« PreviousContinue »
N° 33. SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 1709.
Quicquid agunt homines
nostri est farrago libelli.
JUV. Sat. i. 85, 86. Whatever good is done, whatever illBy human kind, shall this collection fill.
BY MRS. JENNY DISTAFF, HALF-SISTER TO MR.
From my own Apartment, June 23. My brother has made an excursion into the country, and the work against Saturday lies upon me. I am very glad I have got pen and ink in my hand; for I have for some time longed for his absence, to give a right idea of things, which I thought he put in a very odd light, and some of them to the disadvantage of my owu sex. It is much to be lamented, that it is necessary to make discourses, and publish treatises, to keep the horrid creatures, the men, within the rules of common decency.
I gladly embrace this opportunity to express myself with the resentment I ought, on people who take liberties of speech before that sex, of whom the honoured names of mother, daughter, and sister are a part: I had like to have named wife in the number : but the senseless world are so mistaken in their sentiments of pleasure, that the most amiable term in human life is become the derision of fools and scorners. My brother and I have at least fifty times quarrelled upon this topic. I ever argue, that the frailties of women are to be imputed to the false ornaments which men of wit put upon our folly and coquetry. He lays all the vices of men upon women's secret approbation of libertine characters in them. I did not care to give up a point; but, now he is out of the way, I cannot but own I believe there is very much in what he asserted: but if you will believe your eyes, and own, that the wickedest and wittiest of them all marry one day or other, it is impossible to believe, that if a man thought he should be for ever incapable of being received by a woman of merit and honour, he would persist in an abandoned way; and deny himself the possibility of enjoying the happiness of well governed desires, orderly satisfactions, and honourable methods of life. If our sex were wise, a lover should have a certificate from the last woman he served, how he was turned away, before he was received into the service of another: but at present any vagabond is welcome, provided he promises to enter into our livery. It is wonderful, that we will not take a footman without credentials from his last master; and in the greatest concern of life, we make no scruple of falling into a treaty with the most notorious offender in this behaviour against others. But this breach of commerce between the sexes, proceeds from an unaccountable prevalence of custom, by which a woman is to the last degree reproachable for being deceived, and a man suffers no loss of credit for being a deceiver.
Since this tyrant humour has gained place, why are we represented in the writings of men in ill figures for artifice in our carriage, when we have to do with a professed impostor? When oaths, imprecations, vows, and adorations are made use of as words of course, what arts are not necessary to defend us from
such as glory in the breach of them? As for my part, I am resolved to hear all, and believe none of them; and therefore solemnly declare no vow shall deceive me, but that of marriage ; for I am turned of twenty, and being of a small fortune, some wit, and (if I can believe my lovers and my glass) handsome, I have heard all that can be said towards my undoing; and shall therefore, for warning-sake, give an account of the offers that have been made me, my manner of rejecting them, and my assistances to keep my resolution.
In the sixteenth year of iny life, I fell into the acquaintance of a lady extremely well known in this town for the quick advancement of her husband, and the honours and distinctions which her industry has procured him, and all who belong to her. This excellent body sat next to me for some months at church, and took the liberty, which, she said, her years, and the zeal she had for my welfare, gave her claim to, to assure me, that she observed some parts of my behaviour which would lead me into errors, and give encouragement to some to entertain hopes I did not think of. What made you,' said she, look through your fan at that lord, when your eyes should have been turned upwards, or closed in attention upon better objects?' I blushed, and pretended fifty odd excuses ;—but consounded myself the more. She wanted nothing but to see that confusion, and goes on; Nay, child, do not be troubled that I take notice of it; my value for you made me speak it; for though he is my kinsinan, I have a nearer regard to virtue than any other consideration. She had hardly done speaking, when this noble lord came up to us, and led her to her coach.
My head ran all that day and night on the exem
plary carriage of this woman, who could be so virtuously impertinent, as to admonish one she was hardly acquainted with. However, it struck upon the vanity of a girl, that it may possibly be, his thoughts might have been as favourable of me, as mine were ainorous of him; and as unlikely things as that have happened, if he should make me his wife. She never mentioned this more to me; but I still in all public places stole looks at this man, who easily observed my passion for him. It is so hard a thing to check the return of agreeable thoughts, that he became my dream, my vision, my food, my wish, my torment.
That ministress of darkness, the lady Sempronia', perceived too well the temper I was in, and would,one day after evening service, needs take me to the park. When we were there, my lord passes by; I flushed into a flame. “Mrs. Distaff?,' says she, you may very well remember the concern I was in upon the first notice I took of your regard to that lord ; and forgive me, who had a tender friendship for your mother (now in her grave), that I am vigilant of your conduct.' She went on with much severity, and after great solicitation prevailed on me to go with her into the country, and there spend the ensuing summer out of the way of a man she saw I loved, and one whom she perceived meditated my ruin, by frequently desiring her to introduce him to me: which she absolutely refused, except he would give his honour that he had no other design but to marry me. To her country-house a week or two after we went: there was at the farther end of her garden a kind of wilder
1 See a similar character well drawn by Sallust, of a beau. tiful bad woman of this name in Rome. Bell, Catil. c. xxi.
See No 10, and 13.
ness, in the middle of which ran a soft rivulet, by an arbour of jessamine. In this place I usually passed my retired hours, and read some romantic or poetical tale until the close of the evening. It was near that time, in the heat of summer, when gentle winds, soft murmurs of water, and notes of nightingales, had given my mind an indolence, which added to that repose of soul twilight and the end of a warın day naturally throws upon the spirits. It was at such an hour, and in such a state of tranquillity I sat, when, to my inexpressible amazement, I saw my lord walking towards me, whom I knew not until that moment to have been in the country. I could observe in his approach the perplexity which attends a man big with design; and I had, while he was coming forward, time to reflect that I was betrayed; the sense of which gave me a resentment suitable to such a baseness: but, when he entered into the bower where I was, my heart flew towards him, and, I confess, a certain joy came into my mind, with an hope that he might then make a declaration of honour and passion. This threw my eye upon him with such tenderness, as gave bim power, with a broken accent, to begin. Ma. dam-you will wonder-for it is certain, you must have observed though I fear you will misinterpret the motives--but by heaven, and all that is sacred! if you could—Here he made a full stand, and I recovered power to say, “The consternation I am in you will not, I hope, believe-an helpless innocent maid-besides that, the place . He saw me in as great confusion as himself; which attributing to the same causes, he had the audaciousness to throw himself at my feet, talk of the stillness of the evening, and then ran into deifications of my person, pure flames, constant love, eternal raptures, and a thousand