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This looks like an imagined picture to tell you, but indeed this is one of my pastimes. Hitherto I have only told you the general temper of my mind, but how shall I give you an account of the distraction of it? Could you but conceive how cruel I am one moment in my resentment, and at the ensuing minute, when I place him in the condition my anger would bring him to, how compassionate; it would give you some notion how miserable I am, and how little I deserve it. When I remonstrate with the greatest gentleness that is possible against unhandsome appearances, and that married persons are under particular rules; when he is in the best humour to receive this, I am answered only, That I expose my own reputation and sense if I appear jealous. I wish, good Sir, you would rake this into serious consideration, and admonish husbands and wives what terms they ought to keep towards each other. Your thoughts on this important subject will have the greatest reward, that which descends on such as feel the sorrows of the afflicted. Give me leave to subscribe myself,
"Your unfortunate humble servant,
I had it in my thoughts, before I received the letter of this lady, to consider this dreadful passion in the mind of a woman; and the smart she seems to feel does not abate the inclination I had to recommend to husbands a more regular behaviour, than to give the most exquisite of torments to those who love them, nay whose torment would be abated if they did not love them.
It is wonderful to observe how little is made of this inexpressible injury, and how easily men get into a habit of being least agreeable, where they are most obliged to be so. But this subject deserves a
distinct speculation, and I shall observe for a day or two the behaviour of two or three happy pair I am acquainted with, before I pretend to make a system of conjugal morality. I design in the first place to go a few miles out of town, and there I know where to meet one who practises all the parts of a fine gentleman in the duty of a husband. When he was a bachelor much business made him particularly negligent in his habit; but now there is no young lover living so exact in the care of his person. One who asked why he was so long washing his mouth, and so delicate in the choice and wearing of his linen, was answered: Because there is a woman of merit obliged to receive me kindly, and I think it incumbent upon me to make her inclination go along with her duty.'
If a man would give himself leave to think, he would not be so unreasonable as to expect debauchery and innocence could live in commerce together; or hope that flesh and blood is capable of so strict an allegiance, as that a fine woman must go on to improve herself till she is as good and impassive as an angel, only to preserve fidelity to a brute and a satyr. The lady who desires me for her sake to end one of my papers with the following letter, I am persuaded, thinks such a perseverance very impracticable.
"STAY more at home. I know where you visited at seven o'clock on Thursday evening. The colonel, whom you charged me to see no more, is in
No. 179. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1711.
Centuria seniorum agitant expertia frugis:
Old age is only fond of moral truth,
I MAY cast my readers under two general divisions, the mercurial and the saturnine. The first are the gay part of my disciples, who require speculations of wit and humour; the others are those of a more solemn and sober turn, who find no pleasure but in papers of morality and sound sense. The former call every thing that is serious, stupid; the latter look upon every thing as impertinent that is ludicrous. Were I always grave, one half of my readers would fall off from me: were I always merry, I should lose the other. I make it, therefore, my endeavour to find out entertainments for both kinds, and by that means, perhaps, consult the good of both, more than I should do, did I always write to the particular taste of either. As they neither of them know what I proceed upon, the sprightly reader, who takes up my paper in order to be diverted, very often finds himself engaged unawares in a serious and profitable course of thinking; as, on the contrary, the thoughtful man, who perhaps may hope to find something solid, and full of deep reflection, is very
often insensibly betrayed into a fit of mirth. In a
I must confess, were I left to myself, I would rather aim at instructing than diverting; but if we will be useful to the world, we must take it as we find it. Authors of professed severity discourage the looser part of mankind from having any thing to do with their writings. A man must have virtue in him, before he will enter upon the reading of a Seneca or an Epictetus. The very title of a moral treatise has something in it austere and shocking to the careless and inconsiderate.
For this reason several unthinking persons fall in my way, who would give no attention to lectures delivered with a religious seriousness or a philosophic gravity. They are insnared into sentiments of wisdom and virtue when they do not think of it; and if by that means they arrive only at such a degree of consideration as may dispose them to listen to more studied and elaborate discourses, I shall not think my speculations useless. I might likewise observe, that the gloominess in which sometimes the minds of the best men are involved, very often stands in need of such little incitements to mirth and laughter, as are apt to disperse melancholy and put our faculties in good humour. To which some will add, that the British climate, more than any other, makes entertainments of this nature in a manner necessary.
If what I have here said does not recommend, it will at least excuse, the variety of my speculations. I would not willingly laugh but in order to instruct, or if I sometimes fail in this point, when my mirth ceases to be instructive, it shall never cease to be innocent. A scrupulous conduct in this particular
has perhaps more merit in it than the generality of readers imagine. Did they know how many thoughts occur in a point of humour, which a discreet author
in modesty suppresses; how many strokes of raillery present themselves, which could not fail to please the ordinary taste of mankind, but are stiffed in their birth by reason of some remote tendency which they carry in them to corrupt the minds of those who read them; did they know how many glances of illnature are industriously avoided for fear of doing injury to the reputation of another; they would be apt to think kindly of those writers who endeavour to make themselves diverting without being immoral. One may apply to these authors that passage in Waller :
Poets lose half the praise they would have got,
As nothing is more easy than to be a wit, with all the above-mentioned liberties, it requires some genius and invention to appear such without them.
What I have here said is not only in regard to the public, but with an eye to my particular correspondent who has sent me the following letter, which I have castrated in some places upon these considerations:
"HAVING lately seen your discourse upon a match of grinning, I cannot forbear giving you an account of a whistling match, which, with many others, I was entertained with about three years since at the Bath. The prize was a guinea, to be conferred upon the ablest whistler, that is, on him who could whistle clearest, and go through his tune without laughing, to which at the same time he was