Page images

amiable were it not for Aspasia, nor Aspasia so much es. teemed were it not for her Aristus. Their virtues are blend ed in their children, and diffuse through the whole family a perpetual spirit of benevolence, complaceney, and satisfaction.



That love alone which virtue's laws control,
Deserves reception in the human soul.

IF love be any refinement, conjugal love must be certains ly so in a much higher degree. There is no comparison between the frivolous affectations of attracting the eyes of women with whom you are only captivated by way of amusement, and of whom perhaps you know nothing more than their features, and a regular and uniform endeavour to make yourself valuable, both as a friend and lover, to one whom

have chosen to be the companion of your

life. The first is the spring of a thousand fopperies, silly artifices, falsehoods, and perhaps barbarities; or at best rises no higher than to a kind of dancing school breeding, to give the person a more sparkling air. The latter is the parent of substan. tial virtues and agreeable qualities, and cultivates the mind while it improves the behaviour. The passion of love to a mistress, even where it is most sincere, resembles too much the flame of a fever: that to a wife is like the vital heat.

I have often thought, if the letters written by men of good nature to their wives were to be compared with those written by men of gallantry to their mistresses, the former, notwithstanding any inequality of style, would appear to have the advantage. Friendship, tenderness, and constan cy, dressed in a simplicity of expression, recommend them. selves by more native elegance, than passionate raptures, extravagant encomiums, and slavish adoration. If we were admitted to search the cabinet of the beautiful Narcissa, among heaps of epistles from several admirers, which are there preserved with equal


care, how few should we find but would make any one sick in the reading, except her who is flattered by them ? But in how different a style must the wise Benevolus, who converses with that good sense and good humour among all his friends, write to a wife who is the worthy object of his utmost affection! Benevolus, both in public and private, and all occasions of life, appears to have every good quality and desirable ornament. Abroad he is reverenced and es. teemed; at home beloved and happy. The satisfaction he enjoys there settles into an habitual complacency, which shines in his countenance, enlivens his wit, and seasons his conversation, Even those of his acquaintance, who have never seen him in his retirement, are sharers in the happiness of it; and it is very much owing to his being the best and best beloved of husbands, that he is the most steadfast of friends, and the most agreeable of companions.

There is a sensible pleasure in contemplating such beautiful instances of domestic life. The happiness of the conjugal state appears heightened to the highest degree it is capable of when we see two persons of accomplished minds not only united in the same interests and affections, but in their taste of the same improvements and diversions. Pliny, one of the finest gentlemen and politest writers of the age in which he lived, has left us, in his letter to Hispulla, his wife's aunt, one of the most agreeable family pieces of this kind I have ever met with. I shall end this discourse with a translation of it; and I believe the reader will be of

my opinion, that conjugal love is drawn in it with a delicacy which makes it appear to be, as I have represented it, an ornament as well as a virtue.

Pliny to Hispulla. “ As I remember the great affection which was between you and your excellent brother, and know you love his daughter as your own, so as not only to express the tender. ness of the best of aunts, but even to supply that of the best of fathers ; I am sure it will be a pleasure

to you to hear that she proves worthy of her father, wor. thy of you, and of your and her ancestors. Her ingenuity is admirable; her frugality extraordinary. She loves me, the surest pledge of her virtue; and adds to this a wonderful disposition to learning, which she has acquired from her affection to me. She reads my writings, studies them, and even gets them by heart. You would smile to see the concern she is in when I have a cause to plead, and the joy she shows when it is over. She finds means to have the first news brought her of the success I meet with in court, how I am heard, and what decree is made. If I recite any thing in public, she cannot refrain from placing herself privately in some corner to hear, where, with the utmost delight, she feasts upon my applauses. Sometimes she sings my verses, and accompanies them with the lute, without any master except love, the best of instructors. From these instances I take the most certain omens of our perpetual and increasing happiness; since her affection is not founded on my youth and person, which must gradually decay, but she is in love with the immortal part of me, my glory and reputation. Nor indeed could less be expected from one who had the happiness to receive her education from you, who

house was accustomed to every thing that was virtuous and decent, and even began to love me, by your recommendation. For, as you had always the greatest respect for my mother, you were pleased from my infancy to form me, to commend me, and kindly to presage I should be one day what my wife fancies I am. Accept, therefore, our united thanks ; mine, that you have bestowed her on me; and hers, that you have given me as a mutual grant of joy and felicity.”

in your



Moved by these tears, we pity and protect.

I am more pleased with a letter that is filled with touches of nature than of wit. The following one is of this kind :

Among all the distresses which happen in families, I do not remember that you have touched upon the marriage of children without the consent of their parents.

1 am one of these unfortunate persons. I was about fifteen when I took the liberty to choose for myself; and have ever since languished under the displeasure of an inexorable father, who, though he sees me happy in the best of husbands, and blessed with very fine children, can never be prevailed upon to forgive me. He was so kind to me before this un. happy accident, that indeed it makes my breach of duty, in some measure, inexcusable; and at the same time creates in me such a tenderness towards him, that I love him above all things, and would die to be reconciled to him. I have thrown myself at his feet, and besought him with tears to pardon me; but he always pushes me away, and spurns me from him. I have written several letters to him, but he will neither open nor receive them.

About two years ago I sent my little boy to him, dressed in a new apparel ; but the child returned to me crying, because he said his grandfather would not see him, and had ordered him to be put out of his house. My mother is won over to my side, but dares not mention- me to my father, for fear of provoking him. About a month ago he lay sick upon his bed, and in

« PreviousContinue »