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It is on this occasion that he afterwards adds the reflection which I have chosen for my motto:
Want is the scorn of every wealthy fool,
It must be confessed, that few things make a man appear more despicable, or more prejudice his hearers against what he is going to offer, than an aukward or pitiful dress; insomuch that I fancy, had Tully himself pronounced one of his orations with a blanket about his shoulders, more people would have laughed at his dress than have admired his eloquence. This last reflection made me wonder at a set of men, who, without being subjected to it by the unkindness of their fortunes, are contented to draw upon themselves the ridicule of the world in this particular, I mean such as take it into their heads, that the first regular step to be a wit is to commence a sloven. It is certain nothing has so much debased that, which must have been otherwise so great a character; and I know not how to account for it, unless it may possibly be in complaisance to those narrow minds who can have no notion of the same person's possessing different accomplishments; or that it is a sort of sacrifice which some men are contented to make to calumny, by allowing it to fasten on one part of their character, while they are endeavouring to establish another. Yet however unaccountable this foolish custom is, I am afraid it could plead a long prescription; and probably gave too much occasion for the vulgar definition still remaining among us of an heathen philosopher.
I have seen the speech of a terræ-filius, spoke in king Charles the Second's reign; in which he describes two very eminent men, who were perhaps the
greatest scholars of their age; and after having mentioned the intire friendship between them, concludes, that “ they had but one mind, one purse, one chamber, and one hat.' The men of business were also infected with a sort of singularity little better than this. I have heard my father say, that a broad brimmed hat, short hair, and unfolded handkerchief, were in his time absolutely necessary to denote a 'notable man; and that he had known two or three, who aspired to the character of very notable,' wear shoe-strings with great success.
To the honour of our present age it must be allowed, that some of our greatest geniuses for wit and business have almost intirely broke the neck of these absurdities.
Victor, after having dispatched the most important affairs of the commonwealth, has appeared at an assembly, where all the ladies have declared him the genteelest man in the company; and in Atticus', hough every way one of the greatest geniuses the age has produced, one sees nothing particular in his dress or carriage to denote his pretensions to wit and learning : so that at present a man may venture to cock up his hat, and wear a fashionable wig, without being taken for a rake or a fool.
The medium between a fop and a sloven is what a man of sense would endeavour to keep; yet I remember Mr. Osborn advises his son to appear in his habit rather above than below his fortune; and tells him that he will find an handsome suit of clothes always procures some additional respect?. I have indeed
Perhaps Mr. Addison. 2 Advice to a Son, by Francis Osborn, esq. part 1. sec. 23. This book is less known than it deserves to be, notwithstanding the quaintness of its style.
myself observed that my banker ever bows lowest to me when I wear my full-bottomed wig; and writes me “Mr.' or · Esq.'accordingly as he sees me dressed.
I shall conclude this paper with an adventure which I was myself an eye-witness of very lately.
I happened the other day to call in at a celebrated coffee-house near the Temple. I had not been there long when there came in an elderly man very meanly dressed and sat down by me; he had a thread-bare loose coat on, which it was plain he wore to keep himself warm, and not to favour his under suit, which seemed to have been at least its contemporary ; his short wig and hat were both answerable to the rest of his apparel. He was no sooner seated than he called for a dish of tea; but as several gentlemen in the room wanted other things, the boys of the house did not think themselves at leisure to mind him. I could observe the old fellow was very uneasy at the affront, and at his being obliged to repeat his commands several times to no purpose ; till at last one of the lads presented him with some stale tea in a broken dish, accompanied with a plate of brown sugar; which so raised his indignation, that after several obliging appellations of dog and rascal, he asked him aloud before the whole company, 'why he must be used with less respect than that fop there?' pointing to a well-dressed young gentleman who was drinking tea at the opposite table. The boy of the house replied with a great deal of pertness, ' that his master had two sorts of customers, and that the gentleman at the other table had given him many a sixpence for wiping his shoes. By this time the young Templar, who found his honour concerned in the dispute, and that the eyes of the whole coffee-house were upon him, had throwni aside a paper he had in his hand, and was coming towards us, while we at the table made what haste we could to get away from the impending quarrel, but were all of us surprised to see him as he approached nearer put on an air of deference and respect. To whom the old man said,
· Hark you, sirrah, I will pay off your extravagant bills once more, but will take effectual care for the future, that your prodigality shall not spirit up a parcel of rascals to insult your father.'
Though I by no means approve either the impudence of the servants or the extravagance of the son, I cannot but think the old gentleman was in some measure justly served for walking in masquerade, I mean appearing in a dress so much beneath his quality and estate.
N° 151. THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 1711.
Maximas virtutes jacere omnes necesse est voluptate dominante.
TULL de Fin. In the pursuit of pleasure, the greatest virtues lie neg
I KNOW no one character that gives reason a greater shock, at the same time that it presents a good ridiculous image to the imagination, than that of a man of wit and pleasure about the town. This description of a man of fashion, spoken by some with a mixture of scorn and ridicule, by others with great gravity as a laudable distinction, is in every body's mouth that
spends any time in conversation. My friend Will Honeycomb has this expression very frequently; and I never could understand by the story which follows, upon his mention of such a one, but that his man of wit and pleasure was either a drunkard too old for Wenching, or a young lewd fellow with some liveliness, who would converse with you, receive kind offices of you, and at the same time debauch your sister, or lie with your wife. According to his description, a man of wit, when he could have wenches for crowns a piece which he liked quite as well, would be so extravagant as to bribe servants, make false friendships, fight relations : I say, according to him, plain and simple vice was too little for a man of wit and pleasure; but he would leave an easy and accessible wickedness, to come at the same thing with only the addition of certain falsehood and possible murder. Will thinks the town grown very dull, in that we do not hear so much as we used to do of these coxcombs, whom (without observing it) he describes as the most infamous rogues in nature, with relation to friendship, love, or conversation.
When pleasure is made the chief pursuit of life, it will necessarily follow that such monsters as these will arise from a constant application to such blandishments as naturally root out the force of reason and reflection, and substitute in their place a general impatience of thought, and a constant pruriency of inordinate desire.
Pleasure, when it is a man's chief purpose, disappoints itself; and the constant application to it palls the faculty of enjoying it, though it leaves the sense of our inability for that we wish, with a disrelish of every thing else. Thus the intermediate seasons of the man of pleasure are more heavy than one would