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CLEORA AND AURELIA CONTRASTED.
It has been observed, that the world is generally just in the opinions which it forms of the characters of the different persons who appear on the stage of life; that few have been held high in the estimation of the public who have not deserved it ; and that instances as rarely occur of its cen. sure misapplied, as of its applause misplaced. But though this remark, it must be allowed, is true in the general, yet experience teaches that it cannot be admitted without ex. ceptions; and that the truly virtuous and deserving, particularly in the private walks of life, may often pass unnoticed, whilst the less worthy may become the objects of favour.
Cleora was married at an early period of life. Gayly educated, and thoughtless in disposition, she was incapable of any strong attachment. She married Lothario, because he was a man of the ton, dressed well, kept good company, and professed himself her humble admirer. He married her, because she was reckoned pretty, danced well, was a toast, and was as much in the fashion as he was. went together without affection, so neither of them allowed their love to be troublesome to the other. Pleasure, dissipation, show, was the taste of both.
Lothario was sometimes at home, and in his wife's company; but then it was only in a crowd, and amidst a variety of guests. Abroad they sometimes met at dinner and supper parties; but as frequently their parties were not the same, and their amusements lay in different quarters.
Such a life of dissipation could not be supported without great expense. Though Lothario was possessed of a considerable land estate, yet when he succeeded to it, it was
As they much encumbered with debt; and that debt was now greatly increased by his own extravagance. Every year made a new bond or mortgage necessary.
Cleora knew all this ; but she allowed it not to make any impression on her mind. It was too serious a subject to be suffered to intrude itself in the midst of her enjoyments. The mother of a numerous family, she is equally inattentive with Lothario, to giving them proper habits and impressions. The boys, neglecting every useful branch of study, by a strange combination are both beaux and blackguards. At public places they are reckoned fashionable, whilst, at the same time, in their private amusements, they value themselves on their coarseness and intemperance. The daughters are now come to the age of women; but Cleora has no other object as to them, than to increase their fondness for public places and late hours: devoted to these herself, she makes her daughters the pretext for her own indulgences.
Thus Cleora, if she were to think, if she were to stop her course of dissipation for a moment, would see bankruptcy at hand, and her children, if not herself and husband, reduced to want; her children brought up without education, and initiated in nothing but the ways of idleness and folly. With all this, Cleora retains a good character in the world : her cheerfulness, her gayety, make her a favourite wherever
“ 'Tis a pity,” it is sometimes said, “ that her husband was not more attentive to her and her children; but it is not her fault. She is indeed to be commended for submitting with so much ease to her fate ; one would never discover that she was married to Lothario." Such is the general character which Cleora bears; and if any one ex. presses a hint to the contrary, it is considered as the remark of a person willing to be censorious.
How shall I contrast with Cleora the conduct of Aurelia ? She also married young, before she had learned to feel and judge for herself, and at a time when she was entirely given up to the direction and disposal of her parents. It has un
fortunately been the fate of some of the best of women, to become the wives of men in many respects their inferiors, both in understanding and in character. Amidst the chances of life, the intricacies of situation, or from the deception of minds whose very virtues betray their caution, this will sometimes happen.
Cleanthes, the husband of Aurelia, is of a character very similar to that of Cleora's husband, Lothario, and on many accounts an unfortunate match for Aurelia. But Cleanthes being reputed to be a man of fortune, possessing a good address, and believed to be possessed of good nature, it was the fate of Aurelia to be joined to him for life. Those habits of thoughtlessness and extravagance, however, which Cleanthes had acquired before marriage, never forsook him ; he even became indifferent and negligent of Aurelia, and a fine family of children which she brought him. Intemperate in his pleasures, and inordinate in his expense, he plunged headlong into every fashionable folly, into every species of dissipation. Aurelia felt much anguish at this conduct of her husband. She endeavoured, by every gentle method in her power, to reclaim him, and to gain his mind to virtue and domestic enjoyment. All her efforts proved ineffectual. Cleanthes was not yet, however, so lost as not to feel, at times, the reproaches of his conscience; but, instead of aim, ing to remove, he tried to avoid them. In this situation, Aurelia was like another conscience : the reflection on her quiet and gentle virtues was like a mirror that did but show him his own ugliness; and, frightened at the sight, he only thought how to escape it. Thus abandoned by himself, thus having forsaken Aurelia, and every better feeling, he has gone more and more headlong into vice-intemperance has become his companion, and expense much beyond his income has attended it.
What a situation for Aurelia ! With a mind fitted for every domestic enjoyment, she sees her husband a prey to folly and extravagance, ruining his fortune, and dead to
every proper sentiment. One only comfort remains—the pleasure she receives from her children. Her only son, who promises to be all a parent could wish, has been placed at a distant academy; and a rich uncle, who has no children of his own, has adopted him as his son. Her three daughters live with herself, and her great object is, to edu. cate and instruct them; and in this she is well rewarded, by the appearance of their promising virtues, and the display of their opening talents.
With all these amiable parts of Aurelia’s conduct, justice is not done her in the opinion of the world. Her virtues are unknown, or pass unnoticed. It is frequently said, that “ Cleanthes is a good fellow-pity he had not a wife of a less grave disposition, more suited to his taste. If he had, he might have been less expensive, and his pleasures been more fixed at home.” It was but the other evening, that, making a course of visits, I called at a house, where I found Cleora engaged in deep play, and her eldest daughter sitting by her, attending to the game. At that moment Lothario happened to come into the room. He drew a chair near some ladies at another table, and gave a nod of indifference to his daughter. “La! sir,” said Miss, “ we did not look for you; we thought you were at Mr. -." Her mother gave one look behind; asked her partner if she had not held the king; and then desired her to set up two by honours and the odd trick.
The same evening I called at the house of Cleanthes. Him I found abroad, but Aurelia was at home. I was shown into the room where she was, seated with her three girls around her. On the table lay several books, among which were the Spectator, the Man of Feeling, and the Theatre of Education. She herself was busy with her needle; and her two youngest girls were occupied in the same manner, under her direction. The eldest was employed in reading. When I entered the room, one of the girls took me by the hand, and kindly welcomed me. 6 1 thought, however," said she, with a most expressive look, sit had been papa; my mamma expected him.” A tear started in Aurelia's
eye. She soon, however, resumed her cheerfulness; and I remained for a considerable time in this domestic party, receiving a pleasure, which I cannot describe, in the conversation of Aurelia, the amiableness and propriety of her conduct, her behaviour to her children, and theirs to her.
When I came home, I could not help reflecting on the different characters of Aurelia and Cleora, placed in situations not dissimilar; one drawing from her very want of feeling and of duty, the suffrage of the world! the other from the very exercise of the most disinterested virtue, suffering its neglect, and incurring its censure ! Yet with all her afflictions and all her sorrows, who would not rather wish to be the suffering and virtuous Aurelia, than the gay and thoughtless Cleora ? The one may enjoy the dissipation of the world, and the good liking of its votaries ; but the other must possess that approbation from her own mind, which infinitely surpasses all the external enjoyments which the world is able to bestowe