« AnteriorContinuar »
a meagre diet--are no great matters ; but the true point of pity is, as they can be earned in the world with so little industry, that your order should wish to procure them by pressing upon a fund, which is the property of the lame, the blind, the aged, and the infirm ; the captive; who lies down counting over and over again, in the days of his affliction, languishes also for his share of it; and had you been of the order of mercy, instead of the order of St. Francis, poor as I am, continued I, pointing at my portmanteau, fuli cheerfully should it have been opened to you, for the ransom of the unfortunate.' The Monk made me a bow. But, resumed I, the unfortunate of our own country, surely have the first rights; and I have left thousands in distress upon the English shore. The Monk gave a cordial wave with his head-as much as to say, No doubt; there is misery enough in every corner of the world as well as within our convent. But we distinguish, said I, laying my hand upon the sleeve of his tunic, in return for his appeal-we distinguish, my good father, betwixt those who wish only to eat the bread of their own labour-and those who eat the bread of other people's, and have no other plan in life, but to get through it in sloth and ignorance, for the love of God.
The poor Franciscan made ño reply; a hectic of a moment passed across his cheek, but could not tarry.-Nature seemed to have done with her resentments in him. He showed none_but letting his staff fall within his arm, he pressed both his hands with resignation on his breast, and retired.
My heart smote me the moment he shut the door.Pshaw ! said I, with an air of carelessness, three several times. But it would not do ;--every ungracious syllable I had uttered, crowded back in my imagination. I reflected I had no right over the poor Franciscan, but to deny him; and that the punishment of that was enough to the disappointed, without the addition of unkind language-1 considered his gray hairs, his courteous figure seemed to reenter, and gently ask me what injury he had done me, and why I could use him thus ?-I would have given twenty livres for an advocate I have behaved very ill, said I within myself; but I have only just set out upon my travels, and shall learn better manners as I get along.
XI.--On the Head-dress of the Ladies. THERE is not so variable a thing in nature, as a lady's head-dressA within my own memory, I have known it rise
and fall above thirty degrees. About ten years ago it shot up to a very great height, insomuch that the female part of our species were much taller than the men.
The women were of such an enormous stature, that " we appeared as grasshoppers before them.” At present, the whole sex is in a manner dwarfed, and shrunk into a race of beauties, that seem almost another species. I remember several ladies who were once very near seven feet high, that at present want some inches of five : How they came to be thus curtailed, I cannot learn ; whether the whole sex be at present under any penance which we know nothing of, or whether they have cast their head-dresses, in order to surprise us with something in that kind which shall be entirely new; or whether some of the tallest of the sex, being too cunning for the rest, have contrived this method to make themselves appear sizeable, is still a secret; though I find most are of opinion, they are at present like trees new lopped and pruned, that will certainly sprout out, and flourish with greater heads than before. For my own part, as I do not love to be insulted by women who are taller than myself, I admire the sex much more in their present humiliation, which has reduced them to their natural dimensions, than when they had extended their persons, and lengthened themselves out into formidable and gigantic figures. I am not for adding to the beautiful edifices of nature, nor for raising any whimsical superstructure upon her plans: I must therefore repeat it, that I am highly pleased with the coifure now in fashion, and think it shows the good sense which at present very much reigns among the valuable part of the sex. observe thať women in all ages have taken more pains than men to adorn the outside of their heads; and indeed I very much admire, that those architects, who raise such powerful structures out of ribands, lace, and wire, have not been recorded for their respective inventions. It is certain there have been as many orders in these kind of buildings, as in those which have been made of marble ; sometimes they rise in the shape of a pyramid, sometimes like a tower, and sometimes iike a steeple. In Juvenal's time, the building grew by several orders and stories, as he has very humourously described it :
With curls on curls they build her head before,
But I do not remember, in any part of my reading, that the head-dress aspired to so great an extravagance, as in the fourteenth century; when it was built up in a couple of cones or spires, which stood so excessively high on each side of the head, that a woman, who was but a pigmy without her head-dress, appeared like a Colossus upon putting
Monsieur Paradin says, 66 That these old-fashioned fontages rose an ell above the head, that they were pointed like steeples, and had long loose pieces of crape fastened to the tops of them, which were curiously fringed, and hung down their backs like streamers.”
The women might possibly have carried 'this Gothic building much higher, had not a famous monk, Thomas Connecte by name, attacked it with great zeal and resolution. This holy man travelled from place to place, to preach down this monstrous commode : and succeeded so well in it, that, as the magicians sacrificed their books to the flames, upon the preaching of an apostle, many of the women threw down their head-dresses in the middle of his sermon, and made a bonfire of them within sight of the pulpit. He was so renowned, as well for the sanctity of his life, as his manner of preaching, that he had often a congregation of twenty thousand people :—the men placing themselves on the one side of his pulpit ; and the women on the other-they appeared, to use the similitude of an ingenious writer, like a forest of cedars, with their heads reaching to the clouds. He so warmed and animated the people against this monstrous ornament, that it lay under a kind of persecution ; and whenever it appeared in public, was pelted vn by the rabble, who flung stones at the persons who wore it. But, notwithstanding this prodigy van-, ished while the preacher was among them, it began to appear again some months after his departure; or to tell it in Monsieur Paradin's own words, “ The women, that like snails in a fright, had drawn in their horns, shot them out again as soon as the danger was over." This extravagance of the women's head-dresses in that age, is taken notice of by Monsieur d'Argentre, in the history of Bretange, and by other historians, as well as the person I have here quoted.
It is usually observed, that a good reign is the only proper time for the making of laws against the exorbitance of power; in the same manner, an excessive head-dress may be attacked the most effectually when the fashion is against
it. I do therefore recommend this paper to my female readers, by way of prevention.
I would desire the fair sex to consider how impossible it is for them to add any thing that can be ornamental, to what is already the master-piece of nature. The head has the most beautiful appearance, as well as the highest station in the human figure. Nature has laid out all her art in beautifying the face ; she has touched it with vermilion ; planted in it a double row of ivory; made it the seat of smiles and blushes ; lighted it up, and enlivened it with the brightness of the eyes ; hung it on each side with curious organs of sense; given it airs and graces that cannot be described ; and surrounded it with such a flowing shade of hair, as sets all its beauties in the most agreeable light; in short, she seems to have designed the head as the cupola to the most glorious of her works; and when we load it with such a pile of supernumerary ornaments, we destroy the symmetry of the human figure, and foolishly contrive to call off the eye from great and real beauties, to childish gewgaws, ribands, and bone-lace.
XII.-On the Présent and a Future State.
A LEWD young fellow seeing an aged hermit go by him barefoot, “ Father,” says he, “ you are in a very miserable condition, if there is not another world." son,” said the hermit; “ but what is thy condition if there is ?”—Man is a creature designed for two different states of being, or rather for two different lives. His first life is short and transient; his second permanent and lasting. The question we are all concerned in, is this-In which of these two lives is it our chief interest to make ourselves happy ? Or, in other words—Whether we should endeavour to secure to ourselves the pleasures and gratifications of a life, which is uncertain and precarious, and at its utmost length, of a very inconsiderable duration; or to secure to ourselves the pleasures of a life which is fixed and settled, and will never end ? Every man, upon the first hearing of this question, knows very well which side of it he ought to close with. But however right we are in theory, it is plain, that in practice we adhere to the wrong side of the question. We nake provision for this life as though it were never to have an end ; and for the other life, as though it were never to have a beginning.
Should a spirit of superior rank, who is a stranger to human nature, accidentally alight upon the earth and take a survey of its inhabitants-What would his notions of us be ? Would he not think that we are a species of beings made for quite different ends and purposes than what we really are ? Must he not imagine that we were placed in this world to get riches and honours ? Would he not think that it was our duty to toil after wealth, and station, and title ? Nay, would he not believe we were forbidden poverty, by threats of eternal punishment, and enjoined to pursue our pleasures, under pain of damnation ? He would certainly imagine that we were influenced by a scheme of duties quite opposite to those which are indeed prescribed to us. And, truly, according to such an imagination, he must conclude that we are a species of the most obedient creatures in the universe; that we are constant to our duty; and that we keep a steady eye on the end for which we were sent thither.
But how great would be his astonishment, when he learnt that we were beings not designed to exist in this world above hreescore and ten years; and that the greatest part of this busy species fall short even of that age? How would he be lost in horror and admiration, when he should know that this set of creatures, who lay out all their endeavours for this life, which scarce deserves the name of existence, when, 1 say, he should know that this set of creatures are to exist to all eternity in another life, for which they make no preparations ? Nothing can be a greater disgrace to reason, than that
men, who are persuaded of these two different states of being, should be perpetually employed in providing for a life of threescore and ten years, and neglecting to make provision for that, which, after many myriads of years, will be still new, and still beginning ; especially when we consider, that our endeavours for making ourselves great, or rich, or honourable, or whatever else we place our happiness in, may, after all, prove unsuccessful ; whereas, if we constantly and sincerely endeavour to make ourselves happy in the other life, we are sure that our endeavours will succeed, and that we shall not be disappointed of our hope.
The following question is started by one of our schoolmen. Supposing the whole body of the earth were a great ball or mass of the finest sand, and that a single grain or particle of this sand should be annihilated every thousand years ?--Supposing, then, that you had it in your choice to be happy all the while this prodigious mass of sand was con