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and which he has acquired by study and observation. When a celebrated Scottish writer, after the publication of his History of Scotland, was first introduced to Lord Chesterfield, his lordship, with that happy talent of compliment for which he was so remarkable, addressed him at parting, in these words: I am happy, sir, to have met with you-happy to have passed a day with you,—and extremely happy to find that you speak Scotch.-It would be too much, were you to speak, as well as write our language, better than we do ourselves.'
This circumstance of a Scottish author not writing his own natural dialect must have a considerable influence upon the nature of his literary productions, When he is employed in any grave dignified composition, when he writes history, politics, or poetry, the pains he must take to write, in a manner different from that in which he speaks, will not much affect his productions; the language of such compositions is, in every case, raised above that of common life; and, therefore, the deviation which a Scottish author is obliged to make from the common language of the country can be of little prejudice to him. But if a writer is to descend to common and ludicrous pictures of life ; if, in short, he is to deal in humorous composition, his language must be, as nearly as possible, that of common life, that of the bulk of the people; but a Scotsman who wishes to write English cannot easily do this. He neither speaks the English dialect, nor is it spoken by those around him: any knowledge he has acquired of the language is got from books, not from conversation. Hence Scottish authors may have been prevented from attempting to write books of humour; and, when they have tried it, we may be able, in some measure, to account for their failure. In confirmation of these remarks, it may be observed, that almost the only works of humour which we have in this country are in the Scottish dialect, and most of them were written before the union of the kingdoms, when the Scotch was the written, as well as the spoken, language of the country. The Gentle Shepherd, which is full of natural and ludicrous representations of low life, is written in broad Scotch. Many of our ancient Scottish ballads are full of humour. If there have been lately any publications of humour in this country, written in good English, they have been mostly of the graver sort, called irony. In this species of writing, where the author himself never appears to laugh, a more dignified composition is admissible; and, in that case, the disadvantage of writing in a language different from that in which the author speaks, or those around him converse, is not so sensibly felt.
No. 84. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1780.
Clamant periissc pudorcm
To dispute the right of fashion to enlarge, to vary, or to change the ideas, both of man and woman kind, were a want of good breeding, of which the author of a periodical paper, who throws himself, as it were, from day to day, on the protection of the polite world, cannot be supposed capable. I pay, therefore, very
little regard to the observations of some antiquated correspondents, who pretend to set up what they call the invariable notions of things, against the opinions and practice of people of condition. At the same time, I must observe, that, as there is a college in physic, and a faculty (as it is called in Scotland) in law; so, in fashion, there is a select body, who enjoy many privileges and immunities, to which pretenders, or inferior practitioners in the art, are by no means entitled. There is a certain grace in the rudeness, and wit in the folly of a person of fashion, to which one of a lower rank has no manner of pretension.
I am afraid that our city (talking like a man who has travelled) is but a sort of mimic metropolis, and cannot fairly pretend to the same licence of making a fool of itself, as London or Paris. The circle, therefore, taking them in the gross, of our fashionable people here, have seldom ventured on the same beautiful irregularity, in dress, in behaviour, or in manners, that is frequently practised by the leaders of the ton in the capitals of France or England.
With individuals the same rule of subordination is to be observed, which, however, persons of extraordinary parts, of genius above their condition, are sometimes apt to overlook. I perceive, in the pit of the play-house, some young men, who have got fuddled in punch, as noisy and as witty as the gentlemen in the boxes, who have been drinking Burgundy: and others, who have come sober from the counter, or the writing-desk, give almost as little attention to the play as the men of 3000l. a year.
My old school-acquaintance, Jack Wou'dbe, t'other morning, had a neckcloth as dirty as a lord's, and picked his teeth after dinner for a quarter of an hour, by the assistance of the little mirror in the lid of his toothpick case. I take the first opportunity of giving him a friendly hint, that this practice is elegant only in a man who has made the tour of Europe.
Nature and fashion are two opposite powers, that have long been at variance with one another. The first is allowed to preside over the bulk of the people known by the denomination of the vulgar; the last is peculiar to the higher orders of the state, and by her honours they have a title to be distinguished. Attention to interesting scenes, civility to those we ought to oblige, and propriety in public behaviour, belong to Nature, and are therefore the property of the people. It is a direct infringement on the rights of fashion, if the inferior members of the community shall laugh where they should cry, be noisy where they should be silent, rude where they should be civil, or dirty where they should be cleanly. These are the badges of greatness, and, like certain coats armorial, are only to be borne by illustrious personages.
These are matters in which, I think, I may venture to interpose my advice or animadversion. But as to some more delicate subjects, I am very doubtful whether they come within the limits of my jurisdiction, or how far it would be prudent in me to exercise it, if they did. I mean this as a general apology for not inserting a variety of letters from unknown correspondents, giving me information of certain irregularities in the manners and deportment of the fashionable world, which they desire may be taken immediate notice of in the Mirror. One, who writes under the signature of Rusticus, tells me that painting is now become so common a practice among our fine ladies, that he has oftener than once been introduced to a lady in the morning, from whom, till he informed himself
of her name, he was surprised to receive a curtsy at the play or the concert. An
other, who subscribes himself Modestus, desires me to imitate the example of the Tatler, by animadverting, not on the large, but the small size of the petticoat, which, he
this winter, that there is more of the ankle seen than he can find countenance to look at.
To the first of these correspondents I must answer, that I think the ladies (whose number I am inclined to believe is small), who choose to dress their faces in rouge or carmine, are exempted from all censure; they certainly do it to please themselves, as they know how much it is detested by the men. Or, perhaps, they are of that icy order of females, who have made vows of perpetual celibacy, and thus varnish over their beauty, as virtuosi do certain delicate natural productions, which are meant to be looked at, but never to be touched. As to the complaint of Modestus, I can only account for the present shortness of the petticoat, from the attention of the ladies being so much engrossed about their heads, as to leave them no leisure to take care of the other extremity; as generals, who are anxious to cover one part of their works, are apt to leave an opposite quarter defenceless.
But the most serious complaint I have received is a letter subscribed Censor, arraigning, with true Juvenalian severity, the conduct of a certain club, which, in the words of my correspondent, continues, in defiance of decency and good manners, to insult the public in large characters, in the front of every newspaper
in town. This,' he adds, ‘moves my indignation the more, when I consider that several of its principal members are arrived at a period of life which should teach decorum, at least, if it does not extinguish vice.'
In answer to this angry correspondent, I will tell him the following story: Some years ago, I happened