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DEAR ISAAC, “I burn with impatience to know what and who you are.
The curiosity of my whole sex is fallen upon me, and has kept me waking these three nights. I have dreamed often of you within this fortnight, and every time you appeared in a different form. As you value my repose, tell me in
. which of them I am to be.
It is natural for a man who receives a favour of
a this kind from an unknown fair, to frame immediately some idea of her person, which, being suited to the opinion we have of our own merit, is commonly as beautiful and perfect as the most lavish imagination can furnish out. Strongly possessed with these notions, I have read over Sylvia's billet; and notwithstanding the reserve I have had upon this matter, am resolved to go a much greater length than I yet ever did, in making myself known to the world, and in particular to my charming correspondent. In order to it I must premise, that the person produced as mine in the playhouse last winter did in nowise appertain to me. It was such a one however as agreed well with the impression
to have been the united product of a knot of wits.-Feb. 11, he says, " When I came home this evening, I expected that little jackanapes Harrison would have come to get help about his Tatler for Tuesday: I have fixed two evenings in the week, which I allow him to come.” The publication was continued till May 19, 1711; when fifty-two papers were collected into a fifth volume, not unworthy a place in any library which contains the former volumes. Of Mr. Harrison, the apparent publisher, see vol. X. p. 182. N.
my writings had made, and served the purpose
I intended it for; which was to continue the awe and reverence due to the character I was vested with, and at the same time to let my enemies see how much I was the delight and favourite of this town. This innocent imposture, which I have all along taken care to carry on, as it then was of some use, has since been of regular service to me, and, by being mentioned in one of my papers, effectually recovered my egoity out of the hands of some gentleman who endeavoured to wrest it from me. This is saying in short what I am not: what I am, and have been for many years, is next to be explained. Here it will not be improper to remind Sylvia, that there was formerly such a philosopher as Pythagoras, who, among other doctrines, taught the transmigration of souls; which if she sincerely believes, she will not be much startled aţ the following relation.
I will not trouble her, nor my other readers, with the particulars of all the lives I have successively passed through since my first entrance into mortal being, which is now many centuries ago. It-is enough that I have in every one of them opposed myself with the utmost resolution to the follies and yices of the several ages I have been acquainted with; that I have often rallied the world into good manners, and kept the greatest princes in awe of my satire. There is one circumstance which I shall not omit, though it may seem to reflect on my character; I mean, that infinite love of change which has ever appeared in the disposal of my existence. Since the days of the emperor Trajan, I have not been confined to the same
person for twenty years together; but have passed from one abode to another much quicker than the Pythagorean system generally allows. means I have seldom had a body to myself, but have lodged up and down wherever I found a genius suitable to my own.
In this manner I continued some time with the top wit of France; at another with that of Italy, who had a statue erected to his memory in Rome. Toward the end of the seventeenth century I set out for England; but the gentleman I came over in dying as soon as he got to shore, I was obliged to look out again for a new habitation. It was not long before I met with one to my mind; for, having mixed myself invisibly with the literati of this kingdom, I found it was unanimously agreed among them, That nobody was endowed with greater talents than Hiereus; or consequently, would be better pleased with my company. I slipped down his throat one night as he was fast asleep; and the next morning, as soon as he awaked, he fell to writing a treatise that was received with great applause, though he had the modesty not to set his name to that nor to any other of our productions. Some time after he published a paper of predictions, which were translated into several languages, and alarmed some of the greatest princes in Europe. To these he prefixed the name of Isaac Bickerstaff, esq. which I have been extremely fond of ever since, and have taken care that nost of the writings I have been concerned in should be distinguished by it; though I must observe, that there have been many counterfeits imposed upon the publick by
This extraordinary man being called out of the kingdom by affairs of his own, I resolved, however, to continue somewhat longer in a country where my works had been so weil received, and accordingly bestowed myself with Hilario *. His natural wit, his lively turn of humour, and great penetration into human nature, easily determined me to this choice, the effects of which were soon after produced in this paper, called the Tatler. I know not how it happened, but in less than two years time Hilario grew weary
gave me warning to be gone. In the height of my resentment, I cast my eyes on a young fellow, of no extraordinary qualifications t, whom for that very reason I had the more pride in taking under my direction, and enabling him by some means or other to carry on the work I was before engaged in. Lest he should grow too vain upon this encouragement, I to this day keep him under due mortification. I seldom reside with him when any of his friends are at leisure to receive me, by whose hands however he is duly supplied. As I have passed through many scenes of life, and a long series of years, I choose to be considered in the character of an old fellow, and take care that those under my influence should speak consonantly to it. This account, I presume, will give no small consolation to Sylvia, who may rest assured, That Isaac Bickerstaff is, to be seen in more forms than she dreamt of; out of which variety she may choose what is most agree
* Mr. Steele. N.
Mr. Harrison. N.
able to her fancy. On Tuesdays, he is sometimes a black proper young gentleman, with a mole on his left cheek* On Thursdays, a decent welllooking man, of a middle stature, long flaxen hair, and a florid complexion f. On Saturdays, he is somewhat of the shortest, and may be known from others of that size by talking in a low voice, and passing through the streets without much precipitation.
* Probably Dr. Swift, the Hiereus of the preceding page; and the Obadiah Greenhat of the Tatler, No. 59. N.
† Perhaps Mr. Henley. N.