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and held very pretty gentlemen with the sillier and unbred part of womankind. But above all already mentioned, or any who ever were, or even can be in the world, the happiest and surest to be pleasant, are a sort of people whom we have not indeed lately heard much of, and those are your Biters.
A Biter is one who tells you a thing you have no reason to disbelieve in itself, and perhaps has given you, before he bit you, no reason to disbelieve it for his saying it; and if you give him credit, laughs in your face, and triumphs that he has deceived you. In a word, a Biter is one who thinks you a fool, be. cause you do not think him a knave. This description of him one may insist upon to be a just one ; for what else but a degree of knavery is it, to depend upon deceit for what you gain of another, be it in point of wit, or interest, or any thing else?
This way of wit is called Biting, by a metaphor taken from beasts of prey, which devour harmless and unarmed animals, and look upon them as their food wherever they meet them. The sharpers about town very ingeniously understood themselves to be, to the undesigning part of mankind, what foxes are to lambs, and therefore used the word Biting, to express any exploit wherein they had over-reached any innocent and inadvertent man of his purse. These rascals of late years have been the gallants of the town, and carried it with a fashionable haughty airy to the discouragement of modesty and all honest arts. Shallow fops, who are governed by the eye, and admire every thing that struts in vogue, took up from the sharpers the phrase of Biting, and used it upon all occasions, either to disown any nonsensical stuff they should talk themselves, or evade the force of what was reasonably said by others. Thus, when one of these cunning creatures was entered into a debate with you, whether it was practicable in the present state of affairs to accomplish such a propo
sition, and you thought he had let fall what destroyed his side of tl:e question, as soon as you looked with an earnestness ready to lay hold of it, he immediately cried, Bite, and you were immediately to acknowledge all that part was in jest. They carry this to all the extravagance imaginable, and if one of these witlings knows any particulars which may give authority to what he has, he is still the more ingenious if he imposes upon your credulity. I remember a remarkable instance of this kind. There came up a shrewd young fellow to a plain young man his countryman, and taking him aside with a grave concerned countenance, goes on at this rate : I see you here, and have you heard nothing out of Yorkshire ?.... You look so surprised you could not have heard of it....and yet the particulars are such, that it cannot be false : I am sorry I am got into it so far that I now must tell you ; but I know not but it may be for your service to know....on Tuesday last, just after dinner....you know his manner is to smoke, opening his box, your father fell down dead in an apoplexy. The youth shewed the filial sorrow which he ought......... Upon which the witty man cried, Bite, there was nothing in all this.
To put an end to this silly, pernicious, frivolous way at once, I will give the reader one late instance of a Bite, which no Biter for the future will ever be able to equal, though I heartily wish him the same occasion. It is a superstition with some surgeons who beg the bodies of condemned malefactors, to go to the gaol, and bargain for the carcase with the cri. minal himself. A good honest fellow did so last ses. sions, and was admitted to the condemned men on the morning wherein they died. The surgeon com, municated his business, and fell into discourse with a little fellow, who refused twelve shillings, and insisted upon fifteen for his body. The fellow, who killed the officer of Newgate, very forwardly, and
like a man who was willing to deal, told him, Look you, Mr. Surgeon, that litte dry fellow, who has been half-starved all his life, and is now half dead with fear, cannot answer your purpose. I have ever lived highly and freely, my veins are full, I have not pined in imprisonment: you see my crest swells to your knife, and after Jack Catch has done, upon my honour you will find me as sound as ever a bullock in any of the markets. Come, for twenty sbillings I am your man.....Says the Surgeon, Done, there is a guinea.......... This witty rogue took the money, and as soon as he had it in his fist, cries, Bite, I am to be hanged in chains.
No. DV. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9.
Non habeo denique nauci Marsom Augurem,
THOSE who have maintained that men would be more miserable than beasts, were their hopes confined to this life only, among other considerations take notice that the latter are only afHicted with the anguish of the present evil, whereas the former are very often pained by the reflection on what is passed, and the fear of what is to come. This fear of any future difficulties or misfortunes is so natural to the mind, that were a man's sorrows and disquietudes summed up at the end of his life, it would generally be found that he had suffered more from the apprehension of such evils as never happened him, than from those evils which had really befallen him. To this we may add, that among those evils which befal us, there are many that have been more painful to us in the prospect, than by their actual pressure. This natural impatience to look into futurity, and to know what accidents may happen to us hereafter, has given birth to many ridiculous arts and inventions. Some found the prescience on the lines of a man's hand, others on the features of his face ; some on the signatures which nalure has impressed on his body, and others on his own hand-writing : some read men's fortunes in the stars, as others have searched after them in the entrails of beasts, or the flight of birds. Men of the best sense have been touched more or less with these groundless horrors and presages of futurity, upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature. Can any thing be more surprising than to consider Cicero, who made the greatest figure at the bar, and in the senate of the Roman commonwealth, and, at the same time, outshined all the philosophers of antiquity in his library and in his retirements, as busying himself in the college of augurs, and observing with a religious attention, after what manner the chickens pecked the several grains of corn which were thrown to them? · Notwithstanding these follies are pretty well worn out of the minds of the wise and learned in the present age, multitudes of weak and ignorant persons are still slaves to them. There are numberless arts of prediction among the vulgar, which are too trifling to enumerate ; and infinite observation of days, numbers, voices, and figures, which are regarded by them as portents and prodigies. In short, every thing prophecies to the superstitious man; there is scarce a straw or a rusty piece of iron that lies in his way by accident.