No. 17. Tuesday, March 20, 1711. Steele.

... Tetrum ante Omnia vultum.'Juv.

Since our Persons are not of our own Making, when they are such as appear Defective or Uncomely, it is, methinks, an honest and laudable Fortitude to dare to be Ugly; at least to keep our selves from being abashed with a Consciousness of Imperfections which we cannot help, and in which there is no Guilt. I would not defend an haggard Beau, for passing away much time at a Glass, and giving Softnesses and Languishing Graces to Deformity. All I intend is, that we ought to be contented with our Countenance and Shape, so far, as never to give our selves an uneasie Reflection on that Subject. It is to the ordinary People, who are not accustomed to make very proper Remarks on any Occasion, matter of great Jest, if a Man enters with a prominent Pair of Shoulders into an Assembly, or is distinguished by an Expansion of Mouth, or Obliquity of Aspect. It is happy for a Man, that has any of these Oddnesses about him, if he can be as merry upon himself, as others are apt to be upon that Occasion: When he can possess himself with such a Chearfulness, Women and Children, who were at first frighted at him, will afterwards be as much pleased with him. As it is barbarous in others to railly him for natural Defects, it is extreamly agreeable when he can Jest upon himself for them.

Madam Maintenon's first Husband was an Hero in this Kind, and has drawn many Pleasantries from the Irregularity of his Shape, which he describes as very much resembling the Letter Z. [1] He diverts himself likewise by representing to his Reader the Make of an Engine and Pully, with which he used to take off his Hat. When there happens to be any thing ridiculous in a Visage, and the Owner of it thinks it an Aspect of Dignity, he must be of very great Quality to be exempt from Raillery: The best Expedient therefore is to be pleasant upon himself. Prince Harry and Falstaffe, in Shakespear, have carried the Ridicule upon Fat and Lean as far as it will go. Falstaffe is Humourously called Woolsack, Bed-presser, and Hill of Flesh; Harry a Starveling, an Elves-Skin, a Sheath, a Bowcase, and a Tuck. There is, in several incidents of the Conversation between them, the Jest still kept up upon the Person. Great Tenderness and Sensibility in this Point is one of the greatest Weaknesses of Self-love; for my own part, I am a little unhappy in the Mold of my Face, which is not quite so long as it is broad: Whether this might not partly arise from my opening my Mouth much seldomer than other People, and by Consequence not so much lengthning the Fibres of my Visage, I am not at leisure to determine. However it be, I have been often put out of Countenance by the Shortness of my Face, and was formerly at great Pains in concealing it by wearing a Periwigg with an high Foretop, and letting my Beard grow. But now I have thoroughly got over this Delicacy, and could be contented it were much shorter, provided it might qualify me for a Member of the Merry Club, which the following Letter gives me an Account of. I have received it from Oxford, and as it abounds with the Spirit of Mirth and good Humour, which is natural to that Place, I shall set it down Word for Word as it came to me.

'Most Profound Sir,

Having been very well entertained, in the last of your Speculations that I have yet seen, by your Specimen upon Clubs, which I therefore hope you will continue, I shall take the Liberty to furnish you with a brief Account of such a one as perhaps you have not seen in all your Travels, unless it was your Fortune to touch upon some of the woody Parts of the African Continent, in your Voyage to or from Grand Cairo. There have arose in this University (long since you left us without saying any thing) several of these inferior Hebdomadal Societies, as the Punning Club, the Witty Club, and amongst the rest, the Handsom Club; as a Burlesque upon which, a certain merry Species, that seem to have come into the World in Masquerade, for some Years last past have associated themselves together, and assumed the name of the Ugly Club: This ill-favoured Fraternity consists of a President and twelve Fellows; the Choice of which is not confin'd by Patent to any particular Foundation (as St. John's Men would have the World believe, and have therefore erected a separate Society within themselves) but Liberty is left to elect from any School in Great Britain, provided the Candidates be within the Rules of the Club, as set forth in a Table entituled The Act of Deformity. A Clause or two of which I shall transmit to you.

I. That no Person whatsoever shall be admitted without a visible Quearity in his Aspect, or peculiar Cast of Countenance; of which the President and Officers for the time being are to determine, and the President to have the casting Voice.

II. That a singular Regard be had, upon Examination, to the Gibbosity of the Gentlemen that offer themselves, as Founders Kinsmen, or to the Obliquity of their Figure, in what sort soever.

III. That if the Quantity of any Man's Nose be eminently miscalculated, whether as to Length or Breadth, he shall have a just Pretence to be elected.

Lastly, That if there shall be two or more Competitors for the same Vacancy, caeteris paribus, he that has the thickest Skin to have the Preference.

Every fresh Member, upon his first Night, is to entertain the Company with a Dish of Codfish, and a Speech in praise of Æsop; [2] whose portraiture they have in full Proportion, or rather Disproportion, over the Chimney; and their Design is, as soon as their Funds are sufficient, to purchase the Heads of Thersites, Duns Scotus, Scarron, Hudibras, and the old Gentleman in Oldham, [3] with all the celebrated ill Faces of Antiquity, as Furniture for the Club Room.

As they have always been profess'd Admirers of the other Sex, so they unanimously declare that they will give all possible Encouragement to such as will take the Benefit of the Statute, tho' none yet have appeared to do it.

The worthy President, who is their most devoted Champion, has lately shown me two Copies of Verses composed by a Gentleman of his Society; the first, a Congratulatory Ode inscrib'd to Mrs. Touchwood, upon the loss of her two Fore-teeth; the other, a Panegyrick upon Mrs. Andirons left Shoulder. Mrs. Vizard (he says) since the Small Pox, is grown tolerably ugly, and a top Toast in the Club; but I never hear him so lavish of his fine things, as upon old Nell Trot, who constantly officiates at their Table; her he even adores, and extolls as the very Counterpart of Mother Shipton; in short, Nell (says he) is one of the Extraordinary Works of Nature; but as for Complexion, Shape, and Features, so valued by others, they are all meer Outside and Symmetry, which is his Aversion. Give me leave to add, that the President is a facetious, pleasant Gentleman, and never more so, than when he has got (as he calls 'em) his dear Mummers about him; and he often protests it does him good to meet a Fellow with a right genuine Grimmace in his Air, (which is so agreeable in the generality of the French Nation;) and as an Instance of his Sincerity in this particular, he gave me a sight of a List in his Pocket-book of all of this Class, who for these five Years have fallen under his Observation, with himself at the Head of 'em, and in the Rear (as one of a promising and improving Aspect),

Sir, Your Obliged and Humble Servant,

Alexander Carbuncle.' [Sidenote: Oxford, March 12, 1710.]

R.

[Footnote 1: Abbé Paul Scarron, the burlesque writer, high in court favour, was deformed from birth, and at the age of 27 lost the use of all his limbs. In 1651, when 41 years old, Scarron married Frances d'Aubigné, afterwards Madame de Maintenon; her age was then 16, and she lived with Scarron until his death, which occurred when she was 25 years old and left her very poor. Scarron's comparison of himself to the letter Z is in his address 'To the Reader who has Never seen Me,' prefixed to his 'Relation Véritable de tout ce qui s'est passé en l'autre Monde, au combat des Parques et des Poëtes, sur la Mort de Voiture.' This was illustrated with a burlesque plate representing himself as seen from the back of his chair, and surrounded by a wondering and mocking world. His back, he said, was turned to the public, because the convex of his back is more convenient than the concave of his stomach for receiving the inscription of his name and age.]

[Footnote 2: The Life of Æsop, ascribed to Planudes Maximus, a monk of Constantinople in the fourteenth century, and usually prefixed to the Fables, says that he was 'the most deformed of all men of his age, for he had a pointed head, flat nostrils, a short neck, thick lips, was black, pot-bellied, bow-legged, and hump-backed; perhaps even uglier than Homer's Thersites.']

[Footnote 3: The description of Thersites in the second book of the Iliad is thus translated by Professor Blackie:

'The most Ill-favoured wight was he, I ween, of all the Grecian host. With hideous squint the railer leered: on one foot he was lame; Forward before his narrow chest his hunching shoulders came; Slanting and sharp his forehead rose, with shreds of meagre hair.'

Controversies between the Scotists and Thomists, followers of the teaching of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, caused Thomist perversion of the name of Duns into its use as Dunce and tradition of the subtle Doctor's extreme personal ugliness. Doctor Subtilis was translated The Lath Doctor.

Scarron we have just spoken of. Hudibras's outward gifts are described in Part I., Canto i., lines 240-296 of the poem.

'His beard In cut and dye so like a tile A sudden view it would beguile: The upper part thereof was whey; The nether, orange mix'd with grey. This hairy meteor, &c.'

The 'old Gentleman in Oldham' is Loyola, as described in Oldham's third satire on the Jesuits, when

'Summon'd together, all th' officious band The orders of their bedrid, chief attend.'

Raised on his pillow he greets them, and, says Oldham,

'Like Delphic Hag of old, by Fiend possest, He swells, wild Frenzy heaves his panting breast, His bristling hairs stick up, his eyeballs glow, And from his mouth long strakes of drivel flow.']

Translation of motto:
JUV. x. 191.
'--A visage rough,
Deform'd, unfeatured.'