L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by Messrs. PRINCE and COOKE, 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, February 6, 1790.
Quid faciam Romæ? JUVENAL.
To the AUTHOR of the LOITERER.
Mr. LOITERER,I Succeeded in my twenty-third year to a small paternal estate in a remote corner of the kingdom, where I have since passed forty years without finding any part of them hang heavy on my hands, and which I last Spring reluctantly quitted, to spend a few days in Town, where my presence was rendered necessary by a law suit, the decision of which was of great importance to my Family. — I will not deny but the first fortnight passed off tolerably well; I felt myself agreeable entertained at the places of public festivity, and enjoyed a still higher pleasure in the society of two or three old Acquaintance, with whom I talked over our School-boy tricks, and Oxford Schemes, with a degree of pleasure which perhaps we never experienced from the actual execution of either, — Short, however, was the time, during which any thing could render a life of irregularity, noise, and hurry, tolerable to one, who had passed forty years in the enjoyment of tranquility, health, and leisure.
The late hours which even the most orderly are obliged to keep, the Strange mixture of modem society, where they are all Acquaintance and no Friends, and the general dissipation of all ranks, together with some untoward accidents, which protracted my law suit far beyond the expected time, made me SO completely disgusted with London, that for the last week I never closed my eyes without mentally exclaiming, “Oh, Rus quando te aspiciam!”
One day as I was returning from Westminster-Hall, inwardly fretting of the chicane of the law, and good-naturedly giving all its professors to the Devil, I Was struck with the title of your Paper, which cut a most conspicuous figure, as it lay in the window of your Publisher, Mr. Egerton, at Whitehall.
As I had been all my life a kind of Loiterer, and was then more particularly one, I immediately purchased all the Numbers, and have regularly taken it in ever since. I will not hurt your modesty by expatiating on the pleasure I received from your Publication in general, and shall only observe, that I was more particularly pleased with the history of your correspondent Agrestis; whose adventures are recorded in your 38th and 39th Numbers, and which indeed had principally induced me to trouble you with this Letter, imagining that our similarity of thinking would entitle the Writer to your approbation, if not the Work to your acceptance. But to return to my subject — In process of time, after various motions and adjournments, my cause finally came on; and my Counsel (to do him justice) having in a learned Speech, of two hours, proved to the satisfaction of the court, that black was not white, a verdict with complete costs of suit was given in my favour; an event which I assure you scarce gave me so much pleasure, as the idea of escaping from the regions of ceremony and smoke, and revisiting my small but neat cottage, whose attractions I am unfashionable enough to think improved by the society of an amiable woman, and a large circle of affectionate children.
So eager, indeed, was I to quit a place to which half the British nation appear to be running, that I ordered Peter to be at the door with the horses by seven the next morning.
Peter, equally tired of London with his Master, was punctual to his time; and hastily passing through the empty and silent streets, I got clear of town before the Chimney Sweeper and the Milkmaid had commenced their early scream, to the annoyance of its peaceable and sleepy inhabitants.
It was not, however, till I had passed through those adjacent Villages, whose rows of Houses scarce broken by a few intervening nursery grounds and gardens, made the road for some miles and almost continual street, that I could be satisfied that I was fairly out of London; but having at length emerged into something like the Country, and gained a purer atmosphere, I could not forbear looking back on that immense receptacle of Dissipation, Folly, and Vice, which I had just quitted, with an emotion not much unlike those of a State Prisoner who has lately escaped from the horrors of the Bastile.
But though I could not but reflect on my own emancipation with a light hears, it was not without a melancholy sensation, that I remarked the rapidity with which the already overgrown Capital is daily extending its limits, and edging into the Country on every side. — Which way soever I turned my eyes, nothing was to be seen but building or preparations for building; new Houses, and even new Streets, rising like exhalations. — Rows of Buildings so huddled as to intercept all prospect, and Country Seats without one rural attribute. So numerous, indeed, are these excrescences of the Metropolis (which threaten in time to over-run the whole county of Middlesex, if not Surry) that used as I had been to the crowds which choke the streets of London, I was at first at a loss to imagine where a sufficient number of Occupiers could be found, and could not help hoping that the Proprietors would lose the interest of their money.
But of the fallaciousness of this idea, from some observations which I made in my journey, I was soon completely convinced. The numerous equipages of Country Gentlemen hurrying with their families up to Town, together with the deserted appearance of the Mansions on each side of the road (whose unweeded court-yards and smokeless chimnies sufficiently attested to the absence of their owners) were full proofs that London and its environs were in no danger of wanting Inhabitants.
When I contemplated, indeed, the immense crowd of Emigrants of different ranks and ages, who in various conveyances were posting up to Town; from the glaring and splendid equipage of the new-made Peer, to the low-hung chariot of the ‘Squire, I could scarcely help exclaiming (like Sterne in the Desobligeante) Alas! My Countrymen, where are you running to?
Nor were the bad effects of this fashionable migration confined only to themselves, their Folly would be scarce worth combating, for they whose Perverted Taste induces them to prefer the smokey glare of Flambeaux and Lamps, the Vertigo of Dissipation, or the Frenzy of Play, to the simply beauties of Nature, when enlivened by the vivid tints of Spring, or softened by the mellow gleams of Autumn, deserve to experience its certain Consequences, increased Mortgages, ruined Health, and disunited Families. — But the worst part of the story is the torment and inconvenience they occasion to their more humble or more prudent neighbours, during the period which the emptiness of London obliges them to spend at their Mansions in the Country; where they consta1tly take care to be as assuming, ill-bred, and vicious as the possibly can, in order to convince their acquaintance that they have not spent their time and money to no purpose. — For nothing can exceed the alteration which a Journey to London causes in every part of a Country Gentleman’s family. An alteration which is not confined to a few supernumerary inches in the crown of a hat, or the protuberance of a handkerchief; but extends itself to the more important articles of Opinions, Conversation, and Manners. The Heir Apparent, whose ambition has been hitherto satisfied by sporting a smarter Coat, or a lighter pair of Boots, than his neighbours, and whose gallantry had been confined to a game of Romps, or snatching a kiss from his Cousins, now no longer comes into a room with a sheepish bow to every one in it, or sits in a corner twirling his thumbs or playing with his handkerchief, but lounges in with a most fashionable Nonchalance, throws himself upon a sofa, or takes his station before the fire, arid without the least regard to the feelings of the audience, entertains himself by giving them an account of the noble company with whom he has got drunk at the Shakespeare, made riots at Covent-Garden, and slept in the Round-House declares the Duke of —— is one of the honestest dogs in England, but assures them there is not the least truth in the cruel report of an intrigue between him and the beautiful Lady ****. Nor are the daughters in the least behind their brother in displaying their Town acquirements; they too have got rid of their rustic modesty Mauvaise honte, — they too have kept great company, flirted with Earls and Knights, Members of Parliament, and Colonels of the Guards; can repeat the scandal of the most fashionable Coteries, and hint that they shall soon be made Members of the Bas Blue. Nay, even the Squire and his Lady, who (excepting a small propensity to quarrel about Game and Precedence, and to go warm at Backgammon and Whist) were quite good kind of people, now affect to lay down the law to their little circle, and instruct their ignorant country neighbours in politics, Literature, and Dress. These are, indeed, very valuable attainments, and perhaps not dearly purchased at the price of a little Virtue and Sense, Health and Freshness, especially as the bloom of the young Ladies may be so easily repaired. Yet, I know not how it happens, but I have seldom observed them produce those happy effects, which might rationally be expected from qualifications so hard to be attained, and of such intrinsic value. For such is the perverseness and the ingratitude of human Nature, that the display of all this superabundant knowledge and politeness, oftener excites transient admiration rather than permanent esteem, and the only good effects which a Journey to London produces on these occasions are confined to the happy family themselves, who generally feel pretty lasting ones; since the Sons pass their youth without knowledge and without credit, and the Daughters grow old without Fortune, without Reputation, and without Husbands. Considering therefore the matter impartially, I passed in my own thoughts this unanimous resolution, That the undue influence of London has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. Nor could I avoid wishing a law passed, by which every British subject of each sex should be forbid entering the Metropolis, unless they first shewed just and satisfactory cause for their journey, This thought, the indulgence of which beguiled a tedious day’s journey, and a solitary evening at the inn, pursued me in my sleep, and produced one of those Dreams which really denote a Foregone Conclusion, and of which I may perhaps send you the particulars at another opportunity, if you encourage me to do so by publishing this Letter. In the mean time
I remain yours, &c. &c.A.
N.B. This work will in future be sold by Messrs. Prince and Cooke; to whom our Correspondents are requested to direct their communications.
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