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cumbered with show and ceremony, that it stood in need of a reformation to retrench its superfluities, and restore it to its natural good sense and beauty.
At present therefore an unconstrained carriage, and 5 a certain openness of behavior, are the height of
good-breeding. The fashionable world is grown free and easy; our manners sit more loose upon us. Nothing is so modish as an agreeable negligence.
In a word, good-breeding shows itself most, where 10 to an ordinary eye it appears the least.
If after this we look on the people of mode in the country, we find in them the manners of the last age. They have no sooner fetched themselves up
to the fashions of the polite world, but the town 15 has dropped them, and are nearer to the first state
of nature than to those refinements which formerly reigned in the court, and still prevail in the country. One may now know a man that never conversed in
the world, by his excess of good-breeding. A polite 20 country 'squire shall make you as many bows in
half an hour, as would serve a courtier for a week. There is infinitely more to do about place and precedency in a meeting of justices' wives, than in an
assembly of duchesses. 25 This rural politeness is very troublesome to a man
of my temper, who generally take the chair that is next me, and walk first or last, in the front or in the rear, as chance directs. I have known my friend Sir Roger's dinner almost cold before the
company could adjust the ceremonial, and be prevailed upon to sit down; and have heartily pitied my old friend, when I have seen him forced to pick and cull his guests, as they sat at the several parts of his table, that he might drink their healths 5 according to their respective ranks and qualities. Honest Will Wimble, who I should have thought had been altogether uninfected with ceremony, gives me abundance of trouble in this particular. Though he has been fishing all the morning, he will 10 not help himself at dinner until I am served. When we are going out of the hall, he runs behind me; and last night, as we were walking in the fields, stopped short at a stile until I came up to it, and upon my making signs to him to get over, told me with a 15 serious smile, that sure I believed they had no manners in the country.
There has happened another revolution in the point of good-breeding, which relates to the conversation among men of mode, and which I cannot. 20 but look upon as very extraordinary. It was certainly one of the first distinctions of a well-bred man to express everything that had the most remote appearance of being obscene, in modest terms and distant phrases; whilst the clown, who had no such 25 delicacy of conception and expression, clothed his ideas in those plain homely terms that are the most obvious and natural. This kind of good manners was perhaps carried to an excess, so as to make
conversation too stiff, formal, and precise: for which reason (as hypocrisy in one age is generally succeeded by atheism in another) conversation is in a great
measure relapsed into the first extreme; so that at 5 present several of our men of the town, and particu
larly those who have been polished in France, make use of the most coarse uncivilized words in our language, and utter themselves often in such a manner as a clown would blush to hear.
This infamous piece of good-breeding, which reigns among the coxcombs of the town, has not yet made its way into the country; and as it is impossible for such an irrational way of conversation
to last long among a people that make any pro15 fession of religion, or show of modesty, if the country
gentlemen get into it, they will certainly be left in the lurch. Their good-breeding will come too late to them, and they will be thought a parcel of lewd
clowns, while they fancy themselves talking together 20 like men of wit and pleasure.
As the two points of good breeding, which I have hitherto insisted upon, regard behavior and conversation, there is a third which turns upon dress.
In this too the country are very much behind-hand. 25 The rural beaus are not yet got out of the fashion
that took place at the time of the revolution, but ride about the country in red coats and laced " hats, while the women in many parts are still trying to outvie one another in the height of their headdresses.
But a friend of mine, who is now upon the western circuit, having promised to give me an account of the several modes and fashions that prevail in the different parts of the nation through which he passes, I shall defer the enlarging upon this last topic till 5 I have received a letter from him, which I expect every post.
No. 19. Sir Roger's Poultry
Equidem credo, quia sit divinitus illis
Virg. Georg. i. 451.
My friend Sir Roger is very often merry with me upon my passing so much of my time among his poultry. He has caught me twice or thrice looking 10 after a bird's-nest, and several times sitting an hour or two together near a hen and chickens. He tells me he believes I am personally acquainted with every fowl about his house; calls such a particular cock my favorite; and frequently complains that his 15 ducks and geese have more of my company than himself.
I must confess I am infinitely delighted with those speculations of nature which are to be made in a country life; and as my reading has very much 20 lain among books of natural history, I cannot forbear recollecting upon this occasion the several remarks
which I have met with in authors, and comparing them with what falls under my own observation: the arguments for Providence drawn from the
natural history of animals being in my opinion 5 demonstrative.
The make of every kind of animal is different from that of every other kind; and yet there is not the least turn in the muscles or twist on the fibers
of any one, which does not render them more proper 10 for that particular animal's way of life than any other cast or texture of them would have been.
The most violent appetites in all creatures are lust and hunger. The first is a perpetual call upon
them to propagate their kind; the latter to preserve 15 themselves.
It is astonishing to consider the different degrees of care that descend from the parent to the young, so far as is absolutely necessary for the leaving a
posterity. Some creatures cast their eggs as chance 20 directs them, and think of them no farther; as
insects and several kinds of fish. Others, of a nicer frame, find out proper beds to deposit them in and there leave them; as the serpent, the crocodile,
and ostrich: others hatch their eggs and tend the 25 birth, until it is able to shift for itself.
What can we call the principle which directs every different kind of bird to observe a particular plan in the structure of its nest, and directs all the same species to work after the same model? It