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No. 028 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 28
Monday, April 2, 1711. Addison.

‘… Neque semper arcum
Tendit Apollo.’


I shall here present my Reader with a Letter from a Projector, concerning a new Office which he thinks may very much contribute to the Embellishment of the City, and to the driving Barbarity out of our Streets. [I consider it as a Satyr upon Projectors in general, and a lively Picture of the whole Art of Modern Criticism. [1]]


‘Observing that you have Thoughts of creating certain Officers under you for the Inspection of several petty Enormities which you your self cannot attend to; and finding daily Absurdities hung out upon the Sign-Posts of this City, [2] to the great Scandal of Foreigners, as well as those of our own Country, who are curious Spectators of the same: I do humbly propose, that you would be pleased to make me your Superintendant of all such Figures and Devices, as are or shall be made use of on this Occasion; with full Powers to rectify or expunge whatever I shall find irregular or defective. For want of such an Officer, there is nothing like sound Literature and good Sense to be met with in those Objects, that are everywhere thrusting themselves out to the Eye, and endeavouring to become visible. Our streets are filled with blue Boars, black Swans, and red Lions; not to mention flying Pigs, and Hogs in Armour, with many other Creatures more extraordinary than any in the desarts of Africk. Strange! that one who has all the Birds and Beasts in Nature to chuse out of, should live at the Sign of an Ens Rationis!

My first Task, therefore, should be, like that of Hercules, to clear the City from Monsters. In the second Place, I would forbid, that Creatures of jarring and incongruous Natures should be joined together in the same Sign; such as the Bell and the Neats-tongue, the Dog and Gridiron. The Fox and Goose may be supposed to have met, but what has the Fox and the Seven Stars to do together? and when did the Lamb [3] and Dolphin ever meet, except upon a Sign-Post? As for the Cat and Fiddle, there is a Conceit in it, and therefore, I do not intend that anything I have here said should affect it. I must however observe to you upon this Subject, that it is usual for a young Tradesman, at his first setting up, to add to his own Sign that of the Master whom he serv’d; as the Husband, after Marriage, gives a Place to his Mistress’s Arms in his own Coat. This I take to have given Rise to many of those Absurdities which are committed over our Heads, and, as I am inform’d, first occasioned the three Nuns and a Hare, which we see so frequently joined together. I would, therefore, establish certain Rules, for the determining how far one Tradesman may give the Sign of another, and in what Cases he may be allowed to quarter it with his own.

In the third place, I would enjoin every Shop to make use of a Sign which bears some Affinity to the Wares in which it deals. What can be more inconsistent, than to see a Bawd at the Sign of the Angel, or a Taylor at the Lion? A Cook should not live at the Boot, nor a Shoemaker at the roasted Pig; and yet, for want of this Regulation, I have seen a Goat set up before the Door of a Perfumer, and the French King’s Head at a Sword-Cutler’s.

An ingenious Foreigner observes, that several of those Gentlemen who value themselves upon their Families, and overlook such as are bred to Trade, bear the Tools of their Fore-fathers in their Coats of Arms. I will not examine how true this is in Fact: But though it may not be necessary for Posterity thus to set up the Sign of their Fore-fathers; I think it highly proper for those who actually profess the Trade, to shew some such Marks of it before their Doors.