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Women are frightened at the name of argument, and are sooner convinced by a happy turn, or witty expression, than by demonstration.
Whenever you commend, add your reasons for doing so; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of a man of sense from the flattery of sycophants, and admiration of fools.
Raillery is no longer agreeable than while the whole company is pleased with it. I would least of all be understood to except the person
raillied. Though good humour, sense and discretion can seldom fail to make a man agreeable, it may be no ill policy sometimes to prepare yourself in a particular manner for conversation, by looking a little further than your neighbours into whatever is become a reigning subject. If our armies are besieging a place of importance abroad, or our house of commons debating a bill of consequence at home, you can hardly fail of being heard with pleasure, if you have nicely informed yourself of the strength, situation, and history of the first, or of the reasons for and against the latter. It will have the same effect, if when any single person begins to make a noise in the world, you can learn some of the sinallest accidents in his life or conversation, which though they are too fine for the observation of the vulgar, give more satisfaction to men of sense (as they are the best openings to a real character) than the recital of his most glaring actions. I know but one ill consequence to be feared from this method, namely, that, coming full charged into company, you shall resolve to unload whether a handsome opportunity offers itself or no.
Though the asking of questions may plead for itself the specious names of modesty, and a desire of information, it affords little pleasure to the rest of the company who are not troubled with the same doubts ; besides which, he who asks a question would do well to consider that he lies wholly at the mercy of another before he receive an answer.
Nothing is more silly than the pleasure some people take in what they call • speaking their minds. A man of this make will say a rude thing for the mere pleasure of saying it, when an opposite behaviour, full as innocent, might have preserved his friend, or made his fortune.
It is not impossible for a man to form to himself as exquisite a pleasure in complying with the humour and sentiments of others, as of bringing others over to his own; since it is the certain sign of a superior genius, that can take and become whatever dress it pleases.
I shall only add, that, besides what I have here said, there is something which can never be learnt but in the company of the polite. The virtues of men are catching as well as their vices; and your own observations added to these will soon discover wliat it is that commands attention in one man, and makes you tired and displeased with the discourse of another.
N. B. In the second paragraph of this paper, it is said, that • Lady Lizard burnt her fingers as she was lighting the lamp for her tea-pot.' Silver tea-pots, with lamps under them, are still preserved among the college-plate.
N° 25. THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 1713.
-Quis tam Lucili fautor ineptè est,
HOR. 1 Sat. x. 2.
The prevailing humour of crying up authors that have writ in the days of our forefathers, and of passing slightly over the merit of our contemporaries, is a grievance, that men of a free and unprejudiced thought have complained of through all ages in their writings.
I went home last night full of these reflections from a coffee-house, where a great many excellent writings were arraigned, and as many very indifferent ones applauded, more (as it seemed to me) upon the account of their date, than upon any intrinsic value or demerit. The conversation ended with great encomiums upon my lord Verulam's History of Henry the VIIth. The company were unanimous in their approbation of it. I was too well acquainted with the traditional vogue of that book throughout the whole nation, to venture my thoughts upon it. Neither would I now offer my judgment upon that work to the public (so great a veneration have I for the
of a man whose writings are the glory of our nation), but that the authority of so leading a name may perpetuate a vicious taste amongst us, and betray future histori
* Of the poet Lucilius.
ans to copy after a model, which I cannot help thinking far from complete.
As to the fidelity of the history, I have nothing to say: to examine it impartially in that view would require much pains and leisure. But as to the composition of it, and sometimes the choice of matter, I am apt to believe it will appear a little faulty to an unprejudiced reader. A compleat historian should be endowed with the essential qualifications of a great poet. His style must be majestic and grave, as well as simple and unaffected; his narration should be animated, short, and clear, and so as even to outrun the impatience of the reader, if possible. This can only be done by being very sparing and choice in words, by retrenching all cold and superfluous circumstances in an action, and by dwelling upon such alone as are material, and fit to delight or instruct a serious mind. This is what we find in the great models of antiquity, and in a more particular manner in Livy, whom it is impossible to read without the warmest emotions,
But my lord Verulam, on the contrary, is ever, in the tedious style of declaimers, using two words for one; ever endeavouring to be witty, and as fond of out-of-the-way similies as some of our old playwriters. He abounds in low phrases, beneath the dignity of history, and often condescends to little conceits and quibbles. His political reflections are frequently false, almost every where trivial and puerile. His whole manner of turning his thoughts is full of affectation and pedantry; and there appears throughout his whole work more the air of a recluse scholar, than of a man versed in the world.
After passing so free a censure upon a book which for these hundred years and upwards has met with the most universal approbation, I am obliged in my own defence to transcribe some of the many passages I formerly collected for the use of my first charge sir Marmaduke Lizard. It would be endless should I point out the frequent tautologies and circumlocutions that occur in every page, which do (as it were) rarify instead of condensing his thoughts and matter. It was, in all probability, his application to the law that gave him a habit of being so wordy; of which I shall put down two or three examples.
"That all records, wherein there was any memory or mention of the king's attainder, should be defaced, cancelled, and taken off the file-Divers secret and nimble scouts and spies, &c. to learn, search, and discover all the circumstances and particulars-to assail, sap, and work into the constancy of sir Robert Clifford.
I leave the following passages to every one's consideration, without making any farther remarks upon them.
• He should be well enough able to scatter the Irish as a flight of birds, and rattle away this swarm of bees with their king.–The rebels took their way towards York, &c. but their snow-ball did not gather as it went. So that (in a kind of mattacina * of human fortune) he turned a broach t that had worn a crown; whereas fortune commonly doth not bring in a comedy or farce after a tragedy—The queen was crowned, &c. about two years after the marriage, like an old christening that had stayed long for god-fathers Desirous to * A frolicksome dance,
+ A spit,