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'Since you have lately, to so good purpose, enlarged upon conjugal love, it is to be hoped you will discourage every practice that rather proceeds from a regard to interest than to happiness. Now you cannot but observe, that most of our fine young ladies readily fall in with the direction of the graver sort, to retain in their service by some small encouragement as great a number as they can of supernumerary and insignificant fellows, which they use like whifflers, and commonly call "shoeing horns." These are never designed to know the length of the foot, but only, when a good offer comes, to whet and spur him up to the point. Nay, it is the opinion of that grave lady, madam Matchwell, that it is absolutely convenient for every prudent family to have several of these implements about the house, to clap on as occasion serves; and that every spark ought to produce a certificate of his being a shoeing horn before he be admitted as a shoe. A certain lady whom I could name, if it was necessary, has at present more shoeing horns of all sizes, countries, and colours, in her service, than ever she had new shoes in her life. I have known a woman make use of a shoeing horn for several years, and, finding him unsuccessful in that function, convert him at length into a shoe. I am mistaken if your friend, Mr. William Honeycomb, was not a cast shoeing horn before his late marriage. As for myself, I must frankly declare to you, that I have been an errant shoeing horn for above these twenty years. I served my first mistress in that capacity above five of the number, before she was shod. I confess, though she had many who made their application to her, I always thought myself the best shoe in her shop; and it was not until a month before her marriage that I discovered what I was.
This had like to have broke my heart, and raised such suspicions in me, that I told the next I made love to, upon receiving some unkind usage from her, that I began to look upon myself as no more than her shoeing horn. Upon which, my dear, who was a coquette in her nature, told me I was hypochondriacal, and I might as well look upon myself to be an egg, or a pipkin. But in a very short time after she gave me to know that I was not mistaken in myself. It would be tedious to you to recount the life of an unfortunate shoeing horn, or I might entertain you with a very long and melancholy relation of my sufferings. Upon the whole, I think, sir, it would very well become a man in your post, to determine in what cases a woman may be allowed with honour to make use of a shoeing horn, as also to declare, whether a maid on this side five-andtwenty, or a widow who has not been three years in that state, may be granted such a privilege, with other difficulties which will naturally occur to you upon that subject.
I am, Sir,
with the most profound veneration,
N° 537. SATURDAY, NOV. 15, 1712.
'It has been usual to remind persons of rank, on great occasions in life, of their race and quality, and to what expectations they were born; that by considering what is worthy of them, they may be withdrawn from mean pursuits, and encouraged to laudable undertakings. This is turning nobility into a principle of virtue, and making it productive of merit, as it is understood to have been originally a reward of it.
It is for the like reason, I imagine, that you have in some of your speculations asserted to your readers the dignity of human nature. But you cannot be insensible that this is a controverted doctrine; there are authors who consider human nature in a very different view, and books of maxims have been written to show the falsity of all human virtues*. The reflexions which are made on this subject usually take some tincture from the tempers and
* An allusion to the following book, Reflexions et Maximes Morales de M. le Duc de la Rochefoucault.-Mad. L'Enclos says of him that he had no more belief in virtues than he had in ghosts,
characters of those that make them. Politicians can resolve the most shining actions among men into artifice and design; others, who are soured by discontent, repulses, or ill-usage, are apt to mistake their spleen for philosophy; men of profligate lives, and such as find themselves incapable of rising to any distinction among their fellow-creatures, are for pulling down all appearances of merit which seem to upbraid them; and satirists describe nothing but deformity. From all these hands we have such draughts of mankind, as are represented in those burlesque pictures which the Italians call caricaturas; where the art consists in preserving, amidst distorted proportions and aggravated features, some likeness of the person, but in such a manner as to transform the most agreeable beauty into the most odious monster.
"It is very disingenuous to level the best of mankind with the worst, and for the faults of particulars to degrade the whole species. Such methods tend not only to remove a man's good opinion of others, but to destroy that reverence for himself, which is a great guard of innocence, and a spring of virtue.
It is true indeed, that there are surprising mixtures of beauty and deformity, of wisdom and folly, virtue and vice, in the human make; such a disparity is found among numbers of the same kind. and every individual in some instances, or at some times, is so unequal to himself, that man seems to be the most wavering and inconsistent being in the whole creation. So that the question in morality concerning the dignity of our nature may at first sight appear like some difficult questions in natural philosophy, in which the arguments on both sides seem to be of equal strength. But, as I began with considering this point as it relates to action, I
shall here borrow an admirable reflexion from monsieur Paschal, which I think sets it in its proper light.
"It is of dangerous consequence," says he, "to represent to man how near he is to the level of beasts, without showing him at the same time his greatness. It is likewise dangerous to let him see his greatness without his meanness. It is more dangerous yet to leave him ignorant of either; but very beneficial that he should be made sensible of both." Whatever imperfections we may have in our nature, it is the business of religion and virtue to rectify them, as far as is consistent with our present state. In the mean time, it is no small encouragement to generous minds to consider, that we shall put them all off with our mortality. That sublime manner of salutation with which the Jews approach their kings,
"O king, live for ever!"
may be addressed to the lowest and most despised mortal among us, under all the infirmities and distresses with which we see him surrounded. And whoever believes the immortality of the soul, will not need a better argument for the dignity of his nature, nor a stronger incitement to actions suitable to it.
'I am naturally led by this reflexion to a subject I have already touched upon in a former letter, and cannot without pleasure call to mind the thoughts of Cicero to this purpose, in the close of his book concerning old age. Every one who is acquainted with his writings will remember that the elder Cato is introduced in that discourse as the speaker, and Scipio and Lelius as his auditors. This venerable person is represented looking forward as it were from the verge of extreme old age into a future state,