Thursday, November 14, 2013

Old They by John Leland

The following was written by the Baptist preacher John Leland (1754-1841):
Of all the villains that haunt the world, not one of them is more mischievous than Old They. He is generally treated as a noun of multitude, followed by a single verb, (They say,) which makes it exceedingly difficult to identify the vagrant. Whether ho is an individual, bearing as many titles as a Spanish Don, or a monster, having as many heads as a Hydra, is hard to ascertain.
If a man wishes to spread a false report, to injure his ruler, priest, or neighbor, he has nothing to do, but to add, They say, and all passes currently.
If any, however, are incredulous, and back the evil report, after passing many hands, which gave the report publicity, and drawing the ideal residence of They, he then plays the game of a talisman before them, or dissolves himself in air.
Others, who have been foiled in their pursuits after the fugitive, and yet are in the habit of believing that They has said so, instead of fastening the blame on the infamous tattler, who is retailing the slander, conjecture a substitute for They, and ever afterwards consider the substitute as an enemy, when, at the same time, the poor suspected man, knows not for what. If it will not be considered too dictatorial, I will here suggest a salutary expedient.
When a man begins to retail the libelous reports of others, or vend his own choleric manufacture, on the credit of They say so, if he will not identify his author, hold the man responsible for all be says, and let Old They shift for himself.
As printed in The Baptist Waymark, Vol. IV, No. 3, May-June 1996, p. 4

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