« PředchozíPokračovat »
by finding discourse. The endowments of your mind will even make your person more agreeable to him; and when you are alone your time will not lie heavy on your hands for want of some triding amusement.
As little respect as I have for the generality of your ses, it has sometimes moved me with pity, to see the lady of the house forced to withdraw immediately after dinner; and this in families where there is not much drinking; as if it were an established maxim, that women are incapable of all conversation. In a room where both sexes meet, if the men are discoursing upon any general subject, the ladies never think it their business to partake in what passes, but in a separate club entertain each other with the price and choice of lace and silk, and what dresses they liked or disapproved at the shurch or play-house. And when you are among yourselves, how naturally, after the first compliments, do you apply your hands to each other's lappets, rufles and mantuas; as if the whole business of your lives and the public concern of the world, depended upon the colour of your dresses. As divines say, that some people take more pains to be damned, than it would cost them to be saved; so your sex employ more thought, memory, and application to be fools, than would serve to make them wise and useful. When I reflect on this, I cannot conceive you to be human creatures, but a sort of species hardly a degree above a monkey; who has more diverting tricks than any is animal less mischievous and expensive, might in time be a tolerable critic in valet and brocade, and for aught I know, would equally become them.
I am, &c.
To the same Lady. By the same. Madam,
I WOULD have you look upon finery as a necessary folly, as all great ladies did whom I have ever known. I do not desire you to be out of the fashion, but to be the last and least in it. I expect that your dress shall be one degree less than
your fortune can afford; and in your own heart I would wish
you to be an utter contemner of all distinctions which a finer petticoat can give you ; because it will neither make you richer, handsomer, younger, better natured, more virtuons, or wise, than if it hung on a peg.
If you are in company with men of learning, though they happen to discourse of arts and sciences, out of your compass, yet you will gather more advantage by listening to them, than from all the nonsense and frippery of your own sex : But if they be men of breeding as well as learning, they will seldom engage in any conversation where you ought not to be a hearer, and in time have your part. If they talk of the manners and customs of the several kingdoms of Europe, of travels into remoter nations, or of the state of their
own country, or of the great men and actions of Greece or Rome, if they give their judgment upon French and English writers, either in verse or in prose, or of the
nature and limits of virtue and vice; it is a shame for an English lady not to relish such discourses, nor to improve by them, and endeavour by reading and information, to have her share in those entertainments, rather than turn aside, as it is the usual custom, and consult with the woman that sits next her, about a new cargo
of fans. It is a little hard, that not one gentleman's daughter in a thousand should be brought up to read or understand her own natural tongue, or be a judge of the easiest books that are written in it; as any one may find, if they have the patience to hear them, when they are disposed to mangle a play or a novel; where the least word out of the common road is sure to disconcert them. It is no wonder; when they are not so much as taught to spell in their childhood, nor can ever attain to it in their whole lives. I advise you therefore to read aloud, more or less every day, to your husband, if he will permit you, or any other friend (but not a female one) who is able to set you right. And as for spelling, you may compass it in time by making collections from the books you read.
I know very well, that those who are commonly called learned women, have lost all manner of credit, by their impertinent talkativeness, and conceit of themselves. But there is an easy remedy for this, if you once consider, that, after all the pains you may be at, you can never arrive, in point of learning, to the perfections of a school boy. The reading I would advise you to, is only for the improvement of your own good sense ; which will never fail of being mended by discretion. It is a wrong method, and ill choice of books, that makes those learned ladies just so much worse for what they have read. And therefore it shall be my care to direct you better, a task for which I take myself to be not ill qualified ; because I have spent more time, and have had more opportunities than many others, to observe and discover from what sources the various follies of women are derived.
Pray observe, how insignificant things are the common race of ladies when they have passed their youth and beauty; how contemptible they appear to the men, and yet more cont tible to the younger part of their own sex; and have no relief but in passing their afternoons in visits, where they are never acceptable; and their evenings at cards among each other; while the former part of the day is spent in spleen and envy, or in vain endeavours to repair by art and dress the ruins of time. Whereas I have known ladies at sixty, to whom all the polite part of the court and town paid their addresses, without any other view than that of enjoying the pleasures of their conversation.
I am ignorant of any one quality that is amiable in a man which is not equally so in a woman; I do not except even modesty and gentleness of nature. Nor do I know one vice or folly, which is not equally detestable in both. There is indeed one infirmity which seems to be generally allowed you ; I mean that of cowardice. Yet there should seem to be something very capricious, that when women profess their admiration for a colonel or a captain on account of his valour, they should fancy it a very graceful becoming quality in themselves to be afraid of their own shadows; to scream in a barge when the weather is calinest, or in a coach at the ring; to run from a cow at a hundred yards distance; to fall into fits at the sight of a spider, an earwig or a frog; at least, if cowardice be a sign of cruelty (as it is generally. granted) I can hardly think it an accomplishment so desirable, as to be thought worth improving by affectation.
And as the same virtues equally become both sexes, so there is no quality whereby women endeavour to distinguish themselves froin men, for which they are not just so much the worse, except that only of reservedness; which however, as you generally manage it, is nothing else but affectation or hypocrisy. For as you cannot too much discountenance those of our sex who presume to take unbecoming liberty before you ; so you ought to be wholly unconstrained in the company of deserving men, when you have had sufficient experience of their discretion.
There is never wanting in this town a tribe of bold, swaggering, rattling ladies, whose talents pass among coxcombs
for wit and humour. Their excellency lies in rude, shocking expressions, and what they call running a man down. If a gentleman in their company happens to have any blemish in his birth or person, if any misfortune has befallen his family or himself, for which he is ashamed, they will be sure to give him broad hints of it without any provocation. I would recommend you to the acquaintance of a common prostitute, rather than to that of such termagants as these. I have often thought, that no man is obliged to suppose such creatures to be women; but to treat them like insolent ras. cals disguised in female habits, who ought to be stripped and kicked down stairs.
I will ask one thing, although it be a little out of place; which is, to desire that you will learn to value and esteem your husband for those good qualities which he really possesseth, and not to fancy others in him which he certainly hath not. For although this latter is generally understood to be a mark of love, yet it is indeed nothing but affectation or ill judgment. It is true, he wants so very few plishments, that you are in no great danger of erring on this Bide, but my caution is occasioned by a lady of your acquaintance, married to a very valuable person, whom yet she is so unfortunate as to be always commending for those perfections to which he can least pretend.
I can give you no advice upon the article of expense; only I think you ought to be well informed how much your husband's revenue amounts to ; and be so good a computer as to keep within it, in that part of the management which falls to your share; and not to put yourself in the number of those politic ladies, who think they gain a great point, when they have teazed their husbands to buy them a new equipage, a laced head, or a fine petticoat, without once considering what long scores remain unpaid to the butcher.
I desire you will keep these letters in your cabinet, and often examine impartially your whole conduct by them. And so God bless you, and make you a fair example to your sex, and a perpetual comfort to your husband and your parents. I am, with great truth and affection, Madam,
Your friend and humble servant.*
* These letters of Swift contain many excellent maxims for the pro. per regulation of female conduct. But it ought to be noticed, that some of his remarks arise out of the great neglect of female educa. tion, which prevailed at the time he wrote, and do not apply with equal force at the present day.
LETTER XXXV. From a Daughter to her father, wherein she dutifully expostulates against a match he had proposed to her, with a
gentleman much older than herself. Honoured Sir,
THOUGH your injunctions should prove diametrically opposite to my own secret inclinations, yet I am not insensible that the duty which I owe you binds me to comply with them. Besides, I should be very ungrateful, should I pregume in any point whatever, considering your numberless acts of parental indulgence towards me, to contest your will and pleasure. Though the consequences should prove ever so fatal, I am determined to be all obedience, in case what I have to offer in my own defence should have no influence over you, or be thought an insufficient plea for my aversion to a match, which, unhappily for me, you seem to approve of. It is very possible, Sir, the gentleman you recommend to my choice, may be possessed of all that substance, and all those good qualities, that bias you so strongly in his favour; but be not angry, dear Sir, when I remind you, that there is a vast disproportion in our years. A lady of more experience, and of a more advanced age, would, in my humble opinion, be a much fitter help-mate for him. To be ingenuous, permit me, good Sir, to speak the sentiments of my heart without reserve for once; a man, almost in his grand climacterick, can never be an agreeable companion for me: nor can the natural gaiety of my temper, which has hitherto been indulged by yourself in every innocent amusement, be over-agreeable to him. Though his fondness at first may connive at the little freedorns I shall be apt to take; yet as soon as the edge of his appetite shall be abated, he will grow jealous, and for ever torment me without a cause. I shall be debarred of every diversion suitable to my years, though never so harmless and inoffensive; perunitted to see no company; hurried down perhaps to some melancholy rural recess; and there, like my lady Grace, in the play, sit pensive and alone, under a green tree. Your long experienced goodness, and that tender regard which you have always expressed for my ease and satisfaction, encourage me thus freely to expostulate with you on an affair of so great importance. If, however, after all, you shall judge the inequality of our age an insufficient plea in my favour, and that want of afa fection for a husband is but a trifle, where there is a large