« PreviousContinue »
The Busy-Body.-No. VIII.
FROM TUESDAY, MARCH 20, TO THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 1729.
Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
Auri sacra fames?-- TIRGIL. ONE of the greatest pleasures an author can have, is, certainly, the hearing his works applauded. The hiding from the world our names, while we publish our thoughts, is so absolutely necessary to this self-gratification, that I hope my well-wishers will congratulate , me on my escape from the inany diligent, but fruitless enquiries, that have of late been made after me. Every, man will own, that an author, as such, ought to be hid by the merit of his productions only; but pride, party, and prejudice, at this time, run so very high, that experience shows we form our notions of a piece by the character of the author. Nay, there are some very bumble politicians in and about this city, who will ask, on which side the writer is, before they presume to give their opinion of the thing wrote. This ungenerous way of proceeding I was well aware of before I published my first speculation, and therefore concealed my name. And I appeal to the more generous part of the world, if I have, since I appeared in the character of the Busy-Body, given an instance of my siding with any party more than another, in the unhappy divisions of my country; and I have, above all, this satisfaction in myself, that neither affection, aversion, or interest, have biassed me to u: 2 any partiality towards any man, or set of men; but whatsoever I find nonsensical, ridiculous, or immorally dishonest, I have, and shall continue
openly to attack, with the freedom of an honest man, and a lover of my country.
I profess I can hardly contain myself, or preserve the gravity and dignity that should attend the censorial office, when I hear the odd and unaccountable expositions, that are put upon some of my works, through the malicious ignorance of some, and the vain pride of more than ordinary penetration in others; one instance of which many of my readers are acquainted with. A certain gentleman has taken a great deal of pains to write a key to the letter in my Number IV, wherein he has ingeniously converted a gentle satyr upon tedious and impertinent visitants, into a libel on some of the government. This I mention only as a specimen of the taste of the gentleman; I am, forsouth, bound to please in my speculations, not that I suppose my impartiality will ever be called in question on that account. Injustices of this nature I could complain of in many instances; but I am at present diverted by the reception of a letter, which, though it regards me only in my private capacity, as an adept, yet I venture to publish it for the entertainment of my readers.
“ To Censor Morum, Esq. Busy-Body General of the
Province of Pennsylvania, and the Counties of New castle, Kent, and Sussex upon Delaware.
“ HONOURABLE SIR, “I JUDGE by your lucubrations, that you are not only a lover of truth and equity, but a man of parts and learning, and a master of science; as such I honour you. Know then, most profound sir, that I have, from my youth up, been a very indefatigable student in, and admirer of, that divine science, astrology. I have read over Scot, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa, above three hundred times; and was in hopes, by my knowledge and industry, to gain enough to have recompensed me for my money expended, and lime lost in the pursuit of this learning. You cannot be ignorant, sir, (for your intimate second-sighted correspondent knows all things) that there are large sums of money hidden under ground in divers places about this town, and in many parts of the country: but alas, sir, notwithstanding I have used all the means laid down in the immortal authors before mentioned, and when they failed the ingenious Mr. P---d---], with his mercurial wand and magnet, I have still failed in my purpose. This, therefore, I send, to propose and desire an acquaintance with you, and I do not doubt, notwithstanding my repeated ill fortune, but we may be exceedingly seryiceable to each other in our discoveries; and that if we use our : united endeavours, the time will come, when the BusyBody, his second-sighted correspondent, and your very humble servant, will be three of the richest men in the province: and then, sir, what may we not do? A word to the wise is sufficient. I conclude with all demonstrable respect, . Yours and Urania's Votary,
In the evening after I had received this letter, I made a visit to my second-sighted friend, and commu. nicated to him the proposal. When he had read it, he assured me, that to his certain knowledge, there is not at this time so much as one ounce of silver or gold hid under ground in any part of this province; for that the VOL. III, i D G
late and present scarcity of money had obliged unose, who were living, and knew where they had formerly hid any, to take it up, and use it in their own necessary affairs: and as to all the rest, which was buried by pi' rates and others in old times, who were never like to come for it, he himself had long since dug it all up, and applied it to charitable uses; and this he desired me to publish for the general good. For, as he acquainted me, there are among us great numbers of honest artificers and labouring people, who, fed with a vain hope of growing suddenly rich, neglect their business, almost to the ruining of themselves and families, and voluntarily endure abundance of fatigue in a fruitless search after imaginary hidden treasure. They wander through the woods and bushes by day, to discover the marks and signs; at midnight they repair to the hopeful spots with spades and pickaxes; full of expectation, they labour violently, trembling at the same time in every joint, through fear of certain malicious demons, who are said to haunt and guard such places. At length a mighty hole is dug, and perhaps several cartloads of earth thrown out; but, alas, no cag or iron pot is found! no seaman's chest crammed with Spanish pistoles, or weighty pieces of eight! Then they conclude, that through some mistake in the procedure, some rash word spoke, or some rule of art neglected, the guardian spirit had power to sink it deeper into the earth, and convey it out of their reach. Yet, when a man is once thus infatuated, he is so far from being discouraged by ill success, that he is rather animated to double his industry, and will try again and again in a hundred different places, in hopes at last of meeting with some
lucky hit, that shall at once sufficiently reward him for all his expense of time and labour.
This odd humour of digging for money through a belief, that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us; insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side, without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately opened. Men, otherwise of very good sense, have been drawn into this practice, through an overweening desire of sudden wealth, and an easy credulity of what they so earnestly wished might be true. While the rational and almost certain methods of acquiring riches by industry and frugality are neglected or forgotten. There seems to be some peculiar charm in the conceit of finding money; and if the sands of Schuylkil were so much mixed with small grains of gold, that a man might in a day's time, with care and application, get together to the value of half a crown, I make no question but we should find several people employed there, that can with ease earn five shillings a day at their proper trades.
Many are the idle stories told of the private success of some people, by which others are encouraged to proceed; and the astrologers, with whom the country swarms at this time, are either in the belief of these things themselves, or find their advantage in persuading others to believe them ; for they are often consulted about the critical times for digging, the methods of laying the spirit, and the like whimsies, which renders them very necessary to, and very much caressed by, the poor deluded money-hunters. There is certainly something very bewitching in the QG 2