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N° 58. merely for the sake of the joke. Under proper regulations such valiant gentlemen would certainly be of use. I had lately some thoughts of recommending to the justices, to list the bloods among those brave, resolute fellows employed as thief-takers. But they may now serve nobler purposes in the army: And what may we not expect from such intrepid heroes, who, for want of opportunity to exert their prowess in warlike skirmishes abroad, have been obliged to give vent to their courage by breaking the peace at home?
Every one will agree with me, that those men of honour, who make fighting their business, and cannot let their swords rest quietly in their scabbards, should be obliged to draw them in the service of his Majesty. What might we not expect from these furious Drawcansirs, if, instead of cutting one another's throats, their skill in arms was properly turned against the enemy! A very little discipline would make them admirable soldiers: for (as Mercutio says) they are already" the very butchers of a silk button." I have known one of these duellists, to keep his hand in, employ himself every morning in thrusting at a bit of paper stuck against the wainscot; and I have heard another boast, that he could snuff a candle with his pistol. These gentlemen are, therefore, very fit to be employed in close engagements: But it will be necessary to keep them in continual action; for otherwise they would breed a kind of civil war among themselves, and, rather than not fight at all, turn their weapons upon one another.
Several Irish brigades, not inferior to those of the same country in the service of the French king, may be formed out of those able-bodied men, which are called fortune hunters. The attacks of these dauntless heroes have, indeed, been chiefly levelled at the other sex; but employment may be found for these amorous knight-errants, suitable to their known firmness and
intrepidity; particularly in taking places by storm, where there is a necessity for ravishing virgins, and committing outrages upon the women.
But among the many useless members of society, there are none so unprofitable as the fraternity of gamesters. I therefore think, that their time would be much better employed in handling a musquet, than in shuffling a pack of cards, or shaking the dice box. As to the Sharpers, it is a pity that the same dexterity which enables them to palm an ace or cog a die, is not used by them in going through the manual exercise in the military way. These latter might, indeed, be employed as marines, or stationed in the West Indies; as many of them have already crost the seas, and are perfectly well acquainted with the plantations.
The last proposal, which I have to make on this subject, is to take the whole body of Free-thinkers into the service. For this purpose I would impress all the members of the Robin Hood Society; and, in consideration of his great merit, I would further advise, that the Clare-Market Orator should be made Chaplain to the regiment. One of the favourite tenets of a Free-thinker is, that all men are in a natural state of warfare with each other: nothing, therefore, is so proper for him, as to be actually engaged in war. As he has no squeamish notions about what will become of him hereafter, he can have no fears about death: I would, therefore always have the Freethinkers put upon the most dangerous exploits, exposed to the greatest heat of battle, and sent upon the forlorn hope. For, since they confess that they are born into the world for no end whatever, and that they shall be nothing after death, it is but justice, that they should be annihilated for the good of their country.
N° 59. THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 1755.
Monstra evenerunt mihi!
Introiit in ædes a er alienus canis !
Anguis per impluvium decidit de tegulis!
What unlucky prodigies have befallen us! A strange black dog came into the house! A snake fell from the tiles through the sky-light! An hen crowed!
MR. VILLAGE TO MR. TOWN.
March 3, 1755.
I WAS greatly entertained with your late reflections on the several branches of magic employed in the affairs of love. I have myself been very lately among the seers of visions and dreamers of dreams; and hope you will not be displeased at an account of portents and prognostics full as extravagant, though they are not all owing to the same cause, as those of your correspond. ent Miss Arabella Whimsey. You must know, Cousin, that I am just returned from a visit of a fortnight to an old aunt in the North; where I was mightily diverted with the traditional superstitions, which are most religiously preserved in the family, as they have been delivered down (time out of mind) from their sagacious grandmothers.
When I arrived, I found the mistress of the house very busily employed with her two daughters in nailing a horse-shoe to the threshold of the door. This, they told me, was to guard against the spiteful designs of an old woman, who was a witch, and had threatened
to do the family a mischief, because one of my young cousins laid two straws across, to see if the old hag could walk over them. The young lady herself assured me, that she had several times heard Goody Cripple muttering to herself; and to be sure she was saying the Lord's prayer backwards. Besides, the old woman had very often asked them for a pin: but they took care never to give her any thing that was sharp, because she should not bewitch them. They afterwards told me many other particulars of this kind, the same as are mentioned with infinite humour by the Spectator: and to confirm them, they assured me, that the eldest miss, when she was little, used to have fits, till the mother flung a knife at another old witch, (whom the devil had carried off in a high wind) and fetched blood from her.
When I was to go to bed, my aunt made a thousand apologies for not putting me in the best room in the house; which (she said) had never been lain in, since the death of an old washer-woman, who walked every night, and haunted that room in particular. They fancied that the old woman had hid money somewhere, and could not rest till she had told somebody; and my cousin assured me, that she might have had it all to herself; for the spirit came one night to her bed-side and wanted to tell her, but she had not courage to speak to it. I learned also, that they had a footman once, who hanged himself for love; and he walked for a great while, till they got the parson to lay him in the
I had not been here long, when an accident happened, which very much alarmed the whole family. Towzer one night howled most terribly; which was a sure sign, that somebody belonging to them would die. The youngest miss declared, that she had heard the hen crow that morning; which was another fatal prognostic. They told me, that just before uncle
died, Towser howled so for several nights together, that they could not quiet him; and my aunt heard the death-watch tick as plainly, as if there had been a clock in the room: the maid too, who sat up with him, heard a bell toll at the top of the stairs, the very moment the breath went out of his body. During this discourse, I over-heard one of my cousins whisper the other, that she was afraid their mamma would not live long; for she smelt an ugly smell like a dead carcass. They had a dairy maid, who died the very week after an herse had stopped at their door in it's way to church: and the eldest miss, when she was but thirteen, saw her own brother's ghost, (who was gone to the West Indies) walking in the garden; and to be sure, nine months after, they had an account, that he died on board the ship, the very same day, and hour of the day, that miss saw his apparition.
I need not mention to you the common incidents, which were accounted by them no less prophetic. If a cinder popped from the fire, they were in haste to examine whether it was a purse or a coffin. They were aware of my coming long before I arrived, because they had seen a stranger on the grate. The youngest miss will let nobody use the poker but herself; because, when she stirs the fire, it always burns bright, which is a sign she will have a bright husband: and she is no less sure of a good one, because she generally has ill luck at cards. Nor is the candle less oracular than the fire: for the squire of the parish came one night to pay them a visit, when the tallow winding-sheet pointed towards him; and he broke his neck soon after in a fox chase. My aunt one night observed with great pleasure a letter in the candle; and she hoped it would be from her son in London. We knew, when a spirit was in the room, by the candle burning blue: but poor ccusin Nancy was ready to cry one time, when she snuffed it out and could not blow it in again, though her sister