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The Beggars Dialogue paints out the cheating, crafty Tricks of Beggars, who make a Shew of being full of Sores, and make a Profession of Palmistry, and other Arts by which they impose upon many Persons. Nothing is more like Kingship, than the Life of a Beggar.


Ir. What new Sort of Bird is this I see flying here? I know the Face, but the Cloaths don't suit it. If I'm not quite mistaken, this is Misoponus. I'll venture to speak to him, as ragged as I am. God save you, Misoponus.

Mis. Hold your Tongue, I say.

Ir. What's the Matter, mayn't a Body salute you?

Mis. Not by that Name.

Ir. Why, what has happen'd to you? Are you not the same Man that you was? What, have you changed your Name with your Cloaths?

Mis. No, but I have taken up my old Name again.

Ir. Who was you then?

Mis. Apitius.

Ir. Never be asham'd of your old Acquaintance, if any Thing of a better Fortune has happen'd to you. It is not long since you belong'd to our Order.

Mis. Prithee, come hither, and I'll tell you the whole Story. I am not asham'd of your Order; but I am asham'd of the Order that I was first of myself.

Ir. What Order do you mean? That of the Franciscans?

Mis. No, by no Means, my good Friend; but the Order of the Spendthrifts.

Ir. In Truth, you have a great many Companions of that Order.

Mis. I had a good Fortune, I spent lavishly, and when I began to be in Want, no Body knew Apitius. I ran away for Shame, and betook myself to your College: I lik'd that better than digging.

Ir. Very wisely done; but how comes your Body to be in so good Case of late? For as to your Change of Cloaths, I don't so much wonder at that.

Mis. Why so?

Ir. Because the Goddess Laverna makes many rich on a sudden.

Mis. What! do you think I got an Estate by Thieving then?

Ir. Nay, perhaps more idly, by Rapine.

Mis. No, I swear by your Goddess Penia, neither by Thieving, nor by Rapine. But first I'll satisfy you as to the State of my Body, which seems to you to be the most admirable.

Ir. For when you were with us, you were all over full of Sores.

Mis. But I have since made Use of a very friendly Physician.

Ir. Who?

Mis. No other Person but myself, unless you think any Body is more friendly to me, than I am to myself.

Ir. But I never knew you understood Physick before.

Mis. Why all that Dress was nothing but a Cheat I had daub'd on with Paints, Frankincense, Brimstone, Rosin, Birdlime, and Clouts dipp'd in Blood; and what I put on, when I pleas'd I took off again.

Ir. O Impostor! Nothing appear'd more miserable than you were. You might have acted the Part of Job in a Tragedy.

Mis. My Necessity made me do it, though Fortune sometimes is apt to change the Skin too.

Ir. Well then, tell me of your Fortune. Have you found a Treasure?

Mis. No; but I have found out a Way of getting Money that's a little better than yours.

Ir. What could you get Money out of, that had no Stock?

Mis. An Artist will live any where.

Ir. I understand you now, you mean the Art of picking Pockets.

Mis. Not so hard upon me, I pray; I mean the Art of Chymistry.

Ir. Why 'tis scarce above a Fortnight, since you went away from us, and have you in that Time learn'd an Art, that others can hardly learn in many Years?

Mis. But I have got a shorter Way.

Ir. Prithee, what Way?

Mis. When I had gotten almost four Guineas by your Art, I happened, as good Luck would have it, to fall into the Company of an old Companion of mine, who had manag'd his Matters in the World no better than I had done. We went to drink together; he began, as the common Custom is, to tell of his Adventures. I made a Bargain with him to pay his Reckoning, upon Condition that he should faithfully teach me his Art. He taught it me very honestly, and now 'tis my Livelihood.

Ir. Mayn't a Body learn it?

Mis. I'll teach it you for nothing, for old Acquaintance Sake. You know, that there are every where a great many that are very fond of this Art.

Ir. I have heard so, and I believe it is true.

Mis. I take all Opportunities of insinuating myself into their Acquaintance, and talk big of my Art, and where-ever I find an hungry Sea-Cob, I throw him out a Bait.

Ir. How do you do that?

Mis. I caution him by all Means, not rashly to trust Men of that Profession, for that they are most of them Cheats, that by their hocus pocus Tricks, pick the Pockets of those that are not cautious.

Ir. That Prologue is not fit for your Business.

Mis. Nay, I add this further, that I would not have them believe me myself, unless they saw the Matter plainly with their own Eyes, and felt it with their Hands.

Ir. You speak of a wonderful Confidence you have in your Art.

Mis. I bid them be present all the While the Metamorphosis is under the Operation, and to look on very attentively, and that they may have the less Reason to doubt, to perform the whole Operation with their own Hands, while I stand at a Distance, and don't so much as put my Finger to it. I put them to refine the melted Matter themselves, or carry it to the Refiners to be done; I tell them beforehand, how much Silver or Gold it will afford: And in the last Place, I bid them carry the melted Mass to several Goldsmiths, to have it try'd by the Touchstone. They find the exact Weight that I told them; they find it to be the finest Gold or Silver, it is all one to me which it is, except that the Experiment in Silver is the less chargeable to me.

Ir. But has your Art no Cheat in it?

Mis. It is a mere Cheat all over.

Ir. I can't see where the Cheat lies.

Mis. I'll make you see it presently. I first make a Bargain for my Reward, but I won't be paid before I have given a Proof of the Thing itself: I give them a little Powder, as though the whole Business was effected by the Virtue of that; but I never tell them how to make it, except they purchase it at a very great Price. And I make them take an Oath, that for six Months they shall not discover the Secret to any Body living.

Ir. But I han't heard the Cheat yet.

Mis. The whole Mystery lies in one Coal, that I have prepared for this Purpose. I make a Coal hollow, and into it I pour melted Silver, to the Quantity I tell them before-Hand will be produc'd. And after the Powder is put in, I set the Pot in such a Manner, that it is cover'd all over, above, beneath, and Sides, with Coals, and I persuade them, that the Art consists in that; among those Coals that are laid at Top, I put in one that has the Silver or Gold in it, that being melted by the Heat of the Fire, falls down among the other Metal, which melts, as suppose Tin or Brass, and upon the Separation, it is found and taken out.

Ir. A ready Way; but, how do you manage the Fallacy, when another does it all with his own Hands?

Mis. When he has done every Thing, according to my Direction, before the Crucible is stirr'd, I come and look about, to see if nothing has been omitted, and then I say, that there seems to want a Coal or two at the Top, and pretending to take one out of the Coal-Heap, I privately lay on one of my own, or have laid it there ready before-Hand, which I can take, and no Body know any Thing of the Matter.

Ir. But when they try to do this without you, and it does not succeed, what Excuse have you to make?

Mis. I'm safe enough when I have got my Money. I pretend one Thing or other, either that the Crucible was crack'd, or the Coals naught, or the Fire not well tempered. And in the last Place, one Part of the Mystery of my Profession is, never to stay long in the same Place.

Ir. And is there so much Profit in this Art as to maintain you?

Mis. Yes, and nobly too: And I would have you, for the future, if you are wise, leave off that wretched Trade of Begging, and follow ours.

Ir. Nay, I should rather chuse to bring you back to our Trade.

Mis. What, that I should voluntarily return again to that I have escap'd from, and forsake that which I have found profitable?

Ir. This Profession of ours has this Property in it, that it grows pleasant by Custom. And thence it is, that tho' many have fallen off from the Order of St. Francis or St. Benedict, did you ever know any that had been long in our Order, quit it? For you could scarce taste the Sweetness of Beggary in so few Months as you follow'd it.

Mis. That little Taste I had of it taught me, that it was the most wretched Life in Nature.

Ir. Why does no Body quit it then?

Mis. Perhaps, because they are naturally wretched.

Ir. I would not change this Wretchedness, for the Fortune of a King. For there is nothing more like a King, than the Life of a Beggar.

Mis. What strange Story do I hear? Is nothing more like Snow than a Coal?

Ir. Wherein consists the greatest Happiness of Kings?

Mis. Because in that they can do what they please.

Ir. As for that Liberty, than which nothing is sweeter, we have more of it than any King upon Earth; and I don't doubt, but there are many Kings that envy us Beggars. Let there be War or Peace we live secure, we are not press'd for Soldiers, nor put upon Parish-Offices, nor taxed. When the People are loaded with Taxes, there's no Scrutiny into our Way of Living. If we commit any Thing that is illegal, who will sue a Beggar? If we beat a Man, he will be asham'd to fight with a Beggar? Kings can't live at Ease neither in War or in Peace, and the greater they are, the greater are their Fears. The common People are afraid to offend us, out of a certain Sort of Reverence, as being consecrated to God.

Mis. But then, how nasty are ye in your Rags and Kennels?

Ir. What do they signify to real Happiness. Those Things you speak of are out of a Man. We owe our Happiness to these Rags.

Mis. But I am afraid a good Part of your Happiness will fail you in a short Time.

Ir. How so?

Mis. Because I have heard a Talk in the Cities, that there will be a Law, that Mendicants shan't be allow'd to stroll about at their Pleasure, but every City shall maintain its own Poor; and that they that are able shall be made to work.

Ir. What Reason have they for this?

Mis. Because they find great Rogueries committed under Pretence of Begging, and that there are great Inconveniencies arise to the Publick from your Order.

Ir. Ay, I have heard these Stones Time after Time, and they'll bring it about when the Devil's blind.

Mis. Perhaps sooner than you'd have it.

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