« VorigeDoorgaan »
and traced the application of the phrase to the conduct and behaviour of the other sex? Perhaps, indeed, the character is not so universally in repute, as to come within the line of Moderatus's complaint; but the thing is more in vogue than it seems to have been at any period of which my predecessors, who are a sort of chroniclers of manners and fashions, have preserved the history.
In London, to which place we are always to look for the glass of fashion, the ladies, not satisfied with showing their spirit in the bold look, the masculine air, and the manly garb, have made inroads into a province from which they were formerly considered as absolutely excluded -I mean that of public oratory. Half a dozen societies have started up this winter, in which female speakers exercise their powers of elocution before numerous audiences, and canvass all manner of subjects with the freedom and spirit of the boldest male orators. We, in Edinburgh, have not yet attempted to rival the polite people of the metropolis in this respect: some of our ladies, however, do all they can to put us on a footing with them. There is seldom a crowded play, or a full concert, at which some of our public speakers do not exert themselves with a most laudable spirit to drown the declamation of the stage, or the music of the orchestra.
Nor is the ambition of those spirited ladies satisfied with speaking in public, and carrying off the attention of the audience from the voice of the actor, or the tones of the musician. The public eye, as well as ear, is to be commanded ; and, in the side-box of the theatre, or the front bench of the concert-room, there is often such a collection of beauty, animated with so much spirit of exhibition, that it is impossible the male part of the company should look at the scene, or think of the music. One
of my predecessors has mentioned the art which the ladies of his day used in the unfurling of their fans, so as to display certain little Cupids and Venuses which lurked in their folds. Had he seen some of our ladies in the attitudes which modern spirit has taught them to assume-such unfurlings and unfoldings—his Venuses and Cupids were mere ice and snow to them.
It is but justice to those ladies to remark, that this
part of their behaviour seems calculated merely to show their accomplishmentin fashionable freedom of manner, without any motive of an interested or selfish kind. They are contented with the reputation of ease and spirit, without procuring much in. dulgence from the one or licence from the other. I have sometimes, however, been inclined to think, that there was a degree of unfairness in this, and to doubt, if a lady was entitled thus to hang out false colours, and to be, in reality, innocent and harmless, while she was quite a different sort of creature in appearance. I could not help allowing some justice in the complaint of a girl, whom I overheard some weeks ago, in the passage from the upper boxes, thus addressing her companion :-Did you observe that pert, giggling, naked, thing, in the stage-box? There's not a man in the house she cares a farthing for; and yet she has the assurance to look like one of us.'
No. 103. TUESDAY, MAY 2, 1780.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
SIR, “From my earliest infancy I have been remarkable for good-humour, and a gentle, complying, inoffensive, disposition; qualities which, I am told, I inherit of my father, the late Mr. Paul Softly, an eminent linen-draper. Though I myself soon recover any disappointment or contradiction I meet with, yet so tender is my regard to the feelings of others, that I am led somehow, constitutionally, and almost against my reason, to comply with their requests, humour them in their foibles, and acquiesce in their opinions. I cannot bear, Mr. MIRROR, it hurts me more than you can imagine, to disappoint the hopes or withstand the solicitation of any human being whatever. There is a sturdy, idle, impudent, merry, looking dog of a sailor, with a wooden leg, stationed at the corner of the street where I live, who, I do believe, has established himself as a pensioner upon me for life, by the earnestness of his tones, and his constant prayers to Heaven for blessings on my goodness. Often and often have I been engaged in midnight riots, though fond of peace and good neighbourhood ; and frequently, though I abhor wine, have I been betrayed into intoxication, from a want of power to resist the hospitable importunity of my landlord pressing me to fill a bumper.
• From this I would not have you imagine that I
am devoid of resolution, or a will of my own. On the contrary, I do assure you, that, upon extraordinary occasions, and when it is necessary, I resist and resent too. Nay, my wife, if will believe her, frequently complains of my obstinacy and perverseness ; and declares, that of all the men she ever knew, Simon Softly, for that is my name, is the least sensible of indulgence. However, Sir, as for my wife, considering that I married her, not so much from any personal regard, as in order to please her worthy family, who had served me, though I dare say without any expectation of reward, I thank God I lead a pretty tolerable sort of life with her. 'Upon the whole, Sir, this disposition of mine has always appeared to me more amiable as well as convenient, than that named firm and decisive, which, I confess to you, I suspect is at the bottom nothing else but conceit and ill-humour. Upon one occasion in my life, however, I think it is the very first, which I am going to lay before you, I must own that it has given me a good deal of serious disturbance.
“About six months ago I succeeded, by the death of an uncle, to a land estate of 100l. a-year, which, unfortunately, lies contiguous to that of the greatest proprietor in the county. Along with it I inherited a law-suit, kept alive, by various means, ever since the year thirty-three. The subject of it was a fourth part of the estate, which, though it had long been possessed by my predecessors, as part of the farm of Oxentown, Sir Ralph Holdencourt, our adversary and neighbour abovementioned, contended must belong to him, as included in his charters of the barony of Acredale.—But, before I go on, I must make you acquainted with Sir Ralph. He is descended from one of the oldest and most choleric families in the kingdom. The stem of it, as appears from the tree drawn by the hand of his great grandfather, Sir
Eustace, was a Norman baron, who came over with the Conqueror. One of his posterity intermarried with a Welsh heiress; they were driven out of England for some act of rebellion, and since their settlement in the north, their blood has been further heightened by alliance with the family of a Scots Peer and a Highland Chieftain. Their jealous pride, and the suddenness of their passion, have all along borne ample testimony to the purity of their lineage. Sir Eustace himself fought four duels, and was twice run through the body. In Sir Ralph's veins, this spirit, though somewhat mitigated by his father's marriage with one who, as it is whispered, had once served him in the capacity of dairy maid, is far from being extinct. In his youth, he experienced the vengeance of the law, for beating a merchant of the same surname, who, without just title, claimed kindred with him, and assumed the arms of his family. I have heard too, that he himself was once soundly peppered by a gentleman of small fortune, whose gun Sir Ralph had attempted to seize upon his own ground, under pretence of his being unqualified to carry one. Though now old, he is still noted for his tenacious adherence to all his pretensions, the ceremonious politeness with which he receives the great gentry, and his supercilious treatment of all those who are not entitled to that name. -But to go on with my story. Soon after my succession, being on a visit to another neighbour, Mr. B., I found him with his wife preparing to depart, in great form, for the seat of my adversary, to whom they are annually in use of paying their respects. Being ignorant of my situation, they pressed me much to accompany them; and I, desirous to please them, Sir, and not knowing how to excuse myself, at the same time thinking it unreasonable that I should be at enmity with a man whom I did not know, merely