Sir Richard Steele

Donald F. Bond (ed.), The Tatler, Vol. 1

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No. 30 Saturday, June 18, 1709

From my own Apartment, June 16.

The Vigilance, the Anxiety, the Tenderness, which I have for the good People of England, I am perswaded will in Time be much commended; but I doubt whether they will ever be rewarded. However, I must go on chearfully in my Work of Reformation: That being my great Design, I am studious to prevent my Labour's increasing upon me; therefore am particularly observanta of the Temper and Inclinations of Childhood and Youth, that we may not give Vice and Folly Supplies from the growing Generation. It is hardly to be imagin'd how useful this Study is, and what great Evils or Benefits arise from putting us in our tender Years to what we are fit or unfit: Therefore on Tuesday last (with a Design to pg 224sound their Inclinations) I took Three Lads who are under my Guardianship a rambling in an Hackney-Coach, to show 'em the Town, as the Lions, the Tombs, Bedlam, and the other Places which are Entertainments to raw Minds, because they strike forcibly on the Fancy.1 The Boys are Brothers, one of Sixteen, the other of Fourteen, the other of Twelve. The first was his Father's Darling, the second his Mother's, and the Third is mine, who am their Uncle. Mr. William is a Lad of true Genius; but being at the upper End of a great School, and having all the Boysb below him, his Arrogance is insupportable. If I begin to show a little of my Latin, he immediately interrupts: Uncle, under Favour, that which you say is not understood in that Manner. Brother, says my Boy Jack, You do not show your Manners much in contradicting my Uncle Isaac. You queer Cur, says Mr. William, Do you think my Uncle takes any Notice of such a dull Rogue as you are? Mr. William goes on; He is the most stupid of all my Mother's Children: He knows nothing of his Book: When he should mind that, he is hiding or hoarding his Taws and Marbles, or laying up Farthings. His Way of thinking is, Four and twenty Farthings make Sixpence, and Two Sixpences a Shilling, Two Shillings and Sixpence Half a Crown, and Two Half-Crowns Five Shillings. So within these Two Months, the close Hunks has scrap'd up Twenty Shillings, and we'll make him spend it all before he comes Home. Jack immediately claps his Hands into both Pockets, and turns as pale as Ashes. There is nothing touches a Parent (and such I am to Jack) so nearly as a provident Conduct.c This Lad has in him the true Temper for a good Husband, a kind Father, and an honest Executor. All the great People you see make considerable Figures on the Change, in Court; and sometimes in Senates, are such as in Reality have no greater Faculty than pg 225what may be call'd Human Instinct, which is a natural Tendency to their own Preservation, and that of their Friends, without being capable of striking out of the Road for Adventures. There's Sir William Scrip was of this Sort of Capacity from his Childhood: He has bought the Country round him, and makes a Bargain better than Sir Harry Wildfire with all his Wit and Humour. Sir Harry never wants Money but he comes to Scrip,d laughs at him half an Hour, and then gives Bond for t'other Thousand. The close Men are incapable of placing Merit any where but in their Pence, and therefore gain it; while others, who have larger Capacities, are diverted from the Pursuit by Enjoyments, which can be supported only by that Cash which they despise; and therefore are in the End Slaves to their Inferiors both in Fortune and Understanding. I once heard a Man of excellent Sense observe, That more Affairs in the World fail'd by being in the Hands of Men of too large Capacities for their Business, than by being in the Conduct of such as wanted Abilities to execute 'em.2 Jack therefore being of a plodding Make, shall be a Citizen; and I design him to be the Refuge of the Family in their Distress, as well as their Jest in Prosperity. His Brother Will shall go to Oxford with all Speed, where, if he does not arrive at being a Man of Sense, he will soon be inform'd wherein he is a Coxcomb. There is in that Place such a true Spirit of Raillery and Humour, that if they can't make you a wise Man, they will certainly let you know you are a Fool, which is all my Cousin wants to cease to be so. Thus having taken these Two out of the Way, I have Leisure to look at my Third Lad. pg 226I observe in the young Rogue a natural Subtilty of Mind, which discovers it self rather in forbearing to declare his Thoughts on any Occasion, than in any visible Way of exerting himself in Discourse. For which Reason I will place him where, if he commits no Faults, he may go further than those in other Stations tho' they excel in Virtues. The Boy is well fashioned, and will easily fall into a graceful Manner; wherefore, I have a Design to make him a Page to a great Lady of my Acquaintance; by which Means he will be well skill'd in the common Modes of Life, and make a greater Progress in the World by that Knowledge, than with the greatest Qualities without it. A good Mien in a Court will carry a Man greater Lengths than a good Understanding in any other Place. We see, a World of Pains taken, and the best Years of Life spent, in collecting a Set of Thoughts in a College for the Conduct of Life; and after all, the Man so qualified shall hesitate in his Speech to a good Suit of Clothes, and want common Sense before an agreeable Woman. Hence it is, that Wisdom, Valour, Justice, and Learning, can't keep a Man in Countenance that is possess'd with these Excellencies, if he wants that inferiore Art of Life and Behaviour, call'd Good Breeding.3 A Man endow'd with great Perfections without this, is like one who has his Pockets full of Gold, but always wantsf Change for his ordinary Occasions. Will Courtly is a living Instance of this Truth, and has had the same Education which I am giving my Nephew. He never spoke a Thing but what was said before, and yet can converse with the wittiest Men without being ridiculous. Among the learned, he does not appear ignorant; nor with the wise, indiscreet. Living in Conversation from his Infancy, makes him nowhere at a Loss; and a long Familiarity with the Persons of Men, is in a Manner of the same Service to him as if he knew their Arts. As Ceremony is the Invention of wise Men to keep Fools at a Distance, so good Breeding is an Expedient to make Fools and wise Men equals.

pg 227Will's Coffee-house, June 17.

The Suspension of the Playhouse4 has made me have nothing to send you from hence; but calling here this Evening, I found the Party I usually sit with, upon the Business of Writing, and examining what was the handsomest Style in which to address Women, and write Letters of Gallantry. Many were the Opinions which were immediately declar'd on this Subject: Some were for a certain Softness; some for I know not what Delicacy; others for something inexpressibly Tender: When it came to me, I said there was no Rule in the World to be made for writing Letters, but that of being as near what you speak Face to Face as you can; which is so great a Truth, that I am of Opinion, Writing has lost more Mistresses than any one Mistake in the whole Legend of Love. For when you write to a Lady for whom you have a solid and honourable Passion,g the great Idea you have of her, join'd to a quick Sense of her Absence, fills your Mind with a Sort of Tenderness, that gives your Language too much the Air of Complaint, which is seldom successful. For a Man may flatter himself as he pleases, but he will find, that the Women have more Understanding in their own Affairs than we have, and Women of Spirit are not to be won by Mourners. Heh that can keep handsomely within Rules, and support the Carriage of a Companion to his Mistress, is much more likely to prevail, than he who lets her see, the whole Relish of his Life depends upon her. If possible therefore divert your Mistress, rather than sigh to her. Thei pleasant Man she will desire for her own Sake; but the languishing Lover has nothing to hope from but her Pity. To show the Difference, I produc'd two Letters a Lady gave me, which had been writj by two Gentlemen who pretended to her, but were both kill'd the next Day after the Datek at the Battle of Almanza.5 One of 'em was a mercurial gay humour'd Man; the other a Man of a serious, but a great and gallant Spirit. pg 228Poor Jack Careless! This is his Letter: You see how it is folded: The Air of it is so negligent, one might have read half of it by peeping into it, without breaking it open. He had no Exactness.

Madam,

'It is a very pleasant Circumstance I am in, that while I should be thinking of the good Company we are to meet within a Day or two, where we shall go to Loggerheads,6 my Thoughts are running upon a Fair Enemy in England. I was in Hopes I had left you there; but you follow the Camp, tho' I have endeavour'd to make some of our Leaguer Ladies7 drive you out of the Field. All my Comfort is, you are more troublesome to my Colonel than my self: I permit you to visit me only now and then; but he downright keeps you. I laugh at his Honour as far as his Gravity will allow me. But I know him to be a Man of too much Merit to succeed with a Woman. Therefore defend your Heart as well as you can, I shall come Home this Winter irresistibly dress'd, and with quite a new Foreign Air. And so I had like to say, I rest, but alass! I remain,

  •             Madam,
  •                         Your most Obedient,
  •                               Most Humble Servant,
  •                                         John Careless.'

Now for Colonel Constant's Epistle; you see, it is folded and directed with the utmost Care.

MADAM,

'I do my self the Honour to write to you this Evening, because I believe to Morrow will be a Day of Battle, and something forebodes in my Breast that I shall fall in it. If it proves so, I hope you will hear, I have done nothing below a Man who had the Love of his Country, quicken'd by a Passion for a Woman of Honour. If there be any Thing noble in going to a certain Death: If there be any Merit, that I meet it with Pleasure by promising my self a Place in your Esteem: If your Applause, when I am no more, is preferable to the most glorious Life without you: I say, Madam, If any of pg 229these Considerations can have Weight with you, you will give me a kind Place in your Memory, which I prefer to the Glory of Caesar. I hope, this will be read, as it is writ, with Tears.'

The belov'd Lady is a Woman of a sensible Mind; but she has confess'd to me, that after all her true and solid Value for Constant, she had much more Concern for the Loss of Careless. Those noblel and serious Spirits have something equal to the Adversities they meet with, and consequently lessen the Objects of Pity. Great Accidents seem not cut out so much for Men of familiar Characters, which makes 'em more easily pitied, and soon after belov'd. Add to this, that the Sort of Love which generally succeeds, is a Stranger to Awe and Distance. I ask'd Romana, Whether of the Two she should have chosen had they surviv'd? She said, She knew she ought to have taken Constant; but believ'd, she should have chosen Careless.m

Mr. Bickerstaff gives Notice to all Persons that dress themselves as they please, without Regard to Decorum, as with blue and red Stockings in Mourning, tuck'd Cravats, and Nightcap-Wigs,8 before People of the First Quality, That he has yet receiv'd no Fine for indulging 'em in that Liberty, and that he expects their Compliance with this Demand, or that they go Home immediately and shift themselves. This is farther to acquaint the Town, That the Report ofn the Hosiers, Toymen, and Milliners, havingo compounded with Mr. Bickerstaff for tolerating such Enormities, is utterly false and scandalous.

Notes Settings

Notes

Critical Apparatus
30. a observant] observing Fol.
Editor’s Note
1 The lions and other animals in the Tower were among the sights always shown to visitors (see Spectator 13). The tombs were doubtless those in Westminster Abbey (Spectators 26, 99, and 329). Bedlam Hospital for lunatics, another traditional sight for visitors, was in Moorfields. Uffenbach (pp. 51–2) describes a visit there on 20 June 1710; Swift writes to Stella on 13 Dec. of the same year: 'to the Tower, and saw all the sights, lions, &c. then to Bedlam'. The rate for a hackney coach 'for one Day of 12 Hours' was 10s.6d. ([George] Parker's Ephemeris for 1711).
Critical Apparatus
b Boys] Lads Fol., 12mo
Critical Apparatus
c Conduct] Temper Fol., 12mo
Critical Apparatus
d Scrip] Scrip's Fol.
Editor’s Note
2 Cf. Swift to Bolingbroke, 19 Dec. 1719:
Have you not observed, that there is a lower kind of discretion and regularity, which seldom fails of raising men to the highest stations, in the court, the church, and the law? It must be so: For Providence, which designed the world should be governed by many heads, made it a business within the reach of common understandings; while one great genius is hardly found among ten millions. Did you never observe one of your clerks cutting his paper with a blunt ivory knife? Did you ever know the knife to fail going the true way? Whereas, if he had used a razor, or a penknife, he had odds against him of spoiling a whole sheet. I have twenty times compared the motion of that ivory implement, to those talents that thrive best at court (Williams, ii. 332–3).
Cf. No. 57, paragraph 2: 'the lower the Understanding, the greater the Capacity.'
Critical Apparatus
e inferior] less Fol., 12mo
Editor’s Note
3 The quality here defined as requisite for a career at court is frequently discussed in the Spectator (see Index, s.v. Breeding).
Critical Apparatus
f always wants] wants Fol.
Editor’s Note
4 'On 6 June the Lord Chamberlain silenced Drury Lane Theatre because of its failure to obey an order issued earlier which forbade the deduction of more than £40 from the receipts at a benefit' (Avery, i. 195).
Critical Apparatus
g Passion] Love Fol., 12mo
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h He] Therefore he Fol., 12mo
Critical Apparatus
i her. The] her; the Fol.
Critical Apparatus
j writ] writ to her Fol., 12mo
Critical Apparatus
k Day after the Date] Day Fol.
Editor’s Note
5 Galway was defeated in this decisive battle in Spain, 25 Apr. 1707.
Editor’s Note
6 The obsolete phrase, 'to come to blows' (OED).
Editor’s Note
7 Camp followers. Cf. Steele's early play, The Funeral, II. iii. 306.
Critical Apparatus
228. 31 the Love] a Love 12mo
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228. 33 meet] meet,
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l noble] great Fol., 12mo
Critical Apparatus
m For the article from St. James's Coffee-house in Fol. and 12mo see Appendix I.
Critical Apparatus
n of] that Fol., 12mo
Critical Apparatus
o having] have Fol., 12mo
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