L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Messr. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Messrs. PEARSON
And POLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, April 18, 1789.
ADNANT thynni, et cetaria CRESCUNT
AS I have received, during the publication of my work, several letters, none of which, separately, is sufficient to constitute a paper, I shall take this opportunity of introducing some of them to the world, and at the same time of procuring for myself a week's vacation.
To the LOITERER.
SIR, L___, ___shire.YOU have doubtless received a learned education, and at present lead an academical life; yet I hope you will not refuse the complaints of a man, though he cannot lay any pretension to the advantages either of the one or the other.
My father was an industrious woollen-draper in this town, and as he had no child but myself, brought me up to the same business; in due time admitted me into partnership, and at his decease left me sole heir to his custom and effects. By a constant application and diligence, for the space of thirty years, I have the pleasing prospect of being able, at my death, to place my children (which are six in number) above want. My eldest son has just obtained a scholarship at Oxford; Charles is now in the sixth year of his apprenticeship at home; and little Tommy is preparing himself for the law, at a neighbouring grammar-school. — My daughters are three discreet girls, very good-natured, and not without some pretensions to beauty. We have all the greatest love for each other, and the utmost harmony subsists among us. This, Sir, was the situation of myself and family, 'till a company of strolling players obtained leave to exhibit in this place. — As I had ever been an indulgent father, I could not refuse my children the pleasure of going to the play; but would I had rather sent them to a Methodist Meeting! — For do you know, Sir, they have been downright mad ever since. Their whole conversation turns upon nothing else but acting. In spite of my injunctions, they attend almost every performance; and, not contented with hearing, are continually spouting some of their nonsensical confounded stuff: crowns, daggers, chains, pistols, and every thing of that kind are scattered up and down the rooms; and, in short, my house, which was lately the most regular, best disposed house in town, is turned topsy-turvy. On my entering into the parlour the other morning, my three daughters came up to me with brooms in their hands, and thrice exclaiming, "All hail, Macbeth!" brushed by me out of the door, and scratched my face all over with their besoms. — Nay, it was but yesterday that Charles, instead of assisting me in raising a bale of goods which he had himself thrown down in one of his mad rants, told me in a very serious manner, he "thought it would have mounted," and concluded with talking something about "the great globe inheriting a base vision."
Nor am I, Sir, the only person who suffers from this abominable theatre. Nothing but idleness prevails throughout the town. There has been one instance of a woman who pawned her prayer book for a gallery ticket; and it was but last week, that my neighbour Felt's daughter run off with the hero of the company. This, Sir, is the circumstance which affects me most; for I expect every day to hear a similar account of one of my girls: though they tell me to be under no such apprehensions, for the dear Romeo is gone, and they shall take up with no Mercutio. What they mean, heaven knows! I hope, however, we shall soon get rid of this nest of thieves; and, in the mean time, be so kind, Mr. Loiterer, as to insert this letter in your work, that it may be a warning to other towns not to admit a company of strolling players; and by so doing you will confer a kindness on them, and a favour on,
To the LOITERER.SIR,
I SHALL not trouble you with any account of my birth, parentage, or education; suffice it to say, I have long been, and still continue to be a member of this University; and thus, without any further preface, I shall beg leave to offer some few thoughts on a subject, which I do not recollect to have before seen represented in the same manner.
Books are my chief study and amusement; but though I pride myself on possessing one of the oldest and most unintelligible editions of the classics, I by no means subscribe to the opinions of those, who think that the antiquity of a work makes it on that account more valuable; and though I entertain a great veneration for ancient literature, I must acknowledge, that I am much more partial to modern publications.
But amongst all these, none, as I think, deserve to be put in competition with those daily productions of the press, the public newspapers: and if the merit of a work can be argued from the universal avidity with which it is perused, my opinion, I trust, will not be found singular. Nor is it difficult to assign a reason for the extraordinary success of these newspapers, as they not only gratify the natural curiosity of the human mind, with a continual succession of fresh intelligence, but contain a variety of topics adapted to every capacity, from the peer to the porter. — There are horse-races for my lord, scandal for my lady, politics for tradesmen, advertisements for farmers, and murders for servants.
The Athenians, we are told, used to go round the city in a morning, enquiring the news of the day; which circumstance, I think, may almost lead us to conclude, that the use of newspapers was entirely unknown to them; otherwise they would never have taken the trouble to walk about for intelligence, when they could have procured it in so convenient a manner at home. They were all politicians, because they had all a voice in public debates; we are all politicians, because the necessary information is so easily acquired; and while an Athenian was obliged to collect his news, and regulate public affairs by traversing the streets, an Englishman, with as much satisfaction to himself, deposes ministers, and plans the conquest of empires, without every stirring from his fire-side.
But that the Romans were possessed of this valuable article, I known, has been strongly asserted. — To decide, however, on such an important question, I shall leave to the disquisition of yourself or your readers; and only observe, that if such was the case, our loss is much to be lamented; for suppose, dear Sir, that all the Heralds, Chronicles, Advertisers, and Gazettes Extraordinary of ancient Rome, were transmitted down to these latter ages, unimpaired either by accident or time, what an inexhaustible source of pleasure and intelligence should we derive from them! How many private anecdotes, amusing intrigues, and entertaining pieces of scandal would they discover to us! Ladies would be induced to acquire a knowledge in the dead languages; and thus might study the fashions of the Augustan age, improve on the court dresses of the roman matrons, and learn all the etiquette of levee-days. And in addition to these advantages, what real satisfaction must every sincere admirer of the ancients necessarily experience, when he should hear, that on such a day Marcus Tullus Cicero arrived in safety at his Tusculan Villa; and knew the exact hour in which it was high-water at the Palatine Bridge.
But if we regard newspapers in a more serious light, if we consider them as the chronicles of the times, and the retailers of historical facts, new matter of lamentation arises, and we see ourselves deprived of the most valuable traces of antiquity. - How amply would they have compensated for the now irreparable loss of Livy! what instruction should we have received in perusing them! and, to omit every other consideration, what could have led us to form a more just idea of the manners, morals, and improvements of the age, than the public advertisements!
The great superiority, therefore, which posterity will enjoy over us, with respect to literary acquisitions, must be universally allowed. They will possess a regular and uninterrupted detail of historical information; and they will have this related by different authors, who, uninfluenced by prejudice or party , will state all sides of the question with the same clearness and impartiality. They will see the customs and follies of every age painted in the most lively colours; and have the dates of every improvement in the arts of physic, poetry, and politics, marked out with the utmost exactness and precision. And when I take all these circumstances into consideration, I make no doubt that newspapers, in the course of a few centuries, will alone be esteemed as the source of all historical knowledge, chronological accuracy, and polite literature; and an old, original edition of the World, Chronicle, or Herald will, I dare say, be invaluable.
I am, dear Mr. Loiterer,
To the LOITERER.THERE is, as you must well know, Mr. Loiterer, a class of men who slide along through life, and escape the notice of mankind. They are neither extravagantly good, or extravagantly bad; their best qualities consist in the commission of no actual vice, their worst in the practice of no real virtue. In short they resemble a chair in a country-dance, which never stirs from its place, and would always remain unnoticed, unless for the convenience it affords others of moving round it. — Of this class, Mr. Loiterer, is or rather was the writer of this letter; why he wishes to be so no longer, the following short account of himself will sufficiently declare. I know very well that I was at a public school, but whether or no any of my school-fellows know the same, is a matter of great doubt to me; for not remarkable either as a genius or a dunce, not respected by the great or feared by the little boys, I stole through nine years, and if without raising a single enemy, I am sure, without gaining a single friend. At my removal to this place, though I daily recollected several old faces, I found my own was entirely new to all. The same fate still pursued me — and I really believe there is not a freshman of a fortnight's standing, but is better known in the University than I am, though I want but six months of taking my degree. Even where my person is known, I am considered as a cypher; and men no more regard what they say before me, and do with me, than if I were a post. — These indignities have frequently given me so much trouble, that I have at length come to the determination of changing my manner of life, and acquiring some reputation. To this end I have formed some few resolutions, of which I hope you, Mr. Loiterer, will approve, as I find by observation, that they are the only expedients by which I can hope to become conspicuous. Once a week I shall regularly appear drunk at one of the coffee-houses; in private parties I shall only talk louder, and swear more than any other person in company, and now and then kick up a row in the street. - Which circumstances, joined to the custom of lounging at billiard-tables, and parading High-street on a restive horse (which I have already purchased for the occasion) will, I hope, rescue my name from that obscurity, in which it has been so long involved; and raise me at least to the same share of reputation with half of the young men in this University.
I am, Sir, your's,
Though I have already arrived at the usual limits of my paper, yet the shortness of the following letter, the reasonable request contained in it, and the obligation of a long promise, will, I trust, be a sufficient excuse for introducing it.
To the LOITERER.DEAR MR. LOITERER,
I have long had a great desire to see how my name would look in print; by inserting this, therefore, in your entertaining work, you will confer an everlasting favour,
On your constant reader, and sincere admirer,
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