The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 5/Intelligencer Number 1
IT may be said, without offence to other cities of much greater consequence to the world, that our town of Dublin does not want its due proportion of folly and vice, both native and imported; and as to those imported, we have the advantage to receive them last, and consequently, after our happy manner, to improve and refine upon them.
But because there are many effects of folly and vice among us, whereof some are general, others confined to smaller numbers, and others again perhaps to a few individuals; there is a society lately established, who at great expense have erected an office of intelligence, from which they are to receive weekly information of all important events and singularities, which this famous metropolis can furnish. Strict injunctions are given to have the truest information; in order to which, certain qualified persons are employed to attend upon duty in their several posts; some at the playhouse, others in churches; some at balls, assemblies, coffeehouses, and meetings for quadrille; some at the several courts of justice, both spiritual and temporal; some at the college; some upon my lord mayor and aldermen in their publick affairs; lastly, some to converse with favourite chambermaids, and to frequent those alehouses and brandyshops where the footmen of great families meet in a morning; only the barracks and parliament house are excepted; because we have yet found no enfans perdus bold enough to venture their persons at either. Out of these and some other storehouses, we hope to gather materials enough to inform, or divert, or correct, or vex the town.
But as facts, passages, and adventures of all kinds are likely to have the greatest share in our paper, whereof we cannot always answer for the truth; due care shall be taken to have them applied to feigned names, whereby all just offence will be removed; for if none be guilty, none will have cause to blush or be angry; if otherwise, then the guilty person is safe for the future upon his present amendment, and safe for the present from all but his own conscience.
There is another resolution taken among us, which I fear will give a greater and more general discontent, and is of so singular a nature that I have hardly confidence enough to mention it, although it be absolutely necessary by way of apology for so bold and unpopular an attempt. But so it is, that we have taken a desperate counsel, to produce into the world every distinguished action either of justice, prudence, generosity, charity, friendship, or publick spirit, which comes well attested to us. And although we shall neither here be so daring as to assign names, yet we shall hardly forbear to give some hints, that perhaps to the great displeasure of such deserving persons, may endanger a discovery. For we think that even virtue itself should submit to such a mortification, as by its visibility and example will render it more useful to the world. But however, the readers of these papers need not be in pain of being overcharged with so dull and ungrateful a subject. And yet who knows, but such an occasion may be offered to us once in a year or two, after we have settled a correspondence round the kingdom.
But, after all our boast of materials sent us by our several emissaries, we may probably soon fall short, if the town will not be pleased to lend us farther asistance toward entertaining itself. The world best knows its own faults and virtues, and whatever is sent shall be faithfully returned back, only a little embellished according to the custom of authors. We do therefore demand and expect continual advertisements in great numbers to be sent to the printer of this paper, who has employed a judicious secretary, to collect such as may be most useful for the publick.
And although we do not intend to expose our own persons by mentioning names, yet we are so far from requiring the same caution in our correspondents, that, on the contrary, we expressly charge and command them, in all the facts they send us, to set down the names, titles, and places of abode at length; together with a very particular description of the persons, dresses, dispositions of the several lords, ladies, 'squires, madams, lawyers, gamesters, toupees, sots, wits, rakes, and informers, whom they shall have occasion to mention; otherwise it will not be possible for us to adjust our style to the different qualities and capacities of the persons concerned, and treat them with the respect, or familiarity, that may be due to their stations and characters, which we are determined to observe with the utmost strictness, that none may have cause to complain.