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fore, Sir, humbly propose, that there be a pulpit erected within every coffee-house of this city and the adjacent parts; that one of the waiters of the coffee-house be nominated as reader to the said pulpit: that after the news of the day has been published by the said lecturer, some politician of good note do ascend into the said pulpit; and, after having chosen for his text any article of the said news, that he do establish the authority of such article, clear the doubts that may arise thereupon, compare it with parallel texts in other papers, ad vance upon it wholesome points of doctrine, and draw from it salutary conclusions for the benefit and edification of all that hear him. We do likewise humbly propose, that, upon any such politician's quitting the pulpit, he shall be succeeded by any other orator that finds himself moved by the same public spirit, who shall be at full liberty either to enforce or overthrow what the other has said before him, and may, in the same manner, be succeeded by any other politician, who shall, with the same liberty, confirm or impugn his reasons, strengthen or invalidate his conjectures, enlarge upon his schemes, or erect new ones of his own. We do likewise further propose, that if any person, of what age and rank soever, do presume to cavil at any Paper that has been read, or to hold forth upon it longer than the space of one minute, that he be immediately ordered up into the pulpit, there to make good any thing that he has suggested upon the floor. We do likewise further propose, that if any one plays the orator in the ordinary coffee-house conversation, whether it be upon peace or war, plays or sermons, business or poetry, that he be forthwith desired to take bis place in the pulpit. This, Sir, we humbly presume, may in a great measure put a stop to those superficial statesmen, who
would not dare to stand up in this manner before a whole congregation of politicians, notwithstanding the long and tedious harangues and dissertations which they daily utter in private circles, to the breaking of many honest tradesmen, the seducing of several eminent citizens, the making of numberless malcontents, and to the great detriment and disquiet of her majesty's subjects."
I do heartily concur with my ingenious friends of the abovementioned coffee-house in these their proposals; and because I apprehend there may be reasons to put an immediate stop to the grievance complained of, it is my intention, that, until such time as the aforesaid pulpits can be erected, every orator do place himself within the bar, and from thence dictate whatsoever he shall think necessary for the public good.
And further, because I am very desirous that proper ways and means should be found out for the suppressing of story-tellers and fine-talkers in all ordinary conversations whatsoever, I do insist, that in every private club, company, or meeting over a bottle, there be always an elbow-chair placed at the table; and that as soon as any one begins a long story, or extends his discourse beyond the space of one minute, he be forthwith thrust into the said elbow-chair, unless upon any of the company's calling out, "to the chair," he breaks off abruptly, and holds his tongue.
There are two species of men, notwithstanding any thing that has been here said, whom I would exempt from the disgrace of the elbow-chair. The first are those buffoons that have a talent of mimicking the speech and behaviour of other persons, and turning all their patrons, friends, and acquaintance, into ridicule. I look upon your Pantomime as a legion in a man, or at least to be, like Virgil's
monster, "with an hundred mouths, and as many tongues."
Linguæ centum sunt, oraquæ centum ;
and, therefore, would give him as much time to talk in, as would be allowed to the whole body of persons he represents, were they actually in the company which they divert by proxy. Provided, however,
that the said Pantomime do not, upon any pretence whatsoever, utter any thing in his own particular opinion, language, or character.
I would likewise, in the second place, grant an exemption from the elbow-chair to any person who treats the company, and by that means may be supposed to pay for his audience. A guest cannot take it ill, if he be not allowed to talk in his turn by a person who puts his mouth to a better employment, and stops it with good beef and mutton. In this case the guest is very agreeably silenced, and seems to hold his tongue under that kind of bribery which the antients called bos in lingua*.
If I can once extirpate the race of solid and sub stantial humdrums, I hope, by my wholesome and repeated advices, quickly to reduce the insignificant tittle-tattles, and matter-of-fact-men, that abound in every quarter of this great city.
Epictetus, in his little system of morality, prescribes the following rule with that beautiful simplicity which shines through all his precepts: "Beware that thou never tell thy dreams in company; for, notwithstanding thou mayest take a pleasure in telling thy dreams, the company will take no pleasure in hearing them."
* An allusion to the image of a bull, ox, or cow, stamped upon the money then, and there in current use, whence the coin was then called bos.
This rule is conformable to a maxim which I have laid down in a late Paper, and must always inculcate into those of my readers who find in themselves an inclination to be very talkative and impertinent, "that they should not speak to please themselves, but those that hear them."
It has been often observed by witty essay-writers, that the deepest waters are always the most silent; that empty vessels make the greatest sound; and tinkling cymbals the worst music. The marquis of Halifax, in his admirable "Advice to a Daughter," tells her, "that good sense has always something sullen in it:" but as sullenness does not imply silence, but an ill-natured silence, I wish his lordship had given a softer name to it. Since I am engaged unawares in quotations, I must not omit the satire which Horace has written against this impertinent talkative companion; and which, I think, is fuller of humour than any other satire he has written. This great author, who had the nicest taste of conversation, and was himself a most agreeable companion, had so strong an antipathy to a great talker, that he was afraid some time or other, it would be mortal to him; as he has very humourously described it in his conversation with an impertinent fellow, who had like to have been the death of him.
Interpellandi locus hic erat! Est tibi mater,
Cognati, queis te salvo est opus? Haud mihi quisquam.
HOR. 1 Sat. ix 26.
Have you no mother, sister, friends,
N° 269. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1710.
From my own Apartment, December 27.
I FIND my correspondents are universally offended at me for taking notice so seldom of their letters, and I fear people have taken the advantage of my silence to go on in their errors; for which reason I shall hereafter be more careful to answer all lawful