No. 43. Thursday, April 19, 1711. Steele.

Ha tibi erunt artes; pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere Subjectis, et debellare Superbos.'

There are Crowds of Men, whose great Misfortune it is that they were not bound to Mechanick Arts or Trades; it being absolutely necessary for them to be led by some continual Task or Employment. These are such as we commonly call dull Fellows; Persons, who for want of something to do, out of a certain Vacancy of Thought, rather than Curiosity, are ever meddling with things for which they are unfit. I cannot give you a Notion of them better than by presenting you with a Letter from a Gentleman, who belongs to a Society of this Order of Men, residing at Oxford.

Oxford, April 13, 1711. Four a Clock in the Morning.


'In some of your late Speculations, I find some Sketches towards an History of Clubs: But you seem to me to shew them in somewhat too ludicrous a Light. I have well weighed that Matter, and think, that the most important Negotiations may best be carried on in such Assemblies. I shall therefore, for the Good of Mankind, (which, I trust, you and I are equally concerned for) propose an Institution of that Nature for Example sake.

I must confess, the Design and Transactions of too many Clubs are trifling, and manifestly of no consequence to the Nation or Publick Weal: Those I'll give you up. But you must do me then the Justice to own, that nothing can be more useful or laudable than the Scheme we go upon. To avoid Nicknames and Witticisms, we call ourselves The Hebdomadal Meeting: Our President continues for a Year at least, and sometimes four or five: We are all Grave, Serious, Designing Men, in our Way: We think it our Duty, as far as in us lies, to take care the Constitution receives no Harm,--Ne quid detrimenti Res capiat publica--To censure Doctrines or Facts, Persons or Things, which we don't like; To settle the Nation at home, and to carry on the War abroad, where and in what manner we see fit: If other People are not of our Opinion, we can't help that. 'Twere better they were. Moreover, we now and then condescend to direct, in some measure, the little Affairs of our own University.

Verily, Mr. SPECTATOR, we are much offended at the Act for importing French Wines: [1] A Bottle or two of good solid Edifying Port, at honest George's, made a Night chearful, and threw off Reserve. But this plaguy French Claret will not only cost us more Mony, but do us less Good: Had we been aware of it, before it had gone too far, I must tell you, we would have petitioned to be heard upon that Subject. But let that pass.

I must let you know likewise, good Sir, that we look upon a certain Northern Prince's March, in Conjunction with Infidels, [2] to be palpably against our Goodwill and Liking; and, for all Monsieur Palmquist, [3] a most dangerous Innovation; and we are by no means yet sure, that some People are not at the Bottom on't. At least, my own private Letters leave room for a Politician well versed in matters of this Nature, to suspect as much, as a penetrating Friend of mine tells me.

We think we have at last done the business with the Malecontents in Hungary, and shall clap up a Peace there. [4]

What the Neutrality Army [5] is to do, or what the Army in Flanders, and what two or three other Princes, is not yet fully determined among us; and we wait impatiently for the coming in of the next Dyer's [6] who, you must know, is our Authentick Intelligence, our Aristotle in Politics. And 'tis indeed but fit there should be some Dernier Resort, the Absolute Decider of all Controversies.

We were lately informed, that the Gallant Train'd Bands had patroll'd all Night long about the Streets of London: We indeed could not imagine any Occasion for it, we guessed not a Tittle on't aforehand, we were in nothing of the Secret; and that City Tradesmen, or their Apprentices, should do Duty, or work, during the Holidays, we thought absolutely impossible: But Dyer being positive in it, and some Letters from other People, who had talked with some who had it from those who should know, giving some Countenance to it, the Chairman reported from the Committee, appointed to examine into that Affair, That 'twas Possible there might be something in't. I have much more to say to you, but my two good Friends and Neighbours, Dominick and Slyboots, are just come in, and the Coffee's ready. I am, in the mean time,


_Your Admirer, and

Humble Servant,_

Abraham Froth.

You may observe the Turn of their Minds tends only to Novelty, and not Satisfaction in any thing. It would be Disappointment to them, to come to Certainty in any thing, for that would gravel them, and put an end to their Enquiries, which dull Fellows do not make for Information, but for Exercise. I do not know but this may be a very good way of accounting for what we frequently see, to wit, that dull Fellows prove very good Men of Business. Business relieves them from their own natural Heaviness, by furnishing them with what to do; whereas Business to Mercurial Men, is an Interruption from their real Existence and Happiness. Tho' the dull Part of Mankind are harmless in their Amusements, it were to be wished they had no vacant Time, because they usually undertake something that makes their Wants conspicuous, by their manner of supplying them. You shall seldom find a dull Fellow of good Education, but (if he happens to have any Leisure upon his Hands,) will turn his Head to one of those two Amusements, for all Fools of Eminence, Politicks or Poetry. The former of these Arts, is the Study of all dull People in general; but when Dulness is lodged in a Person of a quick Animal Life, it generally exerts it self in Poetry. One might here mention a few Military Writers, who give great Entertainment to the Age, by reason that the Stupidity of their Heads is quickened by the Alacrity of their Hearts. This Constitution in a dull Fellow, gives Vigour to Nonsense, and makes the Puddle boil, which would otherwise stagnate. The British Prince, that Celebrated Poem, which was written in the Reign of King Charles the Second, and deservedly called by the Wits of that Age Incomparable, [7] was the Effect of such an happy Genius as we are speaking of. From among many other Disticks no less to be quoted on this Account, I cannot but recite the two following Lines.

A painted Vest Prince Voltager had on, Which from a Naked Pict his Grandsire won.

Here if the Poet had not been Vivacious, as well as Stupid, he could [not,] in the Warmth and Hurry of Nonsense, [have] been capable of forgetting that neither Prince Voltager, nor his Grandfather, could strip a Naked Man of his Doublet; but a Fool of a colder Constitution, would have staid to have Flea'd the Pict, and made Buff of his Skin, for the Wearing of the Conqueror.

To bring these Observations to some useful Purpose of Life, what I would propose should be, that we imitated those wise Nations, wherein every Man learns some Handycraft-Work. Would it not employ a Beau prettily enough, if instead of eternally playing with a Snuff-box, he spent some part of his Time in making one? Such a Method as this, would very much conduce to the Publick Emolument, by making every Man living good for something; for there would then be no one Member of Human Society, but would have some little Pretension for some Degree in it; like him who came to Will's Coffee-house, upon the Merit of having writ a Posie of a Ring.


[Footnote 1: Like the chopping in two of the Respublica in the quotation just above of the well-known Roman formula by which consuls were to see ne quid Respublica detrimenti capiat, this is a jest on the ignorance of the political wiseacres. Port wine had been forced on England in 1703 in place of Claret, and the drinking of it made an act of patriotism,--which then meant hostility to France,--by the Methuen treaty, so named from its negotiator, Paul Methuen, the English Minister at Lisbon. It is the shortest treaty upon record, having only two clauses, one providing that Portugal should admit British cloths; the other that England should admit Portuguese wines at one-third less duty than those of France. This lasted until 1831, and so the English were made Port wine drinkers. Abraham Froth and his friends of the 'Hebdomadal Meeting', all 'Grave, Serious, Designing Men in their Way' have a confused notion in 1711 of the Methuen Treaty of 1703 as 'the Act for importing French wines,' with which they are much offended. The slowness and confusion of their ideas upon a piece of policy then so familiar, gives point to the whimsical solemnity of their 'Had we been aware,' &c.]

[Footnote 2: The subject of Mr. Froth's profound comment is now the memorable March of Charles XII of Sweden to the Ukraine, ending on the 8th of July, 1709, in the decisive battle of Pultowa, that established the fortune of Czar Peter the Great, and put an end to the preponderance of Sweden in northern Europe. Charles had seemed to be on his way to Moscow, when he turned south and marched through desolation to the Ukraine, whither he was tempted by Ivan Mazeppa, a Hetman of the Cossacks, who, though 80 years old, was ambitious of independence to be won for him by the prowess of Charles XII. Instead of 30,000 men Mazeppa brought to the King of Sweden only himself as a fugitive with 40 or 50 attendants; but in the spring of 1809 he procured for the wayworn and part shoeless army of Charles the alliance of the Saporogue Cossacks. Although doubled by these and by Wallachians, the army was in all but 20,000 strong with which he then determined to besiege Pullowa; and there, after two months' siege, he ventured to give battle to a relieving army of 60,000 Russians. Of his 20,000 men, 9000 were left on that battle-field, and 3000 made prisoners. Of the rest--all that survived of 54,000 Swedes with whom he had quitted Saxony to cross the steppes of Russia, and of 16,000 sent to him as reinforcement afterwards--part perished, and they who were left surrendered on capitulation, Charles himself having taken refuge at Bender in Bessarabia with the Turks, Mr. Froth's Infidels.]

[Footnote 3: Perhaps Monsieur Palmquist is the form in which these 'Grave, Serious, Designing Men in their Way' have picked up the name of Charles's brave general, Count Poniatowski, to whom he owed his escape after the battle of Pultowa, and who won over Turkey to support his failing fortunes. The Turks, his subsequent friends, are the 'Infidels' before-mentioned, the wise politicians being apparently under the impression that they had marched with the Swedes out of Saxony.]

[Footnote 4: Here Mr. Froth and his friends were truer prophets than anyone knew when this number of the Spectator appeared, on the 19th of April. The news had not reached England of the death of the Emperor Joseph I on the 17th of April. During his reign, and throughout the war, the Hungarians, desiring independence, had been fighting on the side of France. The Archduke Charles, now become Emperor, was ready to give the Hungarians such privileges, especially in matters of religion, as restored their friendship.]

[Footnote 5: After Pultowa, Frederick IV of Denmark, Augustus II of Poland, and Czar Peter, formed an alliance against Sweden; and in the course of 1710 the Emperor of Germany, Great Britain, and the States-General concluded two treaties guaranteeing the neutrality of all the States of the Empire. This suggests to Mr. Froth and his friends the idea that there is a 'Neutrality Army' operating somewhere.]

[Footnote 6: Dyer was a Jacobite printer, whose News-letter was twice in trouble for 'misrepresenting the proceedings of the House,' and who, in 1703, had given occasion for a proclamation against 'printing and spreading false 'news.']

[Footnote 7: ''The British Princes', an Heroick Poem,' by the Hon. Edward Howard, was published in 1669. The author produced also five plays, and a volume of Poems and Essays, with a Paraphrase on Cicero's Laelius in Heroic Verse. The Earls of Rochester and Dorset devoted some verses to jest both on 'The British Princes' and on Edward Howard's Plays. Even Dr. Sprat had his rhymed joke with the rest, in lines to a Person of Honour 'upon his Incomparable, Incomprehensible Poem, intitled 'The British Princes'.' Edward Howard did not print the nonsense here ascribed to him. It was a burlesque of his lines:

'A vest as admir'd Vortiger had on, Which from this Island's foes his Grandsire won.']

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. vi. 854.
'Be these thy arts; to bid contention cease,
Chain up stern wars, and give the nations peace;
O'er subject lands extend thy gentle sway,
And teach with iron rod the haughty to obey.'