Story type: Essay
Tuesday, May 20, 1712. Addison.
‘Criminibus debent Hortos–‘
As I was sitting in my Chamber, and thinking on a Subject for my next Spectator, I heard two or three irregular Bounces at my Landlady’s Door, and upon the opening of it, a loud chearful Voice enquiring whether the Philosopher was at Home. The Child who went to the Door answered very Innocently, that he did not Lodge there. I immediately recollected that it was my good Friend Sir ROGER’S Voice; and that I had promised to go with him on the Water to Spring-Garden, in case it proved a good Evening. The Knight put me in mind of my Promise from the Bottom of the Stair-Case, but told me that if I was Speculating he would stay below till I had done. Upon my coming down, I found all the Children of the Family got about my old Friend, and my Landlady herself, who is a notable prating Gossip, engaged in a Conference with him; being mightily pleased with his stroaking her little Boy upon the Head, and bidding him be a good Child and mind his Book.
We were no sooner come to the Temple Stairs, but we were surrounded with a Crowd of Watermen, offering us their respective Services. Sir ROGER, after having looked about him very attentively, spied one with a Wooden-Leg, and immediately gave him Orders to get his Boat ready. As we were walking towards it, You must know, says Sir ROGER, I never make use of any body to row me, that has not either lost a Leg or an Arm. I would rather bate him a few Strokes of his Oar, than not employ an honest Man that has been wounded in the Queen’s Service. If I was a Lord or a Bishop, and kept a Barge, I would not put a Fellow in my Livery that had not a Wooden-Leg.
My old Friend, after having seated himself, and trimmed the Boat with his Coachman, who, being a very sober Man, always serves for Ballast on these Occasions, we made the best of our way for Fox-Hall. Sir ROGER obliged the Waterman to give us the History of his Right Leg, and hearing that he had left it [at La Hogue ] with many Particulars which passed in that glorious Action, the Knight in the Triumph of his Heart made several Reflections on the Greatness of the British Nation; as, that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen; that we could never be in danger of Popery so long as we took care of our Fleet; that the Thames was the noblest River in Europe; that London Bridge was a greater piece of Work, than any of the seven Wonders of the World; with many other honest Prejudices which naturally cleave to the Heart of a true Englishman.
After some short Pause, the old Knight turning about his Head twice or thrice, to take a Survey of this great Metropolis, bid me observe how thick the City was set with Churches, and that there was scarce a single Steeple on this side Temple-Bar. A most Heathenish Sight! says Sir ROGER: There is no Religion at this End of the Town. The fifty new Churches will very much mend the Prospect; but Church-work is slow, Church-work is slow!
I do not remember I have any where mentioned, in Sir ROGER’S Character, his Custom of saluting every Body that passes by him with a Good-morrow or a Good-night. This the old Man does out of the overflowings of his Humanity, though at the same time it renders him so popular among all his Country Neighbours, that it is thought to have gone a good way in making him once or twice Knight of the Shire. He cannot forbear this Exercise of Benevolence even in Town, when he meets with any one in his Morning or Evening Walk. It broke from him to several Boats that passed by us upon the Water; but to the Knight’s great Surprize, as he gave the Good-night to two or three young Fellows a little before our Landing, one of them, instead of returning the Civility, asked us what queer old Put we had in the Boat, and whether he was not ashamed to go a Wenching at his Years? with a great deal of the like Thames-Ribaldry. Sir ROGER seemd a little shocked at first, but at length assuming a Face of Magistracy, told us, That if he were a Middlesex Justice, he would make such Vagrants know that Her Majesty’s Subjects were no more to be abused by Water than by Land.
We were now arrived at Spring-Garden, which is exquisitely pleasant at this time of Year. When I considered the Fragrancy of the Walks and Bowers, with the Choirs of Birds that sung upon the Trees, and the loose Tribe of People that walked under their Shades, I could not but look upon the Place as a kind of Mahometan Paradise. Sir ROGER told me it put him in mind of a little Coppice by his House in the Country, which his Chaplain used to call an Aviary of Nightingales. You must understand, says the Knight, there is nothing in the World that pleases a Man in Love so much as your Nightingale. Ah, Mr. SPECTATOR! the many Moon-light Nights that I have walked by my self, and thought on the Widow by the Musek of the Nightingales! He here fetched a deep Sigh, and was falling into a Fit of musing, when a Masque, who came behind him, gave him a gentle Tap upon the Shoulder, and asked him if he would drink a Bottle of Mead with her? But the Knight, being startled at so unexpected a Familiarity, and displeased to be interrupted in his Thoughts of the Widow, told her, She was a wanton Baggage, and bid her go about her Business.
We concluded our Walk with a Glass of Burton-Ale, and a Slice of Hung-Beef. When we had done eating our selves, the Knight called a Waiter to him, and bid him carry the remainder to the Waterman that had but one Leg. I perceived the Fellow stared upon him at the oddness of the Message, and was going to be saucy; upon which I ratified the Knight’s Commands with a Peremptory Look.
As we were going out of the Garden, my old Friend, thinking himself obliged, as a Member of the Quorum, to animadvert upon the Morals of the Place, told the Mistress of the House, who sat at the Bar, That he should be a better Customer to her Garden, if there were more Nightingales, and fewer Strumpets.
[Footnote 1: [in Bantry Bay] In Bantry Bay, on May-day, 1689, a French Fleet, bringing succour to the adherents of James II., attacked the English, under Admiral Herbert, and obliged them to retire. The change of name in the text was for one with a more flattering association. In the Battle of La Hogue, May 19, 1692, the English burnt 13 of the enemy’s ships, destroyed 8, dispersed the rest, and prevented a threatened descent of the French upon England.]