« VorigeDoorgaan »
baffled by a new attitude of adulation; and, by a pretended indirect appeal to her compassion, she is totally vanquished.
Through the whole of this scene, our abhorrence, our disgust, and contempt, excited by cruelty, falsehood, meanness, and insignificance of mind, are so counterbalanced by the feelings that arise on the view of ability, self-possession, knowledge of character, and the masterly display of human nature, as that, instead of impairing, they rather contribute force to the general sensation of pleasure. The conduct of Richard towards a character of more determined virtue, or of more stubborn passions, would have been absurd : towards Lady Anne it was natural, and attended with that success which it was calculated to obtain.
No. 67. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1779.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
SIR, “ Your predecessor, The Spectator, used to be consulted in cases of difficulty. I know not, if you, Mr. MIRROR, set up on the same footing. I am resolved, however, to try; and, although you should refuse to prescribe, I shall at least have the satisfaction of communicating my distress.
“I am between the age of a young man, and what the ladies call an old bachelor, not many years under forty, of no inconsiderable family, with an opulent fortune. I was educated like most other young heirs,
that is very indifferently. My teachers, it is true, were eminent in their different branches. My father obliged me to give regular attendance to their instructions ; but another part of my family seemed to think the restraint I was kept in too severe. The knowledge of this encouraged my want of attention at the time, though the recollection has, of late, given me much regret. I succeeded to my fortune at the age of eighteen, and engaged deeply in those pursuits which are stigmatized with the name of vices, by those who are unable to attain them. Having run on in the usual career, I became tired with the sameness and insipidity of the scenes in which I had so often been a spectator or an actor. I began to look on my conduct as bordering on the contemptible, and wished to change it for something more rational and respectable. I wished to change it while I had a sound constitution, which I owed to nature, and an unimpaired fortune, which I owed to a spirit of independence, instilled by a worthy father, from whose counsels and example I ought never to have departed. The good effects of these, if not wholly obliterated, have at least been long obscured by intemperance and dissipation.
“A man who, from being idle and dissipated, becomes sober and regular in his conduct, is immediately marked out for marriage by his former companions. Mine certainly thought of it for me long before I did so for myself. Many of my relations seemed to entertain the same opinion. They had long wished me to marry, to prevent a considerable part of my fortune from going to a worthless and distant relation; and showed so much satisfaction at my supposed resolution, that I adopted it in earnest.
** You, who set up for an instructor, are, I presume, better acquainted with the world than to imagine that I would first turn my views to those young ladies with whom I was most intimately acquainted, and in whose society I had passed a considerable part of my time. The giddy and frivolous pursuits in which I saw them constantly engaged, left no room for that domestic tenderness which I looked for in a wife. The gloss of fashion might suffice for the transient intercourse of gaiety; but some more intrinsic excellence was necessary to fix an attachment for life.
“I resolved, therefore, to pay my addresses only to young ladies who had received a less public education; and with that view I determined to cultivate an acquaintance in those families that were most remarkable for their prudence and moderation. I now began to look upon it as not one of the least misfortunes attending a young man in the fashionable world, that he is, in some degree, excluded from the opportunity of forming connexions with the best and most virtuous of the other sex at an early period of life, while the warm feelings of benevolence remain unblunted by those artificial manners, the consequences of which to society go near to over-balance the advantages arising from the refinements that produce them.
“In the course of my researches I became acquainted with Nerissa, an only daughter, who had been educated under the eye of a mother famed for her prudence and economy. She was at this time about twenty; though not a perfect beauty, she was agreeable, with an air of simplicity that is always engaging. Her conversation was sensible, and her ease of manner, and the facility with which she expressed herself, astonished me in one who had had so little intercourse with the world; but Nerissa's conversation furnished not one generous sentiment. The tear of compassion never started in her eye at a tale of sorrow; nor did the glow of pleasure ever sparkle in her countenance at the success of merit. In the society in which I had lived, self-gratification seemed to be the study of every individual, without giving the least attention to the pleasure and enjoyment of others. It was only the outward conduct of Nerissa that was different; her disposition was the same; and, as I had resolved to be attentive to the happiness of a wife, I wished not to choose one who would be regardless of that of a husband. We were not suited to each other; the only objects of Nerissa were rank and fortune ; she has since attained her wishes, having been lately married to a title and a settlement.
I next became acquainted in the house of Sir George Edwin, a man of very moderate fortune, who had lived some years in town for the education of his family. With Sir George I had but little intercourse, though he too was a man of the world; but he moved in an inferior sphere, his pleasures being chiefly confined to the bottle. He had three daughters, of whom I had that sort of acquaintance one necessarily acquires in a narrow country like this, by meeting frequently at places of public resort, as well as at private entertainments; but as they were always attended by their mother Lady Edwin, a grave matron, she never permitted them to engage in those familiar parties, amongst whom, or at the tavern, I generally passed my evenings.
The Miss Edwins were justly esteemed handsome ; their manners were easy, not elegant; their conversation was, for the most part, confined to the occurrences of the day, and never went further than observations on the last ball or the last dinner. These they were so eager to communicate, that they commonly spoke all at once, each of them afraid, no doubt, lest her sister should have the merit of her important discoveries. The only object of the mother seemed to be to get her girls well married. For this purpose she had trusted entirely to the external accomplishments of their persons, and those little arts which experienced matrons know well how to use to entrap the amorous and unwary. I hope she will succeed; the Miss Edwins appear to be good sort of girls, and will, I have no doubt, make excellent wives to some honest country squire, or some plodding man of business, who has no other idea of a wife than as a breeder or a housekeeper. Lady Edwin says she is an excellent economist, and her daughters have had the benefit of her example.
In the house of Sir George Edwin I first heard of Cordelia, and not much to her advantage. This, for censure will often defeat its purpose, gave me a strong desire to be acquainted with her. I soon learned that she was an only daughter ; that she was now in her twenty-second year ; that her father died when she was a child, leaving her a handsome fortune, which, being placed in the hands of a relation in the mercantile line, was so much impaired by his failure, that her mother found it necessary to cut short her plan of a fashionable and expensive education, and to take the chief care of her daughter's instruction upon herself. They had lived together in a decent retirement for five or six years, except a few months which they passed in town every winter, with the only one of their opulent relations who received them with the same affection as in their prosperity. Cordelia and her mother were upon one of these annual visits when I was introduced to her. I will not pretend to describe the sensations I then felt, nor the mind-illumined face' that produced them; from that moment, I was unhappy but in her company, and found in her conversation that elegance of mind, that cheerful sweetness and sensibility of temper, which was