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lla! Cleombrotus! and what salads in faith did you light upon at the bottom of the Mediterranean ? You were founder, I take it, of the disinterested sect of the Calenturists.
Gebir, my old freemason, and prince of plasterers at Babe. bring in your trowel, most Ancient Grand ! You have a claim to a seat here at my right hand, as patron of the stammerers. You left your work, if I remember Herodotus correctly, at eight hundred million toises, or thereabout, above the level of the sea.
Bless us, what a long bell you must have pulled, to call your top workmen to their nunchion on the low grounds of Sennaar. Or did you send up your garlic and onions by a rocket ? I am a rogue if I am not ashamed to show you our Monument on Fish-street Hill, after your altitudes. Yet we think it somewhat.
What, the magnanimous Alexander in tears ? cry, baby, put its finger in its eye, it shall have another globe, round as an orange, pretty moppet!
Mister Adams—’odso, I honour your coat-pray do us the favour to read us that sermon, which you lent to Mistress Slipsop—the twenty-and-second in your portmanteau thereon Female Incontinence the same—it will come in most irrelevantly and impertinently seasonable to the time of the day.
Good Master Raymond Lully, you look wise. Pray correct that error.
Duns, spare your definitions. I must fine you a bumper, or a paradox. We will have nothing said or done syllogistically this day. Remove those logical forms, waiter, that no gentleman break the tender shins of his apprehension stumbling across them.
Master Stephen, you are late. Ha! Cokes, is it you? Aguecheek, my dear knight, let me pay my devoir to you. Master Shallow, your worship’s poor servant to command. Master Silence, I will use few words with you. Slender, it shall
go hard if I edge not you in somewhere. You six will engross all the poor wit of the company to-day. I know it, I know it.
Ha! honest R- -, my fine old librarian of Ludgate, time out of mind, art thou here again? Bless thy doublet, it is not overnew, threadbare as thy stories : what dost thou fiitting about the world at this rate? Thy customers are extinct, defunct, bedrid, have ceased to read long ago. Thou goest still among them, seeing if, peradventure, thou canst hawk a volume or two. Good Granville S- thy last par tron, is flown.
“King Pandion he is dead,
Nevertheless, noble R come in, and take your seat here, between Armado and Quisada; for in true courtesy, in gravity, in fantastic smiling to thyself, in courteous smiling upon others, in the goodly ornature of well-apparelled speech, and the commendation of wise sentences, thou art nothing inierior to those accomplished dons of Spain. The spirit of chivalry forsake me for ever, when I forget thy singing the song of Macheath, which declares that he might be happy with either, situated between those two ancient spinsterswhen I forget the inimitable formal love which ihou didst make, turning now to the one, and now to the other, with that Malvolian smile—as if Cervantes, not Gay, had written it for his hero ; and as if thousands of periods must revolve, before the mirror of courtesy could have given his invidious preference between a pair of so goodly-propertied and meriforious-equal damsels.
To descend from these altitudes, and not to protract our Fools' Banquet beyond its appropriate day- for I fear the second of April is not many hours distant—in sober verity I will confess à truth to thee, reader. I love a fool—as naturally as if I were a kith and kin to him. When a child, with childlike apprehensions, that dived not below the surface of the matter, I read those parables-not guessing at their involved wisdom -I had more yearnings towards that simple architect, that juilt his house upon the sand, than I entertained for his more :autious neighbour ; I grudged at the hard censure pronounced apon the quiet soul that kept his talent; and-prizing their simplicity beyond the more provident, and, to my apprehension, somewhat unfeminine wariness of their competitors-I felt a kindliness, that almost amounted to a tendre, for those five thoughtless virgins. I have never made an acquaintance since that lasted, or a friendship that answered, with any that had not some tincture of the absurd in their characters. I venerate an honest obliquity of understanding. The more laughable blunders a man shall commit in your company, the more tests he giveth you, that he will not betray or overreach
I love the safety, which a palpable hallucination warrants ; the security, which a word out of season ratifies. And take my word for this, reader, and say a fool told it you,
if you please, that he who hath not a drachm of folly in his mixsure, hath pounds of much worse matter in his composition. It is observed, “ that the foolisher the fowl or fish-woodcocks, doiterels, codsheads, &c., the finer the flesh thereof," und what are commonly the world's received fools, but such whereof the vorld is not worthy ? and what have been some
of the kindliest patterns of our species, but so many darlingy of absurdity, minions of the goddess, and her white boys ? Reader, if you wrest my words beyond their fair construction, it is you, and not I, that are the April Fool.
A QUAKER MEETING.
Stillborn silence! thou that art
READER, wouldst thou know what true peace and quiet mean; wouldst thou find a refuge from the noises and clainours of the multitude; wouldst thou enjoy at once solitude and society ; wouldst thou possess the depth of thine own spirit in stillness, without being shut out from the consolatory faces of thy species; wouldst thou be alone, and yet accompanied ; solitary, yet not desolate ; singular, yet not without some to keep thee in countenance; a unit in aggregate; a simple in composite : come with me into a Quaker meeting.
Dost thou love silence deep as that “ before the winds were made,” go not out into the wilderness, descend not into the profundities of the earth ; shut not up thy casements ; nor pour wax into the little cells of thine ears, with little-faithed, self-mistrusting Ulysses. Retire with me into a Quaker meeting
For a man to refrain even from good words, and to hold his peace, it is commendable; but for a multitude, it is great mastery.
What is the stillness of the desert compared with this place? what the uncommunicating muteness of fishes ? here the goddess reigns and revels. “Boreas, and Cecias, and Argestes loud,” do not with their inter-confounding uproars more aug
* From “Poems of all Sorts,” by Richard Fleckno, 1653.
ment the brawl-nor the waves of the blown Baltic with their clubbed sounds—than their opposite (Silence her sacred self) is multiplied and rendered more intense by numbers, and by sympathy. She too hath her deeps, that call unto deeps. Negation itself hath a positive more and less ! and closed eyes would seem to obscure the great obscurity of midnight.
There are wounds which an imperfect solitude cannot heal. By imperfect I mean that which a man enjoyeth by himself. The perfect is that which he can sometimes attain in crowds, but nowhere so absolutely as in a Quaker meeting. Those first hermits did certainly understand this principle, when they retired into Egyptian solitudes, not singly, but in shoals, to enjoy one another's want of conversation. The Carthusian is bound to his brethren by his agreeing spirit of uncommunicativeness. In secular occasions, what so pleasant as to be reading a book through a long winter evening, with a friend sitting by-say a wife-he, or she, too, (if that be probable,) reading another, without interruption, or oral communication ? can there be no sympathy without the gabble of words ? away with this inhuman, shy, single, shade and cavern haunting solitariness. Give me, Master Zimmerman, a symphathetic solitude.
To pace alone in the cloisters or side aisles of some cathedral, time stricken
“ Or under hanging mountains,
Or by the fall of fountains"is but a vulgar luxury, compared with that which those enjoy who come together for the purposes of more complete, abstracted solitude. This is the loneliness “ to be felt." The Abbey Church of Westminster hath nothing so solemn, so spirit soothing, as the naked walls and benches of a Quaker meeting. Here are no tombs, no inscriptions
“ Sands, ignoble things
Dropped from the ruined sides of kings"but here is something which throws Antiquity herself into the foreground—SILENCE“eldest of things—language of old Night--primitive discourser—to which the insolent decays of mouldering grandeur have but arrived by a violent and, as we may say, unnatural progression.
“ How reverend is the view of these hushed heads,
Looking tranquillity!" Nothing-plotting, naught-caballing, unmischievous synod! convocation without intrigue ! parliament without debate ! what a lesson dost thou read to council and to consistory! if my pen treat of you lightly—as haply it will wander-yet my spirit hath gravely felt the wisdom of your custom, when sitting among you in deepest peace, which some outwelling tears would rather confirm than disturb, I have reverted to the times of your beginnings, and the sowings of the seed by Fox and Dewsbury. I have witnessed that which brought before my eyes your heroic tranquillity, inflexible to the rude jests and serious violences of the insolent soldiery, republican or royalist, sent to molest you—for ye sat between the fires of two persecutions, the outcast and offscouring of church and presbytery. I have seen the reeling 'sea ruffian, who had wandered into your receptacle, with the avowed intention of disturbing your quiet, from the very spirit of the place receive in a moment a new heart, and presently sit among ye as a lamb amid lambs. And I remember Penn before his accusers, and Fox in the bail dock, where he was lifted up in spirit, as he tells us, and “the judge and the jury became as dead men under his feet."
Reader, if you are not acquainted with it, I would recommend to you, above all church narratives, to read Sewell's History of the Quakers. It is in folio, and is the abstract of the journals of Fox and the primitive Friends. It is far more edifying and affecting than anything you will read of Wesley and his colleagues. Here is nothing to stagger you, nothing to make you mistrust, no suspicion of alloy, no drop or dreg of the worldly or ambitious spirit. You will here read the true story of that much-injured, ridiculed man, (who, perhaps, hath been a byword in your mouth,) James Naylor : what dreadful sufferings with what patience he endured, even to the boring through of his tongue with red-hot irons without a murmur ; and with what strength of mind, when the delusion he had fallen into, which they stigmatized for blasphemy, had given way to clearer thoughts, he could renounce his error, in à strain of the beautifullest humility, yet keep his first grounds, and be a Quaker still !--so different from the practice of your common converts from enthusiasm, who, when they apostatize, apostatize all, and think they can never get far enough from the society of their former errors, even to the renunciation of some saving truths, with which they had been mingled, not implicated.
Get the writings of John Woolman by heart; and love the early Quakers.
How far the followers of these good men in our days have kept to the primitive spirit, or in what proportion they have substituted formality for it, the Judge of spirits can alone determine. I have seen faces in their assemblies, upon which