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Fates to cut the thread of man's life upon any pretence whatsoever, unless it be for the sake of the rhyme. And whereas I have good reason to fear, that Neptune will have a great deal of business on his hands, in several poems which we may now suppose are upon the anvil," I do also prohibit his appearance, unless it be done in metaphor, simile, or any very short allusion, and that even here he be not permitted to enter, but with great caution and circumspection. sire that the same rule may be extended to his whole fraternity of heathen gods, it being my design to condemn every poem to the flames in which Jupiter thunders, or exercises any other act of authority which does not belong to him : in short, I expect that no Pagan agent shall be introduced, or any fact related which a man cannot give credit to with a good conscience. Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be constructed to extend, to several of the female poets in this nation, who shall be still left in full possession of their gods and goddesses, in the same manner as if this
had never been written.”
No. 529. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6.
Singula quæque locum teneant sortita decenter. Hor. Upon the hearing of several late disputes concerning rank and precedence, I could not forbear amusing myself with some observations, which I have made upon the learned world, as to this great particular. By the learned world I here mean at large, all those who are any way concerned in works of literature, whether in the writing, printing, or repeating part. To begin with the writers ; I have observed that the author of a folio, in all companies and conversations, sets himself above the author of a quarto; the author of a quarto above the author of an octavo; and so on, by a gradual descent and subordination, to an author in twenty-fours. This distinction is so well observed, that in an assembly of the learned, I have seen a folio writer place himself in an elbowchair, when the author of duodecimo has, out of a just defer
i l'pon the stocks, had been better in this place, for an obvious reason.
ence to his superior quality, seated himself upon a squab. In a word, authors are usually ranged in company after the same manner as their works are upon a shelf.
The most minute pocket-author hath beneath him the writers of all pamphlets, or works that are only stitched. As for a pamphleteer, he takes place of none but of the authors of single sheets, and of that fraternity who publish their labours on certain days, or on every day of the week. I do not find that the precedency among the individuals, in this latter class of writers, is yet settled.1
For my own part, I have had so strict a regard to the ceremonial which prevails in the learned world, that I never presumed to take place of a pamphleteer till my daily papers were gathered into those two first volumes which have already appeared. After which I naturally jumped over the heads not only of all pamphleteers, but of every octavo writer in Great Britain that had written but one book. I am also informed by my bookseller, that six octavos have at all times been looked upon as an equivalent to a folio, which I take notice of, the rather, because I would not have the learned world surprised, if, after the publication of half a dozen volumes, I take my place accordingly. When my scattered forces are thus rallied, and reduced into regular bodies, I flatter myself that I shall make no despicable figure at the head of them.
Whether these rules, which have been received time out of mind in the commonwealth of letters, were not originally established with an eye to our paper manufacture, I shall leave to the discussion of others, and shall only remark further in this place, that all printers and booksellers take the wall of one another, according to the above-mentioned merits of the authors to whom they respectively belong.
I come now to that point of precedency which is settled among the three learned professions, by the wisdom of our laws. I need not here take notice of the rank which is allotted to every doctor in each of these professions, who are all of them, though not so high as knights, yet a degree above squires; this last order of men being the illiterate body of the nation, are consequently thrown together into a
? Is yet settled.] Humorously, perhaps modestly, said. But there was no doubt in the writer's time about that precedency; at least, there can be none now.
class below the three learned professions. I mention this for the sake of several rural squires, whose reading does not rise so high as to the present state of England, and who are often apt to usurp that precedency which by the laws of their country is not due to them. Their want of learning, which has planted them in this station, may in some measure extenuate their misdemeanour; and our professors ought to pardon them when they offend in this particular, considering that they are in a state of ignorance, or, as we usually say, do not know their right hand from their left.
There is another kind of persons who are retainers to the learned world, and who regulate themselves upon all occasions by several laws peculiar to their body. I mean the players or actors of both sexes. Among these it is a standing and uncontroverted principle, that a tragedian always takes place of a comedian ; and it is very well known, the merry drolls who make us laugh are always placed at the lower end of the table, and in every entertainment give way to the dignity of the buskin. It is a stage maxim, “ Once a king, and always a king." For this reason it would be thought very absurd in Mr. Bullock, notwithstanding the height and gracefulness of his person, to sit at the right hand of a hero, though he were but five foot high. The same distinction is observed among the ladies of the theatre. Queens and heroines preserve their rank in private conversation, while those who are waiting-women and maids of honour upon the stage keep their distance also behind the
I shall only add, that, by a parity of reason, all writers of tragedy look upon it as their due to be seated, served, or saluted before comic writers; those who deal in tragi-comedy usually taking their seats between the authors of either side. There has been a long dispute for precedency between the tragic and heroic poets. Aristotle would have the latter yield the pas to the former, but Mr. Dryden and many others would never submit to this decision. Burlesque writers
pay the same deference to the heroic, as comic writers to their serious brothers in the drama.
By this short table of laws, order is kept up and distinction preserved in the whole republic of letters.
No. 530. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7.
Sic visum Veneri; cui placet impares
Sævo mittere cum joco.
usual for those who have been severe upon marriage, in some part or other of their lives to enter into the fraternity which they have ridiculed, and to see their raillery return
their own heads. I scarce ever knew a womanhater that did not, sooner or later, pay for it. Marriage, which is a blessing to another man, falls upon such an one as a judgment. Mr. Congreve's Old Bachelor is set forth to us with much wit and humour, as an example of this kind. In short, those who have most distinguished themselves by railing at the sex general, very often make an honourable amends, by choosing one of the most worthless persons of it for a companion and yoke-fellow. Hymen takes his revenge in kind on those who turn his mysteries into ridicule.
My friend Will. Honeycomb, who was so unmercifully witty upon the women in a couple of letters which I lately communicated to the public, has given the ladies ample satisfaction by marrying a farmer's daughter; a piece of news which came to our club by the last post. The Templar is very positive that he has married a dairy-maid: but Will.in his letter to me on this occasion, sets the best face upon the matter that he can, and gives a more tolerable account of his spouse. I must confess I suspected something more than ordinary, when upon opening the letter I found that Will. was fallen off from his former gaiety, having changed Dear Spec., which was his usual salute at the beginning of the letter, into My worthy Friend, and subscribed himself in the latter end of it at full length, William Honeycomb. In short, the gay, the loud, the vain Will. Honeycomb, who had made love to every great fortune that has appeared in town for about thirty years together, and boasted of favours from ladies whom he had never seen, is at length wedded to a plain country girl.
His letter gives us the picture of a converted rake. The sober character of the husband is dashed with the man of the town, and enlivened with those little cant phrases which have made my friend Will. often thought very pretty company. But let us hear what he
My worthy Friend,
I question not but you, and the rest of my acquaintance, wonder that I, who have lived in the smoke and gallantries of the town for thirty years together, should all on
fond of a country life. Had not my dog of a steward run away as he did, without making up his accounts, I had still been immersed in sin and sea-coal. But since my late forced visit to my estate, I am so pleased with it, that I am resolved to live and die upon it. I am every day abroad among my acres, and can scarce forbear filling my letter with breezes, shades, flowers, meadows, and purling streams. The simplicity of manners, which I have heard you so often speak of, and which appears here in perfection, charms me wonderfully. As an instance of it, I must acquaint you, and by your means the whole club, that I have lately married one of my tenant's daughters. She is born of honest parents, and though she has no portion, she has a great deal of virtue. The natural sweetness and innocence of her behaviour, the freshness of her complexion, the unaffected turn of her shape and person, shot me through and through every time I saw her, and did more execution upon me in grogram, than the greatest beauty in town or court had ever done in brocade. In short, she is such an one as promises me a good heir to my estate; and if by her means I cannot leave to my children what are falsely called the gifts of birth, high titles and alliances, I hope to convey to them the more real and valuable gifts of birth, strong bodies and healthy constitutions. As for your fine women, I need not tell thee that I know them. I have had my share in their graces, but no more of that. It shall be my business hereafter to live the life of an honest man, and to act as becomes the master of a family. I question not but I shall draw upon me the raillery of the town, and be treated to the tune of The marriage-hater matched;? but I am prepared for it. I have been as witty upon others in my time. To tell thee truly, I saw such a tribe of fashionable young fluttering coxcombs shot up, that I did not think my post of an homme de ruelle any longer tenable. I felt a certain stiffness in my limbs, which entirely destroyed that jauntiness of air