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ject. One had sweated at the sight of it, another had smelled it out as it lay concealed in a very distant cupboard ; and he who crowned the whole set of these stories, reckoned up the number of times in which it had occasioned him to swoon away. last,' says he,' that you may all be satisfied of my invincible aversion to a cat, I shall give an unanswerable instance. As I was going through a street of London, where I never had been until then, I felt a general damp and faintness all over me, which I could not tell how to account for, until I chanced to cast my eyes upwards, and found that I was passing under a sign-post on which the picture of a cat was hung.' The extravagance of this turn in the way
of prise gave a stop to the talk we had been carrying
Some were silent because they doubted, and others because they were conquered in their own way; so that the gentleman had an opportunity to press the belief of it upon us, and let us see that he was rather exposing himself than ridiculing others.
I must freely own that I did not all this while disbelieve every thing that was said; but yet I thought some in the company had been endeavouring who should pitch the bar farthest; that it had for some time been a measuring cast, and at last my friend of the cat and sign-post had thrown beyond them all.
I then considered the manner in which this story had been received, and the possibility that it might have passed for a jest upon others, if he had not laboured against himself. From hence, thought I, there are two ways which the well-bred world generally takes to correct such a practice, when they do not think fit to contradict it flatly.
The first of these is a general silence, which I would not advise any one to interpret in his own behalf. It is often the effect of prudence in avoid, ing a quarrel, when they see another drive so fast that there is no stopping him without being run against; and but very seldom the effect of weakness in believing suddenly. The generality of mankind are not so grossly ignorant, as some overbearing spirits would persuade themselves; and if the authority of a character or a caution against danger make us suppress our opinions, yet neither of these are of force enough to suppress our thoughts of them. If a man who has endeavoured to amuse his company with improbabilities could but look into their minds, he would find that they imagine he lightly esteems of their sense when he thinks to impose upon them, and that he is less esteemed by them for his attempt in doing so. His endeavour to glory at their expense becomes a ground of quarrel, and the scorn and indifference with which they entertain it begins the immediate punishment: and indeed (if we should even' go no farther) silence, or a negligent indifference, has a deeper way of wounding than opposition, because opposition proceeds from an anger that has a sort of generous sentiment for the adversary mingling along with it, while it shews that there is some esteem in your mind for him : in short, that you think him worth while to contest with. But silence, or a negligent indifference, proceeds from anger, mixed with a scorn that shews another he is thought by you too contemptible to be regarded.
The other method which the world has taken for correcting this practice of false surprise, is to overshoot such talkers in their own bow, or to raise the story with farther degrees of impossibility, and set up for a voucher to them in such a manner as must let them see they stand detected. Thus I have heard a discourse was once managed upon the effects of fear. One of the company had given an account how it had turned his friend's hair gray in a night, while the terrors of a shipwreck encompassed him. Another, taking the hint from hence, began upon his own knowledge to enlarge his instances of the like nature to such a number, that it was not probable he could ever have met with them: and as he still grounded these upon different causes for the sake of variety, it might seem at last, from his share of the conversation, almost impossible that any one who can feel the passion of fear should all his life escape so common an effect of it. By this time some of the company grew negligent, or desirous to contradict him; but one rebuked the rest with an appearance of severity, and, with the known old story in his head, assured them they need not scruple to believe that the fear of any thing can make a man's hair gray, since he knew one whose periwig had suffered so by it. Thus he stopped the talk, and made them easy. Thus is the same method taken to bring us to shame, which we fondly take to increase our character. It is indeed a kind of mimicry, by which another puts on our air of conversation to shew us to ourselves. He seems to look ridiculous before you, that you may remember how near a resemblance you bear to him, or that
know he will not lie under the imputation of believing you. Then it is that you are struck dumb immediately with a conscientious shame for what you have been saying. Then it is that you are inwardly grieved at the sentiments which you cannot but perceive others entertain concerning you. In short, you are against yourself; the laugh of the company runs against you; the censuring world is obliged to you for that triumph which you have allowed them at your own expense; and truth, which you have injured, has a near way of being revenged on you, when by the bare repetition of your story you become a frequent diversion for the public.
• MR. SPECTATOR, * The other day, walking in Pancras churchyard, I thought of your paper wherein you mention epitaphs, and am of opinion this has a thought in it worth being communicated to your readers.
Here innocence and beauty lies, whose breath
I am, Sir, your servant.'
N° 539. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1712.
Heteroclita sunto.-QUÆ GENUS.
Be they heteroclites. • MR. SPECTATOR, • I am a young widow of a good fortune and family, and just come to town; where I find I have clusters of pretty fellows come already to visit me, some dying with hopes, others with fears, though they never saw me. Now, what I would beg of you would be to know whether I may venture to use these pert fellows with the same freedom as I did my country acquaintance. I desire your leave to use them as to me shall seem meet, without imputation of a jilt; for since I make declaration that not one of them shall have me, I think I ought to be allowed the liberty of insulting those who have the vanity to believe it is in their power to make me break that resolution. There are schools for learning to use foils, frequented by those who never de
sign to fight; and this useless way of aiming at the heart, without design to wound it on either side, is the play with which I am resolved to divert myself. The man who pretends to win, I shall use like him who comes into a fencing-school to pick a quarrel. I hope upon this foundation you will give me the free use of the natural and artificial force of my eyes, looks, and gestures. As for verbal promises, I will make none, but shall have no mercy on the conceited interpreters of glances and motions. I am particularly skilled in the downcast eye, and the recovery into a sudden full aspect and away again, as you may have seen sometimes practised by us country beauties beyond all that you have observed in courts and cities. Add to this, Sir, that I have a ruddy heedless look, which covers artifice the best of any thing. Though I can dance very well, I affect a tottering untaught way of walking, by which I
appear an easy prey; and never exert my instructed charms, until I find I have engaged a pursuer. Be pleased, Sir, to print this letter, which will certainly begin the chase of a rich widow. The many foldings, escapes, returns, and doublings, which I make, I shall from time to time communicate to you, for the better instruction of all females, who set up, like me, for reducing the present exorbitant power and insolence of man. I am, Sir,
Your faithful correspondent,
• DEAR MR. SPECTATOR, ' I depend upon your professed respect for virtuous love for your immediately answering the design of this letter ; which is no other than to lay before the world the severity of certain parents, who desire to suspend the marriage of a discreet young woman of eighteen three years longer, for no other