No. 474. Wednesday, September 3, 1712. Steele.

Asperitas agrestis et inconcinna.'


Being of the Number of those that have lately retired from the Center of Business and Pleasure, my Uneasiness in the Country where I am, arises rather from the Society than the Solitude of it. To be obliged to receive and return Visits from and to a Circle of Neighbours, who through Diversity of Age or Inclinations, can neither be entertaining or serviceable to us, is a vile Loss of Time, and a Slavery from which a Man should deliver himself, if possible: For why must I lose the remaining part of my Life, because they have thrown away the former Part of theirs? It is to me an insupportable Affliction, to be tormented with the Narrations of a Set of People, who are warm in their Expressions of the quick Relish of that Pleasure which their Dogs and Horses have a more delicate Taste of. I do also in my Heart detest and abhor that damnable Doctrine and Position of the Necessity of a Bumper, though to one's own Toast; for though 'tis pretended that these deep Politicians are used only to inspire Gaiety, they certainly drown that Chearfulness which would survive a moderate Circulation. If at these Meetings it were left to every Stranger either to fill his Glass according to his own Inclination, or to make his Retreat when he finds he has been sufficiently obedient to that of others, these Entertainments would be governed with more good Sense, and consequently with more good Breeding, than at present they are. Indeed where any of the Guests are known to measure their Fame or Pleasure by their Glass, proper Exhortations might be used to these to push their Fortunes in this sort of Reputation; but where 'tis unseasonably insisted on to a modest Stranger, this Drench may be said to be swallowed with the same Necessity, as if it had been tendered in the Horn [1] for that purpose, with this aggravating Circumstance, that it distresses the Entertainer's Guest in the same degree as it relieves his Horses.

To attend without Impatience an Account of five-barr'd Gates, double Ditches, and Precipices, and to survey the Orator with desiring Eyes, is to me extremely difficult, but absolutely necessary, to be upon tolerable Terms with him: but then the occasional Burstings out into Laughter, is of all other Accomplishments the most requisite. I confess at present I have not that command of these Convulsions, as is necessary to be good Company; therefore I beg you would publish this Letter, and let me be known all at once for a queer Fellow, and avoided. It is monstrous to me, that we, who are given to Reading and calm Conversation, should ever be visited by these Roarers: But they think they themselves, as Neighbours, may come into our Rooms with the same Right, that they and their Dogs hunt in our Grounds.

Your Institution of Clubs I have always admir'd, in which you constantly endeavoured the Union of the metaphorically Defunct, that is such as are neither serviceable to the Busy and Enterprizing part of Mankind, nor entertaining to the Retir'd and Speculative. There should certainly therefore in each County be established a Club of the Persons whose Conversations I have described, who for their own private, as also the publick Emolument, should exclude, and be excluded all other Society. Their Attire should be the same with their Huntsmen's, and none should be admitted into this green Conversation-Piece, except he had broke his Collar-bone thrice. A broken Rib or two might also admit a Man without the least Opposition. The President must necessarily have broken his Neck, and have been taken up dead once or twice: For the more Maims this Brotherhood shall have met with, the easier will their Conversation flow and keep up; and when any one of these vigorous Invalids had finished his Narration of the Collar-bone, this naturally would introduce the History of the Ribs. Besides, the different Circumstances of their Falls and Fractures would help to prolong and diversify their Relations. There should also be another Club of such Men, who have not succeeded so well in maiming themselves, but are however in the constant Pursuit of these Accomplishments. I would by no means be suspected by what I have said to traduce in general the Body of Fox-hunters; for whilst I look upon a reasonable Creature full-speed after a Pack of Dogs, by way of Pleasure, and not of Business, I shall always make honourable mention of it.

But the most irksome Conversation of all others I have met with in the Neighbourhood, has been among two or three of your Travellers, who have overlooked Men and Manners, and have passed through France and Italy with the same Observation that the Carriers and Stage-Coachmen do through Great-Britain; that is, their Stops and Stages have been regulated according to the Liquor they have met with in their Passage. They indeed remember the Names of abundance of Places, with the particular Fineries of certain Churches: But their distinguishing Mark is certain Prettinesses of Foreign Languages, the Meaning of which they could have better express'd in their own. The Entertainment of these fine Observers, Shakespear has described to consist

'In talking of the Alps and Appennines,
The Pyrenean, and the River Po.' [2]

and then concludes with a Sigh,

'Now this is worshipful Society!'

I would not be thought in all this to hate such honest Creatures as Dogs; I am only unhappy that I cannot partake in their Diversions. But I love them so well, as Dogs, that I often go with my Pockets stuffed with Bread to dispense my Favours, or make my way through them at Neighbours' Houses. There is in particular a young Hound of great Expectation, Vivacity, and Enterprize, that attends my Flights where-ever he spies me. This Creature observes my Countenance, and behaves himself accordingly. His Mirth, his Frolick, and Joy upon the Sight of me has been observed, and I have been gravely desired not to encourage him so much, for it spoils his Parts; but I think he shews them sufficiently in the several Boundings, Friskings, and Scourings, when he makes his Court to me: But I foresee in a little time he and I must keep Company with one another only, for we are fit for no other in these Parts. Having informd you how I do pass my time in the Country where I am, I must proceed to tell you how I would pass it, had I such a Fortune as would put me above the Observance of Ceremony and Custom.

My Scheme of a Country Life then should be as follows. As I am happy in three or four very agreeable Friends, these I would constantly have with me; and the Freedom we took with one another at School and the University, we would maintain and exert upon all Occasions with great Courage. There should be certain Hours of the Day to be employ'd in Reading, during which time it should be impossible for any one of us to enter the other's Chamber, unless by Storm. After this we would communicate the Trash or Treasure we had met with, with our own Reflections upon the Matter; the Justness of which we would controvert with good-humour'd Warmth, and never spare one another out of the complaisant Spirit of Conversation, which makes others affirm and deny the same matter in a quarter of an Hour. If any of the Neighbouring Gentlemen, not of our Turn, should take it in their heads to visit me, I should look upon these Persons in the same degree Enemies to my particular state of Happiness, as ever the French were to that of the Publick, and I would be at an annual Expence in Spies to observe their Motions. Whenever I should be surprized with a Visit, as I hate Drinking. I would be brisk in swilling Bumpers, upon this Maxim, That it is better to trouble others with my Impertinence, than to be troubled my self with theirs. The Necessity of an Infirmary makes me resolve to fall into that Project; and as we should be but Five, the Terrors of an involuntary Separation, which our Number cannot so well admit of, would make us exert our selves, in opposition to all the particulars mentioned in your Institution of that equitable Confinement. This my way of Life I know would subject me to the Imputation of a morose, covetous and singular Fellow. These and all other hard words, with all manner of insipid Jests, and all other Reproach, would be matter of Mirth to me and my Friends: Besides, I would destroy the Application of the Epithets Morose and Covetous, by a yearly Relief of my undeservedly necessitous Neighbours, and by treating my Friends and Domesticks with an Humanity that should express the Obligation to lie rather on my side; and for the word Singular, I was always of opinion every Man must be so, to be what one would desire him.

Your very humble Servant, J. R. [3]


About two Years ago I was called upon by the younger part of a Country Family, by my Mother's side related to me, to visit Mr. Campbell, the dumb Man; [4] for they told me that that was chiefly what brought them to Town, having heard Wonders of him in Essex. I, who always wanted Faith in Matters of that kind, was not easily prevailed on to go; but lest they should take it ill, I went with them; when to my surprize, Mr. Campbell related all their past Life, (in short, had he not been prevented, such a Discovery would have come out, as would have ruined the next design of their coming to Town, viz. buying Wedding-Cloaths.) Our Names--though he never heard of us before--and we endeavoured to conceal--were as familiar to him as to our selves. To be sure, Mr. SPECTATOR, he is a very learned and wise Man. Being impatient to know my Fortune, having paid my respects in a Family-Jacobus, he told me (after his manner) among several other things, that in a Year and nine Months I should fall ill of a new Fever, be given over by my Physicians, but should with much difficulty recover: That the first time I took the Air afterwards, I should be address'd to by a young Gentleman of a plentiful Fortune, good Sense, and a generous Spirit. Mr. SPECTATOR, he is the purest Man in the World, for all he said is come to pass, and I am the happiest She in Kent. I have been in quest of Mr. Campbell these three Months, and cannot find him out. Now hearing you are a dumb Man too, I thought you might correspond, and be able to tell me something; for I think my self highly oblig'd to make his Fortune, as he has mine. 'Tis very possible your Worship, who has Spies all over this Town, can inform me how to send to him: If you can, I Beseech you be as speedy as possible, and you will highly oblige

Your constant Reader and Admirer, Dulcibella Thankley.

Ordered, That the Inspector I employ about Wonders, enquire at the Golden-Lion, opposite to the Half-Moon Tavern in Drury-Lane, into the Merit of this Silent Sage, and report accordingly.


[Footnote 1: Used for giving a drench to horses.]

[Footnote 2: Falconbridge in King John Act. I sc. i.]

[Footnote 3: This letter was by Steele's old college friend, Richard Parker, who took his degree of M.A. in 1697, became fellow of Merton, and died Vicar of Embleton, in Northumberland. This is the friend whose condemnation of the comedy written by him in student days Steele had accepted without question.]

[Footnote 4: See note p. 421, vol. ii. [Footnote 4 of No. 323.]]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 1 Ep. xviii. 6.
'Rude, rustic, and inelegant.'