« PreviousContinue »
strumpet ; for which reason I intend to talk continually of your charms, and, by sacrificing in that manner to your vanity, I have no doubt but, in a few days, I shall bring you to an utter disregard of morality and virtue, to an absolute contempt of all the laudable sentiments which you have been imbibing so many years, and a total indifference for your own reputation, and the honour of your sex. As I think your wickedness equal to your folly, I beg, when I mention the word beauty, that you will prefer the gratification of the man, who is your greatest enemy, to the peace of those who are your unalterable friends ; nor hesitate a moment to break the heart of a parent that tenderly loves you, to please an infamous scoundrel who labours for your everlasting disgrace. In short, madam, I expect, in return for a paltry compliment to your person, that you scruple not to endure continual shame in this world, nor shrink at hazarding your eternal happiness in the next; but run at once to plunge a dagger into the breast of your father, and hurl an impious defiance at the very throne of your
God.' “ I had myself, sir, lately, two or three lovers, who kindly said very pretty things to my person; and, would you believe it, that one of them was a married man? This gen. tleman came one day with all the easy impudence in life, and, with as much composure as if he had been really per. forming a meritorious action, threw himself at my feet, and swore he could not live unless I pitied him. Had I a dag. ger,
I believe I should have stuck it in the villain's heart ; however, assuming all the anger that I possibly could, in a face not naturally the most placid, I mentioned some thoughts of paying a visit to his wife, which effectually banished himn from my presence, without doing the smallest injury to his health, or disturbing in the least the usual serenity of his temper
“ A gentleman of family and fortune next told me, that I was the most angelic piece of flesh and blood he had ever beheld; and solicited, in good earnest, that I would bless
him with my favourable opinion; but I had no sooner talked of some of the privileges which a wife would naturally ex. pect, than the truly honourable lover sneaked instantly off, excusing himself on account of a treaty then in agitation with Miss Betty Squander.
66 What you men think of us, I know not; nor indeed can I conceive what we women in general conceive of ourselves; but of this I am absolutely certain, that whilst we continue so intolerably vain, we must be liable to an infinity of mean. nesses; and that the surest way for any woman to be un. done, and to lose all chance of obtaining a virtuous worthy companion in the nuptial state, is to think there is nobody comparable to herself.”
There is a sentiment in Mr. Coleman's comedy of the Jealous Wife, with wiich I am not a little pleased, as it is no less an indication of a benevolent heart than a sound understanding. Harriet reproaching young Oakly on account of his extraordinary attachment to the bottle; the lover, sensibly struck with the justice of the reproof, exclaims, that s were all ladies alike attentive to the morals of their admirers, a libertine would be an uncommon character.”
If we take but ever so slight a view of the sexes, we shall find the behaviour of the one to depend so entirely upon the opinion of the other, that was either to set about a reformation, the amendment of both would be easily effected; and those virtues would be immediately cultivated through the prevalence of fashion, which neither the force of convic. tion, the dread of temporary misfortune, nor the terrors of everlasting misery, are now sufficient to steal upon our practice, even whilst they engage our veneration.
As the ladies in general are more affected by the preva. lence of immorality than the men, it often surprises me, that they do not endeavour to look those vices out of counte. nance among our sex, which are so frequently fatal to their own tranquillity. A man, through the establishment of customs, considers it as infamous to marry a prostitute, to connect himself with a drunkard, or to pay his addresses to a woman, whose lips are continually fraught with indecency or execration. Though accustomed himself to the midnight excesses of the stew, yet, when he fixes for life, he inquires into the character of his mistress, and prosecutes his suit in proportion as she is eminent for her virtues. Whereas the lady, though bred up all her life in the strictest delicacy, often expresses no repugnance whatsoever to venture with the most public betrayer of innocence, the most open enemy of mankind, and the most daring defier of his God.
What, however, is most extraordinary on these occasions, is the facility with which a father usually contracts his daugh. ter to a libertine; as if, because custom did not involve her in the infamy of his character, habitual propensity to vice must not necessarily endanger her happiness. For my own part, I am shocked when I see a parent less regardful of a daughter's felicity than attentive to the welfare of a son. Is there a father, who would persuade his son into a marriage with a prostitute professed? I hope not. Why, then, is his daughter so relentlessly sacrificed to a libertine? Is there not as much danger for the one to be miserable with her hus. band, as the other to be wretched with his wife? and since the natural claim to paternal indulgence is equal between each, must it not be highly inequitable to treat the first with such an excess of partiality ?
I am insensibly led into this subject from a perusal of some sermons, addressed to young women. In one of the author's discourses, where female virtue is the object of consideration, he gives so admirable a lesson to the sex, on account of this unhappy approbation with which the very best women so frequently hounor a profligate lover, that I cannot but tra cribe it for the benefit of my amiable readers.
“ How common is it to see young ladies, who pass for women of reputation, admitting into their company in public places, and that with visible tokens of civility and pleasure, men,
notorious for herding with creatures of infamous name? What a defiance to the laws of piety, prudence, character, decorum! what an insult, in effect, to every man and woman of virtue in the world! what a palpable encouragement to vice and dishonour! what a desperate pulling down, in appearance, and with their own hands, of the only partition that divides them from the most profligate of their sex! Between the bold and the abandoned woman there may still remain, notwithstanding such behaviour, a distinction in the world's eye; but we scruple not to declare that religion, purity, delicacy, make
“ To return from this digression, if it be one, we will allow it possible to put cases wherein no particular rules of discovery, no determinate modes of judgment, will enable a young woman, by her own unassisted skill, to discern the dangers that lie in her way. But can a young woman be justly excused, or can she fairly excuse herself, if, where all is at stake, she calls not in the joint aid of wise suspicion, friendly counsel, and grave experience, together with prayers for God's protection more than ordinarily fervent?
** But, methinks, I hear some of you ask, with an air of earnest curiosity- Do not reformed rakes, then, make the best of husbands ??—I am sorry for the question ; I am doubly sorry, whenever it is started by a virtuous woman. 1 will not wound the ear of modesty by drawing minutely the character of a rake; but give me leave to answer your in. quiry, by asking a question or two in my turn.
In the first place, we will suppose a man of this character actually reformed, so far as to treat the woman he marries with every mark of tenderness, esteem, fidelity; and that he gives up for ever his old companions, at least as to any chosen intimacy, or preference of their company to hers. We grant it possible ; we rejoice when it happens. It is certainly the best atonement that can be made for his former conduct. But now let me ask you, or rather let me desire you to ask your own hearts, without any regard to