Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

never to marry him. But his conversation amuses them, and his attachment is the highest gratification to their vanity: nay, they can sometimes be gratified with the utter ruin of his fortune, fame and happiness. God forbid that I should ever think so of all your sex; I know many of them have principles, have generosity and dignity of soul, that elevates them above the worthless vanity I have been speaking of.

Such a woman I am persuaded, may always convert a lover, if she cannot give him her affections, into a warm and steady friend, provided he is a man of sense, resolution and candour. If she explains herself to him, with a generous openness and freedom, he must feel the stroke as a man; but he will likewise bear it as a man; what he suffers he will suffer in silence. Every sentiment of esteem will remain; but love, though it requires very little food, and is easily surfeited with too much, yet it requires some. He will view her in the light of a married woman; and, though passion subsides, yet a man of a candid and generous heart, always retains, a tenderness for a woman he has once loved, and who has used him well, beyond what he feels for any other of her sex.

If he has not confided his own secret to any body, he has an undoubted title to ask you not to divulge it. If a woman chooses to trust any of her companions with her own unfortunate attachments, she may, as it is her own affair alone; but if she has any generosity or gratitude, she will not be. tray a secret which does not belong to her.

I am, &cs

LETTER XXIII.

On the Foregoing Subject. Dear Daughters,

I HAVE insisted the more particularly on this subject of courtship, because it may most readily happen to you, at that early period of life, when you can have little experience or knowledge of the world'; when your passions are Warm, and your judgments not arrived at such full maturity, as to be able to correct them. I wish you to possess şuch high principles of honour and generosity, as will render you incapable of deceiving, and at the same time, to

G

-2

possess that acute discernient, which may secure you against being deceived.

Male coquetry is much more inexcusable than female, as well as more pernicious; but it is rare in this country. Very few men will give themselves the trouble to gain or retain, any woman's affections, unless they have views in them, either of an honourable or dishonourable kind. Men employed in the pursuits of business, ambition, or pleasure, will not give themselves the trouble to engage a woman's affections, merely from the vanity of conquest, and triumphing over the heart of an innocent and defenceless girl. Besides, people never value much what is entirely in their power, A man of parts, sentiments and address, if he lays aside all regard to truth and humanity, may engage the hearts of fifty women, at the same time, and may likewise conduct his coquetry with so much art, as to put it out of the power of any of them to specify a single expression that could be said to be directly expressive of love. This ambiguity of behaviour, this art of keeping one in suspense, is the great secret of coquetry in both sexes. It is the more cruel in us, because we can carry it to what length we please, without your being so *much as at liberty to explain or expostulate ; whereas we can break our chain, and force you to explain, whenever we become impatient of our situation.

A woman in this country, may easily prevent the first impressions of love, and every motive of prudence and delicacy should make her guard her heart against them, till such time as she has received the most convincing proofs of the attachment of a man of such merit as will justify a reciprocal regard. Your hearts indeed may be shut inflexibly and permanently against all the merit a man can possess. That may be your misfortune, but cannot be your fault. In such a situation, you would be equally unjust to yourself and to your lover, if you gave

him
your hand, when

your

heart revolted against him. But miserable will be your fate, if you allow an attachment to steal on you before you are sure of a réturn; or, what is infinitely worse, where there are wanting those qualities which alone can ensure happiness in'a married state.

I know nothing that renders a woman more despicable, than her thinking it essential to her happiness to be married! Besides the gross indelicacy of the sentiment, it is a false one; as thousands of women have experienced. But, if it was true, the belief that it was se, and the consequent

[ocr errors]

impatience to be married, is the most effectual way to pre. vent it.

You must not think from this, that I do not wish you to marry. On the contrary,, I am of opinion, that you may attain a superiour degree of happiness, in a married state, to what you can possibly find in any other. I know the forlorn and unprotected situation of an old maid, the chagrin and peevishness which are apt to infect their tempers, and the great difficulty of making a transition with dignity and cheerfulness, from the period of youth, beauty, admiration and respect, into the calm, silent, unnoticed retreat of de clining years.

I see some unmarried women, of active, vigorous minds, and a great vivacity of spirits, degrading themselves; sometimes, by entering into a dissipated course of life, unsuitable to their years, and exposing themselves to the ridicule of the girls, who might have been their grand-children; sometimes, by oppressing their acquaintances by impertinent intrusions into their private affairs, and sometimes by being the propagators of scandal and defamation. All this is ow. ing to an exuberant activity of spirits, which, if it had found employment at home, would have rendered them respectar ble members of society,

I see other women, in the same situation, gentle, modest, blessed with sense, taste, and delicacy, every milder femipine virtue of the heart, but of weak spirits, bashful and timid : I see such women sinking in obscurity and insignificance, gradually losing every elegant accomplishment; for this evident reason, that they are not united to a partner, who has sense, worth and taste, to know their real value; one who is able to draw forth their concealed qualities, and shew them to advantage; who can give that support to their feeble spirits which they stand so much in need of: and who, by affection and tenderness, might make such a woman happy in exerting every talent, and accomplishing herself in every elegant art that could contribute to his amusement.

In short, I am of opinion, that a married state, if entered into from proper motives of esteem and affection, will be the happiest for yourselves, make you most respectable in the eyes of the world, and the most useful members of society. But I confess I am not enough of a patriot, to wish you to marry for the good of the public. I'wish you to marry for no other reason but to make yourselves hap

[ocr errors]

pier. When I am so particular in my advices about your conduct, I own, my own heart beats with the fond hopes of making you worthy the attachment of men who will des serve you, and be sensible of your merit. But heaven forbid you should ever relinquish the ease and independence of a single life, to become the slaves of a fool, or of a ty. rant's caprice.

As these have always been my sentiments, I shall do you but justice, when I wish you in such independent circumstances as may lay you under no temptation to do from necessity, what you will never do from choice. This will like wise save you from that cruel mortification to a woman of spirit, the suspicion that a gentleman thinks he does you an bonour, or a favour, when he asks

you
for a wife.

I am, &c

LETTER XXIV.

On Marriage, from the Same. Dear Daughters,

YOU may perhaps imagine, that the reserved behaviour which I recommend to you, and your appearing seldom at public places, must cut off all opportunities of your being acquainted with gentlemen. I am very far from intending this; I advise you to no reserve, but what will render you more respected and beloved by our sex. I do not think public places suited to make people acquainted together. They. can only be distinguished by their looks and external behaviour. But it is in private companies alone, where you can expect easy and agreeable conversation, which I shall never wish you to decline. If you do not allow gentlemen to become acquainted with you, you can never expect to marry, with attachment on either side.---Love is

very
seldom

produced at first sight: at least, it must have in that case, a very unjustifiable foundation. True love is founded on esteem, in a correspondence of tastes and sentiments, and steals on the heart imperceptibly.

There is one advice I shall leave you, to which I beg your particular attention. Before your affections come to be in the least engaged to any man, examine your tempers, your tastes, and your hearts, very severely; and settle in your own minds, what are the requisites to your happiness in a married state; and as it is almost impossible that you should

get every thing to your wish, come to a steady determination what you are to consider as essential, and what may be sacrificed.

If you have hearts disposed by nature, for love and friendshin, and possess those feelings which enable you to enteş into all the refinements and delicacies of these attachments, consider well, as you value your future happiness, before you give them any indulge ice. If you have the misfortune (for a very great misfortune it commonly is to your sex), to have such a temper, and such sentiments, deeply rooted in you; if you have spirit and resolution to resist the solicitations of vanity, the persecutions of friends (for you will have lost the only friend that will never persecute you), and can support the prospect of the many inconveniences attending the state of an old maid ; then you may indulge yourselves in that kind of sentimental reading and conversation, which is most correspondent with your feelings.

But, if you find, on a strict self-examination, that marriage is absolutely essential to your happiness, keep the secret inviolable in your own bosoms, but shun, as you would do the most fatal poison, all that species reading and conversation, which warms the imagination, which engages and softens the heart, and raises the taste above the level of common life. If you do otherwise, consider the terrible conflicts of passions, this may afterwards raise in your breasts.

If this refinement once takes deep root in your minds, and you do not obey its dictates, but marry from vulgar and mera cenary views, you may never be able to eradicate it entirely, and then it will embitter all your days. Instead of meeting with sense, delicacy, tenderness, a lover, a friend, an equal companion in a husband, you may be tired with insipidity and dulness, shocked with indelicaax, or mortified by indifference. You will find none to compassionate, or even understand your sufferance ; for your husbands

may you cruelly, and may give you as much money for your clothes, personal expenses, and domestic necessaries, as is suitable to their fortunes ; the world would therefore look upon you as unreasonable women, who did not deserve to be happy, if you were not so. To avoid these complicated evils, if you are determined at all events to marry, I would advise you to make all your reading and amusements, os such a kind as do not affec: the heart, nor the imagination, except in the way of wit or humour.

not use

« ZurückWeiter »