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a Cure for the Spleen
It will be allowed me, that I have all along showed great respect in matters which concern the fair sex; but the inhumanity with which the author of the following letter has been used is not to be suffered.
· October 9.
'Yesterday I had the misfortune to drop in at my Lady Haughty's, upon her visiting - day. When I entered the room where she receives company, they all stood up indeed ; but they stood as if they were to stare at rather than to receive me.
After a long pause, a servant brought a round stool, on which I sat down at the lower end of the room, in the presence of no less than twelve persons, gentlemen and ladies, lolling in elbow-chairs. And, to complete my disgrace, my mistress was of the society. I tried to compose myself in vain, not knowing how to dispose of either my legs or arms, nor how to shape my countenance; the eyes of the whole room being still upon me in a profound silence. My confusion at last was so great, that, without speaking, or being spoken to, I fled for it, and left the assembly to treat me at their discretion. A lecture from you upon these inhuman distinctions in a free nation, will, I doubt not, prevent the like evils for the
future, and make it, as we say, as cheap sitting as standing. I am, with the greatest respect, sir, 'Your most humble, and most obedient servant,
J. R. 'P.S.-I had almost forgot to inform you, that a fair young lady sat in an armless chair upon my right hand, with manifest discontent in her looks.'
Soon after the receipt of this epistle, I heard a very gentle knock at my door : my maid went down, and brought up word, 'that a tall, lean, black man, well dressed, who said he had not the honour to be acquainted with me, desired to be admitted.' I bid her show him up, met him at my chamber-door, and then fell back a few paces. He approached me with great respect, and told me, with a low voice, ‘he was the gentleman that had been seated upon the round stool.' I immediately recollected that there was a joint-stool in my chamber, which I was afraid he might take for an instrument of distinction, and therefore winked at my boy to carry it into my closet. I then took him by the hand, and led him to the upper end of my room, where I placed him in my great elbow-chair ; at the same time drawing another without arms to it, for myself to sit by him. I then asked him, 'at what time this misfortune befell him ? He answered, 'between the hours of seven and eight in the evening. I further demanded of him, 'what he had eat or drunk that day?' he replied, 'nothing but a dish of watergruel with a few plums in it.' In the next place, I felt his pulse, which was very low and languishing. These circumstances confirmed me in an opinion, which I
had entertained upon the first reading of his letter, that the gentleman was far gone in the spleen. I therefore advised him to rise the next morning, and plunge into the cold bath, there to remain under water until he was almost drowned. This I ordered him to repeat six days successively; and on the seventh, to repair at the wonted hour to my Lady Haughty's, and to acquaint me afterwards with what he shall meet with there ; and particularly to tell me, whether he shall think they stared upon him so much as the time before. The gentleman smiled ; and, by his way of talking to me, showed himself a man of excellent sense in all particulars, unless when a cane-chair, a round or a joint-stool, were spoken of. He opened his heart to me at the same time concerning several other grievances ; such as, being overlooked in public assemblies, having his bows unanswered, being helped last at table, and placed at the back part of a coach ; with many other distresses, which have withered his countenance, and worn him to a skeleton. Finding him a man of reason, I entered into the bottom of his distemper. 'Sir,' said I, there are more of your constitution in this island of Great Britain than in any other part of the world ; and I beg the favour of you to tell me, whether you do not observe, that you meet with most affronts in rainy days?' He answered candidly, 'that he had long observed, that people were less saucy in sunshine than in cloudy weather.' Upon which I told him plainly, ‘his distemper was the spleen; and that though the world was very ill-natured, it was not so bad as he believed it.' I further assured him, 'that his use of the cold bath, with a course of steel which I should prescribe him, would certainly
cure most of his acquaintance of their rudeness, illbehaviour, and impertinence. My patient smiled, and promised to observe my prescriptions, not forgetting to give me an account of their operation. This distemper being pretty epidemical, I shall, for the benefit of mankind, give the public an account of the progress I make in the cure of it.
[Tatler, No. 80.
The Cock's Petition
I WAS awakened very early this morning by the distant crowing of a cock, which I thought had the finest pipe I ever heard. He seemed to me to strain his voice more than ordinary, as if he designed to make himself heard to the remotest corner of this lane. Having entertained myself a little before I went to bed with a discourse on the transmigration of men into other animals, I could not but fancy that this was the soul of some drowsy bellman who used to sleep upon his post, for which he was condemned to do penance in feathers, and distinguish the several watches of the night under the outside of a cock. While I was thinking of the 'condition of this poor bellman in masquerade, I heard a great knocking at my door, and was soon after told by my maid, that my worthy friend the tall black gentleman, who frequents the coffee-houses hereabouts, desired to speak me.
This ancient Pythagorean, who has as much honesty as any man living, but good-nature to an excess, brought me the following petition ; which I am apt to believe he penned himself, the petitioner not being able to express his mind on paper under his present form, however famous he might have been for writing verses when he was in his original shape.