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No. 567. On the Potency of Mystery and Innuendo ; Letter composed on this model. Inceptus clamor frustratur hiantes.
Virg. Æn. vi. 493. I have received private advice from some of my correspondents, that if I would give my paper a general run I should take care to season it with scandal. I have indeed observed of late, that few writings sell which are not filled with great names and illustrious titles. The reader generally casts his eye upon a new book, and if he finds several letters separated from one another by a dash, he buys it up, and peruses it with great satisfaction. An M and an h, a T and an r, with a short line between them, has
sold many an insipid pamphlet. Nay, I have known a whole 10 edition go off by virtue of two or three well written, &c--'s.
A sprinkling of the words 'faction,' 'Frenchman, Papist,' plunderer,' and the like significant terms, in an Italic character, have also a very good effect upon the eye of the purchaser; not to mention 'scribbler,' 'liar,' rogue,' 'rascal,''knave,' and villain,' without which it is impossible to carry on a modern controversy.
Our party-writers are so sensible of the secret virtue of an innuendo to recommend their productions, that of late they
never mention the Q-n or P -t at length, though they 20 speak of them with honour, and with that deference which is due
to them from every private person. It gives a secret satisfaction to a peruser of these mysterious works, that he is able to decypher them without help, and by the strength of his own natural parts to fill up a blank space, or make out a word that has only the first or last letter to it.
Some of our authors indeed, when they would be more satirical than ordinary, omit only the vowels of a great man's name, and fall most unmercifully upon all the consonants. This way of
writing was first of all introduced by T-m Br-wn“, of facetious 30 memory, who, after having gutted a proper name of all its inter
mediate vowels, used to plant it in his works, and make as free with it as he pleased, without any danger of the statute.
That I may imitate these celebrated authors, and publish a paper which shall be more taking than ordinary, I have here drawn up a very curious libel, in which a reader of penetration
will find a great deal of concealed satire, and, if he be acquainted with the present posture of affairs, will easily discover the meaning of it.
• If there are four persons in the nation who endeavour to bring all things into confusion, and ruin their native country, I think every honest Engl-shm-n ought to be upon his guard. That there are such, every one will agree with me who hears me name ****, with his first friend and favourite ****, not to mention
nor ****. These people may cry ch-rch, ch-rch, as long 10 as they please, but to use a homely proverb, The proof of the
p-dd-ng is in the eating. This I am sure of, that if a certain prince should concur with a certain prelate, (and we have Monsieur Z- -n's word for it,) our posterity would be in a sweet p-ckle. Must the British nation suffer forsooth, because my Lady Q-p-t-s has been disobliged? Or is it reasonable that our English fleet, which used to be the terror of the ocean, should lie wind-boạnd for the sake of a -? I love to speak out and declare my mind clearly, when I am talking for the good
of my country. I will not make my court to an ill man, though 20 he were a B. -y or a T-t. Nay, I would not stick
to call so wretched a politician, a traitor, an enemy to his country, and a bl-nd-rb-ss,' &c. &c.
The remaining part of this political treatise, which is written after the manner of the most celebrated authors in Great Britain, I may communicate to the public at a more convenient season. In the mean while I shall leave this with my curious reader, as some ingenious writers do their enigmas, and if any sagacious person can fairly unriddle it I will print his explanation, and, if
he pleases, acquaint the world with his name. 30 I hope this short essay will convince my readers, it is not for
want of abilities that I avoid state-tracts, and that if I would apply my mind to it, I might in a little time be as great a master of the political scratch as any of the most eminent writers of the age. I shall only add, that in order to outshine all the modern race of Syncopists, and thoroughly content my English readers, to publish
a Spectator that shall not have a
I intend shortly single vowel in it.
No. 568. Coffee-house Discussion on the Mysterious Letter.
Mart. Epig. 39. I was yesterday in a coffee-house not far from the Royal Exchange, where I observed three persons in close conference over a pipe of tobacco; upon which, having filled one for my own use, I lighted it at the little wax-candle that stood before them: and after having thrown in two or three whiffs amongst them, sat down and made one of the company. I need not tell my reader, that lighting a man's pipe at the same candle is looked upon among brother-smokers as an overture to conver
sation and friendship. As we here laid our heads together in 10 a very amicable manner, being intrenched under a cloud of our
own raising, I took up the last Spectator, and casting my eye over it, “The Spectator,' says I, 'is very witty to-day; upon which a lusty lethargic old gentleman, who sat at the upper end of the table, having gradually blown out of his mouth a great deal of smoke, which he had been collecting for some time before; “Ay,' says he, more witty than wise, I am afraid.' His neighbour who sat at his right hand immediately coloured, and, being an angry politician, laid down his pipe with so much
wrath that he broke it in the middle, and by that means furnished 20 me with a tobacco-stopper. I took it up very sedately, and look
ing him full in the face, made use of it from time to time all the while he was speaking: “This fellow,' says he, 'can't for his life keep out of politics. Do you see how he abuses four great men here?'
I fixed my eye very attentively on the paper, and asked him if he meant those who were represented by asterisks. Asterisks,' says he, do you call them ? they are all of them
He might as well have put garters to them. Then pray do but mind the two or three next lines: ch-rch and p-dd-ng in
the same sentence! our clergy are very much beholden to him.' 30 Upon this the third gentleman, who was of a mild disposition,
and, as I found, a Whig in his heart, desired him not to be too severe upon the Spectator neither: For,' says he, 'you, find he is very cautious of giving offence, and has therefore put two dashes into his pudding.' 'A fig for his dash,' says
angry politician. 'In his next sentence he gives a plain innuendo, that our posterity will be in a sweet p-ckle. What does the fool
mean by his pickle? Why does he not write it at length, if he means honestly?' 'I have read over the whole sentence,' says I; 'but I look upon the parenthesis in the belly of it to be the most dangerous part, and as full of insinuations as it can hold. But who,' says I, is my Lady Q-p-t-s?' 'Ay, answer that if you can, Sir,' says the furious statesman to the poor Whig that sat over against him. But without giving him time to reply, I do assure you,' says he,' were I my Lady Q-p-t-s, I would sue him
for scandalum magnatum. What is the world come to? Must 10 every body be allowed to- ?' He had by this time filled a
new pipe, and applying it to his lips, when we expected the last words of his sentence, put us off with a whiff of tobacco; which he redoubled with so much rage and trepidation that he almost stifled the whole company. After a short pause, I owned that I thought the Spectator had gone too far in writing so many letters of my Lady Q-p-t-s's name: ‘But however,' says I, ‘he has made a little amends for it in his next sentence, where he leaves a blank space without so much as a consonant to direct us. I
mean,' says I, "after those words, “the fleet that used to be the 20 terror of the ocean, should be wind-bound for the sake of a
-"; after which ensues a chasm, that in my opinion looks modest enough. “Sir,' says my antagonist, you may easily know his meaning by his gaping; I suppose he designs his chasm, as you call it, for an hole to creep out at; but I believe it will hardly serve his turn. Who can endure to see the great officers of state, the B
ys and T
-ts treated after so scurrilous a manner ?' 'I can't imagine,' says I, who they are the Spectator means.' 'No?' says he,—your humble servant, Sir!'
Upon which he flung himself back in his chair after a con30 temptuous manner, and smiled upon the old lethargic gentleman
on his left hand, who, I found, was his great admirer. The Whig however had begun to conceive a good will towards me, and, seeing my pipe out, very generously offered me the use of his box; but I declined it with great civility, being obliged to meet a friend about that time in another quarter of the city.
At my leaving the coffee-house, I could not forbear reflecting with myself upon that gross tribe of fools who may be termed the over-wise, and upon the difficulty of writing any thing in this
censorious age, which a weak head may not construe into private 40 satire and personal reflexion.
WHOLE DUTY OF MAN.
A man who has a good nose at an innuendo, smells treason and sedition in the most innocent words that can be put together, and never sees a vice or folly stigmatized, but finds out one or other of his acquaintance pointed at by the writer. I remember an empty pragmatical fellow in the country who, upon reading over The Whole Duty of Mann, had written the names of several persons in the village at the side of every sin which is mentioned by that excellent author; so that he had converted one of the
best books in the world into a libel against the squire, church10 wardens, overseers of the poor, and all other the most considerable
persons in the parish. This book, with these extraordinary marginal notes, fell accidentally into the hands of one who had never seen it before: upon which there arose a current report that somebody had written a book against the squire, and the whole parish. The minister of the place having, at that time, a controversy with some of his congregation upon the account of his tythes, was under some suspicion of being the author, until the good man set his people right, by showing them that the
satirical passages might be applied to several others of two or 20 three neighbouring villages, and that the book was writ against
all the sinners in England.