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A Modern Critic
Is a Corrector of the Press, gratis ; and as he does it for nothing, so it is to no purpose. He fancies himself Clerk of Stationer’s-Hall, and nothing must pass current that is not entered by him. He is very severe in his supposed office, and cries, Woe to ye Scribes, right or wrong. He
supposes all writers to be malefactors without clergy, that claim the privilege of their books, and will not allow it, where the law of the land and common justice does. He censures in gross, and condemns all without examining particulars. If they will not confess and accuse themselves, he will rack them until they do. He is a committee-man in the commonwealth of letters, and as great a tyrant; so is not bound to proceed but by his own rules, which he will not endure to be disputed. He has been an apocryphal scribbler himself; but his writings wanting authority he grew discontent, and turned apostate, and thence becomes so severe to those of his own profession. He never commends any thing but in opposition to something else that he would undervalue, and commonly sides with the weakest, which is generous any where but in judging. He is worse than an Index expurgatorius; for he blots out all, and, when he cannot find a fault, makes one. He demurrs to all writers, and when he is overruled, will run into contempt. He is always bringing writs of errour, like a pettifogger, and reversing of judgments, though the case be never so plain. He is a mountebank, that is always quacking of the infirm and diseased parts of books, to shew his skill; but has nothing at all to do with the sound. He is a very ungentle reader, for he reads sentence on all authors that have the unhappiness to come before him; and therefore pedants, that stand in fear of him, always appeal from him before hand, by the name of Momus and Zoilus, complain sorely of his extra-judicial proceedings, and protest against him as corrupt, and his judgment void, and of none effect; and put themselves into the protection of some powerful patron, who, like a knight-errant, is to encounter with the magician, and free them from his enchantments.
We speak with unfeigned earnestness when we recommend the following character to the attention of some of our goodnatured friends, who, like honest Dogberry, "find in their hearts to bestow the whole of their tediousness upon us.”
Is a common nuisance, and as great a grievance to those that come near him, as a pewterer is to his neighbours. His discourse is like the braying of a mortar, the more impertinent the more voluble and loud, as a pestle makes more noise when it is rung on the sides of a mortar, than when it stamps downright, and hits upon the business. A dog that opens upon a wrong scent will do it oftener than one that never opens but upon a right. He is as long-winded as a ventiduct, that fills as fast as it empties, or a trade-wind, that blows one way for half a year together, and another as long, as if it drew in its breath
for six months, and blew it out again for six more. He has no mercy on any man's ears or patience, that he can get within his sphere of activity, but tortures him, as they correct boys in Scotland, by stretching their lugs without remorse. He is like an ear-wig, when he gets within a man's ear, he is not easily to be got out again. He is a siren to himself, and has no way to escape shipwreck but by having his mouth stopped, instead of bis ears. He plays with his tongue as a cat does with her tail, and is transported with the delight he gives himself of his own making.
Butler is traditionally said to have been a man of bashful and reserved manners, till enlivened by the cheering influence of the bottle. In the following character, and elsewhere,* he has drawn, in strong colours, the blessings of a comfortable
An Impudent Man Is one, whose want of money and want of wit have engaged him beyond his abilities. The little knowledge he has of himself being suitable to the little he has in his profession, has made him believe himself fit for it. This double ignorance has made him set a value upon himself, as he that wants a great deal appears in a better condition than he that wants a little. This renders him confident, and fit for any
undertaking; and sometimes (such is the concurrent ignorance of the world), he prospers in it, but oftner miscarries, and becomes ridiculous; yet this advantage he has, that as nothing can make him see his error, so nothing can discourage him that way; for he is fortified with his ignorance, as barren and rocky places are by their situation, and he will rather believe that all men want judgement than himself. For as no man is pleased, that has an ill opinion of himself, Nature, that finds out remedies herself, and his own ease, render him insensible of his defects. From hence he grows impudent; for, as men judge by comparison, he knows as little what it is to be defective, as what it is to be excellent. Nothing renders men modest, but a just knowledge how to compare themselves with others; and where that is wanting, impudence supplies the place of it; for there is no vacuum in the minds of men, and commonly, like other things in nature, they swell more with rarefaction than condensation. The more men know of the world, the worse opinion they have of it; and the more they understand of truth, they are better acquainted with the difficulties of it, and consequently are the less confident in their assertions, especially in matters of probability, which commonly is squint-eyed, and looks
- he that hath but impudence,
nine ways at once. It is the office of a just judge to hear both parties, and he that considers but the one side of things, can never make a just judgement, though he may, by chance, a true one. Modesty is but a noble jealousy of honour, and impudence the prostitution of it; for he, whose face is proof against infamy, must be as little sensible of glory. Nature made man barefaced, and civil, custom has preserved him so; but he that's impudent does wear a vizard more ugly and deformed than highway thieves disguise themselves with. Shame is the tender moral conscience of good men. When there is a crack in the skull, Nature herself, with a tough horny callus, repairs the breach; so a flawed intellect is with a brawny callus face supplied. The face is the dial of the mind; and where they do not go together, 'tis a sign that one or both are out of order. He that is impudent, is like a merchant that trades upon his credit without a stock, and, if his debts were known, would break immediately. He passes in the world like a piece of counterfeit coin, looks well enough until he is rubbed and worn with use, and then his copper complection begins to appear, and nobody will take him but by owl-light.
The Vintner will bring ungrateful recollections to such of our readers as have imbibed the “ villainous compound” of his undegenerate descendants. We would recommend Mr. Accum to prefix the following passage to the next edition of his Culinary Poisons.
A Vintner Hangs out his Bush to shew he has not good wine; for that, the proverb says, needs it not. He had rather sell bad wine than good that stands him in no more; for it makes men sooner drunk, and then they are the easier over-reckoned. By the knaveries he acts aboveboard, which every man sees, one may easily take a measure of those he does under-ground in his cellar; for he that will pick a man's pocket to his face, will not stick to use him worse in private, when he knows nothing of it. He does not only spoil and destroy his wines, but an ancient reverend proverb, with brewing and racking, that says, In vino veritas, for there is no truth in his, but all false and sophisticated; for he can counterfeit wine as cunningly as Apelles did grapes, and cheat men with it, as he did birds. He is an Anti-christian cheat; for Christ turned water into wine, and he turns wine into water. He scores all his reckonings upon two tables, made like those of the Ten Commandments, that he may be put in mind to break them as oft as possibly he can; especially that of stealing and bearing false witness against his neighbour, when he draws him bad wine, and swears it is good; and that he can take more for the pipe than the wine will yield him by the bottle; a trick that a Jesuit taught him to cheat his own conscience with. When he is found to over-reckon notoriously, he has one common evasion for all; and that is, to say it was a mistake; by which he means, that he thought they had not been sober enough to discover it; for if it had past, there had been no error at all in the case.
The folly of the Sot is a fit companion for the knavery of the Vintner.
A Sot Has found out a way to renew, not only his youth, but his childhood, by being stewed, like old Æson, in liquor ; much better than the virtuoso's way of making old dogs young again : for he is a child again at second hand, never the worse for the wearing, but as purely fresh, simple, and weak, as he was at first. He has stupifyed his senses by living in a moist climate according to the poet-Baotum in crasso jurares aëre natum. He measures his time by glasses of wine, as the ancients did by water-glasses; he is like a statue placed in a moist air ; all the lineaments of humanity are mouldered away, and there is nothing left of him but a rude lump of the shape of a man, and no one part entire. He has drowned himself in a butt of wine, as the Duke of Clarence was served by his brother. He has swallowed his humanity, and drunk himself into a beast; as if he had pledged Madam Circe, and done her right. He is like a spring-tide; when he is drunk to his high-water mark, he swells and looks big, runs against the stream, and overflows every thing that stands in his way; but, when the drink within him is at an ebb, he shrinks within his banks, and falls so low and shallow, that cattle may pass over him. He governs all his actions by the drink within him, as a quaker does by the light within him ; has a different humour for every nick his drink rises to, like the degrees of the weather glass, and proceeds from ribaldry and bawdery, to politics, religion, and quarrelling, until it is at the top, and then it is the dogdays with him; from whence he falls down again, until his liquor is at the bottom, and then he lies quiet, and is frozen up.
The Melancholy Man is unfortunately a character which is indigenous in our island. Butler's subject has the disorder in its greatest virulence: his is not “the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politick; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these."
A Melancholy Man Is one, that keeps the worst company in the world, that is, his own, and though he be always falling out and quarrelling with himself, yet he has not power to endure any other conversation. His head is haunted, like a house, with evil spirits and apparitions, that terrify and fright him out of himself, till he stands empty and forsaken. His soul lives in his body, like a mole in the earth, that labours in the dark, and casts up doubts and scruples of his own imaginations, to make that rugged and uneasy, that was plain and open before. The temper of his brain being earthy, cold, and dry, is apt to breed worms, that sink so deep into it, no medicine in art or nature is able to reach them. He leads his life, as one leads a dog in a slip that will not follow, but is dragged along until he is almost hanged, as he has it often under con
sideration to treat himself in convenient time and place, if he can but catch himself alone. He makes the infirmity of his temper pass for revelations, as Mahomet did by his falling sickness; and inspires himself with the wind of his own hypocondries. His mind is full of thoughts, but they are all empty, like a nest of boxes. He sleeps little, but dreams much, and soundest when he is waking. He sees visions further off than a second-sighted man in Scotland, and dreams upon a hard point with admirable judgement. He is just so much worse than a madman, as he is below him in degree of frenzy ; for among madmen, the most mad govern all the rest, and receive a natural obedience from their inferiors.
The Pedant is one of those excrescences of learning which Butler delighted to cauterize.
Is a dwarf scholar, that never outgrows the mode and fashion of the school, where he should have been taught. He wears his little learning unmade up, puts it on before it was half finished, without pressing or smoothing. He studies and uses words with the greatest respect possible, merely for their own sakes, like an honest man, without any regard of interest, as they are useful and serviceable to things; and among those he is kindest to strangers, (like a civil gentleman,) that are far from their own country, and most unknown. He collects old sayings and ends of verses, as antiquaries do old coins, and is as glad to produce them upon all occasions. He has sentences ready lying by him for all purposes, though to no one, and talks of authors as familiarly as his fellow-collegiates. He handles arts and sciences like those, that can play a little upon an instrument, but do not know whether it be in tune or not. He converses by the book; and does not talk, but quote. If he can but screw in something, that an ancient writer said, he believes it to be much better than if he had something of himself to the purpose. His brain is not able to concoct what it takes in, and therefore brings things up, as they were swallowed, that is, crude and undigested, in whole sentences, not assimilated sense, which he rather affects; for his want of judgment, like want of health, renders his appetite preposterous. He is worse than one, that is utterly ignorant, as a cock that sees a little fights worse than one that is starkblind. He speaks in a different dialect from other men, and much affects forced expressions, forgetting that hard words, as well as evil ones, corrupt good manners. If he professes physic, he gives his patients sound hard words for their money, as cheap as he can afford ; for they cost him money and study too, before he came by them, and he has reason to make as much of them as he can.
We shall conclude our extracts with the character of the Antiquary--the true progenitor of our worthy friend, Jonathan Oldbuck, but without the excellent qualities of head and heart which ennoble the whimsies of the Laird of Monkbarns.