Falstaffe’s Theatre is reproduced, with permission, from the papers in the Folger Shakespeare Library.
By Sir JOHN FALSTAFFE.
To be Continued every Tuesday and Saturday.
I am Myself, but call me What you please.
South. in Oroon.
Saturday, April 9. 1720.
Men, that like myself, set up for being Wits, and dictating to the World in a censorial Way, should like Oracles endeavour to be barely heard, but never have it distinguish’d from whence the Voice comes. Faith and Reputation have ever been built on Doubt and Mystery, and sometimes the Art of being unintelligible does not a little advance the Credit of a Writer. There are many Reasons why we, who take upon Us the Task of Diurnal or Weekly Lucubrations, should be like the River Nilus, sending abroad fertile Streams to every Quarter, and still keeping our Heads undiscover’d. But why should I be compell’d to give Reasons for every thing? Were Reasons as plenty as Blackberries, as my worthy Ancestor was wont to say, I would not give a Reason upon Compulsion.
I have confess’d to the World I am a Knight (nor am I asham’d to own it, tho’ ’tis a Condescension as Knighthood goes;) and my Name is John Falstaffe; must they have too a Tree of my Pedigree, and a Direction to my Lodgings? ’Tis ill-Manners to pluck the Masque off, when we would not be known: besides that, Curiosity has lost Men many a Blessing, and plung’d the Discoverers into signal Calamities; as witness Oedipus, and the Oracle, Lot’s Wife, Orpheus and Eurydice, and several other true and ancient Histories, which I have something else to do than think of at present.
It was an Opinion growing apace in the Town, that Sir John Edgar and I were one and the same Man: but from what Tract or Circumstance this Notion sprung, I can neither learn nor guess. I mounted the Stage as the Adversary, and he accepted my Challenge: upon which I attack’d him with such Weapons as Men of Learning commonly use against one another, yet he declin’d the Combat. I was by This in Generosity compell’d to desist from pursuing him, yet every now and then I took upon me to reprimand him, when I observ’d him too free in the Use of certain Figures in Rhetorick, which are the common Dialect of a Part of the Town famous for good Fish and Female Orators. Thus he continued his Course of Writing, sometimes very obscure, sometimes too plain: according as either Vapours, or Spleen, or Love, or Resentment, or French Wine predominated; which I, by my Skill in Natural Philosophy observing, thought it advisable to leave him to himself, till the Court of Chancery should appoint him a proper Guardian. I cannot deny, but that we shook Hands behind the Curtain, and have been very good Friends for these eight Papers last, have been merry without any Gall, he regarding me as a Gentleman Philosopher, and I looking upon him as an inoffensive Humorist.