NOTHING more plainly shows a weak and degenerate mind, than taking a delight
in whispering about every idle story we are told to the prejudice of our neighbours.
This is a fault charged more generally on our sex than the other; and I am
sorry to say, with but too much justice. Some will have it, that this unlucky
propensity in us proceeds from a greater share of envy and malice in our
natures; others, less severe, ascribe it merely to a want of something else
wherewith to employ ourselves. This latter is certainly the most true, because
we often find women, who in no other respect can be accused of ill-nature, yet
take a prodigious pleasure in reporting every little scandal they hear, even
though it be of persons whom they have neither any quarrel against, nor can any
way be supposed to envy.
But this motive, tho' less criminal, is equally shameful, and ought to make
every woman blush when about to repeat the little affairs of persons with whom
she has no manner of concerns, to think she finds an incapacity in herself of
attending to those of her own, and which, it is not to be doubted, stand in
sufficient need of regulation.
I have seen a fine lady, who has been sunk, as it were, in lassitude, half
dying with the vapours, and in such a lethargy, both of mind and body, that it
seemed painful to her even to drawl out a word, or lift up a finger; yet this
insensible to all things else, has no sooner heard of some new intrigue, no
matter whether true or false, or between persons of her acquaintance, or those
she only knew the names of, than all the lustre has returned into her eyes,
smiles have dimpled her cheeks, and she has immediately started up, called in a
hurry to be dressed, ordered her coach, and almost killed a pair of horses in
galloping round the town with this intelligence.
So great is the vanity some people have of being thought to be the first in
hearing any piece of news, that to it they will sacrifice all considerations
whatever, or rather consideration is itself absorbed in this ridiculous
ambition. An ambition, did I call it? - Of what? - Of being a tale-bearer! - a
gossip! - a lover of raking into filth! - Shameful character, even to the lowest
bred, much more so for a woman of quality and condition! - None, I believe,
will be willing to acknowledge it their own, but too many give substantial
proofs that it is so.
I will have the charity to suppose that some are even ignorant themselves,
that they have this vice in their composition; but then I must beg leave to ask
them why they are so? - Has an examination into one's own heart never been
recommended? - Nay, has it not often been enjoined as the first and greatest
study of our lives? - Is it not a study which the meanest,[i]
as well as the highest ranks of people have it in their power to attend to? -
And is it not equally necessary to both? - All have not a stock of good-nature
to enable them to treat their fellow-creatures with that tenderness required of
us both by divine and human institutions; we ought therefore to supply that
deficiency by principle, which can only flow from reason and recollection.
Whenever we hear any insidious reflections cast upon a person, is it too
much trouble for us just to think that there may be a possibility of their
being false; or supposing them too true, that it is none of our business to
censure or condemn their faults, even in our own breast, much less to give the
liberty to others to do so by favouring the scandal by our report?
Cruel in us it is to insult the weakness of human nature, but most base and
unjust to accuse where there is no real matter for accusation, as is very often
the case. Those who are fond of intelligence of this kind, should, whenever they
hear any, put this question to their own judgment, "May not these people
tell me this on purpose to amuse me, and because they think it pleases me?
" Of this here is more than a probability; many a fair reputation has been
blasted, merely by the folly I have mentioned, of having something new to say,
or through a mean design in the reporters, of ingratiating themselves with some
person, who, to his or her shame, was known to delight in scandal.
Would every one resolve to give no ear to informations of this nature, how
soon would they drop! - It is by encouragement that stories, derogatory to the
honour of the persons mentioned, gather strength; and, in my opinion, those who
give attention to them, are equally culpable with the relators. What then must
it be to repeat them? to take pleasure in sounding the trumpet of infamy, and
exulting at their fallen virtue we should rather commiserate, and use our best
endeavors to retrieve? - O there are no words to paint a disposition so
barbarous, so inconsistent with the character of woman-hood!
There are some who are possessed of a notion, false and absurd as it is,
that the destruction of other people's reputations is the building up of their
own; - that whatever good qualities they have, or would be thought to have,
will be rendered more conspicuous, by throwing a shade over those of everybody
else: - but this is so far from answering the purpose aimed at by it, that it
often gives the hearer a suspicion that the woman, who is so fond of
expatiating on the faults and follies of her neighbours, does it only with a
view of drawing off any attention to her own; nor are they always mistaken who
judge in this manner of detraction.
But supposing the subject of our ridicule be ever so just, that the errors
we condemn are so obvious, that there is not the least room to doubt of them,
are not we certain, alas! that such errors will infallibly draw on the guilty
Besides, though we may be acquainted with the fault, we seldom can be so
with the circumstances by which the person has been, perhaps, ensnared into it;
and it often happens, that while we are railing at them for it, a secret
conviction may have reached their hearts; they may judge themselves with the
same severity we do, and resolve to atone for their past behaviour by the
greatest regularity of future conduct. How inhumane is it then to expose such a
one, and, it is ten to one, disappoint all their good intentions by so doing;
since nothing is more common, than when a woman finds her reputation entirely
ruined by the discovery of one fault, she makes no scruple to commit more, as
she cannot suffer more than she has already done! - All sense and shame grows
dead within her, and she thinks she has nothing to do but go on in defiance of
the world, and despise the censures she had it not in her power to silence.
In fine, there is no circumstance whatever which can justify one person in
vilifying the character of another; and as I believe it is more often done
through a certain wantonness, of the tongue than any prepense[ii]
malice in the mind, I would have every one, who find in themselves an
inclination that way, to keep in memory Shakespeare's reflections upon it.
Curiosity is the parent of this vice: if we were not eager to pry into the
affairs of others, it would be impossible for us to know so much of them, as we
do: - the passion for finding out secrets, is in reality so predominant in most
of us, that it requires a very great fund of good sense and consideration, to
enable us to subdue it: yet if we remember how severe the men are upon our sex
on account of this weakness, we should not, methinks, grudge taking a little
pains to show it is in our power to divert ourselves from it.
Will the knowledge of what other people do make us wiser or happier? -
"Yes, some will answer, we may profit by taking examples, by the good
economy of some, and take warning by the mistakes of others, not to fall into
This argument might be of some weight, indeed, were there no written
examples of both for our direction; but, thank Heaven, they are numerous of the
first sort, and are to be found much earlier in history, than in present
observation. In an age where vice and folly shine with so much lustre, the
virtuous and the wise choose to sit in the shade rather than expose themselves
to the influence of too warm a sun; their actions therefore must be less
conspicuous, and consequently can serve as a pattern but to a few: and as for
others, if the monitor within our own bosom fails to admonish us we are doing
wrong, no examples from without will have sufficient efficacy to prevent us
from falling into the very errors we condemn in others.
Curiosity, therefore, on this score has a very slender excuse, and they who
make it but deceive themselves; nor have we any real motive for being
solicitous in our enquiries after things no way relating to us, but to gratify
that idle vanity of reporting them, and attain the reputation of being one whom
nothing can escape.
The men too, however they may condemn it in us, are not altogether free from
this foible; - especially those among them who affect to be great politicians;
- some, if they happen to get a secret, can neither eat nor sleep till they
have communicated it to as many as they know; and those who pass for more wise
and prudent, though they declare it not in words, cannot help, on any talk of
the affair, giving significant shrugs, nods, winks, smiles, and a thousand
indications, that they know more than they think proper to speak: - how do men
of this cast haunt the levees of the great, the lobby, the court of requests,
think they read meanings in the looks of every face they see there, and if they
chance to hear a word en passant, compliment their own penetration with having
discovered wonders from a single sentence; then run from coffee-house to
coffee-house, and with a solemn countenance whisper the imaginary secret from
one to another quite round the room.
But these male gossips have been sufficiently exposed already, and I should
not have made any mention of them, but to take off some part of the edge of
that raillery they are so ready to treat our sex with on this occasion.
The best way, however, is for us to give them no pretense for it; and I
think nothing can be less difficult, if we would once seriously set about it,
and reflect how much we lay ourselves open to censure, while we are exposing
others: - how natural is it for people to return an injury of this sort! and
that even if they should be less severe than we in reason can expect, yet we
are certain of incurring the character of a malicious person from as many as
It is strange, methinks, that this wide world, and all the various scenes
which the hand of the Creator has so bounteously scattered through the whole,
can afford no matter of conversation to an intelligent being, without having
recourse to degrading the most exquisite and perfect of his works, at least of
all that nature presents us with beneath the moon, or that we are able to
discover with mortal eye!
The Turks maintain that women have no soul, and there are not wanting some
among Christians who lean to that opinion: how mean is it, therefore, in us to
give any room for arguments so unworthy and disgraceful to ourselves, by
behaving as if we were incapable of thought and reflection, which are indeed
the essence of the soul!
The use of speech was given us to communicate such things, as reason and judgment
supply us with from the store-house of the mind, for the mutual improvement of
each other: let us not then convert this noble benefit to purposes so contrary
to the intention of the giver: - let not the tongue, instead of displaying
talents not inferior to the other sex, be employed in lessening the dignity of
our species by defamation and evil speaking. What faults we find among
ourselves, it is certainly our business to conceal and palliate as much as
possible; the men are but too quick-sighted to our prejudice, and while they
call us angels, are ready enough to think us of the number of fallen ones.
But as I have before observed, the number of those who through envy and
malice make, or repeat scandalous stories, is small in comparison with those who
do it merely because they find it pleases others, or for the want of anything
else to say; it obliges me to return to my old argument, of the necessity there
is for us to have a little retrospect into ourselves, and never to speak,
anymore than to do, anything of moment, without having well deliberated on what
may be the consequence.
The slightest aspersion, or even an ambiguous hint, thrown out before
persons who may make a cruel advantage of it, is liable to be improved into the
blackest tale, and frequently has been so to the utter ruin both of character
and fortune; - the sails of ill report are swelled by every breath of hatred,
detraction, and envy; even vain surmises help to waft the envenomed loading,
till it reaches belief, where most it will be fatal, poisoning all love, all
tenderness, all respect, between the dearest friends or relations.
What irreconcilable jars has sometimes one rash word occasioned! - what
unhappy differences have arose, what endless jealousies have been excited, only
to gratify the spleen or inconsiderate folly of those who make or find some
matter that will bear an ill construction!
In another place this author pursues the same theme, though with different thoughts and expressions:
Good name, thou tender bud of early spring!
I cannot help here quoting another poet, who very emphatically complains of the severity of the world in point of fame.
How vain is virtue, which directs our ways
Through certain dangers to uncertain praise;
Barren and airy name! The fortune flies
With thy lean train, the pious and the wise
Heav'n takes thee at thy word without regard,
And lets thee poorly be thy own reward,
But it is altogether needless to bring authorities to prove how inestimable
a jewel reputation is, and how manifold a wickedness and cruelty all attempts
to deprive us of it have ever been accounted: - the most common capacity sees
into it; - the thing speaks for itself, and nature and fellow-feeling convince
us above argument.
Why do we then so wantonly sport with the most serious thing in life? - a
thing, in which consists the greatest happiness or misery of the person
concerned! - What shadow of an excuse if there for prejudicing another in a
matter which can afford no manner of benefit to ourselves, but, on the
contrary, renders us obnoxious to all civil and reasonable society?
Were this error only to be found where there is a defect in the
understanding, it would not so much excite our wonder; but I am troubled to
say, that there are persons of the best sense in other respects, who suffer
themselves to fall into it, through the instigation of some favourite passion,
not sufficiently restrained by those who had the care of them in their early
years, and which they are afterwards too proud, or too indolent, to make any
effort to combat with.
The mischiefs occasioned by a tongue delighting in scandal, are too well
known to stand in need of my repeating any examples: yet I cannot forbear
giving my readers a very recent one, which has something in it more than
Philamour and Zimene were looked upon as a very happy and agreeable pair:
they had been married about three or four months, and there seemed not the
least abatement of the first bridal fondness, when Ariana, one of those gay
inconsiderate ladies I have been describing, came to visit Zimene, big with a
secret she had just discovered.
Some busy-body, it seems, had informed her, that Sophronia, a noted
pretender to virtue, had a private rendezvous with a young gentleman at a
certain house where masquerade habits are sold, or hired out occasionally; -
that they met twice every week there, had always a fine collation, and never
parted till late at night.
Ariana assured Zimene, that her intelligence was undoubted; - that
Sophronia, as much a prude as she was, had certainly an intrigue; and concluded
with saying, it would be a charming thing if they could find out the person who
made a conquest of that heart, which pretended to be so impregnable.
Zimene was no less curious, and they presently began to contrive together
what means would be most likely to succeed; at length they pitched upon one
which indeed carried with it a good deal of probability, and in reality,
answered the end proposed by it.
Ariana, as least known in that part of town where the assignation was kept,
went and took a lodging in the house, as for a friend of her's, who was
expected very shortly in town: after having made the agreement, she called two
or three times in a day, under the pretense of seeing everything in order; the
extravagent rent that was to be
paid excused the continued trouble she gave the people; but, to render it less
so, she treated them, whenever she came, with tea, wine, and sweetmeats: - at
last, she perceived they appeared in somewhat an unusual hurry; great running
up and down stairs was heard, and she found that fires were lighted in the
apartment over that she had taken: - she seemed, however, not to observe
anything of this, but stepped privately out, and sent her footman, who was
always at the end of the street, to let Zimene know that she found the lovers
The other rejoiced at receiving the summons, and exulted within herself at
the opportunity she should have of retorting on Sophronia some bitter jests she
had formerly passed on her.
In short, she came muffled up, as if just arrived in town, and excused her
having no servants with her, under the pretence that she had left them with her
baggage, which she said was not expected till two or three days after.
The people of the house gave themselves no trouble to consider the probability
of all this; they doubted not but whatever was the motive of their coming to
lodge with them, it would turn to their advantage in the end; and, perhaps,
were not without some conjecture that one or both of these ladies had their
favorites to meet as well as Sophronia.
The two fair spies, however, having ordered that supper should not be got
ready for them till ten o'clock, shut themselves into their apartment, as
though Zimene wanted to take some repose till that time after the fatigue of
her journey; but, instead, to prevent any suspicion of their design, which
might have made those whom they came to observe more cautious.
Being left to themselves, Ariana put out the lights, and having opened one
of the windows in the dining-room very softly, watched there to see who came
in, while Zimene took her post at the bed-chamber door, which opening just
against the stair-case, she could, with all the ease in the world, see through
the key-hole every one who passed up or down.
It was not long before Ariana perceived a chair, with the curtains drawn
close, stop at the door, and come into the entry, and Zimene plainly saw the
face of Sophronia by the light that hung on the stair-case: - both were now
satisfied that the intelligence Ariana had received was true, and were not a
little impatient for the arrival of the happy gentleman, which would complete
the discovery, and enable them to spread the story, with all its circumstances,
through the town. A few minutes put an end to their suspense, which, however uneasy
such a situation may be in some cases, was a heaven to that distraction, which
in this, the cruel certainty produced in one of them.
Ariana having seen a second chair come in, with the same privacy as the
former, quitted the window, and ran to the peeping-place Zimene had all this
time occupied, which, however, was large enough for them both to see through.
But, good heaven! the consternation they were in when Philamour (for it was
he) appeared! - The wife could scarce believe her eyes, and turning to Ariana,
cried, "Who is it? - It cannot be my husband! - Dear creature, ease me of
my tortures, and convince me I am mistaken."
"I wish I could," replied Ariana, almost as amazed; "but the
person we saw pass, is too surely the perfidious Philamour."
One cannot be very certain whether this lady was really so much troubled at
the injustice done to her friend as this expression seemed to signify; people
of her disposition being glad of anything to afford matter of conversation,
even though it were to the prejudice of those they most pretend to esteem.
I will not say this was directly the case with Ariana, but instead of
reasoning with Zimene, and persuading her to moderation in so stabbing a
circumstance, she omitted nothing that she thought would exaggerate the crime
of her husband, and consequently heighten her indignation against him: - nay,
she was even for having her apply to a justice of the peace, and expose
Sophronia by those methods, which the lowest and most abject people take to
revenge themselves, when injured in the manner it was plain she was.
But though the other had too much good sense to come into any such measures
as only serve to make diversion for the rabble, yet she had not a sufficient
share to enable her to bear her wrongs with that patience which was necessary
to make Philamour ashamed of what he had done; - she no sooner found that
supper was carried up, than she followed the person quick enough to prevent the
door being shut! - she flew at Sophronia, attempted to tear her hair and head-clothes,
and would certainly have treated her pretty severely, had not Philamour,
confounded as he was, stepped between with these words: - " No,
madam," cried he, "whatever may be your imaginations, or whatever
appearances may seem to be against me, I cannot suffer you to be guilty of a
rudeness which I am sure your cooler thoughts will condemn."
He was about to add something more, when she, turning from her rival,
plucked off his wig, and threw it into the fire. - "Monster!
villain!" said she, "every thing is justified by injuries like
She spit at him, - she stamped upon the floor, and behaved in all her words
and actions like a woman utterly deprived of reason: - Sophronia in the mean
time was so overcome with shame, apprehension, and perhaps remorse, that she
fell into a swoon: - Philamour seeing her in that condition, could be
restrained by no considerations from running to support her; which action
aggravating the fury Zimene before was in, she snatched his sword which lay in
the window, and had doubtless committed some deed of desperation on one, or
both of them, if Ariana, who had followed her upstairs, had not catched hold of
The confused noise among them soon brought up the people of the house, who
easily perceiving the occasion of it, got Sophronia out of the room; after
which the husband and wife continued a dispute, in which the latter had the
better in everything.
Philamour, at first, would fain have persuaded her that he came not to meet
Sophronia on his own account, but on that of a friend; who having an honourable
passion for her, and by an unforeseen accident being prevented that evening
from coming himself, had intreated him to make his excuse. - But this was a
pretense too shallow to deceive Zimene, and was besides contradicted by Ariana,
who told him that he could not come in that private manner twice every week on
the score of a third person.
In fine, no subterfuge serving his purpose, he at last threw off all
evasion, exerted the husband, and threw the blame of everything on Zimene: - he
told her, though without the least foundation in truth, that he had always
perceived her of an inquisitive jealous nature, and that whatever had happened
between him and the lady in question, was only out of a principle of revenge; adding,
that when a wife gave herself up to jealousy, and showed a want of confidence,
there could be no abuse of it, nor any obligation on the husband to put the
least restraint upon his pleasures.
This reflection, as well it might, because both cruel and unjust, heightened
the agitation she before was in to such a degree, as it is scarce possible to
conceive, much less to give any description of; - if his attempting to evade
her accusations, and cover his falsehood, was provoking to her good sense, his avowing
his crime was much more so to her pride; as the poet says,
"Rage has no bounds in slighted womankind."
But he staid not long to see the effects of it, and flung out of the room,
leaving her to act as she saw fit in the affair. The woman of the house fearing
some ill consequence to herself from this adventure, spared neither oaths nor
imprecations to make Zimene believe she was wholly innocent: - that she knew
not but the gentleman and lady were man and wife: - that they had told her they
were privately married, but on the account of relations were obliged to conceal
Zimene little regarded all she said on this score; and as there was a
possibility of its being true, offered not to contradict it: Ariana went home
with her, and lay with her that night, for she was resolved to sleep no more by
the side of a man, who had not only wronged her in the most tender point, but,
as she imagined, had added insult to deceit, by taking so little pains to
alleviate his transgression, or obtain forgiveness: - " He has never once
vouchsafed to ask my pardon," cried she, in the utmost agony of spirit; -
he despises, - sets my just rage at nothing, and I hate him for that, even more
than for his falsehood."
It is to be supposed she suffered Ariana to take but little repose that
night; too small a punishment, indeed, for that inquisitive talking humour
which had occasioned all this confusion. All the hours till morning were
employed in consulting in what manner it would best become Zimene to behave in
so unhappy a circumstance; at last it was agreed, that she should quit her
husband's house, and retire to that of an uncle, who had been her guardian; and
accordingly she packed up all her jewels, dressing-plate, and clothes, and with
Ariana, her woman and one footman, went away very early. - Before her departure
she called for Philamour's valet de chambre, and bade him tell his master, that
she left his house forever, to be governed by the lady to whom he had given his
Whatever anxieties the offended wife endured, it is easy to believe the
transgressing husband had his share: his intrigue with Sophronia was of a long
date, - the vehemence of his passion for her was worn off even before his
marriage, and he wished for nothing more than an abatement of her's, that he
might break off with decency; - but whenever he gave her the most distant hint
of the inconveniencies attending a continuation of her acquaintance, she fell
into such agonies as he had too much compassion for her to be able to endure
the sight of: - she protested, that when the dreadful moment of parting them
should arrive, it should be the last of her life, and talked of nothing but
poison or dagger: this kind of behavior it was that had alone obliged him to
make a show of some remains of attachment to her; and now to be detected in his
fault, to be catched without any possibility of defence, filled him with the
most extreme vexation a heart could be oppressed with: but the violence, the
outrage with which Zimene behaved on the occasion, alarmed his pride, and as a
man, much more as a husband, he thought himself above yielding to anything
imposed on him in that arbitrary manner.
Unhappy Zimene! how great a pity was it that she could not command her
temper! - softness would have easily accomplished what rage could never bring
about; and as much as Philamour condemned himself for the injury he had done
her, he yet condemned her for the manner in which she resented it.
On being told she was gone, and the message she had left for him, he was
indeed very much shocked on account of her friends, and what the world, whom he
doubted not would be acquainted with the whole of the affair, would say of him;
but he found nothing in those tender emotions for being deprived of her
society, as he would certainly have done, had she borne the detection of his
fault with more gentleness and moderation.
The whole transaction, as he imagined it would be, soon become the talk of
the town: - Zimene was loud in her reproaches on his infidelity; - he, in
excuse for what he had done, exclaimed with equal virulence against her ill
temper, which he pretended had driven him to seek ease abroad: - both now hated
each other with more passion than they had ever loved: - in vain the kindred on
both sides endeavored to make up the matter; - they were equally
irreconcileable, - and rendered the more so by an unhappy punctilio in both
their tempers: - Zimene, knowing herself the injured person, thought the least
atonement he ought to have made was the acknowledgement of his transgression, -
a solemn promise of repeating it no more, and an intreaty of pardon for what
was past. Philamour, on the other hand, though conscious of his crime, looked
on the means she took to publish it, as an offence he ought as little to
forgive: the bitter expressions her rage threw out against him, seemed to him
yet more inexcusable than the occasion he had given her for them, and made him
imagine, or at least gave him a pretence for doing so, that there were seeds of
ill-nature in her soul, which would have sometime or other broke out, though he
had done nothing to deserve them.
In a word, none of them wanted matter to harden them against each other, nor
could they be brought to agree in any one thing but an article of separation,
which was accordingly drawn up; after which Zimene retired into the country,
where she still lives; and Philamour accepted of a commission in the army,
merely to avoid the discourses which he could not help hearing in town in all company,
on this affair.
As for Sophronia, she went directly to Dunkirk, and entered herself a
pensioner in a monastery, not being able to show her face anymore in a place
where she had been detected in a fault she had so severely censured in others.
Whether Ariana has been enough concerned at the distraction her inquisitive
temper occasioned, to make use of any efforts to restrain it for the future, I
will not pretend to say; but I hope it will be a warning to others, neither to
busy themselves with affairs in which they have no concern, nor be too fond of
reporting what chance may discover to them.
The behaviour of Zimene also may show our sex how little is to be got by
violence, and a too haughty resentment: - patience, and a silent enduring an
infringement on those rights which marriage gives us over the heart and person
of a husband, is a lesson, which I confess, is difficult to practise; yet, if
well observed, seldom fails of bringing on a sure reward. I have more than once in the course of these
speculations, recomended softness as the most prevailing, as well as the most
becoming arms we have to combat with; and which even in the most provoking
circumstances ought never to be thrown aside. A letter I mentioned in my last gives some proof of the success it has produced, and therefore has a very good claim to our attention.
To the FEMALE SPECTATOR
THE story of Dorimon and Alithea, at the latter end of your first volume,
gave me a great deal of pleasure: - I look on the character of Alithea to be of
the highest value: - so exemplary a patience under a provocation the most
irritating to our sex, has a just claim to our admiration: but even that is yet
less difficult to be imitated, than the sweetness, the amazing gentleness with
which she concealed the knowledge of her wrongs, not only from the world, but
from the man who offered them.
Nothing can be so terrible a misfortune to a woman who loves her husband
tenderly, as to be conscious she has lost his affections, and that another
triumphs in those endearments which are alone her right; but when insults are
added to injuries, and the neglected wife obliged to bear them from the very
wretch who has supplanted her; to behave, I say, in such a circumstance with
decency and compliance, requires not only an elevated virtue, but a discretion
more consummate than is ordinarily found in our sex; - not that we want
capacities to attain it, but because a due care is wanting to form our minds in
The great number of separations and divorces which we see of late, is a
testimony that few ladies are educated in such a manner as to have good
qualities sufficient to enable them to bear so great a disregard of themselves.
Miss is sent indeed to the best school that can be heard of to be brought up;
but then mamma tells her at parting, "My dear, if everything does not
please you there, or if you are crossed, let me know, and I will take you
away." Fine education to be expected after such a promise! How can those
mothers think their children will make good wives, when they are taught to be
their own mistresses from the cradle, and must learn nothing but what they have
a mind to, for fear they should fret. This false indulgence, and the want of
being a little accustomed to contradiction in the early years of life, it is,
that chiefly occasions that wild impatience we often see in maturity.
But though ill habits contracted in our youth are difficult to be worn
off, reason and reflection may enable us to accomplish so glorious a work, if
we set about it with a firm resolution.
How great a pleasure must that woman feel, who is conscious of having
reclaimed her husband merely by her own sweetness of behaviour! How
justifiable, nay, how laudable will be her pride, whose merit is forcible
enough to conquer all the follies of ungovernable man, and make him own he has
been to blame: - Affections thus obtained are generally more tender, more fond
than ever, and cease not but with life. Whatever conflicts therefore a wife may
endure within herself in the endeavour, and how long soever she may suffer, the
reward at last will more than compensate for the pains.
I wish this point were more considered, and that ladies would take
example by your Alithea, or that amiable princess mentioned in the same book;
but as too many instances cannot be given of patience and forbearance in such a
circumstance, I beg leave to present your readers with a little succinct
account of two of my particular acquaintance, who have reclaimed their
husbands, and recovered the love they once thought wholly lost, with interest.
The first, whom I shall call Eudosia, had been the most unfortunate woman
upon earth, had she not been endued with an equal share of patience and good
sense: - she was married very young to Severus, a man of a most haughty austere
disposition, and one, who, like too many of his sex, had got it into his head,
that women were created only to be the slaves of men: - her beauty, however,
and the submissive mildness of her disposition, made him very fond of her, and
they lived in a great deal of harmony together; till Severus happening to see
Laconia at a public place, became enamoured with her, and his pride making him
above attempting to put a restraint on his inclinations, he from that moment
resolved to know her more intimately, if there was a possibility of doing so.
By a strict enquiry he found who she was, and that she had no fortune to
support her extravagancies: this he so well improved, that he soon accomplished
his wishes; and though after he was familiar with her, he discovered he had not
been the first who had received her favours, yet he continued attached to her
by an invincible fatality.
So careless was he of what either his wife or the world might think of
him, that both were soon apprized of his amour; - those of his own kindred took
the liberty to reprove him sharply for it; but Eudosia prevailed on those of
her own to be silent in the affair, as she herself resolved to be, well
judging, that to a person of his disposition, all opposition would but add fuel
to the fire, and that he would rather persist in what he knew was wrong, than
confess himself convinced by the arguments of others.
He very well knew she could not be ignorant of what he took so little
pains to conceal; but where there is a dislike, as during his intrigue with
Laconia he certainly had for his wife, nothing can oblige, - nothing can be
acknowledged as a virtue: - instead of esteeming her, as he ought to have done,
for the regard she showed for his peace in never murmuring, nor upbraiding him
with his fault, he imputed it all to a mean timidity of nature in her, and only
gloried in himself for knowing so well how to keep a woman within what bounds
he pleased, and render even her very wishes subservient to his will.
Confident that he might now act as he pleased, he bought Laconia into his
house, commanded Eudosia to treat her as a lady whom he infinitely esteemed,
and having laid this injunction on her, whom he looked upon as only his upper
servant, gave adequate orders to the others.
This creature now became the entire mistress of the family, and though
Eudosia kept her place at the head of the table, yet nothing was served up but
what was ordered by Laconia.
Some women will look on this tame enduring in Eudosia as wholly unworthy
of a wife, and too great an encouragement for other guilty husbands to treat
their wives in the same manner; but this pattern of prudence and good nature
knew very well the temper of the person she had to deal with, and that nothing
was to be gained by the pursuit of any rough measures; - she seemed therefore
to think herself happy in the company of Laconia, carried her into all the
company she went into as her particular friend, and was so perfectly obliging
to her in every respect, that the other, even in spite of her rivalship, could
not help having a regard for her, which she testified in downright quarreling
with Severus, whenever he refused her anything she asked; and, in truth, this
injured wife would frequently have gone without many things which her rank in
life demanded, had it not been for the intercession of Laconia.
Severe trial, however, for a woman of virtue, and who, in spite of his
injustice and ingratitude, still retained the most tender affection for her
husband, yet she bore all with a seeming tranquility; but while the guilty pair
imagined her easy and resigned to her fate, she was continually laying schemes
to change it: - long she was about it, being loth to venture at anything, which
in case of failure, might render her condition worse; but at last her good
genius inspired her with a little plot, which threatened nothing if the event
should not answer her expectation, and promised much if it succeeded.
She feigned herself seized with a sudden indisposition, took to her bed,
and so well acted her part, that the physician, who attended her was deceived
by it, and reported her condition as dangerous. It cannot be supposed Severus
felt any great anxiety at hearing it, yet ordered she should be carefully
looked to, and nothing spared that would contribute to her recovery: - Laconia
appeared very assiduous about her, but whether out of real or counterfeit
tenderness, I will not presume to say.
It served, however, to forward Eudosia's design; and one day, seeming to
come out of a fainting fit while the other was sitting by her bed-side, she
called to her maid, and bade her bring her a sheet of paper, and pen and ink;
which being done, she wrote a few lines, and ordered a small India cabinet, in
which she was accustomed to keep her jewels, and other little trinkets, to be
held to her, in which she put the paper, and turned the key with a great deal
of seeming care to make it fast; but, in truth, to prevent it from being
locked, so that it might easily be opened.
Now, cried she, I shall die in peace, since my dear Severus will know,
when I am gone, every thing I wish him to be sensible of: I beg you, madam,
continued she to Laconia, who was very attentive to all she did, to let my
husband know my last will is contained in this cabinet.
With these words she sunk down into the bed, as fatigued with what she
had been doing, and the other doubted not but her last moment was near at hand.
A woman circumstanced as Laconia was, might very well be curious to discover
what Eudosia had wrote; but not knowing how to come at it without the help of
Severus, she acquainted him with the whole behavior of his wife on this
occasion, on which he grew little less impatient than herself; and at a time
when she seemed to be asleep, took the cabinet out of the room, and carried it
to his own closet, resolving to examine the contents without any witnesses.
Eudosia, who was very watchful for the success of her project, saw well
enough what he had done; but looking on the reception he should give the paper
as the crisis of her fate, passed the remainder of the night in such disturbed
emotions, as rendered her almost as ill in reality as she had pretended.
Severus was little less disordered after having read the letter, which was directed
to himself, with the title of her ever dear Severus, and contained these lines:
'Had I millions to bequeath, you alone should be my heir; but all I have,
all I am, is already yours, all but my advice, which living I durst not presume
to give you; but as this will not reach your ears till I am no more, it may be
better received: - it is this, my dear, that as soon as decency permits, you
will marry Laconia; - neither of you ought to make any other choice; - the
world, you know, has been loud in its censures on that lady's score, I alone
have been silent. What the duty of a wife bound me to while living, I persevere
to observe in death; my only consolation under inconceivable agonies of mind
and body, being a consciousness of having well and truly discharged all the
obligations of my station. I beg Heaven your second nuptials may be more
agreeable than your first; - that she who has so long enjoyed you here, may
continue to deserve it, by loving you as I have done, and you may be more happy
with her than you could possibly be with
The unfortunate EUDOSIA'
He afterwards confessed, that he read this above an hundred times over,
and that every word sunk into his soul the deeper as he examined it the more;
till quite melted into tenderness, he looked back with horror on his past
behaviour: - all the charms he had formerly found in the mind and person of
Eudosia returned with added force, and those of Laconia grew dim and faded in
But when he reflected, that he was about to lose forever so inestimable a
treasure, as he now owned his wife to be, and that there was the strongest
probability, that his unkindness had shortened her date of life, he fell into
the bitterest rage against himself, and the object of that unlawful flame, which
had occasioned it.
Laconia, who wondered he did not come to bed, (for he had promised to
sleep with her that night) ran to his closet, where she found him in very great
agitations, on her inquiring into the cause, he sullenly told her she was, and
bid her leave him. As this was treatment she had not been accustomed to, she
had not presence enough of mind to conceal her resentment at it, but
immediately flew into a rage, which his temper was little able to endure, and
served as a soil to set Eudosia's virtues in a still fairer light; he contented
himself, however, with making her go out of the room, after which he returned
to his former meditations.
In fine, he thought so long, till thought made him as perfect a convert
as Eudosia could wish; and the imagination that he was about to lose her, made
him lose all that haughty tenaciousness of humour he was wont to use her with:
- he went several times to her chamber door, but, being told she seemed in a
slumber, returned softly back, and would not enter till he heard she was awake,
then inquired in the tenderest manner how she did; to which she answered that
his presence had given her more spirits than she could have hoped ever to have
enjoyed in this world.
O, cried he, quite charmed with her softness, if the sight of me can
afford you comfort, never will I quit your chamber: - Believe me, continued he,
taking her hand and pressing it, my dear Eudosia, that how much soever I have
been to blame, there is nothing so terrible as the thought of losing you: - O
that my recovered love, and all the tenderness that man can feel, could but
restore your health! - what would I not give! - what would I not do to preserve
These words were accompanied with some tears of passion that bedewed her
hand, and left her no room to doubt of their sincerity. How much she was
transported any one may guess: - Now, said she, raising herself in the bed, and
clasping him round the neck, in life or death I have nothing more to wish.
It would be endless to repeat the fond obliging things they said to each
other; the reader will easily conceive by the beginning, that nothing could be
more tender on both sides: but what added most to Eudosia's satisfaction, was
the assurance he gave her, that Laconia should quit his house that day, and that
he never would see her more.
On this, she insisted on his making some provision for her, telling him
it was punishment sufficient for her fault to lose the affection she had so
long enjoyed; and that for her part, if she should live to possess the happiness
his behaviour now seemed to promise, it would be damped if she knew anything he
had once loved was miserable.
This generosity engaged new caresses on the part of Severus, and he
desired she would not mention that woman anymore, but leave it to himself to
act as he thought proper.
He kept his word; Laconia was put out of the house that day: in what
manner they parted is uncertain, but it was such, that the amour between them
was never renewed. Eudosia having gained her point, pretended to recover by degrees,
and at length to be fully established in her former health; to which now, a
vivacity flowing from a contented mind being added, she became more agreeable
than ever; never was there a happier wife, or a more endearing husband.
All their acquaintance beheld the change with astonishment, but none were
intrusted with the innocent stratagem that brought it about. Eudosia had the
prudence to conceal it not only from Severus himself, but from all others; not
till after his death, which happened not in several years, was any person made
privy to it.
The other whom I mentioned, as a happy instance of recovering a decayed
affection, I shall call Constantia; she was a young gentlewoman of strict
virtue, but no fortune: she had been courted above a year by Tubesco, a
substantial tradesman, before she married him; but had not been a wife above
half the time, when she perceived there was another much more dear to him than
herself; - she bore it, however, with a consummate patience, nor even after she
heard that he had a child by her rival, who was a wealthy tradesman's daughter,
did she ever reproach him, or attempt to expose it.
He had even the folly as well as impudence to own this intrigue before
her face; yet all did not move her to any unbecoming passion: she was not,
however, insensible to such usage, nor without the most ardent wishes to
reclaim him, both for his and her own sake. Many projects she contrived, but
all without success, till a person who was a friend to them both, persuaded him
to leave England, and go to settle at Dundee, of which place they were natives.
Absence from his mistress she hoped would make a change in his temper in her
favour; but in this she was deceived, at least for a long while: - for two long
years did he repine, and all that time used his wife so very ill, that she
almost repented she had engaged him to quit the presence of one who she now
began to think he could not do without. To add to her afflictions, she was
extremely ill treated by his relations on the score of having brought no
portion: but when she thought herself most abandoned by good fortune, she was
nearest the attainment of it. Heaven was pleased that she should prove with
child, which, together with her continued sweetness of behaviour, turned his
heart: he became from the worst, one of the best husbands, detests his former
life, and all women who endeavored by their artifices to alienate men from
Constantia is now very happy, and the more so, as she knows the recovery
of her husband's affection is chiefly owing to her own good conduct and
But I have troubled you too long: - if these examples may serve to
enforce the good advice you have given our sex, it will be an infinite
Your most humble servant,
March 25, 1745. DORINDA
This amiable lady's letter stands in no need of a comment; but we think
ourselves obliged to thank her for the zeal she testifies for the happiness of
society. Could the generality of womankind be brought to think like her, marriage
would no longer be a bug-bear to the wife, and a laughing stock to fools. Would
they, instead of reporting the follies of their sex, set forth as she has done,
the bright examples some of them have given of virtue and discretion, men would venerate instead of despise; we
should recover that respect we have too much lost through our own mismanagement
greatly, but more by our bitterness and railing against each other.
I confess myself extremely pleased when I hear of a woman, who failing, by
an artless softness, to preserve the affection of her husband, regains it by
wit and address. Had Eudosia supinely yielded to her fate, and combated her
husband's falsehood and ingratitude only with her tears, she might have sunk
under the burden of her wrongs; and the injurious Laconia triumphed over her
ashes in the unrivalled possession of his heart and person? but by this pretty
stratagem she showed herself a woman of spirit as well as virtue. What she did
could not be called deceit, because her whole character being gentleness and
goodness, it is highly probable she would have made him the same request had
she really thought herself dying, as being the only atonement he could make for
having lived so long in a criminal conversation with Laconia; and but anticipated
that will, which her forgiving sweetness and persevering love would have
inspired her with before she left the world.
Neither was her prudence in concealing what she had done less to be admired:
- had she made a confidante of any one person, and it had reached the ears of
Severus, a man of his temper would not only have been chagrined at being
tricked, though it were into happiness, but have looked on her divulging it as
a kind of triumph over him; and had she confessed it only to himself, though he
could not in reason have condemned her for it, yet he might not have been well
satisfied, to think she had it in her power to boast of having over-reached
him; and this might have poisoned all the sweets of that reconciliation, which
was the reward of her wit and virtue.
The mild and sweet behavior of Constantia may also be a pattern for wives
when provoked in the manner she was. To furnish examples of this kind is doing
universal service; and if those ladies, who delight in repeating every unhappy
adventure that comes in their way, would imitate Dorinda, and acquant us only
with instances of virtue, I am confidant the world would be better than it is.
But to use a phrase in scripture, "Out of the abundance of the heart
the mouth speaketh: " the love of scandal proceeds merely from the want of
giving the mind some more worthy employment: - there is a restlessness in the
faculties of the soul that calls for action, and if we do not take care to give
it, some will chuse for themselves; and this choice may not probably be always
such as redounds to our own honour, or the emolument of our neighbours.
There is much more in the choice of matter for our contemplation than people
are generally aware of; for without we give the thinking faculty some one fixed
subject wherewith it may be busied and taken up, it will be apt to run into a
multiplicity of different ideas, all confounding each other, destroying
judgment and serious reflection; so that whatever good we do, cannot properly
be called our own, but the effect of chance; but all the ill is truly ours, for
want of a proper regulation of those powers by which we are solely actuated.
But as this cannot be done without some little examination into the nature
of the soul, in regard to its direction over, and manner of co-operation with
the body, I shall here present my readers with the sentiments of a very
ingenious gentleman on that occasion.
To the FEMALE SPECTATOR
I READ with pleasure the reflections on the soul in your eleventh book,
and join heartily with Platonides in thanking you for recommending the study of
philosophy to the ladies, that is, that most useful branch of it that teaches
the nature of the soul; and I must here beg leave to recommend to the men, who
want it almost, if not quite as much as they do; and, if I am not too
presumptuous, I shall intrude so far on your good-nature and indulgence, as to
offer you my weak sentiments on it, being encouraged by the promise you made at
the beginning of that book.
The soul I look upon as an immaterial created being, whose existence is
best expressed by these words, "I think, therefore I exist;" that is,
the radical essence of the soul consists in thought: - it is a spirit of no
shape or form, for these would imply a materiality; it is simple, not made of
parts, indivisible, whose sole property and quality, as I have just now said,
are thought and reason.
Now that the soul is immaterial, is easily proved from the properties of
matter; whose essence consisting of a substance which hath a form or shape,
resists a change of the state wherein it is, whether of rest or motion, so that
would never change the state wherein it is at present, if not moved or stopped
by some external agent. This is open to every man's capacity, who will give
himself the trouble to reflect on it: - let him take a stone, or any other
thing, and place it somewhere. That stone will remain there, unless moved by
something extraneous; this something, if material, must be moved by an other
external agent, and at last we must come to that being, which, by its will, can
impel a force on matter, sufficient to move it from the place where it is: and
this motion, excited in matter would continue always, if some external force
did not stop it; but that thin substance, the air, continually resisting matter
thus impelled, impedes the motion in proportion to the force of the impulse,
till at last it quite stops it.
Since then material substances, when once put in motion, cannot of
themselves return to a state of rest, but must continue in that state of
motion, unless hindered by something external; and when in a state of rest,
they must continue in that state, and cannot move unless impelled by something
external; it follows from thence, that something immaterial must be the primum
mobile of material bodies.
The animal and vegetable life, when not considered with care, make
several people deny the necessity of an immaterial mover. But what is this
life? We should examine it well, before we decide so positively. It consists in
a circulation of fluids, were matter, originally impelled by some power ab
extra, acts on matter with a certain determined force, which arises solely from
a resistance to a change of its state, and whatever matter were void of that
resistance would be of no use in a mechanical body. There can be no notion more
unphilosophical, than to think a machine can be made of such matter, as will
not resist a change of its state. The pretence has been, that we do not know
the powers and qualities of matter: it is true we do not, but thus much we know
certainly, that it cannot have contradictory powers, and since exciting motion
in itself depends on this, we are as certain that it is not self-moving, as, if
we knew everything belonging to it. Doctor Clark observes, that matter is only
capable of one negative power, viz. "That every part will always and
necessarily remain in the state of rest or motion, wherein it at present
is." From whence we conclude, that matter cannot move itself, and they
torment themselves in vain who would endeavour to find out the mechanical cause
of the circulation of blood in our bodies, or of fluids in vegetables, if by a
mechanical cause they understand certain powers planted in matter, performing
this motion without intervention or efficacy of any cause immaterial; so that
matter, with these powers planted in it, of itself continues this motion once
This is endeavouring to find out a thing which is not to be found out,
because it is not: for matter when moved, will continue forever in a straight
direction of motion, unless an external force is impressed on it, sufficient to
make it stop or change that direction; and to cause a circular motion, that
external force must be impressed upon it every instant: for nothing is more
certain that the tendency which we see matter has to leave the circular motion,
and run on in a straight line; and, therefore, nothing is more certain than
that an extraneous power must be continually impressed to overcome this
tendency, and bring it incessantly back. Circulation is but one, though a
principal branch of the animal economy; for in the brain, nerves, stomach,
guts, glands, in every part there is motion; and if we should say all this is
carried on by nature in a million of different bodies at once, no one would
except against this account, but think it as good as could be given in
philosophy. But should one say, all this is performed by the Great God of
Nature, we directly fly out against it, as a thing absurd and impossible; for
Nature, in our mouths, is like Chance or Fate, a word that serves rather to
screen our ignorance and inattention, than to convey any solid meaning. Let us
then examine a little these matters, and confess that the motion which is in
every part or particle receives its immediate impulse from the finger of
Almighty God, as this one point is certain, that matter is such a substance as
resists a change of its state: - I say, let us all humbly and sincerely
acknowledge, that there is a Mighty Governor of the world, and of the minutest
as well as noblest created beings; - that it is evident he has all power and
knowledge; and that he works constantly near us, round us, and within us.
That soul is a created being, and not separated from any other spirit, is
easily shown: for how can any thing be taken from what has no parts? and how
can there be parts where there is nothing material? - Divisibility and parts
are only the properties of matter; which having a form or shape, must be
composed of parts to form this shape; it must have inward and outward parts, or
to speak more intelligibly, it must have upper and lower parts: - let the upper
part be separated from the lower, and each particular part will have the same
properties which the whole had; it will have an upper part and a lower part,
which may be divided again, and these parts so divided will still retain those
properties which the whole had; and so on, ad infinitum. By this we see, that
material substance, of what bulk soever, must be composed of parts, and again
divisible into parts, each of which is a solid, divisible, extended, figured
substance, and hath the essential properties of the whole, of which it is a
part, as much as the whole hath.
If, therefore, we should allow that the soul might be taken from
any other being, it infers that the being from whence it is taken has parts, which parts must singly have the
same properties as the whole; that is, they must be active perceptive
substances; so that no being, taken from another, can be single, which in spirits
make an absurdity; for in such a case, that separated part too, having the same
properties as the whole, cannot be single, but must be an aggregate of infinite
numbers of distinct, active, perceptible substances, all which is repugnant to
Since then, as I have slightly shown, there is a necessity that something
immaterial should be within us, in order to cause a spontaneous motion; and as
this immaterial being cannot be compounded of parts, it must be indissoluble
and incorruptible in its nature; and since therefore, it has not a natural tendency
to annihilation, it must endlessly abide an active, perceptive substance, with
either fears or hopes of dying through all eternity.
I beg pardon, madam, for having troubled you with so long an epistle, and
am afraid your readers, if you care to publish this, will find fault with me,
for having robbed them of those few pages, which would otherwise have been so
much better employed by you; but as my motive was only to put them upon
thinking on so important a subject, I hope that will plead my excuse. Dr.
Clarke, in his Demonstration of the Existence and Attributes of God; and Mr.
Baxter, in his Enquiry into the nature of the human soul, (from whom I have
received great lights) have both handled this subject so well, that I must beg
leave to recommend them to your readers; however as a great many have not
patience to go through whole books on anything, if you would show wherein I
have said amiss, and add some few thoughts of your own, I believe it will be
very well received by the greatest part of your readers, and be a particular
Chelsea, Your most humble servant,
March 27, 1745. And constant reader,
It is easy to perceive the learned and judicious author of the foregoing,
contents himself with proving the immateriality, and, of consequence, the
immortality of human soul; and, indeed, that is of itself sufficiently to let
us know the value we ought to set upon it: the Almighty has himself, by giving
us free-will, left it to ourselves to improve this divine part in us to his
glory, the common good of society, and our own eternal happiness.
Mr. Dryden elegantly expresses this power in us, in his poem of the Cock and
Nothing does native liberty distrain,
But man may either act or may restrain:
Heav'n made us agents free to good or ill,
And forc'd it not, though he foresaw the will.
Freedom was first bestowed on human race,
And prescience only held the second place.
If he could make such agents wholly free,
I'll not dispute, the point's too high for me;
For Heav'n's unfathomed power what man can sound,
Or put to his omnipotence a bound?
He made us to his image, all agree,
That image is the soul, and that must be,
Or not the Maker's image, or be free.
The immortality of the soul, as I have before observed, is the great point
on which all religion, virtue, and morality depends; for it seems an utter
impossibility, that any man in his right senses can be thoroughly assured he is
a being, which must exist to all eternity, yet act so as to incur the doom of
being miserable to all eternity. - How greatly then is the world obliged to
those, who, like Mr. H.L. have both the abilities, and the will to exert those
abilities, for putting a stop to that inundation of skepticism, which has of
late flowed in upon us, almost to the destruction of every thing that can
either maintain due order here, or entitle us to any reasonable hope of
It has often made me wonder, that people are not more readily convinced of
the immortality of the soul, because such a conviction is so very flattering to
our most darling passions. What can so much sooth our ambition, as an assurance
that we are a being incapable of corruption, or of ending; - endued with
faculties equal to the angels, with whom we shall one day be companions, and
that we shall sit on thrones, and have our heads adorned with rays of
glory! - What can more indulge
that curious and inquiring disposition, which we have all some share of, than
to think, that all those mysteries, which the greatest learning at present
vainly endeavours to explore, will be laid open to our view, that nothing will
be a secret to us, and conjecture be swallowed up in certainty.
There can be none among us so stupid, so insensible, as not to rejoice in
the assurance of enjoying these immense blessings. Why do we then raise
difficulties, and encourage any doubts to the contrary? -That very ambition, -
that very curiosity I have been speaking of, however perverted to meaner
objects, and mean purposes, was questionless implanted in our natures for the
noblest ends; - that is, to show the dignity of the soul, and make us look up
to that Heaven from which we are derived, and are formed to possess, unless we
willfully forfeit our pretensions.
We complain of being short-sighted in these matters, as indeed we are; but
then that we are so is a good deal owing to ourselves, as I believe will appear
on a very little consideration; - the fault lies not so much in our incapacity
of comprehension, as in our confining it to narrow views: - we cannot resolve
to look beyond the spot we tread upon; we place our treasure here, and here
will our hearts be: - the attraction of this world chains us, as it were, to
its own sphere, and we cannot rise above it: - the present tense engrosses all
our hopes and fears, our expectations and dependencies, and one dirty acre here
is of more value to us, than all the plains behind the moon.
Thus is our understanding darkened, as to the things to come, by our too
great attachment to those presented to us by the senses; and we do not behold
them so clearly as we ought and might, because of our eagerness never to lose
sight of the other: - So that from our own willfulness our ignorance proceeds,
as the poet justly says:
- Our reason was not vainly lent,
Nor is a slave, but by its own consent.
Not that I would insinuate human reason is sufficient to inform us what or
how we shall be hereafter; but this I must beg leave to insist upon, that it is
capable, if exerted properly, to convince us we shall be something, and in some
state, after what we vulgarly call life (that is, indeed, no more than the
animal soul) has left us.
I know there are many people, either by nature, or want of application, dull
enough not to apprehend the difference between the animal and the immortal
soul; but I think it is easy to conceive we have not only two, but three souls,
which are gradually instilled into us from the time of our first formation in
the womb. The greatest of our philosophers, poets, and diviners have seemed to
favour this opinion; but I know of none who has expressed himself more clearly
and elegantly upon it than a late gentleman, whose works I have often taken the
liberty to quote; the person I mean is Mr. Dryden, who, in his poem of Palaemon
and Arcite, has it thus:
So man, at first a drop, dilates with heat,
Then form'd, the little heart begins to beat;
Secret he feeds, unknowing, in his cell,
At length for hatching ripe, he breaks the shell,
And struggles into breath, and cries for aid;
Then, helpless, in his mother's lap is laid:
He creeps, he walks, and issuing into man;
Grudges their life, from whom his life began,
A foe to laws, affects to rule alone,
Anxious to reign, - ev'n restless on a throne;
First vegetive, then feels, and reasons last,
Rich in three souls, and lives all three to waste,
Some thus, but thousands more in flow'r of age,
For few arrive to run the latter stage.
What indeed, before our coming into the world, can we be justly called but
vegetables? Or what in fancy is there that distinguishes us above the animals?
Nay, what is termed instinct in them, comes much sooner, or, at least, is more
plainly distinguished, than the reasoning faculty in us; but when it is once
attained, when we find in ourselves the power of comparing, and of judging , if
we do not take care to improve it, it must be owned we are little worthy of
possessing it: but if we not only not acknowledge it, but rather take pains to
depreciate the blessing, no words, methinks, can sufficiently describe so black
an ingratitude to the Great Author of our being, or so monstrous an injustice
and indignity to our own nature.
Yet this is every day done, nay and gloried in by those, who plume
themselves on seeing more clearly than other men into the works of nature: they
make use of reason to argue against reason; and affect to be void of partiality
or vanity in assuming nothing, as they say, to themselves, or ascribing more to
the species they are of, than to any other part of the animal world.
But true philosophy, as well as religion, will show us better things; - it
will not only teach us the nature and excellency of our being, but also teach
us how to avoid all such inclinations as have any tendency towards degrading
its native dignity, by throwing a resemblance or any way leveling us with the
Let us then devote some part of our time to study and meditation. "When
the mind is worthily employed, " says a great author, "the body becomes
spiritualized; but when we suffer a lassitude to benumb our faculties, the very
spirit degenerates into matter."
We should also be continually on our guard, that our senses may not get too
much power over us; - they frequently deceive us, and present us with
fictitious joys when we expect real ones: - besides, as they are capable of
shewing us only things near at hand, and which shortly pass away, we should
take them only en passant, and it must be great stupidity to suffer them to
engross our thoughts. The famous abbe de Bellegarde has this maxim, among many
other excellent ones, and is worthy the observation of all degrees of people.
"N'ayez de l'attachement de l'amour pour le monde, qu'a proportion du
tems que vous y devez être. Celui qui fait voyage, ne s'arrête pas dans la
premiere belle ville qu'il trouve sur sa route, il sçait qu'il doit passer
outre, et aller plus loin."
Few of my readers, I believe, but will understand this; however, lest any
should be ignorant of a language so universally understood, and I would wish so
excellent a precept should escape no one, I will give it in English.
"Have no greater attachment or love for the world, than in proportion
to the time you are to be in it. He who takes a journey, stops not at the first
fine city he finds in his way; for he knows he must pass through it, and go
A person, it is certain, who keeps this always in his mind, will never
suffer himself to be wholly taken up either with the idle fleeting pleasures of
this world, or with the busy cares which attend a pursuit of its grandeurs: -
he may enjoy the one with moderation whenever they fall in his way, but will
not think himself miserable in the want of them; and as for the other, he will
look on the short-lived possession of them as not worthy the time and anxiety
they must cost in the attainment.
How blind, how inconsiderate, how unhappy are those who place their summum
bonum here, as well those who succeed in their endeavours, as those who do not;
and, alas! every day's experience shows us how much the number of the latter
exceeds the former; - yet how readily does every one lay hold on the least
shadow of an expectation, and waste the precious time in vain dependencies, not
remembering that, as Shakespeare justly says,
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creep in a stealing pace from day to day,
To the last moment of revolving time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
To their eternal homes.
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor play'r
That frets and struts his hour upon a stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an ideot, full of sound and fury,
But I should disoblige three parts in four of my readers, should I dwell on
a subject, which all know, but few care to remember: besides, these
speculations are not published with a view of depressing but of exhilarating
the spirits; and as it is impossible to recommend the value of our immortal
part, without taking some notice how little the other is worthy our attention,
when compared together, I shall add no more for fear of being thought too
grave; a fault, now-a-days, looked upon as unpardonable in an author.
Mira herself confesses, that these lucubrations have of late leaned a little
towards that side; and bids me remember, that people especially those of
condition, are more easily laughed out of their follies, than reasoned out of
Nothing indeed is more certain, than that if a gay thoughtless person takes
up a book, which he imagines is composed only for amusement, and before he is
aware, happens to meet with some favourite vice of his own, artfully and
merrily exposed, he will start at the resemblance of himself, and perhaps be
reclaimed by it: whereas he might hear a thousand sermons on the same occasion,
without being moved, though ever so learned, or with the greatest grace
Nor will this seem strange to anyone who considers nature: should our hair
turn grey, or our complexion yellow, without our knowing anything of the
change, till at once we see it in the glass, it would have a much greater
effect upon us, than if we perceived it gradually coming on.
Surprise has undoubtedly a prodigious influence on the mind in all cases;
and it is not therefore to be wondered at, that where we expect lessons of
reformation they seldom do us any service: if we listen to them it is with
indolence, and they make, if any at all, a very slight impression on us; but
when we look for something of a quite contrary nature, it works strange
King David listened without any conscious tumult in his mind to the parable
of Nathan concerning the ewe-lamb, till the prophet, emboldened by his divine
mission, said to him plainly,
"Thou art the man!"
Then, indeed, touched by this sudden remonstrance, he smote his breast and
"I have sinned against the Lord."
The works of a person who is looked upon as a satirist, or what the wits
call a snarler, are taken up with a kind of prejudice; and though they want not
readers, it is only because every one hopes to find his neighbour's follies or
vices ridiculed there: his own are out of the question with him, and however
they may occasion his being laughed at by other people, he is utterly
regardless of what is pointed at chiefly in himself: - but a book, which is not
suspected of any such tendency, yet brings a parallel case with that of the
reader, has sometimes the good fortune to strike upon the soul, and awaken a
As we set out with an assurance to the public, that we should only make it
our business to depreciate vice, not persons, and this book in particular is
intended to set forth the odiousness of exposing characters, we must desire our
readers not to fix the censure of anything contained in these speculations on
individuals, whom they may imagine we have in our eyes, but take care to avoid
that fault in themselves they are so ready to observe in others.
Whatever falls not under the cognizance of a court of judicature, should be
exempt from private cavils; for, in effect, no one, except the magistrate, has
a right to condemn any but himself.
And yet it may be answered, we have crimes among us, or follies, which
amount almost to the same thing, which the laws take no notice of; and it must
be acknowledged that this objection is not without a solid foundation in facts
too flagrant to be disputed; but then it must also be observed, that I mean not
when the transgressors are in public capacities, and take that opportunity to
oppress the body of people; for then everyone has a right to exclaim, and to
cry out for justice: but even then I would have the clamour extend no farther
than the grievance, which, if public, stands in no need of any repetition of
I have often thought it strange, that in the election for members of parliament,
the commonalty, I mean the rabble, have such an unbridled licence for
defamation: - if a candidate has, indeed, in an former session, or otherwise by
his behaviour, testified he has not the real good of his country at heart; if
he has not strenuously endeavored to preserve the just balance of power between
the prince and the people; if he has accepted of any bribes either for himself
or family, whereby interests opposite to the common cause have been upheld; the
meanest man, who has a vote, has undoubtedly a right to declare the motive
which obliges him to refuse it. As to a gentleman being a bad economist, if he
be either a miser or a spendthrift, there may be some reason to believe he will
be biassed to any measures which promise an increase of his stores, or fresh
supplies for the support of his extravagancies; and then, indeed, all the
proofs that can be brought of his ill management have a right to be thrown in
his teeth; but I never could find out what the errors of the mother, wife,
sister, or daughter of such a candidate had to do with the affair; yet in this
case the faults of the whole family are blazoned, as if the poor gentleman was
to answer for the virtue of his whole kindred.
The custom of old Rome, I am told, authorizes this proceeding; I wish we
followed that renowned republic in things more worthy our imitation: as for
this, I always thought it a barbarous one, and correspondent with the manners
of no nation which pretends to be civilized.
I hope I shall therefore be understood, that when I recommend silence as to
the miscarriages of others, I mean it only in regard to private life; for as to
public injuries they may, and undoubtedly ought to be complained of, of
whatsoever degree the person is who offers them, since a nation can not
otherwise hope redress; and to attempt to screen or protect an offender in this
kind, is a treason to the people, which has no pretence to forgiveness.
The love of our county claims our first and chiefest care; and whenever we
discover even the most remote intention of an oppression there, though it be
hatching in the breast of him who is most dear to us, all partial tenderness,
all private friendship and obligations, must give way to general safety, as
Cowley says in his justification of Brutus.
Can we stand by, and see
Our mother robb'd, and bound, and ravish'd be:
Yet not to her assistance stir,
Pleas'd with the strength and beauty of the ravisher!
Or shall we fear to kill him, if before
The cancell'd name of friend he bore?
Ingrateful Brutus do they call?
Ingrateful Caesar, who could Rome enthral!
An act more barbarous and unnatural
(In th' exact balance of true virtue try'd)
Than his successor Nero's parricide.
But as discourse of national affairs is foreign to my present purpose, I
shall take my leave of this head, with recommending to the world, especially
those of my own sex, good nature and charity, in judging the conduct of their
neighbours, which is the only sure way to preserve their own from censure, be
it ever so innocent.
The letter signed Elismonda, with the Lady's Revenge, is just come to hand,
with which we are extremely delighted, and promise it shall not fail being
inserted in our next, time not permitting us to give it a place in this.