Your most humble Servant,
7 deg. Octobris,
[Footnote 1: The Mr. Francham who wrote this letter was of Norwich, whence it is dated.]
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No. 521. Tuesday, October 28, 1712. Steele.
‘Vera redit facies, dissimulata perit.’
I have been for many Years loud in this Assertion, That there are very few that can see or hear, I mean that can report what they have seen or heard; and this thro’ Incapacity or Prejudice, one of which disables almost every Man who talks to you from representing things as he ought. For which Reason I am come to a Resolution of believing nothing I hear; and I contemn the Men given to Narration under the Appellation of a Matter of Fact Man: And according to me, a Matter of Fact Man is one whose Life and Conversation is spent in the Report of what is not Matter of Fact.
I remember when Prince Eugene was here, there was no knowing his Height or Figure, till you, Mr. SPECTATOR, gave the Publick Satisfaction in that Matter. In Relations, the Force of the Expression lies very often more in the Look, the Tone of Voice, or the Gesture, than the Words themselves; which being repeated in any other Manner by the Undiscerning, bear a very different Interpretation from their original Meaning. I must confess, I formerly have turn’d this Humour of mine to very good Account; for whenever I heard any Narration utter’d with extraordinary vehemence, and grounded upon considerable Authority, I was always ready to lay any Wager that it was not so. Indeed I never pretended to be so rash, as to fix the Matter in any particular Way in Opposition to theirs; but as there are a hundred Ways of any thing happening, besides that it has happen’d, I only controverted its falling out in that one Manner as they settled it, and left it to the Ninety nine other Ways, and consequently had more Probability of Success. I had arrived at a particular skill in warming a Man so far in his Narration, as to make him throw in a little of the Marvelous, and then, if he has much