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they might have towards the improvement of our several manufactures. I have since that been very much surprised by the following advertisement, which I find in the Post-Boy of the 11th instant, and again repeated in the Post-Boy of the 15th :
“On the oth of October next will be run for upon Coleshill-heath in Warwickshire, a plate of six guineas value, three heats, by any horse, mare, or gelding, that hath not won above the value of 51., the winning horse to be sold for rol. To carry 10 stone weight, if 14 hands high; if above or under to carry or be allowed weight for inches, and to be entered Friday the 15th at the Swan in Coleshill, before six in the evening. Also a plate of less value to be run for by asses. The same day a gold ring to be grinned for by men.”
The first of these diversions that is to be exhibited by the rol. race-horses, may probably have its use; but the two last, in which the asses and men are concerned, seem to me altogether extraordinary and unaccountable. Why they should keep running asses at Coleshill, or how making mouths turns to account in Warwickshire, more than in any other parts of England, I cannot comprehend. I have looked over all the Olympic games, and do not find anything in them like an ass-race, or a match at grinning. However it be, I am informed that several asses are now kept in body-clothes, and sweated every morning upon the heath; and that all the country-fellows within ten miles of the Swan grin an hour or two in their glasses every morning, in order to qualify themselves for the 9th of October. The prize which is proposed to be grinned for has raised such an ambition among the common people of out-grinning one another, that many very discerning persons are afraid it should spoil most of the faces in the county; and that a Warwickshire man will be known by his grin, as Roman Catholics imagine a Kentish man is by his tail. The gold ring, which is made the prize of deformity, is just the reverse of the golden apple that was formerly made the prize of beauty, and should carry for its poesy the old motto inverted:
1 A tri-weekly which began in May, 1695.
‘Detur tetriori'. Or, to accommodate it to the capacity of the combatants,
The frightfull’st grinner
Be the winner. In the meanwhile I would advise a Dutch painter to be present at this great controversy of faces, in order to make a collection of the most remarkable grins that shall be there exhibited.
I must not here omit an account which I lately received of one of these grinning-matches from a gentleman, who, upon reading the above-mentioned advertisement, entertained a coffee-house with the following narrative:-Upon the taking of Namur), amidst other public rejoicings made on that occasion, there was a gold ring given by a whig justice of peace to be grinned for. The first competitor that entered the lists was a black swarthy Frenchman, who accidentally passed that way, and being a man naturally of a withered look, and hard features, promised himself good success. He was placed upon a table in the great point of view, and looking upon the company like Milton's death,
‘Grinn’d horribly a ghastly smile'. His muscles were so drawn together on each side of his face, that he showed twenty teeth at a grin, and put the country in some pain, lest a foreigner should carry away the honour of the day; but upon a farther trial they found he was master only of the merry grin.
Captured by William in 1695.
The next that mounted the table was a malcontent in those days, and a great master in the whole art of grinning, but particularly excelled in the angry grin. He did his part so well that he is said to have made half a dozen women miscarry; but the justice being apprised by one who stood near him that the fellow who grinned in his face was a Jacobite, and being unwilling that a disaffected person should win the gold ring, and be looked upon as the best grinner in the country, he ordered the oaths to be tendered unto him upon his quitting the table, which the grinner refusing, he was set aside as an unqualified person. There were several other grotesque figures that presented themselves, which it would be too tedious to describe. I must not however omit a ploughman, who lived in the farther part of the country, and being very lucky in a pair of long lantern-jaws', wrung his face into such a hideous grimace, that every feature of it appeared under a different distortion. The whole company stood astonished at such a complicated grin, and were ready to assign the prize to him, had it not been proved by one of his antagonists that he had practised with verjuice for some days before, and had a crab found upon him at the very time of grinning; upon which the best judges of grinning declared it as their opinion that he was not to be looked upon as a fair grinner, and therefore ordered him to be set aside as a cheat.
The prize it seems at length fell upon a cobbler, Giles Gorgon by name, who produced several new grins of his own invention, having been used to cut faces for many years together over his last. At the very first grin he cast every human feature out of his countenance, at the second he became the face of a spout, at the third a baboon, at the fourth a head of a bass-viol, and at the
1"A term used of a thin visage, such as if a candle were burning in the mouth might transmit the light” (Johnson).
fifth a pair of nut-crackers. The whole assembly wondered at his accomplishments, and bestowed the ring upon him unanimously; but, what he esteemed more than all the rest, a country wench, whom he had wooed in vain for above five years before, was so charmed with his grins, and the applauses which he received on all sides, that she married him the week following, and to this day wears the prize upon her finger, the cobbler having made use of it as his wedding-ring.
This paper might perhaps seem very impertinent, if it grew serious in the conclusion. I would nevertheless leave to the consideration of those who are the patrons of this monstrous trial of skill, whether or no they are not guilty, in some measure, of an affront to their species, in treating after this manner the “human face divine”, and turning that part of us, which has so great an image impressed upon it, into the image of a monkey; whether the raising such silly competitions among the ignorant, proposing prizes for such useless accomplishments, filling the common people's heads with such senseless ambitions, and inspiring them with such absurd ideas of superiority and pre-eminence, has not in it something immoral as well as ridiculous.
XIX. SIR ROGER AT THE ABBEY.
Ire tamen restat Numa qud devenit et Ancus.—Hor. Ep. i. 6, 27.
With Ancus, and with Numa, kings of Rome,
My friend Sir Roger de Coverley told me t' other night, that he had been reading my paperl upon Westminster Abbey, in which, says he, there are a great many ingenious fancies. He told me at the same time that he observed I had promised another paper upon the tombs,
and that he should be glad to go and see them with me, not having visited them since he had read history. I could not imagine how this came into the knight's head, till I recollected that he had been very busy all last summer upon Baker's Chronicle, which he has quoted several times in his disputes with Sir Andrew Freeport since his last coming to town. Accordingly, I promised to call upon him the next morning, that we might go together to the abbey.
I found the knight under his butler's hands, who always shaves him. He was no sooner dressed than he called for a glass of the Widow Trueby's water, which he told me he always drank before he went abroad. He recommended to me a dram of it at the same time, with so much heartiness, that I could not forbear drinking it. As soon as I had got it down, I found it very unpalatable; upon which the knight, observing that I had made several wry faces, told me that he knew I should not like it at first, but that it was the best thing in the world against the stone or gravel.
I could have wished indeed that he had acquainted me with the virtues of it sooner; but it was too late to complain, and I knew what he had done was out of good will. Sir Roger told me further, that he looked upon it to be very good for a man whilst he staid in town, to keep off infection, and that he got together a quantity of it upon the first news of the sickness being at Dantzic: when, of a sudden, turning short to one of his servants, who stood behind him, he bid him call a hackney-coach and take care it was an elderly man that drove it.
He then resumed his discourse upon Mrs. Trueby's water, telling me that the Widow Trueby was one who did more good than all the doctors and apothecaries in the county; that she distilled every poppy that grew within five miles of her; that she distributed her water gratis