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Will Honeycomb*, a gentleman who, according to his years, should be in the decline of his life, but having ever been very careful of his person, and always had a very easy fortune, time has made but very little impression, either by wrinkles on his forehead, or traces on his brain. His person is well turned, and of a good height. He is very ready at that sort of discourse with which men usually entertain women. He has all his life dressed
well, and remembers habits as others do men. smile when one speaks to him, and laughs easily. He knows the history of every mode, and can inform you from which of the French king's wenches our wives and daughters had this manner of curling their hair, that way of placing their hoods; whose frailty was covered by such a sort of petticoat, and whose vanity to shew her foot made that part of the dress so short in such a year. In a word, all his conversation and knowledge has been in the female world. As other men of his age will take notice to you what such a minister said upon such and such an occasion, he will tell you, when the Duke of Monmouth danced at court, such a woman was then smitten, another was taken with him at the head of his troop in the Park. In all these important relations, he has ever about the same time received a kind glance, or a blow of a fan from some celebrated beauty, mother of the present Lord Such-a-one. If you speak of a young commoner that said a lively thing in the house, he starts up, 'He has good blood in his veins, Tom Mirable begot him; the rogue cheated me in that affair; that young fellow's mother used me more like a dog than any woman I ever made advances to. This way of talking of his very much enlivens the conversation among us of a
* It has been said that a Colonel Cleland was supposed to have been the real person alluded to under this character.
more sedate turn; and I find there is not one of the company, but myself, who rarely speak at all, but speaks of him as of that sort of man, who is usually called a well-bred fine gentleman. To conclude his character, where women are not concerned, he is an honest worthy man.
I cannot tell whether I am to account hini, whom I am next to speak of, as one of our company; for he visits us but seldom; but when he does, it adds to every man else a new enjoyment of himself.
He is a clergyman, a very philosophic man, of general learning, great sanctity of life, and the most exact good breeding. He has the misfortune to be of a very weak constitution, and consequently, cannot accept of such cares and business as preferments in his function would oblige him to; he is therefore among divines what a chamber-counsellor is among lawyers. The probity of his mind, and the integrity of his life, create him followers, as being eloquent or loud advances others. He seldom introduces the subject he speaks upon ; but we are so far gone in years, that he observes, when he is among us, an earnestness to have him fall on some divine topic, which he always treats with much authority, as one who has no interest in this world, as one who is hastening to the object of all his wishes, and conceives hope from his decays and infirmities. These are my ordinary companions.-R.
N° 3. SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 1710-11.
Et quoi quisque ferè studio devinctus adhæret,
Lucr. l. iv. 959.
In one of my rambles, or rather speculations, I looked into the great hall, where the bank is kept, and was not a little pleased to see the directors, secretaries, and clerks, with all the other members of that wealthy corporation, ranged in their several stations, according to the parts they act, in that just and regular economy. This revived in my memory the many discourses which I had both read and heard concerning the decay of public credit, with the methods of restoring it, and which, in my opinion, have always been defective, because they have always been made with an eye to separate interests, and party principles.
The thoughts of the day gave my mind employ. ment for a whole night, so that I fell insensibly into a kind of methodical dream, which disposed all my contemplations into a vision or allegory, or what else the reader shall please to call it.
Methought I returned to the great hall, where I had been the morning before; but to my surprise, instead of the company that I left there, I saw towards the upper end of the hall a beautiful virgin, seated on a throne of gold. Her name (as they told me) was Public Credit. The walls, instead of being
adorned with pictures and maps, were hung with many acts of parliament written in golden letters. At the upper end of the hall was the magna charta, with the act of uniformity on the right hand, and the act of toleration on the left. At the lower end of the hall was the act of settlement, which was placed full in the eye of the virgin that sat upon the throne. Both the sides of the hall were covered with such acts of parliament as had been made for the establishment of public funds. The lady seemed to set an unspeakable value upon these several pieces of furniture, insomuch that she often refreshed her eye with them, and often smiled with a secret pleasure, as she looked upon them; but, at the same time, shewed a very particular uneasiness, if she saw any thing approaching that might hurt them. She appeared, indeed, infinitely timorous in all her behaviour : and whether it was from the delicacy of her constitution, or that she was troubled with vapours, as I was afterward told by one, who I found was none of her well-wishers, she changed colour, and startled at every thing she heard. She was likewise (as I afterward found) a greater valetudinarian than any I had ever met with, even in her own sex, and subject to such momentary. consumptions, that, in the twinkling of an eye, she should fall away from the most florid complexion, and most healthful state of body, and wither into a skeleton. Her recoveries were often as sudden as her decays, insomuch that she would revive in a moment out of a wasting distemper, into a habit of the highest health and vigour.
I had very soon an opportunity of observing these quick turns and changes in her constitution. There sat at her feet a couple of secretaries, who received every hour letters from all parts of the world, which the one or the other of them was perpetually reading to her; and according to the news she heard, to. which she was exceedingly attentive, she changed colour, and discovered many symptoms of health or sickness.
Behind the throne was a prodigious heap of bags of money, which were piled upon one another so high that they touched the ceiling. The floor on her right hand, and on her left, was covered with vast sums of gold that rose up in pyramids on either side of her. But this I did not so much wonder at, when I heard, upon inquiry, that she had the same virtue in her touch, which the poets tell us a Lydian king was formerly possessed of: and that she could convert whatever she pleased into that precious metal.
After a little dizziness, and confused hurry of thought, which a man often meets with in a dream, methought the hall was alarmed, the doors flew open, and there entered half a dozen of the most hideous phantoms that I had ever seen (even in a dream) before that time. They came in two by two, though matched in the most dissociable manner, and mingled together in a kind of dance. It would be tedious to describe their habits and persons, for which reason I shall only inform my reader, that the first couple were Tyranny and Anarchy, the second were Bigotry and Atheism, the third the Genius of a commonwealth, and a young man of about twenty-two years of age*, whose name I could not learn. He had a sword in his right hand, which in the dance he often brandished at the act of settlement; and a citizen, who stood by me, whispered in my ear, that he saw a sponge in his left hand t. The dance of so many jarring natures put me in mind of the sun, moon, and earth, in the Rehearsal, that danced together for no other end but to eclipse one another.
* James Stuart, the pretended Prince of Wales, born June 10, 1688. See Tat. No. 187. + To wipe out the national debt.