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C. KNIGHT's, Windsor, will be safely delivered, and no farther inquiries made, if the parties wish to remain concealed.
N° 2. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1786.
Jurare-et fallere Numen.-VIRGIL.
Nec sine ulla mehercule ironia loquor.-Cicero.
To speak ironically. Having, in my former paper, fully, and I hope satisfactorily, explained the nature and tendency of this work, and as far as I could foresee them, answered, if not obviated, all the objections most likely to be started against an undertaking of the kind, 1 shall forbear detaining my readers by any farther prefatory observations, and proceed immediately in the execution of my plan : premising only, that, should it appear to the elder part of my readers, that the subject now before them is too lightly treated, I would not have them conclude from thence, that I am not well aware of its intrinsic weight and importance. Let them however be sensible, that Gregory Griffin does not, with the self-assumed arrogance of a universal censurer, commit to the public these his lucubrations as dictatorial lectures on morality, but as the reflections of an impartial observer of all transactions, principally indeed those of this lesser world, of which he boasts himself a citizen. These, as they afforded both entertainment and instruction to him in their formation, he presumes to hope may be the source of the one or the other to some of his readers. In this character I would wish them to consider me in the following paper, and withal to keep in their minds a maxim, indisputable perhaps from the weight of its authority,
-Where moral precepts fail, The sneer of ridicule will oft prevail. It has often occurred as a matter of surprise to me and a few friends, who like myself can find pleasure in such speculations as arise more immediately from common occurrences, that, among the crowds of pretenders, who profess to teach every accomplishment necessary or unnecessary, to form the character of a complete gentleman, no one has as yet attempted to give instructions in a science, the use of which is more generally adopted, by all ranks of people, than perhaps any other under the sun.-The reader will probably guess, that I allude to the noble art of SWEARING.
So universally indeed does this practice prevail, that it pervades all stations and degrees of men, from the
peer to the porter, from the minister to the mechanic. It is the bond of faith, the seal of protestations (the oaths of lovers indeed are a theme too trite to need discussion here), and the universal succedaneum for logical or even rational demonstration. And here I cannot forbear reflecting on the infinite improvements made by moderns in the method of elucidating and confirming all matters of opinion. A man now-a-days has need but to acquire one quality, impudence, and to get rid of a troublesome companion, conscience, to establish whatever maxims he may take in his head. Let him but confirm with an oath the most improbable conjectures, and if any one calls his honour in question, the manner of settling all such disputes is too obvious to need explanation. And by these means how much unne
cessary trouble does he save the rational talents of his auditors; what a world of useless investigation ! Who can help lamenting that this method of arguing was not long ago adopted? We should then probably have escaped being pestered by the eternal disputations of that useless set of creatures called philosophers; as any tolerable swordsman might have settled the universal system according to his own plan, and made the planets move by what regulations he pleased, provided he was ready, in the Newgate phrase, to swear through thick and thin.'.
But this is a small part only of the advantages attendant on the extensive practices of this art. In the councils of the cabinet, and the wranglings of the bar, it adds weight to the most striking arguments, and by its authority enforces conviction.
It is an old proverbial expression, that' there go two words to a bargain ;' now I should not a little admire the ingenuity of that calculator, who could define, to any tolerable degree of exactness, how many oaths go to one in these days; for I am confident, that there is no business carried on, from the wealthiest bargains of the Exchange, to the sixpenny chafferings of a St. Giles's huckster, in which swearing has not a considerable share. And almost every tradesman, 'meek and much a liar,' will, if his veracity be called in question, coolly consign to Satan some portion of himself, payable on demand, in case his goods be not found answerable to his description of their quality.
I remember to have heard of a person of great talents for inquiry, who, to inform himself whether the land or the water bore the greater proportion in the globe, contrived to cut out, with extreme nicety, from a map, the different portions of each, and by weighing them together, decided it, in favour of which it is not now material :-Could this experiment be made with regard to the proportion which oaths bear to the rest of our modern conversation, I own I am not without my suspicions, that the former scale would in some cases preponderate ; nay, certain I am, that these harmless expletives constitute considerably the weightiest part in the discourse of those, who, either by their own ignorant vanity, or the contemptuous mock-admiration of others, have been dignified with the title of BUCKS. And this indeed, as well in that smaller circle which falls more immediately under my
observation, as in the more enlarged society of men ; among whom, to a BUCK who has the honour to serve his Majesty, a habit of swearing is an appendage as absolutely essential as a cockade or a commission: and many a one there is among this order, who will sit down with equal ardour and selfcomplacency, to devise the cut of a coat, or the form of an execration.
Nay, even the female sex have, to their no small credit, caught the happy contagion; and there is scarce a mercer's wife in the kingdom, but has her innocent unmeaning imprecations, her little oaths • softened into nonsense,' and with squeaking treble, mincing blasphemy into odsbodikins, slitterkins, and such-like, will • swear you like a sucking dove, ay, an it were any nightingale.'
That it is one of the accomplishments of boys, it is more than sufficiently obvious, when there is scarce one, though he be but five years old, that does not lisp out the oaths he has heard drop from the mouths of his elders; while the happy parent congratulates himself on the early improvement of his offspring, and smiles, to discover the promising seeds of manly wit in the sprightly sallies of puerile execration. On which topic I remember to have heard an honest Hibernian divine, whose zeal for morality would sometimes hurry him a little beyond the limits of good grammar, or good sense, in the height of declamation, declare, that the little children, that could neither speak, nor walk, run about the streets blaspheming.'
Thus then, through all ranks and stages of life, is Swearing the very hinge of conversation! It is the conclusive supplement to argument, the apology for wit, the universal medium through which every thought is conveyed; and as to the violent passions, it is (to use the words of the poet)' the very midwife of the mind;' and is equally serviceable in bringing forth the sensations of anger or kindness, hope or fear; the ecstasies of extravagant delight, or the agonies of comfortless despair. What mortal among us is there, that, when any misfortune comes on him unexpectedly, does not find himself wonderfully lightened of the load of his sorrow, by pouring oui the abundance of his vexation in showers of curses on the author of his calamity? What gamester, who has reduced himself from opulence to beggary, by the intemperate indulgence of a mad infatuation, does not, after sitting down and venting his execrations for half an hour against his ill fortune and his folly, get up again greatly relieved by so happy an expedient?
Since then the advantages arising from an early initiation into the practice of swearing must so evidently appear to every person unprejudiced against it, by notions (now indeed almost out of date) of religion and morality, I cannot but be surprised, that no one has yet attempted to reduce to system, and teach the theory of an art, the practical part of which is so universally known and adopted. An undertaking of this kind could not surely fail of success; especially in an age like this, when attempts of a much more arduous nature are every day presented to our notice: when pigs are brought to exercise all the functions of rationality; and Hibernians