Congreve, The Way of the World on "News Letters" and the London Gazette
Witwould, a young man about town, has just met his uncle, Sir Wilful Witwoud, a country squire of somewhat rough manners and no literary learning. When Sir Wilful realizes to whom he is speaking, the exchange reveals to Witwoud's friend and fellow "wit, Petulant," that Witwould was not always a man of leisure and wit, but had once been an attourney's apprentice (just like Congreve, in real life). Sir Wilful reminisces about Witwoud's letters from London as a source of "news" before his nephew became too sophisticated for such discourse. In the next decades, highly personalized newspapers would take over the market, especially those begun by Addison and Steele, and Samuel Johnson (The Rambler).
SIR WILFUL WITWOUD. 'Sheart, sir, but there is, and much offence.
A pox, is
this your inns o' court breeding, not to know your friends and your
relations, your elders, and your betters?
WITWOUD. Why, brother Wilfull of Salop, you may be as short as a
Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you 'tis not modish to
know relations in town. You think you're in the country, where
great lubberly brothers slabber and kiss one another when they meet,
like a call of sergeants. 'Tis not the fashion here; 'tis not,
indeed, dear brother.
SIR WILFUL WITWOUD. The fashion's a fool and you're a fop, dear brother.
'Sheart, I've suspected this--by'r lady I conjectured you were a
fop, since you began to change the style of your letters, and write
in a scrap of paper gilt round the edges, no bigger than a subpoena.
I might expect this when you left off 'Honoured brother,' and
'Hoping you are in good health,' and so forth, to begin with a 'Rat
me, knight, I'm so sick of a last night's debauch.' Ods heart, and
then tell a familiar tale of a cock and a bull, and a whore and a
bottle, and so conclude. You could write news before you were out
of your time, when you lived with honest Pumple-Nose, the attorney
of Furnival's Inn. You could intreat to be remembered then to your
friends round the Wrekin. We could have Gazettes then, and Dawks's
Letter, and the Weekly Bill, till of late days.
PETULENT. 'Slife, Witwoud, were you ever an attorney's clerk? Of the
family of the Furnivals? Ha, ha, ha!
WITWOUD. Ay, ay, but that was but for a while. Not long, not long;
pshaw, I was not in my own power then. An orphan, and this fellow
was my guardian; ay, ay, I was glad to consent to that man to come
to London. He had the disposal of me then. If I had not agreed to
that, I might have been bound prentice to a feltmaker in Shrewsbury:
this fellow would have bound me to a maker of felts.