Sivut kuvina

happiness. Now you cannot but observe that most of our fine young ladies readily fall in with the direction of the graver sort, to retain in their service, by some small encouragement, as great a number as they can of supernumerary and insignificant fellows, which they use like whifflers, and commonly call Shoeing-horns.' These are never designed to know the length of the foot, but only, when a good offer comes, to whet and spur him up to the point. Nay, it is the opinion of that grave lady, Madam Matchwell, that it is absolutely convenient for every prudent family to have seve ral of these implements about the house, to clap on as occasion serves, and that every spark ought to produce a certificate of his being a shoeing-horn, before he be admitted as a shoe. A certain lady, whom I could name if it was necessary, has at present more shoeing-horns of all sizes, countries, and colours in her service, than ever she had new shoes in her life. I have known a woman make use of a shoeing-horn for several years, and finding him unsuccessful in that function, convert him at length into a shoe. I am mistaken if your friend, Mr. William Honey. comb, was not a cast shoeing-horn before his late marriage. As for myself, I must frankly declare to you, that I have been an arrant shoeing-horn for above these twenty years. I served my first mistress in that capacity above five of the number, before she was shod. I confess, though she had many who made their applica țions to her, I always thought: myself the best shoe in her shop, and it was not till a month before her marriage that I discovered what I was. This had like to have broke my heart, and raised such suspicions in me, that I told the next I made love to, upon receiving some unkind usage from her, that I began to look upon myself as no more than her shoeing-horn. Upon which, my dear, who was a coquette in her nature, told me I was hypocondriacal, and that I might as well look upon myself to be an egg or a pip. kin. But in a very short time after, she gave me to krow tha' I

was not mistaken in myself. It would be tedious to recount to you the life of an unfortunate shoeing-horn, or I might entertain you with a very long and melancholy relation of my sufferings. Upon the whole, I think, sir, .it would very well become a man in your post, to determine in what case a woman may be allowed, with honour, to make use of a shoeing-horn, as also to declare whether a maid on this side five and twenty, or a widow who has not been three ycars in that state, may be granted such a privilege, with other difficulties which will naturally occur to you upon that subject. "I am, sir, · With the most profound veneration,

"Yours," &c. 0.


Finem tendere opus.

Hor. 2. Sat. i. 1.

To launch beyond all bourds.

SURPRISE is so much the life of stories, that every one aims at it, who endeavours to please by telling them. Smooth delivery, an elegant choice of words, and a sweet arrangement, are all beautifying graces; but not the particulars in this point of conversation, which either long command the attention, or strike with the violence of a sudden passion, or occasion the burst of laughter which accompanies humour. I have sometimes fancied that the mind is in this case like a traveller who sees a fine seat in haste; he acknowledges the delightfulness of a walk set with regularity, but would be uneasy if he were obliged to pace it over, when the first view had let him into all its beauties from one end to the


However, a knowledge of the success which stories will havo when they are attended with a turn of surprise, as it has happily made the characters of some, so has it also been the ruin of the characters of others. There is a set of men who outrage truth, instead of affecting us with a manner in telling it; who overleap the line of probability, that they may be seen to move out of the common road; and endeavour only to make their hearers stare, by imposing upon them with a kind of nonsense against the phi. losophy of nature, or such a heap of wonders told upon their own knowledge, as it is not likely one man should ever have met with.

I have been led to this observation by a company into which I fell accidentally. The subject of Antipathies was a proper field wherein such false surprisers might expatiate, and there were those present who appeared very fond to shew it in its full extent of traditional history. Some of them, in a learned manner, ofTorud to our consideration, the miraculous powers which the efflu viwas of cheese have over bodies whose pores are disposed to re. ceive them in a noxious manner: others gave an account of such as could indeed bear the sight of cheese, but not the taste; for which they brought a reason from the milk of their nurses. Others again discoursed, without endeavouring at reasons, concerning an unconquerable aversion which some stomachs have against a joint of meat when it is whole, and the eager inclination they have for it, when, by its being cut up, the shape which had affected them is altered. From thence they passed to eels, then to parsnips, and so from one aversion to another, till we had worked up ourselves to such a pitch of complaisance, that when the dinner was to come in, we inquired the name of every dish, and hoped it would be no offence to any in the company, before it was admitted. When we had sat down, this civility amongst us turned the discourse froin eatables to other sorts of aversions; and the eternal cat, which plagues every conversation of this nature, began then to engross the subject. One had sweated at the sight of itą

another had smelled it out as it lay concealed in a very distant cupboard; and he who crowned the whole set of these stories, reckoned up the number of times in which it had occasioned him to swoon away. At last, says he, that you may be all satisfied of my invincible aversion to a cat, I shall give an unanswerable instance: 'As I was going through a street of London, where I never had been till then, I felt a general damp and a faintness all over me, which I could not tell how to account for, till I chanced to cast my eyes upwards, and found that I was passing under a sign-post on which the picture of a cat was hung'.

The extravagance. of this turn in the way of surprise, gave a stop to the talk we had been carrying on: some were silent be: cause they doubted, and others because they were conquered in their own way; so that the gentleman had opportunity to press the belief of it upon us, and let us see that he was rather expos. ing himself than ridiculing others.

I must freely own, that I did not, all this while, disbelieve every thing that was said; but yet I thought some in the company had been endeavouring who should pitch the bar farthest; that it had, for some time; been a measuring cast, and at last my friend of the cat and sign-post had thrown beyond them all.

I then considered the manner in which this story had been received, and the possibility that it might have passed for a jest upon others, if he had not laboured against himself. From hence, thought I, there are two ways which the well-bred world geverally take to correct such a practice, when they do not think fit to contradict it flatly.

The first of these is a general silence, which I would not advise

any one to interpret in his own behalf. It is often the effect of prudence in avoiding a quarrel, when they see another drive so fast, that there is no stopping him without being run against ; und but very seldom the effect of weakness in believing suddenly.

His en

The generality of mankind are not so grossly ignorant, as some overbearing spirits wuld persuade themselves; and if the authority of a character, or a caution against danger, make us sup. press our opinion, yet neither of these are of force enough to suppress our thoughts of them. If a man who has endeavoured to amuse his company with improbabilities, could but look into their minds, he would find that they imagine he lightly esteems of their sense, when he thinks to impose upon them, and that he is less esteemed by them for his attempt in doing so. deavour to glory at their expence becomes a ground of quarrel, and the scorn and indifference with which they entertain it, begins the immediate punishment: and, indeed, (if we should even go no further,) silence, or a negligent indifference, has a deeper way of wounding than opposition; because opposition proceeds from an anger that has a sort of generous sentiment for the adversary mingling along with it, while it shews that there is some esteem in

your mind for him: in short, that you think him worth while to contest with : but silence, or a negligent indifference, proceeds from anger, mixed with a scorn that shews another he is thought by you too contemptible to be regarded.

The other method which the world has taken for correcting this practice of false surprise, is to overshoot such talkers in their own bow, or to raise the story with further degrees of impossibility, and set up for a voucher to them, in such a manner as must let them see they stand detected. Thus I have heard a discourse was once managed upon the effects of fear.

One of the company had given an account how it had turned his friend's hair a night, while the terrors of a shipwreck encompassed him. An. other taking the hint from hence, began, upon his own knowledge, to enlarge his instances of the like nature to such a number, that it was not probable he could ever have met with them; and as he still grounded these upon different causes, for the sake of variety

grey in

VOL. VI.--24*

« EdellinenJatka »