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;
Mess. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Mess. PEARSON
And ROLLASON; BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Mess. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, August 29, 1789.
— The wants of a Man who wants nothing.
JOHNSON’S Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia.
To the Author of the LOITERER.
SIR,IF misery unmerited in its cause, and intolerable in its effects, can entitle an unhappy sufferer to the attention of the Loiterer, you will not deny your compassion to the writer of this letter, who (notwithstanding some very flattering appearances) is, this day the most wretched of mankind. — It is indeed most true, that I have a good income, and an excellent constitution, have neither Duns nor Law-suits, have never been plagued with Children, and have lately buried my Wife. Yet it is equally true, that in spite of all this, I am (odd as it may appear) unhappy. So unhappy that, even whilst I write this, I know it is out of your power to make me otherwise, and moreover that if you could I should hate you for doing so. — In short, Sir, I am one of those unfortunate people whom an unfeeling and ill-natured world dignify with the Title of Murmurers; and will freely own to you, that I think the greatest enjoyment which human nature can receive consists in the comfort of repining, and the luxury of complaint. So consoling indeed, is this comfort, and so intoxicating this luxury, that being of a speculative turn, I have formerly been at much pains to enquire from the gratification of what passion of the human mind the above-mentioned recreation draws such powerful charms. But I am sorry to say my researches, like those of many modern Philosophers, however entertaining to myself, are likely to be but of small advantage to the world; and 1 can no more account for the enjoyment which springs in my mind from complaining of my misfortunes, than the pleasure which arises to others from beholding a couple of Blackguards pummel themselves to pieces properly, and knock out their eyes secundum artem; or any other favourite amusement of this enlightened age. But however doubtful of the cause, I am perfectly convinced of the effect of my System: a system, begun at a very early age, and since rendered dear to me by the constant practice of five and forty years: And if you, Mr. Loiterer, will favour me with your attention while give a short sketch of a life distinguished only for peculiarity of wretchedness, and varied alone by diversity of misfortunes, I doubt not but I shall bring you over to my opinion.
My Father was a discontented Nonjuror, who lost his fortune, but narrowly saved his life in the year forty-five. My Mother a worn-out Coquette, who of all her attractive qualities retained only her vanity, and married, merely that she might not die an old maid. — Sweet and harmonious was the union, between two Souls thus closely linked by common and endearing ties of disappointment and disgust; and to compleat its happiness at the end of a twelvemonth, I came squalling into the world. I cannot indeed, like many Heroes both in old and modem History, boast of any extraordinary appearances which preceded, and of course would have predicted my Nativity, any more, than that I recollect hearing my Mother say, she well remembered, about that time feeling herself more cross, and scolding her Husband oftener than usual, a circumstance which my Father most heartily confirmed. But however this may be, it is certain I gave very early symptoms of my future disposition, and by kicking, crying, struggling, and every other mode in my power, discovered the strongest disapprobation of the Scene to which I was just introduced. And if I am to believe the accounts since told me by my Mother and Nurse-maid, (upon whose veracity and observation, the credit of early Biography must, after all, greatly depend) the same towardly temper increased with my years; and during that period of human life in which custom, perhaps by way of warning, obliges us to continue under petticoat government, I was a bitter plague to all the Females of the Family, and was pronounced by the most experienced Gossips in the Parish to be the most fractious humersome Brat they had ever set eyes on. At School (to which place I was removed at a very early age, because I was too cross to be kept at home any longer) the sweetness of my disposition became still more conspicuous, in proportion as there was a finer field for the exercise of it. Various were the subjects, and important the sufferings which here gave continual employment to my querulous faculties; sometimes my lessons were too hard, and at other times too long: I was teased by the little Boys, and thrashed by the great ones; and before I had been there many months I was fortunate enough to obtain from my Companions the appellation of Doleful Dick, a name which I retained even after I was made a Member of the University of Oxford; at which place I had the luck to obtain a Scholarship in the eighteenth year of my age. Here, far from wanting subjects of complaint, I was almost distracted with the variety of them. The unpleasantness of getting up in a morning to early Prayer, the Bore of attending Lectures, or the dreadful Alternative of Jobations and Impositions, afforded me fine subjects for the exercise of my Genius, whilst I was a Junior; and though the acquisition of a Master’s degree and a Fellowship seemed at first to threaten me with too much happiness; yet I soon found that, when a man minds what he is about, it is possible to be very tolerably miserable even when Senior Fellow of a College. At last, after I had complained of the sameness of a College life, and abused our Incumbents for not dying, every morning over my tea, and every afternoon over my wine, for the space of ten years, an old man, who, notwithstanding he had possessed his Living above forty years, had been hitherto so ill-bred as to continue in an excellent state of health, was seized with an Apoplexy, and his death put me in possession of the most lucrative piece of Preferment in the gift of our Society. This event had nearly proved fatal to me, and to a less ingenious Complainer than myself would have been absolute destruction, for the living was little less than 600l. a year, situated in a delightful Country, and surrounded by a most social Neighborhood, and to complete the whole, it fell full half a dozen years before I could have expected it, in the common course of things. — I did (in this emergence what I could) and even made an effort to complain of the misery of quitting Friends with whom I had so long lived in terms of intimacy, talked of the extortion of the Bishop’s Officers, and expense of Institution Fees — Read Burn with great care — and expressed a wish that I might not be cheated in the Dilapidations. All this, however, could not persuade my friends that I was not a perfectly happy and fortunate man; in consequence of which I was so completely tired with being wished Joy, that I soon found it necessary to make a precipitate retreat, and took possession of my Benefice, a few weeks after my Induction. And here I confess for some time I remained in a very disagreeable state of Apathy, nor could I, in spite of all my care, find immediately any decent pretext for complaining. Often in this distressful situation did I wish I had been bred a Sportsman; often did I (like many other young men) too late repent the time I had mis-spent at Oxford, where I had so fair an opportunity of making myself a very tolerable proficient of those amusements of the Field, which, among many other advantages, have this peculiar one, of affording inexhaustible matter of complaint. Indeed I was transported with the conversation of a large party of these Gentlemen, whom I spent several evenings with, at the house of my Squire, during a very hard Frost, that I once made a determination (late in life as it was) to enlist myself under their banners; and should probably have made no despicable figure in the Fields of rural glory, had I not been diverted from my resolution by a more practicable expedient, which promised neatly as great advantages, and was attended with infinitely less risk — this was no other than to turn Fanner, a situation, which next to that of a Sportsman, is most favourable to the views of a Complainer. I therefore took my Glebe Lands into my own hands, and collected the Tithes of the whole Parish. The scheme for some time succeeded; I had an opportunity almost daily of complaining of the negligence of my Servants, and the diseases of my Cattle, the inclemency of the Season and the barrenness of the Soil. But at the end of five or six years this resource began to fail me, for notwithstanding all my complaints, it was notorious to the whole Parish that my Crops were full as good, if not better than my Neighbours, and I had the mortification to find, that in spite of all my predictions of Poverty, my income was every Year increasing. Something more, therefore, was to be done, some new plan must be struck out; and in a lucky moment I hit upon the wisest scheme imaginable. — I determined to marry, and in consequence of this resolution, soon after led to the Altar m first Cousin, Miss Fanny Fretful. — People may say this or that about Matrimony, for my part I shall always speak of the honourable state of Wedlock with due reverence, and can safely say, it was by far the happiest part of my life So exemplary indeed was the conduct of my better half, that far from suffering me to feel a moment’s Ennui, she kept my Genius in a continual exercise; and had she inadvertently let one Sun rise and set without thoroughly rattling the whole Family, and myself into the bargain, would have thought, like a Roman Emperor, she had lost a day.
Such, Mr. Loiterer, were my Halcyon days of Matrimony, much too happy to be lasting; for with grief I must write, with you, I hope, will read with emotion, that my dear Fanny (the delicacy of whose frame was unequal to her continual mental and vocal exertions) soon fretted herself into a decline, and scolded her last in the arms of her disconsolate Husband, about three Years after our Union commenced. I scarce need add, that after this moment I have never known happiness, for alas! What have Ito complain of? Or whom can I vent my complaints to? — It is true, indeed, that I have since made one expiring effort in favour of my old custom, and endeavoured to excite the pity of my Neighbours (when they come to condole with me) by assuring them that my sufferings have at length had a dreadful effect on my health, and that I am really in a very poor way — But all in vain — they will fancy the ravenous appetite with which I devour my breakfast, dinner and supper, is rather the proof of health and strength than the mark of a disordered Stomach; mistake the lethargy with which I am often seized, when sitting alone by the first side in my elbow chair, for the natural effect of exercise and fatigue; nor have all my assertions been yet sufficient to convince them, that the florid colour of my cheek is only a hectic fever. — Considering, therefore, all the above-mentioned circumstances, Mr, Loiterer, you will, I think, no longer wonder at the melancholy assertion with which I began this letter, or think me impertinent in applying to you for advice and assistance in so peculiar an emergency. — A man of your profound learning has doubtless heard of the Emperor, who having nothing, but the care of the world upon his hands, (poor man) was so put to his shifts to know what to do with himself, that he publicly offered a very large sum to any citizen, who should be ingeniou5 enough to find out a new species of pleasure. — It is not indeed in my power to offer so liberal a reward, but I do assure you, I shall esteem myself eternally obliged to you, if you will be so good as to furnish me with some new subject of complaint; till when,
I am, Sir,
Your humble Servant,
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