The Humourist (January 29, 1754)

Today the Humourist shows us the personal essay at its best. In response to an earlier post, someone speculated that the Humourist was Benjamin Franklin. Although he is not Ben Franklin, this essay is on a par with Franklin’s essays, and, it is filled with pithy observations that could pass for Franklin aphorisms.

Of equal importance, this essay is chock-full of clues, especially as the Humourist describes his own demeanor!

Enjoy today’s essay!

Many a Man passes in the Crowd of Life for a Philosopher, because he looks one; a Dignity of Carriage demands Respect, and if it have not the Power of bestowing, at least it makes the World believe we have, Sense. —The Humourist

[Numb. 1024]
29 January 1754

Reddere personae scit Convenientia cuique.

Sir William Temple2 somewhere says, that he knew a Statesman, that had rather have said a smart Thing than done a wise one, and whose Bent of Inclination rather prompted him to set the Company in a Horse-Laugh, than the Nation rejoice.

I believe nothing is more common, than an Affectation of this kind; the World abounds with Men of this Stamp, studious to create Mirth, as well at the Expence of particular Objects, as their own Abilities.

In the small Concerns of Life wherein I have been engaged I always found that a certain Degree of Gravity was the surest Step towards distinguishing Eminence of Station.  I hate Moroseness, yet I detest Levity; I scorn an awful untimed Distance, as much as Wantonness; but it is essentially requisite, that a proper Distinction be made between these several Qualities, otherwise Reverence sinks into Freedom, and Awe becomes Contempt.

Our Actions ought to be suited to the Nature of our Professions, and be so tempered, as that Mankind may have it in their Power to say, that we discover Courtesy at the same Time that we preserve Respect.

We are apt to start at the mere Idea of a merry Judge, or a waggish Divine; at a facetious Statesman, or a ludicrous King; the Characters no way answer to the Nature of Levity, they are inconsistent, and it is impossible to excel in any Part where Ridicule comes unseasonably.

How weak that mortal seems, who aims at distinguishing himself from the Brute Creation, by the unruly Exercise of his risible Faculties, and not by Reason!  More bright Men have fallen victims to a Misapplication of their Talents than to the Sword:  One of this Volatile Turn of Mind labours under a Variety of Disadvantages; if he proves successful in the Pointings of his Repartee, he gains as his Reward Envy, and if unhappy in the marshalling of his Wit, Ridicule; at all Events the World soon discovers his weak Stile, and this habitual Freedom deprives him of the Authority which a Solemnity of Deportment never fails to give him.

I would always have a Man carry [one line of text is illegible] or rather come half-way into the Road of Courtesy, which must denote him affable, than impetuously press to the Threshhold of every Man’s door whose Business it is to wait on him.

It is not enough for a Man to have good Qualities, unless he knows the right Oeconomy of them:  We may be endowed with Excellence superior to the rest of our Fellow Creatures, but it is not sufficient to know that we possess them; Reason informs us, we should use them:  Levity of Carriage and a Distortion of Body and Countenance upon the least Occasion of a Jest, a Jest too dependant upon the Rack of Genius to discover the most distant Approach towards Wit, argues such a Profuseness of Spirits and Misapplication of Capacity, that the general Voice of Mankind must exclaim against it.

It is a good Piece of Marshal Policy, always to keep a Body of Reserve, and to be so prepared for the Worst Emergency, as we have it in our Power to draw for Succour where Necessity requires it:  The same Rule ought to be closely observed by every Individual; give a Pledge of your sprightly Turn, but mortgage not the whole, lest the Mortagee, taking an unfair Advantage, should put you under the Necessity of applying to Equity for Redress.

It is a Matter of the nicest Prudence to please without Satiety:  It is the noblest part of Finesse, not to give Occasion to any one for his laughing at me, when my Endeavours are that he should laugh at my Jest:  Many a Man passes in the Crowd of Life for a Philosopher, because he looks one; a Dignity of Carriage demands Respect, and if it have not the Power of bestowing, at least it makes the World believe we have, Sense.

The Paradox of the wise Man of Mitilene,3 that the half is better than the whole, may bear this Application, that one half of our Abilities properly husbanded, and the other half discovered, is of more real Importance, than the whole profusely squandered.

A Relaxation of Behaviour is not amiss upon some Occasions; where it is call’d in to enliven Conversation, or when so used as neither to discompose the Mind of the Hearer or injure the Speaker; where it neither derogates from Sense or infringes on the Laws of decency; for untim’d Mirth is Ill-Nature, and Humour void of a Moral is an Argument of Weakness.


1 “He knows how to give the right part to each person” (Horace, Ars Poetica, 316).

2 Sir William Temple (1628-1699), Restoration diplomat, statesman, and essayist.  A graduate of Emmanuel College (part of the University of Cambridge), Temple wrote in a style, according to Samuel Johnson, worthy of commendation as “the first English prose to pay true attention to rhythmical cadence.”

3 Pittacus (c. 640-568 BC), one of the Seven Sages of Greece, and a native of Mytilene.

The Humourist (January 22, 1754)

Today, the Humourist explores connections between what a writer eats and what a writer writes!
Pay close attention: he continues to provide us with clues as he shows his ongoing knowledge of and interest in the ancients, in drama, and in painting.

Let every Thing have its due Place.

An Author ought to make Choice of those Subjects that best suit his Genius, and there is as cogent a Reason for dieting himself; by which Expression I would be willingly understood to mean, that an Author, ambitious of the Public Voice, should suit his Diet to the Nature of the Subject under Consideration:  Mr. Bayes, in the Rehearsal,2 acquaints us, that he always took stew’d Prunes whenever he proposed to write.

Men of the most peculiar Turn may sometimes hit upon a lucky Thought:  I own Mr. Bayes’s candid Declaration has had a surprising Effect upon me, and as I find his Scheme reducible to the nicest Point of reason, I shall eternally follow his great Example.  All the World knows what a close Connexion there is between the mental and the corporeal Faculties; consider then, what infinite Advantages an Author must consequently reap, from such a Regimen as tends to purge the Excrements of the brain:  I dare affirm, that the Song of the Old-English Roast-Beef3 was composed after an hearty Exercise of the manual Engines upon it.

The Moderns are greatly inveighed against for want of Genius, but, upon the Faith of an Honest Man, I really attribute any Defects in them as arising from their own Negligence:  If Writers and People of good natural Parts, will run headlong against the Rules of right Reason, they, sans Doute, must lie open to the Inconveniences attending this Precipitation.

A Man may with equal Propriety eat Beef and drink Porter in a Fever, as accustom himself to some particular kinds of Diet during a Course of Lucubration.

I am for a reasonable Allowance of Food, for in Truth it is full as bad to eat none, as it is to eat improperly.

I was inclined the other Day to write a Tragedy, and after being for some Time lost in Thought, and panting for Expression to paint some cruel Incidents, I threw down my inky Slave, fatally calling to mind, that I had been devouring Trifle, Flummery and Whip-Syllabub; these are too tender, too soft, to raise and animate the Passions, or assist an Author in representing the Horror of a Battle, the Clashing of Arms, or the madding Wheels of brazen Charriots:  In the midst of these Reflections, I was delivered from my Anxiety by a delightful Sentiment; happy the Moment when I first indulged it!  I ordered a large quantity of Black-puddings to be made, in order to give a proper Lentor to the Juices, and familiarize the Soul to bloody Thoughts.

If a Man has a Turn for Epigrams, I would heartily recommend to him a few Jellies of his own making, as a Means of recalling to his Mind, that an Epigram should resemble a Jelly-Bag, sharp at the End.

A Pastoral Writer must addict himself to the primitive way of living; Vegetables for his Diet, and for his Drink the purling Stream.  As for the Satyrist, he of Course must conform to Crab-Apples, Nettle-tops, and Vinegar; a fine Acid is a vast Help to a Satyr.

As I have enumerated several kinds of Food proper for the various Turns of Writers, I shall mention a few Things which are absolutely destructive to the Intellect, and ought to be avoided.

Custard is a most barbarous Thing; Trajan4 got his Death by it at Antioch, and many a good Alderman has experienced the bad Qualities accruing from too intimate a Connexion with it; I do firmly believe, that it obnubilates the Understanding and hurts the Memory:  Tom Brown gives you its Degrees, “eating of Custard first gives a Cachexy, instantly turns to a Dolor Alvi, that to a Peripneumonia in the Diaphragm, that to an Empyena in the Flandula Pinealis.”  I have totally forbid the Use of them near me, and hope that other People will endeavor to put a Stop to their Progress.

The judicious Fernelius,5 in his Diatriba de usu Microscoporum in Controversus Ecclesiastici, affirms, that Currants excite Choler, and Sugar has a bad Effect upon the Diaphragm and Aspera Arteria.

There are innumerable other Things which ought to be totally disregarded; but those above-mentioned will prevent any Man for rising as an Author, and they are as powerful in spoiling his Capacity as beheading is effectual for the Cure of the Tooth-Ach.

EPIGRAM upon a perfumed Spark.

Excuse my Bluntness Sir, but Men that smell
So much perfum’d ( I think) do not smell well.

The Humourist will not think it a Trouble to read, what the Author of the Letter to him in the last Paper, shall see fit to communicate.


1 Roscommon’s translation of line 92 from Horace’s Ars Poetica:  “Singula quæque locum teneant sortita decenter.”

2 George Villiers’ 1671 satirical play concerning a revolutionary playwright Bayes who was attempting to stage a play.

3 “The Roast Beef of Old England,” a ballad by Henry Fielding (1707-1754).

4 Marcus Ulpius Traianus, Roman emperor (AD 53-117).

5 Jean François Fernel (1497-1558), a renowned French physician who introduced the term “physiology.”

The Humourist (January 15, 1754)

In today’s writings, the Humourist is perhaps at his best!  And, joy of all joys, he continues to provide a trail of identity clues:  his knowledge of the ancients, his knowledge of history, his knowledge of literature, his love of painting, and his love of architecture!  The pieces of this “literary whodunit” are falling into place.

 But for now, read what the Humourist writes and enjoy!

15 January 1754


So ancient is the Pedigree of Verse,
And so divine a Poet’s function.

I have ever been of Opinion that dramatic Performances promote good Purposes:  They purify our Minds and enlarge our Understandings, too, tho’, of the two kinds, Tragedy tends most to our Instruction.

A good Tragedy is a noble Lecture, full fraught with the Precept and the Moral, as we find them so delightfully diffused through the whole System of Philosophy; the Mind is ennobled by the Sentiment, the Passions are rectified by the very Passions themselves, and calm, by their Emotions, the alternate Palpitations of the Heart.

There are two predominant Rulers of the Soul, Pride and Cruelty, that stand in need of Regulation; this particular Branch of the Drama alone, so tempers the Affections, and subdues the unruly Operations of the Mind, that Pride starts at its own Authority, and Cruelty softly graduates into the sweet Path of kind Compassion.

If we turn over the Records of Drama, we shall find, that it is a first Principle to promote Modesty; and there is certainly no Method so effectual, as that of enforcing our Doctrine by Examples, by figuring to Mankind the most splendid Stations of Life, and representing the Heroes of the World humbled, by those very Acts of Heroism which rather distinguished an ambitious than a virtuous Impulse.

It requires no small Experience of Mankind, to be made acquainted with those Occurrences of Life, that are necessary in order to guard against the first risings of Evil.

The tragic Scene represents to us the Necessity of Tenderness on the one Hand, and that kind Compassion which dictates a proper Distinction of Misfortunes on the other, and teaches us to spare our Pity for those only who deserve it.  There is undoubtedly an Injustice, in being moved for that Man whose Behaviour can intitle him only to Disgrace.  Who does not take a secret Pleasure in beholding Clytemnestra sinking into the Arms of Death, after having committed a Murder of an heinous Nature?  When I say that she kill’d her Husband Agamemnon, my Pen denies its Master, my Hand forgets its Function, and every Faculty of the Soul its distinct and separate Operation.2

The Origin of Tragedy was purely a religious Worship, but afterwards it descended from the Temples to the Theatre, ’till it was allayed by secular Direction, and served as just Image and Representation of human Life.

Athens was the fostering Soil for dramatick Poetry; there it blossom’d and pour’d forth its Fruity; and who can wonder at the Veneration Tragedy was held even in those early Days, when we consider that Athens was the Place for more than Wit, solid Learning.

A Tragedy is, or ought to be, interesting; and where it is so, the Judgment furnishes us with those variety of Passions that will not suffer the Mind to lie lull’d supine, or easy.  Whatever may become the Brave, or the Unfortunate; whatever may agree with the Indulgence of a kind Parent, or a faithful Friend, are nobly displayed in Performances of this Nature; nothing discovering that close Connexion between Poets and Painters more graphically than the different Peinture they excel in, the one in the outward Lineaments of the Face and Body, the other in the inward Temperament of the Mind.

The Drama is always new, because it always affects; there is no Argoment of such Weight in favour of Tenderness, as the being moved and excited at the Occurrences of a good Play.

It was always esteemed by the Ancients:  If Lycurgus was a Law-giver and Patron, Solon was a Brother to the Muses; if Alexander made Homer his nocturnal Pillow, it as because the Story bordered so nearly on dramatick Writings.3 There runs the true Spirit of real Life and Action through the whole.

If these Efforts of the Genius were so regarded by the Ancients, and look’d upon with an Eye of Reverence, I might justly add Adoration, we Moderns are every way justified in imbibing the same Notions, and embracing the same Sentiments.

I am now speaking of those Plays whose Story forms a Moral:  I cannot be supposed to mean otherwise, nor can any Man of sense; because Immorality and Vice are the Refuge of those People only, who stand in need of better Endowments, a Good Genius and an honest Soul.

15 January 1754


Ridentem dicere verum,
Quid vetat.                           HOR.4


As I have always held those who practice Physic in great Contempt, it gave me much Pleasure to find my Opinion of that Profession confirmed, not only by the Judgment of Pope Adrian the VIth, but by the Humourist himself.  You indeed are benevolent enough, to allow them a greater Share of inward and outward Knowledge than most of them have a Right to; but, granting they had all you are pleased to bestow on them, how badly do they conform to the Lesson of the Oracle; for we have Reason to conclude, from their Behaviour, that they trouble their Heads as little with an Inspection into their own moral Conduct, as with an honest Concern for the Welfare of their their Patients.  I have the Honour likewise to agree, in the Main, with his Holiness, in his political Opinion of the Tribe, for were it not for the Physician, Men would live so long, and grow so THICK, that ONE could not live for the OTHER; and he makes the Earth cover all his Faults.5  I say, my judgment is the same, in the Main, with this good Pope’s, as shall be made appear afterwards; but a small Dilemma occurs, for I cannot, without shuddering, think of the miserable Condition of Men, did they live so long, and grow so thick, that ONE could not LIVE for the OTHER, for in that Case, it seems, that every Mother’s Son of them must surely die, and at the same Time too (when one could not longer live for the other); or else, the least ill Consequence would be, that the small ones would be trodden down and crushed to Death in the Croud by the great ones; but we are in no Danger of any such Misfortune (if there is no Solecism in the Pope’s Words) for Physic steps in and luckily prevents it.  What he says is literarally true, that were it not for the Physician, Men would live long, and might grow THICK too, for indeed, Mr. Humourist, what Man can live long, and grow thick, under a Diet of Pills, Boluses, Sage-Tea, and Water-Gruel? I will venture an even Wager, that any Man, be he ever so thick, will grow thin and dwindle under such a Regimen; nay more, that he will not live long:  The Experiment may easily be tried on yourself, if you prove too thick for your thin Aerial Mansion.  It seems very just likewise, that the Physician should finish his Work, by burying the Dead, and make the Earth cover all his Faults; and it is probable, it was formerly his Duty so to do, as it is Jack-catch’s at present; but I fear their Fees would be too high for this Office, and many of the Poor might life and rot above Ground, wherefore this shall not be insisted on.  It plainly appears then, from what You, Pope Adrian, and Myself have said, that Physic is so far from being a desireable Profession, either in a moral or political Sense, that it is destructive, and aims at the Extirpation of the human Species:  To say more of it, would be superfluous.  Law, on the other Hand, is unerring in its Decisions; for, who ever found himself aggrieved by its Decrees, which the most obstinate must not acquiesce in; and why should he not?  sure, what it decrees must be just?  It must also be granted, that Divinity would be of some Use to the World, if Men would but root out the Corruption of the Hearts, that they might profit by the Doctrine and Example of the Professors of it, but ’till that can be done, much Good, I fear, is not to be expected from it.

The following Doggrel Lines, were composed by some snarling Fellow, who seems to have been no Friend to either of the Professions, but such as they are, you are welcome to them.


     Law, Physic, and Divinity,
Being in dispute, could not agree,
To settle, which, among the three,
Should have the superiority.

     Law pleads, that he preserves men’s lands,
And all their goods, from rav’nous hands;
Therefore of right challenges He,
To have the superiority.

     Physic prescribes receipts for health
Which men prefer above their Wealth;
Therefore of right challenges He,
To have the superiority.

     Then strait steps up the Priest demure,
Who of men’s souls takes care and cure;
Therefore of right challenges He,
To have the superiority.

     If Judges end this triple Plea,
The Lawyers shall bear all the sway,
If Empiricks their verdict give,
Physicians best of all shall thrive;

     If Bishops arbitrate the case,
The Priest shall have the highest place.
If honest, sober, wise men judge,
Then all the three away may trudge.

     For let men live in peace and love,
The Lawyer’s tricks they need not prove;
Let them avoid excess and riot,
They need not feed on Doctor’s diet.

     Let them attend what God does teach,
They need not care what Parson’s preach.
But if men fools, and knaves will be,
They’ll be Ass-ridden by all three.


1 English poet Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon (c. 1630-1685). The quote is from his blank verse translation of Horace’s Ars Poetica.

2 In Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, Clytemnestra kills her husband Agamemnon, thereby establishing herself as a femme fatale.

3 Lycurgus, the legendary lawgiver of Sparta (c. 820-730BC). Solon, the Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet (c. 638-558BC). Alexander the Great (356-323BC), known for sleeping with a copy of Homer’s Iliad under his pillow.

4  A line from Horace’s Satires: “What prevents me from telling the truth with a smile”

5 Pope Adrian VI (1459-1523). The Humourist may have been relying on James Howells’ Epistolae Ho-Elianae: The Familiar Letters of James Howells, Historiographer Royal to Charles II. In Book III (1650), he writes: “and as Adrian VI. said, he [the physician] is very necessary to a populous Country, for were it not for the Physician, Men would live so long and grow so thick, that one could not live for the other ; and he makes the Earth cover all his faults.”

The Humourist (January 8, 1754)

Oh! ’tis a fine Thing to be a Scholar! He was reading the Latin Motto of a Book the other Day, and with great Vehemence and Extasy cried out, Oh! ’tis a Noble Thing to be well versed in Greek!  from —The Humourist

8 January 1754


Quis non Inventi Turbâ quod amaret in Illâ.

Who is there so stupid, as not to find a favourite
Letter in the following Collection.

The Humourist to himself, Greeting:

Charles-Town, Jan. 8, 1753.


I am always happy in the Communication of good News:  I can assure you, and that from the best Authority, that you possess an excellent Talent of Humour, ergo, thy Humour is excellent.  It is some little Satisfaction, when I reflect how near we stand in Affinity together, to find, that you are a Man of Penetration, and can, with surprising Discernment, see a Church by Day-Light: Your aerial Mansion is almost fitted up; a few Days will compleat it, when, inspiring Thought! I shall send you a Billet to drink a Glass of Falernian Wine,2 and make merry with your Friends.  I give slender Entertainments, tho’ you will be amply recompensed by an Oration in the true Sublime, by a Man of Parts, in Praise of my Institution; he is so apt a Scholar, that he will couch the minutest Secret in the most artful Terms.

Fail not on your Peril; if thou dost, thou art a Worm and no Man, and deservest to be the Scorn of Men and the Outcast of People.

Dear Sir,

In the sincerest Terms of Gratitude I confess my Obligations to you, for the [two words illegible] New Year’s Day.  It has had a most [one line illegible] Grand-father, who is a Man [one or two words illegible] Faculty, not only for bearing in Mind the horrors of my Youth, but like-wise for preserving his Money from the Moths of Prey, presented me on Wednesday last with the Young Man’s best Companion,3 and as an Addition to the Favour wrote his Name on the blank leaf, adding, that it was a necessary Step in order to give the Book its due Recommendation, and to convince the World in what Estimation it was held by one of his Abilities.

He gave my little Sister two Books handed down a long Roll of Relations, viz. the History of Gog and Magog the Giants of Guildhall:4  He made a pithy Speech on the Occasion, acquainting his Family that there was nothing like using young People to read History; by the time I was 10 Years old, say’d he, I had made myself a compleat Master of Jack the Giant-killer, Gog and Magog, and the Circle of Sciences; Oh! ’tis a fine Thing to be a Scholar!  He was reading the Latin Motto of a Book the other Day, and with great Vehemence and Extasy cried out, Oh! ’tis a Noble Thing to be well versed in Greek!

These and such like Oddities compose my Grand-father:  I beg you will work the old Codger, and reduce him to Rationality.  I am with all due Respect, Dear Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,


October 1, 1753.

Dear Sir,

I have this Moment received a Letter by the Hands of a Friend from England, wherein he informs me, that he attended some Trials at the Old-Bailey5 that afforded much Conversation; and after relating some of the Particulars, concludes with the following Paragraph, ‘Yes-‘terday the above Malefactors were hang’d at ‘Tyburn.’6

QuBy the Humourist.  Whether the Prisoners
being made up of Men and Women, the latter
can, by any reasonable Arguments, be proved to be Male-factors?

Dear Humourist,

It is to you I address myself for the Solution of the following Question:  As you are a speculative Man, I make no Apology for the Freedom I take in desiring your Opinion, and subscribing myself, Dear Fellow,

Thy Friend,


Qu.  Of the three Professions, Law, Physic, and Divinity, which is the most desirable, not only in moral but political Sense.

AnsPhysic:  Because the Physician knows himself both inward and outward, and consequently must conform more strictly to that Lesson of the oracle nosce Teipsum;7 and he undoubtedly is the most useful in a political View, Adrian the VIth speaks thus, Were it not, says he, for the Physician, Men would live so long, and grow so thick, that one could not live for the other, and he makes the earth cover all his Faults.


1  From Ovid’s The Art of Love (Book One, Line 175). The first two lines, in translation, read: “Should anyone here not know the art of love, / read this, and learn by reading how to love.”

2  Celebrated by Horace, Falernian wine was the most famous wine of ancient Rome. Wine Spectator provides a comprehensive discussion, including the legend of the wine’s origin: “The origins of Falernian wine are the stuff of legend. The story goes that an old Roman farmer (that would be Falernus) eked a humble existence from the soil of Mt. Massico, about 30 miles north of Naples, when one day he was visited by Bacchus in disguise. Falernus prepared him a simple meal, and in gratitude for the hospitality, the god of wine caused the cups at the table to fill. When a hungover Falernus awoke the next day, Bacchus was gone, and the whole mountain was blanketed with healthy vines.”

3  This is most likely a reference to George Fisher’s The American Instructor, or Young Man’s Best Companion (Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin and D. Hall, 1748).

4  Gog and Magog figure prominently in apocalyptic literature and in medieval legend. More likely, however, The Humourist is referring to two wooden effigies in the Guildhall, London. “They are thought to represent two giants who were taken to London to serve as porters at the gate of the royal palace after their race was destroyed by Brutus the Trojan, the legendary founder of London (Troia Nova, or New Troy). Effigies of Gog and Magog have existed in London from the time of Henry V (reigned 1413–22). The first figures were destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) and were replaced in 1708. The second pair was destroyed in a German air raid in 1940 and again replaced in 1953.” Encyclopedia Britannica provides a full discussion in “Gog and Magog.”

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey provides a full historical discussion of English criminal trials.

6  In 1753, there were 9 hanging days at Tyburn: 37 men and 4 women were hanged. See Executions at Tyburn 1745-1754.

7  Know thyself.

The Humourist on Giving and Receiving Tokens of Esteem on New Year’s Day

Friendship is the Life of Man, the only Cement of Society, the only pledge of true Felicity. —The Humourist


1 January 1754


— — — Laeti
Dona ferunt, — —

The most volatile enjoy Hours of Reflection, and indeed Life must appear very burdensome to that Man whose Genius is unable to chequer the grave with the ludicrous, the solemn with the Farce:  A well-tempered Mixture is ever the best, the one is a Relaxation for the other, and greatly contributes to render our Company acceptable in all social Communications.

The Humourist was yesterday serious: the Incident was fortunate, for whilst he was employed in passing his yearly accounts, and comparing a few Transactions of the former, with the past Year, he stumbled upon a Sentiment which carries with it an excellent Moral, and opportunely serves as an Introduction to that Revolution of Time, generally term’d a Year.

This is the Season, wherein that laudable Custom of presenting Tokens of Friendship, has Time out of Mind prevailed: It is a Custom so noble as it is ancient, and is undoubtedly grounded on the most perfect Reason, and established by the best Examples.

A very limited and confined Knowledge of the Ancients, will suffice to illustrate this Truth.  If we look back upon the Jews, we shall find, that the Month of Nisan, the first of their Year, was dedicated to the Celebration of Feasts, particularly that of the Passover, on which Occasion they gave the most general Invitations to their Neighbors to the eating [one or two illegible words].

The Greeks began their Olympiads by Sacrificing to Jupiter and the most superstitious Nations have not been wanting in Ceremonies of a like Nature.

A New-Year’s Gift, is a renewing, or rather confirming, that Friendship which a generous Mind will always be ambitious to acquire.

There is only one Thing wherein I should take Pleasure in seeing Mankind bear a Resemblance to the Turks, and that is, by rejoicing with due Reverence at every new Moon, whose Crescent they never fail to display with the most grateful Acts of Kindness to each other.

In January and February, the Romans made Presents to their Friends, and Romulus expressly commanded, that Vervine should be offered with other Marks of mutual Respect, as the wisest Method of insuring to themselves a successful and happy Conclusion to the Year.

Tacitus tells us. that Tiberius fixed the First of January as the proper Day, not only for the giving, but likewise for receiving, these Tokens of Esteem.

We are apt to measure Love by the most extravagant Return of Favours, but if we consider, that the Dispensations of Providence are too unequally divided, to allow each Man the same Power of Distribution, we shall regard more justly those Marks of Gratitude, that, notwithstanding they want the Stamp of Gratitude, do nevertheless bear upon them the Figure of a generous Mind; it is the Manner, not the Value, that distinguishes the Greatness of the Favour, it is the sweet and grateful Communication of our Gratitude, not the too liberal Profusion, that renders the Gift an acceptable Boon.

Customs of this nature can never meet with suitable Encouragement; all our Endeavors to promote them, will fall greatly short of the Veneration in which they ought to be upheld.

Friendship is the Life of Man, the only Cement of Society, the only pledge of true Felicity.

These annual Gifts strengthen and confirm our Alliances, and preserve that Conformity of  [one illegible word ending in tent] which is the Essence of mutual Esteem.

A well grounded Friendship promotes the [one illegible word] Virtues, and entirely eradicates from the human Heart, any insincere Passions or turbulent Suspicions.

With a Friend (not a Friend in common Acceptation) a Desart loses its Train of Horror, and only seems a blest Retirement.

It is evident, that the Ancients looked upon those Customs as promotive of the social Duties, and as so many Obligations of the Performance of them.  I am sorry to say, that modern Elegance is endeavouring to suppress these noble Emanations, but I am far more grieved to own, that such Virtues are incompatible with modern Graces.

It is with Sincerity I offer my Thoughts on this Subject, tho’ far more unnecessary in this Place (than in my others) where so noble a Generosity, joined with an hospitable Dignity, prevails.

The greatest Lessons of Morality may be gathered from imbibing such worthy Sentiments; they communicate Love to every Individual, and keep up an Harmony, without which the Order of Nature is inverted.

These Gifts create a most happy Emulation amongst the juvenile part of Mankind, and are so many Records of Friendship for the Gathers and Grandfathers to transmit to Posterity.

If these Hints meet with Approbation, I need not assure my Readers, that the Reward is more than adequate to my Trouble:  And I dare affirm, that if any Exceptions are taken to the Method I pursue in treating upon this or any other Subject, they will be generously considered as Errors arising from a Defect of Judgment, not for a total Ignorance of what an honest Soul ought to dictate.


1 Starting with 1754, The Humourist numbers each essay.

2 The quote is from Vergil’s Aeneid (Book V:100-101), “Aeneas Declares the Games”: “And his companions as well, brought gifts gladly, of which / each had a store, piling high the altars, sacrificing bullocks: / others set out rows of cauldrons, and scattered among the grass, / placed live coals under the spits, and roasted the meat.”