Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

of any one with something particular in his person or manner, I bave seen a whole room in a buzz like a bee-hive.

10. This practice of whispering, if it is any where allowable, may perhaps be indulged in the fair sex at church, where the conversation can only be carried on by the secret symbols of a courtesy, an ogle or a nod. A whisper in this place is very

often of great use, as it serves to convey the most secret intelligence, which a lady would be ready to burst with, if she could not find vent for it by this kind of auricular confession. A piece of scandal transpires in this manner from one pew to another, then presently whizzes along the channel, from whence it crawls up to the galleries, till at last the whole church hums with it.

11. It were also to be wished, that the ladies would be pleased to confine themselves to whispering in their tete-a-tete conferences at an opera or the play-house; which would be a proper deference to the rest of the audience. In France, we are told, it is common for the Parterre to join with the performers in any favourite air : but we seem to have carried this custom still further, as the company in our boxes, without concerning themselves in the least with the play, are even louder than the players.

12. The wit and humour of a Vanbrugh or a Congreve is frequently interrupted by a brilliant dialogue between two persons of fashion; and a love scene in the side-box has been more at-' tended to, than that on the stage.

As to their loud bursts of laughter at the theatre, they may very well be excused, when they are excited by any lively strokes in a comedy; but I have seen our ladies titter at the most distressful scenes in Romeo and Juliet, grin over the anguish of a Monimia or Belvidera, and fairly laugh king Lear off the stage.

13. Thus the whole behaviour of these ladies is in direct contradiction to good manners. They laugh when they should cry, are loud when they should be silent, and are silent when their conversation is desirable. If a man in a select company were ilus to laugh or whisper me out of countenance, I should be apt to construe it as an affront, and demand an explanation.

14. As to the ladies, I would desire them to reflect how much they would suffer, if their own weapons were turned against them, and the gentlemen should attack them with the same arts of laughing and whispering. But, however free they may be from our resentment, they are still open to ill-natured suspicion. They do not consider, what strange constructions may be put on these laughs and whispers.

15. It were, indeed, of little consequence, if we only imagined, that they were taking the reputation of their acquaintance to pieces, or abusing the company round; but when they indulge themselves in this behaviour, some perhaps may be led to conclude, that they are discoursing upon topics, which they are ashamed to speak of in a less public manner.

-16. If the misconduct which I have described, had been only to be found, Mr. Town, at my friend's table, I should not

have troubled you with this letter ; but the same kind of ill breeding prevails too often, and in too many places. The gigglers and whisperers are innumerable; they beset us wherever we go; and it is observable, that after a short murmur of whispers, out comes the burst of langhter : like a gunpowder serpent, which, after hissing about for some time, goes off in a bounce.

- 17. Some excuse may perhaps be framed for this ill-timed merriment in the fair sex. Venus, the goddess of beauty, is frequently called the laughter-loving-dame; and by laughing, our modern ladies may possibly imagine, that they render themselves like Venus. I have indeed remarked, that the ladies conmonly adjust their laugh to their persons, and are merry in proportion as it sets off their particular charms.

18. One lady is never further moved than to a smile or a sinper, because nothing else shews her dimples to. so much advantage; another, who has a very fine set of teeth, rains into a broad grin; while a third, who is admired for a well turned neck and graceful chest, calls up all her beauties in view by breaking into violent and repeated peals of laughter.

19. I would not be understood to impose gravity or too great a reserve on the fair sex. Let them laugh at a feather ; but let them declare openly, that it is a feather which occasions their mirth, I must confess, that laughter becomes the young, the gay, and the handsome: but a whisper is unbecoming at all ages, and in both sexes; nor ought it ever to be practised, except in the pound gallery at St. Paul's, or in the famous whispering place in Gloucester cathedral, where two whisperers hear each other at the distance of five and twenty yards.

I am, Sir,

Your humble Servant.

Beauty. 1. THOUGH the danger of disappointment is always in prb

portion to the height of expectation, yet I this day claim the attention of the ladies, and profess to teach an art by which all may obtain what has hitherto been deemed the prerogative of a few; an art by which their predominant passion may be gratified, and their conquest not only extended, but secured; " The art of being PRETTY."

2. But though my subject may interest the ladies, it may perhaps offend those profound moralists who have long since determined, that beauty ought rather to be despised than desired; that, like strength, it is a mere natural excellence, the effect of causes wholly out of our power and not intended either as the pledge of happiness or the distinction of merit.

3. To these gentlemen I shall remark, that beauty is among those qualities which no effort of human wit could even bring into contempt; it is therefore to be wished at least, that beauty 'was in some degree dependent upon sentiment and manners, that so high a privilege might not be possessed by the unworthy, and that human reason might no longer suffer the mortification of those who are compelled to adorn an idol, which differs from a stone or a log only by the skill of the artificer; and if they cannot themselves behold beauty with indifference, they must surely approve an attempt to shew that it merits their regard.

4. I shall, however, principally consider that species of beauty which is expressed in the countenance; for this alone is peculiar to human beings, and is not less complicated than their nature. In the countenance there are but two requisites to perfect beauty, which are wholly produced by external causes, colour and proportion : and it will appear, that even in common estimation these are not the chief; but that though there may be beauty without them, yet there cannot be beauty without something more.

5. The finest features, ranged in the most exact symmetry, and heightened by the most blooming complexion, must be animated before they can strike; and when they are animated will generally excite the same passions which they express. If they are fixed in the dead calm of insensibility, they will be examined without emotion; and if they do not express kindness, they will be beheld without love.

6. Looks of contempt, disdain, or malevolence, will be reflected, as from a mirror, by every countenance on which they are turned.; ånd if a wanton aspect excites desire, it is but like that of a savage from his prey, which cannot be gratified without the destruction of its object.

7. Among particular graces, the dimple has always been allowed the pre-eminence, and the reason is evident, dimples are produced by a smile, and a smile is an expression of complacency; so the contradiction of the brows into a frown, as it is an indication of a contrary temper, has always been deemed a capital defect.

8. The lover is generally at a loss to define the beauty, by which his passion was suddenly and irresistibly determined to a particular object; but this could never happen, if it depended upon any known rule of proportion, upon the shape or disposition of the features, or the colour of the skin; he tells you that it is something which he connot fully express, something not fixed in any part, but diffused over the whole; he calls it a sweet-. itess, a softness, a placid sensibility, or gives it some other appellation which connects beauty with sentiment, and expresses a charm which is not peculiar to any set of features, but is perhaps possible to all.

9. This beauty, however, does not always consist in smiles, but varies as expressions of meekness and kindness vary with their objects: it is extremely forcible in the silent complaint of patient sufferance, the tender solicitude of friendship, and the glory and filial obedience; and in tears, whether of joy, or pity, or of grief, it is almost irresistible.

10. This is the charm which captivates without the aid of nature, and without which her utmost bounty is ineffectual. But it cannot be assumed as a mask to conceal insensibility or malevolence: it must be the genuine effect of corresponding sentiments, or it will impress upon the countenance a new and more disgusting deformity, affectation; it will produce the grin, the simper, the stare, the languish, the pout, and innumerable other grimaces, that render folly ridiculous, and change pity into contempt.

11. By some, indeed, this species of hypocrisy has been practised with such skill as to deceive superficial observers, though it can deceive even these bat for a moment. Looks which do not correspond with the heart, cannot be assumed without labour, por continue without pain; the motive to relinquish them must, therefore, soon preponderate and the aspect and apparel of the visit will be laid by together; the smiles and languishments of art will vanish and the fierceness of rage, or the gloom of discontent will either obscure or destroy all the elegance of symetry and complexion.

12. The artificial aspect is indeed, as wretched a substitute for the expressions of sentiment, as the smear of paint for the blushes of health : "it is not only equally transient and equally liable to detection ; but as paint leaves the countenance yet more withered and ghastly, the passions burst out with more violence after restraint, and the features become more distorted, and ex. cite more determined aversion.

13. Beauty, therefore depends principally upon the mind, and consequently may be influenced by education. It has been remarked, that the predominate passion may generally be discovered in the countenance; because the muscles by which it is expressed, being almost perpetually contracted, lose their tone, and never totally relax; so that the expressions remains when the passion is suspended; thus an angry, a disdainful, a subtile and a suspicious temper, is displayed in characters that are almost universally understood.

14. It is equally true of the pleasing and the softer passions that they leave their signatures upon the countenance when they cease to act; the prevalence of these passions therefore produces a mechanical effect

upon the aspect, and gives a turn and cast to the features which make a more favourable and forcible impression upon the mind of others, than any charm produces by mere external causes.

15. Neither does the beauty which depends upon temper and sentiment, equally endanger the possessor: "It is," to use an eastern metaphor,“ like the towers, of a city, not only an ornament, but a defence;" if it excites desire, it at once controls and refines it; it represses with awe, it softens with delicacy, and it wins to imitation. The love of reason and virtue is mingled with the love of beauty; because this beauty is little more than the emanation of intellectual excellence, which is not an object of corporeal appetite.

16. As it excites a purer passion, it also more forcibly engages to fidelity: every man finds himself more powerfully restrained from giving pain to goodness than to beauty; and every look of a countenance in which they are blended in which beauty is the expression of goodness, is a silent reproach of the first irregular wish; and the purpose immediately appears to be disingenious and cruel by which the tender hope of ineffable affection would be disappointed, the placid confidence of unsuspecting simplicity abused, and the peace even of virtue endangered by the most sordid infidelity, and the breach of the strongest obligations.

17. But the hope of the hypocrite must perish. When the fictitious beauty was laid by her smiles, when the lustre of her eyes and the bloom of her cheeks have lost their influence with their novelty; what remains but a tyrant divested of power who will never be seen without a mixture of indignation and disdain ? The only desire which this object could gratify, will be transferred to another, not only without reluctance, but with triumph.

18. As resentment will succeed to disappointment, a desire to mortify will succeed to a desire to please; and the husband may be urged to solicit a mistress, merely by a remembrance of the beauty of his wife, which lasted only till she was known.

Let it therefore be remembered, that none can be disciples of the Graces, but in the school of Virtue; and that those who wish to be lovely, must learn carly to be good.

SPECTATOR, Vol. I. No, 38. 19. A friend of mine has two daughters, whom I will call Lætitia and Daphne. The former is one of the greatest beauties of the age in which she lives; the latter no way remarkable for any charms in her person. Upon this one circumstance of their outward form, the good and ill of their life seem to turn. Lætitia has not from her very childhood heard any thing else but commendations of her features and complexion, by which means she is no other than nature made her, a very beautiful outside.

« ForrigeFortsett »