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N° 160. MONDAY, SEPT. 14, 1713.
Solventur risu tabulæ, tu missus abibis,
HOR. 2 Sat. i. ver. ult.
My lords the judges laugh, and you're dismiss'd.
FROM writing the history of lions, I lately went off to that of ants; but to my great surprise, I find that some of my good readers have taken this last to be a work of invention, which was only a plain narrative of matter of fact. They will several of them have it that my last Thursday and Friday's papers * are full of concealed satire, and that I have attacked people in the shape of pismires, whom I durst not meddle with in the shape of men. I must confess that I write with fear and trembling, ever since that ingenious person the Examiner, in his little pamphlet, which was to make way for one of his following papers, found out treason in the word expect.
But I shall, for the future, leave my friend to manage the controversy in a separate work, being unwilling to fill with disputes a paper which was undertaken purely out of good-will to my countrymen. I must therefore declare that those jealousies and suspicions, which have been raised in some weak minds, by means of the two above-mentioned discourses concerning ants or pismires, are altoge
*Nos. 157, 158.
ther groundless. There is not an emmet in all that whole narrative who is either whig or tory; and I could wish, that the individuals of all parties among us, had the good of their country at heart, and endeavoured to advance it by the same spirit of frugality, justice, and mutual benevolence, as are visibly exercised by the members of those little commonwealths.
After this short preface, I shall lay before my reader a letter or two which occasioned it.
I HAVE laid a wager with a friend of mine about the pigeons that used to peck up the corn which belonged to the ants. I say that by these pigeons you mean the Palatines. He will needs have it that they were the Dutch. We both agree that the papers upon the strings were pamphlets, Examiners, and the like. We beg you will satisfy us in this particular, because the wager is very considerable, and you will much oblige two your
'WHY SO rusty? will you never leave your innuendoes? Do you think it hard to find out who is the tulip in your last Thursday's paper? Or can you imagine that three nests of ants is such a disguise, that the plainest reader cannot see three kingdoms through it? The blowing up of a neighbouring settlement, where there was a race of poor beggarly ants, under a worse form of government, is not so difficult to be explained as you imagine. Dunkirk is not yet demolished.
Your ants are enemies to rain, are they! Old Birmingham, no more of your ants, if you don't intend to stir up a nest of hornets.
CALLING in yesterday at a coffeehouse in the city, I saw a very short, corpulent, angry man reading your paper about the ants. I observed that he reddened and swelled over every sentence of it. After having perused it throughout, he laid it down upon the table, called the woman of the coffee-house to him, and asked her in a magisterial voice, if she knew what she did in taking in such papers! The woman was in such a confusion, that I thought it a piece of charity to interpose in her behalf, and asked him whether he had found any thing in it of dangerous import? "Sir," said he, "it is a republican paper from one end to the other, and if the author had his deserts"-He here grew so exceeding choleric and fierce, that he could not proceed; till after having recovered himself, he laid his finger upon the following sentence, and read it with a very stern voice Though ants are very knowing, I don't take them to be conjurers: and therefore they could not guess that I had put some corn in that room. I perceived for several days that they were very much perplexed, and went a great way to fetch their provisions. I was not willing for some time to make them more easy: for I had a mind to know whether they would at last find out the treasure, and see it at a great distance, and whether smelling enabled them to know what is good for their nourishment." Then throwing the paper
the table" Sir," says he, "these things are not to be suffered-I would engage out of this sentence to draw up an indictment that"-He here lost his voice a second time in the extremity of his rage; and the whole company, who were all of them tories, bursting out into a sudden laugh, he threw down his penny in great wrath, and retired with a most formidable frown.
This, sir, I thought fit to acquaint you with, that you may make what use of it you please. I only wish that you would sometimes diversify your papers with many other pieces of natural history, whether of insects or animals; this being a subject which the most common reader is capable of understanding, and which is very diverting in its nature; besides that, it highly redounds to the praise of that Being who has inspired the several parts of the sensitive world with such wonderful and different kinds of instinct as enable them to provide for themselves, and preserve their species in that state of existence wherein they are placed. There is no party concerned in speculations of this nature, which, instead of inflaming those unnatural heats that prevail among us, and take up most of our thoughts may divert our minds to subjects that are useful, and suited to reasonable creatures. Dissertations of this kind are the more proper for your purpose, as they do not require any depth of mathematics, or any previous science to qualify the reader for the understanding of them. To this I might add, that it is a shame for men to be ignorant of these worlds of wonders which are transacted in the midst of them, and not be acquainted with those objects which are every where before their eyes. To this I further might add, that several are of opinion, there is no other use in many
of these creatures than to furnish matter of contemplation and wonder to those inhabitants of the earth, who are its only creatures that are capable of it.
I am, Sir,
Your constant reader,
and humble servant.'
After having presented my reader with this set of letters which are all upon the same subject, I shall here insert one that has no relation to it. But it has always been my maxim never to refuse going out of my way to do any honest man a service, especially when I have an interest in it myself.
MOST VENERABLE NESTOR,
As you are a person that very eminently distinguish yourself in the promotion of the public good, I desire your friendship in signifying to the town what concerns the greatest good of life, health. I do assure you, sir, there is in a vault under the Exchange in Cornhill, over against Pope's-head-alley, a parcel of French wines, full of the seeds of good humour, cheerfulness, and friendly mirth. I have been told, the learned of our nation agree, there is no such thing as bribery in liquors; therefore I shall presume to send you of it, lest you should think it inconsistent with integrity to recommend what you do not understand by experience. In the mean time please to insert this, that every man may judge for himself.
I am, Sir, &c.'