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No. 077 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

I chanced the other Day to go into a Coffee-house, where WILL, was standing in the midst of several Auditors whom he had gathered round him, and was giving them an Account of the Person and Character of Moll Hinton. My Appearance before him just put him in mind of me, without making him reflect that I was actually present. So that keeping his Eyes full upon me, to the great Surprize of his Audience, he broke off his first Harangue, and proceeded thus:

‘Why now there’s my Friend (mentioning me by my Name) he is a Fellow that thinks a great deal, but never opens his Mouth; I warrant you he is now thrusting his short Face into some Coffee-house about ‘Change. I was his Bail in the time of the Popish-Plot, when he was taken up for a Jesuit.’

If he had looked on me a little longer, he had certainly described me so particularly, without ever considering what led him into it, that the whole Company must necessarily have found me out; for which Reason, remembering the old Proverb, Out of Sight out of Mind, I left the Room; and upon meeting him an Hour afterwards, was asked by him, with a great deal of Good-humour, in what Part of the World I had lived, that he had not seen me these three Days.

Monsieur Bruyere has given us the Character of an absent Man [2], with a great deal of Humour, which he has pushed to an agreeable Extravagance; with the Heads of it I shall conclude my present Paper.

‘Menalcas (says that excellent Author) comes down in a Morning, opens his Door to go out, but shuts it again, because he perceives that he has his Night-cap on; and examining himself further finds that he is but half-shaved, that he has stuck his Sword on his right Side, that his Stockings are about his Heels, and that his Shirt is over his Breeches. When he is dressed he goes to Court, comes into the Drawing-room, and walking bolt-upright under a Branch of Candlesticks his Wig is caught up by one of them, and hangs dangling in the Air. All the Courtiers fall a laughing, but Menalcas laughs louder than any of them, and looks about for the Person that is the Jest of the Company. Coming down to the Court-gate he finds a Coach, which taking for his own, he whips into it; and the Coachman drives off, not doubting but he carries his Master. As soon as he stops, Menalcas throws himself out of the Coach, crosses the Court, ascends the Staircase, and runs thro’ all the Chambers with the greatest Familiarity, reposes himself on a Couch, and fancies himself at home. The Master of the House at last comes in, Menalcas rises to receive him, and desires him to sit down; he talks, muses, and then talks again. The Gentleman of the House is tired and amazed; Menalcas is no less so, but is every Moment in Hopes that his impertinent Guest will at last end his tedious Visit. Night comes on, when Menalcas is hardly undeceived.

When he is playing at Backgammon, he calls for a full Glass of Wine and Water; ’tis his turn to throw, he has the Box in one Hand and his Glass in the other, and being extremely dry, and unwilling to lose Time, he swallows down both the Dice, and at the same time throws his Wine into the Tables. He writes a Letter, and flings the Sand into the Ink-bottle; he writes a second, and mistakes the Superscription: A Nobleman receives one of them, and upon opening it reads as follows: I would have you, honest Jack, immediately upon the Receipt of this, take in Hay enough to serve me the Winter. His Farmer receives the other and is amazed to see in it, My Lord, I received your Grace’s Commands with an entire Submission to–If he is at an Entertainment, you may see the Pieces of Bread continually multiplying round his Plate: ‘Tis true the rest of the Company want it, as well as their Knives and Forks, which Menalcas does not let them keep long. Sometimes in a Morning he puts his whole Family in an hurry, and at last goes out without being able to stay for his Coach or Dinner, and for that Day you may see him in every Part of the Town, except the very Place where he had appointed to be upon a Business of Importance. You would often take him for every thing that he is not; for a Fellow quite stupid, for he hears nothing; for a Fool, for he talks to himself, and has an hundred Grimaces and Motions with his Head, which are altogether involuntary; for a proud Man, for he looks full upon you, and takes no notice of your saluting him: The Truth on’t is, his Eyes are open, but he makes no use of them, and neither sees you, nor any Man, nor any thing else: He came once from his Country-house, and his own Footman undertook to rob him, and succeeded: They held a Flambeau to his Throat, and bid him deliver his Purse; he did so, and coming home told his Friends he had been robbed; they desired to know the Particulars, Ask my Servants, says Menalcas, for they were with me.


[Footnote 1: Seneca ‘de Tranquill. Anim.’ cap. xv.

‘Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae’

Dryden’s lines are in Part I of ‘Absalom and Achitophel’.]

[Footnote 2: ‘Caracteres’, Chap. xi. de l’Homme. La Bruyere’s Menalque was identified with a M. de Brancas, brother of the Duke de Villars. The adventure of the wig is said really to have happened to him at a reception by the Queen-Mother. He was said also on his wedding-day to have forgotten that he had been married. He went abroad as usual, and only remembered the ceremony of the morning upon finding the changed state of his household when, as usual, he came home in the evening.]