No. 344. Friday, April 4, 1712. Steele.

In solo vivendi causa palato est.


I think it has not yet fallen into your Way to discourse on little Ambition, or the many whimsical Ways Men fall into, to distinguish themselves among their Acquaintance: Such Observations, well pursued, would make a pretty History of low Life. I my self am got into a great Reputation, which arose (as most extraordinary Occurrences in a Man's Life seem to do) from a mere Accident. I was some Days ago unfortunately engaged among a Set of Gentlemen, who esteem a Man according to the Quantity of Food he throws down at a Meal. Now I, who am ever for distinguishing my self according to the Notions of Superiority which the rest of the Company entertain, ate so immoderately for their Applause, as had like to have cost me my Life. What added to my Misfortune was, that having naturally a good Stomach, and having lived soberly for some time, my Body was as well prepared for this Contention as if it had been by Appointment. I had quickly vanquished every Glutton in Company but one, who was such a Prodigy in his Way, and withal so very merry during the whole Entertainment, that he insensibly betrayed me to continue his Competitor, which in a little time concluded in a compleat Victory over my Rival; after which, by Way of Insult, I ate a considerable Proportion beyond what the Spectators thought me obliged in Honour to do. The Effect however of this Engagement, has made me resolve never to eat more for Renown; and I have, pursuant to this Resolution, compounded three Wagers I had depending on the Strength of my Stomach; which happened very luckily, because it was stipulated in our Articles either to play or pay. How a Man of common Sense could be thus engaged, is hard to determine; but the Occasion of this, is to desire you to inform several Gluttons of my Acquaintance, who look on me with Envy, that they had best moderate their Ambition in time, lest Infamy or Death attend their Success. I forgot to tell you, Sir, with what unspeakable Pleasure I received the Acclamations and Applause of the whole Board, when I had almost eat my Antagonist into Convulsions: It was then that I returned his Mirth upon him with such success as he was hardly able to swallow, though prompted by a Desire of Fame, and a passionate Fondness for Distinction: I had not endeavoured to excel so far, had not the Company been so loud in their Approbation of my Victory. I don't question but the same Thirst after Glory has often caused a Man to drink Quarts without taking Breath, and prompted Men to many other difficult Enterprizes; which if otherwise pursued, might turn very much to a Man's Advantage. This Ambition of mine was indeed extravagantly pursued; however I cant help observing, that you hardly ever see a Man commended for a good Stomach, but he immediately falls to eating more (tho he had before dined) as well to confirm the Person that commended him in his good Opinion of him, as to convince any other at the Table, who may have been unattentive enough not to have done Justice to his Character. I am, Sir, Your most humble Servant, Epicure Mammon.


I have writ to you three or four times, to desire you would take notice of an impertinent Custom the Women, the fine Women, have lately fallen into, of taking Snuff. [1] This silly Trick is attended with such a Coquet Air in some Ladies, and such a sedate masculine one in others, that I cannot tell which most to complain of; but they are to me equally disagreeable. Mrs. Saunter is so impatient of being without it, that she takes it as often as she does Salt at Meals; and as she affects a wonderful Ease and Negligence in all her manner, an upper Lip mixed with Snuff and the Sauce, is what is presented to the Observation of all who have the honour to eat with her. The pretty Creature her Neice does all she can to be as disagreeable as her Aunt; and if she is not as offensive to the Eye, she is quite as much to the Ear, and makes up all she wants in a confident Air, by a nauseous Rattle of the Nose, when the Snuff is delivered, and the Fingers make the Stops and Closes on the Nostrils. This, perhaps, is not a very courtly Image in speaking of Ladies; that is very true: but where arises the Offence? Is it in those who commit, or those who observe it? As for my part, I have been so extremely disgusted with this filthy Physick hanging on the Lip, that the most agreeable Conversation, or Person, has not been able to make up for it. As to those who take it for no other end but to give themselves Occasion for pretty Action, or to fill up little Intervals of Discourse, I can bear with them; but then they must not use it when another is speaking, who ought to be heard with too much respect, to admit of offering at that time from Hand to Hand the Snuff-Box. But Flavilla is so far taken with her Behaviour in this kind, that she pulls out her Box (which is indeed full of good Brazile) in the middle of the Sermon; and to shew she has the Audacity of a well-bred Woman, she offers it the Men as well as the Women who sit near her: But since by this Time all the World knows she has a fine Hand, I am in hopes she may give her self no further Trouble in this matter. On Sunday was sennight, when they came about for the Offering, she gave her Charity with a very good Air, but at the same Time asked the Churchwarden if he would take a Pinch. Pray, Sir, think of these things in time, and you will oblige,


Your most humble servant.


[Footnote 1: Charles Lillie, the perfumer, from whose shop at the corner of Beaufort Buildings the original Spectators were distributed, left behind him a book of receipts and observations, The British Perfumer, Snuff Manufacturer, and Colourmans Guide, of which the MS. was sold with his business, but which remained unpublished until 1822. He opens his Part III. on Snuffs with an account of the Origin of Snuff-taking in England, the practice being one that had become fashionable in his day, and only about eight years before the appearance of the Spectator. It dates from Sir George Rooke's expedition against Cadiz in 1702. Before that time snuff-taking in England was confined to a few luxurious foreigners and English who had travelled abroad. They took their snuff with pipes of the size of quills out of small spring boxes. The pipes let out a very small quantity upon the back of the hand, and this was snuffed up the nostrils with the intention of producing a sneeze which, says Lillie, I need not say forms now no part of the design or rather fashion of snuff-taking; least of all in the ladies who took part in this method of snuffing defiance at the public enemy. When the fleet, after the failure of its enterprize against Cadiz, proceeded to cut off the French ships in Vigobay, on the way it plundered Port St. Mary and adjacent places, where, among other merchandize, seizure was made of several thousand barrels and casks, each containing four tin canisters of snuffs of the best growth and finest Spanish manufacture. At Vigo, among the merchandize taken from the shipping there destroyed, were prodigious quantities of gross snuff, from the Havannah, in bales, bags, and scrows (untanned buffalo hides, used with the hairy-side inwards, for making packages), which were designed for manufacture in different parts of Spain. Altogether fifty tons of snuff were brought home as part of the prize of the officers and sailors of the fleet. Of the coarse snuff, called Vigo snuff, the sailors, among whom it was shared, sold waggon-loads at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham, for not more than three-pence or four-pence a pound. The greater part of it was bought up by Spanish Jews, to their own very considerable profit. The fine snuffs taken at Port St. Mary, and divided among the officers, were sold by some of them at once for a small price, while others held their stocks and, as the snuff so taken became popular and gave a patriotic impulse to the introduction of a fashion which had hitherto been almost confined to foreigners, they got very high prices for it. This accounts for the fact that the ladies too had added the use of the perfumed snuff-box to their other fashionable accomplishments.]

Translation of motto:
JUV. Sat. xi. 11.
'Such, whose sole bliss is eating; who can give
But that one brutal reason why they live?'