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No. 371 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

The same well-meaning Gentleman took occasion, at another time, to bring together such of his Friends as were addicted to a foolish habitual Custom of Swearing. In order to shew the Absurdity of the Practice, he had recourse to the Invention above mentioned, having placed an Amanuensis in a private part of the Room. After the second Bottle, when Men open their Minds without Reserve, my honest Friend began to take notice of the many sonorous but unnecessary Words that had passed in his House since their sitting down at Table, and how much good Conversation they had lost by giving way to such superfluous Phrases. What a Tax, says he, would they have raised for the Poor, had we put the Laws in Execution upon one another? Every one of them took this gentle Reproof in good part: Upon which he told them, that knowing their Conversation would have no Secrets in it, he had ordered it to be taken down in Writing, and for the humour sake would read it to them, if they pleased. There were ten Sheets of it, which might have been reduced to two, had there not been those abominable Interpolations I have before mentioned. Upon the reading of it in cold Blood, it looked rather like a Conference of Fiends than of Men. In short, every one trembled at himself upon hearing calmly what he had pronounced amidst the Heat and Inadvertency of Discourse.

I shall only mention another Occasion wherein he made use of the same Invention to cure a different kind of Men, who are the Pests of all polite Conversation, and murder Time as much as either of the two former, though they do it more innocently; I mean that dull Generation of Story-tellers. My Friend got together about half a dozen of his Acquaintance, who were infected with this strange Malady. The first Day one of them sitting down, entered upon the Siege of Namur, which lasted till four a-clock, their time of parting. The second Day a North-Britain took possession of the Discourse, which it was impossible to get out of his Hands so long as the Company staid together. The third Day was engrossed after the same manner by a Story of the same length. They at last began to reflect upon this barbarous way of treating one another, and by this means awakened out of that Lethargy with which each of them had been seized for several Years.

As you have somewhere declared, that extraordinary and uncommon Characters of Mankind are the Game which you delight in, and as I look upon you to be the greatest Sportsman, or, if you please, the Nimrod among this Species of Writers, I thought this Discovery would not be unacceptable to you.

I am,

SIR, etc.


[Footnote 1: George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, Drydens Zimri, and the author of the Rehearsal.]

[Footnote 2: [Sparrow-grass] and in first Reprint.]