The Humourist (March 12, 1754)

The Humourist.  No. XI.

— — Spes incerta futuri.   VIRGIL.1

The Gay and Gallant are the happy few, who can boast a frequent Intercourse with the better Sex.  I was formerly one of that Number, and have the pleasing Reflection of many a well spent Hour, many a joyous Moment, tho’ to speak a Truth, the Remembrance is attended with some Mortification.  When I compare my present depressed Spirits with the Vivacity of former Days, I cannot be insensible to the glaring Difference; however, my Age has made me so much a Philosopher, that being excluded from juvenile Associations, I now and then endeavour to please myself and Family with a Relation of past Occurrences.

When I was very young, the People were superstitious, they were Conjurers, and nothing went down but Sorcery and Witchcraft.  I paid a visit one Day to a Lady of my Acquaintance, for whom methinks a Fellow of my Peculiar Turn might grow young again, and as good Fortune wou’d have it, surprised her and another fair Angel at a strong Cabal over the Fumes of Coffee; presently comes in a Widow Lady, and forms the Grand Assembly of Divination:  I soon discovered, that they held the Grounds of Coffee in great Esteem, and that one of these Widows was to explain the Mystery; after a short Pause, she assumed an Air of Solemnity, intimated to the Company that she was then in full Inspiration, observed the Atoms round the Cup, and gave a strict Charge to the two Maidens, by way of quickening their Attention to the Predictions of their future Fate.

I interposed, intreated an Argument with this intelligent Lady, apologized for so abrupt a Request, urged not only the Necessity of it, but also by peremptory Will:  At last she assured me, that every Cast of the Cup forms the Picture of our Life to come, and that the minutest Transaction is always delineated with the greatest Certainty in these researches.  Madam (says I) if this be the Case such a noble Art must be useful to a Statesman, for as that Employment requires so great a Portion of a Man’s Time, he may relax a little by breaking the Custom of attenting the Council, as he need only examine the Grounds, to become acquainted with the present and future affairs of the Nation; he can see Danger and avoid it, he may by that Means discover an impending Ruin, and prevent it:  The fair Diviner told me, that it was in his Power to know, but not delay his Fate.

The Incident occasioned a warm Debate upon fruitless and vain Inquiries intro future Events, Inquiries attended with Incertainty and Aggravation.  I inveighed against such Presumption, enlarged upon the fatal Consequences of deceiving the Mind by Fancy and Delusion, and as a Reward for my Arguments, received the Lady’s Thanks, with the fullest Concessions, and the warmest Sense of Conviction.

It was a false Kindness in the Instructors of Youth, that originality gave Rise to these mistaken Notions; tender Minds, like Wax are capable of any Impression, and Stories of this Nature, delivered with an Air of Probability, are apt to increase by Repetition, and gain Credit by Experiment.  These Amusements of the Nursery create a prognosticating Spirit, and what was intended only as a Temporary Good, soon becomes a lasting Evil; thence arises weak Prejudices, Fears that form Chimeras, and make us act too frequently in direct Opposition to the Dictates of our Reason:  From these idle Rehearsals, I date Degeneracy of Spirit, Doubts  take Place of Resolution, and Fortitude gives way to Weakness.

These officious Relators of Inconsistencies are not aware, that the admiring Infant will stand in Need of all the Briskness, and all the Vivacity that human Nature can admit of, as the necessary Endowments to pass thro’ the Storm of Life, with Ease, Honor, and Reputation.

An old Acquaintance of Mine, who is better known by the Stile of perfect Man, than by his Name, is an absolute Martyr to Apprehension, he never hears his trusty Dog howl in the Night, but he conjectures, that as the Creature is none of the most stupid of its kind, it forebodes Death in the Family.

We pass over these Romantic Tales with a seeming Neglect, but preserve them for Purposes that rather impair than increase our Understanding.

The Design no doubt of these Relations are good, but few People consider their Tendency to soften our Dispositions, by alarming our Reason:  I should choose rather to gain upon the Minds of Youth by rational and noble Illustration, than depress them by the fallacious Workings of the Spirit.

[12 March 1754]

To HUMOURSOME HUMOURIST, Esq; Censor,

Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian of Carolina.

The Petition of Sir John Barley-Corn, Kt.

Humbly sheweth,

That your Petitioner having lately made an Excursion to the Congaree’s and interior parts of this Province, he finds the Climate and Soil agree exceeding well with his Constitution.

That he is desirous of 1000 Acres of good Land there to sit himself down on.

That many Hundred Barrels of Beer are annually imported into this Province which he imagines could be supplied by him here; whereby many Thousand Dollars would be kept employed at Home, which are not continually roving to the Northward.

That he judges Beer much superior to, and more healthful, than either Toddy or Punch, from September to May; especially if those Liquids are compounded with noxious Spirits.

That the Consumption of Home-brew’d Beer would lessen the Import of poisonous Rum from the Northward, and villainous Teas from other Parts; whereby the Floridity, Beauty and Lives of many of his Majesty’s Subjects would be prolonged, and the Export of Specie lessened.

That good Beer creates good Blood; good Blood, good Spirits; and good Spirits, good Humour.

That an Increase of good-humoured (i.e. sensible) Souls, will increase the Number of your Readers and Well-wishers.

That your Petitioner has Thoughts of erecting a Malt-house and Brewery in the back Settlements; but that (like all other Projectors) being straitened for Cash, he begs the Favour of your lending him 10,000£ on the Credit of his Scheme.  And your Petitioner, etc. etc.

BARLEY-CORN.

NOTES

1 Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 8, Line 580: “Of uncertain future.”

2 thoughts on “The Humourist (March 12, 1754)

  1. It is fascinating to see the discussion about beer in colonial America. The writer would have felt right at home in 21st century America with the plethora of craft beers from every region of the nation.

    • It is indeed fascinating, and you are so right: The Humourist would have felt quite at home in 21st century America. I dare say that he would have ascended to his Aerial Mansion at the thought that craft beer would still be celebrated today in Charleston, the Holy City. Read more about it at Charleston Craft Beer!

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