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ed more such to the learned, than the military worthies. The next man astonished the whole table with his
appearance: he was slow, solemn, and silent, in his behaviour, and wore a raiment curiously wrought with hieroglyphics. As he came into the middle of the room, he threw
the skirts of it, and discovered a golden thigh. Socrates, at the sight of it, declared “ against keeping company with any who were not made of flesh and blood :" and therefore desired Diogenes the Laertian “ to lead him to the apartment allotted for fabulous heroes and worthies of dubious existence.” At his going out, he told them, “ that they did not know whom they dismissed : that he was now Pythagoras, the first of philosophers, and that formerly he had been a very brave man at the siege of Troy."-" That may
be said Socrates ; “ but you forget that you have likewise been a very great harlot in your time.” This exclusion made way for Archimedes, who came forward with a scheme of mathematical figures in his hand; among which I observed a cone and a cylinder.
Seeing this table full, I desired my guide, for variety, to lead me to the fabulous apartment, the roof of which was painted with gorgons, chimeras, and centaurs, with many other emblematical figures, which I wanted both time and skill to unriddle. The first table was almost full: at the upper end sat Hercules, leaning an arın upon his club; on his right hand were Achilles and Ulysses, and between them Æneas ; on his left were Hector, Theseus, and Jason: the lower end had Orpheuc, Æsop, Phalaris, and Musæus. The ushers seemed at a loss for a twelfth man, when, methought, to my great joy and surprise, I heard some at the lower end of the table mention Isaac Bickerstaff: but those of the upper end received it with disdain ; and said, “ If they must have a British worthy, they would have Robin Hood.”
While I was transported with the honour that was done me, and burning with envy against my competitor, I was awakened by the noise of the cannon which were then fired for the taking of Mons. I should have been very much troubled at being thrown out of so pleasing a vision on any other occasion ; but thought it an agreeable change, to have my thoughts diverted from the greatest among the dead and fabulous heroes, to the most famous among the real and the living.*
THE TATLER, No. CCXXX.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 28, 1710.
From my own Apartments, September 27. THE
HE following letter has laid before me many great and manifest evils in the world of letters, which I had overlooked; but it opens to me a very busy scene, and it will require no small care and application to amend errors, which are become so universal. The affectation of
politeness is exposed in this epistle with a great deal of wit and discernment; so that, whatever discourses I may fall into hereafter, upon the subject the writer treats of, I shall at present lay the matter before the world without the least alteration from the words of my correspondent.*
* This number of the Tatler, with the omission of the final
paragraph, relative to the taking of Mons, is printed in Addison's Works, vol. II. p. 182, 4to. ; with a note, saying, “ This last paragraph was written by Sir R. Steele."
“ To Isaac BICKERSTAFF, Esq.
SIR, “ THERE are some abuses among us of great consequence, the reformation of which is properly your province; although, as far as I have been conversant in
your papers, you have not yet considered them. These are, the deplorable ignorance that for some years hath reigned among our English writers, the great depravity of our taste, and the continual corruption of our style. I say nothing here of those who handle particular sciences, divinity, law, physic, and the like; I mean the traders in history, and politics, and the belles lettres, together with those by whom books are not translated, but (as the common expressions are) done out of French, Latin, or other languages, and made English. I cannot but observe to you, that, until of late years, a Grub-Street book was always bound in sheepskin, with suitable print and paper, the price never above a shilling, and taken off wholly by common tradesmen or country pedlars; but now they appear in all sizes and shapes, and in all places : they are handed about from lapfuls in every coffeehouse to persons of quality, are shewn in Westminster-Hall and the Court of Requests; you may see them gilt, and in royal paper, of five or six hundred pages, and rated accordingly. I would engage to furnish you with a catalogue of English books, published within the compass of seven years past, which at the first hand would cost you a hundred pounds, wherein you shall not be able to find ten lines together of common grammar, or common
*“ I have sent a long letter to Bickerstaff. Let the Bishop of Clogher smoak it if he can.” Journal to Stella, Sept. 23, 1710.-"I made a Tatler since I came; guess which it is, and whether the Bishop of Clogher smoaks it.” Ibid. Sept. 29.-" Have you smoak’d the Tatler that I writ? It is much liked here, and I think it is a fine one." Ibid. Oct. 1.
“ These two evils, ignorance and want of taste, have produced a third, I mean the continual corruption of our English tongue,* which, without some timely remedy, will suffer more by the false refinements of twenty years past, than it has been improved in the foregoing hundred. And this is what I design chiefly to enlarge upon, leaving the former evils to your animadversion.
“ But, instead of giving you a list of the late refinements crept into our language, I here send you a copy of a letter I received some time ago from a most accomplished person in this way of writing, upon which I shall make some remarks. It is in these terms:-
Sir, “• I cou'dn't get the things you sent for all about town.—I tho’t to ha' come down myself, and then I'd ha’ bro't um ; but ha'nt don't, and I believe I can't do't, that's pozz.— Tomt begins to g’imself airs, because he's going with the plenipos.-'Tis said the French King will bamboozl us agen, which causes many speculations. The Jacks, and others of that kidney, are very uppish and alert upon't, as you may see by their phizz's.-Will Hazard has got the hipps, having lost to the tune of five hundrd pound, tho' he understands play very well, nobody better. He has promis’t me upon rep to leave off play; but you know ’tis a weakness he's too apt to give into, tho' he has as much wit as any man, nobody more : he has lain incog ever since.—The mobb’s very quiet with us now. I believe
* It is very remarkable, that, notwithstanding the ridicule so justly thrown by our author on barbarous contractions, he constantly fell into that error in his private letters to Stella.
† Mr Thomas Harley is here alluded to.
my last like a country put.— I shan't leave town this month, &c.'
This letter is, in every point, an admirable pattern of the present polite way of writing ; nor is it of less authority for being an epistle : you may gather every flower of it, with a thousand more of equal sweetness, from the books, pamphlets, and single papers, offered us every day in the coffeehouses. And these are the beauties introduced to supply the want of wit, sense, humour, and learning, which formerly were looked upon as qualifications for a writer. If a man of wit, who died forty years ago, were to rise from the grave on purpose, how would he be able to read this letter ? and, after he had gone through that difficulty, how would he be able to understand it? The first thing that strikes your eye, is the breaks at the end of almost every sentence; of which I know not the use, only that it is a refinement, and very frequently practised. Then you will observe the abbreviations and elisions, by which consonants of most obdurate sounds are joined together, without one softening vowel to intervene: and all this only to make one