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hath caused this reflection to recur to me a thou* sand times : That the examples of former ages do beyond all comparison more sensibly affect us than
those of our own times. Custom blinds us with • kind of glare to those objects before our eyes, and I
have often doubted whether we should have been • as much surprised at Caligula, when he made his ' horse a consul, as we are apt to imagine we should have been.'
I can with truth declare, that I have a thousand times reflected on the judicious discernment of this uncommon observation; the justice and excellence of which I will endeavour to illustrate to my reader, by taking once more a survey of that opinion, which posterity may be reasonably supposed to entertain of the present times; and as I have formerly shewn that they will probably, in some instances, believe much more than ourselves, so in others, it is altogether as probable, that they will believe less.
Without farther preface, then, let us suppose some great and profound critic, in the fortieth century, undertaking to comment on those historical materials relating to this kingdom with which that age may possibly furnish them; and in what manner may we conceive him more likely to write than in the following?
ABSTRACT FROM HUMPHREY NEWMIXON'S OBSERVATIONS ON THE HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN.
THOUGH it is iinpossible to deliver any thing with great certainty of those fabulous ages, which a little preceded the time when universal ignorance
began to overspread the face of the earth ; and more especially prevailed in this island, till the restoration of learning, which first began in the thirtysixth century ; some few monuments of antiquity have however triumphed over the rage of barbarism, which may serve us to confute the horrid forgeries of that legendary Geoffry Bechard, who wrote about the year 3000.
This Geoffry writing of the year 1751, hath the following words : ' The Inglis hat set temps ware soe 'dicted to gamein, soe that severl off the grate menn 'you'd to mak yt thee soal bisens off thayr lifs ; • hand knot unli thee messirs, but also theyre ems yous’d to spind a hole dais, hand knitts hatt thayr
cartes. Les ems aussi bien ass messirs cheept thayre ' l'assemble forr thatt propos, hat whitch les fems hat
perdus mundoy quelle thayres messirs rop koontri
• for get.'
So far this bishop, who was reputed to be one of the most learned men of his age, quia legere el scribere potebat, says a cotemporary author ; but those who contend the most for his learning will be able, I am afraid, to say but little for his honesty; since all must allow that he was either deceived himself or hath endeavoured to deceive his readers ; for I have now by me a record of undoubted antiquity, by which it appears, that all kinds of gaming were, within a very few years before this period, of which this Geoffry writes, absolutely prohibited under the severest. penalties. This law might indeed be in.' fringed by some of the lowest of the people ; and there is some reason to think it was so ; for in a speech of George the Good, delivered from the throne in that very year 1751, a severe execution of the laws in this respect is recommended to thie magistrate.
But that the great men, as the bishop says, should fly thus in the face, not only of those laws which
they themselves made, but of their sovereign too, is too incredible to be imposed even on children.
Again, here is a reflection not only on the great men, but on the great ladies of those times, who are represented in a light, which I shall not affront the present virtuous and prudent matrons, their great grand-daughters in the seventieth descent, by mentioning. But how inconsistent is this character with what we find in the writings of Sir Alexander Drawcansir, the only annalist of whose works any part hath descended to us, who, in one of his annals or journals, acquaints us, that there was not a single lady in his time married, who was not possessed of every qualification to make the marriage state happy.
The same authority is sufficient to contradict the absurd account which this Geoffry gives in another place of the ladies of those days; where he says that women of the first quality used to make nightly riots in their own houses.
is so ridiculous, that I cannot omit it. The ladies of St. James's parish, says he, used to treat their company with Drums; and this was thought one of their most elegant entertainments ; some copies, I know, read Drams, but the former is the true reading, nor would the latter much cure the absurdity.
A learned critic indeed of my acquaintance suspects, that the above passage is corrupt, and proposes, instead of St. James's to read St. Giles's, and instead of Druin to read Dram ; and then he says the above account will agree with a record of that age, by which it appears, that the women of St. Giles's parish were notoriously addicted to dramdrinking at that time. And as for the word Lady, he urges, that it did not then, as it doth now, signify a woman of great rank and distinction, but was applied promiscuously to the whole female sex; to support which he produces a passage from Sir Alex
ånder Drawcansir, where the wife of a low mechanic is called a lady of great merit.
Another legend, recorded by our Geoffry, is sufficient of itself to destroy his credit. He tells us, that a herd of bucks used to frequent all the public places ; náy, he says, that two or three such animals would sometimes venture among several thousands of gentlemen and ladies, and put them all into confusion and disorder. This is a very scandalous reflection on the gentlemen of those days; but it is at the same time so incredible, that it needs no refutation.
The truth I believe is, that the bishop was a weak and credulous man, and very easily imposed upon ; especially in those matters with which his function prevented him from being well acquainted. What he writes of their theatrical entertainments is beyond all measure ridiculous. De vurst a nite of <-le play,' says he, 'd'author was a put a de stake ' sur on de theatre stage, dare des criticats dey palt at him, hyess him, catadecall him ; off, off him,
vor too dree heures. Dis be dam playe. Des cri* ticats be de a perentice, klarque, boo, buccuk and 'gamambler.'
Now I will refer it to any one whether the historian can be conceived here to write of a civilized people, and such the Britons are allowed on all hands to have been at that time.
Monsieur de Belle Lettre in his Melange Critique, which he published in the year 3892, treats the whole history of this Geoffry as a roniance ; and, indeed, what is recorded in it concerning dogs seems sufficiently to favour this opinion. At this time, says Bechard, the chief learning among those people was among the dogs. Learning was then a common epithet to several of the canine speeches, and a great dispute was for a long time carried on between a French and English individual of this species. We know not in whose favour it was
determined; but it is agreed on all hands, that the
question was, which was the most learned of the - two. The historian adds, that several of the most
eminent writers were of the canine kind; and wetc universally called sad dogs *.
The bishop concludes his history with these words : • Monstr, incred ten tousand pip. siffi nit. up got zce
oostryche tap tonnobus, is pregados. dat zocurn
hypor hoperad abun, idelonycus quinto pur zin • inmus fi fadon addili.'
Which is so ridiculous a supposition that I shall leave it with the reader without any remark.
NUMB. 21. SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 1752.
Est miserorum, ut malevolentes sint atque invideant bonis.
PLAUTUS. It is a miserable state to be malevolent, and to envy good
I SHALL publish the following letter with the same design that the Spartans exposed drunken men to the view of their children. Examples may perhaps have more advantage over precepts in teaching us to avoid what is odious than in impelling us to pursue what is amiable. If the reader will peruse it with attention, he will, I conceive, discover in it a very useful moral; of which I shall give no farther bint, than by desiring the reader not to be offended at the contradictions that occur in it.
When I first read the name of Axylus to a letter in your paper, though I casily perceived the
* "Sad is syaonymous with grave, wise. The Judge were • formerly called sad men of the law.'