« EelmineJätka »
entertained them with well chosen extracts from good authors. This I shall also do, when I happen to have nothing of my own to say, that I think of more consequence. Sometimes I purpose to deliver lectures of morality or philosophy, and (because I am naturally inclined to be meddling with things that do not concern me) perhaps I may sometimes talk politics. And if I can by any means furnish entertainment for the public, that will give a rational diversion, and at the same time be instructive to the readers, I shall think my leisure hours well employed. If you publish this, I hereby invite all ingenious gentlemen who approve of such an undertaking to my assistance and correspondence.
It is likely, that by this time you have a curiosity to be acquainted with my name and character; and as I do not aim at public praise, I design to remain concealed; for there are such numbers of our family and relations at this time in the country, that though I have signed my name at full length, I am not under the least apprehension of being distinguished and discovered. My character, indeed, I would favour you with, but that I am cautious of praising myself, lest I should be told my trumpeter's dead; and I cannot find it in my heart at present to say any thing to my own disadvantage.
It is very common with authors in their first performances, to talk to their readers thus: If this meets with a suitable reception, or if this should meet with encouragement, I shall hereafter publish. This only manifests the value which they entertain for their own writings, since they think to frighten the public into their applause, by threatening that, unless you approve what they have already written, they intend never to write again; when perhaps it may not be a pin matter whether they do or no. As I have not observed the critics to be more favourable on this account, I shall always avoid saying any thing of the kind; and conclude with telling you that if you send me a bottle of ink and a quire of paper by the bearer, you may depend on hearing further from, Sir,
Your most humble Servant,
THE BUSY BODY.
A CURIOUS MAN,
VALUES not things by their use or worth, but scarcity. He is very tender and scrupulous of his humour, as fanatics are of their consciences, and both for the most part in trifles. He cares not how unuseful any thing may be, so it be but unusual and rare. He collects curiosities in art or nature, not to inform his own judgment, but to catch the admiration of others, which he believes he had a right to, because the rarities are his own. That which other men neglect he believes they oversee, and stores up trifles as rare discoveries at least of his own wit and sagacity. He admires subtleties above all things, because the more subtile they are, the nearer they are to nothing; and values no art but what is spun so thin, that it is of no use at all. He had rather
have an iron chain hung about the neck of a flea, than an alderman's of gold; and Homer's Iliads in a nut shell, than Alexander's Cabinet. He had rather have the twelve apostles on a cherry stone, than those on St. Peter's portico; and would willingly sell Christ again, for that numerical piece of coin that Judas took for him.
His perpetual dotage upon curiosities at length renders him one of them, and he shews himself as none of the meanest of his rarities. He so much affects singularity, that rather than follow the fashion, that is used by the rest of the world, he will wear dissenting clothes, with odd fantastic devices, to distinguish himself from others, like marks set upon cattle. He cares not what pains he throws away upon the meanest trifle, so it be but strange, while some pity, and others laugh at his ill employed industry. He is one of those that valued Epictetus' lamp, above the excellent book he wrote by it.
If he be a book man, he spends all his time and study upon things that are never to be known. The philosopher's stone and universal medicine cannot possibly miss him, though he is sure to miss them. He is wonderfully taken. with abstruse knowledge, and would rather search after truth wrapt up in mysteries and hieroglyphics, than see it evident and plainly demonstrated to his senses.
I HAVE not yet, indeed, thought of a remedy for luxury. I am not sure that in a great state it is capable of a remedy; nor that the evil is in itself always so great as it is represented. Suppose we include in the definition of luxury all unnecessary expence, and then let us consider whether laws to prevent such expence are possible to be executed, in a great country; and whether, if they could be executed, people generally would be happier, or even richer. Is not the hope of being one day able to purchase and enjoy luxuries, a great spur to labour and industry? May not luxury, therefore, produce more than it consumes, if without such a spur, people would be, as they are naturally enough inclined to be, lazy and indolent.
To this purpose I remember a circumstance. The skipper of a sloop, employed between.