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THE TATLER, No. I.
Quis ergo sum saltem, si non sum Sosia? Te interrogo.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 1710-11.*
It is impossible, perhaps, for the best and wisest among us to keep so constant a guard upon our temper, but that we may at one time or other lie open to the strokes of fortune, and such incidents as we cannot foresee. With sentiments of this kind I came home to my lodgings last night, much fatigued with a long and sudden journey from the country, and full of the ungrateful occasion of it. It was natural for me to have immediate recourse to my pen and ink; but before I would offer to make use of them, I resolved deliberately to tell over a hundred, and when I came to the end of that sum, I found it more advisable to defer drawing up my intended remonstrance, till I had slept soundly on my resentments. Without
* Jan. 2, 1710-11, Dr Swift tells Stella, " Steele's last Tatler came out to-day. You will see it before this comes to you, and how he takes leave of the world. He never told so much as Mr Addison of it, who was surprised as much as I ; but, to say truth, it was time, for he grew cruel dull, and dry. To my knowledge, he had several good hints to go upon ; but he was so lazy, and weary of the work, that he would not improve them.”—Jan. 11, he adds, “ I am setting up a new Tatler : little Harrison, whom I have mentioned to you. Others have put him on it, and I encourage him ; and he was with me this morning and evening, shewing me his first, which comes out on Saturday. I doubt he will not succeed, for I do not much approve his manner; but the scheme is Mr Secretary St John's and mine, and would have done well enough in good hands. I recommended him to a printer, whom I sent for, and settled the matter between them this evening. Harrison has just left me ; and I am tired with correcting his trash.”
Without any other preface than this, I shall give the world a fair account of the treatment I have lately met with, and leave them to judge whether the uneasiness I have suffered be inconsistent with the character I have generally pretended to. About three weeks since, I received an invitation from a kinsman in Staf. fordshire, to spend my Christmas in those parts. Upon taking leave of Mr Morphew, I put as many papers into his hands as would serve till my return, and charged him, at parting, to be very punctual with the town. In what manner he and Mr Lillie have been tampered with since, I cannot say; they have given me my revenge, I desired any, by allowing their names to an idle paper, that, in all human probability, cannot live a fortnight to an end.
Myself, and the family I was with, were in the midst of gaiety, and a plentiful entertainment, when I received a letter from my sister Jenny, who, after mentioning some little affairs I had entrusted to her, goes on thus : _“The enclosed, I believe, will give you some surprise, as it has already astonished everybody here: who Mr Steele is, that subscribes it, I do not know, any more than I can comprehend what could induce him to it. Morphew and Lillie, I am told, are both in the secret. I shall not presume to instruct you, but hope you will use some means to disappoint the ill nature of those who are taking pains to deprive the world of one of its most reasonable entertainments. I am, &c.”
I am to thank my sister for her compliment; but be that as it will, I shall not easily be discouraged from my
former undertaking. In pursuance of it, I was obliged upon this notice to take places in the coach for myself and my maid with the utmost expedition, lest I should, in a short time, be rallied out of my existence, as some people will needs fancy Mr Partridge has been, and the real Isaac Bickerstaff have passed for a creature of Mr Steele's imagination. This illusion might have hoped for some tolerable
if I had not more than once produced my person in a crowded theatre; and such a person as Mr Steele, if I am not misinformed in the gentleman, would hardly think it an advantage to own, though I should throw him in all the little honour I have gained by my Lucubrations. I may be allowed, perhaps, to understand pleasantry as well as other men, and can (in the usual phrase) take a jest without being angry; but I appeal to the world, whether the gentleman has not carried it too far, and whether he ought not to make a public recantation, if the credulity of some unthinking people should force me to insist upon it. The following letter is just come to hand, and I think it not improper to be inserted in this
“ To Isaac BICKERSTAFF, Esq.
I am extremely glad to hear you are come to town; for in your absence we were all mightily surprised with an unaccountable paper, signed Richard Steele, who is esteemed by those that know him, to be a man of wit and honour; and therefore we took it either to be a counterfeit, or perfect Christmas frolic of that ingenious gentleman. But then your paper ceasing immediately after, we were at a loss what to think : if you were weary of the work you had so long carried on, and had given this Mr Steele orders to signify so to the public, he should have said it in plain terms; but as that
paper is worded, one would be apt to judge, that he had a mind to persuade the town that there was some analogy between Isaac Bickerstaff and him. Possibly there may be a secret in this which I cannot enter into: but I flatter myself that you never had any thoughts of giving over your labours for the benefit of mankind, when you cannot but know how many subjects are yet unexhausted, and how many others, as being less obvious, are wholly untouched. I dare promise, not only for myself, but many other abler friends, that we shall still continue to furnish you with hints on all proper occasions, which is all your genius requires. I think, by the way, you cannot in honour have any more to do with Morphew and Lillie, who have gone beyond the ordinary pitch of assurance, and transgressed the very letter of the proverb, by endeavouring to cheat you
your christian and surname too. Wishing you, sir, long to live for our instruction and diversion, and to the defeating of all impostors, I remain,
“ Your most obedient humble servant,
6 HUMPHRY WAGSTAFF."*
To-day little Harrison’s new Tatler came out; there is not much in it, but I hope he will mend. You must understand that, upon Steele's leaving off, there were two or three scrub Tatlers came out, and one of them holds on still, and to-day it advertised against Harrison's; and so there must be disputes which are genuine, like the straps for razors.”—Journal to Stella, Jan. 13, 1710-11.
THE TATLER, No. II.*
Alios viri reverentia, vultusque ad continendum populum mire forma
tus: alios etiam, quibus ipse interesse non potuit, vis scribendi tamen, fc. magni nominis autoritas pervicere.-TULL. EPIST.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 1710-11.
I REMEMBER Menage tells a story of Monsieur Racan, who had appointed a day and hour to meet a certain lady of great wit whom he had never seen, in order to make an acquaintance between them. “Two of Racan's friends, who had heard of the appointment, resolved to play him a trick. The first went to the lady two hours before the time, said his name was Racan, and talked with her an hour; they were both mightily pleased, began a great friendship, and parted with much satisfaction. A few minutes after comes the second, and sends up the same name; the lady wonders at the meaning, and tells him Mr Racan had just left her. The gentleman says it was some rascally impostor, and that he had been frequently used in that manner. The lady is convinced, and they laugh at the oddness of the adventure. She now calls to mind several passages which confirm her that the former was a cheat. He appoints a second meeting, and takes his leave. He was no sooner gone, but the true Racan comes to the door,
*“ I have given Harrison hints for another Tatler to-morrow."Journal to Stella, Jan. 15, 1710-11.