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Que diable a ton à faire de sçavoir ce qu'il aime ? * For my part,' says Montaigne, I am a great lover of your white wines.'-'What the devil signifies it to the public,' says Scaliger, whether he is a lover of white wines or of red wines ?'
I cannot here forbear mentioning a tribe of egotists, for whom I have always had a mortal aversion -I mean the authors of memoirs, who are never mentioned in any works but their own, and who raise all their productions out of this single figure of speech.
Most of our modern prefaces savour very strongly of the egotism. Every insignificant author fancies it of importance to the world to know that he writ his book in the country, that he did it to pass away some of his idle hours, that it was published at the importunity of friends, or that his natural temper, studies, or conversations, directed him to the choice of his subject.
-Id populus curat scilicet. Such informations cannot but be highly improving to the reader.
In works of humour especially, when a man writes under a fictitious personage, the talking of one's self may give some diversion to the public; but I would advise every other writer never to speak of himself, unless there be something very considerable in his character: though I am sensible this rule will be of little use in the world, because there is no man who fancies his thoughts worth publishing that does not look upon
himself as a considerable person. I shall close this paper with a remark upon such as are egotists in conversation : these are generally the vain or shallow part of mankind, people being naturally full of themselves when they have nothing else in them. There is one kind of egotists which is very common in the world, though I do not remember that
writer has taken notice of them; I mean those empty conceited fellows who repeat, as sayings of their own or some of their particular friends, several jests which were made before they were born, and which every one who has conversed in the world has heard a hundred times over. A forward young fellow of my acquaintance was very guilty of this absurdity: he would be always laying a new scene for some old piece of wit, and telling us, that, as he and Jack Such-a-one were together, one or t’other of them had such a conceit on such an occasion; upon which he would laugh very heartily, and wonder the company did not join with him. When his mirth was over, I have often reprehended him out of Terence, Tuumne, obsecro te, hoc dictum erat ? vetus credidi. But finding him still incorrigible, and having a kindness for the young coxcomb, who was otherwise a good-natured fellow, I recommended to his perusal the Oxford and Cambridge jests, with several little pieces of pleasantry of the same nature. Upon the reading of them he was under no small confusion to find that all his jokes had passed through several editions, and that what he thought was a new conceit, and had appropriated to his own use, had appeared in print before he or his ingenious friends were ever heard of. This had so good an effect upon him, that he is content at present to pass for a man of plain sense in his ordinary conversation, and is never facetious but when he knows his company.
N° 563. MONDAY, JULY 5, 1714.
-Magni nominis umbra.—Lucan. i. 135. The shadow of a mighty name. I SHALL entertain my reader with two very curious letters. The first of them comes from a chimerical person, who I believe never writ to any body before.
SIR, 'I am descended from the ancient family of the Blanks, a name well known among all men of business. It is always read in those little white spaces of writing which want to be filled up, and which for that reason are called blank spaces, as of right appertaining to our family: for I consider myself as the lord of a manor, who lays his claim to all wastes or spots of ground that are unappropriated. I am a near kinsman to John a Styles and John a Nokes; and they, I am told, came in with the Conqueror. I am mentioned oftener in both houses of parliament than any other
person in Great Britain. My name is written, or, more properly speaking, not written, thus: I am one that can turn my hand to every thing, and appear under any shape whatsoever. I can make myself man, woman, or child. I am sometimes metamorphosed into a year of our Lord, a day of the month, or an hour of the day. I very often represent a sum of money, and am generally the first subsidy that is granted to the crown. I have now and then supplied the place of several thousands of landsoldiers, and have as frequently been employed in the sea-service.
Now, Sir, my complaint is this, that I am only made use of to serve a turn, being always discarded as soon as a proper person is found out to fill up my place.
• If you have ever been in the playhouse before the curtain rises, you see the most of the front-boxes filled with men of my family, who forth with turn out and resign their stations upon the appearance of those for whom they are retained.
• But the most illustrious branch of the Blanks are those who are planted in high posts, till such time as persons of greater consequence can be found out to supply them. One of these Blanks is equally qualified for all offices; he can serve in time of need for a soldier, a politician, a lawyer, or what you please. I have known in my time many a brother Blank, that has been born under a lucky planet, heap up great riches, and swell into a man of figure and importance, before the grandees of his party could agree among themselves which of them should step into his place. Nay, I have known a Blank continue so long in one of these vacant posts (for such it is to be reckoned all the time a Blank is in it), that he has grown too formidable and dangerous to be removed.
• But to return to myself. Since I am so very commodious a person, and so very necessary in all wellregulated governments, I desire you will take my case into consideration, that I may be no longer made a tool of, and only employed to stop a gap. Such usage, without a pun, makes me look very blank. For all which reasons I humbly recommend myself to your protection, and am Your most obedient servant,
BLANK. •P S. I herewith send you a paper drawn up by a country attorney, employed by two gentlemen, whose names he was not acquainted with, and who did not think fit to let him into the secret which they were transacting. I heard him call it “a blank instrument," and read it after the following manner. You may see by this single instance of what use I am to the busy world.
“I, T. Blank, Esquire, of Blank town, in the county of Blank, do own myself indebted in the sum of Blank, to Goodman Blank, for the service he did me in procuring for me the goods following; Blank: and I do hereby promise the said Blank to pay unto him the said sum of Blank, on the Blank day of the month of Blank next ensuing, under the penalty and forfeiture of Blank."'
I shall take time to consider the case of this my imaginary correspondent, and in the mean while shall present my reader with a letter which seems to come from a person that is made up of flesh and blood.
• GOOD MR. SPECTATOR, • I am married to a very honest gentleman that is exceedingly good-natured, and at the same time very choleric. There is no standing before him when he is in a passion ; but as soon as it is over he is the best-humoured creature in the world. When he is angry he breaks all my china-ware that chances to lie in his way, and the next morning sends me in twice as much as he broke the day before. I may positively say that he has broke me a child's fortune since we were first married together.
• As soon as he begins to fret, down goes every thing that is within reach of his cane. I once prevailed
upon him never to carry a stick in his hand, but this saved me nothing; for upon seeing me do something that did not please him, he kicked down a great jar that cost him above ten pounds but the week before. I then laid the fragments together in a heap, and gave him his cane again, desiring him that, if he chanced to be in anger, he would spend his