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young lady is bestowed by her parents to a man who weds her as innocence itself, though she has, in her own heart, given her approbation of a different man in every assembly she was in the whole year before. What is wanting among women as well as among men, is the love of laudable things, and not to rest only in the forbearance of such as are reproachful.
How far removed from a woman of this light imagination is Eudosia! Eudosia has all the arts of life and good-breeding with so much ease, that the virtue of her conduct looks more like instinct than choice. It is as little difficult to her to think justly of persons and things, as it is to a woman of different accomplishments to move ill or look awkward. That which was, at first, the effect of instruction, is
grown into an habit; and it would be as hard for Eudosia to indulge a wrong suggestion of thought, as it would be to Flavia, the fine dancer, to come into a room with an unbecoming air.
But the misapprehensions people themselves have of their own state of mind, is laid down with much discerning in the following letter, which is but an extract of a kind epistle from my charming mistress Hecatissa, who is above the vanity of external beauty, and is the better judge of the perfections of the mind.
• I write this to acquaint you, that very many ladies, as well as myself, spend many hours more than we used at the glass, for want of the female library, of which you promised us a catalogue. I hope, sir, in the choice of authors for us, you will have a particular regard to books of devotion. What they are, and how many, must be your
chief care ; for upon the propriety of such writings depends a
great deal. I have known those among us who think, if they every morning and evening spend an hour in their closet, and read over so many prayers in six or seven books of devotion, all equally nonsensical, with a sort of warmth, (that might as well be raised by a glass of wine, or a dram of citron)
all the rest of their time go on in whatever their particular passion leads them to. The beauteous Philautia, who is in your language) an idol, is one of these votaries ; she has a very pretty furnished closet, to which she retires at her appointed hours. This is her dressing room, as well as chapel; she has constantly before her a large looking-glass; and upon the table, according to a very witty author,
Together lie her prayer-book and paint,
At once t’improve the sinner and the saint. • It must be a good scene, if one could be present at it, to see this idol by turns lift up her eyes to heaven, and steal glances at her own dear person. It cannot but be a pleasing conflict between vanity and humiliation When you are upon this subject, choose books which elevate the mind above the world, and give a pleasing indifference to little things in it. For want of such instructions I am apt to believe so many people take it in their heads to be sullen, cross, and angry, under pretence of being abstracted from the affairs of this life, when at the same time they betray their fondness for them by doing their duty as a task, and pouting and reading good books for a week together. Much of this I take to proceed from the indiscretion of the books themselves, whose very titles of weekly preparations, and such limited godliness, lead people of ordinary capacities into great errors, and raise in them a mechanical religion, entirely distinct from
morality. I know a lady so given up to this sort of devotion, that though she employs six or eight hours of the twenty-four at cards, she never misses one constant hour of prayer, for which time another holds her cards, to which she returns with no little anxiousness till two or three in the morning. All these acts are but empty shows, and, as it were, compliments made to virtue; the mind is all the while untouched with any true pleasure in the pursuit of it. From hence I presume it arises, that so many people call themselves virtuous, from no other pretence to it but an absence of ill. There is Dulciamara, the most insolent of all creatures to her friends and domestics, upon no other pretence in nature, but that (as her silly phrase is) can say black is her eye." She has no secrets, forsooth, which should make her afraid to speak her mind, and therefore she is impertinently blunt to all her acquaintance, and unseasonably imperious to all her family. Dear sir, be pleased to put such books into our hands, as may make our virtue more inward, and convince some of us, that in a mind truly virtuous, the scorn of vice is always accompanied with the pity of it. This and other things are impatiently expected from you by our whole sex; among the rest by,
Your most humble servant. R.
N° 80. FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 1711.
Cælum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt.
HOR. 1 Ep. xi. 27.
In the year 1688, and on the same day of that year, were born in Cheapside, London, two females of exquisite feature and shape; the one we shall call Brunetta, the other Phillis. A close intimacy between their parents made each of them the first acquaintance the other knew in the world. They played, dressed babies, acted visitings, learned to dance and make curtesies together. They were inseparable companions in all the little entertainments their tender years were capable of: which innocent happiness continued until the beginning of their fifteenth year, when it happened that Phillis had an head dress on, which became her so very well, that instead of being beheld any more with pleasure for their amity to each other, the eyes the neighbourhood were turned to remark'them with comparison of their beauty. They now no longer enjoyed the ease of mind and pleasing indolence in which they were formerly happy, but all their words and actions were misinterpreted by each other, and every excellence in their speech and behaviour was looked upon as an act of emulation to surpass the other.
These beginnings of disinclination soon improved into a formality of behaviour, a general coldness, and by natyral steps into an irre, concilable hatred.
These two rivals for the reputation of beauty, were in their stature, countenance, and mien so very much alike, that if you were speaking of them in their absence, the words in which you described the one must give you an idea of the other. They were hardly distinguishable, you would think, when they were apart, though extremely different when together. What made their enmity the more entertaining to all the rest of their sex was, that in detraction from each other, neither could fall upon terms which did not hit herself as much as her adversary. Their nights grew restless with meditation of new dresses to outvie each other, and inventing new devices to recal admirers, who observed the charms of the one rather than those of the other, on the last meeting. Their colours failed at each other's appearance, flushed with pleasure at the report of a disadvantage, and their countenances withered upon instances of applause. The decencies to which women are obliged, made these virgins stifle their resentment so far as not to break into open violences, while they equally suffered the torments of a regulated anger. Their mothers, as it is usual, engaged in the quarrel, and supported the several pretensions of their daughters with all that ill-chosen sort of expence which is common with people of plentiful fortunes and mean taste.
The girls preceded their parents like queens of May, in all the gaudy colours imaginable, on every Sunday to church, and were exposed to the examination of the audience for superiority of beauty.
During this constant struggle it happened, that Phillis one day at public prayers smote the heart of a gay West Indian, who appeared in all the colours which can affect an eye that could not distinguish between being fine and tawdry. This American, in a summer-island suit, was too shining and too gay