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 ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, July 11, 1789.
Increpitent Socii. Virgil.
HAVING in a late Paper given my Readers some Idea of the word dash, I think it necessary, for the farther Instructions of those who are not much acquainted with the University, to inform them, that the Gentlemen who wish to arrive at Celebrity by dashing, may be divided into two Classes; the Noisy, and the Silent. And this Division I conceive to be perfectly descriptive of their peculiar Excellencies, for on several points of the utmost consequence, such as lounging in the High Street, the length of their Spurs, and the height of their Capes, they perfectly agree; those of the first Class, whatever is the topic of Conversation, talk much, and loud; whilst the other yawn during the discussion of the most important Subjects, seem totally unconcerned at the Disquisition of the most refined Genius, and totally unmoved by the flashes of the most brilliant wit; are silent amidst the mirth of Conviviality, and talkative no where but in Chapel; in short, a spirit of Rowing characterizes the one, Apathy the other. One derive their Reputation from saying a great deal, the other from saying Nothing.
Dining the other Day with my Friend Will Sagely, my Attention was very much engaged by a Gentleman, whose Manners and Conversation declared him to be of the first Order. He entertained us during Dinner with a very animated Account of a drinking Party, which he had been engaged in the Evening before, which together with an Episode of his meeting the Proctors in the Evening, enabled him to engross the Conversation till the Cloth was removed. This topic was succeeded by the Description of a bay Gelding, which was in his own Phrase as pretty a bit of Blood as ever carried Saddle. And by way of desert, he treated us with a flail, true and particular Account of his threatening to horse-whip a Tradesman, who had dared to remonstrate with him on his not discharging a Bill he concluded this Subject with affirming, that all Tradesmen should be resisted by Gentlemen as Scoundrels, and that he never knew one in his Life who was not a complete Raff. To persons in the least acquainted with Dashers, it will be unnecessary to add, that he interlarded his Discourse with several of the most descriptive, and vigorous Oaths, and was never so much engross’d by his Conversation, as to let the Bottle pass without filling a Bumper. — I stared first at him, and then at Sagely, who I observ’d frequently turn’d up his Eyes during this continued discourse, and at least I thought darted an evident look of Contempt on the Gentleman who made himself thus conspicuous.
Some engagement call’d him from us the moment he had drunk his Coffee, and he had scarce left the room when Sagely burst out with, “Lord bless his poor weak Head! what a Year’s University Knowledge can do for a young Man! I remember this Fellow sheepish and silent, I see him now impudent and loquacious; he has come on finely indeed! you would suppose, no doubt, from what he said concerning Trade, that he was the descendant of a respectable Family, who had kept themselves clear of every Alliance, except with right honourables, for these many Generations; but so far from it, I assure you his immediate Ancestors were, and his nearest Relations are Tradesmen, and he is absolutely supported at the University by an old Uncle, who may be seen every Day, from eight in the morning, to eight in the Evening, weighing out Cheese and Butter, behind his Counter in Newgate Street. I wish much (continued Will) to drop his Acquaintance, but my Uncle is the Banker of his, and has desired me to shew him Civilities.”
When I got home I could not help reflecting on the Information I had received from Sagely, and the only way I could account for the behaviour of his Acquaintance, was by supposing, that on the Subject of Trade, he had not spoken his real Sentiments, but had expressed the Contempt he manifested merely to support his Character as a Dashing Man, and Gownsmen who do not dash, as well as those who do, though they often are particularly spirited in abusing each other, not unfrequently join issue in the Abuse of poor Commerce.
I could forgive a Man who was form’d of finer Clay, whose natural excellent Abilities were refin’d and polish’d by the most consummate Art. I could forgive such a Man, if in the blaze of Genius with which he was surrounded he should not be able accurately to distinguish the merit of Tradesmen, and therefore should be accustomed to treat with disrespect, those who not by the superior Vigour of Intellect, but by the unremitted Application of moderate Faculties, arrive at Wealth; but surely not all the Abusers of Trade to whom more particularly I address these Remarks, can plead the privilege of superior Genius, to sanction their Contempt.
I conceive that the Gentlemen who thus despise Trade, are not culpable only, for improperly contemning a very respectable body of the Community, but that their Gratitude may be called in Question, since these very Raffs, these contemptible Tradesmen, have been to the University most munificent BENEFACTORS; the wealth industriously acquired, has been liberally bestowed, and more than one of our Colleges derives its chief Support from Men whose former Station in Life is held in the most utter Contempt by the Objects of their Bounty.
England is a trading Nation, Commerce is our distinguishing Characteristic that has raised us to an enviable height of Power, that has made us the most flourishing People, of the most flourishing Quarter of the Globe. Statesmen have perceived the utility of Commerce, and wisely encouraged her Endeavours, and those Men who bring honour and respect to our Country, are by the World in general considered in an honourable, and respectable point of view. They are welcomed as Companions in our first Circles, and listened to as Senators in our first Councils; why then from a place particularly distinguished by the liberality of Tradesmen, the Shafts of Scorn should be directed against Trade, and why Prejudice when driven from her other Stations, should fly to Oxford as her strong hold, has sometimes puzzled me to determine.
The principle of extolling the Professions we are ourselves engaged in, is a very general one, but I conceive the force of it to be much diminished in the World, by the intermixture of Society; and the Observations that continually arise of the utility, and excellence of other Men’s occupations; in London, professional meet with commercial Men, and any disagreeable Impressions they may have entertained, are removed by the opportunity they enjoy of observing their Worth, and respectability: but in Oxford the wind always blows from one Quarter, Gownsman meets Gownsman, they strengthen each other in the Approbation of their own line of Life, and in the Contempt of what is opposite to their own.
I must do Oxford Men the Justice to acknowledge, that in this Instance, their Actions entirely correspond with their Words; as Trade is generally mentioned, so Tradesmen are generally treated, with the most sovereign Contempt. Hence if a disturbance takes place in the Streets, if a Tradesman does not choose to have his Windows broken patiently, or submits not with the utmost Calmness to be shoved into the kennel, however you may be convinced that he has been wantonly injured or insulted, it is held in the highest degree vulgar to offer him Assistance, or expostulate with the Aggressor.
Not only the respectability of their employments is denied, but they are sometimes supposed to be without the common feelings of Nature; I remember very well my Friend Ned Easy coming into a room full of Company the other Evening, and telling them with a great deal of sangfroid, that a Man had just been run over, and had one of his Legs broken by the wheel of a Chaise: and on somebody’s expressing a great deal of Concern at the Accident, Ned immediately answered “Oh, Lord! its a Matter of no Consequence, the Fellow was only a Tradesman!” Their Virtues too, (for I really suppose a Tradesman may have some Virtues) are by many absolutely denied: I have frequently heard young Men who when they have been first enter'd, warn’d by their Directors against the Knavery of Tradesmen, who they have been told, will impose upon them without Mercy, and pick their Pockets without Reluctance: “Beware” (says Jack Rattle to a Freshman the other Day) “beware, Sir, how you deal with our damn’d Tradesmen, they won’t mind cheating you in the least, I have known many Men ruined by their Artifice.” Jack is (in the Language of the University) an honest Fellow, and particularly well qualified to give this kind of Advice, since he himself is so cautious, that instead of being ruined by Tradesmen, he has ruined more than one since he has been studying at Oxford, and half an hour before had refused to pay a paltry Bill of thirty Shillings for horse-hire, though his Creditor had an Execution in his house, and was in the utmost want of the Money. I must confess for my own part, that I do not think myself justified in kicking a Tradesman down Stairs without provocation; that I do not think it necessary to look after my Handkerchief every Time I see one near me, and am sometimes absolutely so silly as to touch my Cap when they meet me with a low Bow.
Quizzical as these Notions may seem, I confess, I am so old-fashioned a fellow as to think them consistent with Decency, and Reason. The habit of applying indiscriminate Abuse to any Set of Men, is the habit of Prejudice; and though the word liberal is in general a favourite one, with Men who look with scornful Eyes on Commerce, it cannot in my Opinion be properly applied to themselves: on the contrary, I think them censurable, for censuring, I had almost said contemptible, for contemning, good Citizens, and good Men. And I declare, that so far from thinking the abuse of Trade spirited, I look on it as mean; that so far from thinking it knowing, it appears to me the result of Ignorance; and so far from thinking it genteel, I hold it to be illiberal, and ungentlemanlike.
I cannot neglect this opportunity, the only one which may perhaps offer, of congratulating my Countrymen on the probable approach of that period, when the only blot that disgraces the annals of Trade shall at length be erased, and the BENEVOLENCE of Commerce be equalled only by its Utility. I cannot neglect this opportunity of congratulating myself, for living in an Age, when the Rights of Humanity rise superior to the Dictates of Interest; when Parties, in other respects the most opposite, become the joint Advocates of Misery; when the Liberty we ourselves feel shall be diffused to the most remote Parts of the World, and the Religion we ourselves enjoy, shall spread its refining Influence over Nations at present immers’d in Barbarity.
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