Графични страници
PDF файл

that are

with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author. To gratify this curiosity, which is so natural to a reader, I design this paper and my next as prefatory discourses to my following writings, and shall give some account in them of the several persons engaged in this work. As the chief trouble of compiling, digesting, and correcting, will fall to my share, I must do myself the justice to open the work with my own history.

I was born to a small hereditary estate, which, according to the tradition of the village where it lies, was bounded by the same hedges and ditches in William the Conqueror's time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from father to son whole and entire, without the loss or acquisition of a single field or meadow, during the space of six hundred years. There runs a story in the family, that when my mother was gone with child of me about three months, she dreamt that she was brought to bed of a judge: whether this might proceed from a law-suit which was then depending in the family, or my father's being a justice of the peace, I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any dignity that I should arrive at in my future life, though that was the interpretation which the neighbourhood put upon it.

1 It was strange, said Charles II., on hearing a similar declaration, that there was not in all that time a wise man or a fool in the family.-C.

length, in the course of the work) for which we are not prepared, by the general outline of them, as presented to us in the introductory papers ; se that, if we did not know the contrary, we might suspect that these papers like the preface to a book, had been written after the whole was printer off, and not before a syllable of it was composed. Such was the effect of the original plan, and the care of its author,

“Primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum!" As for his coadjutor, Sir Richard Steele, he knew the world, or rather what is called the town, well, and had a considerable fund of wit and humour; but his wit was often forced, and his humour ungraceful; not but his style would give this appearance to each, being at once incorrect and heavy. His graver papers are universally hard and labored, though, at the same time, superficial. Some better writers contributed, occasionally, to carry on this work; but its success was, properly, owing to the matchless pen of Mr. Addison.-H.

The gravity of my behaviour at my very first appearance in the world, and all the time that I sucked, seemed to favour my mother's dream; for, as she has often told me, I threw away my rattle before I was two months old, and would not make use of my coral till they had taken away the bells from it.

As for the rest of my infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in silence. I find, that during my non-age, I had the reputation of a very sullen youth, but was always a favourite of my schoolmaster, who used to say, that my parts were solid, and would wear well. I had not been long at the university, before I distinguished myself by a most profound silence : for during the space of eight years, excepting in the public exercises of the college, I scarce uttered the quantity of an hundred words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three sentences together in my whole life. Whilst I was in this learned body, I applied myself with so much diligence to my studies, that there are very few celebrated books, either in the learned or modern tongues, which I am not acquainted with.

Upon the death of my father, I was resolved to travel into foreign countries, and therefore left the university with the character of an odd unaccountable fellow, that had a great deal of learning, if I would but shew it. An insatiable thirst after knowledge carried me into all the countries of Europe in which there was any thing new or strange to be seen : nay, to such a degree was my curiosity raised, that having read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of Egypt, I made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure of a pyramid; and as soon as I had set myself right in that

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

particular, returned to my native country with great satisfaction."

I have passed my latter years in this city, where I am frequently seen in most public places, though there are not above half a dozen of my select friends that know me; of whom my next paper shall give a more particular account. There is no place of general resort, wherein I do not often make my appear. ance; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of politicians at Will's,' and listening with great attention to the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Some

1 A half century's contention respecting the exact admeasurement of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh was a fair subject for ridicule, in spite of Dr. Percy's stigma, that the satire was “reprehensible.” Mr. John Greaves originated the argument so long before the publication of this harmless raillery as 1646, in his work entitled “Pyramidologia ;” and it seems to have been carried on with burning zeal and wonderful learning to the days of the “Spectator," although death had removed Greaves from the discussion in 1652. In No. 7. the “Spectator” says, “I design to visit the next masquerade in the same habit I wore at Grand Cairo.”_*

2 THE COFFEE-HOUSES. The chief places of resort were coffee and chocolate houses, in which some men almost lived; insomuch that whoever wished to find a gentleman commonly asked, not where he resided, out which coffee-house he frequented | No decently attired idler was excluded, provided he laid down his penny at the bar; but this he could seldom do without struggling through the crowd of beaux who fluttered round the lovely bar-maid. Here the proud nobleman or country squire was not to be distinguished from the genteel thief and daring highwayman. “Pray, sir,” says aimwell to Gibbet, in Farquhar's “Beaux Stratagem," “ha'n't I seen your face at Will's coffee-house ?” The robber's reply is :“Yes, sir; and at White's too."

Coffee-houses, from the time of their commencement in 1652, served instead of newspapers: they were arence for political discussion. Journalism was, in 1710, in its infancy: the first daily newspaper (“The Daily Courant,") was scarcely two years old, and was too small to contain much news; as were the other journals then extant. Hence the fiercely contested polemics of the period were either waged in single pamphlets, or in periodicals started to advocate or to oppose some particular question, and laid down when that was settled. The peaceful leading article and mild letter " tu the Editor” had not come into vogue as safety-valves for the

times I smoke a pipe at Child's, and whilst I seem attentive to nothing but the postman, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on Sunday nights at St. James's Coffee-house, and sometimes join the little committee of politics in the inner room, as one who comes there to hear and improve.

escape of overboiling party zeal; and the hot blood, roused in public rooms to quarrelling pitch, was too often cooled by the rapier's point.

Each coffee-house had its political or literary speciality; and of those enumerated in the present paper, Will's was the rendezvous for the wits and poets. It was named after William Urwin, its proprietor, and was situated at No. 1, Bow-street, at the corner of Great Russell-street, Covent Garden; the coffee-room was on the first floor, the lower part having been occupied as a retail shop. Dryden's patronage and frequent appearance made the reputation of the house; which was afterwards maintained by other celebrated characters. De Foe wrote about the year 1720--that * after the play, the best company go to Tom's or Will's Coffee-house near adjoining; where there is playing picquet and the best conversation till midnight. Here you will see blue and green ribbons and stars familiarly, and talking with the same freedom, as if they had left their quality and degrees of distance at home.” The turn of conversation is. happily hit off in the “Spectator” for June 12th, 1712, when a false report of the death of Louis XIV. had reached England :-“Upon my going into Will's I found their discourse was gone off from the death of the French king to that of Monsieur Boileau, Racine, Corneille, and several other poets; whom they regretted on this occasion, as persons who would have obliged the world with very noble elegies on the death of so great a prince, and so eminent a patron of learning.” It was from Will's coffee-house that the “Tatler ” dated his poetry.

Child's was in St. Paul's Churchyard. Its vicinity to the cathedral and Doctors' Commons made it the resort of the clergy and other ecclesi astical loungers. In one respect Child's was superseded by the Chapter in Paternoster Row.

The St. James's was the “Spectator's” head-quarters. It stood at the end of Pall Mall—of which it commanded a perspective view,near to, if not upon, the site of what is now No. 87 St. James's-street, and close to Ozinda's chocolate house. These were the great party rallying places; "a whig," says De Foe, “would no more go to the Cocoa Tree or Ozinda's than a cory would be seen at St. James's.” Swift, however, frequented the latter during his sojourn in London, i710–13; till, fighting in the van of the tory ranks, he could no longer show his face there, and was obliged to relinquish the society of those literary friends whom, though whigs, 110 My face is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the CocoaTree, and in the Theatres both of Drury-Lane and the HayMarket. I have been taken for a merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years, and sometimes pass for a Jew in the assembly of stockjobbers at Jonathan's : in short, wherever I see

cherished. Up to that time all his letters were addressed to the Eu. James's coffee-house, and those from Mrs. Johnston (Stella) were enclos d under cover to Addison. Elliot, who kept the house, acted confidentially for his customers as a party agent; and was on occasions placed on a triendly footing with his distinguished guests. In Swift's Journal to Stesla, under the date of November 19, 1710, we find the following entry :-"1018 even ing I christened our coffee-man Elliot's child; when the rogue had a most noble supper, and Steele and I sat amongst some scurvy company over a bowl of punch.” This must have included some of Elliot's more intimate or private friends; for he numbered amongst his customers neariy all the Whig aistocracy, The “ Tatler" (who dated his politics from the st. James's), enumerating the charges he was at to entertain his readers, assures them that “a good observer cannot even speak with Kidnog, ['keeper of the book debts of the outlying customers, and observer of all those who go off without paying,'*] without clean linen.”

The “Spectator,” in his 403rd number, gives a graphic picture of the company in the coffee-room :-“I first of all called in at St. Jamess, where I found the whole outward room in a buzz of politics. The speculations tvere but very indifferent towards the door, but grew finer as you advanced to the upper end of the room, and were so very much improved by a knot of theorists, who sat in the inner room, within the steams of the coffee-pot, that I there heard the whole Spanish monarchy disposed of, and all the line of Bourbon provided for, in less than a quarter of an hour.”

The “GRECIAN” in Devereux Court derived its name from a Greek named Constantine, who introduced, from the land of Epicurus, a new and improved method of making coffee. Perhaps from this cause, or from having set up his apparatus close to the Temple, he drew the learned to his rooms. “All accounts of learning,” saith the Tatler, “shall be under the title of the 'Grecian.'” The alumni appear to have disputed at a particular table. “I cannot keep an ingenious man,” continues Bickerstaff, “to go daily to the 'Grecian' without allowing him some plain Spanish to be as able as others at the learned table.” The glory of the “Grecian” outlasted that of the rest of the coffee-houses, and it remained tavern till 1843. “JONATHAN'S,” in Change Alley, the general mart for stockjobbers, was

* Spectator, No. 24.

« ПредишнаНапред »