Upon laying down the Office of SPECTATOR, I acquainted the World with my Design of electing a new Club, and of opening my Mouth in it after a most solemn Manner. Both the Election and the Ceremony are now past; but not finding it so easy as I at first imagined, to break thro' a Fifty Years Silence, I would not venture into the World under the character of a Man who pretends to talk like other People, till I had arrived at a full Freedom of Speech.
I shall reserve for another time the History of such Club or Clubs of which I am now a Talkative, but unworthy Member; and shall here give an Account of this surprising Change which has been produced in me, and which I look upon to be as remarkable an Accident as any recorded in History, since that which happened to the Son of Croesus, after having been many Years as much Tongue-tied as my self.
Upon the first opening of my Mouth, I made a Speech consisting of about half a Dozen well-turned Periods; but grew so very hoarse upon it, that for three Days together, instead of finding the use of my Tongue, I was afraid that I had quite lost it. Besides, the unusual Extension of my Muscles on this Occasion, made my Face ake on both Sides to such a Degree, that nothing but an invincible Resolution and Perseverance could have prevented me from falling back to my Monosyllables. I afterwards made several Essays towards speaking; and that I might not be startled at my own Voice, which has happen'd to me more than once, I used to read aloud in my Chamber, and have often stood in the Middle of the Street to call a Coach, when I knew there was none within hearing.
When I was thus grown pretty well acquainted with my own Voice, I laid hold of all Opportunities to exert it. Not caring however to speak much by my self, and to draw upon me the whole Attention of those I conversed with, I used, for some time, to walk every Morning in the Mall, and talk in Chorus with a Parcel of Frenchmen. I found my Modesty greatly relieved by the communicative Temper of this Nation, who are so very sociable, as to think they are never better Company, than when they are all opening at the same time.
I then fancied I might receive great Benefit from Female Conversation, and that I should have a Convenience of talking with the greater Freedom, when I was not under any Impediment of thinking: I therefore threw my self into an Assembly of Ladies, but could not for my Life get in a Word among them; and found that if I did not change my Company, I was in Danger of being reduced to my primitive Taciturnity.
The Coffee-houses have ever since been my chief Places of Resort, where I have made the greatest Improvements; in order to which I have taken a particular Care never to be of the same Opinion with the Man I conversed with. I was a Tory at Button's, and a Whig at Childe's; a Friend to the Englishman, or an Advocate for the Examiner, as it best served my Turn; some fancy me a great Enemy to the French King, though, in reality, I only make use of him for a Help to Discourse. In short, I wrangle and dispute for Exercise; and have carried this Point so far that I was once like to have been run through the Body for making a little too free with my Betters.
In a Word, I am quite another Man to what I was.
'--Nil fuit unquam Tam dispar sibi--'
My old Acquaintance scarce know me; nay I was asked the other Day by a Jew at Jonathan's, whether I was not related to a dumb Gentleman, who used to come to that Coffee-house? But I think I^never was better pleased in my Life than about a Week ago, when, as I was battling it across the Table with a young Templar, his Companion gave him a Pull by the Sleeve, begging him to come away, for that the old Prig would talk him to Death.
Being now a very good Proficient in Discourse, I shall appear in the World with this Addition to my Character, that my Countrymen may reap the Fruits of my new-acquired Loquacity.
Those who have been present at public Disputes in the University, know that it is usual to maintain Heresies for Argument's sake. I have heard a Man a most impudent Socinian for Half an Hour, who has been an Orthodox Divine all his Life after. I have taken the same Method to accomplish my self in the Gift of Utterance, having talked above a Twelve-month, not so much for the Benefit of my Hearers as of my self. But since I have now gained the Faculty, I have been so long endeavouring after, I intend to make a right Use of it, and shall think my self obliged, for the future, to speak always in Truth and Sincerity of Heart. While a Man is learning to fence, he practises both on Friend and Foe; but when he is a Master in the Art, he never exerts it but on what he thinks the right Side.
That this last Allusion may not give my Reader a wrong Idea of my Design in this Paper, I must here inform him, that the Author of it is of no Faction, that he is a Friend to no Interests but those of Truth and Virtue, nor a Foe to any but those of Vice and Folly. Though I make more Noise in the World than I used to do, I am still resolved to act in it as an indifferent SPECTATOR. It is not my Ambition to encrease the Number either of Whigs or Tories, but of wise and good Men, and I could heartily wish there were not Faults common to both Parties which afford me sufficient Matter to work upon, without descending to those which are peculiar to either.
If in a Multitude of Counsellors there is Safety, we ought to think our selves the securest Nation in the World. Most of our Garrets are inhabited by Statesmen, who watch over the Liberties of their Country, and make a Shift to keep themselves from starving by taking into their Care the Properties of their Fellow-Subjects.
As these Politicians of both Sides have already worked the Nation into a most unnatural Ferment, I shall be so far from endeavouring to raise it to a greater Height, that on the contrary, it shall be the chief Tendency of my Papers, to inspire my Countrymen with a mutual Good-will and Benevolence. Whatever Faults either Party may be guilty of, they are rather inflamed than cured by those Reproaches, which they cast upon one another. The most likely Method of rectifying any Man's Conduct, is, by recommending to him the Principles of Truth and Honour, Religion and Virtue; and so long as he acts with an Eye to these Principles, whatever Party he is of, he cannot fail of being a good Englishman, and a Lover of his Country.
As for the Persons concerned in this Work, the Names of all of them, or at least of such as desire it, shall be published hereafter: Till which time I must entreat the courteous Reader to suspend his Curiosity, and rather to consider what is written, than who they are that write it.
Having thus adjusted all necessary Preliminaries with my Reader, I shall not trouble him with any more prefatory Discourses, but proceed in my old Method, and entertain him with Speculations on every useful Subject that falls in my Way.
[Footnote 1: Addison's papers are marked on the authority of Tickell.]Translation of motto: