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No. CXXXIV. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16.
Cuis talia fando,
Sheer-lane, February 15. I WAS awakened very early this morning by the distant crowing of a cock, which I thought had the finest pipe I ever heard. He seemed to me to strain his voice more than ordinary, as if he designed to make himself heard to the remotest corner of this lane. Having entertained myself a little before I went to bed with a discourse on the transmigration of men into other animals, I could not but fancy that this was the son of some drowsy bellman who used to sleep upon his post, for which he was condemned to do penance in feathers, and distinguish the several watches of the night under the outside of a cock. While I was thinking of the condition of this poor bellman in masquerade, I heard a great knocking at my door, and was soon after told by my maid, that my worthy friend the tall black gentleman, who frequents the coffeehouses hereabouts, desired to speak with me.
This ancient Pythagorean, who has as much honesty as any man living, but good-nature to an excess, brought me the following petition, which I am apt to believe he penned himself, the petitioner not being able to express his mind in paper under his present form, however famous he might have been for making verses when he was in his original shape.
To Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. Censor of Great Britain.
The humble petition of Job Chanticleer, in behalf of
himself, and many other poor sufferers in the same condition,
« SHEWETH, “ THAT whereas your petitioner is truly de“scended of the ancient family of the Chanticleers, at “ Cock-hall, near Rumford, in Essex, it has been his “ misfortune to come into the mercenary hands of a “certain ill-disposed person, commonly called an hig“ler, who, under the close confinement of a pannier, “ has conveyed him and many others up to London : “ but hearing by chance of your worship’s great hu“manity towards Robin Red-breasts and Tom-tits, he " is emboldened to beseech you to take his deplorable "condition into your tender consideration, who other“wise must suffer (with many thousands more as innocent as himself) that inhuman barbarity of a Shrove“ Tuesday persecution. We humbly hope, that our “courage and vigilance may plead for us on this oco casion.
" Your poor petitioner most earnestly implores your "immediate protection from the insolence of the rab“ble, the batteries of catsticks, and a painful lingering « death.
“And your petitioner, &c.”
Upon delivery of this petition, the worthy gentleman, who presented it, told me the customs of many wise nations of the East, through which he travelled; that nothing was more frequent than to see a dervise lay out a whole year's income in the redemption of larks or linnets, that had unhappily fallen into the hands of
birdcatchers: that it was also usual to run between a dog and a bull to keep them from hurting one another, or to lose the use of a limb in parting a couple of furious mastiffs. He then insisted upon the ingratitude and disingenuity of treating in this mannera necessary and domestic animal, that has made the whole house keep good hours, and called up the cook-maid for five years together. What uld a Turk say, continued he, should he hear, that it is a common entertainment in a nation, which pretends to be one of the most civilized of Europe, to tie an innocent animal to a stake, and put him to an ignominious death, who has perhaps been the guardian and proveditor of a poor family, as long as he was able to get eggs for his mistress?
I thought what this gentleman said was very reasonable; and have often wondered, that we do not lay aside a custom which makes us appear barbarous to nations much more rude and unpolished than oursel
Some French writers have represented this dis version of the common people much to our disadvantage, and imputed it to natural fierceness and cruelty of temper; as they do some other entertainments peculiar to our nation: I mean those elegant diversions of bull-baiting and prize-fighting, with the like ingenious recreations of the bear-garden. I wish I knew how to answer this reproach which is cast upon us, and excuse the death of so many innocent cocks, bulls, dogs, and bears, as have been set together by the ears, or died untimely deaths, only to make us sport.
It will be said, that these are the entertainments of common people. It is true ; but they are the entertainments of no other common people. Besides, I am afraid there is a tincture of the same savage spirit, in the diversions of those of higher rank, and more refined relish. Rapin observes, that the English theatre very much delights in bloodshed, which he likewise represents as an indication of our tempers. I must own, there is something very horrid in the pub
lic executions of an English tragedy. Stabbing and poisoning, which are performed behind the scenes in other nations, must be done openly among us, to gratify the audience.
When poor Sandford was upon the stage, I have seen him groaning upon a wheel, stuck with daggers, impaled alive, calling his executioners, with a dying voice, cruel dogs and villains! and all this to please his judicious spectators, who were wonderfully delighted with seeing a man in torment so well acted. The truth of it is, the politeness of our English stage, in regard to decorum, is very extraordinary. We act murders, to shew our intrepidity, and adulteries to shew our gallantry : both of them are frequent in our most taking plays, with this difference only, that the first are done in the sight of the audience, and the other wrought up to such an height upon the stage, that they are almost put in execution before the actors can get behind the scenes.
I would not have it thought, that there is just ground for those consequences which our enemies draw against us from these practices ; but methinks one would be sorry for any manner of occasion for such misrepresentations of us. The virtues of tenderness, compassion, and humanity, are those by which men are distinguished from brutes, as much as by reason itself; and it would be the greatest reproach to a nation to distinguish itself from all others by any defect in these particular virtues. For which reasons, I hope that my dear countrymen will no longer expose themselves by an effusion of blood, whether it be of theatrical heroes, cocks, or any other innocent animals, which we are not obliged to slaughter for our safety, convenience, or nourishment. Where any of these ends are not served in the destruction of a living creature, I
cannot but pronounce it a great piece of cruelty, if not i, a kind of murder.
No. CXXXV. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18.
Quod si in hoc erro, quod animos hominum immortales esse credam, libenter erro: nec mihi hunc errorem, quo delector, dum vivo, extorqueri volo: sin mortuus (ut quidam minuti philosophi censent) nihil sentiam; non vereor, ne hunc errorem meum mortui philosophi irrideant.
Sheer-lane, February 17. SEVERAL letters which I have lately received give me information, that some well-disposed persons have taken offence at my using the word free-thinker as a term of reproach. To set therefore this matter in a clear light, I must declare, that no one can have a greater veneration than myself for the free-thinkers of antiquity, who acted the same part in those times, as the great men of the reformation did in several nations of Europe, by exerting themselves against the idolatry and superstition of the times in which they lived. It was by this noble impulse that Socrates and his disciples, as well as all the philosophers of note in Greece, and Cicero, Seneca, with all the learned men of Rome, endeavoured to enlighten their contemporaries amidst the darkness and ignorance in which the world was then sunk and buried.
The great points which these free-thinkers endeavoured to establish and inculcate into the minds of men, were the formation of the universe, the superintendency of Providence, the perfection of the divine nature, the immortality of the soul, and the future state of rewards and punishments. They all complied with the religion of their country, as much as possible, in such particulars as did not contradict and pervert these great and fundamental doctrines of mankind. On the contrary, the persons who now set up for free-thinkers, are such as endeavour by a little trash of words and sophistry, to weaken and destroy those very principles, for the vindication of which, freedom of thought at