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N° 106. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 1709.
Invenies disjecti membra poetæ.
HOR. 1. Sat. iv. 62. You will find the limbs of a dismember'd poet.
Will's Coffee-house, December 12. I was this evening sitting at the side-table, and reading one of my own papers with great satisfaction, not knowing that I was observed by any in the room.
I had not long enjoyed this secret pleasure of an author, when a gentleman, some of whose works I have been highly entertained with, accosted me after the following manner. « Mr. Bickerstaff, you know I have for some years devoted myself wholly to the Muses, and, perhaps you will be surprised when I tell
and apply myself to business. I shall, therefore, beg you will stand my friend, and recommend a customer to me for several goods that I have now upon my
hands.”_" I desired him to let me have a particular,* and I would do my utmost to serve him.” “I have, first of all,” says he, “the progress of an amour digested into sonnets, beginning with a poem to the unknown fair, and ending with an epithalimium. I have celebrated in it her cruelty, her pity, her face,
* The technical phrase of an auctioneer.
says he, "
her shape, her wit, her good humour, her dancing, her singing" -I could not forbear interrupting him; “This is a most accomplished lady,” said I: “ but has she really with all these perfections, a fine voice ?”—“ Pugh,
you do not believe that there is such a person in nature. This was only my employment in solitude last summer, when I had neither friends nor books to divert me.”_" I was going,” said I, “ to ask her name, but I find it is only an imaginary mistress.”_" That's true,” replied my friend, “ but her name is Flavia. I have,” continued he, “in the second place, a collection of lampoons, calculated either for the Bath, Tunbridge, or any place where they drink waters, with blank spaces, for the names of such person or persons as may be inserted in them on occasion. Thus much I have told only of what I have by me proceeding from love and malice. I have also at this time the sketch of an heroic poem upon the next peace; several, indeed, of the verses are either too long or too short, it being a rough draught of my thoughts upon that subject." I thereupon told him, “That as it was, it might probably pass for a very good Pindaric, and I believed I knew one who would be willing to deal with him for it upon that foot.” “I must tell you also,” said he, " I have made a dedication to it, which is about four sides close written, that may serve any one that is tall, and understands Latin. have further out fifty similes, that were never yet applied, besides three-and-twenty descriptions of the sun rising, that might be of great use to an epic poet. These are my more bulky commodities : besides which, I have several small wares that I would part with at easy rates; as observations upon life, and moral sentences, reduced into several couplets, very proper to close up acts of plays, and may be easily introduced by two or three lines of prose, either in tragedy or comedy. If I
could find a purchaser curious in Latin poetry, I could accommodate him with two dozen of epigrams, which, by reason of a few false quantities, should come for little, or nothing.'
I heard the gentleman with much attention, and asked him, “Whether he would break bulk, and sell his goods by retail, or designed they should all go in a lump ?” He told me, - That he should be very loth to part them, unless it was to oblige a man of quality, or any person for whom I had a particular friendship.-“ My reason for asking,” said I, “ is, only because I know a young gentleman who intends to appear next spring in a new jingling chariot, with the figures of the nine Muses on each side of it; and, I believe, would be glad to come into the world in verse.' We could not go on in our treaty, by reason of two or three critics that joined us. They had been talking, it seems, of the two letters which were found in the coffin, and mentioned in one of my late lucubrations, and came with a request to me, that I would communicate any others of them that were legible. One of the gentlemen was pleased to say, that it was a very proper instance of a widow's constancy, and said, “ He wished I had subjoined, as a foil to it, the following passage in Hamlet.” The young prince was not yet acquainted with all the guilt of his mother, but turns his thoughts on her sudden forgetfulness of his father, and the indecency of her hasty marriage.
That it should come to this!
Let me not think on't-Frailty, thy name is Woman! A little month! or ere those shoes were old, With which she follow'd my poor father's body, Like Niobe, all tears !-why she, even she, O Heaven!' a brute that wants discourse of reason, Would have mourn'd longer-married with mine uncle! My father's brother! but no more like my father, Than I to Hercules. Within a month! Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her gauled eyes, She married—O most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets ! It is not, nor it cannot come to good, But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue! The several emotions of mind, and breaks of passion in this speech, are admirable. He has touched every circumstance that aggravated the fact, and seemed capable of hurrying the thoughts of a son into distraction. His father's tenderness for his mother, expressed in so delicate a particular; his mother's fondness for his father, no less exquisitely described; the great and amiable figure of his dead parent drawn by a true filial piety; his disdain of so unworthy a successor to his bed; but, above all, the shortness of the time between his father's death and his mother's second marriage, brought together with so much disorder, make up as noble a part as any in that celebrated tragedy. The circumstances of time I never could enough admire. The widowhood had lasted two months. This is his first reflection : but, as his indignation rises, he sinks to scarce two months; afterwards into a month; and at last, into a little month : but all this so naturally, that the reader accompanies him in the violence of his passion, and finds the time lessen insensibly, according to the different workings of his disdain. I have not mentioned the incest of her marriage, which is so obvious a provocation : but cannot forbear taking notice, that when his fury is at its height, he cries, “ Frailty, thy name is Woman!”
at the sex in general, rather than giving himself leave to think his mother worse than othersDesiderantur multa.
*** Whereas Mr. Jeffery Groggram has surrendered himself, by his letter bearing date December 7, and has sent an acknowledgement that he is dead, praying an order to the company of Upholders for interment at such a reasonable rate as may not impoverish his heirs: the said Groggram having been dead ever since he was born, and added nothing to his small patrimony; Mr. Bickerstaff has taken the premises into consideration; and being sensible of the ingenuous and singular behaviour of this petitioner, pronounces the said Jeffery Groggram a live man, and will not suffer that he should bury himself out of modesty; but requires him to remain among the living, as an example to those obstinate dead men, who will neither labour for life, nor go to their grave.
N.B. Mr. Groggram is the first person that has come in upon Mr. Bickerstaff's dead warrant.
++ Florinda demands, by her letter of this day, to be allowed to pass for a living woman, having danced the Derbyshire Hornpipe in the presence of several friends on Saturday last.
Granted; provided she can bring proof, that she can make a pudding on the twenty-fourth instant.