No. 264. Wednesday, January 2, 1712. Steele.

--Secretum iter et fallentis Semita vitæ.

It has been from Age to Age an Affectation to love the Pleasure of Solitude, amongst those who cannot possibly be supposed qualified for passing Life in that Manner. This People have taken up from reading the many agreeable things which have been writ on that Subject, for which we are beholden to excellent Persons who delighted in being retired and abstracted from the Pleasures that enchant the Generality of the World. This Way of Life is recommended indeed with great Beauty, and in such a Manner as disposes the Reader for the time to a pleasing Forgetfulness, or Negligence of the particular Hurry of Life in which he is engaged, together with a Longing for that State which he is charmed with in Description. But when we consider the World it self, and how few there are capable of a religious, learned, or philosophick Solitude, we shall be apt to change a Regard to that sort of Solitude, for being a little singular in enjoying Time after the Way a Man himself likes best in the World, without going so far as wholly to withdraw from it. I have often observed, there is not a Man breathing who does not differ from all other Men, as much in the Sentiments of his Mind, as the Features of his Face. The Felicity is, when anyone is so happy as to find out and follow what is the proper Bent of this Genius, and turn all his Endeavours to exert himself according as that prompts him. Instead of this, which is an innocent Method of enjoying a Man's self, and turning out of the general Tracks wherein you have Crowds of Rivals, there are those who pursue their own Way out of a Sowrness and Spirit of Contradiction: These Men do every thing which they are able to support, as if Guilt and Impunity could not go together. They choose a thing only because another dislikes it; and affect forsooth an inviolable Constancy in Matters of no manner of Moment. Thus sometimes an old Fellow shall wear this or that sort of Cut in his Cloaths with great Integrity, while all the rest of the World are degenerated into Buttons, Pockets and Loops unknown to their Ancestors. As insignificant as even this is, if it were searched to the Bottom, you perhaps would find it not sincere, but that he is in the Fashion in his Heart, and holds out from mere Obstinacy. But I am running from my intended Purpose, which was to celebrate a certain particular Manner of passing away Life, and is a Contradiction to no Man. but a Resolution to contract none of the exorbitant Desires by which others are enslaved. The best way of separating a Man's self from the World, is to give up the Desire of being known to it. After a Man has preserved his Innocence, and performed all Duties incumbent upon him, his Time spent his own Way is what makes his Life differ from that of a Slave. If they who affect Show and Pomp knew how many of their Spectators derided their trivial Taste, they would be very much less elated, and have an Inclination to examine the Merit of all they have to do with: They would soon find out that there are many who make a Figure below what their Fortune or Merit entities them to, out of mere Choice, and an elegant Desire of Ease and Disincumbrance. It would look like Romance to tell you in this Age of an old Man who is contented to pass for an Humourist, and one who does not understand the Figure he ought to make in the World, while he lives in a Lodging of Ten Shillings a Week with only one Servant: While he dresses himself according to the Season in Cloth or in Stuff, and has no one necessary Attention to any thing but the Bell which calls to Prayers twice a Day. I say it would look like a Fable to report that this Gentleman gives away all which is the Overplus of a great Fortune, by secret Methods to other Men. If he has not the Pomp of a numerous Train, and of Professors of Service to him, he has every Day he lives the Conscience that the Widow, the Fatherless, the Mourner, and the Stranger bless his unseen Hand in their Prayers. This Humourist gives up all the Compliments which People of his own Condition could make to him, for the Pleasures of helping the Afflicted, supplying the Needy, and befriending the Neglected. This Humourist keeps to himself much more than he wants, and gives a vast Refuse of his Superfluities to purchase Heaven, and by freeing others from the Temptations of Worldly Want, to carry a Retinue with him thither. Of all Men who affect living in a particular Way, next to this admirable Character, I am the most enamoured of Irus, whose Condition will not admit of such Largesses, and perhaps would not be capable of making them, if it were. Irus, tho he is now turned of Fifty, has not appeared in the World, in his real Character, since five and twenty, at which Age he ran out a small Patrimony, and spent some Time after with Rakes who had lived upon him: A Course of ten Years time, passed in all the little Alleys, By-Paths, and sometimes open Taverns and Streets of this Town, gave Irus a perfect Skill in judging of the Inclinations of Mankind, and acting accordingly. He seriously considered he was poor, and the general Horror which most Men have of all who are in that Condition. Irus judg'd very rightly, that while he could keep his Poverty a Secret, he should not feel the Weight of it; he improved this Thought into an Affectation of Closeness and Covetousness. Upon this one Principle he resolved to govern his future Life; and in the thirty sixth Year of his Age he repaired to Long-lane, and looked upon several Dresses which hung there deserted by their first Masters, and exposed to the Purchase of the best Bidder. At this Place he exchanged his gay Shabbiness of Cloaths fit for a much younger Man, to warm ones that would be decent for a much older one. Irus came out thoroughly equipped from Head to Foot, with a little oaken Cane in the Form of a substantial Man that did not mind his Dress, turned of fifty. He had at this time fifty Pounds in ready Money; and in this Habit, with this Fortune, he took his present Lodging in St. John Street, at the Mansion-House of a Taylor's Widow, who washes and can clear-starch his Bands. From that Time to this, he has kept the main Stock, without Alteration under or over to the value of five Pounds. He left off all his old Acquaintance to a Man, and all his Arts of Life, except the Play of Backgammon, upon which he has more than bore his Charges. Irus has, ever since he came into this Neighbourhood, given all the Intimations, he skilfully could, of being a close Hunks worth Money: No body comes to visit him, he receives no Letters, and tells his Money Morning and Evening. He has, from the publick Papers, a Knowledge of what generally passes, shuns all Discourses of Money, but shrugs his Shoulder when you talk of Securities; he denies his being rich with the Air, which all do who are vain of being so: He is the Oracle of a Neighbouring Justice of Peace, who meets him at the Coffeehouse; the Hopes that what he has must come to Somebody, and that he has no Heirs, have that Effect where ever he is known, that he every Day has three or four Invitations to dine at different Places, which he generally takes care to choose in such a manner, as not to seem inclined to the richer Man. All the young Men respect him, and say he is just the same Man he was when they were Boys. He uses no Artifice in the World, but makes use of Mens Designs upon him to get a Maintenance out of them. This he carries on by a certain Peevishness, (which he acts very well) that no one would believe could possibly enter into the Head of a poor Fellow. His Mein, his Dress, his Carriage, and his Language are such, that you would be at a loss to guess whether in the Active Part of his Life he had been a sensible Citizen, or Scholar that knew the World. These are the great Circumstances in the Life of Irus, and thus does he pass away his Days a Stranger to Mankind; and at his Death, the worst that will be said of him will be, that he got by every Man who had Expectations from him, more than he had to leave him.

I have an Inclination to print the following Letters; for that I have heard the Author of them has some where or other seen me, and by an excellent Faculty in Mimickry my Correspondents tell me he can assume my Air, and give my Taciturnity a Slyness which diverts more than any Thing I could say if I were present. Thus I am glad my Silence is attoned for to the good Company in Town. He has carried his Skill in Imitation so far, as to have forged a Letter from my Friend Sir ROGER in such a manner, that any one but I who am thoroughly acquainted with him, would have taken it for genuine.


Having observed in Lilly's Grammar how sweetly Bacchus and Apollo run in a Verse: I have (to preserve the Amity between them) call'd in Bacchus to the Aid of my Profession of the Theatre. So that while some People of Quality are bespeaking Plays of me to be acted upon such a Day, and others, Hogsheads for their Houses against such a Time; I am wholly employ'd in the agreeable Service of Wit and Wine: Sir, I have sent you Sir Roger de Coverley's Letter to me, which pray comply with in Favour of the Bumper Tavern. Be kind, for you know a Players utmost Pride is the Approbation of the SPECTATOR.

I am your Admirer, tho unknown, Richard Estcourt [1]

To Mr. Estcourt at his House in Covent-Garden. Coverley, December the 18th, 1711.

Old Comical Ones,

The Hogsheads of Neat Port came safe, and have gotten thee good Reputation in these Parts; and I am glad to hear, that a Fellow who has been laying out his Money ever since he was born, for the meer Pleasure of Wine, has bethought himself of joining Profit and Pleasure together. Our Sexton (poor Man) having received Strength from thy Wine since his fit of the Gout, is hugely taken with it: He says it is given by Nature for the Use of Families, that no Stewards Table can be without it, that it strengthens Digestion, excludes Surfeits, Fevers and Physick; which green Wines of any kind cant do. Pray get a pure snug Room, and I hope next Term to help fill your Bumper with our People of the Club; but you must have no Bells stirring when the Spectator comes; I forbore ringing to Dinner while he was down with me in the Country. Thank you for the little Hams and Portugal Onions; pray keep some always by you. You know my Supper is only good Cheshire Cheese, best Mustard, a golden Pippin, attended with a Pipe of John Sly's Best. Sir Harry has stoln all your Songs, and tells the Story of the 5th of November to Perfection.

Yours to serve you, Roger de Coverley.

We've lost old John since you were here.


[Footnote 1: Richard Estcourt, born at Tewkesbury in 1688, and educated in the Latin school there, stole from home at the age of 15 to join a travelling company of comedians at Worcester, and, to avoid detection, made his first appearance in woman's clothes as Roxana in Alexander the Great. He was discovered, however, pursued, brought home, carried to London, and bound prentice to an apothecary in Hatton Garden. He escaped again, wandered about England, went to Ireland, and there obtained credit as an actor; then returned to London, and appeared at Drury Lane, where his skill as a mimic enabled him to perform each part in the manner of the actor who had obtained chief credit by it. His power of mimicry made him very diverting in society, and as he had natural politeness with a sprightly wit, his company was sought and paid for at the entertainments of the great. Dick Estcourt was a great favourite with the Duke of Marlborough, and when men of wit and rank joined in establishing the Beefsteak Club they made Estcourt their Providore, with a small gold gridiron, for badge, hung round his neck by a green ribbon. Estcourt was a writer for the stage as well as actor, and had shown his agreement with the Spectators dramatic criticisms by ridiculing the Italian opera with an interlude called Prunella. In the Numbers of the Spectator for December 28 and 29 Estcourt had advertised that he would on the 1st of January open the Bumper Tavern in James's Street, Westminster, and had laid in

neat natural wines, fresh and in perfection; being bought by Brooke and Hellier, by whom the said Tavern will from time to time be supplied with the best growths that shall be imported; to be sold by wholesale as well as retail, with the utmost fidelity by his old servant, trusty Anthony, who has so often adorned both the theatres in England and Ireland; and as he is a person altogether unknowing in the wine trade, it cannot be doubted but that he will deliver the wine in the same natural purity that he receives it from the said merchants; and on these assurances he hopes that all his friends and acquaintance will become his customers, desiring a continuance of their favours no longer than they shall find themselves well served.

This is the venture which Steele here backs for his friend with the influence of the Spectator.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 1 Ep. xviii. 103. _Adapted_.
'In public walks let who will shine or stray,
I'll silent steal through life in my own way.'