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No. 021 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 21
Saturday, March 24, 1711. [1] Addison.

‘Locus est et phiribus Umbris.’


I am sometimes very much troubled, when I reflect upon the three great Professions of Divinity, Law, and Physick; how they are each of them over-burdened with Practitioners, and filled with Multitudes of Ingenious Gentlemen that starve one another.

We may divide the Clergy into Generals, Field-Officers, and Subalterns. Among the first we may reckon Bishops, Deans, and Arch-Deacons. Among the second are Doctors of Divinity, Prebendaries, and all that wear Scarfs. The rest are comprehended under the Subalterns. As for the first Class, our Constitution preserves it from any Redundancy of Incumbents, notwithstanding Competitors are numberless. Upon a strict Calculation, it is found that there has been a great Exceeding of late Years in the Second Division, several Brevets having been granted for the converting of Subalterns into Scarf-Officers; insomuch that within my Memory the price of Lute-string is raised above two Pence in a Yard. As for the Subalterns, they are not to be numbred. Should our Clergy once enter into the corrupt Practice of the Laity, by the splitting of their Free-holds, they would be able to carry most of the Elections in England.

The Body of the Law is no less encumbered with superfluous Members, that are like Virgil’s Army, which he tells us was so crouded, [2] many of them had not Room to use their Weapons. This prodigious Society of Men may be divided into the Litigious and Peaceable. Under the first are comprehended all those who are carried down in Coach-fulls to Westminster-Hall every Morning in Term-time. Martial’s description of this Species of Lawyers is full of Humour:

‘Iras et verba locant.’

Men that hire out their Words and Anger; that are more or less passionate according as they are paid for it, and allow their Client a quantity of Wrath proportionable to the Fee which they receive from him. I must, however, observe to the Reader, that above three Parts of those whom I reckon among the Litigious, are such as are only quarrelsome in their Hearts, and have no Opportunity of showing their Passion at the Bar. Nevertheless, as they do not know what Strifes may arise, they appear at the Hall every Day, that they may show themselves in a Readiness to enter the Lists, whenever there shall be Occasion for them.

The Peaceable Lawyers are, in the first place, many of the Benchers of the several Inns of Court, who seem to be the Dignitaries of the Law, and are endowed with those Qualifications of Mind that accomplish a Man rather for a Ruler, than a Pleader. These Men live peaceably in their Habitations, Eating once a Day, and Dancing once a Year, [3] for the Honour of their Respective Societies.

Another numberless Branch of Peaceable Lawyers, are those young Men who being placed at the Inns of Court in order to study the Laws of their Country, frequent the Play-House more than Westminster-Hall, and are seen in all publick Assemblies, except in a Court of Justice. I shall say nothing of those Silent and Busie Multitudes that are employed within Doors in the drawing up of Writings and Conveyances; nor of those greater Numbers that palliate their want of Business with a Pretence to such Chamber-Practice.

If, in the third place, we look into the Profession of Physick, we shall find a most formidable Body of Men: The Sight of them is enough to make a Man serious, for we may lay it down as a Maxim, that When a Nation abounds in Physicians, it grows thin of People. Sir William Temple is very much puzzled to find a Reason why the Northern Hive, as he calls it, does not send out such prodigious Swarms, and over-run the World with Goths and Vandals, as it did formerly; [4] but had that Excellent Author observed that there were no Students in Physick among the Subjects of Thor and Woden, and that this Science very much flourishes in the North at present, he might have found a better Solution for this Difficulty, than any of those he has made use of. This Body of Men, in our own Country, may be described like the British Army in Caesar’s time: Some of them slay in Chariots, and some on Foot. If the Infantry do less Execution than the Charioteers, it is, because they cannot be carried so soon into all Quarters of the Town, and dispatch so much Business in so short a Time. Besides this Body of Regular Troops, there are Stragglers, who, without being duly listed and enrolled, do infinite Mischief to those who are so unlucky as to fall into their Hands.