The Humourist (February 26, 1754)

You will discover that today’s Humourist post is his longest!  At the end of his essay, he announces that he must defer his literary analysis of “The Ballad of Moore of Moore Hall” until the next paper, because he has nearly exceeded the space allowed him. 

However that may be, he proceeds to write lengthy letters to himself from Alice Wish-For’t, Calx Pot-Ash, Pine Green-Tar, Urbanicus, and Proteus Maggot!

You have a lot to read today, so much so  that I have kept my Notes to a minimum.  Trust me, however:  if you read all that he writes today, you will be well rewarded!  The Humourist strikes some high notes, and he drops clue after clue after clue in terms of his identify.  Today’s post is chock-full!

Brew yourself another pot of coffee or tea!  Enjoy your beverage and The Humourist!  

[Numb. 1028]

[26 February 1754]

“I have a Fortune sufficient to purchase Wheat-Flour, yet chuse to eat nothing but Rice, because it’s of our own Growth; nor will I touch even a Piece of Johnny-cake, except made of Wheat-Flour sent from the Back-Settlements; all the Furniture of my House, etc. is of Carolina Make; so is my riding Chair, and most of my Cloaths; and Mr. Scott’s Beer (as soon as I saw his Advertisement) had the Preference to all foreign Liquours, and is become my constant Drink.”  — Alice Wish-For’t to The Humourist

The HUMOURIST.  No. IX.

For I am nothing, if not critical.

SHAKESPEARE.1

I have declared myself an Oddity, composed of strange Humours, full of Peculiarities; sometimes volatile, then solemn; sometimes flighty, at another Time sedate; one Minute in the Garret, and the next in the Cellar; I confess the Truth, indeed I am happy in the Opportunity.  The other Day I took a Ride upon my good Horse Pegasus2, and (being in a whimsical Mood), I clapp’d into my Pocket the excellent Ballad of Moore of Moore-Hall,3 and as it required some Attention, the Humourist was not short in that Duty.

Chevy-Chase4 has been long celebrated for its Excellence; and with great Reason, the best Genius of the Age in which he lived, did not consider it as beneath his Pen, since all Judges will allow that he was honoured by the Subject, and, at the same Time that he paid due Regard to the Chase, he reflected no small Glory on himself.  I shall be excused this Digression, when my Readers please to consider, that it is the Soul of an Author, he owes his Being, and his very Existence depends upon it.

But to return to my Ballad, which furnishes the Paper of To-Day with a few honest Remarks, and many Beauties which might otherwise remain concealed from the Inspection of my Fellow Creatures.

The great Excellence of an Author is to raise Expectation, to wind up the Soul as a Body would a Clock, keeping the Springs in a continual Motion:  This Rule is most incomparably observed in the Work now before us; Silence Gentlemen, pray Gentlemen be all Attention, raise your Ideas of a Hero, and observe the following Stanza, wherein the Dragon of Wantley far excels Hercules, for tho’ he slew Lerna, yet he was indebted to Implements of Force, he did it Vi et Armis.5

‘But he had a club,

‘This dragon to drub,

‘Or he’d ne’er don’t, I warrant ye;

‘But Moore of Moore-Hall,

“With nothing at all,

‘He slew the Dragon of Wantley.

What a noble Description is this!  Who does not feel a secret pleasure for Moore upon this Conquest, when we find under what Disadvantages he procured it?  Hercules was a Poltron to him, and these Lines of Hudibras are justly applicable to him,

— Cowards never use their might,

But against those that will not fight.6

Ovid was a surprising Poet, but his Description of a Dragon is far inferior to our’s,

Crista linguisque tribus praesignis et uncis

Dentibus horrendous. —-  —-  —-

‘This dragon had two furious wings,

  ‘Each one upon each shoulder,

   ‘With a sting in his tail,

   ‘As long as a flail,

 ‘Which made him bolder and bolder.

This last line is, beyond Comparison, superior to any of the Classics, there is Boldness in every expression; Virgil comes the nearest him with his

Monstrum horrendum; informe, ingens! etc.7

but it wants the marvellous; it has none of the marvellous in it:  The Flail is a fine Simile, and prodigiously well adapted, if we advert to the Length of it in a Farmer’s Barn, and the vast expressive Force with which it beats the Ground:  That line of the Sting in its Tail is quite poetical; but as that cannot pass unobserved, I shall omit any Comments upon it, only the last Verse seems to allude to the Tail making him bolder and bolder.

We are now conducted into the Scene of Action;

‘In Yorkshire, near far Rotheram,

So Virgil Travestie,

‘A little town there was of old,

‘Thatch’d with good straw to keep out cold.

The following Lines far exceed the above of Mr. Cotton’s;8

‘The place I know it well,

‘Some two or three miles, or thereabouts,

‘I vow I cannot tell.

I admire the last Line for its Honesty, and it is for the Rarity, for few People ever remember a Poet much addicted to telling Truth; they are all, or most of them downright FibbersLie being a rude Term, and very ill suits the Mouth of the Speaker, I chuse rather to suppress the Phrase, which has for this last Century gained too great Credit, by Means whereof many politer Words have grown obsolete and out of Fashion.

The Humourist must defer the rest for another

Paper, as he has almost exceeded his Limits.

[26 February 1754]

To the HUMOURIST.

SIR,

Nothing adds to the Wealth of a People and encourages Industry, than the Exclusion of foreign and Use of their own Manufactures.  All wise Nations and judicious Subjects, industriously avoid the purchasing of that from abroad, which they can be well supplied with at Home.  The French take nothing from us but raw Wool, nor will admit the Wear of even a Button among them of foreign Workmanship:  Tho’ their Cloths and Stuffs are far inferior to the English, yet they give their own the Preference; nor do they consume the least Article of foreign Goods, save Muslins, which are admitted on several Accounts, first, For the Encouragement of their East-India Company, secondly, That they may dispose of their Cambricks to the English, at Ten Times the Sum their Consumption of Muslin amounts to, and thereby gain 100,000 £ Sterling per Annum; which the English foolishly throw away on this Article, to the lessening of their running Cash, and the Imports of their own East-India Company (I may say) to double that Sum.

Other Powers of Europe begin to copy after France in this Respect, save the English, who are possessed of an odd epidemic Humour of prefering the Commodities and Produce of all other Nations to their own, tho’ none can shew neater, nor so well executed.  To this is owing the vast Imports of Silks, Linnens, Laces, etc. far inferior to the British and Irish Manufacturers.  From this strange Humour, springs the Consumption of such Quantities of French wines, purchased at excessive Prices tho’ the intrinsic Value be very small.  To this Distemper, may be assign’d our Love of Travelling not so much for Improvement as Corruption of our Morals.  Have we not swarms of Barbers, Taylors, Tutors, Milliners, Mantua-makers, Footmen, Bawds, Pimps and Prostitutes at Home?  Where then is the Necessity of importing them from Abroad?  What can this Humour, Sir, be attributed to?   Are the above Classes of People less skill’d in their several Professions than Foreigners, or less apt to learn their private Mysteries of Trade?  Cannot we be enough diseased and drench’d at Home without going to Paris or Venice to have the Honor of being salivated?

But Britons are not more remarkable for their Fondness of every Thing foreign and novel, than their Love of what is slight, glittering, and gaudy:  Indeed this Disposition is founded on their Nicety of Taste, and Delicacy of Nature and Manners; nor do they transgress so much in this, as in other Respects; tho’ our present Manufactures of Glass and China would have very well contented our Ancestors, without giving themselves the Trouble to send 2000 Leagues to purchase a Breakfast-Bason.

Among many other of our own Manufactures in which we excel, that Article of fine China called fine Women, must be allowed superior to any foreign Ware; and give me leave, Mr. Humourist, to observe, we of this Province, have brought this Fabric to such Perfection, that I think we have not the least Occasion to import these beautiful Goods any longer.  It is certainly worth our Attention, to consider this Branch of Trade, and bring it under some Regulation, either by laying high Duties which may amount to, or by, a total Prohibition.  It is said indeed, that the British Commodities are more substantial and wear longer than those of ours; but then I would further remark, that as the English are so given to Novelty and  Change, their Use of our Manufactures would far better suit them, because, thro’ the Slightness of the Workmanship, they may have a Chance (if they live long enough) of possessing variety of Pieces instead of one:  And all who have seen our Goods, will allow, that what we may be deficient in, as to Strength and Solidity, is more than balanced in the Elegance and Beauty of the Patterns.

But it may be further objected, that the present Demand in Britain, is more for Old than New China, the former being generally more weighty than the latter.   This indeed will almost overset my Argument, but not quite break it; for, this Commodity being extremely brittle, is very liable to Flaws and Cracks, and often receives Damages in the Carriage, therefore our own Goods will always be well esteemed and bear a Price, because their intrinsic Worth can soon be known, their Make and Value relied on, and be obtained at first Hand, without the Charge of Freight and Package:  Second-hand Goods may come cheaper, and not be the worse for Wear, but must be well examined.  And as our Pieces of China alter in Colour, and grow old-fashioned rather sooner than the foreign, we may be always certain of having a large Stock on Hand, which, if the present Taste and Price in Britain for those Articles is kept up, we may exchange at any Time for new-fashioned Goods, should there ever be a greater Demand among us, than at present, for bright Enamel–which cannot be, while dark Patterns continue in Esteem.

I confess myself quite unskill’d in Trade, therefore hope, the above Hints will be considered as arising from the Love of my Country.  I have a Fortune sufficient to purchase Wheat-Flour, yet chuse to eat nothing but Rice, because it’s of our own Growth; nor will I touch even a Piece of Johnny-cake, except made of Wheat-Flour sent from the Back-Settlements; all the Furniture of my House, etc. is of Carolina Make; so is my riding Chair, and most of my Cloaths; and Mr. Scott’s Beer (as soon as I saw his Advertisement) had the Preference to all foreign Liquours, and is become my constant Drink.  I wish every Lady in the Province was of my Humour; what a Number of Dollars should we then have at Command more than at present!  I hope to see no more sent to the Northward; and am, Sir,

Your very-well Wisher, etc.

ALICE WISH-FOR’T.

 [26 February 1754]

LETTERS to Mr. HUMOURIST,

From SWEDEN, RUSSIA, etc.

PetersburghAug. 6th, 1753.

Sir,

It having been reported here, that great Encouragement is given in Carolina, to every Thing capable of enriching the Country and advancing the Public Interest; and as I generally bring about 200,000 Guineas per Annum into this Empire from Great-Britain (which never find their Way back) my Inclinations lead me to circulate them in your Province; would the Inhabitants be persuaded of the Advantages resulting from my Intimacy with me.  I am told, that my Residence amongst them, would be greatly obstructed by one Mr. Rice, who has such Influence with your Countrymen, that any Overtures made in my Favour would be quite fruitless.  But what Interest can Mr. Rice have to neglect my Friendship?  Why can’t we live amicably together?  I could demonstrate, that a solid Harmony with me, would greatly contribute to his Benefit.  Mr. Indico ( a popular Person with you) is convinced of the Profits arising from our cultivating a good Understanding together; for, while Lands are preparing and clearing on his Account, great Sums may be raised by the Timber annually burnt and thrown away:  But, as the Reasonings of private Persons can seldom prevail against public Prejudice, I would ask your Advice, if it would be improper to recommend myself to the General Assembly, for their Encouragement and Support, as their Notice of me would bring great Numbers of British Subjects annually to settle your back Countries, would liquidate the Public Debts, and put your Currency on a Par with the Cash of your Mother Country.  I am,

Your very humble Servant,

CALX POT-ASH.

Sweden, Oct. 1st, 1753.

Sir,

As I am much regarded in Great Britain, and often call’d for there on many Accounts, so I generally used to be well cloathed in English Broad Cloth, not more for Defence against extreme Cold here, than the Love and Respect I bear to that Country.

But this Kingdom having entered of late Years into very strict Connexions with France, very few Woollens come now to our Markets but of French Manufacture, which are of so loose add spungy a Texture, as hardly to guard against the Inclemency of the Climate, so that I often catch Cold, and miss my good Drab Great-Coat.

I have heard several slight Rumours, that the Province you live in, is the finest Winter Country in the World, and that my Business could be carried on there, as well as here:  I must confess myself quite tired of these bleak Regions, and should be glad to exchange my Situation.

On further Enquiry, am told by Mr. Pot-Ash, Merchant, that He is of the same Sentiments with myself; and that we both should meet with Encouragement among you, had you any Person well skilled in bringing us to hear:  But the Process is so easy, and the Profits so considerable, that it’s amazing, you think it not worth while to send an ingenious Person to see how we are managed.  Our Preparation is no Secret:  And I judge that you have as wise Heads among you, as the Boors of Russia and Peasants of Sweden, many of whom might be tempted to come over; and 500 Guineas thus employed, would tend to the Public Emolument.

It is said, that I was almost stumbled on by one in your Country:  However, should be glad to make you a Visit, and hope, Sir, that your Countrymen will be so good-humoured, as to consult their Interest, in encouraging

Your most humble Servant,

PINE GREEN-TAR.

 

Dorchester, Feb. 20, 1754.

Mr. Humourist,

If you think the following Queries worth a Place in the Gazette, I beg you’ll use you Interest with Mr. Timothy, to get them inferred.  They may prove useful Hints.  And, if you, or any other able Penmen who are Masters of the Subjects, will improve ’em, so as to make them of public Utility, my End is answered, who am, Sir, with the greatest Deference,

Yours, etc.

                         URBANICUS.

Qu.  I.  Whether a Light-House on Cumming’s Island, would not be very useful; with a few Cannon planted near it for Defence, and to be fired in foggy weather.

N.B.  A Friend of mine, has a Light-House and Beacons constructed on Paper, (to guide Vessels into your Harbour) at your Service.

Qu. 2.  Where Vessels are to ride Quarantain?  Whether you have a Pest-House?  If you have not, how you can (humanely) dispose of Cargoes of poor Protestants or Negroes that may come in, infected with the Small-Pox or other mortal Distempers?

Qu. 3.  Whether the Number of licenced Houses in Charles-Town, to retail spirituous Liquours, are of bad Consequence or not?  Or, whether they could not be put under better Regulations?

Qu. 4.  Whether the Owners of Plantations in the Country, have a white Person to every Ten Negroes?  Or, where lies the Difficulty of carrying that Act into Execution which enjoins they should?

Qu. 5.  Whether the House at present used as a Public Gaol, is a proper one for the Confinement of Debtors and Criminals?  And whether the Public would not save by having a sufficient one built?

Qu. 6.  Whether that Part of Charles-Town called White-Point, could not be walled in, so as to prevent any farther Damage by Hurricanes, and preserve such Fortifications as are or may be constructed there?

I forbear to ask a single Question about Fortifications; because I am sensible, the French will become very jealous of us, as soon as they know that this is now likely to be an Indico Country:  A War with that People may break out, when we least suspect it.

If you approve of my Correspondence, Mr. Humourist, I shall frequently trouble you in this Way.  And as in all my Questions I shall have an Eye to the Public Good, I hope nothing will be taken amiss.

 

Laputa, Jan. 16, 1754.

Sir,

Your Advertisement of Dec. 10, having reach’d this Metropolis, I beg Leave to inclose you a Catalogue of several Paintings and Drawings, which will be exposed to Sale here on the 28th of February next, by

Your humble Servant,

PROTEUS MAGGOT, V.M.

LOT 1.

An antique whole Length of Signior Adam, on a Board of Shittim Wood, found in the Ruins of Noah’s Ark, on Mount Ararat.

(N.B. ‘Tis said, that this Gentleman was the most complaisant Person of his Time, and could never say NO to a Lady; in respect of whom all of his Daughters pronounce that Word very faintly, which is often attended with mischievous Consequences.)

LOT 2.

Several half Lengths of Nimrod, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Nero, Borgia, Lewis 14th, Charles 12th, those renowned Heroes, so often celebrated for a particular Vein of Humour that possesses them to butcher and destroy mankind.

LOT 3.

Heads of Sardanapalus, Commodus, Heliogabatus, and other distinguish’d Worthies, Founders of Buckism:  The Patterns from whence modern Bucks draw their exquisite and polite endowments.

LOT 4.

Variety of Landscapes, Views, etc. among which are the building of Babel, Siege of Troy, March of Xerxes, burning of Persepolis, Caligula‘s Triumph, and a Field-Preacher with his Auditors about whim in a variety of curious Attitudes.

LOT 5.

Above 500 grotesque Pieces  (several in Chinese Taste) of which the Humourist Family are generally great Connoisseurs:  Many of these are Drawings and Etchings, and give great Light into Antiquity, and a Display of the unaccountable Humours of the Ancients.  In this Collection, some of the principal and most valuable are, a Morning Auction, public Breakfastings, Humours of Change-Alley, Exploits of a Bottle-Conjuror, Drawing of Lotteries, Masquerades, Routs, Drums, Rackets, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, − a Toast (with a Group of Admirers about her) qualifying herself to speak French e’er she can read English,−a Citizen‘s Daughter just returned from Boarding-School, and a Buck just landed from his Travels−Modern Connoisseurs−Ladies kissing Monkies and Lap-Dogs, and Gentlemen Negro Wenches.

LOT 6.

Variety of Views found in the Ruins of Herculaneum, the most remarkable of which are, a fine Prison, entituled a Mansion-house, a Public Library without a Book, Roads and Rivers without Bridges, and beautiful Bridges in private Gardens without Water, noble seats and Temples in Ruins neglected by the Owners, and Ruins and Temples constructed at great Expence by way of Ornament or to close a Point of View.

LOT 7.

Several Sea Pieces, in which are delineated many fine Squa—s sailing on Spithead, Bostimento, Carthagena, Toulon, L’Orient Madrass, Cuba, St. Augustine, and other humourous expeditions, for the Honour of —- coming back again.

LOT 8.

Half-finished Pieces of Miscellaeous Matters not yet arranged in Order, among which are, the Flight of the Long-Bay, Impregnable Fortresses constructed of Sana and Oyster-Shell, a Church half-finished, Plantations deserted, a View of Georgia, Acts of Assembly made into Kites, etc.

P.S.  As many of the above Articles would suit with the Furniture of Humourist-Hall, I shall be glad to receive your Orders in Time for what may please, which will be duly executed.

N.B.  Sundry Upholstery-Goods will soon be set to Auction.

NOTES

1 Othello, Act II Scene I

2 In Greek mythology, Pegasus is the winged horse that was fathered by Poseidon with Medusa.

3 “A True Relation of the Dreadful Combat between Moore of Moore Hall and the Dragon of Wantley.” For the full text, see The Dragon of Wantley.

4 The “Ballad of Chevy- Chase” exists in two versions. In his Defence of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney commented, “I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet.” For as full discussion, see Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature.

5 “By force and arms.”

6 From Samuel Butler’s mock-heroic poem “Hudibras,” written between 1660-1680.

7 Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum. The Aeneid (III, 658)

8 From Charles Cotton’s “Scarronides, or Virgil Travestie” (1664), a mock-poem on the first book of Virgil’s Aeneid.

8 thoughts on “The Humourist (February 26, 1754)

    • Absolutely! Your comment reminds me of Rita Dove’s poem, “Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967.” At the end of the poem, the speaker says, “I can eat an elephant if I take small bites.”

  1. Speaking of bites, I believe The Humourist would have greatly admir’d this line from Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London:”

    “Little old lady got mutilated late last night.”

    It ripples along the tongue most pleasurably!

    • I’m not sure the Humourist would have appreciated the line from Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” but he would appreciate your line: “It ripples along the tongue most pleasurably.” I appreciate it, too!

  2. Again The Humourist writes of buildings, although this time from the point of view of destruction rather than construction; viz, the aerial castle that he has written of previously. A quick Internet search revealed that Moore of Moore-Hall refers to a wealthy family and the stately home they built in Ireland. Sadly, it was destroyed by radical forces and is now nothing but a facade, an “aerial” ruin.

    I immediately leapt to the conclusion that The Humourist is a descendant of these Moores. Alas, my argument was quite overset by a closer read of the Wiki article. The Humourist published his articles in 1754; Moore-Hall was built in 1792 and was burnt to the ground in 1923.

    UNLESS … The Humourist is a time traveler! Before you scoff, note that modern physics does not entirely rule out the concept!

  3. OMG!

    I just finished a closer reading of the “Lots” Letter from “Proteus Maggot, V.M.,” in which there is much to tease and amuse. The word that intrigued me most, though, was “Laputa,” next to the date. A quick search of my library database reveals that Laputa is the name of the fictional FLYING ISLAND OR ROCK invented by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, written in 1726!

    In addition, Laputa’s relationship with one of its enemy nations is an allegory of Ireland’s revolt against Great Britain. This discovery entirely buttresses my previous argument that The Humourist is originally from Ireland and intensifies my growing conviction that the aerial castles that The Humourist is constantly alluding to is a terrifically important clue.

    • A closer reading! OMG! How wonderful that you are reading these essays twice! Indeed, they require multiple readings. As you are discovering, however, the rewards are great whenever we give any text a close reading. The Humourist has shown us time and time again that he is exceedingly well read, and, of course, he would have been familiar with Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Interestingly enough, his Charleston readers would have made the Laputa connection readily.

      Are the Humourist’s “aerial castles” important clues? They might be, but, then again, they might be nothing more than the Humourist’s fanciful and ethereal literary flights!

      Time will tell. In the meantime, I commend you for giving the essays a closer reading, and I hope that you will continue to do so.

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