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' their exertion. Here, therefore, there is never 'wanting a junto of them of both sexes, who are ' liked or hated, admired or despised, who make
people laugh, or set them asleep, according to the ' fashion of the time, or the humour of their audi'ence, but who have always the satisfaction of • talking themselves, and of being talked of by others. With us, indeed, a very moderate degree
of genius is sufficient for this purpose ; in small so. • cieties, folks are set agape by small circumstances. • I have known a lady here contrive to make a figure • for half the winter, on the strength of a plume of
feathers, or the trimming of a petticoat, and a “gentleman make shift to be thought a fine fellow, . only by outdoing every body else in the thickness of his queue, or the height of his foretop.
But people will not only make themselves fools; • I have known instances of their becoming knaves, 'or, at least, boasting of their being so, from this • desire of Figure-making. You shall hear a fellow, who has once got the character of being a sharp man, tell things of himself, for which, if they had • been true, he deserved to be hanged, merely be• cause his line of Figure-making lies in trick and chi
cane ; hence, too, proceed all those histories of their own profligacy and vice, which some young men of • spirit are perpetually relating, who are willing to o record themselves villains,' rather than not be recorded at all.
• In the arts, as well as in the characters of men, • this same propensity is productive of strange dis
orders. Hence proceed the bombast of poetry, • the tumour of prose, the garish light of some • paintings, the unnatural chiaro scuro of others; • hence, in music, the absurd mixture of discordant • movements and the squeak of high-strained ca. • dences ; in short, all those sins against nature and o simplicity, which artists of inferior merit are glad • to practise, in order to extort the notice of the • Public, and to make a figure by surprise and sin. « gularity.'
The accidental interruption of a new visitor now stopped the current of my friend's discourse ; he had, indeed, begun to tire most of the company, who were not all disposed to listen quite so long as be seemed inclined to speak. In truth, he had forgot that the very reproof he meant to give his neighbours, applied pretty strongly to himself, and that, though he might suppose he was lecturing from the desire of reformation, he was, in reality, haranguing in the spirit of Figure-making:
N° 93: TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 1780.
Parva leves capiunt animos.
That life consists, in a great measure, of trifling occurrences and little occupations, there needs no ugcommon sagacity or attention to discover. Notwithstanding the importance we are apt to ascribe to the employments and the time, even of the great. est and most illustrious, were we to trace such persons to the end of their labours and the close of their pursuits, we should frequently discover, that trifles were the solace of the one, and the purpose of the other. Public business and political arrangement are often only the constrained employments to which
accident or education has devoted their hours, while their willing moments are destined, perhaps, to light amusements and to careless mirth.
It is not, then, surprising, that trifles should form the chief gratification of ordinary men, on whom the Public has no claim, and individuals have little de. pendence. But, of those trifles, the nature will commonly mark the man, as much as circumstances of greater importance. A mind capable of high exertion or delicate sentiment, will stoop with a certain consciousness of its descent, that will not allow it to wanton into absurdity, or sink into grossness. There is, in short, a difference, which sense and feel. ing will not easily forget, between the little and the mean, the simple and the rude, the playful and the foolish.
But the surest mark of a weak mind is an affectation of importance amidst the enjoyment of trifles, a bustle of serious business amidst the most insignificant concerns. The bringing forward of little things to the rank of great ones, is the true burlesque in character as well as in style ; yet such cha. racters are not uncommon, even among men who have acquired some estimation in the world. In this particular, the world is easily deceived ; dulness may often ape solemnity, and arrogate importance, where brighter talents would have drawn but little regard; as objects are magnified by mists, and made awful by darkness.
Of a character of this sort I received, some time ago, the following sketch from a young lady, who sometimes honours me with her correspondence, whose vivacity can give interest to trifles, and entertainment to absurdity.
DEAR SIR, You made me promise, on leaving town, that I would write to you whenever the country afforded any thing worth writing about. The country, at present, merely as country, presents no landscape, but one undistinguished tract of snow ; vegetation is locked up in frost, and we are locked up within doors, but something might be traced within doors, had I a good pencil for the purpose.--Mine host, of whom you have heard a good deal, is no bad subject: suppose I make him sit for his picture.
Believe me, he is not quite the sensible intelligent man we were told he was.—So much the better, I like oddities—even now and then in town ; still better in the country ; but in frost and snow, and all the dreary confinement of winter,-Oh! your battledore and shuttlecock are a joke to them.
You remember a long while ago (so long that I have forgot every part of the book but the name), we read Nature Displayed together. You then told me of a certain Mr. Leeuwenhock, I think you called him, whose microscope shewed the circulation of frog's blood, the scales of the scales of fishes, the bristles of mites, and every other tiny thing in the world. Now, my worthy landlord, Mr. G. R. has always such a glass as Leeuwenhock’s in his noddle ; every little thing is so great to him, and he does little things, and talks of little things, with an air of buch importance !--but I hate definitions ; pictures are ten times better; and now for a few sketches of my winter-quarters, and of the good man under whose government I live.
I discovered, on my first entry into his house, that every thing was in exact order, and every place inviolably appropriated to its respective use. The gentlemen were to put their hats and sticks in one corner, and the ladies their clogs in another. The very day of my arrival, I heard the family apothe. cary get a severe rebuke for violating the chastity of the clog.corner with his rattan. I have hitherto escaped much censure ou this score : luckily I have attracted the regard of Mr. R.'s youngest sister, a grave, considerate, orderly young lady. I don't know how it is, but I have often got in favour with those grave ladies-God knows, I little deserve it. --Miss Sophia R. therefore keeps me right in many important particulars, or covers my deviations with some apology; or, if all won't do, I laugh, as is my way ; Mr. R. calls me Rattleskull; says, he shall bring me into order by and bye, and there's an end on't.
By that attention to trifles, for which, from his earliest days, he was remarkable, Mr. R. made him. self commodious to some persons of considerable influence, and procured many advantages to which nei. ther from birth nor fortune he was anywise entitled. He travelled in company with a gentleman of very high rank and distinguished abilities, by whose means he procured an introduction to many eminent men in foreign countries; and when he returned from abroad, was often in the society of the eminent men of our own. But his brain, poor man! was like a gauze searce, it admitted nothing of any magnitude: amidst great men and great things, it took in only the dust that fell from them. · He was reading in the news papers, the other morning, of the marriage of the Honourable Miss W - to Sir H. S . 'Ah!' said he, to think • how time passes ! I remember her grandfather • Lord W- well; a great man, a very great