No. 546. Wednesday, November 26, 1712. Steele.

Omnia patefacienda ut ne quid omnino quod venditor norit, emptor ignoret.'

It gives me very great Scandal to observe, where-ever I go, how much Skill, in buying all manner of Goods, there is necessary to defend yourself from being cheated in whatever you see exposed to Sale. My Reading makes such a strong impression upon me, that I should think my self a Cheat in my Way, if I should translate any thing from another Tongue, and not acknowledge it to my Readers. I understood from common Report, that Mr. Cibber was introducing a French Play upon our Stage, and thought my self concerned to let the Town know what was his, and what foreign. [1] When I came to the Rehearsal, I found the House so partial to one of their own Fraternity, that they gave every thing which was said such Grace, Emphasis, and Force in their Action, that it was no easy matter to make any Judgment of the Performance. Mrs. Oldfield, who, it seems, is the Heroick Daughter, had so just a Conception of her Part, that her Action made what she spoke appear decent, just, and noble. The Passions of Terrour and Compassion, they made me believe were very artfully raised, and the whole Conduct of the Play artful and surprizing. We Authors do not much relish the Endeavours of Players in this kind; but have the same Disdain as Physicians and Lawyers have when Attorneys and Apothecaries give Advice. Cibber himself took the liberty to tell me, that he expected I would do him Justice, and allow the Play well-prepared for his Spectators, whatever it was for his Readers. He added very many Particulars not uncurious concerning the manner of taking an Audience, and laying wait not only for their superficial Applause, but also for insinuating into their Affections and Passions, by the artful Management of the Look, Voice, and Gesture of the Speaker. I could not but consent that the Heroick Daughter appeared in the Rehearsal a moving Entertainment wrought out of a great and exemplary Virtue.

The Advantages of Action, Show, and Dress on these Occasions are allowable, because the Merit consists in being capable of imposing upon us to our Advantage and Entertainment. All that I was going to say about the Honesty of an Author in the Sale of his Ware, was that he ought to own all that he had borrowed from others, and lay in a clear light all that he gives his Spectators for their Money, with an Account of the first Manufacturers. But I intended to give the Lecture of this Day upon the common and prostituted Behaviour of Traders in ordinary Commerce. The Philosopher made it a Rule of Trade, that your Profit ought to be the common Profit; and it is unjust to make any Step towards Gain, wherein the Gain of even those to whom you sell is not also consulted. A Man may deceive himself if he thinks fit, but he is no better than a Cheat who sells any thing without telling the Exceptions against it, as well as what is to be said to its Advantage. The scandalous abuse of Language and hardening of Conscience, which may be observed every Day in going from one Place to another, is what makes a whole City to an unprejudiced Eye a Den of Thieves. It was no small pleasure to me for this reason to remark, as I passed by Cornhill, that the Shop of that worthy, honest, tho' lately unfortunate, Citizen, Mr. John Moreton, [2] so well known in the Linnen Trade, is fitting up a-new. Since a Man has been in a distressed Condition, it ought to be a great Satisfaction to have passed thro' it in such a Manner as not to have lost the Friendship of those who suffered with him, but to receive an honourable Acknowledgment of his Honesty from those very Persons to whom the Law had consigned his Estate.

The Misfortune of this Citizen is like to prove of a very general Advantage to those who shall deal with him hereafter: For the Stock with which he now sets up being the Loan of his Friends, he cannot expose that to the Hazard of giving Credit, but enters into a Ready-Money Trade, by which Means he will both buy and sell the best and cheapest. He imposes upon himself a Rule of affixing the Value of each Piece he sells to the Piece it self; so that the most ignorant Servant or Child will be as good a Buyer at his Shop as the most skilful in the Trade. For all which, you have all his Hopes and Fortune for your Security. To encourage Dealing after this Way, there is not only the avoiding the most infamous Guilt in ordinary Bartering; but this Observation, That he who buys with ready Money saves as much to his Family, as the State exacts out of his Land for the Security and Service of his Country; that is to say, in plain English, Sixteen will do as much as Twenty Shillings.


'My Heart is so swelled with grateful Sentiments on account of some Favours which I have lately received, that I must beg leave to give them Utterance amongst the Croud of other anonymous Correspondents; and writing, I hope, will be as great a Relief to my forced Silence, as it is to your natural Taciturnity--My generous Benefactor will not suffer me to speak to him in any Terms of Acknowledgment, but ever treats me as if he had the greatest Obligations, and uses me with a Distinction that is not to be expected from one so much my Superiour in Fortune, Years, and Understanding. He insinuates, as if I had a certain Right to his Favours from some Merit, which his particular Indulgence to me has discovered but that is only a beautiful Artifice to lessen the Pain an honest Mind feels in receiving Obligations, when there is no probability of returning them.

'A gift is doubled when accompanied with such a Delicacy of Address; but what to me gives it an inexpressible Value, is its coming from the Man I most esteem in the World. It pleases me indeed, as it is an Advantage and Addition to my Fortune; but when I consider it is an Instance of that good Man's Friendship, it overjoys, it transports me; I look on it with a Lover's Eye, and no longer regard the Gift, but the Hand that gave it. For my Friendship is so entirely void of any gainful Views, that it often gives me Pain to think it should have been chargeable to him; and I cannot at some melancholy Hours help doing his Generosity the Injury of fearing it should cool on this account, and that the last Favour might be a sort of Legacy of a departing Friendship.

'I Confess these Fears seem very groundless and unjust, but you must forgive them to the Apprehension of one possessed of a great Treasure, who is frighted at the most distant Shadow of Danger.

'Since I have thus far open'd my Heart to you, I will not conceal the secret Satisfaction I feel there of knowing the Goodness of my Friend will not be unrewarded. I am pleased with thinking the Providence of the Almighty hath sufficient Blessings in store for him, and will certainly discharge the Debt, though I am not made the happy Instrument of doing it.

'However, nothing in my power shall be wanting to shew my Gratitude; I will make it the Business of my Life to thank him, and shall esteem (next to him) those my best Friends, who give me greatest Assistance in this good Work. Printing this Letter would be some little Instance of my Gratitude; and your Favour herein will very much oblige

Your most humble Servant, &c.

W. C.

Nov. 24th.


[Footnote 1: Ximena, or the Heroic Daughter, a Tragedy taken from the Cid of Corneille, by Colley Gibber. The play was not published until after Steele's pamphlet, 'The Crisis,' had exposed him to political and (as it necessarily followed in those days) personal detraction. Cibber then dedicated his play to Steele, referring to the custom of his calumniators, since they could not deny his literary services, to transfer all the merit of them to Addison, upon whom he had so generously heaped more than the half of his own fame, and said:

"Your Enemies therefore, thus knowing that your own consent had partly justified their insinuations, saved a great deal of their malice from being ridiculous, and fairly left you to apply to such your singular conduct what Mark Antony says of Octavius in the play:

'Fool that I was! upon my Eagle's wings
I bore this Wren, 'till I was tired with soaring,
And now, he mounts above me.'"

True-hearted Steele never read his relation to his friend in this fashion. With how fine a disregard of conventional dignity is the latter part of this paper given by Steele to the kind effort to help in setting a fallen man upon his legs again!]

[Footnote 2: See No. 248. To this Mr. Moreton was addressed the letter signed W. S., from Sir William Scawen.]

Translation of motto:
'Everything should be fairly told, that the buyer may not be ignorant
of anything which the seller knows.'