well acquainted with all the haunts and resorts of female night-walkers.
• After this short account of myself, I must let you • know, that the design of this paper is to give you 'information of a certain irregular assembly, which I * think falls very properly under your observation, espe'cially since the persons it is composed of are criminals
too considerable for the animadversions of our society. “I mean, sir, the midnight mask, which has of late been very frequently held in one of the most confpi
cuous parts of the town, and which I hear will be • continued with additions and improvements. As all
the persons who compose this lawless afsembly are ' marked, we dare not attack any of them in our way, ' left we should send a woman of quality to Bridewell
, peer of Great-Britain to the Counter : besides that their numbers are so very great, that I am afraid they ' would be able to rout our whole fraternity, though
we were accompanied with all our guard of constables. Both these reasons, which secure them from our au
thority, make them obnoxious to yours ; as both their ' disguise and their numbers will give no particular person reason to think himself affronted by you.
If we are rightly informed, the rules that are ob'served by this new society are wonderfully contrived ' for the advancement of cuckoldom. The women ei
ther come by themselves, or are introduced by friends who are obliged to quit them, upon their first entrance, to the conversation of any body that addresses himself to them. There are feveral rooms where the parties may retire, and, if they please, thew their faces by consent. Whispers, squeezes, nods, and embråces, are the innocent freedoms of the place. In short, the