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To conclude: what if our government had a poet-laureat here, as in England ? what if our university had a professor of poetry here, as in England ? what if our lord mayor had a city bard here, as in England ? and, to refine upon England, what if every corporation, parish, and ward in this town, had a poet in fee, as they have not in England ? Lastly, what if every one, so qualified, were obliged to add one more than usual to the number of his domestics, and, beside a fool and a chaplain, (which are often united in one person), would retain a poet in his family? for, perhaps, a rhymer is as necessary among servants of a house, as a dobbin with his bells at the head of a team. But these things I leave to the wisdom of my superiors.
While I have been directing your pen, I should not forget to govern my own, which has already exceeded the bounds of a letter: I must therefore take my leave abruptly, and desire
without further ceremony, to believe that I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
TO A VERY YOUNG LADY ON HER MARRIAGE.
MADAM, — The hurry and impertinence of receiving and paying visits on account of your marriage being now over, you are beginning to enter into a course of life, where you will want much advice to divert you from falling into many errors, fopperies, and follies, to which your sex is subject. . I have always borne an entire friendship to your father and mother; and the person they have chosen for your
husband has been, for some years past, my particular favorite. I have long wished you might come together, because I hoped that, from the goodness of your disposition, and by following the counsel of wise friends, you might in time make yourself worthy of him. Your parents were so far in the right that they did not produce you
much into the world, whereby you avoided many wrong steps which others have taken, and have fewer ill impressions to be removed; but they failed, as it is generally the case, in too much neglecting to cultivate your mind; without which it is impossible to acquire or preserve the friendship and esteem of a wise man, who
soon grows weary of acting the lover, and treating his wife like a mistress, but wants a reasonable companion, and a true friend through every stage of his life. It must be therefore your business to qualify yourself for those offices; wherein I will not fail to be your director, as long as I shall think you deserve it, by letting you know how you are to act, and what you ought to avoid.
And beware of despising or neglecting my instructions, whereon will depend not only your making a good figure in the world, but your own real happiness, as well as that of the person who ought to be the dearest to you. I must therefore desire you, in the first place, to be very
slow in changing the modest behavior of a virgin : it is usual in young wives, before they have been many weeks married, to assume a bold forward look and manner of talking, as if they intended to signify in all companies that they were no longer girls, and consequently that their whole demeanor, before they got a husband, was all but a countenance and constraint upon their nature: whereas, I suppose, if the votes of wise men were gathered, a very great majority would be in favor of those ladies who, after they were entered into that state, rather chose to double their portion of modesty and reservedness.
I must likewise warn you strictly against the least degree of fondness to your husband before any witness whatsoever, even before your nearest relations, or the
very maids of your chamber. This proceeding is so exceeding odious and disgustful to all who have either good breeding or good sense, that they assign two very unamiable reasons for it; the one is gross hypocrisy, and the other has too bad a name to mention. If there is any difference to be made, your husband is the lowest person in company either at home or abroad, and every gentleman present has a better claim to all marks of civility and distinction from you. Conceal your esteem and love in your own breast, and reserve your kind looks and language for private hours, which are so many in the four-and-twenty, that they will afford time to employ a passion as exalted as any that was ever described in a French romance.
Upon this head I should likewise advise you to differ in practice from those ladies who affect abundance of uneasiness while their husbands are abroad; start with every knock at the door, and ring the bell incessantly for the servants to let in their master; will not eat a bit at dinner or supper if the husband happens to stay out; and receive him at his return with such a medley of chiding and
kindness, and catechizing him where he has been, that a shrew from Bilingsgate would be a more easy and eligible companion.
Of the same leaven are those wives who, when their husbands are gone a journey, must have a letter every post, upon pain of fits and hysterics : and a day must be fixed for their return home, without the least allowance for business or sickness, or accidents, or weather; upon which I can only say, that in my observation, those ladies, who are apt to make the greatest clutter on such occasions, would liberally have paid a messenger for bringing them news, that their husbands had broken their necks on the road.
You will perhaps be offended, when I advise you to abate a little of that violent passion for fine clothes so predominant in your sex. It is a little hard that ours, for whose sake you wear them, are not admitted to be of your council. I may venture to assure you, that we will make an abatement at any time of four pounds a yard in a brocade, if the ladies will but allow a suitable addition of care in the cleanliness and sweetness of their persons. For the satirical part of mankind will needs believe, that it is not impossible to be very fine and very filthy; and that the capacities of a lady are sometimes apt to fall short, in cultivating cleanliness and finery together. I shall only add, upon so tender a subject, what a pleasant gentleman said concerning a silly woman of quality; that nothing could make her supportable but cutting off her head; for his ears were offended by her tongue, and his nose by her hair and teeth.
I am wholly at a loss how to advise you in the choice of company, which, however, is a point of as great importance as any in your life. If your general acquaintance be among the ladies, who are your equals or superiors, provided they have nothing of what is commonly called an ill reputation, you think you are safe ; and this,
, in the style of the world, will pass for good company. Whereas, I am afraid it will be hard for you to pick out one female acquaintance in this town from whom you will not be in manifest danger of contracting some foppery, affectation, vanity, folly, or vice. Your only safe way of conversing with them is, by a firm resolution to proceed in your practice and behavior directly contrary to whatever they shall say or do, and this I take to be a good general rule, with very few exceptions. For instance, in the doctrines they usually deliver to young married women for managing their husbands, their several accounts of their own conduct in that particular, to recommend it to your imitation, the reflections they make
upon others of their sex for acting differently, their directions how to come off with victory upon any dispute or quarrel you may have with your husband, the arts by which you may discover and practise upon his weak side: when to work by flattery and insinuation, when to melt him with tears, and when to engage him with a high hand : in these and a thousand other cases it will be prudent to retain as many of their lectures in your memory as you can, and then determine to act in full opposition to them all.
I hope your husband will interpose his authority to limit you in the trade of visiting : half a dozen fools are, in all conscience, as many as you should require; and it will be sufficient for you to see them twice a-year, for I think the fashion does not exact that visits should be paid to friends.
I advise that your company at home should consist of men rather than women.
say the truth, I never yet knew a tolerable woman to be fond of her own sex. I confess, when both are mixed and well chosen, and put their best qualities forward, there may be an intercourse of civility and good will, which, with the addition of some degree of sense, can make conversation or any amusement agreeable. But a knot of ladies, got together by themselves, is a very school of impertinence and detraction, and it is well if those be the worst.
Let your men acquaintance be of your husband's choice, and not recommended to you by any she companions, because they will certainly fix a coxcomb upon you, and it will cost you some time and pains before you can arrive at the knowledge of distinguishing such a one from a man of sense.
Never take a favorite waiting-maid into your cabinet council, to entertain
with histories of those ladies whom she has formerly served, of their diversions and their dresses, to insinuate how great a fortune you brought, and how little you are allowed to squander, to appeal to her from your husband, and to be determined by her judgment, because you are sure it will be always for you, to receive and discard servants by her approbation or dislike; to engage you by her insinuations in misunderstandings with your best friends; to represent all things in false colors, and to be the common emissary of scandal.
But the grand affair of your life will be to gain and preserve the friendship and esteem of your husband. You are married to a man of good education and learning, of an excellent understanding and an exact taste. It is true, and it is happy for you, that these
qualities in him are adorned with great modesty, a most amiable sweetness of temper, and an unusual disposition to sobriety and virtue; but neither good-nature nor virtue will suffer him to esteem you against his judgment; and although he is not capable of using you ill, yet you will in time grow a thing indifferent, and perhaps contemptible, unless you can supply the loss of youth and beauty with more durable qualities. You have but a very few years to be young and handsome in the eyes of the world, and as few months to be so in the eyes of a husband who is not a fool; for I hope you do not still dream of charms and raptures, which marriage ever did, and ever will, put a sudden end to. Besides, yours was a match of prudence and common good liking, without any mixture of that ridiculous passion which has no being but in play-books and
You must therefore use all endeavors to attain to some degree of those accomplishments which your husband most values in other people, and for which he is most valued himself. You must improve your mind by closely pursuing such a method of study as I shall direct or approve of. You must get a collection of history and travels, which I will recommend to you, and spend some hours every day in reading them, and making extracts from them if your memory be weak.
You must invite persons of knowledge and understanding to an acquaintance with you, by whose conversation you may learn to correct your taste and judgment; and when you can bring yourself to comprehend and relish the good sense of others, you will arrive in time to think rightly yourself, and to become a reasonable and agreeable companion. This must produce in
your husband a true rational love and esteem for you, which old age will not diminish. He will have a regard for your judgment and opinion in matters of the greatest weight; you will be able to entertain each other without a third person to relieve you by finding discourse. The endowments of your mind will even make your person more agreeable to him; and when you are alone, your time will not lie heavy upon your hands for want of some trifling amusement.
As little respect as I have for the generality of your sex, it has sometimes moved me with pity to see the lady of the house forced to withdraw immediately after dinner, and this in families where there is not much drinking; as if it were an established maxim, that women are incapable of all conversation. In a room where both sexes meet, if the men are discoursing upon any general subject,