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wishing, that the deputy censors of my late institution, were endued with the same instinct as these parish lions.
THE TATLER, No. XX. *
Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 1710-11.
From my own Apartment in Channel-ron, March 5. THOSE inferior duties of life, which the French call les petites morales, or the smaller morals, are, with us, , distinguished by the name of good manners, or breeding. This I look upon, in the general notion of it, to be a sort of artificial good sense, adapted to the meanest capacities, and introduced to make mankind easy in their commerce with each other. Low and little understandings, without some rules of this kind, would be perpetually wandering into a thousand indecencies and irregularities in behaviour; and in their ordinary conversation, fall into the same boisterous familiarities, that one observes among them when a debauch has quite taken away the use of their reason. In other in
Several of the maxims so humorously exemplified in this Tatler, occur in Swift's Treatise of Good Breeding.
stances it is odd to consider, that, for want of common discretion, the very end of good breeding is wholly perverted; and civility, intended to make us easy, is employed in laying chains and fetters upon us, in debarring us of our wishes, and in crossing our most reasonable desires and inclinations. This abuse reigns chiefly in the country, as I found, to my vexation, when I was last there, in a visit I made to a neighbour about two miles from my cousin. As soon as I entered the
parlour, they put me into the great chair that stood close by a huge fire, and kept me there by force, until I was almost stifled. Then a boy came in a great hurry to pull off my boots, which I in vain opposed, urging that I must return soon after dinner. In the meantime, the good lady whispered her eldest daughter, and slipped a key into her hand; the girl returned instantly with a beer glass half full of aqua mirabilis and syrup of gillyflowers. I took as much as I had a mind for, but madam avowed that I should drink it off; for she was sure it would do me good after coming out of the cold air and I was forced to obey, which absolutely took away my stomach. When dinner came in, I had a mind to sit at a distance from the fire; but they told me it was as much as my life was worth, and set me with my back against it. Although my appetite was quite gone, I was resolved to force down as much as I could, and desired the leg of a pullet. “ Indeed, Mr Bickerstaff, (says the lady,) you must eat a wing, to oblige me;" and so put a couple upon my plate. I was persecuted at this rate during the whole meal; as often as I called for small-beer, the master tipped the wink, and the servant brought me a brimmer of October. Some time after dinner, I ordered my cousin's man, who came with me,
to get ready the horses; but it was resolved I should not stir that night; and when I seemed pretty much bent upon going, they ordered the stable door to be locked, and the children hid my cloak and boots. The next question was, What would I have for supper ? I said, I never eat anything at night: but was at last, in my own defence, obliged to name the first thing that came into my head. After three hours spent chiefly in apologies for my entertainment, insinuating to me, “ That this was the worst time of the year for provisions; that they were at a great distance from any market; that they were afraid I should be starved ; and that they knew they kept me to my loss;" the lady went, and left me to her husband; for they took special care I should never be alone. As soon as her back was turned, the little misses ran backward and forward every moment, and constantly as they came in, or went out, made a curtsey directly at me, which, in good manners, I was forced to return with a bow, and “ Your humble servant, pretty miss.” Exactly at eight the mother came up, and discovered, by the redness of her face, that supper was not far off. It was twice as large as the dinner, and my persecution doubled in proportion. I desired, at my usual hour, to go to my repose, and was conducted to my chamber, by the gentleman, his lady, and the whole train of children. They importuned me to drink something before I went to bed ; and, upon my refusing, left at last a bottle of stingo, as they called it, for fear I should wake, and be thirsty in the night. I was forced in the morning to rise and dress myself in the dark, because they would not suffer my kinsman's servant to disturb me at the hour I desired to be called. I was now resolved to
break through all measures to get away; and, after sitțing down to a monstrous breakfast of cold beef, mutton, neat's tongues, venison-pasty, and stale beer, took leave of the family. But the gentleman would needs see me part of the way, and carry me a short cut through his own ground, which he told me would save half a mile's riding. This last piece of civility had like to have cost me dear, being once or twice in danger of my neck, by leaping over his ditches, and at last forced to alight in the dirt, when my horse, having slipped his bridle, ran away,
and took us up more than an hour to recover him again.
It is evident, that none of the absurdities I met with in this visit proceeded from an ill intention, but from a wrong judgment of complaisance, and a misapplication in the rules of it. I cannot so easily excuse the more refined critics upon behaviour, who, having professed no other study, are yet infinitely defective in the most material parts of it. Ned Fashion has been bred all his life about court, and understands to a tittle all the punctilios of a drawing-room. He visits most of the fine women near St James's, and, upon every occasion, says the civillest and softest things to them of any breathing. To Mr Le Sack* he owes an easy slide in his bow, and a graceful manner of coming into a room : but, in some other cases, he is very far from being a wellbred person. He laughs at men of far superior understanding to his own, for not being as well dressed as himself; despises all his acquaintance who are not of quality, and in public places has, on that account, often avoided taking notice of some among the best speakers of the House of Commons. He rails strenuously at both universities before the members of either; and is never heard to swear an oath, and break in upon religion and morality, except in the company of divines. On the other hand, a man of right sense has all the essentials of good breeding, although he may be wanting in the forms of it. Horatio has spent most of his time at Oxford : he has a great deal of learning, an agreeable wit, and as much modesty as may serve to adorn, without concealing, his other good qualities. In that retired way of living, he seems to have formed a notion of human nature, as he has found it described in the writ. ings of the greatest men, not as he is likely to meet with it in the common course of life. Hence it is that he gives no offence, but converses with great deference, candour, and humanity. His bow, I must confess, is somewhat awkward ; but then he has an extensive, universal, and unaffected knowledge, which may, perhaps, a little excuse him. He would make no extraordinary figure at a ball; but I can assure the ladies, in his behalf, and for their own consolation, that he has writ better verses on the sex than any man now living, and is preparing such a poem for the press, as will transmit their praises, and his own, to many generations.
* A famous dancing-master in those days.