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old man supposes the eldest of his own genius; and the mother looks upon the youngest as herself renewed. By this means, all the lovers who approach the house are discarded by the father for not observing Mrs. Mary's wit and beauty; and by the mother, for being blind to the mien and air of Mrs. Biddy. Come never so many pretenders, they are not suspected to have the least thought of Mrs. Betty, the middle daughter. Betty, therefore, is mortified into a woman of a great deal of merit, and knows she must depend on that for her advancement. The middlemost is thus the favourite of all her acquaintance, as well as mine ; while the other two carry a certain insolence about them in all conversations, and expect the partiality which they meet with at home to attend them whereever they appear. So little do parents understand that they are, of all people, the least judges of their children's merit, that what they reckon such is seldom anything else but a repetition of their own faults and infirmities. There is, methinks, some excuse for being particular, when one of the offspring has any defect in nature. In this case, the child, if we may so speak, is so much longer the child of its parents, and calls for the continuance of their care and indulgence from the slowness of its capacity, or the weakness of its body. But there is no enduring to see men enamoured only at the sight of their own impertinencies repeated, and to observe, as we may sometimes, that they have a secret dislike of their children for a degeneracy from their very crimes. Commend me to Lady Goodly ; she is equal to all her own children, but prefers them to those of all the world beside. My lady is a perfect hen in the care of her brood ; she fights and squabbles with all that appear where they come, but is wholly unbiassed in dispensing her favours among them. It is no small pains she is at to defame all the young women in her neighbourhood, by visits, whispers, intimations, and hearsays; all which she ends with thanking heaven, “that no one living is so blessed with such obedient and well-inclined children as herself. Perhaps, she says, “Betty cannot dance like Mrs. Frontinet, and it is no great matter whether she does or not ; but she comes into a room with a good grace; though she says it that should not, she looks like a gentlewoman. Then, if Mrs. Rebecca is not so talkative as the mighty wit Mrs. Clapper, yet she is discreet, she knows better what she says when she does speak. If her wit be slow, her tongue never runs before it.’ This kind parent lifts up her eyes and hands in congratulation of her own good fortune, and is maliciously thankful that none of her girls are like any of her neighbours; but this preference of her own to all others is grounded upon an impulse of nature ; while those, who like one before another of their own, are so unpardonably unjust, that it could hardly be equalled in the children, though they preferred all the rest of the world to such parents. It is no unpleasant entertainment to see a ball at a dancing-school, and observe the joy of relations when the young ones, for whom they are concerned, are in motion. You need not be told whom the dancers belong to. At their first appearance, the passions of their parents are in their faces, and there is always a nod of approbation stolen at a good step or a graceful turn. I remember, among all my acquaintance, but one man whom I have thought to live with his children with equanimity and a good grace. He had three Sons and one daughter, whom he bred with all the care imaginable in a liberal and ingenuous way. I have often heard him say, “he had the weakness to love one much better than the other, but that he took as much pains to correct that as any other criminal passion that could arise in his mind.” His method was, to make it the only pretension in his children to his favour, to be kind to each other; and he would tell them, ‘that he who was the best brother, he would reckon the best son.” This turned their thoughts into an emulation for the superiority in kind and tender affection towards each other. The boys behaved themselves very early with a manly friendship ; and their sister, instead of the gross familiarities and impertinent freedoms in behaviour usual in other houses, was always treated by them with as much complaisance as any other young lady of their acquaintance. It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit, or sit at a meal, in that family. I have often seen the old man's heart flow at his eyes with joy, upon occasions which would appear indifferent to such as were strangers to the turn of his mind ; but a very slight accident, wherein he saw his children's goodwill to one another, created in him the god-like pleasure of loving them because they loved each other. This great command of himself, in hiding his first impulse to partiality, at last improved to a steady justice towards them ; and that, which at first was but an expedient to correct his weakness, was afterwards the measure of his virtue. The truth of it is, those parents who are interested in the care of one child more than that of another, no longer deserve the name of parents, but are, in effect, as childish as their children, in having such unreasonable and ungoverned inclinations. A father of this sort has degraded himself into one of his own offspring; for none but a child would take part in the passions of children. [Tasler, No. 235.
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My sister Jenny's lover, the honest Tranquillus, for that shall be his name, has been impatient with me to despatch the necessary direction for his marriage; that while I am taken up with imaginary schemes, as he calls them, he might not burn with real desire and the torture of expectation. When I had reprimanded him for the ardour wherein he expressed himself . . . I told him, ‘the day of his nuptials should be on the Saturday following, which was the eighth instant.” On the seventh in the evening, poor Jenny came into my chamber, and, having her heart full of the great change of life from a virgin condition to that of a wife, she long sat silent. I saw she expected me to entertain her on this important subject, which was too delicate a circumstance for herself to touch upon ; whereupon I relieved her modesty in the following manner: ‘Sister,’ said I, ‘you are now going from me : and be contented that you leave the company of a talkative old man for that of a sober young one : but take this along with you, that there is no mean in the state you are entering into, but you are to be exquisitely happy or miserable, and your fortune in this way of life will be wholly of your own making. In all the marriages I have ever seen, most of which have been unhappy ones, the great cause of evil has proceeded from slight