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despises the statues at Wilton, because he thinks he can see much better carving at Westminsterabbey. But there is one general objection which he is sure to make at almost every house, particularly at those which are most distinguished. He allows that all the apartments are extremely fine, but adds, with a sneer, that they are too fine to be inhabited.
Misapplied genius most commonly proves ridiculous. Had Sam, as Nature intended, contentedly continued in the calmer and less conspicuous pursuits of sugar-baking, he might have been a respectable and useful character. At present be dissipates his life in a specious idleness, which neither improves himself nor his friends. Those talents which might have benefited society, he exposes to contempt by false pretensions. He affects pleasures which he cannot enjoy, and is acquainted only with those subjects on which he has no right to talk, and which it is no merit to understand.
N° 94. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1760.
It is common to find young men ardent and diligent in the pursuit of knowledge; but the progress of life very often produces laxity and indifference; and not only those who are at liberty to choose their business and amusements, but those likewise whose professions engage them in literary inquiries, pass the latter part of their time without improvement, and spend the day rather in any other entertainment than that which they might find among
their books. This abatement of the vigour of curiosity is some
or a cup common to the ancients, the moderns, and all mankind, may be justly censured as the persecutors of students, and the thieves of that time which never can be restored.
N° 95. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1760.
• To The IdleR.
• MR. IDLER, • It is, I think, universally agreed, that seldom any good is gotten by complaint; yet we find that few forbear to complain but those who are afraid of being reproached as the authors of their own miseries. I hope, therefore, for the common permission to lay my case before you and your readers, by which í shall disburden my heart, though I cannot hope to receive either assistance or consolation.
• I am a trader, and owe my fortune to frugality and industry. I began with little; but by the easy and obvious method of spending less than I gain, I have every year added something to my stock, and expect to have a seat in the common-council at the next election.
My wife, who was as prudent as myself, died six years ago, and left me one son and one daughter, for whose sake I resolved never to marry again, and rejected the overtures of Mrs. Squeeze, the broker's widow, who had ten thousand pounds at her own disposal.
I bred my son at a school near Islington; and when he had learned arithmetic, and wrote a good hand, I took him into the shop, designing, in about ten years, to retire to Stratford or Hackney, and leave him established in the business.
* For four years he was diligent and sedate, entered the shop before it was opened, and when it was shut always examined the pins of the window. In any intermission of business it was his constant practice to peruse the ledger. I had always great hopes of him, when I observed how sorrowfully he would shake his head over a bad debt, and how eagerly he would listen to me when I told him that he might at one time or other become an alderman.
We lived together with mutual confidence, till unluckily a visit was paid him by two of his schoolfellows who were placed, I suppose, in the army, because they were fit for nothing better : they came glittering in their military dress, accosted their old acquaintance, and invited him to a tavern, where, as I have been since informed, they ridiculed the meanness of commerce, and wondered how a youth of spirit could spend the prime of his life behind a counter.
I did not suspect any mischief. I knew my son was never without money in his pocket, and was better able to pay his reckoning than his companions; and expected to see him return triumphing in his own advantages, and congratulating himself that he was not one of those who expose their heads to a musket-bullet for three shillings a day.
• He returned sullen and thoughtful; I supposed him sorry
for the hard fortune of his friends; and tried to comfort him by saying that the war would soon be at an end, and that, if they had any
honest occupation, half-pay would be a pretty help. He looked at me with indignation ; and snatching up his candle, told me, as he went up stairs, that “he hoped to see a battle yet.”
Why he should hope to see a battle I could not
conceive, but let him go quietly to sleep away his folly. Next day he made two mistakes in the first bill, disobliged a customer by surly answers, and dated all his entries in the journal in a wrong month. At night he met his military companions again, came home late, and quarrelled with the maid.
* From this fatal interview he has gradually lost all his laudable passions and desires. He soon grew useless in the shop, where, indeed, I did not willingly trust him any longer; for he often mistook the price of goods to his own loss, and once gave a promissory note instead of a receipt.
• I did not know to what degree he was corrupted, till an honest tailor gave me notice that he had bespoke a laced suit, which was to be left for him at a house kept by the sister of one of my journeymen. I went to this clandestine lodging, and found, to my amazement, all the ornaments of a fine gentleman, which he has taken upon credit, or purchased with money subducted from the shop.
• This detection has made him desperate. He now openly declares his resolution to be a gentleman ; says that his soul is too great for a counting-house; ridicules the conversation of city taverns ; talks of new plays, and boxes, and ladies ; gives duchesses for his toasts ; carries silver, for readiness, in his waistcoat pocket; and comes home at night in a chair, with such thunders at the door as have more than once brought the watchmen from their stands.
'Little expenses will not hurt us; and I could forgive a few juvenile frolics, if he would be careful of the main ; but his favourite topic is contempt of money, which, he
is of no use but to be spent. Riches, without honour, he holds empty things; and once told me to my face, that wealthy plodders were only purveyors to a man of spirit.
• He is always impatient in the company of his old friends, and seldom speaks till he is warmed with wine; he then entertains us with accounts that we do not desire to hear, of intrigues among lords and ladies, and quarrels between officers of the guards ; shews a miniature on his snuff-box, and wonders that any man can look
the new dancer without rapture.
* All this is very provoking; and yet all this might be borne, if the boy could support his pretensions. But, whatever he may think, he is yet far from the accomplishments which he has endeavoured to purchase at so dear a rate. I have watched him in public places. He sneaks in like a man that knows he is where he should not be; he is proud to catch the slightest salutation, and often claims it when it is not intended. Other men receive dignity from dress, but my booby looks always more meanly for his finery. Dear Mr. Idler, tell him what must at last become of a fop, whom pride will not suffer to be a trader, and whom long habits in a shop forbid to be a gentleman.
I am, Sir, &c.
N° 96. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1760.
Hacho, a king of Lapland, was in his youth the most renowned of the northern warriors. His martial achievements remain engraved on a pillar of flint in the rocks of Hanga, and are to this day solemnly carolled to the harp by the Laplanders, at the fires with which they celebrate their nightly festivities. Such was his intrepid spirit, that he ventured to pass the lake Vether to the isle of Wizards, where