John Gay, 'The Present State of Wit', 1711
Dated by Gay as of 3 May 1711, 'The Present State of Wit' was probably the first non-political statement of the 'Tatler's' innovative performance and literary excellence.
The 'Examiner' is a paper which all men, who speak without prejudice, allow to be well written. Though his subject will admit of no great variety; he is continually placing it in so many different lights, and endeavouring to inculcate the same thing by so many beautiful changes of expression, that men who are concerned in no Party, may read him with pleasure. His way of assuming the Question in debate is extremely artful; and his 'Letter to Crassus' (1) is, I think, a masterpiece. As these Papers are supposed to have been written by several hands, (2) the critics will tell you that they can discern a difference in their styles and beauties; and pretend to observe that the first 'Examiners' abound chiefly in Wit, the last in Humour.