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pense than the reputation of a constant lover and a good poet. By the mere force of imagination, and the eloquence of their own metaphysical sonnets, they became persuaded that their mistresses were possessed of every accomplishment of face and mind, and that themselves were dying for love.

As in those days women were constantly guarded by their fathers and brothers before marriage, and watched and confined by their husbands for the rest of their lives; the refined passions above described were not exposed to the same accidents which so frequently befal those of modern lovers; they could neither fall into a decay from a more perfect knowledge of the ladies character, nor were they liable to sudden death from enjoyment. But whilst the women were adored in song, they were miserable in reality ; confinement and distrust made them detest their husbands, and they endeavoured to form connections with men more to their taste than either jealous husbands or metaphysical lovers. To treat a woman of character as if she were an unprincipled wanton, is the most likely way to make her one. In those days of jealousy, a continual trial of skill seems to have subsisted between husband and wife, as if every lord, soon after marriage, had told his lady; • Now, madam, I know perfectly well what you would be at; but it is my business to prevent you: I'll guard you so well, and watch you so closely, that it shall never be in your power to gratify your inclinations.' . You are perfectly in the right, my lord,' replied the lady, with all meekness ; ' pray guard and watch as your wisdom shall direct; I, also, shall be vigilant on my part, and we shall see how the business will end.' The business generally did end as might have been expected ; and the only consolation left the husband was, to endeavour to assassinate the happy lover.

But when French manners began to spread over Eua rope, and to insinuate themselves among nations the most

, opposite in character to the French, jealousy was first held up as the most detestable of all the passions. The law

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had long declared against its dismal effects, and awful de. nunciations had been pronounced from the pulpit against those who were inflamed by its bloody spirit; but without effect, till ridicule joined in the argument, and exposed those husbands to the contempt and derision of every fashionable society, who harboured the gloomy demon in their bosoms.

As in England, after the Restoration, people, to shew their aversion to the Puritans, turned every appearance of religion into ridicule, and from the extreme of hypocrisy flew at once to that of profligacy; so in Italy, from the custom of secluding the wife from all mankind but her husband, it became the fashion that she should never be seen with her husband, and yet always have a man at her elbow.

I shall conclude what I have to say on this subject in my next.

LETTER LXXVI.

Florence BEFORE the Italian husbands could adopt or reconcile their minds to a custom so opposite to their former prac. tice, they took some measures to secure a point which they had always thought of the highest importance. Finding the confinement was a plan generally reprobated, and that any appearance of jealousy subjected the husband to ridicule, they agreed that their wives should

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company and attend public places, but always attended by a friend whom they could trust, and who, at the same time, should not be disagreeable to the wife. This compromise could not fail of being acceptable to the women, who plainly perceived that they must be gainers by any alteration of the former system ; and it soon became universal all over Italy, for the women to appear at public places leaning upon the arm of a man; who, from their frequently whispering together, was called her Cicisbeo. It was stipulated, at the same time, that the lady, while abroad under

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his cáre, should converse with no other man but in his presence, and with his approbation : he was to be her

guardian, her friend, and gentleman-usher.

The custom at present is, that this obsequious gentleman visits the lady every forenoon at the toilet, where the plan for passing the evening is agreed upon ; he disappears before dinner, for it is usual all over Italy for the husband and wife to dine together tête-à-tête, except on great occasions, as when there is a public feast. After dinner the husband retires, and the Cicisbeo returns and conducts the Jady to the public walk, conversazione, or the opera ; he hands her about wherever she goes, presents her coffee, sorts her cards, and attends with the most pointed assiduity till the amusements of the evening are over; he accompanies her home, and delivers up his charge to the husband, who is then supposed to resume his functions.

From the nature of this connection, it could not be an easy matter to find a Cicisbeo who would be equally agreeable to the husband and wife. At the beginning of the institution, the husbands, as I have been informed, preferred the Platonic swains, who professed only the metaphy, sics of love, and whose lectures, they imagined, might refine their wives ideas, and bring them to the same way of thinking; in many instances, no doubt, it would happen, that the Platonic admirer acted with less seraphic ends ; but these instances serve only as proofs that the husbands were mistaken in their men ; for however absurd it may appear in the eyes of some people, to imagine that the husbands believe it is only a Platonic connexion which subsists between their wives and the Cicisbeos ; it is still more absurd to believe, as some strangers who have passed through this country seem to have done, that this whole system of Cicisbeism was from the beginning, and is now, an universal system of adultery connived at by every Italian husband. To get clear of one difficulty, those gentlemen fall into another much more inexplicable ; by supposing that the men, who of all the inhabitants of Europe were the most scrupulous with regard to their wives chastity,

should acquiesce in, and in a manner become subservient to, their prostitution. In support of this strange doctrine, they assert, that the husbands being the Cicisbeos of os ther women, cannot enjoy this privilege on any other terms; and are therefore contented to sacrifice their wives for the sake of their mistresses. That some individuals may be profligate enough to act in this manner, I make no doubt.

Similar arrangements we hear instances of in every country; but that such a system is general, or any thing near it, in Italy, seems to me perfectly incredible, and is contrary to the best information I have received since I have been here. It is also urged, that most of the married men of quality in Italy act in the character of Cicisbeo to some woman or other; and those who are not Platonic lovers, ought to suspect that the same liberties are taken with their wives which they take with the spouses of their neighbours; and therefore their suffering a man to visit their wives in the character of a cavalier servente, is in effect conniving at their own cuckoldom. But this does not follow as an absolute consequence; for men have a wonderful faculty of deceiving themselves on such occasions. So great is the infatuation of their vanity, that the same degree of complaisance, which they consider as the effect of a very natural and excusable weakness, when indulged by any woman for themselves, they would look on as a horrible enormity if admitted by their wives for another man; so that whatever degree of licentiousness may exist in consequence of this system, I am convinced the majority of husbands make exceptions in their own favour, and that their ladies find means to satisfy each individual that he is not involved in a calamity, which, after all, is more general in other countries, as well as Italy, than it ought.

Even when there is the greatest harmony and love between the husband and wife, and although each would prefer the other's company to any other, still, such is the tyranny of fashion, they must separate every evening; he to play the cavaliero scrvente to another woman, and she

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to be led about by another man. Notwithstanding this ins conveniency, the couples who are in this predicament are certainly happier than those whose affections are not centered at home. Some very loving couples lament the cruelty of this separation ; yet the world in general seem to be of opinion, that a man and his wife who dine together every day, and lie together every night, may, with a proper exertion of philosophy, be able to support being asun, der a few hours in the evening.

The Cicisbeo, in many instances, is a poor relation or humble friend, who, not being in circumstances to support an equipage, is happy to be admitted into all the so, cieties, and to be carried about to public diversions, as an appendage to the lady. I have known numbers of those gentlemen, whose appearance and bodily infirmities car. ried the clearest refutation, with respect to themselves per- : sonally, of the scandalous stories of an improper connection between cavaliero serventes and their mistresses. I never in my life saw men more happily formed, both in body and mind, for saving the reputation of the females with whom they were on a footing of intimacy. The humble and timid air which many of them betray in the presence of the ladies, and the perseverance with which they continue their services, notwithstanding the con, temptuous style in which they are often treated, is equally unlike the haughtiness natural to favoured lovers, and the indifference of men satiated with enjoyment.

There are, it must be confessed, Cicisbeos of a very dif- . ferent stamp, whose figure and manners might be supposed more agreeable to the ladies they serye, than to their lords. I once expressed my surprise, that a particular person permitted one of this description to attend his wife. I was told, by way of solution of my difficulty, that the husband was poor, and the Cicisbeo rich. It is not in Italy only where infamous compromises of this nature take place.

I have also known instances, since I have been in this country, where the characters of the ladies were so well

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