« ZurückWeiter »
their way of living, and their zeal for religion. He had studied the matter of the mint, with the exchange and value of money ; so that he understood it well, as appears by his journal. He also understood fortification, and designed well. He knew all the harbours and ports, both of his own dominions, and of France and Scotland ; and how much water they had, and what was the way of coming into them. He had acquired great knowledge of foreign affairs ; so that he talked with the ambassadors about them in such a manner, that they filled all the world with the highest opinion of him that was possible ; which appears in most of the histories of that age. He had great quickness of apprehension; and, being mistrustful of his memory, used to take notes of almost everything he heard ; he writ these first in Greek characters, that those about him might not understand them; and afterwards writ them out in his journal. He had a copy brought him of everything that passed in council, which he put in a chest, and kept the key of that always himself.
In a word, the natural and acquired perfections of his mind were wonderful ; but his virtues and true piety were yet more extraordinary. He expressed great tenderness to the miseries of the poor in his sickness, as hath been already shewn. He took particular care of the suits of all poor persons; and gave Dr Cox special charge to see that their petitions were speedily answered, and used oft to consult with him how to get their matters set forward. He was an exact keeper of his word ; and therefore, as appears by his journal, was most careful to pay his debts, and to keep his credit, knowing that to be the chief nerve of government; since a prince that breaks his faith, and loses his credit, has thrown up that which he can never recover, and made himself liable to perpetual distrusts and extreme contempt. He had, above all things, a great regard to religion. He took notes of such things as he heard in sermons, which more especially concerned himself; and made his measures of all men by their zeal in that matter. All men who saw and observed these qualities in him, looked on him as one raised by God for most extraordinary ends; and when he died, concluded that the sins of England had been great, that had provoked God to take from them a prince, under whose government they were like to have seen such blessed times. He was so affable and sweet-natured, that all had free access to him at all times; by which he came to be most universally beloved ; and all the high things that could be devised were said by the people to express their esteem of him.
Steele, Gazette-writer to the Whig ministry in the reign of Queen Anne,
shares with Addison the honour of having founded our periodical literature, though the credit of originating it is due to Daniel De Foe. On April 12, 1709, Steele issued the first number of The Tatler, a single sheet, which continued to appear thrice a week at the price of one penny per number until January 2, 1711. Steele was assisted in The Tatler by contributions from Addison, who afterwards joined him in the production of the more famous Spectator, a daily sheet, which appeared on March 1, 1711, and continued till the end of 1714, with a break of eighteen months, during which they issued The Guardian, another daily publication, which extended to 175 numbers. Steele, having obtained a seat in parliament in 1713, devoted the remainder of his life to politics.
TEDIOUS STORY-TELLERS. From The Tatler.
BOCCALINI, in his Parnassus, indicts a laconic writer for speaking that in three words which he might have said in two, and sentences him for his punishment to read over all the works of Guicciardini.? This Guicciardini is so very prolix and circumstantial in his writings, that I remember our countryman, Dr Donne, speaking of that majestic and concise manner in which Moses has described the creation of the world, adds, that if such an author as Guicciardini were to have written on such a subject, the world itself would not have been able to have contained the books that gave the history of its creation.'
I look upon a tedious talker, or what is generally known by the name of a story-teller, to be much more insufferable than even a prolix writer. An author may be tossed out of your hand, and thrown aside when he grows dull and tiresome ; but such liberties are so far from being allowed towards your orators in common conversation, that I have known a challenge sent a person for going out of the room abruptly, and leaving a man of honour in the midst of a dissertation. This evil is at present so very common and epidemical, that there is scarce a coffee-house in town that has: not some speakers belonging to it, who utter their political essays, and draw parallels out of Baker's Chronicle to almost every part of her majesty's reign. It was said of two ancient authors who had very different beauties in their style, that if you took a word from one of them, you only spoiled his eloquence; but if you took a word from the other, you spoiled his sense. I have often applied the first part of this criticism to several of these coffee-house speakers whom I have at present in my thoughts, though the character that is given to the last of those authors, is what I would recommend to the imitation of my loving countrymen ; but it is not only public places of resort, but private clubs and conversations over a bottle, that are infested with this loquacious kind of animal, especially with that species which I comprehend under the name of a story-teller. I would earnestly desire these gentlemen to consider, that no point of wit or mirth at the end of a story can atone for the half hour that has been lost before they come at it. I would likewise lay it home to their serious consideration, whether they think that every man in the company has not a right to speak as well as themselves ; and whether they do not think they are invading another man's property when they engross the time which should be divided equally among the company to their own private use ?
1 An Italian satirical writer of the seventeenth century. ? A celebrated Italian statesman and historian, 1482–1540.
What makes this evil the much greater in conversation is, that these humdrum companions seldom endeavour to wind up their narrations into a point of mirth or instruction, which might make some amends for the tediousness of them, but think they have a right to tell anything that has happened within their memory. They look upon a matter of fact to be a sufficient foundation for a story, and give us a long account of things, not because they are entertaining or surprising, but because they are true.
My ingenious kinsman, Mr Humphry Wagstaff, uses to say, the life of man is too short for a story-teller. Methusalem might be half an hour in telling what o'clock it was; but as for us postdiluvians, we ought to do everything in haste, and in our speeches as well as actions remember that our time is short. A man that talks for a quarter of an hour together in company, if I meet him
frequently, takes up a great part of my span. A quarter of an hour may be reckoned the eight and fortieth part of a day, a day the three hundred and sixtieth part of a year, and a year the three score and tenth part of life. By this moral arithmetic, supposing a man to be in the talking world one-third part of the day, whoever gives another a quarter of an hour's hearing, makes him a sacrifice of more than the four hundred thousandth part of his conversable life.
I would establish but one great general rule to be observed in all conversation, which is this : “That men should not talk to please themselves, but those that hear them.' This would make them consider, whether what they speak be worth hearing. Whether there be either wit or sense in what they are about to say. And, whether it be adapted to the time when, the place where, and the person to whom it is spoken.
For the utter extirpation of these orators and story-tellers, which I look upon as very great pests of society, I have invented a watch which divides the minute into twelve parts, after the same manner that the ordinary watches are divided into hours ; and will endeavour to get a patent, which shall oblige every club or company to provide themselves with one of these watches (that shall lie upon the table as an hour-glass is often placed near the pulpit) to measure out the length of a discourse.
I shall be willing to allow a man one round of my watch, that is, a whole minute to speak in; but if he exceeds that time, it shal lawful for any of the company to look upon the watch, or to call him down to order.
Provided however, that if any one can make it appear he is turned of threescore, he may take two, or, if he pleases, three rounds of the watch without giving offence. Provided also, that this rule be not construed to extend to the fair sex, who shall still be at liberty to talk by the ordinary watch that is now in use. I would likewise earnestly recommend this little automaton, which may be easily carried in the pocket without any encumbrance, to all such as are troubled with this infirmity of speech, that upon pulling out their watches, they may have frequent occasion to consider what they are doing, and by that means cut the thread of the story short, and hurry to a conclusion. I shall only add, that this watch, with a paper of directions how to use it, is sold at Charles Lillie's.
SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY. From The Spectator.
The first of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of ancient descent, a baronet, his name Sir Roger de Coverley. His great grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that shire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir Roger. He is a gentleman that is very singular in his behaviour, but his singularities proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the world, only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However, this humour creates him no enemies, for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms makes him but the readier and more capable to please and oblige all who know him. When he is in town he lives in Soho Square. It is said he keeps himself a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him. Before this disappointment, Sir Roger was what you call a fine gentleman, had often supped with my Lord Rochester and Sir George Etherege, fought a duel upon his first coming to town, and kicked Bully Dawson in a public coffee-house for calling him youngster. But being ill-used by the above-mentioned widow, he was very serious for a year and a half; and though, his temper being naturally jovial, he at last got over it, he grew careless of himself, and never dressed afterwards. He continues to wear a coat and doublet of the same cut that were in fashion at the time of his repulse, which, in his merry humours, he tells us has been in and out twelve times since he first wore it. He is now in his fifty-sixth year, cheerful, gay, and hearty; keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that he is rather beloved than esteemed. His tenants grow rich, his servants look satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men are glad of his company; when he comes into a house, he calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way up stairs to a visit. I must not omit that Sir Roger is a justice of the quorum ; that he fills the chair at a quarter-session with great abilities, and three months ago gained universal applause by explaining a passage in the Game Act.