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bours. He had a particular carefulness in the knitting of his brows, and a kind of impatience in all his motions, that plainly discovered he was always intent on matters of importance. Upon my inquiry into his life and conversation, I found him to be the greatest newsmonger in our quarter; that he rose before day to read The Postman; and that he would take two or three turns to the other end of the town before his neighbours were up, to see if there were any Dutch mails come in. He had a wife and several children ; but was much more inquisitive to know what passed in Poland than in his own family, and was in greater pain and anxiety of mind for king Augustus's welfare than that of his nearest relations. He looked extremely thin in a dearth of news, and never enjoyed himself in a westerly wind. This indefatigable kind of life was the ruin of his shop; for, about the time that his favourite prince left the crown of Poland, he broke and disappeared.
This man and his affairs had been long out of my mind, until about three days ago, as I was walking in St. James's park, I heard somebody at a distance hemming after me: and who should it be but my old neighbour the upholsterer ! I saw he was reduced to extreme poverty, by certain shabby superfluities in his dress; for, notwithstanding that it was a very sultry day for the time of the year, he wore a loose great coat and a muff, with a long campaign wig out of curl; to which he had added the ornament of a pair of black garters buckled under the knee. Upon his coming up to me, I was going to inquire into his present cir cumstances; but was prevented by his asking me, with a whisper, whether the last letters brought any accounts that one might rely upon from Bender? I told
him, None that I heard of; and asked him, whethe he had yet married his eldest daughter? He told me, No. But pray, says he, tell me sincerely, what are your thoughts of the king of Sweden ? for, though his wife and children were starving, I found his chief concern at present was for this great monarch. I told him that I looked upon him as one of the first heroes of the age. But pray, says he, do you think there is any thing in the story of his wound? And finding me surprised at the question, Nay, says he, I only propose it to you. I answered, that I thought there was no reason to doubt of it. But why in the heel, says he, more than any other part of the body? Because, said I, the bullet chanced to light there.
This extraordinary dialogue was no sooner ended, but he began to launch out into a long dissertation upon the affairs of the North ; and, after having spent some time on them, he told me, he was in a great perplexity how to reconcile the Supplement with The English Post, and had been just now examining what the other papers say upon the same subject. The Daily Courant, says he, has these words, We have advices from very good hands, that a certain prince has some matters of great importance under consideration. This is very mysterious ; but The Postboy leaves us more in the dark; for he tells us, that there are private intimations of measures taken by a certain prince, which time will bring to light.' Now The Postman, says he, who uses to be very clear, refers to the same news in these words : The late conduct of a certain prince affords great matter of speculation.' This certain prince, says the upholsterer, whom they are all so cautious of naming, I take to be
Upon which, though there was nobody near us, he whispered
something in niy ear, which I did not hear, or think worth my while to make him repeat.
We were now got to the upper end of the Mall, where were three or four very odd fellows sitting together upon the bench. These I found were all of them politieians, who used to sun themselves in that place every day about dinner-time. Observing them to be curiosities in their kind, and my friend's acquaintance, I sat down among them.
The chief politician of the bench was a great asserter of paradoxes. He told us with a seeming concern, that by some news he had lately read from Muscovy, it appeared to him that there was a storm gathering in the Black Sea, which might in time do hurt to the naval forces of this nation. To this he added, that, for his part, he could not wish to see the Turk driven out of Europe, which he believed could not but be prejudicial to our woollen manufacture. He then told us, that he looked upon those extraordinary revolutions which had lately happened in those parts of the world, to have risen chiefly from two persons who were not much talked of; and those, says he, are prince Menzikoff, and the duchess of Mirandola. He backed his assertions with so many broken hints, and such a show of depth and wisdom, that we gave ourselves up to his opinions.
The discourse at length fell upon a point which seldom escapes a knot of true-born Englishmen, Whether, in case of a religious war, tlre protestants would not be too strong for the papists? This we unanimously determined on the protestant side. One who sat on my right hand, and, as I found by his discourse, had been in the West Indies, assured us, that it would be a very easy matter for the protestants to beat the
pope at sea; and added, that whenever such a war does break out, it must turn to the good of the Leeward islands. Upon this, one who sat at the end of the bench, and, as I afterwards found, was the geographer of the company, said, that in case the papists should drive the protestants from these parts of Europe, when the worst came to the worst, it would be impossible to beat them out of Norway and Greenland, provided the northern crowns hold together, and the czar of Muscovy stand neuter.
He further told us, for our comfort, that there were vast tracts of land about the pole, inhabited neither by protestants nor papists, and of greater extent than all the Roman catholic dominions in Europe.
When we had fully discussed this point, my friend the upholsterer began to exert himself upon the present negotiations of peace; in which he deposed princess settled the bounds of kingdoms, and balanced the power of Europe, with great justice and impartiality.
I at length took my leave of the company, and was going away; but had not gone thirty yards before the upholsterer hemmed again after me. Upon his advancing towards me, with a whisper, I expeeted to hear some secret piece of news which he had not thought fit to communicate to the bench; but instead of that, he desired me, in my ear, to lend him halfa-crown. In compassion to so needy a statesman, and to dissipate the confusion I found he was in, I told him, if he pleased, I would give him five shillings, to receive five pounds of him when the Great Turk was driven out of Constantinople; which he very readily accepted, but not before he had laid down to me the inpossibility of such an event, as the affairs of Europe now stand.
This paper I design for the particular benefit of those worthy citizens who live more in a coffee-house than in their shops, and whose thoughts are so taken up with the affairs of the allies, that they forget their customers *.
CRITIQUE OF A SONG. No. 163. I YESTERDAY came hither about two hours before the company generally make their appearance, with a design to read over all the newspapers ; but upon my sitting down, I was accosted by Ned Softly, who saw me from a corner in the other end of the room, where I found he had been writing something. Mr. Bickerstaff, says he, I obscrve by a late paper of yours, that you and I are just of a humour; for you must know, of all impertinencies, there is nothing which I sa much hate as news. I never read a Gazette in my life; and never trouble my head about our armies, whether they win or lose, or in what part of the world they lie encamped. Without giving me time to reply, he drew a paper of verses out of his pocket, telling me that he had something which would entertain me more agreeably; and that he would desire my judgment upon every line, for that we had time enough before us until the company came in.
Ned Softly is a very pretty poet, and a great admirer of easy lines. Waller is his favourite: and as that admirable writer has the best and worst verses of any
:* The character of the Upholsterer, in the farce of that name, by Mr. Murphy, was suggested by this Paper.