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holidays. On my daughters' return from their kinsman's, I was not altogether pleased at hearing of this invitation; nor was I more satisfied with the very frequent quotations of my Lady -'s sayings and sentiments, and the description, of the beauty of her complexion, the elegance of her dress, and the grandeur of her equipage. I opposed, therefore, their design of paying this Christmas visit pretty warmly. Upon this, the honour done them by the invitation, the advantages to be derived from an acquaintance with the great Lady, and the benefit that might accrue to my family from the influence of her Lord, were immediately rung in my ears, not only by my daughters, but also by their mother, whom they had already gained over to their side; and I must own to you, Mr. Mirror, though I would not have you think me hen-pecked, that my wife, somehow or other, contrives to carry most points in our family; so my opposition was overruled; and to the girls went; but not before they had made a journey to the metropolis of our country, and brought back a portmanteau full of necessaries, to qualify them for appearing decently, as my wife said, in the company they should meet there.
'In about a month, for their visit was drawn out to that length, my daughters returned. But had you seen, Mr. Mirror, what an alteration that month had made on them! Instead of the rosy complexions, and sparkling eyes, they had carried with them, they brought back cheeks as white as a curd, and eyes as dead as the beads in the face of a baby.
'I could not help expressing my surprise at the sight; but the younger of the two ladies immediately cut me short, by telling me, that their complexion was the only one worn at
'And no wonder, Sir, it should, from the de
scription which my daughter sometimes gives us of the life people lead there. Instead of rising at seven, breakfasting at nine, dining at three, supping at eight, and getting to bed by ten, as was their custom at home, my girls lay till twelve, breakfasted at one, dined at six, supped at eleven, and were never in bed till three in the morning. Their shapes had undergone as much alteration as their faces. From their bosoms (necks, they called them), which were squeezed up to their throats, their waists tapered down to a very extraordinary smallness; they resembled the upper half of an hour-glass. At this, also, I marvelled; but it was the only shape worn at Next day at dinner, after a long morning preparation, they appeared with heads of such a size, that my little parlour was not of height enough to let them stand upright in it. This was the most striking metamorphosis of all. Their mother stared; I ejaculated; my other children burst out a-laughing; the answer was the same as before: it was the only head worn at
Nor is their behaviour less changed than their garb. Instead of joining in the good-humoured cheerfulness we used to have among us before, my two fine young ladies check every approach to mirth, by calling it vulgar. One of them chid their brother the other day for laughing, and told him it was monstrously ill-bred. In the evenings, when we were wont, if we had nothing else to do, to fall to Blindman's-buff, or Cross purposes, or sometimes to play at Loo for cherry-stones, these two get a pack of cards to themselves, and sit down to play for any little money their visits has left them, at a game none of us know any thing about. It seems, indeed, the dullest of all amusements, as it consists in merely turning up the faces of the cards, and repeating their names from an ace upwards, as if the players
other custom at
were learning to speak, and had got only thirteen words in their vocabulary. But of this, and every nobody is allowed to judge but themselves. They have got a parcel of phrases, which they utter on all occasions as decisive, French, I believe, though I can scarce find any of them in the Dictionary, and am unable to put them upon paper; but all of them mean something extremely fashionable, and are constantly supported by the authority of my Lady, or the Countess, his Lordship, or Sir John.
As they have learned many foreign, so have they unlearned some of the most common and best understood home phrases. When one of my neighbours was lamenting the extravagance and dissipation of a young kinsman who had spent his fortune, and lost his health in London, and at Newmarket, they called it life, and said it shewed spirit in the young man. After the same rule they lately declared, that a gentleman could not live on less than 1000l. a year, and called the account which their mantua-maker and milliner sent me, for the fineries purchased for their visit at --, a trifle, thought it amounted to 597. 11s. 4d. exactly a fourth part of the clear income of my estate.
All this, Mr. Mirror, I look upon as a sort of pestilential disorder, with which my poor daughters have been infected in the course of this unfortunate visit. This consideration has induced me to treat them hitherto with lenity and indulgence, and try to effect their cure by mild methods, which indeed suit my temper (naturally of a pliant kind, as every body, except my wife, says) better than harsh ones. Yet, I confess, I could not help being in a passion t'other day, when the disorder shewed symptoms of a more serious kind. Would you believe it, Sir, my
N° 12. daughter Elizabeth (since her visit she is offended if we call her Betty) said it was fanatical to find fault with card-playing on Sunday; and her sister Sophia gravely asked my son-in-law, the clergyman, if he had not some doubt of the soul's immortality.
'As certain great cities, I have heard, are never free from the plague, and at last come to look upon it as nothing terrible or extraordinary; so, I suppose, in London, or even in your town, Sir, this disease always prevails, and is but little dreaded. But in the country it will be productive of melancholy effects indeed; if suffered to spread there, it will not only imbitter our lives, and spoil our domestic happiness as at present it does mine, but, in its most violent stages, will bring our estates to market, our daughters to ruin, and our sons to the gallows. Be so humane, therefore, Mr. Mirror, as to suggest some expedient for keeping it confined within those limits in which it rages at present. If no public regulation can be contrived for that purpose (though I cannot help thinking this disease of the great people merits the attention of government, as much as the distemper among the horned cattle), try, at least, the effects of private admonition, to prevent the sound from approaching the infected; let all little men like myself, and every member of their families, be cautious of holding intercourse with the persons or families of Dukes, Earls, Lords, Nabobs, or Contractors, till they have good reason to believe that such persons and their households are in a sane and healthy state, and in no danger of communicating this dreadful disorder. And, if it has left such great and noble persons any feelings of compassion, pray put them in mind of that well-known fable of the boys and the frogs, which they must have learned at school. Tell them, Sir, that though the making
fools of their poor neighbours may serve them for a Christmas gambol, it is matter of serious wretchedness to those poor neighbours in the after-part of their lives: It is sport to them, but death to us.
I am, &c.
N° 13. TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 1779.
THE antiquity of the poems ascribed to Ossian, the son of Fingal, has been the subject of much dispute. The refined magnanimity and generosity of the he roes, and the tenderness and the delicacy of sentiment, with regard to women, so conspicuous in those poems, are circumstances very difficult to reconcile with the rude and uncultivated age in which the poet is supposed to have lived. On the other hand, the intrinsic characters of antiquity which the poems bear; that simple state of society the poet paints; the narrow circle of objects and transactions he describes ; his concise, abrupt, and figurative style; the absence of all abstract ideas, and of all modern allusions, render it difficult to assign any other era for their production than the age of Fingal. In short, there are difficulties on both sides; and, if that remarkable refinement of manners seem inconsistent with our notions of an unimproved age, the marks of antiquity, with which the poems are stamped, make it very hard to suppose them a modern composition. It is not, however, my intention to examine the merits of this controversy, much less to hazard any judgment of my own. All I propose is, to suggest one consideration on the subject, which, as far as I