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give the world a catalogue of my ancestors, and leave them to determine which hath hitherto had, and which for the future ought to have, the preference.
“ First then comes the most famous and popular lady Meretrix, parent of the fertile family of Bellatrix, Lotrix, Netrix, Nutrix, Obstetrix, Famulatrix, Coctrix, Ornatrix, Sarcinatrix, Fextrix, Balneatrix, Portatrix, Saltatrix, Divinatrix, Conjectrix, Comtrix, Debitrix, Creditrix, Donatrix, Ambulatrix, Mercatrix, Adsectrix, Assectatrix, Palpatrix, Præceptrix, Pistrix.
“ I am yours,
“ ELIZ. POTATRIX."
THE TATLER, No. LIX.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 1709.
Will's Coffee-house, August 24. The author of the ensuing letter, by his name and the quotations he makes from the ancients, seems a sort of spy from the old world, whom we moderns ought to be careful of offending; therefore I must be free, and own it a fair hit where he takes me, rather than disoblige him.*
* Swift, under the character of Obadiah Greenhat, ridicules Steele for a seeming inconsistency in a former paper. Steele in return gives an excellent account of Swift's talents for irony,
Which he was born to introduce,
Sir, Having a peculiar humour of desiring to be somewhat the better or wiser for what I read, I am always uneasy when, in any profound writer, for I read no others, I happen to meet with what I cannot understand. When this falls out, it is a great grievance to me that I am not able to consult the author himself about his meaning, for commentators are a sect that has little share in my esteem : your elaborate writings have, among many others, this advantage, that their author is still alive, and ready, as his extensive charity makes us expect, to explain whatever may be found in them too sublime for vulgar understandings. This, sir, makes me presume to ask you, how the Hampstead hero's character could be perfectly new when the last letters came away, and yet Sir John Suckling so well acquainted with it sixty years ago ?* I hope, sir, you will not take this amiss : I can assure you, I have a profound respect for you, which makes me write this, with the same disposition with which Longinus bids us read Homer and Plato. When in reading, says he, any of those cele
*“ Letters from Hampstead say, there is a coxcomb arrived there, of a kind which is utterly new. The fellow has courage, which he takes himself to be obliged to give proofs of every hour he lives. He is ever fighting with the men, and contradicting the women. A lady, who sent to me, superscribed him with this description out of Suckling:
I am a man of war and might,
brated authors, we meet with a passage to which we cannot well reconcile our reasons, we ought firmly to believe, that were those great wits present to answer for themselves, we should to our wonder be convinced, that we only are guilty of the mistakes we before attributed to them. If you think fit to remove the scruple that now torments me, it will be an encouragement to me to settle a frequent correspondence with you; several things falling in my way which would not, perhaps, be altogether foreign to your purpose, and whereon your thoughts would be very acceptable
to your most humble servant,
“ OBADIAH GREENHAT.”
I own this is clean, and Mr Greenhat has convinced me that I have writ nonsense, yet am I not at all offended at him.
Scimus, et hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim.
HOR. Ars. Poet. ver. 11.
This is the true art of raillery, when a man turns another into ridicule, and shews at the same time he is in good humour, and not urged on by malice against the person he rallies. Obadiah Greenhat has hit this very well: for to make an apology to Isaac Bickerstaff, an unknown student and horary historian, as well as astrologer, and with a grave face to say, he speaks of him by the same rules with which he would treat Homer or Plato, is to place him in company where he cannot ex
*“I own th' indulgence-Such I give and take.”
pect to make a figure; and makes him flatter himself, that it is only being named with them that renders him most ridiculous.
I have not known, and I am now past my grand climacteric, being sixty-four years of age, according to my way of life; or rather, if you will allow punning in an old gentleman, according to my way of pastime; I say, as old as I am, I have not been acquainted with many of the Greenhats. There is indeed one Zedekiah Greenhat, who is lucky also in this way. He has a very agreeable manner ; for when he has a mind thoroughly to correct a man, he never takes from him anything, but he allows him something for it; or else he blames him for things wherein he is not defective, as well as for matters wherein he is. This makes a weak man believe he is in jest in the whole. The other day he told Beau Brim, who is thought impotent, that his mistress had declared she would not have him, because he was a sloven, and had committed a rape. The beau bit at the banter, and said very gravely, “ he thought to be clean was as much as was necessary; and that as to the rape, he wondered by what witchcraft that should come to her ears; but it had indeed cost him an hundred pounds, to hush the affair.'
The Greenhats are a family with small voices and short arms, therefore they have power with none but their friends: they never call after those who run away from them, or pretend to take hold of you
if But it has been remarkable, that all who have shunned their company, or not listened to them, have fallen into the hands of such as have knocked out their brains, or broken their bones. I have looked over our pedigree upon the receipt of this epistle, and find the Greenhats are
you resist. akin to the Staffs. They descend from Maudlin, the left-handed wife of Nehemiah Bickerstaff, in the reign of Harry the Second. And it is remarkable, that they are all left-handed, and have always been very expert at single rapier. A man must be much used to their play to know how to defend himself, for their posture is so different from that of the right-handed, that you run upon their swords if you push forward; and they are in with
offer to fall back without keeping your guard.—Tatler, No. 59.
THE TATLER, No. LXIII.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 10, 1709.
“ To ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, ESR.
It must be allowed, that Esquire Bickerstaff is of all others the most ingenuous. There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake, though all the world see them to be in downright nonsense. You will be pleased, sir, to pardon this expression, for the same reason for which you once desired us to excuse you, when you seemed anything dull. Most writers, like the generality of Paul Lorraine's* saints, seem to place a peculiar vanity in dying hard. But you, sir, to shew
* Paul Lorraine was the ordinary of Newgate.