No. 220. Monday, November 12, 1711. Steele.

Rumoresque serit varios
Virg. [1]


Why will you apply to my Father for my Love? I cannot help it if he will give you my Person; but I assure you it is not in his Power, nor even in my own, to give you my Heart. Dear Sir, do but consider the ill Consequence of such a Match; you are Fifty-five, I Twenty-one. You are a Man of Business, and mightily conversant in Arithmetick and making Calculations; be pleased therefore to consider what Proportion your Spirits bear to mine; and when you have made a just Estimate of the necessary Decay on one Side, and the Redundance on the other, you will act accordingly. This perhaps is such Language as you may not expect from a young Lady; but my Happiness is at Stake, and I must talk plainly. I mortally hate you; and so, as you and my Father agree, you may take me or leave me: But if you will be so good as never to see me more, you will for ever oblige,

SIR, Your most humble Servant, HENRIETTA.


There are so many Artifices and Modes of false Wit, and such a Variety of Humour discovers it self among its Votaries, that it would be impossible to exhaust so fertile a Subject, if you would think fit to resume it. The following Instances may, if you think fit, be added by Way of Appendix to your Discourses on that Subject.

That Feat of Poetical Activity mentioned by Horace, of an Author who could compose two hundred Verses while he stood upon one Leg, [3] has been imitated (as I have heard) by a modern Writer; who priding himself on the Hurry of his Invention, thought it no small Addition to his Fame to have each Piece minuted with the exact Number of Hours or Days it cost him in the Composition. He could taste no Praise till he had acquainted you in how short Space of Time he had deserved it; and was not so much led to an Ostentation of his Art, as of his Dispatch.

--Accipe si vis, Accipe jam tabulas; detur nobis locus, hora, Custodes: videamus uter plus scribere possit.


This was the whole of his Ambition; and therefore I cannot but think the Flights of this rapid Author very proper to be opposed to those laborious Nothings which you have observed were the Delight of the German Wits, and in which they so happily got rid of such a tedious Quantity of their Time.

I have known a Gentleman of another Turn of Humour, who, despising the Name of an Author, never printed his Works, but contracted his Talent, and by the help of a very fine Diamond which he wore on his little Finger, was a considerable Poet upon Glass. He had a very good Epigrammatick Wit; and there was not a Parlour or Tavern Window where he visited or dined for some Years, which did not receive some Sketches or Memorials of it. It was his Misfortune at last to lose his Genius and his Ring to a Sharper at Play; and he has not attempted to make a Verse since.

But of all Contractions or Expedients for Wit, I admire that of an ingenious Projector whose Book I have seen. [4] This Virtuoso being a Mathematician, has, according to his Taste, thrown the Art of Poetry into a short Problem, and contrived Tables by which any one without knowing a Word of Grammar or Sense, may, to his great Comfort, be able to compose or rather to erect Latin Verses. His Tables are a kind of Poetical Logarithms, which being divided into several Squares, and all inscribed with so many incoherent Words, appear to the Eye somewhat like a Fortune-telling Screen. What a Joy must it be to the unlearned Operator to find that these Words, being carefully collected and writ down in Order according to the Problem, start of themselves into Hexameter and Pentameter Verses? A Friend of mine, who is a Student in Astrology, meeting with this Book, performed the Operation, by the Rules there set down; he shewed his Verses to the next of his Acquaintance, who happened to understand Latin; and being informed they described a Tempest of Wind, very luckily prefixed them, together with a Translation, to an Almanack he was just then printing, and was supposed to have foretold the last great Storm. [5]

I think the only Improvement beyond this, would be that which the late Duke of Buckingham mentioned to a stupid Pretender to Poetry, as the Project of a Dutch Mechanick, viz. a Mill to make Verses. This being the most compendious Method of all which have yet been proposed, may deserve the Thoughts of our modern Virtuosi who are employed in new Discoveries for the publick Good: and it may be worth the while to consider, whether in an Island where few are content without being thought Wits, it will not be a common Benefit, that Wit as well as Labour should be made cheap.

I am, SIR, Your humble Servant, &c.


I often dine at a Gentleman's House, where there are two young Ladies, in themselves very agreeable, but very cold in their Behaviour, because they understand me for a Person that is to break my Mind, as the Phrase is, very suddenly to one of them. But I take this Way to acquaint them, that I am not in Love with either of them, in Hopes they will use me with that agreeable Freedom and Indifference which they do all the rest of the World, and not to drink to one another [only,] but sometimes cast a kind Look, with their Service to,

SIR, Your humble Servant.


I am a young Gentleman, and take it for a Piece of Good-breeding to pull off my Hat when I see any thing particularly charming in any Woman, whether I know her or not. I take care that there is nothing ludicrous or arch in my Manner, as if I were to betray a Woman into a Salutation by Way of Jest or Humour; and yet except I am acquainted with her, I find she ever takes it for a Rule, that she is to look upon this Civility and Homage I pay to her supposed Merit, as an Impertinence or Forwardness which she is to observe and neglect. I wish, Sir, you would settle the Business of salutation; and please to inform me how I shall resist the sudden Impulse I have to be civil to what gives an Idea of Merit; or tell these Creatures how to behave themselves in Return to the Esteem I have for them. My Affairs are such, that your Decision will be a Favour to me, if it be only to save the unnecessary Expence of wearing out my Hat so fast as I do at present.

There are some that do know me, and wont bow to me.

I am, SIR, Yours, T.D.


[Footnote 1:

--Aliena negotia centum Per caput, et circa saliunt latus.


[Footnote 2: This letter is by John Hughes.]

[Footnote 3:

--in hora sæpe ducentos, Ut magnum, versus dictabat stans pede in uno.

Sat. I. iv. 10.]

[Footnote 4: A pamphlet by John Peter, Artificial Versifying, a New Way to make Latin Verses. Lond. 1678.]

[Footnote 5: Of Nov. 26, 1703, which destroyed in London alone property worth a million.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. xii. 228.
'A thousand rumours spreads.'