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LETTER FROM CELIA SINGLE.
FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, JuLT 24TH, 1732.
I must needs tell you, that some of the things you print do more harm than good; particularly I think so of the tradesman's letter, which was in one of your late papers, which disobliged many of our sex, and has broken the peace of several families, by causing difference between men and their wives. I shall give you one instance, of which I was an eye and ear witness.
Happening last Wednesday morning to be at Mrs. W.'s, when her husband returned from market, among other things he showed her some balls of thread, which he had bought . "My dear," says he, "I like mightily those stockings, which I yesterday saw neighbour Afterwit knitting for her husband, of thread of her own spinning. I should be glad to have some such stockings myself. I understand that your maid Mary is a very good knitter, and, seeing this thread in market, I have bought it, that the girl may make a pair or two for me." Mrs. W. was just then at the glass, dressing her head, and turning about with the pins in her mouth, "Lord, child," says she, "are you crazy? What time has Mary to knit? Who must do the work, I wonder, if you set her to knitting?" "Perhaps, my dear," says he, "you have a mind to knit them yourself. I remember, when I courted you, I once heard you say, that you had learned to knit of your mother." "I knit stockings for you!" says she; "not I, truly! There are poor women enough in town, who can knit; if you please, you may employ them." "Well, but my dear," says he, "you know a penny saved is a penny got, and there is neither sin nor shame in knitting a pair of stockings; why should you have such a mighty aversion to it? And what signifies talking of poor women? You know we are not people of quality. We have no income to maintain us but arises from my labor and industry. Methinks you should not be at all displeased, when you have an opportunity of getting something as well as myself."
"I wonder," says she, "you can propose such a thing to me. Did not you always tell me you would maintain me like a gentlewoman? If I had married the Captain, I am sure he would have scorned to mention knitting of stockings." "Prythee," says he, a little nettled, "what do you tell me of your Captain? If you could have had him, I suppose you would, or perhaps you did not like him very well . If I did promise to maintain you as a gentlewoman, methinks it is time enough for that, when you know how to behave yourself like one. How long, do you think, I can maintain you at your present rate of living?" "Pray," says she, somewhat fiercely, and dashing the puff into the powder-box, "don't use me in this manner, for I '11 assure you I won't bear it. This is the fruit of your poison newspapers; there shall no more come here, I promise you." "Bless us," says he, "what an unaccountable thing is this? Must a tradesman's daughter, and the wife of a tradesman, necessarily be a lady? In short, I tell you, if I am forced to work for a living, and you are too good to do the like, there's the door, go and live upon your estate. And, as I never had or could expect any thing with you, I don't desire to be troubled with you."
What answer she made, I cannot tell; for, knowing that man and wife are apt to quarrel more violently when before strangers, than when by themselves, I got up and went out hastily. But I understand from Mary, who came to me of an errand in the evening, that they dined together very peaceably and lovingly, the balls of thread which had caused the disturbance being thrown into the kitchen fire, which I was very glad to hear.
I have several times in your paper seen reflections upon us women for idleness and extravagance, but I do not remember to have once seen such animadversions upon the men. If we were disposed to be censorious, we could furnish you with instances enough. I might mention Mr. Billiard, who loses more than he earns at the green table, and would have been in jail long since, had it not been for his industrious wife. Mr. Hustlecap, who, every market-day at least, and often all day long, leaves his business for the rattling of half-pence, in a certain alley; or Mr. Finikin, who has seven different suits of fine clothes, and wears a change every day, while his wife and children sit at home half naked; Mr. Crownhim, always dreaming over the chequer-board, and who cares not how the world goes with his family, so he does but get the game; Mr. Totherpot, the tavern-haunter; Mr. Bookish, the everlasting reader; Mr. Tweedledum, and several others, who are mighty diligent at any thing besides their proper business. I say, if I were disposed to be censorious, I might mention all these and more, but I hate to be thought a scandalizer of my neighbours, and therefore forbear; and for your part, I would advise you for the future to entertain your readers with something else, besides people's reflections upon one another; for remember, that there are holes enough to be picked in your coat, as well as others, and those that are affronted by the satire that you may publish, will not consider so much who wrote as who printed, and treat you accordingly. Take not this freedom amiss from
Your friend and reader,
I was highly pleased with your last week's paper upon Scandal, as the uncommon doctrine therein preached is agreeable both to my principles and practice, and as it was published very seasonably to reprove the impertinence of a writer in the foregoing Thursday's Mercury, who, at the conclusion of one of his silly paragraphs, laments forsooth, that the fair sex are so peculiarly guilty of this enormous crime. Every blockhead, ancient and modern, that could handle a pen, has, I think, taken upon him to cant in the same senseless strain. If to scandalize be really a crime, what do these puppies mean? They describe it, they dress it up in the most odious, frightful, and detestable colors, they represent it as the worst of crimes, and then roundly and charitably charge the whole race of womankind with it. Are not they then guilty of what they condemn, at the same time that they condemn it? If they accuse us of any other crime, they must necessarily scandalize while they do it; but to scandalize us with being guilty of scandal, is in itself an egregious absurdity, and can proceed from nothing but the most consummate impudence in conjunction with the most profound stupidity.
This supposing, as they do, that to scandalize is a crime, you have convinced all reasonable people is an opinion absolutely erroneous. Let us leave, then, these select mock-moralists, while I entertain you with some account of my life and manners.
I am a young girl of about thirty-five, and live at present with my mother. I have no care upon my head of getting a living, and therefore find it my duty, as well as inclination, to exercise my talent at censure, for the good of my country-folks. There was, I am told, a certain generous emperor, who, if a day had passed over his head in which he had conferred no benefit on any man, used to say to his friends, in Latin, Diem perdidi, that is, it seems, / have lost a day. I believe I should make use of the same expression, if it were possible for a day to pass in which I had not, or missed, an opportunity to scandalize somebody; but, thanks be praised, no such misfortune has befell me these dozen years.
Yet, whatever good I may do, I cannot pretend that I at first entered into the practice of this virtue from a principle of public spirit; for I remember, that, when a child, I had a violent inclination to be ever talking in my own praise; and being continually told that it was ill manners, and once severely whipped for it, the confined stream formed for itself a new channel, and I began to speak for the future in the dispraise of others. This I found more agreeable to company, and almost as much so to myself; for what great difference can there be between putting yourself up, or putting your neighbour down? Scandal, like other virtues, is in part its own reward, as it gives us the satisfaction of making ourselves appear better than others, or others no better than ourselves. #
My mother, good woman, and I, have heretofore differed upon this account. She argued, that scandal spoilt all good conversation; and I insisted, that without it there would be no such thing. Our disputes once rose so high, that we parted tea-tables, and I concluded to entertain my acquaintance in the kitchen. The first day of this separation we both drank tea at the same time, but she with her visitors in the parlour. She would not hear of the least objection to any one's character,