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heartily, that they cannot think it possible we should be able to love them in so great a degree, which makes them take on so. I say, sir, a true good-natured man, whom rakes and libertines call henpecked, shall fall into all these different moods with his dear life, and at the same time see they are wholly put on; and yet not be hard-hearted enough to tell the dear good creature that she is an hypocrite. This sort of good man is very frequent in the populous and wealthy city of London, and is the true henpecked man; the kind creature cannot break through his kindnesses so far as to come to an explanation with the tender soul, and therefore goes on to comfort her when nothing ails her, to appease her when she is not angry, and to give her his cash when he knows she does not want it, rather than be uneasy for a whole month, which is computed by hard-hearted men the space of time which a froward woman takes to come to herself if you have courage to stand out.
"There are indeed several other species of the henpecked, and in my opinion they are certainly the best subjects the Queen has; and for that reason I take it to be your duty to keep us above contempt.
I do not know whether I make myself understood in the representation of an hen pecked life, but I shall take leave to give you an account of myself and my own spouse. You are to know that I am reckoned no fool, have on several occasions been tried whether I will take ill usage, and yet the event has been to my advantage; and yet there is not such a slave in Turkey as I am to my dear. She has a good share of wit, and is what you call a very pretty agreeable woman. I perfectly dote on her, and my affection to her gives me all the anxieties imaginable but that of jealousy. My being thus confident of her, I take, as much as I can judge of my heart, to be the reason, that whatever she does, though it be never so much against my inclination, there is still left something in her manner that is amiable. She will sometimes look at me with an assumed grandeur, and pretend to resent that I have not had respect enough for her opinion in such an instance in company. I cannot but smile at the pretty anger she is in, and then she pretends she is used like a child. In a word, our great debate is, which has the superiority in point of understanding ? She is eternally forming an argument of debate; to which I very indolently answer, “Thou art mighty pretty.” To this she answers, “All the world but you think I have as much sense as yourself.” I repeat to her, “Indeed you are pretty.” Upon this there is no patience; she will throw down anything about her, stamp, and pull off her head-clothes. “Fie, my dear,” say I; “how can a woman of your sense fall into such an intemperate rage?” This is an argument which never fails. “Indeed, my dear,” says she, “you make me mad sometimes, so you do, with the silly way you have of treating me like a pretty idiot.” Well, what have I got by putting her into good humour ? Nothing, but that I must convince her of my good opinion by my practice: and then I am to give her possession of my little ready-money, and for a day and half following dislike all she dislikes, and extol everything she approves. I am so exquisitely fond of this darling, that I seldom see any of my friends, am uneasy in all companies till I see her again; and when I come home she is in the dumps, because she says she's sure I came so soon only because I think
her handsome. I dare not upon this occasion laugh; but though I am one of the warmest churchmen in the kingdom I am forced to rail at the times, because she is a violent Whig. Upon this we talk politics so long, that she is convinced I kiss her for her wisdom. It is a common practice with me to ask her some question concerning the constitution, which she answers me in general out of Harrington's 'Oceana.'? Then I commend her strange memory, and her arm is immediately locked in mine. While I keep her in this temper she plays before me, sometimes dancing in the midst of the room, sometimes striking an air at her spinet, varying her posture and her charms in such a manner that I am in continual pleasure: she will play the fool if I allow her to be wise, but if she suspects I like her for her trifling she immediately grows grave.
'These are the toils in which I am taken, and I carry off my servitude as well as most men; but my application to you is in behalf of the henpecked in general, and I desire a dissertation from you in defence of us. You have, as I am informed, very good authorities in our favour, and hope you will not omit the mention of the renowned Socrates, and his philosophic resignation to his wife Xantippe. This would be a very good office to the world in general, for the henpecked are powerful in their quality and numbers, not only in cities but in courts; in the latter they are ever the most obsequious, in the former the most wealthy of all men. When you have considered wedlock thoroughly, you ought to enter into the suburbs of matrimony,
i James Harrington's • Oceana,' an ideal of an English Commonwealth, was published in 1656. The work was re-issued, edited by John Toland, in 1700.
and give us an account of the thraldom of kind keepers and irresolute lovers; the keepers who cannot quit their fair ones though they see their approaching ruin; the lovers who dare not marry, though they know they shall never be happy without the mistresses whom they cannot purchase on other terms.
What will be a great embellishment to your discourse, will be, that you may find instances of the haughty, the proud, the frolic, the stubborn, who are each of them in secret downright slaves to their wives or mistresses. I must beg of you in the last place to dwell upon this, that the wise and valiant in all ages have been henpecked ; and that the sturdy tempers who are not slaves to affection, owe that exemption to their being enthralled by ambition, avarice, or some meaner passion. I have ten thousand thousand things more to say, but my wife sees me writing, and will, according to custom, be consulted, if I do not seal this immediately.
No. 177. Saturday, Sept. 22, 1711
- Quis enim bonus, aut face dignus Arcanå, qualem Cereris vult esse sacerdos, Ulla aliena sibi credat mala?
- Juv., Sat. xv. 140. IN one of my last week's papers? I treated of 1 good-nature as it is the effect of constitution;
I shall now speak of it as it is a moral virtue. The first may make a man easy in himself, and
1 No. 169.
agreeable to others, but implies no merit in him that is possessed of it. A man is no more to be praised upon this account, than because he has a regular pulse or a good digestion. This goodnature however in the constitution, which Mr. Dryden somewhere calls a milkiness of blood,' is an admirable ground-work for the other. In order therefore to try our good-nature, whether it arises from the body or the mind, whether it be founded in the animal or rational part of our nature, in a word, whether it be such as is entitled to any other reward besides that secret satisfaction and contentment of mind which is essential to it, and the kind reception it procures us in the world, we must examine it by the following rules :
First, whether it acts with steadiness and uniformity in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity; if otherwise, it is to be looked upon as nothing else but an irradiation of the mind from some new supply of spirits, or a more kindly circulation of the blood. Sir Francis Bacon mentions a cunning solicitor, who would never ask a favour of a great man before dinner; but took care to prefer his petition at a time when the party petitioned had his mind free from care, and his appetites in good humour. Such a transient temporary good-nature as this, is not that philanthropy, that love of mankind, which deserves the title of a moral virtue.
nature to the test is, to consider whether it operates according to the rules of reason and duty; for if,
1. Would I could share thy balmy, even temper,
-Cleomanes, Act i. sc. 1.