Thursday, August 16, 1711.
‘Stultitiam patiuntur opes …’
If the following Enormities are not amended upon the first Mention, I desire further Notice from my Correspondents.
‘I am obliged to you for your Discourse the other Day upon frivolous Disputants, who with great Warmth, and Enumeration of many Circumstances and Authorities, undertake to prove Matters which no Body living denies. You cannot employ your self more usefully than in adjusting the Laws of Disputation in Coffee-houses and accidental Companies, as well as in more formal Debates. Among many other things which your own Experience must suggest to you, it will be very obliging if you please to take notice of Wagerers. I will not here repeat what Hudibras says of such Disputants, which is so true, that it is almost Proverbial;  but shall only acquaint you with a Set of young Fellows of the Inns of Court, whose Fathers have provided for them so plentifully, that they need not be very anxious to get Law into their Heads for the Service of their Country at the Bar; but are of those who are sent (as the Phrase of Parents is) to the Temple to know how to keep their own. One of these Gentlemen is very loud and captious at a Coffee-house which I frequent, and being in his Nature troubled with an Humour of Contradiction, though withal excessive Ignorant, he has found a way to indulge this Temper, go on in Idleness and Ignorance, and yet still give himself the Air of a very learned and knowing Man, by the Strength of his Pocket. The Misfortune of the thing is, I have, as it happens sometimes, a greater Stock of Learning than of Mony. The Gentleman I am speaking of, takes Advantage of the Narrowness of my Circumstances in such a manner, that he has read all that I can pretend to, and runs me down with such a positive Air, and with such powerful Arguments, that from a very Learned Person I am thought a mere Pretender. Not long ago I was relating that I had read such a Passage in Tacitus, up starts my young Gentleman in a full Company, and pulling out his Purse offered to lay me ten Guineas, to be staked immediately in that Gentleman’s Hands, (pointing to one smoaking at another Table) that I was utterly mistaken. I was Dumb for want of ten Guineas; he went on unmercifully to Triumph over my Ignorance how to take him up, and told the whole Room he had read Tacitus twenty times over, and such a remarkable Instance as that could not escape him. He has at this time three considerable Wagers depending between him and some of his Companions, who are rich enough to hold an Argument with him. He has five Guineas upon Questions in Geography, two that the Isle of Wight is a Peninsula, and three Guineas to one that the World is round. We have a Gentleman comes to our Coffee-house, who deals mightily in Antique Scandal; my Disputant has laid him twenty Pieces upon a Point of History, to wit, that Caesar never lay with Cato’s Sister, as is scandalously reported by some People.
There are several of this sort of Fellows in Town, who wager themselves into Statesmen, Historians, Geographers, Mathematicians, and every other Art, when the Persons with whom they talk have not Wealth equal to their Learning. I beg of you to prevent, in these Youngsters, this compendious Way to Wisdom, which costs other People so much Time and Pains, and you will oblige
Your humble Servant.
Coffee-House near the Temple, Aug. 12, 1711.
‘Here’s a young Gentleman that sings Opera-Tunes or Whistles in a full House. Pray let him know that he has no Right to act here as if he were in an empty Room. Be pleased to divide the Spaces of a Publick Room, and certify Whistlers, Singers, and Common Orators, that are heard further than their Portion of the Room comes [to,] that the Law is open, and that there is an Equity which will relieve us from such as interrupt us in our Lawful Discourse, as much as against such as stop us on the Road. I take these Persons, Mr. SPECTATOR, to be such Trespassers as the Officer in your Stage-Coach, and of the same Sentiment with Counsellor Ephraim. It is true the Young Man is rich, and, as the Vulgar say, [needs ] not care for any Body; but sure that is no Authority for him to go whistle where he pleases.