"I remember my lady used often to observe, there is a time of life in all young persons, which may properly be called the romantic, which is a very dangerous period, and requires therefore a great guard of prudence; that the risque is not a little augmented by reading novels and romances; and the poetical tribe have much to answer for, by reason of their heightened and inflaming descriptions, which do much hurt to thoughtless minds, and lively imaginations. For to those, she would have it, are principally owing, the rashness and indiscretion of soft and tender dispositions: which, in breach of their duty, and even to the disgrace of their sex, too frequently set them upon enterprises, like those they have read in those pernicious writings, which not seldom make them fall a sacrifice to the base designs of some wild intriguer; and even in cases where their precipitation ends the best, that is to say, in marriage, they too frequently (in direct opposition to the cautions and commands of their tried, their experienced, and unquestionable friends) throw themselves upon an almost stranger, who, had he been worthy of them, would not, nor needed to have taken indirect methods to obtain their favour.
"And the misfortune is, the most innocent are generally the most credulous. Such a lady would do no harm to others, and cannot think others would do her any. And as to the particular person who has obtained, perhaps, a share in her confidence, he cannot, she thinks, be so ungrateful, as to return irreparable mischief for her good-will to him. Were all the men in the world besides to prove false, the beloved person cannot. 'Twould be unjust to her own merit, as well as to his views, to suppose it: and so design on his side, and credulity and self-opinion, on the lady's, at last enrol the unhappy believer in the list of the too-late repenters."
"And what, Madam," said the dean, "has not that wretch to answer for, who makes sport of destroying a virtuous character, and in being the wicked means of throwing, perhaps, upon the town, and into the dregs of prostitution, a poor creature, whose love for him, and confidence in him, was all her crime? and who otherwise might have made a worthy figure at the head of a reputable family, and so have been an useful member of the commonwealth, propagating good examples, instead of ruin and infamy, to mankind? To say nothing of, what is still worse, the dreadful crime of occasioning the loss of a soul; since final impenitence too generally follows the first sacrifice which the poor wretch is seduced to make of her honour!"
"There are several gentlemen in our neighbourhood," said Mrs. Brooks, "who might be benefited by this touching reflection, if represented in the same strong lights from the pulpit. And I think, Mr. Dean, you should give us a sermon upon this subject, for the sake of both sexes, one for caution, the other for conviction."
"I will think of it," replied he, "but I am sorry to say, that we have too many among our younger gentry who would think themselves pointed at were I to touch this subject ever so cautiously."
"I am sure," said Mrs. Towers, "there cannot well be a more useful one; and the very reason the dean gives, is a convincing proof of it to me."
"When I have had the pleasure of hearing the further sentiments of such an assembly as this, upon the delicate subject," replied this polite divine, "I shall be better enabled to treat it. And pray, ladies, proceed; for it is from your conversation that I must take my hints."
"You have only, then," said Mrs. Towers, "to engage Mrs. B. to speak, and you may be sure, we will all be as attentive to her, as we shall be to you, when we have the pleasure to hear so fine a genius improving upon her hints, from the pulpit."
I bowed to Mrs. Towers; and knowing she praised me, with the dean's view, in order to induce the young ladies to give the greater attention to what she wished me to speak, I said, it would be a great presumption in me, after so high a compliment, to open my lips: nevertheless, as I was sure, by speaking, I should have the benefit of instruction, whenever it made them speak, I would not be backward to enter upon any subject; for that I should consider myself as a young counsel, in some great cause, who served but to open it and prepare the way for those of greater skill and abilities.
"I beg, then, Madam," said Miss Stapylton, "you will open the cause, be the subject what it will. And I could almost wish, that we had as many gentlemen here as ladies, who would have reason to be ashamed of the liberties they take in censuring the conversations of the tea-table; since the pulpit, as the worthy dean gives us reason to hope, may be beholden to that of Mrs. B."
"Nor is it much wonder," replied I, "when the dean himself is with us, and it is graced by so distinguished a circle."
"If many of our young gentlemen, were here," said Mrs. Towers, "they might improve themselves in all the graces of polite and sincere complaisance. But, compared to this, I have generally heard such trite and coarse stuff from our race of would-be wits, that what they say may be compared to the fawnings and salutations of the ass in the fable, who, emulating the lap-dog, merited a cudgel rather than encouragement.
"But, Mrs. B.," continued she, "begin, I pray you, to open and proceed in the cause; for there will be no counsel employed but you, I can tell you."
"Then give me a subject that will suit me, ladies, and you shall see how my obedience to your commands will make me run on."
"Will you, Madam," said Miss Stapylton, "give us a few cautions and instructions on a theme of your own, that a young lady should rather fear too much than hope too much? A necessary doctrine, perhaps; but a difficult one to be practised by one who has begun to love, and who supposes all truth and honour in the object of her favour."
"Hope, Madam," said I, "in my opinion, should never be unaccompanied by fear; and the more reason will a lady ever have to fear, and to suspect herself, and doubt her lover, when she once begins to find in her own breast an inclination to him. For then her danger is doubled, since she has herself (perhaps the more dangerous enemy of the two) to guard against, as well as him.
"She may secretly wish the best indeed: but what has been the fate of others may be her own; and though she thinks it not probable, from such a faithful protester, as he appears to her to be, yet, while it is possible, she should never be off her guard: nor will a prudent woman trust to his mercy or honour; but to her own discretion: and the rather, because, if he mean well, he himself will value her the more for her caution, since every man desires to have a virtuous and prudent wife; if not well, she will detect him the sooner, and so, by her prudence, frustrate all his base designs.
"But let me, my dear ladies, ask, what that passion is, which generally we dignify by the name of love; and which, when so dignified, puts us upon a thousand extravagances? I believe, if examined into, it would be found too generally to owe its original to ungoverned fancy; and were we to judge of it by the consequences that usually attend it, it ought rather to be called rashness, inconsideration, weakness, and thing but love; for very seldom, I doubt, is the solid judgment so much concerned in it, as the airy fancy. But when once we dignify the wild mis-leader with the name of love, all the absurdities which we read in novels and romances take place, and we are induced to follow examples that seldom end happily but in them.
"But, permit me further to observe, that love, as we call it, operates differently in the two sexes, as to its effects. For in woman it is a creeping thing, in a man an incroacher; and this ought, in my humble opinion, to be very seriously attended to. Miss Sutton intimated thus much, when she observed that it was the man's province to ask, the lady's to deny:—excuse me. Madam, the observation was just, as to the men's notions; although, methinks, I would not have a lady allow of it, except in cases of caution to themselves.
"The doubt, therefore, which a lady has of her lover's honour, is needful to preserve her own and his too. And if she does him wrong, and he should be too just to deceive her, she can make him amends, by instances of greater confidence, when she pleases. But if she has been accustomed to grant him little favours, can she easily recal them? And will not the incroacher grow upon her indulgence, pleading for a favour to-day, which was not refused him yesterday, and reproaching her want of confidence, as a want of esteem; till the poor lady, who, perhaps, has given way to the creeping, insinuating passion, and has avowed her esteem for him, puts herself too much in his power, in order to manifest, as she thinks, the generosity of her affection; and so, by degrees, is carried farther than she intended, or nice honour ought to have permitted; and all, because, to keep up to my theme, she hopes too much, and doubts too little? And there have been cases, where a man himself, pursuing the dictates of his incroaching passion, and finding a lady too conceding, has taken advantages, of which, probably, at first he did not presume to think."
Miss Stapylton said, that virtue itself spoke when I spoke; and she was resolved to recollect as much of this conversation as she could, and write it down in her common-place book, where it would make a better figure than any thing she had there.
"I suppose, Miss," said Mrs. Towers, "your chief collections are flowers of rhetoric, picked up from the French and English poets, and novel-writers. I would give something for the pleasure of having it two hours in my possession."
"Fie, Madam," replied she, a little abashed, "how can you expose your kinswoman thus, before the dean and Mrs. B.?"
"Mrs. Towers," said I, "only says this to provoke you to shew your collections. I wish I had the pleasure of seeing them. I doubt not but your common-place book is a store-house of wisdom."
"There is nothing bad in it, I hope," replied she; "but I would not, that Mrs. B. should see it for the world. But, Madam" (to Mrs. Towers), "there are many beautiful things, and good instructions, to be collected from novels and plays, and romances; and from the poetical writers particularly, light as you are pleased to make of them. Pray, Madam" (to me), "have you ever been at all conversant in such writers?"
"Not a great deal in the former: there were very few novels and romances that my lady would permit me to read; and those I did, gave me no great pleasure; for either they dealt so much in the marvellous and improbable, or were so unnaturally inflaming to the passions, and so full of love and intrigue, that most of them seemed calculated to fire the imagination, rather than to inform the judgment. Titles and tournaments, breaking of spears in honour of a mistress, engaging with monsters, rambling in search of adventures, making unnatural difficulties, in order to shew the knight-errant's prowess in overcoming them, is all that is required to constitute the hero in such pieces. And what principally distinguishes the character of the heroine is, when she is taught to consider her father's house as an enchanted castle, and her lover as the hero who is to dissolve the charm, and to set at liberty from one confinement, in order to put her into another, and, too probably, a worse: to instruct her how to climb walls, leap precipices, and do twenty other extravagant things, in order to shew the mad strength of a passion she ought to be ashamed of; to make parents and guardians pass for tyrants, the voice of reason to be drowned in that of indiscreet love, which exalts the other sex, and debases her own. And what is the instruction that can be gathered from such pieces, for the conduct of common life?
"Then have I been ready to quarrel with these writers for another reason; and that is, the dangerous notion which they hardly ever fail to propagate, of a first-sight love. For there is such a susceptibility supposed on both sides (which, however it may pass in a man, very little becomes the female delicacy) that they are smitten with a glance: the fictitious blind god is made a real divinity: and too often prudence and discretion are the first offerings at his shrine."
"I believe, Madam," said Miss Stapylton, blushing, and playing with her fan, "there have been many instances of people's loving at first sight, which have ended very happily."
"No doubt of it," replied I. "But there are three chances to one, that so precipitate a liking does not. For where can be the room for caution, enquiry, the display of merit and sincerity, and even the assurance of a grateful return, to a lady, who thus suffers herself to be prepossessed? Is it not a random shot? Is it not a proof of weakness? Is it not giving up the negative voice, which belongs to the sex, even while she is not sure of meeting with the affirmative one from him whose affection she wishes to engage?
"Indeed, ladies," continued I, "I cannot help concluding (and I am the less afraid of speaking my mind, because of the opinion I have of the prudence of every lady that hears me), that where this weakness is found, it is no way favourable to a lady's character, nor to that discretion which ought to distinguish it. It looks to me, as if a lady's heart were too much in the power of her eye, and that she had permitted her fancy to be much more busy than her judgment."
Miss Stapylton blushed, and looked around her.
"But I observe," said Mrs. Towers, "whenever you censure any indiscretion, you seldom fail to give cautions how to avoid it; and pray let us know what is to be done in this case? That is to say, how a young lady ought to guard against and overcome the first favourable impressions?"
"What I imagine," replied I, "a young lady ought to do, on any the least favourable impressions of the kind, is immediately to withdraw into herself, as one may say; to reflect upon what she owes to her parents, to her family, to her character, and to her sex; and to resolve to check such a random prepossession, which may much more probably, as I hinted, make her a prey to the undeserving than otherwise, as there are so many of that character to one man of real merit.
"The most that I apprehend a first-sight approbation can do, is to inspire a liking; and a liking is conquerable, if the person will not brood over it, till she hatches it into love. Then every man and woman has a black and a white side; and it is easy to set the imperfections of the person against the supposed perfections, while it is only a liking. But if the busy fancy be permitted to work as it pleases, uncontrolled, then 'tis very likely, were the lady but to keep herself in countenance for receiving first impressions, she will see perfections in the object, which no other living soul can. And it may be expected, that as a consequence of her first indiscretion, she will confirm, as an act of her judgment, what her wild and ungoverned fancy had misled her to think of with so much partial favour. And too late, as it probably may happen, she will see and lament her fatal, and, perhaps, undutiful error.
"We are talking of the ladies only," added I (for I saw Miss Stapylton was become very grave): "but I believe first-sight love often operates too powerfully in both sexes: and where it does so, it will be very lucky, if either gentleman or lady find reason, on cool reflection, to approve a choice which they were so ready to make without thought."
"'Tis allowed," said Mrs. Towers, "that rash and precipitate love may operate pretty much alike in the rash and precipitate of both sexes: and which soever loves, generally exalts the person beloved above his or her merits: but I am desirous, for the sake of us maiden ladies, since it is a science in which you are so great an adept, to have your advice, how we should watch and guard its first incroachments and that you will tell us what you apprehend gives the men most advantage over us."
"Nay, now, Mrs. Towers, you rally my presumption, indeed!"
"I admire you, Madam," replied she, "and every thing you say and do; and I won't forgive you to call what I so seriously say and think, raillery. For my own part," continued she, "I never was in love yet, nor, I believe, were any of these young ladies." (Miss Cope looked a little silly upon this.) "And who can better instruct us to guard our hearts, than a lady who has so well defended her own?"
"Why then, Madam, if I must speak, I think, what gives the other sex the greatest advantage over even many of the most deserving ones, is that dangerous foible, the love of praise, and the desire to be flattered and admired, a passion I have observed to predominate, more or less, from sixteen to sixty, in most of our sex. We are too generally delighted with the company of those who extol our graces of person or mind: for, will not a grateful lady study hard to return a few compliments to a gentleman who makes her so many! She is concerned to prove him a man of distinguished sense, or a polite man, at least, in regard to what she thinks of herself; and so the flatterer shall be preferred to such of the sincere and worthy, as cannot say what they do not think. And by this means many an excellent lady has fallen a prey to some sordid designer.
"Then, I think, nothing can give gentlemen so much advantage over our sex, as to see how readily a virtuous lady can forgive the capital faults of the most abandoned of the other; and that sad, sad notion, that a reformed rake makes the best husband; a notion that has done more hurt, and discredit too, to our sex (as it has given more encouragement to the profligate, and more discouragement to the sober gentlemen), than can be easily imagined. A fine thing, indeed I as if the wretch, who had run through a course of iniquity, to the endangering of soul and body, was to be deemed the best companion for life, to an innocent and virtuous young lady, who is to owe the kindness of his treatment to her, to his having never before accompanied with a modest woman; nor, till his interest on one hand (to which his extravagance, perhaps, compels him to attend), and his impaired constitution on the other, oblige him to it, so much as wished to accompany with one; and who always made a jest of the marriage state, and perhaps, of every thing either serious or sacred!"
"You observe, very well," said Mrs. Towers: "but people will be apt to think, that you have less reason than any of our sex, to be severe against such a notion: for who was a greater rake than a certain gentleman, and who is a better husband?"
"Madam," replied I, "the gentleman you mean, never was a common town rake: he is a man of sense, and fine understanding: and his reformation, secondarily, as I may say, has been the natural effect of those extraordinary qualities. But also, I will presume to say, that that gentleman, as he has not many equals in the nobleness of his nature, so he is not likely, I doubt, to have many followers, in a reformation begun in the bloom of youth, upon self-conviction, and altogether, humanly speaking, spontaneous. Those ladies who would plead his example, in support of this pernicious notion, should find out the same generous qualities in the man, before they trust to it: and it will then do less harm; though even then, I could not wish it to be generally entertained."
"It is really unaccountable," said Mrs. Towers, "after all, as Mrs. B., I remember, said on another occasion, that our sex should not as much insist upon virtue and sobriety, in the character of a man, as a man, be he ever such a rake, does in that of a lady. And 'tis certainly a great encouragement to libertinism, that a worn-out debauchee should think himself at any time good enough for a husband, and have the confidence to imagine, that a modest woman will accept of his address, with a preference of him to any other."
"I can account for it but one way," said the dean: "and that is, that a modest woman is apt to be diffident of her own merit and understanding and she thinks this diffidence an imperfection. A rake never is troubled with it: so he has in perfection a quality she thinks she wants; and, knowing too little of the world, imagines she mends the matter by accepting of one who knows too much."
"That's well observed, Mr. Dean," said Mrs. Towers: "but there is another fault in our sex, which Mrs. B. has not touched upon; and that is, the foolish vanity some women have, in the hopes of reforming a wild fellow; and that they shall be able to do more than any of their sex before them could do: a vanity that often costs them dear, as I know in more than one instance."
"Another weakness," said I, "might be produced against some of our sex, who join too readily to droll upon, and sneer at, the misfortune of any poor young creature, who has shewn too little regard for her honour: and who (instead of speaking of it with concern, and inveighing against the seducer) too lightly sport with the unhappy person's fall; industriously spread the knowledge of it—" [I would not look upon Miss Sutton, while I spoke this], "and avoid her, as one infected; and yet scruple not to admit into their company the vile aggressor; and even to smile with him, at his barbarous jests, upon the poor sufferer of their own sex."
"I have known three or four instances of this in my time," said Mrs. Towers, that Miss Sutton might not take it to herself; for she looked down and was a little serious.
"This," replied I, "puts me in mind of a little humourous copy of verses, written, as I believe by Mr. B. And which, to the very purpose we are speaking of, he calls
"'Benefit of making others' misfortunes our own.
"'Thou'st heard it, or read it, a million of times, That men are made up of falsehood and crimes; Search all the old authors, and ransack the new, Thou'lt find in love stories, scarce one mortal true. Then why this complaining? And why this wry face? Is it 'cause thou'rt affected most with thy own case? Had'st thou sooner made others' misfortunes thy own, Thou never thyself, this disaster hadst known; Thy compassionate caution had kept thee from evil, And thou might'st have defy'd mankind and the devil.'"
The ladies were pleased with the lines; but Mrs. Towers wanted to know at what time of Mr. B.'s life they could be written. "Because," added she, "I never suspected, before, that the good gentleman ever took pains to write cautions or exhortations to our sex, to avoid the delusions of his own."
These verses, and these facetious, but severe, remarks of Mrs. Towers, made every young lady look up with a cheerful countenance; because it pushed the ball from self: and the dean said to his daughter, "So, my dear, you, that have been so attentive, must let us know what useful inferences you can draw from what Mrs. B. and the other ladies so excellently said."
"I observe. Sir, from the faults the ladies have so justly imputed to some of our sex, that the advantage the gentlemen chiefly have over us, is from our own weakness: and that it behoves a prudent woman to guard against first impressions of favour, since she will think herself obliged, in compliment to her own judgment, to find reasons, if possible, to confirm them.
"But I wish to know if there be any way that a woman can judge, whether a man means honourably or not, in his address to her!"
"Mrs. B. can best inform you of that, Miss L.," said Mrs. Towers: "what say you, Mrs. B.?"
"There are a few signs," answered I, "easy to be known, and, I think, almost infallible."
"Pray let's have them," said Lady Arthur; and they all were very attentive.
"I lay it down as an undoubted truth," said I, "that true love is one of the most respectful things in the world. It strikes with awe and reverence the mind of the man who boasts its impressions. It is chaste and pure in word and deed, and cannot bear to have the least indecency mingled with it.
"If, therefore, a man, be his birth or quality what it will, the higher the worse, presume to wound a lady's ears with indecent words: if he endeavour, in his expressions or sentiments, to convey gross or impure ideas to her mind: if he is continually pressing for her confidence in his honour: if he requests favours which a lady ought to refuse: if he can be regardless of his conduct or behaviour to her: if he can use boisterous or rude freedoms, either to her person or dress—" [Here poor Miss Cope, by her blushes, bore witness to her case.] "If he avoids speaking of marriage, when he has a fair opportunity of doing it—" [Here Miss L. looked down and blushed]—"or leaves it once to a lady to wonder that he does not:—
"In any, or in all these cases, he is to be suspected, and a lady can have little hope of such a person; nor, as I humbly apprehend, consistent with honour and discretion, encourage his address."
The ladies were so kind as to applaud all I said, and so did the dean. Miss Stapylton, Miss Cope, and Miss L. were to write down what they could remember of the conversation: and our noble guests coming in soon after, with Mr. B., the ladies would have departed; but he prevailed upon them to pass the evening; and Miss L., who had an admirable finger on the harpsichord, as I have before said, obliged us with two or three lessons. Each of the ladies did the like, and prevailed upon me to play a tune or two: but Miss Cope, as well as Miss L., surpassed me much. We all sung too in turns, and Mr. B. took the violin, in which he excels. Lord Davers obliged us on the violincello: Mr. H. played on the German flute, and sung us a fop's song, and performed it in character; so that we had an exceeding gay evening, and parted with great satisfaction on all sides, particularly on the young ladies; for this put them all in good humour, and good spirits, enlivening the former scene, which otherwise might have closed, perhaps more gravely than efficaciously.
The distance of time since this conversation passed, enables me to add what I could not do, when I wrote the account of it, which you have mislaid: and which take briefly, as follows:
Miss Stapylton was as good as her word, and wrote down all she could recollect of the conversation: and I having already sent her the letter she desired, containing my observations upon the flighty style she so much admired, it had such an effect upon her, as to turn the course of her reading and studies to weightier and more solid subjects; and avoiding the gentleman she had begun to favour, gave way to her parents' recommendations, and is happily married to Sir Jonathan Barnes.
Miss Cope came to me a week after, with the leave of both her parents, and tarried with me three days; in which time she opened all her heart to me, and returned in such a disposition, and with such resolutions, that she never would see her peer again; nor receive letters from him, which she owned to me she had done clandestinely before; and she is now the happy lady of Sir Michael Beaumont, who makes her the best of husbands, and permits her to follow her charitable inclinations according to a scheme which she consulted me upon.
Miss L., by the dean's indulgent prudence and discretion, has escaped her rake; and upon the discovery of an intrigue he was carrying on with another, conceived a just abhorrence of him; and is since married to Dr. Jenkins, as you know, with whom she lives very happily.
Miss Sutton is not quite so well off as the three former; though not altogether so unhappy neither, in her way. She could not indeed conquer her love of dress and tinsel, and so became the lady of Col. Wilson: and they are thus far easy in the marriage state, that, being seldom together, they have probably a multitude of misunderstandings; for the colonel loves gaming, in which he is generally a winner; and so passes his time mostly in town. His lady has her pleasures, neither laudable nor criminal ones, which she pursues in the country. And now and then a letter passes on both sides, by. the inscription and subscription of which they remind one another that they have been once in their lives at one church together,
And what now, my dear Lady G., have I to add to this tedious account (for letter I can hardly call it) but that I am, with great affection, your true friend and servant,
MY DEAR LADY G.,
You desire to have a little specimen of my nursery tales and stories, with which, as Miss Fenwick told you, on her return to Lincolnshire, I entertain my Miss Goodwin and my little boys. But you make me too high a compliment, when you tell me, it is for your own instruction and example. Yet you know, my dear Lady G., be your motives what they will, I must obey you, although, were others to see it, I might expose myself to the smiles and contempt of judges less prejudiced in my favour. So I will begin without any further apology; and, as near as I can, give you those very stories with which Miss Fenwick was so pleased, and of which she has made so favourable a report.
Let me acquaint you, then, that my method is to give characters of persons I have known in one part or other of my life, in feigned names, whose conduct may serve for imitation or warning to my dear attentive Miss; and sometimes I give instances of good boys and naughty boys, for the sake of my Billy and my Davers; and they are continually coming about me, "Dear Madam, a pretty story," now cries Miss: "and dear mamma, tell me of good boys, and of naughty boys," cries Billy.
Miss is a surprising child of her age, and is very familiar with many of the best characters in the Spectators; and having a smattering of Latin, and more than a smattering of Italian, and being a perfect mistress of French, is seldom at a loss for a derivation of such words as are not of English original. And so I shall give you a story in feigned names, with which she is so delighted, that she has written it down. But I will first trespass on your patience with one of my childish tales.
Every day, once or twice, I cause Miss Goodwin, who plays and sings very prettily, to give a tune or two to me, my Billy and my Davers, who, as well as my Pamela, love and learn to touch the keys, young as the latter is; and she will have a sweet finger; I can observe that; and a charming ear; and her voice is music itself!-"O the fond, fond mother!" I know you will say, on reading this.
Then, Madam, we all proceed, hand-in-hand, together to the nursery, to my Charley and Jemmy: and in this happy retirement, so much my delight in the absence of my best beloved, imagine you see me seated, surrounded with the joy and the hope of my future prospects, as well as my present comforts. Miss Goodwin, imagine you see, on my right hand, sitting on a velvet stool, because she is eldest, and a Miss; Billy on my left, in a little cane elbow-chair, because he is eldest, and a good boy; my Davers, and my sparkling-ey'd Pamela, with my Charley between them, on little silken cushions, at my feet, hand-in-hand, their pleased eyes looking up to my more delighted ones; and my sweet-natured promising Jemmy, in my lap; the nurses and the cradle just behind us, and the nursery maids delightedly pursuing some useful needle-work for the dear charmers of my heart-All as hush and as still as silence itself, as the pretty creatures generally are, when their little, watchful eyes see my lips beginning to open: for they take neat notice already of my rule of two ears to one tongue, insomuch that if Billy or Davers are either of them for breaking the mum, as they call it, they are immediately hush, at any time, if I put my finger to my lip, or if Miss points hers to her ear, even to the breaking of a word in two, as it were: and yet all my boys are as lively as so many birds: while my Pamela is cheerful, easy, soft, gentle, always smiling, but modest and harmless as a dove.
I began with a story of two little boys, and two little girls, the children of a fine gentleman, and a fine lady, who loved them dearly; that they were all so good, and loved one another so well, that every body who saw them, admired them, and talked of them far and near; that they would part with any thing to the another; loved the poor; spoke kindly to the servants; did every thing they were bid to do; were not proud; knew no strife, but who should learn their books best, and be the prettiest scholar; that the servants loved them, and would do any thing they desired; that they were not proud of fine clothes; let not their heads run upon their playthings when they should mind their books; said grace before they eat, their prayers before they went to bed, and as soon as they rose; were always clean and neat; would not tell a fib for the world, and were above doing any thing that required one; that God blessed them more and more, and blessed their papa and mamma, and their uncles and aunts, and cousins, for their sakes. "And there was a happy family, my dear loves!-No one idle; all prettily employed; the Masters at their books; the Misses at their books too, or at their needles; except at their play-hours, when they were never rude, nor noisy, nor mischievous, nor quarrelsome: and no such word was ever heard from their mouths, as, 'Why mayn't I have this or that, as well as Billy or Bobby?' Or, 'Why should Sally have this or that, any more than I?' But it was, 'As my mamma pleases; my mamma knows best;' and a bow and a smile, and no surliness, or scowling brow to be seen, if they were denied any thing; for well did they know that their papa and mamma loved them so dearly, that they would refuse them nothing that was for their good; and they were sure when they were refused, they asked for something that would have done them hurt, had it been granted. Never were such good boys and girls as these I And they grew up; and the Masters became fine scholars, and fine gentlemen, and every body honoured them: and the Misses became fine ladies, and fine housewives; and this gentleman, when they grew to be women, sought to marry one of the Misses, and that gentleman the other; and happy was he that could be admitted into their companies I so that they had nothing to do but to pick and choose out of the best gentlemen in the country: while the greatest ladies for birth and the most remarkable for virtue (which, my dears, is better than either birth or fortune), thought themselves honoured by the addresses of the two brothers. And they married, and made good papas and mammas, and were so many blessings to the age in which they lived. There, my dear loves, were happy sons and daughters; for good Masters seldom fail to make good gentlemen; and good Misses, good ladies; and God blesses them with as good children as they were to their parents; and so the blessing goes round!-Who would not but be good?"
"Well, but, mamma, we will all be good:-Won't we, Master Davers?" cries my Billy. "Yes, brother Billy. But what will become of the naughty boys? Tell us, mamma, about the naughty boys!"
"Why, there was a poor, poor widow woman, who had three naughty sons, and one naughty daughter; and they would do nothing that their mamma bid them do; were always quarrelling, scratching, and fighting; would not say their prayers; would not learn their books; so that the little boys used to laugh at them, and point at them, as they went along, for blockheads; and nobody loved them, or took notice of them, except to beat and thump them about, for their naughty ways, and their undutifulness to their poor mother, who worked hard to maintain them. As they grew up, they grew worse and worse, and more and more stupid and ignorant; so that they impoverished their poor mother, and at last broke her heart, poor poor widow woman!—And her neighbours joined together to bury the poor widow woman: for these sad ungracious children made away with what little she had left, while she was ill, before her heart was quite broken; and this helped to break it the sooner: for had she lived, she saw she must have wanted bread, and had no comfort with such wicked children."
"Poor poor widow woman!" said my Billy, with tears; and my little dove shed tears too, and Davers was moved, and Miss wiped her fine eyes.
"But what became of the naughty boys, and the naughty girl, mamma?"
"Became of them! Why one son was forced to go to sea, and there he was drowned: another turned thief (for he would not work), and he came to an untimely end: the third was idle and ignorant, and nobody, who knew how he used his poor mother, would employ him; and so he was forced to go into a far country, and beg his bread. And the naughty girl, having never loved work, pined away in sloth and filthiness, and at last broke her arm, and died of a fever, lamenting, too late, that she had been so wicked a daughter to so good a mother!—And so there was a sad end to all the four ungracious children, who never would mind what their poor mother said to them; and God punished their naughtiness as you see!—While the good children I mentioned before, were the glory of their family, and the delight of every body that knew them."
"Who would not be good?" was the inference: and the repetition from Billy, with his hands clapt together, "Poor widow woman!" gave me much pleasure.
So my childish story ended, with a kiss of each pretty dear, and their thanks for my story: and then came on Miss's request for a woman's story, as she called it. I dismissed my babies to their play; and taking Miss's hand, she standing before me, all attention, began in a more womanly strain to her; for she is very fond of being thought a woman; and indeed is a prudent sensible dear, comprehends any thing instantly, and makes very pretty reflections upon what she hears or reads as you will observe in what follows:
"There is nothing, my dear Miss Goodwin, that young ladies should be so watchful over, as their reputation: 'tis a tender flower that the least frost will nip, the least cold wind will blast; and when once blasted, it will never flourish again, but wither to the very root. But this I have told you so often, I need not repeat what I have said. So to my story.
"There were four pretty ladies lived in one genteel neighbourhood, daughters of four several families; but all companions and visitors; and yet all of very different inclinations. Coquetilla we will call one, Prudiana another, Profusiana the third, and Prudentia the fourth; their several names denoting their respective qualities.
"Coquetilla was the only daughter of a worthy baronet, by a lady very gay, but rather indiscreet than unvirtuous, who took not the requisite care of her daughter's education, but let her be over-run with the love of fashion, dress, and equipage; and when in London, balls, operas, plays, the Park, the Ring, the withdrawing-room, took up her whole attention. She admired nobody but herself, fluttered about, laughing at, and despising a crowd of men-followers, whom she attracted by gay, thoughtless freedoms of behaviour, too nearly treading on the skirts of immodesty: yet made she not one worthy conquest, exciting, on the contrary, in all sober minds, that contempt of herself, which she so profusely would be thought to pour down upon the rest of the world. After she had several years fluttered about the dangerous light, like some silly fly, she at last singed the wings of her reputation; for, being despised by every worthy heart, she became too easy and cheap a prey to a man the most unworthy of all her followers, who had resolution and confidence enough to break through those few cobweb reserves, in which she had encircled her precarious virtue; and which were no longer of force to preserve her honour, when she met with a man more bold and more enterprising than herself, and who was as designing as she was thoughtless. And what then became of Coquetilla?-Why, she was forced to pass over sea to Ireland, where nobody knew her, and to bury herself in a dull obscurity; to go by another name, and at last, unable to support a life so unsuitable to the natural gaiety of her temper, she pined herself into a consumption, and died, unpitied and unlamented, among strangers, having not one friend but whom she bought with her money."
"Poor Lady Coquetilla!" said Miss Goodwin; "what a sad thing it is to have a wrong education; and how happy am I, who have so good a lady to supply the place of a dear distant mamma!-But be pleased, Madam, to proceed to the next."
"Prudiana, my dear, was the daughter of a gentleman who was a widower, and had, while the young lady was an infant, buried her mamma. He was a good sort of man; but had but one lesson to teach to Prudiana, and that was to avoid all sort of conversation with the men; but never gave her the right turn of mind, nor instilled into it that sense of her religious duties, which would have been her best guard in all temptations. For, provided she kept out of the sight and conversation of the gentlemen, and avoided the company of those ladies who more freely conversed with the other sex, it was all her papa desired of her. This gave her a haughty, sullen, and reserved turn; made her stiff, formal, and affected. She had sense enough to discover early the faults of Coquetilla, and, in dislike to them, fell the more easily into that contrary extreme, which a recluse education, and her papa's cautions, naturally led her. So that pride, reserve, affectation, and censoriousness, made up the essentials of her character, and she became more unamiable even than Coquetilla; and as the other was too accessible, Prudiana was quite unapproachable by gentlemen, and unfit for any conversation, but that of her servants, being also deserted by those of her own sex, by whom she might have improved, on account of her censorious disposition. And what was the consequence? Why this: every worthy person of both sexes despising her, and she being used to see nobody but servants, at last throws herself upon one of that class: in an evil hour, she finds something that is taking to her low taste in the person of her papa's valet, a wretch so infinitely beneath her (but a gay coxcomb of a servant), that every body attributed to her the scandal of making the first advances; for, otherwise, it was presumed, he durst not have looked up to his master's daughter. So here ended all her pride. All her reserves came to this! Her censoriousness of others redoubled people's contempt upon herself, and made nobody pity her. She was finally turned out of doors, without a penny of fortune: the fellow was forced to set up a barber's shop in a country town; for all he knew was to shave and dress a peruke: and her papa would never look upon her more: so that Prudiana became the outcast of her family, and the scorn of all that knew her; and was forced to mingle in conversation and company with the wretches of her husband's degree!"
"Poor, miserable Prudiana!" said Miss—"What a sad, sad fall was hers. And all owing to the want of a proper education too!—And to the loss of such a mamma, as I have an aunt; and so wise a papa as I have an uncle!—How could her papa, I wonder, restrain her person as he did, like a poor nun, and make her unacquainted with the generous restraints of the mind?
"I am sure, my dear good aunt, it will be owing to you, that I shall never be a Coquetilla, nor a Prudiana neither. Your table is always surrounded with the best of company, with worthy gentlemen as well as ladies: and you instruct me to judge of both, and of every new guest, in such a manner, as makes me esteem them all, and censure nobody; but yet to see faults in some to avoid, and graces in others to imitate; but in nobody but yourself and my uncle, any thing so like perfection, as shall attract one's admiration to one's own ruin."
"You are young, yet, my love, and must always doubt your own strength; and pray to God, more and more, as your years advance, to give you more and more prudence, and watchfulness over your conduct.
"But yet, my dear, you must think justly of yourself too; for let the young gentlemen be ever so learned and discreet, your education entitles you to think as well of yourself as of them: for, don't you see, the ladies who are so kind as to visit us, that have not been abroad, as you have been, when they were young, yet make as good figures in conversation, say as good things as any of the gentlemen? For, my dear, all that the gentlemen know more than the ladies, except here and there such a one as your dear uncle, with all their learned education, is only, that they have been disciplined, perhaps, into an observation of a few accuracies in speech, which, if they know no more, rather distinguish the pedant than the gentleman: such as the avoiding of a false concord, as they call it, and which you know how to do, as well as the best; not to put a was for a were, an are for an is, and to be able to speak in mood and tense, and such like valuable parts of education: so that, my dear, you can have no reason to look upon that sex in so high a light, as to depreciate your own: and yet you must not be proud nor conceited neither; but make this one rule your guide:
"In your maiden state, think yourself above the gentlemen, and they'll think you so too, and address you with reverence and respect, if they see there be neither pride nor arrogance in your behaviour, but a consciousness of merit, a true dignity, such as becomes virgin modesty, and untainted purity of mind and manners, like that of an angel among men; for so young ladies should look upon themselves to be, and will then be treated as such by the other sex.
"In your married state, which is a kind of state of humiliation for a lady, you must think yourself subordinate to your husband; for so it has pleased God to make the wife. You must have no will of your own, in petty things; and if you marry a gentleman of sense and honour, such a one as your uncle, he will look upon you as his equal; and will exalt you the more for your abasing yourself. In short, my dear, he will act by you, just as your dear uncle does by me: and then, what a happy creature will you be!"
"So I shall, Madam! To be sure I shall!—But I know I shall be happy whenever I marry, because I have such wise directors, and such an example, before me: and, if it please God, I will never think of any man (in pursuance of your constant advice to young ladies at the tea-table), who is not a man of sense, and a virtuous gentleman. But now, dear Madam, for your next character. There are two more yet to come, that's my pleasure! I wish there were ten!"
"Why the next was Profusiana, you may remember, my love. Profusiana took another course to her ruin. She fell into some of Coquetilla's foibles, but pursued them for another end, and in another manner. Struck with the grandeur and magnificence of what weak people call the upper life, she gives herself up to the circus, to balls, to operas, to masquerades, and assemblies; affects to shine at the head of all companies, at Tunbridge, at Bath, and every place of public resort; plays high, is always receiving and paying visits, giving balls, and making treats and entertainments; and is so much above the conduct which mostly recommends a young lady to the esteem of the deserving of the other sex, that no gentleman, who prefers solid happiness, can think of addressing her, though she is a fine person, and has many outward graces of behaviour. She becomes the favourite toast of the place she frequents, is proud of that distinction; gives the fashion, and delights in the pride, that she can make apes in imitation, whenever she pleases. But yet endeavouring to avoid being thought proud, makes herself cheap, and is the subject of the attempts of every coxcomb of eminence; and with much ado, preserves her virtue, though not her character.
"What, all this while, is poor Profusiana doing? She would be glad, perhaps, of a suitable proposal, and would, it may be, give up some of her gaieties and extravagances: for Profusiana has wit, and is not totally destitute of reason, when she suffers herself to think. But her conduct procures her not one solid friendship, and she has not in a twelvemonth, among a thousand professions of service, one devoir that she can attend to, or a friend that she can depend upon. All the women she sees, if she excels them, hate her: the gay part of the men, with whom she accompanies most, are all in a plot against her honour. Even the gentlemen, whose conduct in the general is governed by principles of virtue, come down to these public places to partake of the innocent freedoms allowed there, and oftentimes give themselves airs of gallantry, and never have it in their thoughts to commence a treaty of marriage with an acquaintance begun upon that gay spot. What solid friendships and satisfactions then is Profusiana excluded from!
"Her name indeed is written in every public window, and prostituted, as I may call it, at the pleasure of every profligate or sot, who wears a diamond to engrave it: and that it may be, with most vile and barbarous imputations and freedoms of words, added by rakes, who very probably never exchanged a syllable with her. The wounded trees are perhaps also taught to wear the initials of her name, linked, not unlikely, and widening as they grow, with those of a scoundrel. But all this while she makes not the least impression upon one noble heart: and at last, perhaps, having run on to the end of an uninterrupted race of follies, she is cheated into the arms of some vile fortune-hunter; who quickly lavishes away the remains of that fortune which her extravagance had left; and then, after the worst usage, abandoning her with contempt, she sinks into an obscurity that cuts short the thread of her life, and leaves no remembrance, but on the brittle glass, and still more faithless bark, that ever she had a being."
"Alas, alas! what a butterfly of a day," said Miss (an expression she remembered of Lady Towers), "was poor Profusiana!—What a sad thing to be so dazzled by worldly grandeur, and to have so many admirers, and not one real friend!"
"Very true, my dear; and how carefully ought a person of a gay and lively temper to watch over it I And what a rock may public places be to a lady's reputation, if she be not doubly vigilant in her conduct, when she is exposed to the censures and observations of malignant crowds of people; many of the worst of whom spare the least those who are most unlike themselves."
"But then, Madam," said Miss, "would Profusiana venture to play at public places? Will ladies game, Madam? I have heard you say, that lords, and sharpers but just out of liveries, in gaming, are upon a foot in every thing, save that one has nothing to lose, and the other much, besides his reputation! And will ladies so disgrace their characters, and their sex, as to pursue this pernicious diversion in public?"
"Yes, my dear, they will too often, the more's the pity! And don't you remember, when we were at Bath, in what a hurry I once passed by some knots of genteel people, and you asked what those were doing? I told you, whisperingly, they were gaming; and loath I was, that my Miss Goodwin should stop to see some sights, to which, till she arrived at the years of discretion, it was not proper to familiarize her eye; in some sort acting like the ancient Romans, who would not assign punishments to certain atrocious crimes, because they had such an high idea of human nature, as to suppose it incapable of committing them; so I was not for having you, while a little girl, see those things, which I knew would give no credit to our sex, and which I thought, when you grew older, should be new and shocking to you: but now you are so much a woman in discretion, I may tell you any thing."
She kissed my hand, and made me a fine curtsey-and told me, that now she longed to hear of Prudentia's conduct. "Her name, Madam," said she, "promises better things than those of her three companions; and so it had need: for how sad is it to think, that out of four ladies of distinction, three of them should be naughty, and, of course, unhappy."-"These two words, of course, my dear," said I, "were very prettily put in: let me kiss you for it: since every one that is naughty, first or last, must be certainly unhappy.
"Far otherwise than what I have related, was it with the amiable Prudentia. Like the industrious bee, she makes up her honey-hoard from every flower, bitter as well as sweet; for every character is of use to her, by which she can improve her own. She had the happiness of an aunt, who loved her, as I do you; and of an uncle who doated on her, as yours does: for, alas! poor Prudentia lost her papa and mamma almost in her infancy, in one week: but was so happy in her uncle and aunt's care, as not to miss them in her education, and but just to remember their persons. By reading, by observation, and by attention, she daily added new advantages to those which her education gave her. She saw, and pitied, the fluttering freedoms and dangerous nights of Coquetilla. The sullen pride, the affectation, and stiff reserves, which Prudiana assumed, she penetrated, and made it her study to avoid. And the gay, hazardous conduct, extravagant temper, and love of tinselled grandeur, which were the blemishes of Profusiana's character, she dreaded and shunned. She fortifies herself with the excellent examples of the past and present ages, and knows how to avoid the faults of the faulty, and to imitate the graces of the most perfect. She takes into her scheme of that future happiness, which she hopes to make her own, what are the true excellencies of her sex, and endeavours to appropriate to herself the domestic virtues, which shall one day make her the crown of some worthy gentleman's earthly happiness: and which, of course, as you prettily said, my dear, will secure and heighten her own.
"That noble frankness of disposition, that sweet and unaffected openness and simplicity, which shines in all her actions and behaviour, commend her to the esteem and reverence of all mankind; as her humility and affability, and a temper uncensorious, and ever making the best of what she said of the absent person, of either sex, do to the love of every lady. Her name, indeed, is not prostituted on windows, nor carved on the barks of trees in public places: but it smells sweet to every nostril, dwells on every tongue, and is engraven on every heart. She meets with no address but from men of honour and probity: the fluttering coxcomb, the inveigling parasite, the insidious deceiver, the mercenary fortune-hunter, spread no snares for a heart guarded by discretion and prudence, as hers is. They see, that all her amiable virtues are the happy result of an uniform judgment, and the effects of her own wisdom, founded in an education to which she does the highest credit. And at last, after several worthy offers, enough to perplex a lady's choice, she blesses some one happy gentleman, more distinguished than the rest, for learning, good sense, and true politeness, which is but another word for virtue and honour; and shines, to her last hour, in all the duties of domestic life, as an excellent wife, mother, mistress, friend, and Christian; and so confirms all the expectations of which her maiden life had given such strong and such edifying presages."
Then folding my dear Miss in my arms, and kissing her, tears of pleasure standing in her pretty eyes, "Who would not," said I, "shun the examples of the Coquetilla's, the Prudiana's, and the Profusiana's of this world, and choose to' imitate the character of Prudentia!-the happy, and the happy-making Prudentia."
"O Madam! Madam!" said the dear creature, smothering me with her rapturous kisses, "Prudentia is YOU!—Is YOU indeed!—It can be nobody else!—O teach me, good God! to follow your example, and I shall be a Second Prudentia—Indeed I shall!"
"God send you may, my beloved Miss! And may he bless you more, if possible, than Prudentia was blessed!"
And so, my dear Lady G., you have some of my nursery tales; with which, relying on your kind allowances and friendship, I conclude myself your affectionate and faithful
The Editor thinks proper to conclude in this place, that he may not be thought to deserve a suspicion, that the extent of the work was to be measured by the patience of its readers. But he thinks it necessary, in order to elucidate the whole, to subjoin a note of the following facts.
Mr. B. (after the affair which took date at the masquerade, and concluded so happily) continued to be one of the best and most exemplary of men, an honour to his country, both in his public and private capacity; having, at the instances of some of his friends in very elevated stations, accepted of an honourable employment abroad in the service of the state; which he discharged in such a manner, as might be expected from his qualifications and knowledge of the world: and on his return, after an absence of three years, resisting all the temptations of ambition, devoted himself to private duties, and joined with his excellent lady in every pious wish of her heart; adorning the married life with all the warmth of an elegant tenderness; beloved by his tenants, respected by his neighbours, revered by his children, and almost adored by the poor, in every county where his estates gave him interest, as well for his own bountiful temper, as for the charities he permitted to be dispensed, with so liberal a hand, by his lady.
She made him the father of seven fine children, five sons, and two daughters, all adorned and accomplished by nature, to be the joy and delight of such parents; being educated, in every respect, by the rules of their inimitable mother, laid down in that book which she mentions to have been written by her for the revisal and correction of her consort; the contents of which may be gathered from her remarks upon Mr. Locke's Treatise on Education, in her letters to Mr. B., and in those to Lady G.
Miss GOODWIN, at the age of eighteen, was married to a young gentleman of fine parts, and great sobriety and virtue: and both she and he, in every material part of their conduct, and in their behaviour to one another, emulate the good example set them by Mr. and Mrs. B.
Lord DAVERS dying two years before this marriage, his lady went to reside at the Hall in Lincolnshire, the place of her birth, that she might enjoy the company and conversation of her excellent sister; who, for conveniency of the chapel, and advantage of room and situation, had prevailed upon Mr. B. to make it the chief place of his residence; and there the noble lady lived long (in the strictest friendship with the happy pair) an honourable relict of her affectionate lord.
The worthy Mr. ANDREWS, and his wife, lived together in the sweet tranquillity set forth in their letters, for the space of twelve years, at the Kentish farm: the good old gentlewoman died first, full of years and comfort, her dutiful daughter performing the last pious offices to so beloved and so loving a parent: her husband survived her about a year only.
Lady G., Miss DARNFORD that was, after a happy marriage of several years, died in child-bed of her fourth child, to the inexpressible concern of her affectionate consort, and of her dear friend Mrs. B.
Lord H., after having suffered great dishonour by the ill courses of his wife, and great devastations in his estate, through her former debts, and continued extravagance (intimidated and dispirited by her perpetual insults, and those of her gaming brother, who with his bullying friends, terrified him into their measures), threw himself upon the protection of Mr. B. who, by his spirit and prudence, saved him from utter ruin, punished his wife's accomplices, and obliged her to accept a separate maintenance; and then taking his affairs into his own management, in due course of time, entirely re-established them: and after some years his wife dying, he became wiser by his past sufferings, and married a second, of Lady Davers's recommendation, who, by her prudence and virtue, made him happy for the remainder of his days.
Mr. LONGMAN lived to a great age in the worthy family, much esteemed by every one, having trained up a diligent youth, whom he had recommended, to ease him in his business, and who, answering expectation, succeeded him in it after his death.
He dying rich, out of his great love and gratitude to the family, in whose service he had acquired most of his fortune, and in disgust to his nearest relations, who had perversely disobliged him; he bequeathed to three of them one hundred pounds a-piece, and left all the rest to his honoured principal, Mr. B.; who, as soon as he came to know it, being at that time abroad, directed his lady to call together the relations of the old gentleman, and, after touching them to the heart with a just and effectual reproof, and finding them filled with due sense of their demerit, which had been the cause of their suffering, then to divide the whole, which had been left him, among them, in greater proportions as they were more nearly related: an action worthy prayers and blessings, not only of the benefited, but all who heard of it. For it is easy to imagine, how cheerfully, and how gracefully, his benevolent lady discharged a command so well suited to her natural generosity.