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examined the present state of religion in Great Britain, and am able to acquaint you with the predominant vice of every market-town in the whole island. I can tell you the progress that virtue has made in all our cities, boroughs, and corporations; and know as well the evil practices that are committed in Berwick or Exeter, as what is done in my own family. In a word, sir, I have my correspondents in the remotest parts of the nation, who send me up punctual accounts from time to time, of all the little irregularities that fall under their notice in their several districts and divisions.
I am no less acquainted with the particular quarters : and regions of this great town, than with the different parts and distributions of the whole nation. I can describe every parish by its impieties, and can tell you in which of our streets lewdness prevails, which gaming has taken the possession of, and where drunkenness has got the better of them both. When I am disposed to raise a fine for the poor, I know the lanes and allies that are inhabited by common swearers.
When I would encourage the hospital of Bridewell, and improve the hempen manufacture, I am very well acquainted with all the haunts and resorts of female night-walkers.
After this short account of myself, I must let you know, that the design of this paper is to give you information of a certain irregular assembly which I think falls very properly under your observation, especially since the persons it is composed of are criminals too considerable for the animadversions of our society. I mean, sir, the midnight mask, which has of late been very frequently held in one of the most conspicuous parts of the town, and which I hear will be continued with additions and improvements. As all the persons who compose this lawless assembly are masqued, we dare not attack any of them in our way, lest we should send a woman of quality to Bridewell, or a peer of Great Britain to the Counter; besides, their numbers are so very great, that I am afraid they would be able to rout our whole fraternity, though we were accompanied with all our guard of constables. Both these
reasons, which secure them from our authority, make them obnoxious to yours; as both their disguise and their numbers will give no particular person reason to think himself affronted by you.
• If we are rightly informed, the rules that are observed by this new society, are wonderfully contrived for the advancement of cuckoldom. The women either come by themselves, or are introduced by friends, who are obliged to quit them, upon their first entrance, to the conversation of any body that addresses himself to them. There are several rooms where the parties may retire, and, if they please, shew their faces by consent.
Whispers, squeezes, nods, and embraces, are the innocent freedoms of the place. In short, the whole design of this libidinous assembly, seems to terminate in assignations and intrigues; and I hope you will take effectual methods, by your public advice and admonitions, to prevent such a promiscuous multitude of both sexes from meeting together in so clandestine a manner.
Your humble servant,
T. B.' Not long after the perusal of this letter, I received another upon the same subject; which, by the date and style of it, I take to be written by some young Templar.
• Middle Temple, 1710-11. SIR, · WHEN a man has been guilty of any vice or folly, I think the best atonement he can make for it, is to warn others not to fall into the like. In order to this, I must acquaint you, that some time in February last, I went to the Tuesday's masquerade. Upon my first going in, I was attacked by half a dozen female quakers, who seemed willing to adopt me for a brother; but, upon a nearer examination, I found they were a sisterhood of coquettes disguised in that precise habit. I was soon after taken out to dance, and, as I fancied, by a woman
of the first quality, for she was very tall, and moved gracefully. As soon as the minuet was over, we ogled one another through our masques; and as I am very well read in Waller, I repeated to her the four following verses out of his poem of Vandyke.
The heedless lover does not know
Inquires her name that has his heart. • I pronounced these words with such a languishing air, that I had some reason to conclude I had made a conquest. She told me that she hoped my face was not akin to my tongue; and looking upon her watch, I accidentally discovered the figure of a coronet on the back part of it. I was so transported with the thought of such an amour, that I plied her from one room to another with all the gallantries I could invent; and at length brought things to so happy an issue, that she gave me a private meeting the next day, without page or footman, coach or equipage. My heart danced in raptures; but I had not lived in this golden dream above three days, before I found good reason to wish that I had continued true to my laundress. I have since heard, by a very great accident, that this fine lady does not live far from Covent Garden, and that I am not the first cully whom she has passed herself i upon for a countess.
Thus, sir, you see how I have mistaken a cloud for a Juno; and if you can make any use of this adventure, for the benefit of those who may possibly be as vain young coxcombs as myself, I do most heartily give you leave. I am, Sir, Your most humble admirer,
B. L' I design to visit the
next masquerade myself, in the same habit I wore at Grand Cairo; and till then shall suspend my judgment of this midnight entertainment.
No. 9. SATURDAY, MARCH 10.
- Tigris agit rabidâ cum tigride pacem Perpetuam, sævis inter se convenit ursis.
Man is said to be a sociable animal, and, as an instance of it, we may observe, that we take all occasions and pretences of forming ourselves into those little nocturnal assemblies, which are commonly known by the name of clubs. When a set of men find themselves agree in any particular, though never so trivial, they establish themselves into a kind of fraternity, and meet once or twice a week, upon the account of such a fantastic resemblance. I know a considerable markettown, in which there was a club of fat men, that did not come together (as you may well suppose) to entertain one another with sprightliness and wit, but to keep one another in countenance; the room where the club met was something of the largest, and had two entrances, the one by a door of a moderate size, and the other by a pair of folding doors. If a candidate for this corpulent club could make his entrance through the first, he was looked upon as unqualified; but if he stuck in the passage, and could not force his way through it, the folding doors were immediately thrown open for his reception, and he was saluted as a brother. I haye heard that this club, though it consisted but of fifteen persons, weighed above three ton.
In opposition to this society, there sprung up another, composed of scare-crows and skeletons, who being very meagre and envious, did all they could to thwart the designs of their bulky brethren, whom they represented as men of dangerous principles; till at length they worked them out of the favour of the people, and consequently out of the magistracy. These factions tore the corporation in pieces for several years, till at length they came to this accommodation; that the two bailiffs of the town should be annually chosen out of the two
clubs; by which means the principal magistrates are at this day coupled like rabbits, one fat and one lean.
Every one has heard of the club, or rather the confederacy, of the Kings. · This grand alliance was formed a little after the return of King Charles the Second, and admitted into it men of all qualities and professions, provided they agreed in this sir-name of King, which, as they imagined, sufficiently declared the owners of it to be altogether untainted with republican and anti-monarchical principles.
A Christian name has likewise been often used as a badge of distinction, and made the occasion of a club. That of the George's, which used to meet at the sign of the George, on St. George's day, and swear · Before George,' is still fresh in every one's memory:
There are at present in several parts of this city what they call Street-Clubs, in which the chief inhabitants of the street converse together every night. I remember, upon my inquiring after lodgings in Ormond-street, the landlord, to recommend that quarter of the town, told me, there was at that time a very good club in it: he also told me, upon further discourse with him, that two or three noisy country squires, who were settled there the year before, had considerably sunk the price of house-rent; and that the club (to prevent the like inconveniencies for the future) had thoughts of taking every house that became vacant into their own hands, till they had found a tenant for it, of a sociable nature, and good conversation.
The Hum-Drum Club, of which I was formerly an unworthy member, was made up of very honest gentlemen, of peaceable dispositions, that used to sit together, smoke their pipes, and say nothing till midnight. The Mum Club (as I am informed) is an institution of the same nature, and as great an enemy to noise.
After these two innocent societies, I cannot forbear mentioning a very mischievous one, that was erected in the reign of King Charles the Second : I mean, the Club of Duellists, in which none was to be admitted