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N°614. MONDAY, NOV. 1, 1714.
Si mihi non animo fixum immotumque sederet,
VIRG. Æn.iv. 15.
The following account hath been transmitted to me by the love-casuist.
. “Having in some former papers taken care of the two states of virginity and marriage, and being willing that all people should be served in their turn, I this day drew out my drawer of widows, where I met with several cases, to each whereof I have returned satisfactory answers by the post. The cases are as follow :
•Q. Whether Amoret be bound by a promise of marriage to Philander, made during her husband's life?
• Q. Whether Sempronia, having faithfully given a promise to two several persons during the last sickness of her husband, is not thereby left at liberty to choose which of them she pleases, or to reject them both for the sake of a new lover?
· Cleora asks me, whether she be obliged to continue single according to a vow made to her husband at the time of his presenting her with a diamond necklace; she being informed by a very pretty young fellow, of a good conscience, that such vows are in their nature sinful?
Another inquires, whether she hath not the right of widowhood, to dispose of herself to a gentleman of great merit, who presses very hard; her husband being irrecoverably gone in a consumption?
An unreasonable creature hath the confidence to ask, whether it be proper for her to marry a man who is younger than her eldest son ?
"A scrupulous well-spoken matron, who gives me a great many good words, only doubts, whether she is not obliged in conscience to shut up her two marriageable daughters, until such time as she hath comfortably disposed of herself?
Sophronia, who seems by her phrase and spelling to be a person of condition, sets forth, that whereas she hath a great estate, and is but a woman, she desires to be informed, whether she would not do prudently to marry Camillus, a very idle tall young fellow, who hath no fortune of his own, and consequently hath nothing else to do but to manage hers?
Before I speak of widows, I cannot but observe one thing, which I do not know how to account for; a widow is always more sought after than an old maid of the same age. It is common enough among ordinary people, for a stale virgin to set up a shop in a place where she is not known; where the large thumb ring, supposed to be given her by her husband, quickly recommends her to some wealthy neighbour, who takes a liking to the jolly widow, that would have overlooked the venerable spinster. The truth of it is, if we look into this set of women, we find, according to the different characters or circumstances wherein they are left, that widows may be divided into those who raise love and those who raise compassion.
But, not to ramble from this subject, there are two things in which consists chiefly the glory of a widow-the love of her deceased husband, and the care of her children; to which may be added a third, arising out of the former, such a prudent conduct as may do honour to both.
A widow possessed of all these three qualities makes not only a virtuous but a sublime character.
There is something so great and so generous in this state of life, when it is accompanied with all its virtues, that it is the subject of one of the finest among our modern tragedies in the person of Andromache, and hath met with an universal and deserved applause, when introduced upon our English stage by Mr. Phillips.
The most memorable widow in history is queen Artemisia, who not only erected the famous mausoleum, but drank up the ashes of her dead lord ; thereby enclosing them in a nobler monument than that which she had built, though deservedly esteemed one of the wonders of architecture.
This last lady seems to have had a better title to a second husband than any I have read of, since not one dust of her first was remaining. Our modern heroines might think a husband a very bitter draught, and would have good reason to complain, if they might not accept of a second partner until they had taken such a troublesome method of losing the memory of the first.
I shall add to these illustrious examples out of ancient story, a remarkable instance of the delicacy
of our ancestors in relation to the state of widowhood, as: I find it recorded in Cowell's Interpreter.* • At East and West Enborne, in the county of Berks, if a customary tenant die, the widow shall have what the law calls her freebench in all his copyhold lands, dum sola et casla fuerit, that is, while she lives single and chaste; but if she commit incontinency she forfeits her estate; yet if she will come into the court riding backward upon a black ram, with his tail in her hand, and say the words following, the steward is bound by the custom to re-admit her to her freebench.
"Here I am,
my land again.'
The like custom there is in the manor of Torre in Devonshire, and other parts of the West. .
It is not impossible but I may in a little time present you with a register of Berkshire ladies, and other western dames, who rode publicly upon this occasion; and I hope the town will be entertained with a cavalcade of widows.
* No record of this kind is to be found in the edition of Cowell's Interpreter of 1637, 4to.
N° 615. WEDNESDAY, NOV. 3, 1714.
HOR. 4 Od, ix. 47.
Smile at the doubtful tide of fạte,
Who poison less than falsehood fear,
Loth to purchase.life so dear; But kindly for their friend embrace cold death, And seal their country's love with their departing breath.
It must be owned that fear is a very powerful passion, since it is esteemed one of the greatest of yirtues to subdue it. It being implanted in us for our preservation, it is no wonder that it sticks close to us as long as we have any thing we are willing to preserve. But as life, and all its enjoyments, would be scarce worth the keeping if we were under a perpetual dread of losing them, it is the business of religion and philosophy to free us from all unnecessary anxieties, and direct our fear to its proper object.
If we consider the painfulness of this passion, and the violent effects it produces, we shall see how dangerous it is to give way to it upon slight occasions. Some have frightened themselves into madness, others have given up their lives to these appre- .