I Know no one Character that gives Reason a greater Shock, at the same Time that it presents a good ridiculous Image to the Imagination, than that of a Man of Wit and Pleasure about the Town. This Description of a Man of Fashion, spoken by some with a Mixture of Scorn and Ridicule, by others with great Gravity as a laudable Distinction, is in every Body's Mouth that spends any Time in Conversation. My Friend WILL. HONEYCOMB has this Expression very frequently; and I never could understand by the Story which follows, upon his Mention of such a one, but that his Man of Wit and Pleasure was either a Drunkard too old for Wenching, or a young lewd Fellow with some Liveliness, who would converse with you, receive kind Offices of you, and at the same time debauch your Sister, or lie with your Wife. According to his Description, a Man of Wit, when he could have Wenches for Crowns apiece which he liked quite as well, would be so extravagant as to bribe Servants, make false Friendships, fight Relations: I say, according to him, plain and simple Vice was too little for a Man of Wit and Pleasure; but he would leave an easy and accessible Wickedness, to come at the same thing with only the Addition of certain Falshood and possible Murder. WILL, thinks the Town grown very dull, in that we do not hear so much as we used to do of these Coxcombs, whom (without observing it) he describes as the most infamous Rogues in Nature, with relation to Friendship, Love, or Conversation.
When Pleasure is made the chief Pursuit of Life, it will necessarily follow that such Monsters as these will arise from a constant Application to such Blandishments as naturally root out the Force of Reason and Reflection, and substitute in their Place a general Impatience of Thought, and a constant Pruiriency of inordinate Desire.
Pleasure, when it is a Man's chief Purpose, disappoints it self; and the constant Application to it palls the Faculty of enjoying it, tho' it leaves the Sense of our Inability for that we wish, with a Disrelish of every thing else. Thus the intermediate Seasons of the Man of Pleasure are more heavy than one would impose upon the vilest Criminal. Take him when he is awaked too soon after a Debauch, or disappointed in following a worthless Woman without Truth, and there is no Man living whose Being is such a Weight or Vexation as his is. He is an utter Stranger to the pleasing Reflections in the Evening of a well-spent Day, or the Gladness of Heart or Quickness of Spirit in the Morning after profound Sleep or indolent Slumbers. He is not to be at Ease any longer than he can keep Reason and good Sense without his Curtains; otherwise he will be haunted with the Reflection, that he could not believe such a one the Woman that upon Trial he found her. What has he got by his Conquest, but to think meanly of her for whom a Day or two before he had the highest Honour? and of himself for, perhaps, wronging the Man whom of all Men living he himself would least willingly have injured?
Pleasure seizes the whole Man who addicts himself to it, and will not give him Leisure for any good Office in Life which contradicts the Gaiety of the present Hour. You may indeed observe in People of Pleasure a certain Complacency and Absence of all Severity, which the Habit of a loose unconcerned Life gives them; but tell the Man of Pleasure your secret Wants, Cares, or Sorrows, and you will find he has given up the Delicacy of his Passions to the Cravings of his Appetites. He little knows the perfect Joy he loses, for the disappointing Gratifications which he pursues. He looks at Pleasure as she approaches, and comes to him with the Recommendation of warm Wishes, gay Looks, and graceful Motion; but he does not observe how she leaves his Presence with Disorder, Impotence, down-cast Shame, and conscious Imperfection. She makes our Youth inglorious, our Age shameful.
WILL. HONEYCOMB gives us twenty Intimations in an Evening of several Hags whose Bloom was given up to his Arms; and would raise a Value to himself for having had, as the Phrase is, very good Women. WILL.'S good Women are the Comfort of his Heart, and support him, I warrant, by the Memory of past Interviews with Persons of their Condition. No, there is not in the World an Occasion wherein Vice makes so phantastical a Figure, as at the Meeting of two old People who have been Partners in unwarrantable Pleasure. To tell a toothless old Lady that she once had a good Set, or a defunct Wencher that he once was the admired Thing of the Town, are Satires instead of Applauses; but on the other Side, consider the old Age of those who have passed their Days in Labour, Industry, and Virtue, their Decays make them but appear the more venerable, and the Imperfections of their Bodies are beheld as a Misfortune to humane Society that their Make is so little durable.
But to return more directly to my Man of Wit and Pleasure. In all Orders of Men, wherever this is the chief Character, the Person who wears it is a negligent Friend, Father, and Husband, and entails Poverty on his unhappy Descendants. Mortgages Diseases, and Settlements are the Legacies a Man of Wit and Pleasure leaves to his Family. All the poor Rogues that make such lamentable Speeches after every Sessions at Tyburn, were, in their Way, Men of Wit and Pleasure, before they fell into the Adventures which brought them thither.
Irresolution and Procrastination in all a Man's Affairs, are the natural Effects of being addicted to Pleasure: Dishonour to the Gentleman and Bankruptcy to the Trader, are the Portion of either whose chief Purpose of Life is Delight. The chief Cause that this Pursuit has been in all Ages received with so much Quarter from the soberer Part of Mankind, has been that some Men of great Talents have sacrificed themselves to it: The shining Qualities of such People have given a Beauty to whatever they were engaged in, and a Mixture of Wit has recommended Madness. For let any Man who knows what it is to have passed much Time in a Series of Jollity, Mirth, Wit, or humourous Entertainments, look back at what he was all that while a doing, and he will find that he has been at one Instant sharp to some Man he is sorry to have offended, impertinent to some one it was Cruelty to treat with such Freedom, ungracefully noisy at such a Time, unskilfully open at such a Time, unmercifully calumnious at such a Time; and from the whole Course of his applauded Satisfactions, unable in the end to recollect any Circumstance which can add to the Enjoyment of his own Mind alone, or which he would put his Character upon with other Men. Thus it is with those who are best made for becoming Pleasures; but how monstrous is it in the generality of Mankind who pretend this Way, without Genius or Inclination towards it? The Scene then is wild to an Extravagance: this is as if Fools should mimick Madmen. Pleasure of this Kind is the intemperate Meals and loud Jollities of the common Rate of Country Gentlemen, whose Practice and Way of Enjoyment is to put an End as fast as they can to that little Particle of Reason they have when they are sober: These Men of Wit and Pleasure dispatch their Senses as fast as possible by drinking till they cannot taste, smoaking till they cannot see, and roaring till they cannot hear.
T.Translation of motto: