Tatler 1, April 12, 1709 (Steele)

No. 1.

Tuesday, April 12, 1709.

Quicquid agunt homines … nostri farrago libelli.
Juv., Sat. I. 85, 86.

* * * * *

Though the other papers which are published for the use of the good
people of England have certainly very wholesome effects, and are
laudable in their particular kinds, yet they do not seem to come up to
the main design of such narrations, which, I humbly presume, should be
principally intended for the use of politic persons, who are so public
spirited as to neglect their own affairs to look into transactions of
State. Now these gentlemen, for the most part, being men of strong zeal
and weak intellects, it is both a charitable and necessary work to offer
something, whereby such worthy and well-affected members of the
commonwealth may be instructed, after their reading, what to think;
which shall be the end and purpose of this my paper: wherein I shall
from time to time report and consider all matters of what kind soever
that shall occur to me, and publish such my advices and reflections
every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in the week for the convenience
of the post. I have also resolved to have something which may be of
entertainment to the fair sex, in honour of whom I have taken the title
of this paper. I therefore earnestly desire all persons, without
distinction, to take it in for the present gratis, and hereafter at the
price of one penny, forbidding all hawkers to take more for it at their
peril. And I desire my readers to consider, that I am at a very great
charge for proper materials for this work, as well as that before I
resolved upon it, I had settled a correspondence in all parts of the
known and knowing world. And forasmuch as this globe is not trodden upon
by mere drudges of business only, but that men of spirit and genius are
justly to be esteemed as considerable agents in it, we shall not, upon a
dearth of news, present you with musty foreign edicts, or dull
proclamations, but shall divide our relation of the passages which occur
in action or discourse throughout this town, as well as elsewhere, under
such dates of places as may prepare you for the matter you are to
expect, in the following manner:

All accounts of gallantry, pleasure, and entertainment, shall be under
the article of White’s Chocolate-house; poetry, under that of Will’s
Coffee-house; learning, under the title of Grecian; foreign and
domestic news, you will have from St. James’s Coffee-house; and what
else I shall on any other subject offer, shall be dated from my own

I once more desire my readers to consider that as I cannot keep an
ingenious man to go daily to Will’s under twopence each day merely
for his charges, to White’s under sixpence, nor to the Grecian
without allowing him some plain Spanish, to be as able as others at
the learned table; and that a good observer cannot speak with even
Kidney at St. James’s without clean linen; I say, these
considerations will, I hope, make all persons willing to comply with my
humble request (when my gratis stock is exhausted) of a penny a piece;
especially since they are sure of some proper amusement, and that it is
impossible for me to want means to entertain them, having, besides the
helps of my own parts, the power of divination, and that I can, by
casting a figure, tell you all that will happen before it comes to pass.

But this last faculty I shall use very sparingly, and not speak of
anything until it is passed, for fear of divulging matters which may
offend our superiors.

White’s Chocolate-house, April 11.

The deplorable condition of a very pretty gentleman, who walks here at
the hours when men of quality first appear, is what is very much
lamented. His history is, that on the 9th of September, 1705, being in
his one and twentieth year, he was washing his teeth at a tavern window
in Pall Mall, when a fine equipage passed by, and in it a young lady,
who looked up at him; away goes the coach, and the young gentleman
pulled off his nightcap, and instead of rubbing his gums, as he ought to
do out of the window till about four o’clock, he sits him down, and
spoke not a word till twelve at night; after which, he began to inquire,
if anybody knew the lady. The company asked, “What lady?” But he said no
more until they broke up at six in the morning. All the ensuing winter
he went from church to church every Sunday, and from play-house to
play-house all the week, but could never find the original of the
picture which dwelt in his bosom. In a word, his attention to anything
but his passion, was utterly gone. He has lost all the money he ever
played for, and been confuted in every argument he has entered upon
since the moment he first saw her. He is of a noble family, has
naturally a very good air, and is of a frank, honest temper: but this
passion has so extremely mauled him, that his features are set and
uninformed, and his whole visage is deadened by a long absence of
thought. He never appears in any alacrity, but when raised by wine; at
which time he is sure to come hither, and throw away a great deal of wit
on fellows, who have no sense further than just to observe, that our
poor lover has most understanding when he is drunk, and is least in his
senses when he is sober.

Will’s Coffee-house, April 8.

On Thursday last was presented, for the benefit of Mr.
Betterton, the celebrated comedy, called “Love for Love.”Those
excellent players, Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Bracegirdle, and Mr.
Doggett, though not at present concerned in the house, acted on that
occasion. There has not been known so great a concourse of persons of
distinction as at that time; the stage itself was covered with gentlemen
and ladies, and when the curtain was drawn, it discovered even there a
very splendid audience. This unusual encouragement, which was given to a
play for the advantage of so great an actor, gives an undeniable
instance, that the true relish for manly entertainments and rational
pleasures is not wholly lost. All the parts were acted to perfection;
the actors were careful of their carriage, and no one was guilty of the
affectation to insert witticisms of his own, but a due respect was had
to the audience, for encouraging this accomplished player. It is not now
doubted but plays will revive, and take their usual place in the opinion
of persons of wit and merit, notwithstanding their late apostacy in
favour of dress and sound. This place is very much altered since Mr.
Dryden frequented it; where you used to see songs, epigrams, and satires
in the hands of every man you met, you have now only a pack of cards;
and instead of the cavils about the turn of the expression, the elegance
of the style, and the like, the learned now dispute only about the truth
of the game. But, however the company is altered, all have shown a great
respect for Mr. Betterton: and the very gaming part of this house have
been so much touched with a sense of the uncertainty of human affairs
(which alter with themselves every moment) that in this gentleman, they
pitied Mark Antony of Rome, Hamlet of Denmark, Mithridates of Pontus,
Theodosius of Greece, and Henry the Eighth of England. It is well known
he has been in the condition of each of those illustrious personages for
several hours together, and behaved himself in those high stations, in
all the changes of the scene, with suitable dignity. For these reasons,
we intend to repeat this favour to him on a proper occasion, lest he who
can instruct us so well in personating feigned sorrows, should be lost
to us by suffering under real ones. The town is at present in very great
expectation of seeing a comedy now in rehearsal, which is the
twenty-fifth production of my honoured friend Mr. Thomas D’Urfey;
who, besides his great abilities in the dramatic, has a peculiar talent
in the lyric way of writing, and that with a manner wholly new and
unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, wherein he is but faintly
imitated in the translations of the modern Italian operas.

St. James’s Coffee-house, April 11.

Letters from the Hague of the 16th say, that Major-General Cadogan
was gone to Brussels, with orders to disperse proper instructions for
assembling the whole force of the allies in Flanders in the beginning of
the next month. The late offers concerning peace were made in the
style of persons who think themselves upon equal terms. But the allies
have so just a sense of their present advantages, that they will not
admit of a treaty, except France offers what is more suitable to her
present condition. At the same time we make preparations, as if we were alarmed by a greater force than that which we are carrying into thefield. Thus this point seems now to be argued sword in hand. This was
what a great general alluded to, when being asked the names of those
who were to be plenipotentiaries for the ensuing peace, answered, with a serious air, “There are about a hundred thousand of us.” Mr. Kidney, who has the ear of the greatest politicians that come hither, tells me,
there is a mail come in to-day with letters, dated Hague, April 19,
N.S., which say, a design of bringing part of our troops into the field
at the latter end of this month, is now altered to a resolution of
marching towards the camp about the 20th of the next. There happened the
other day, in the road of Scheveling, an engagement between a privateer
of Zealand and one of Dunkirk. The Dunkirker, carrying 33 pieces of
cannon, was taken and brought into the Texel. It is said, the courier of
Monsieur Rouillé is returned to him from the Court of France.
Monsieur Vendôme being reinstated in the favour of the Duchess of
Burgundy, is to command in Flanders.

Mr. Kidney added, that there were letters of the 17th from Ghent, which
give an account, that the enemy had formed a design to surprise two
battalions of the allies which lay at Alost; but those battalions
received advice of their march, and retired to Dendermond.
Lieutenant-General Wood appeared on this occasion at the head of
5000 foot, and 1000 horse, upon which the enemy withdrew, without making
any further attempt.

From my own Apartment.

I am sorry I am obliged to trouble the public with so much discourse
upon a matter which I at the very first mentioned as a trifle–viz. the
death of Mr. Partridge, under whose name there is an almanack come
out for the year 1709, in one page of which it is asserted by the said
John Partridge, that he is still living, and that not only so, but that
he was also living some time before, and even at the instant when I writ
of his death. I have in another place, and in a paper by itself,
sufficiently convinced this man that he is dead, and if he has any
shame, I don’t doubt but that by this time he owns it to all his
acquaintance: for though the legs and arms, and whole body of that man may still appear and perform their animal functions; yet since, as I
have elsewhere observed, his art is gone, the man is gone. I am, as I
said, concerned, that this little matter should make so much noise; but
since I am engaged, I take myself obliged in honour to go on in my
lucubrations, and by the help of these arts of which I am master, as
well as my skill in astrological speculations, I shall, as I see
occasion, proceed to confute other dead men, who pretend to be in being,
that they are actually deceased. I therefore give all men fair warning
to mend their manners, for I shall from time to time print bills of
mortality; and I beg the pardon of all such who shall be named therein,
if they who are good for nothing shall find themselves in the number of
the deceased.