« PreviousContinue »
SIR RICHARD STEELE.
Richard Steele was born at Dublin in 1671 (?) He
entered Merton College, Oxford, but went into the army. In
1709 he founded with the Tatler an unrivalled series of periodicals. Despite many gifts of fortune, he was always in difficulties till his death, near Carmarthen, in 1729. He ranks first among English humourists for geniality without boisterous. ness, and sentiment without gush.
SARCASMS ON MARRIAGE.
HEN I consider the false impressions which are received
by the generality of the world, I am troubled at none more than a certain levity of thought, which many young women of quality have entertained, to the hazard of their characters, and the certain misfortune of their lives. The first of the following letters may best represent the faults I would now point at, and the answer to it, the temper of mind in a contrary character.
“My dear Harriot, “If thou art she, but oh ! how fallen, how changed, what an apostate ! how lost to all that is gay and agreeable! To be married I find is to be buried alive ; I cannot conceive it more dismal to be shut up in a vault to converse with the shades of my ancestors, than to be carried down to an old manor house in the country, and confined to the conversation of a sober husband, and an awkward chambermaid. For variety I suppose
I you may entertain yourself with madam in her grogram gown, the spouse of your parish vicar, who has by this time, I am sure, well furnished you with receipts for making salves and possets, distilling cordial waters, making syrups, and applying poultices.
“Blest solitude! I wish thee joy, my dear, of thy loved retirement, which indeed you would persuade me is very agreeable, and different enough from what I have here described : but, child, I am afraid thy brains are a little disordered with romances and novels. After six months' marriage to hear thee talk of love, and paint the country scenes so softly, is a little extravagant; one would think you lived the lives of sylvan deities, or roved among the walks of Paradise, like the first happy pair. But pray thee leave these whimsies, and come to town in order to live, and talk like other mortals. However, as I am extremely interested in your reputation, I would willingly give you a little good advice at your first appearance under the character of a married woman. It is a little insolent in me, perhaps, to advise a matron ; but I am so afraid you will make so silly a figure as a fond wife, that I cannot help warning you not to appear in any public places with your husband, and never to saunter about St. James's Park together : if you presume to enter the ring at Hyde Park together, you are ruined for ever ; nor must you take the least notice of one another at the playhouse, or opera, unless you would be laughed at for a very loving couple, most happily paired in the yoke of wedlock. I would recommend the example of an acquaintance of ours to your imitation ; she is the most negligent and fashionable wife in the world ; she is hardly ever seen in the same place with her husband, and if they happen to meet, you would think them perfect strangers ; she never was heard to name him in his absence, and takes care he shall never be the subject of any discourse that she has a share in. I hope you will propose this lady as a pattern, though I am very much afraid you will be so silly to think Portia, etc., Sabine and Roman wives, much brighter examples. I wish it may never come into your head to imitate these antiquated creatures so far as to come into public in the habit, as well as air, of a Roman matron. You make already the entertainment at Mrs. Modish's tea-table : she says, she always thought you a discreet person, and qualified to manage a family with admirable prudence ; she dies to see
what demure and serious airs wedlock has given you ; but she says, she shall never forgive your choice of so gallant a man as Bellamour to transform him into a mere sober husband; it was unpardonable. You see, my dear, we all envy your happiness, and no person more than
“ Your humble servant,
“ Be not in pain, good madam, for my appearance in town; I shall frequent no public places, or make any visits where the character of a modest wife is ridiculous. As for your wild raillery on matrimony, it is all hypocrisy ; you, and all the handsome young women of your acquaintance, show yourselves to no other purpose, than to gain a conquest over some man of worth, in order to bestow your charms and fortune on him. There is no indecency in the confession, the design is modest and honourable, and all your affectation can't disguise it.
“I am married, and have no other concern but to please the man I love ; he is the end of every care I have ; if I dress, it is for him ; if I read a poem, or a play, it is to qualify myself for a conversation agreeable to his taste : he is almost the end of my devotions; half my prayers are for his happiness. I love to talk of him, and never hear him named but with pleasure and emotion. I am your friend, and wish you happiness, but am sorry to see, by the air of your letter, that there are a set of women who are got into the common-place raillery of everything that is sober, decent, and proper : matrimony and the clergy are the topics of people of little wit, and no understanding. I own to you, I have learned of the vicar's wife all you tax me with. She is a discreet, ingenious, pleasant, pious, woman; I wish she had the handling of you and Mrs. Modish; you would find, if you were too free with her, she would soon make you as charming as ever you were ; she would make you blush as much as if you never had been fine ladies. The vicar, madam, is so kind as to visit my husband, and his agreeable conversation has brought him to enjoy many sober happy hours when even I am shut out, and my dear master is entertained only with his own thoughts. These things, dear madam, will be lasting satisfactions, when the fine ladies, and the coxcombs, by whom they form themselves, are irreparably ridiculous, ridiculous in old age.
“I am, madam,
“ MARY Home.”
“Dear Mr. Spectator, “ You have no goodness in the world, and are not in earnest in anything you say that is serious, if you do not send me a plain answer to this. I happened some days past to be at the play, where, during the time of performance, I could not keep my eyes off from a beautiful young creature who sat just before me, and who, I have been since informed, has no fortune. It would utterly ruin my reputation for discretion to marry such a one, and by what I can learn she has a character of great modesty, so that there is nothing to be thought on any other way. My mind has ever since been so wholly bent on her, that I am much in danger of doing something very extravagant, without your speedy advice to,
" Your most humble servant."
I am sorry I cannot answer this impatient gentleman, but by another question.
“Dear Correspondent, “Would you marry to please other people, or yourself?”
P. 144, 1. 9. Harriot. This form, now rarely used, is not only the oldest but perhaps the most correct.
P. 145, IL. 3, 4. Thee .... you. This ugly variation, which all careful writers denounce, and which Johnson (I think) somewhere calls “disgusting,” is but too common. Below (l. 9) the you is of course justified as applying to both husband and wife.
Joseph Addison was born near Amesbury in 1672, ob
tained much reputation at Oxford, was pensioned in 1699, travelled abroad, and after the Battle of Blenheim was patronized by the Whigs. He was Secretary of State in 1717, and died at Holland House in 1719. Destitute of the strength of Swift and the softness of Steele, Addison outwent both these his friends in even finish of style.
ON ASKING ADVICE ON AFFAIRS OF LOVE.
who would rather ingratiate themselves with their sovereign, than promote his real service, that they accommodate their counsels to his inclinations, and advise him to such actions only as his heart is naturally set upon. The privy councillor of one in love must observe the same conduct, unless he would forfeit the friendship of the person who desires his advice. I have known several odd cases of this nature. Hipparchus was going to marry a common woman, but being resolved to do nothing without the advice of his friend Philander, he consulted him upon the occasion. Philander told him his mind freely, and represented his mistress to him in such strong colours, that the next morning he received a challenge for his pains, and before twelve o'clock was run through the body by the man who had asked his advice. Celia was more prudent on the like occasion. She desired Leonilla to give her opinion freely upon the young fellow who made his addresses to her. Leonilla, to oblige her, told her with great frankness, that she looked upon him as one of the most worthless — Celia, foreseeing what a character she was to ex