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WHAT IS MAN BUT A MICRO-COAT?
[FROM SECTION THE SECOND.]
ABOUT this time it happened a sect arose, whose tenets obtained and spread very far, especially in the grand monde, and among every body of good fashion. They worshipped a sort of idol, who, as their doctrine delivered, did daily create men by a kind of manufactory operation. This idol they placed in the highest part of the house, on an altar erected about three foot : he was shown in the posture of Persian emperor, sitting on a superficies, with his legs interwoven under him. This god had a goose for his ensign : whence it is that some learned men pretend to deduce his original from Jupiter Capitolinus. At his left hand, beneath the altar, hell seemed to open, and catch at the animals the idol was creating ; to prevent which, certain of his priests hourly flung in pieces of the uninformed mass, or substance, and sometimes whole limbs already enlivened, which that horrid gulf insatiably swallowed, terrible to behold. The goose was also held a subaltern divinity, or deus minorum gentium, before whose shrine was sacrificed that creature whose hourly food is human gore, and who is in so great renown abroad, for being the delight and favourite of the Ægyptian Cercopithecus. Millions of these animals were cruelly slaughtered every day, to appease the hunger of that consuming deity. The chief idol was also worshipped as the inventor of the yard and needle ; whether as the god of seamen, or on account of certain other mystical attributes, has not been sufficiently cleared.
The worshippers of this deity had also a system of their belief, which seemed to turn upon the following fundamentals. They held the universe to be a large suit of clothes, which invests everything: that the earth is invested by the air ; the air is invested by the stars; and the stars are invested by the primum mobile. Look on this globe of earth, you will find it to be a very complete and fashionable dress. What is that which some call land, but a fine coat faced with green ? or the sea, but a waistcoat of water-tabby? Proceed to the particular works of the creation, you will find how curious journeyman Nature has been to trim up the vegetable beaux ; observe how sparkish a periwig adorns the head of a beech, and what a fine doublet of white satin is worn by the birch. To conclude from all, what is man himself but a microcoat, or rather a complete suit of clothes with all its trimmings? as to his body there can be no dispute ; but examine even the acquirements of his mind, you will find them all contribute in their order towards furnishing out an exact dress : to instance no more, is not religion a cloak, honesty a pair of shoes worn out in the dirt, self-love a surtout, vanity a shirt, and conscience a pair of breeches ?
These postulata being admitted, it will follow in due course of reasoning that those beings, which the world calls improperly suits of clothes, are in reality the most refined species of animals; or, to proceed higher, that they are rational creatures, or men. For is it not manifest that they live, and move, and talk, and perform all other offices of human life? are not beauty, and wit, and mien, and breeding, their inseparable proprieties? in short, we see nothing but them, hear nothing but them. Is it not they who walk the streets, fill up parliament-, coffee-, play-houses ? It is true, indeed, that these animals, which are vulgarly called suits of clothes, or dresses, do, according to certain compositions, receive different appellations. If one of them be trimmed up with a gold chain, and a red gown, and a white rod, and a great horse, it is called a lord mayor ; if certain ermines and furs be placed in a certain position, we style them a judge ; and so an apt conjunction of lawn and black satin we entitle a bishop.
Others of these professors, though agreeing in the main system, were yet more refined upon certain branches of it; and held that man was an animal compounded of two dresses, the natural and celestial suit, which were the body and the soul : that the soul was the outward, and the body the inward clothing ; that the latter was ex traduce, but the former of daily creation and circumfusion ; this last they proved by scripture, because in them we live, and move, and have our being ; as likewise by philosophy, because they are all in all, and all in every part. Besides, said they, separate these two and you will find the body to be only a senseless unsavoury carcase. By all which it is manifest that the outward dress must needs be the soul.
To this system of religion were tagged several subaltern doctrines, which were entertained with great vogue ; as particularly, the faculties of the mind were deduced by the learned among them in this manner : embroidery was sheer wit, gold fringe was agreeable conversation, gold lace was repartee, a huge long periwig was humour, and a coat full of powder was very good raillery : all which required abundance of finesse and delicatesse to manage with advantage, as well as a strict observance after times and fashions.
I have, with much pains and reading, collected out of ancient authors this short summary of a body of philosophy and divinity, which seems to have been composed by a vein and race of thinking, very different from any other systems either ancient or modern. And it was not merely to entertain or satisfy the reader's curiosity, but rather to give him light into several circumstances of the following story ; that, knowing the state of dispositions and opinions in an age so remote, he may better comprehend those great events which were the issue of them. I advise, therefore, the courteous reader to peruse with a world of application, again and again, whatever I have written upon this matter. And leaving these broken ends, I carefully gather up the chief thread of my story, and proceed.
These opinions, therefore, were so universal, as well as the practices of them, among the refined part of court and town, that our three brother-adventurers, as their circumstances then stood, were strangely at a loss. For, on the one side, the three ladies they addressed themselves to were ever at the very top of the fashion, and abhorred all that were below it but the breadth of a hair. On the other side, their father's will cries one,
was very precise ; and it was the main precept in it, with the greatest penalties annexed, not to add to or diminish from their coats one thread, without a positive command in the will. Now, the coats their father had left them were, it is true, of very good cloth, and, besides, so neatly sewn, you would swear they were all of a piece ; but at the same time very plain, and with little or no ornament : and it happened that before they were a month in town great shoulder-knots came up : straight all the world was shoulder-knots; no approaching the ladies ruelles without the quota of shoulder-knots. That fellow,
has no soul; where is his shoulder-knot ? Our three brethren soon discovered their want by sad experience, meeting in their walks with forty mortifications and indignities. If they went to the playhouse, the door-keeper showed them into the twelvepenny gallery. If they called a boat, says a waterman, I am first sculler. If they stepped to the Rose to take a bottle, the drawer would cry, Friend, we sell no ale. If they went to visit a lady, a footman met them at the door with, Pray send up your message. In this unhappy case, they went immediately to consult their father's will, read it over and over, but not a word of the shoulder-knot. What should they do? what temper should they find ? obedience was absolutely necessary, and yet shoulder-knots appeared extremely requisite. After much thought, one of the brothers, who happened to be more book-learned than the other two, said, he had found an expedient. It is true, said he, there is nothing here in this will, totidem verbis, making mention of shoulder-knots: but I dare conjecture, we may find them inclusive, or totidem