Nec fals, Clymene culpam sub imagine celat;
Pignora da, Genitor
There is a loose Tribe of Men whom I have not yet taken Notice of, that ramble into all the Corners of this great City, in order to seduce such unfortunate Females as fall into their Walks. These abandoned Profligates raise up Issue in every Quarter of the Town, and very often, for a valuable Consideration, father it upon the Church-warden. By this means there are several Married Men who have a little Family in most of the Parishes of London and Westminster, and several Batchelors who are undone by a Charge of Children.
When a Man once gives himself this Liberty of preying at large, and living upon the Common, he finds so much Game in a populous City, that it is surprising to consider the Numbers which he sometimes propagates. We see many a young Fellow who is scarce of Age, that could lay his Claim to the Jus trium Liberorum, or the Privileges which were granted by the Roman Laws to all such as were Fathers of three Children: Nay, I have heard a Rake who1 was not quite five and twenty, declare himself the Father of a seventh Son, and very prudently determine to breed him up a Physician. In short, the Town is full of these young Patriarchs, not to mention several batter'd Beaus, who, like heedless Spendthrifts that squander away their Estates before they are Masters of them, have raised up their whole Stock of Children before Marriage.
I must not here omit the particular Whim of an Impudent Libertine, that had a little Smattering of Heraldry; and observing how the Genealogies of great Families were often drawn up in the Shape of Trees, had taken a Fancy to dispose of his own illegitimate Issue in a Figure of the same kind.
—Nec longum tempus et ingens
Exiit ad cœlum ramis felicibus arbos,
Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma.
The Trunk of the Tree was mark'd with his own Name, Will Maple. Out of the Side of it grew a large barren Branch, Inscribed Mary Maple, the Name of his unhappy Wife. The Head was adorned with five huge Boughs. On the Bottom of the first was written in Capital Characters Kate Cole, who branched out into three Sprigs, viz. William, Richard, and Rebecca. Sal Twiford gave Birth to another Bough, that shot up into Sarah, Tom, Will, and Frank. The third Arm of the Tree had only a single Infant in it, with a Space left for a second, the Parent from whom it sprung being near her Time when the Author took this Ingenious Device into his Head. The two other great Boughs were very plentifully loaden with Fruit of the same kind; besides which there were many Ornamental Branches that did not bear. In short, a more flourishing Tree never came out of the Herald's Office.
What makes this Generation of Vermin so very prolifick, is the indefatigable Diligence with which they apply themselves to their Business. A Man does not undergo more Watchings and Fatigues in a Campaign, than in the Course of a vicious Amour. As it is said of some Men, that they make their Business their Pleasure, these Sons of Darkness may be said to make their Pleasure their Business. They might conquer their corrupt Inclinations with half the Pains they are at in gratifying them.
Nor is the Invention of these Men less to be admired than their Industry or Vigilance. There is a Fragment of Apollodorus the Comick Poet (who was Contemporary with Menander) which is full of Humour as follows: Thou mayest shut up thy Doors, says he, with Bars and Bolts: It will be impossible for the Blacksmith to make them so fast, but a Cat and a Whoremaster will find a Way through them. In a word, there is no Head so full of Stratagems as that of a Libidinous Man.
Were I to propose a Punishment for this infamous Race of Propagators, it should be to send them, after the second or third Offence, into our American Colonies, in order to people those Parts of her Majesty's Dominions where there is a want of Inhabitants, and in the Phrase of Diogenes, to Plant Men. Some Countries punish this Crime with Death; but I think such a Banishment would be sufficient, and might turn this generative Faculty to the Advantage of the Publick.
In the mean time, till these Gentlemen may be thus disposed of, I would earnestly exhort them to take Care of those unfortunate Creatures whom they have brought into the World by these indirect Methods, and to give their spurious Children such an Education as may render them more virtuous than their Parents. This is the best Atonement they can make for their own Crimes, and indeed the only Method that is left them to repair their past Mis-carriages.
I would likewise desire them to consider, whether they are not bound in common Humanity, as well as by all the Obligations of Religion and Nature, to make some Provision for those whom they have not only given Life to, but entail'd upon them, tho' very unreasonably, a Degree of Shame and Disgrace3. And here I cannot but take notice of those depraved Notions which prevail among us, and which must have taken rise from our natural Inclination to favour a Vice to which we are so very prone, namely, that Bastardy and Cuckoldom should be look'd upon as Reproaches, and that the Ignominy4 which is only due to Lewdness and Falsehood, should fall in so unreasonable a manner upon the Persons who are5 innocent.
I have been insensibly drawn into this Discourse by the following Letter, which is drawn up with such a Spirit of Sincerity, that I question not but the Writer of it has represented his Case in a true and genuine Light.
'I am one of those People who by the general Opinion of the World are counted both Infamous and Unhappy.
'My Father is a very eminent Man in this Kingdom, and one who bears considerable Offices in it. I am his Son, but my Misfortune is, That I dare not call him Father, nor he without Shame own me as his Issue, I being illegitimate, and therefore deprived of that endearing Tenderness and unparallel'd Satisfaction which a good Man finds in the Love and Conversation of a Parent: Neither have I the Opportunities to render him the Duties of a Son, he having always carried himself at so vast a Distance, and with such Superiority towards me, that by long Use I have contracted a Timorousness when before him, which hinders me from declaring my own Necessities, and giving him to understand the Inconveniencies I undergo.
'It is my Misfortune to have been neither bred a Scholar, a Soldier, nor to any kind of Business, which renders me Entirely uncapable of making Provision for my self without his Assistance; and this creates a continual Uneasiness in my Mind, fearing I shall in Time want Bread; my Father, if I may so call