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No. 017 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 17
Tuesday, March 20, 1711. Steele.

‘… Tetrum ante Omnia vultum.’


Since our Persons are not of our own Making, when they are such as appear Defective or Uncomely, it is, methinks, an honest and laudable Fortitude to dare to be Ugly; at least to keep our selves from being abashed with a Consciousness of Imperfections which we cannot help, and in which there is no Guilt. I would not defend an haggard Beau, for passing away much time at a Glass, and giving Softnesses and Languishing Graces to Deformity. All I intend is, that we ought to be contented with our Countenance and Shape, so far, as never to give our selves an uneasie Reflection on that Subject. It is to the ordinary People, who are not accustomed to make very proper Remarks on any Occasion, matter of great Jest, if a Man enters with a prominent Pair of Shoulders into an Assembly, or is distinguished by an Expansion of Mouth, or Obliquity of Aspect. It is happy for a Man, that has any of these Oddnesses about him, if he can be as merry upon himself, as others are apt to be upon that Occasion: When he can possess himself with such a Chearfulness, Women and Children, who were at first frighted at him, will afterwards be as much pleased with him. As it is barbarous in others to railly him for natural Defects, it is extreamly agreeable when he can Jest upon himself for them.

Madam Maintenon’s first Husband was an Hero in this Kind, and has drawn many Pleasantries from the Irregularity of his Shape, which he describes as very much resembling the Letter Z. [1] He diverts himself likewise by representing to his Reader the Make of an Engine and Pully, with which he used to take off his Hat. When there happens to be any thing ridiculous in a Visage, and the Owner of it thinks it an Aspect of Dignity, he must be of very great Quality to be exempt from Raillery: The best Expedient therefore is to be pleasant upon himself. Prince Harry and Falstaffe, in Shakespear, have carried the Ridicule upon Fat and Lean as far as it will go. Falstaffe is Humourously called Woolsack, Bed-presser, and Hill of Flesh; Harry a Starveling, an Elves-Skin, a Sheath, a Bowcase, and a Tuck. There is, in several incidents of the Conversation between them, the Jest still kept up upon the Person. Great Tenderness and Sensibility in this Point is one of the greatest Weaknesses of Self-love; for my own part, I am a little unhappy in the Mold of my Face, which is not quite so long as it is broad: Whether this might not partly arise from my opening my Mouth much seldomer than other People, and by Consequence not so much lengthning the Fibres of my Visage, I am not at leisure to determine. However it be, I have been often put out of Countenance by the Shortness of my Face, and was formerly at great Pains in concealing it by wearing a Periwigg with an high Foretop, and letting my Beard grow. But now I have thoroughly got over this Delicacy, and could be contented it were much shorter, provided it might qualify me for a Member of the Merry Club, which the following Letter gives me an Account of. I have received it from Oxford, and as it abounds with the Spirit of Mirth and good Humour, which is natural to that Place, I shall set it down Word for Word as it came to me.

‘Most Profound Sir,

Having been very well entertained, in the last of your Speculations that I have yet seen, by your Specimen upon Clubs, which I therefore hope you will continue, I shall take the Liberty to furnish you with a brief Account of such a one as perhaps you have not seen in all your Travels, unless it was your Fortune to touch upon some of the woody Parts of the African Continent, in your Voyage to or from Grand Cairo. There have arose in this University (long since you left us without saying any thing) several of these inferior Hebdomadal Societies, as the Punning Club, the Witty Club, and amongst the rest, the Handsom Club; as a Burlesque upon which, a certain merry Species, that seem to have come into the World in Masquerade, for some Years last past have associated themselves together, and assumed the name of the Ugly Club: This ill-favoured Fraternity consists of a President and twelve Fellows; the Choice of which is not confin’d by Patent to any particular Foundation (as St. John’s Men would have the World believe, and have therefore erected a separate Society within themselves) but Liberty is left to elect from any School in Great Britain, provided the Candidates be within the Rules of the Club, as set forth in a Table entituled The Act of Deformity. A Clause or two of which I shall transmit to you.