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the other part of their design better executed. Look into their pretended truths: are they not so many wretched absurdities, maintained in opposition to the light of nature and divine revelation by sly inuendoes and cold jests, by such pitiful sophisms and such confused and indigested notions, that one would vehemently suspect those men usurped the name of freethinkers, with the same view that hypocrites do that of godliness, that it may serve for a cloak to cover the contrary defect?
I shall close this discourse with a parallel reflection on these three species, who seem to be allied by a certain agreement in mediocrity of understanding. A critic is entirely given up to the pursuit of learning; when he has got it, is his judgment clearer, his imagination livelier, or his manners more polite, than those of other men? Is it observed that a miser, when he has acquired his superfluous estate, eats, drinks, or sleeps with more satisfaction, that he has a cheerfuller mind, or relishes any of the enjoyments of life better than his neighbours? The free-thinkers plead hard for a licence to think freely; they have it: but what use do they make of it? Are they eminent for any sublime discoveries in any of the arts and sciences? Have they been authors of any inventions that conduce to the well-being of mankind? Do their writings show a greater depth of design, a clearer method, or more just and correct reasoning than those of other men?
There is a great resemblance in their genius; but the critic and miser are only ridiculous and contemptible creatures, while the free-thinker is also a pernicious one.
N° 84. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 1713.
Sticking like leeches, till they burst with blood.
'TO THE HON. NESTOR IRONSIDE, ESQ.
Middle Temple, June 12. 'PRESUMING you may sometimes condescend to take cognizance of small enormities, I here lay one before you, which I proceed to without farther apology, as well knowing the best compliment to a man of business is to come to the point.
There is a silly habit among many of our minor orators, who display their eloquence in the several coffee-houses of this fair city, to the no small annoyance of considerable numbers of her majesty's spruce and loving subjects, and that is a humour they have got of twisting off your buttons. These ingenious gentlemen are not able to advance three words until they have got fast hold of one of your buttons; but as soon as they have procured such an excellent handle for discourse, they will indeed proceed with great elocution. I know not how well some may have escaped, but for my part I have often met with them to my cost; having I believe within these three years last past been argued out of several dozens; insomuch that I have for some time ordered my taylor to bring me home with every suit a dozen at least of spare ones, to supply the place of such as from time to time
are detached as an help to discourse, by the vehe. ment gentlemen before mentioned. This way of holding a man in discourse is much practised in the coffee-houses within the city, and does not indeed so much prevail at the politer end of the town. It is likewise more frequently made use of among the small politicians, than any other body of men; I am therefore something cautious of entering into a controversy with this species of statesmen, especially the younger fry; for if you offer in the least to dissent from any thing that one of these advances, he immediately steps up to you, takes hold of one of your buttons, and indeed will soon convince you of the strength of his argumentation. I remember, upon the news of Dunkirk's being delivered into our hands, a brisk little fellow, a politician and an able engineer, had got into the middle of Batson's coffee-house, and was fortifying Graveling for the service of the most christian king, with all imaginable expedition. The work was carried on with such success, that in less than a quarter of an hour's time, he had made it almost impregnable, and in the opinion of several worthy citizens who had gathered round him, full as strong both by sea and land as Dunkirk ever could pretend to be. I happened however unadvisedly to attack some of his out-works; upon which, to show his great skill likewise in the offensive part, he immediately made an assault upon one of my buttons, and carried it in less than two minutes, notwithstanding I made as handsome a defence as was possible. He had likewise invested a second, and would certainly have been master of that too in a very little time, had he not been diverted from this enterprize by the arrival of a courier who brought advice that his presence was absolutely necessary in the disposal of a bea
ver'; upon which he raised the siege, and indeed retired with some precipitation. In the coffee-houses here about the Temple, you may harangue even among our dabblers in politics for about two buttons a day, and many times for less. I had yesterday the good fortune to receive very considerable additions to my knowledge in state affairs, and I find this morning, that it has not stood me in above a button. In most of the eminent coffee-houses at the other end of the town, for example, to go no farther than Will's in Covent-garden, the company is so refined, that you may hear and be heard, and not be a button the worse for it. Besides the gentleman before-mentioned, there are others who are no less active in their harangues, but with gentle services rather than robberies. These while they are improving your understanding, are at the same time setting off your person; they will new-plait and adjust your neckcloth.
'But though I can bear with this kind of orator, who is so humble as to aim at the good will of his hearer by being his valet de chambre, I must rebel against another sort of them. There are some, sir, that do not stick to take a man by the collar when they have a mind to persuade him. It is your business, I humbly presume, Mr. Ironside, to interpose that a man is not brought over to his opponent by force of arms. It were requisite therefore that you should name a certain interval, which ought to be preserved between the speaker and him to whom he speaks. For sure no man has a right, because I am not of his opinion, to take any of my clothes from me, or dress me according to his own liking. I assure
I The person alluded to is said to have been a Mr. James Heywood, a linen-draper on Fish Street Hill, who was the writer of a letter signed James Easy, in Spect. No 268.
you the most becoming thing to me in the world is in a campaign periwig to wear one side before and the other cast upon the collateral shoulder. But there is a friend of mine who never talks to me but he throws that which I wear forward upon my shoulder, so that in restoring it to its place I lose two or three hairs out of the lock upon my buttons; though I never touched him in my whole life, and have been acquainted with him these ten years. I have seen my eager friend in danger sometimes of a quarrel by this illcustom, for there are more young gentlemen who can feel than can understand. It would be therefore good office to my friend if you advised him not to collar any man but one who knows what he means, and give it him as a standing precaution in conversation, that none but a very good friend will give him the liberty of being seen, felt, heard, and understood, all at once.
'I am, SIR,
" Your most humble servant,
" JOHANNES MISOCHIROSOPHUS.'
'P. S. I have a sister who saves herself from being handled by one of these manual rhetoricians by giving him her fan to play with; but I appeal to you in the behalf of us poor helpless men.'
June 15, 1713.
I am of opinion, that no orator or speaker in public or private has any right to meddle with any body's clothes but his own. I indulge men in the liberty of playing with their own hats, fumbling in their own pockets, settling their own periwigs, tossing or twisting their heads, and all other gesticulations which may contribute to their elocution; but pronounce it an in
2 See some rules for Conversation in No 24.