« AnteriorContinuar »
ways about this great city are still very much infested with these female cavaliers.
I remember, when I was at my friend Sir Roger de Coverley's about this time twelve-month, an equestrian lady of this order appeared upon the plains which lay at a distance from his house. I was at that time walking in the fields with my old friend; and as his tenants ran out on every side to see so strange a sight, Sir Roger asked one of them who came by us, what it was? To which the country fellow replied, “ 'Tis a gentlewoman, saving your worship's presence, in a coat and hat.' This produced a great deal of mirth at the knight's house, where we had a story at the same time of another of his tenants, who meeting this gentleman-like lady on the highway, was asked by her whether that was Coverley-hall; the honest man seeing only the male part of the querist, replied, 'yes, sir ;' but upon the second question, whether Sir Roger de Coverley was a married man,' having dropped his eye upon the petticoat, he changed his note into 'no, madam.'
Had one of these hermaphrodites appeared in Juvenal's days, with what an indignation should we have seen her described by that excellent satirist. He would have represented her in her riding habit as a greater monster than the Centaur. He would have called for sacrifices, or purifying waters, to expiate the appearance of such a prodigy. He would have invoked the shades of Portia or Lucretia, to see into what the Roman ladies had transformed themselves.'
For my own part, I am for treating the sex with greater tenderness, and have all along made use of the most gentle methods to bring them off from any little extravagances into which they are sometimes unwarily fallen: I think it, however, absolutely
1 And had Addison lived to our days, what would he have said to a Bloomer and Woman's rights, &c. &c. ?-G.
necessary to keep up the partition between the two sexes, and to take notice of the smallest encroachments which the one makes upon the other. I hope, therefore, that I shall not hear any more complaints on this subject. I am sure my she-disciples who peruse these my daily lectures, have profited but little by them, if they are capable of giving into such an amphibious dress. This I should not have mentioned, had not I lately met one of these my female readers in Hyde Park, who looked upon me with a masculine assurance, and cocked her hat full in my face. For my part, I have one general key to the behaviour of the
When I see them singular in any part of their dress, I conclude it is not without some evil intention; and therefore question not but the design of this strange fashion is to smite more effectually their male beholders. Now to set them right in this particular, I would fain have them consider with themselves whether we are not more likely to be struck by a figure entirely female, than with such an one as we may see every day in our glasses; or, if they please, let them reflect upon their own hearts, and think how they would be affected should they meet a man on horse-back, in his brecches and jack-boots, and at the same time dressed up in a commode and a night-rail.
I must observe that this fashion was first of all brought to us from France, a country which has infected all the nations in Europe with its levity. I speak not this in derogation of a whole people, having more than once found fault with those general reflections which strike at kingdoms or commonwealths in the gross; a piece of cruelty, which an ingenious writer of our own compares to that of Caligula, who wished the Roman people had all but one neck, that he might behead them at a blow. I shall therefore only remark, that as liveliness and assurance are in a peculiar manner the qualifications of the French nation, the same habits and customs will not give the same offence to that people,
which they produce among those of our own country. Modesty is our distinguishing character, as vivacity is theirs : and wben this our national virtue appears in that family-beauty, for which our British ladies are celebrated above all others in the universe, it makes up the most amiable object that the eye of man can possibly behold.
No. 439. THURSDAY, JULY 24.
Hi narrata ferunt alio: mensuraque ficti
Ovid. Met. xii. 57.
Ovid describes the palace of Fame as situated in the very centre of the universe, and perforated with so many windows and avenues as gave her the sight of every thing that was done in the heavens, in the earth, and in the sea. The structure of it was contrived in so admirable a manner, that it echoed every word which was spoken in the whole compass of nature; so that the palace, says the poet, was always filled with a confused hubbub of low dying sounds, the voices being almost spent and worn out before they arrived at this general rendezvous of speeches and whispers.
I consider courts with the same regard to the governments which they superintend, as Ovid's palace of Fame, with regard to the universe. The eyes of a watchful minister run through the whole people. There is scarce a murmur or complaint that does not reach his ears. They have news-gatherers and intelligencers distributed in their several walks and quarters, who bring in their respective quotas, and make them acquainted with
is not very
the discourse and conversation of the whole kingdom or commonwealth where they are employed. The wisest of kings, alluding to these invisible and unsuspected spies who are planted by kings and rulers over their fellow.citizens, as well as those voluntary informers that are buzzing about the ears of a great man, and making their court by such secret methods of intelligence, has given us a very prudent caution : 'Curse not the king, no not in thy thought, and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber : for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.'
As it is absolutely necessary for rulers to make use of other people's eyes and ears, they should take particular care to do it in such a manner, that it may not bear too hard on the person whose life and conversation are inquired into. A man who is capable of so infamous a calling as that of a spy,
much to be relied upon. He can have no great ties of honour, or checks of conscience, to restrain him in those covert evidences, where the person accused has no opportunity of vindicating himself. He will be more industrious to carry that which is grateful, than that which is true. There will be no occasion for him, if he does not hear and see things worth discovery; so that he naturally inflames every word and circumstance, aggravates what is faulty, perverts what is good, and misrepresents what is indifferent. Nor is it to be doubted but that such ignominious wretches let their private passions into these their clandestine informations, and often wreck their particular spite and malice against the person whom they are set to watch. It is a pleasant scene enough, which an Italian author describes between a spy, and a cardinal who employed him. The cardinal is represented as minuting down every thing that is told him. The spy begins with a low voice, 'Such an one, the advocate, whispered to one of his friends, rithin my hearing, that your eminence was a very great poltron;'
and after having given his patron time to take it down, adds, that another called him a mercenary rascal in a public conversation. The cardinal replies, very well, and bids bim go on. The spy proceeds, and loads him with reports of the same nature, till the cardinal rises in great wrath, calls him an impudent scoundrel, and kicks him out of the room.
It is observed of great and heroic minds, that they have not only shewed a particular disregard to those unmerited reproaches which have been cast upon them, but have been altogether free from that impertinent curiosity of inquiring after them, or the poor revenge of resenting them. The histories of Alexander and Cæsar are full of this kind of instances. Vulgar souls are of a quite contrary character. Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, had a dungeon which was a very curious piece of architecture; and of which, as I am informed, there are still to be seen some remains in that island. It was called Dionysius's Ear, and built with several little windings and labyrinths in the form of a real ear. The structure of it made it a kind of whispering place, but such a one as gathered the voice of him who spoke into a funnel, which was placed at the very top of it. The tyrant used to lodge all his state criminals, or those whom he supposed to be engaged together in any evil designs upon him, in this dungeon. He had at the same time an apartment over it, where he used to apply himself to the funnel, and by that means over hear every thing that was whispered in the dungeon. I believe one may venture to affirm, that a Cæsar or an Alexander would rather have died by the treason, than have used such disingenuous means for the detecting of it.
A man, who in ordinary life is very inquisitive after every thing which is spoken ill of him, passes his time but very indifferently. He is wounded by every arrow that is shot at him, and puts it in the power of every insignificant enemy to disquiet him.