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THERE is nothing which I more desire than a safe and honourable peace, though at the same time I am very apprehensive of many ill consequences that may attend it. I do not mean in regard to our poli. tics, but our manners. What an inundation of ribbons and brocades will break in upon us! What peals of laughter and impertinence shall we be exposed to ! For the prevention of those great evils, I could hearti. ly wish that there was an act of parliament for prohibiting the importation of French fopperies.
The female inhabitants of our island have already received very strong impressions from this ludicrous. nation, though by the length of the war, as there is no evil which has not some good attending it, they are pretty well worn out and forgotten. I remember the time when some of our well-bred countrywomen kept their Valet de Chambre, because forsooth, a man was much more handy about them than one of their own sex. I myself have seen one of these male Abigails tripping about the room with a looking-glass in his hand, and combing his lady's hair a whole morning to- , gether. Whether or not there was any truth in the story of a lady's being got with child by one of these her hand-maids I cannot tell, but I think at present the whole race of them is extinct in our own country.
About the time that several of our sex were tiken into this kind of service, the ladies likewise brought up the fashion of receiving visits in their beds. It was then looked upon as a piece of ill-breeding for a wo man to refuse to see a man, because she was not stir
ring; and a porter would have been thought unfit for his place that could have made so awkwarı an excuse. As I love to see every thing that is new, I once prevailed upon my friend Will Honeycomb to carry me along with him to one of these travelled ladies, desiring him, at the same time, to present me as a foreigner who could not speak English, that so I might not be obliged to bear a part in the discourse. The lady, though unwilling to appear undrest, had put on her best looks, and painted herself for our reception. Her hair, appeared in a very nice disorder, as the nightgown which was thrown upon her shoulders, was ruffled with great care. For my part, I am so shocked with every thing that looks immodest in the fair sex, that I could not forbear taking off my eye from her when she moved in her bed, and was in the greatest confusion imaginable every time she stirred a leg or an arm. As the coquettes who introduced this custom, grew old, they left it off by degrees; well knowing that a woman of threescore may kick and tumble her heart out without making any impressions.
Sempronia is at present the most professed admirer of the French nation, but is so modest as to admit her visitants no farther than her toilet. It is a very odd sight that beautiful creature makes, when she is talking politics with her tresses flowing about her shoulders, and examining that face in the glass which does such execution upon all the male standers-by. How prettily does she divide her discourse between her woman and her visitants! What sprightly transitions does she make from an opera or a sermon, to an ivory comb or a pin-cushion? How have I been pleased to see her interrupted in an account of her travels, by a mes. sage to her footman; and holding her tongue in the midst of a moral reflection, by applying the tip of it to a patch!
There is nothing which exposes a woman to greater dangers, than that gaiety and airiness of temper which are natural to most of her sex. It should be therefore the concern of every wise and virtuous woman, to keep this sprightliness from degenerating into lesity. On the contrary, the whole discourse and behaviour of the French is to make the sex more fantastical, or as they are pleased to term it,' more awakened,' than is consistent either with virtue or discretion. To speak loud in public assemblies, to let every one hear you talk of things that should only be mentioned in private or in a whispe!, are looked upon as parts of a refined education. At the same time a blush is unfashionable, and silence more ill-bred than any thing that can be spoken. In short, discretion and modesty, which in all other ages and countries have been regarded as the greatest ornaments of the fair sex, are considered as the ingredients of narrow conversation and family behaviour.
Some years ago I was at the tragedy of Macbeth, . and unfortunately placed myself under a wonian of quality, that is since dead; who, as I found by the noise she made, was newly returned from France. A little before the rising of the curtain, she broke out into a loud soliloquy, “ When will the dear witches enter?" and immediately upon their first appearance, asked a lady that sat three boxes from her, on her right hand, if those witches were not charming crea tures. A little after, as Betterton was in one of the
ther lady, who sat as far from her leit hand, and told her in a whisper that might be heard all over the pit, 66 We must not expect to see Balloon to-night." Not long after, calling out to a young baronet by his name, who sat three seats before me, she asked him whether Macbeth's wife was still alive: and before he could give an answer, fell a talking of the ghost of Banquo.
She had by this time, formed a little audience to herself, and fixed the attention of all about her. But as I had a mind to hear the play, I got out of the sphere of her impertinence, and planted myself in one of the remotest corners of the pit.
This pretty childishness of behaviour is one of the most refined parts of coquetry, and is not to be attain-, ed in perfection' by ladies that do not travel for their improvement. A natural and unconstrained behaviour has something in it so agreeable, that it is no wonder to see people endeavouring after it. But at the same time, it is so very hard to hit, when it is not born with us, that people often make themselves ridiculous in attempting it.
A very ingenious French author tells us, that the ladies of the court of France, in his time, thought it ill-breeding, and a kind of female pedantry, to pronounce an hard word right; for which reason they took frequent occasion to use hard words, that they might shew a politeness in murdering them. He further adds, that a lady of some quality at court, having accidentally made use of an hard word in a proper place, and pronouncing it right, the whole assembly was out of countenance for her..
I must, however, be so just as to own, that there are many ladies who have travelled several thousands of miles without being the worse for it, and have brought home with them all the modesty, discretion, and good sense that they went abroad with : As, on the contrary, there are great numbers of travelled ladies, who have lived all their days within the smoke of London. I have known a woman, that never was out of the parish of St. James's, betray as many foreign fopperies in her carriage, as she could have gleaned up in half the countries of Europe.
No. XLVI. MONDAY, APRIL 23.
WHEN I want materials for this paper, it is my custom to go abroad in quest of game; and when I (meet any proper subject, I take the first opportunity
of setting down any hint of it upon paper. At the same time I look into the letters of my correspondents, and if I find any thing suggested in them that may afford matter of speculation, I likewise enter a minute of it in my collection of materials. By this means I frequently carry about me a whole sheet-full of hints, that would look like a rhapsody of nonsense to any body but myself: there is nothing in them but obscurity and confusion, raving and inconsistency. In short, they are my speculations in the first principles, that, like the world in its chaos, are void of all light, distinction, and order.
About a week since, there happened to me a very odd accident, by reason of one of these my papers of minutes which I had accidentally dropped at Lloyd's coffee-house, where the auctions are usually kept. Be. fore I missed it, there was a cluster of people who had found it, and were diverting themselves with it at one end of the coffee-house: it had raised so much taughter among them before I had observed what they were about, that I had not the courage to own it. The boy of the coffee-house, when they had done with it, carried it about in his hand, asking every body if they had dropped a written paper; but nobody challenging it, he was ordered by those merry gentlemen who had before perused it, to get up into the auction pulpit, and read it to the whole room, that if any one .