No. 193. Thursday, October 11, 1711. Steele.

... Ingentem foribus domus alta superbis
Mane salutantum totis vomit oedibus undam.'

When we look round us, and behold the strange Variety of Faces and Persons which fill the Streets with Business and Hurry, it is no unpleasant Amusement to make Guesses at their different Pursuits, and judge by their Countenances what it is that so anxiously engages their present Attention. Of all this busie Crowd, there are none who would give a Man inclined to such Enquiries better Diversion for his Thoughts, than those whom we call good Courtiers, and such as are assiduous at the Levées of Great Men. These Worthies are got into an Habit of being servile with an Air, and enjoy a certain Vanity in being known for understanding how the World passes. In the Pleasure of this they can rise early, go abroad sleek and well-dressed, with no other Hope or Purpose, but to make a Bow to a Man in Court-Favour, and be thought, by some insignificant Smile of his, not a little engaged in his Interests and Fortunes. It is wondrous, that a Man can get over the natural Existence and Possession of his own Mind so far, as to take Delight either in paying or receiving such cold and repeated Civilities. But what maintains the Humour is, that outward Show is what most Men pursue, rather than real Happiness. Thus both the Idol and Idolater equally impose upon themselves in pleasing their Imaginations this way. But as there are very many of her Majesty's good Subjects, who are extreamly uneasie at their own Seats in the Country, where all from the Skies to the Centre of the Earth is their own, and have a mighty longing to shine in Courts, or be Partners in the Power of the World; I say, for the Benefit of these, and others who hanker after being in the Whisper with great Men, and vexing their Neighbours with the Changes they would be capable of making in the Appearance at a Country Sessions, it would not methinks be amiss to give an Account of that Market for Preferment, a great Man's Levée.

For ought I know, this Commerce between the Mighty and their Slaves, very justly represented, might do so much good as to incline the Great to regard Business rather than Ostentation; and make the Little know the Use of their Time too well, to spend it in vain Applications and Addresses.

The famous Doctor in Moorfields, who gained so much Reputation for his Horary Predictions, is said to have had in his Parlour different Ropes to little Bells which hung in the Room above Stairs, where the Doctor thought fit to be oraculous. If a Girl had been deceived by her Lover, one Bell was pulled; and if a Peasant had lost a Cow, the [Servant [1]] rung another. This Method was kept in respect to all other Passions and Concerns, and [the skillful Waiter below [2]] sifted the Enquirer, and gave the Doctor Notice accordingly. The Levée of a great Man is laid after the same manner, and twenty Whispers, false Alarms, and private Intimations, pass backward and forward from the Porter, the Valet, and the Patron himself, before the gaping Crew who are to pay their Court are gathered together: When the Scene is ready, the Doors fly open and discover his Lordship.

There are several Ways of making this first Appearance: you may be either half dressed, and washing your self, which is indeed the most stately; but this Way of Opening is peculiar to Military Men, in whom there is something graceful in exposing themselves naked; but the Politicians, or Civil Officers, have usually affected to be more reserved, and preserve a certain Chastity of Deportment. Whether it be Hieroglyphical or not, this Difference in the Military and Civil List, [I will not say;] but [have [3]] ever understood the Fact to be, that the close Minister is buttoned up, and the brave Officer open-breasted on these Occasions.

However that is, I humbly conceive the Business of a Levée is to receive the Acknowledgments of a Multitude, that a Man is Wise, [Bounteous, [4]] Valiant and Powerful. When the first Shot of Eyes [is [5]] made, it is wonderful to observe how much Submission the Patron's Modesty can bear, and how much Servitude the Client's Spirit can descend to. In the vast Multiplicity of Business, and the Crowd about him, my Lord's Parts are usually so great, that, to the Astonishment of the whole Assembly, he has something to say to every Man there, and that so suitable to his Capacity, as any Man may judge that it is not without Talents that Men can arrive at great Employments. I have known a great Man ask a Flag-Officer, which way was the Wind, a Commander of Horse the present Price of Oats, and a Stock-jobber at what Discount such a Fund was, with as much Ease as if he had been bred to each of those several Ways of Life. Now this is extreamly obliging; for at the same time that the Patron informs himself of Matters, he gives the Person of whom he enquires an Opportunity to exert himself. What adds to the Pomp of those Interviews is, that it is performed with the greatest Silence and Order Imaginable. The Patron is usually in the midst of the Room, and some humble Person gives him a Whisper, which his Lordship answers aloud, It is well. Yes, I am of your Opinion. Pray inform yourself further, you may be sure of my Part in it. This happy Man is dismissed, and my Lord can turn himself to a Business of a quite different Nature, and offhand give as good an Answer as any great Man is obliged to. For the chief Point is to keep in Generals, and if there be any thing offered that's Particular, to be in haste.

But we are now in the Height of the Affair, and my Lord's Creatures have all had their Whispers round to keep up the Farce of the thing, and the Dumb Show is become more general. He casts his Eye to that Corner, and there to Mr. such-a-one; to the other, and when did you come to Town? And perhaps just before he nods to another, and enters with him, but, Sir, I am glad to see you, now I think of it. Each of those are happy for the next four and twenty Hours; and those who bow in Ranks undistinguished, and by Dozens at a Time, think they have very good Prospects if they hope to arrive at such Notices half a Year hence.

The Satyrist says, [6] there is seldom common Sense in high Fortune; and one would think, to behold a Levée, that the Great were not only infatuated with their Station, but also that they believed all below were seized too; else how is it possible that they could think of imposing upon themselves and others in such a degree, as to set up a Levée for any thing but a direct Farce? But such is the Weakness of our Nature, that when Men are a little exalted in their Condition, they immediately conceive they have additional Senses, and their Capacities enlarged not only above other Men, but above human Comprehension it self. Thus it is ordinary to see a great Man attend one listning, bow to one at a distance, and call to a third at the same instant. A Girl in new Ribbands is not more taken with her self, nor does she betray more apparent Coquetries, than even a wise Man in such a Circumstance of Courtship. I do not know any thing that I ever thought so very distasteful as the Affectation which is recorded of Cásar, to wit, that he would dictate to three several Writers at the same time. This was an Ambition below the Greatness and Candour of his Mind. He indeed (if any Man had Pretensions to greater Faculties than any other Mortal) was the Person; but such a Way of acting is Childish, and inconsistent with the Manner of our Being. And it appears from the very Nature of Things, that there cannot be any thing effectually dispatched in the Distraction of a Publick Levée: but the whole seems to be a Conspiracy of a Set of Servile Slaves, to give up their own Liberty to take away their Patron's Understanding.


[Footnote 1: Rope]

[Footnote 2: a skilful servant]

[Footnote 3: I have]

[Footnote 4: Beauteous, and in first reprint.]

[Footnote 5: are]

[Footnote 6: Juvenal, viii, 73.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. Georg. ii. 461.
'His lordship's palace view, whose portals proud
Each morning vomit forth a cringing crowd.'
(Warton, &c.)