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N° 23. THURSDAY, JUNE 2, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.
JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86.
White's Chocolate-house, May 31.
The generality of mankind are so very fond of this world, and of staying in it, that a man cannot have eminent skill in any one art, but they will, in spite of his teeth, make him a physician also, that being the science the worldlings have most need of. I pretended, when I first set up, to astronomy only; but, I am told, I have deep skill in medicine. I am applied to now by a gentleman for my advice in behalf of his wife, who, upon the least matrimonial difficulty, is excessively troubled with fits, and can bear no manner of passion without falling into immediate convulsions. I must confess it is a case I have known before, and remember the party was recovered by certain words pronounced in the midst of the fit, by the learned doctor who performed the cure. These ails have usually their beginning from the affections of the mind: therefore you must have patience to let me give you an instance, whereby you may discern the cause of the distemper, and then proceed in cure as follows:
A fine town lady was married to a gentleman of ancient descent in one of the counties of Great Britain, who had good-humour to a weakness, and was that sort of person, of whom it is usually said, he is no man's enemy but his own: one who had too much tenderness of soul to have any authority with his wife ; and she too little sense to give him any authority, for that reason. His kind wife observed this temper in him, and made proper use of it. But, knowing it was below a gentlewoman to wrangle, she resolved upon an expedient to save decorum, and wear her dear to her point at the same time. She therefore took upon her to govern him, by falling into fits whenever she was repulsed in a request, or contradicted in a discourse. It was a fish-day, when, in the midst of her husband's good humour at table, she bethought herself to try her project. She made signs that she had swallowed a bone. The man grew pale as ashes, and ran to her assistance, calling for drink. “No, my dear,' said she, “recovering, . it is down; do not be frightened. This accident betrayed his softness enough. The next day she complained, a lady's chariot, whose husband had not half his estate, had a crane-neck, and hung with twice the air that hers did. He answered, 'Madam, you know my income; you know I have lost two coach-horses this spring.'- Down she fell. • Hartshorn! Betty, Susan, Alice, throw water in her face. With inuch care and pains, she was at last brought to herself, and the vehicle in which she visited was amended in the nicest manner, to prevent relapses; but they frequently happened during that husband's whole life, which he had the good fortune to end in a few years after. The disconsolate soon pitched upon a very agreeable successor, whom she very prudently designed to govern by the same method. This man knew her little arts, and resolved to break through all tenderness, and be absolute mas
ter as soon as occasion offered. One day it happened, that a discourse arose about furniture: he was very glad of the occasion, and fell into an invective against china, protesting, he would never let five pounds more of his money be laid out that way as Jong as he breathed'. She immediately fainted. He starts up as amazed, and calls for help.--The maids run to the closet..He chafes her face, bends her forward, and beats the palms of her hands : her convulsions increase, and down she tumbles on the floor, where she lies quite dead, in spite of what the whole family, from the nursery to the kitchen, could do for her relief.
While every servant was thus helping or lamenting their mistress, he, fixing his cheek to hers, seemed to be following in a trance of sorrow; but secretly whispers her, “My dear, this will never do: what is „within my power and fortune, you may always command; but none of your artifices: you are quite in other hands than those you passed these pretty passions upon. This made her almost in the condition she pretended; her convulsions now came thicker, nor was she to be held down. The kind man doubles his care, helps the servants to throw water in her face by full quarts ; and when the sinking part of the fit came again, "Well, my dear,' said he, I applaud your action ; but I must take my leave of you till you are more sincere with me; farewell for ever you shall always know where to hear of me, and want for nothing. With that he ordered the maids to keep plying her with hartshorn, while he went for a physician; he was scarce at the stair-head when
"A fashion of collecting useless pieces of china began about this time to be very prevalent.