No. 493. Thursday, September 25, 1712. Steele.

Qualem commendes etiam atque etiam adspice, ne mox Incutiant aliena tibi peccata pudorem.'

It is no unpleasant matter of Speculation to consider the recommendatory Epistles that pass round this Town from Hand to Hand, and the abuse People put upon one another in that kind. It is indeed come to that pass, that instead of being the Testimony of Merit in the Person recommended, the true reading of a Letter of this sort is,

'The Bearer hereof is so uneasie to me, that it will be an Act of Charity in you to take him off my Hands; whether you prefer him or not, it is all one, for I have no manner of Kindness for him, or Obligation to him or his; and do what you please as to that.'

As negligent as Men are in this respect, a point of Honour is concerned in it; and there is nothing a Man should be more ashamed of, than passing a worthless Creature into the Service or Interests of a Man who has never injured you. The Women indeed are a little too keen in their Resentments, to trespass often this Way: But you shall sometimes know that the Mistress and the Maid shall quarrel, and give each other very free Language, and at last the Lady shall be pacified to turn her out of Doors, and give her a very good Word to any body else. Hence it is that you see, in a Year and Half's time, the same Face a Domestick in all parts of the Town. Good-breeding and Good-nature lead People in a great Measure to this Injustice: When Suitors of no Consideration will have Confidence enough to press upon their Superiors, those in Power are tender of speaking the Exceptions they have against them, and are mortgaged into Promises out of their Impatience of Importunity. In this latter Case, it would be a very useful Enquiry to know the History of Recommendations: There are, you must know, certain Abettors of this way of Torment, who make it a Profession to manage the Affairs of Candidates: These Gentlemen let out their Impudence to their Clients, and supply any Defective Recommendation, by informing how such and such a Man is to be attacked. They will tell you, get the least Scrap from Mr. Such-a-one, and leave the rest to them. When one of these Undertakers have your Business in hand, you may be sick, absent in Town or Country, and the Patron shall be worried, or you prevail. I remember to have been shewn a Gentleman some Years ago, who punish'd a whole People for their Facility in giving their Credentials. This Person had belonged to a Regiment which did Duty in the West-Indies, and by the Mortality of the Place happened to be commanding Officer in the Colony. He oppressed his Subjects with great frankness, till he became sensible that he was heartily hated by every Man under his Command. When he had carried his Point, to be thus detestable, in a pretended Fit of Dishumour, and feigned Uneasiness of living where he found he was so universally unacceptable, he communicated to the chief Inhabitants a Design he had to return for England, provided they would give him ample Testimonials of their Approbation. The Planters came into it to a Man; and in proportion to his deserving the quite contrary, the Words Justice, Generosity, and Courage, were inserted in his Commission, not omitting the general Good-liking of People of all Conditions in the Colony. The Gentleman returns for England, and within few Months after came back to them their Governour on the Strength of their own Testimonials.

Such a Rebuke as this cannot indeed happen to easy Recommenders, in the ordinary course of things from one hand to another; but how would a Man bear to have it said to him, the Person I took into Confidence on the Credit you gave him, has proved false, unjust, and has not answered any way the Character you gave me of him?

I cannot but conceive very good hopes of that Rake Jack Toper of the Temple, for an honest Scrupulousness in this Point. A Friend of his meeting with a Servant that had formerly lived with Jack, and having a mind to take him, sent to him to know what Faults the Fellow had, since he could not please such a careless Fellow as he was. His Answer was as follows:


'Thomas that lived with me was turned away because he was too good for me. You know I live in Taverns; he is an orderly sober Rascal, and thinks much to sleep in an Entry till two in a Morning. He told me one day when he was dressing me, that he wondered I was not dead before now, since I went to Dinner in the Evening, and went to Supper at two in the Morning. We were coming down Essex-street one Night a little flustrated, and I was giving him the Word to alarm the Watch; he had the Impudence to tell me it was against the Law. You that are married, and live one Day after another the same Way, and so on the whole Week, I dare say will like him, and he will be glad to have his Meat in due Season. The Fellow is certainly very Honest. My Service to your Lady.

Yours, J. T.

Now this was very fair Dealing. Jack knew very well, that though the Love of Order made a Man very awkward in his Equipage, it was a valuable Quality among the Queer People who live by Rule; and had too much good Sense and good Nature to let the Fellow starve, because he was not fit to attend his Vivacities.

I shall end this Discourse with a Letter of Recommendation from Horace to Claudius Nero. You will see in that Letter a Slowness to ask a Favour, a strong Reason for being unable to deny his good Word any longer, and that it is a Service to the Person to whom he recommends, to comply with what is asked: All which are necessary Circumstances, both in Justice and Good-breeding, if a Man would ask so as to have reason to complain of a Denial; and indeed a Man should not in strictness ask otherwise. In hopes the Authority of Horace, who perfectly understood how to live with great Men, may have a good Effect towards amending this Facility in People of Condition, and the Confidence of those who apply to them without Merit, I have translated the Epistle. [1]



'Septimus, who waits upon you with this, is very well acquainted with the place you are pleased to allow me in your Friendship. For when he beseeches me to recommend him to your Notice, in such a manner as to be received by you, who are delicate in the choice of your Friends and Domesticks, he knows our Intimacy, and understands my Ability to serve him better than I do myself. I have defended my self against his Ambition to be yours, as long as I possibly could; but fearing the Imputation of hiding my Power in you out of mean and selfish Considerations, I am at last prevailed upon to give you this Trouble. Thus, to avoid the Appearance of a greater Fault, I have put on this Confidence. If you can forgive this Transgression of Modesty in behalf of a Friend, receive this Gentleman into your Interests and Friendship, and take it from me that he is an honest and brave Man.


[Footnote 1: This is a translation from Horace of the verse of No. 9 in Book I. of his Epistles; showing how it would read in the customary prose form of a letter of introduction.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 1 Ep. xviii. 76.
'Commend not, till a man is throughly known:
A rascal praised, you make his faults your own.'