Monday, April 21, 1702. Steele.
Desipere in loco.
Charles Lillie attended me the other day, and made me a Present of a large Sheet of Paper, on which is delineated a Pavement of Mosaick Work, lately discovered at Stunsfield near Woodstock.  A Person who has so much the Gift of Speech as Mr. Lillie, and can carry on a Discourse without Reply, had great Opportunity on that Occasion to expatiate upon so fine a Piece of Antiquity. Among other things, I remember, he gave me his Opinion, which he drew from the Ornaments of the Work, That this was the Floor of a Room dedicated to Mirth and Concord. Viewing this Work, made my Fancy run over the many gay Expressions I had read in ancient Authors, which contained Invitations to lay aside Care and Anxiety, and give a Loose to that pleasing Forgetfulness wherein Men put off their Characters of Business, and enjoy their very Selves. These Hours were usually passed in Rooms adorned for that purpose, and set out in such a manner, as the Objects all around the Company gladdened their Hearts; which, joined to the cheerful Looks of well-chosen and agreeable Friends, gave new Vigour to the Airy, produced the latent Fire of the Modest, and gave Grace to the slow Humour of the Reserved. A judicious Mixture of such Company, crowned with Chaplets of Flowers, and the whole Apartment glittering with gay Lights, cheared with a Profusion of Roses, artificial Falls of Water, and Intervals of soft Notes to Songs of Love and Wine, suspended the Cares of human Life, and made a Festival of mutual Kindness. Such Parties of Pleasure as these, and the Reports of the agreeable Passages in their Jollities, have in all Ages awakened the dull Part of Mankind to pretend to Mirth and Good-Humour, without Capacity for such Entertainments; for if I may be allowed to say so, there are an hundred Men fit for any Employment, to one who is capable of passing a Night in the Company of the first Taste, without shocking any Member of the Society, over-rating his own Part of the Conversation, but equally receiving and contributing to the Pleasure of the whole Company. When one considers such Collections of Companions in past Times, and such as one might name in the present Age, with how much Spleen must a Man needs reflect upon the aukward Gayety of those who affect the Frolick with an ill Grace? I have a Letter from a Correspondent of mine, who desires me to admonish all loud, mischievous, airy, dull Companions, that they are mistaken in what they call a Frolick. Irregularity in its self is not what creates Pleasure and Mirth; but to see a Man who knows what Rule and Decency are, descend from them agreeably in our Company, is what denominates him a pleasant Companion. Instead of that, you find many whose Mirth consists only in doing Things which do not become them, with a secret Consciousness that all the World know they know better: To this is always added something mischievous to themselves or others. I have heard of some very merry Fellows, among whom the Frolick was started, and passed by a great Majority, that every Man should immediately draw a Tooth; after which they have gone in a Body and smoaked a Cobler. The same Company, at another Night, has each Man burned his Cravat; and one perhaps, whose Estate would bear it, has thrown a long Wigg and laced Hat into the same Fire.  Thus they have jested themselves stark naked, and ran into the Streets, and frighted Women very successfully. There is no Inhabitant of any standing in Covent-Garden, but can tell you a hundred good Humours, where People have come off with little Blood-shed, and yet scowered all the witty Hours of the Night. I know a Gentleman that has several Wounds in the Head by Watch Poles, and has been thrice run through the Body to carry on a good Jest: He is very old for a Man of so much Good-Humour; but to this day he is seldom merry, but he has occasion to be valiant at the same time. But by the Favour of these Gentlemen, I am humbly of Opinion, that a Man may be a very witty Man, and never offend one Statute of this Kingdom, not excepting even that of Stabbing.