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Brownlow good-humouredly joined in the laugh which this occasioned, observing, however, somewhat seriously,
“ If I am, indeed, all this, I trust it may be a proof that I am not a bad judge of my subject, and that I may be right in opposing every one of the strange positions you have laid down, particu. larly when you disparage marriage, and prefer a brittle mistress, even (as I would allow you to mean) as a mere source of pleasure, to a virtuous wife."
“ This, to me," replied the baronet ; “ me, who have heard you rave by the hour about Madame Rossi's grace and Miss Brown's charms ; * so that you never missed an opera when one danced in Don Juan; nor the Duenna, or Beggar's Opera, when the other sang in Clara or Polly. Nay, you are talked of, and cannot deny it, as one of the initiated, a hero of the Green-room.”
Here Sir Harry got another little laugh against Mr. Brownlow, who, however, sustained himself with dignity, though he pleaded guilty to the whole charge of admiring the theatrical charms of both the ladies mentioned, and even of his pleasure sometimes in the Green-room.
“ You see,” said he, “ I deny nothing, for, in truth, it is this very experience of the little real power of attraction in your goddesses that gives me a right to protest against your opinions. I may and do find pleasure in contemplating the talents, and, if you will, the beauty, of these and other celebrated ladies (the whole sex at large, if it so please you); but do not mistake me—with all
* Madame Rossi was the Taglioni of this time; and Miss Brown, afterwards Mrs. Cargill, the original Clara of the Duenna, and most attractive Polly in the Beggar's Opera.
my devotion, and whatever my admiration of them for the passing hour,-for her person, her wit, or her accomplishments, I could not live as a companion with
any woman whom I could not esteem.” Sir Harry looked a little disconcerted, especially when we all seemed to approve the sentiment; but still more when Mr. Brownlow went on
“ Her wit, indeed, if it was very racy and pungent, as was said of Lady Dorchester's and Nell Gwyn's, I might admire; her accomplishments might even fill me with wonder; but would this either create a moral respect, or satisfy the heart? When passion was gratified, and languished, as it soon would, what would be left to renew, or continue, much more to heighten it? Any thing from mind ? from reciprocity of sentiment ? from mutual esteem ? No. She has no mind; or if she has, it can only embitter her feelings, by making her lament the loss of her virtue."
“ Is virtue, then, or rather chastity, for that is your meaning,” said Sir Harry, “a sine qua non to good taste ? In the arts, or belles lettres, for
instance ? May not an elegant-minded mistress be your companion there ?”
“ My point is," answered Brownlow, “that in an unchaste woman, or one who has parted with her honour, this elegance of mind is not to be found.”
“ What ! may not she understand and admire a picture or a statue ?"
“ Yes; particularly if they partake, as they very likely may, of her own licentiousness; but in the belles lettres, which you also mentioned, I should say not ;-for genuine belles lettres having good taste for their province, and all good taste, that is, real elegance of mind, requiring delicacy and virtue for their foundation, nay, their very essence, a woman destitute of these, as an unchaste woman must be, cannot feel their real beauties.”
According to you, then, a kept mistress could not relish Shakspeare ?"
“ I know not,” said Brownlow, “ what parts of him she might relish ; but there are parts which, if she is not lost to all feeling, must make her ashamed, despairing, and unhappy. What woman of loose conduct, if not abandoned, could contemplate the innocent Juliet or Desdemona, Imogen or Ophelia, and, far from pleasure, not turn with horror to herself? But if abandoned, what pretension can she have to the delicacy of mind which I have said is essential to the good taste necessary to make a woman a companion ?"
We all applauded this sentiment, and the baronet looked embarrassed.
“ As my support in this," continued Brownlow, 66 recollect the
Jesse of Shenstone, once seemingly endowed with a taste for elegance, but lost with her innocence :
• If thro' the garden's flowery walks I stray,
And court the jasmins which could once allure,
For we are spotless, Jesse, we are pure.'
Such self-condemnation, by destroying all cheerfulness, must at once destroy companionship, and render even beauty nugatory, perhaps repulsive; and thus, as far as even mere passion is concerned, your heroine has lost the power of creating it, and has dwindled either into a sorrowful mope, or a reckless, abandoned prostitute.”
Instead of answering this forcible elucidation, Sir Harry filled his glass to the brim, and began beating the devil's tattoo under the table; and it was easy to see he was maintaining a contest with himself; but, rallying a little, he observed,
“ This will, at least, not apply to a mistress's wit. That surely must remain intrinsically wit, whatever becomes of esteem.”
“ I am too fond of wit, as a mark of intellectual vigour,” returned Mr. Brownlow, “ to deny its power. But in this instance, what power? To please by filling the understanding, and giving
food for reflection ? No; to amuse, perhaps to dazzle and excite, but only for a moment.
The effect over, it revives not. Like a cordial, it warms and kindles, but has no nourishment; for we love not, because we do not respect the person of the speaker, and our esteem for intellect is so mingled with disesteem for character, that we do not remember what is spoken with pleasure.'
" According to this,” said Sir Harry, “you would not admire a beautiful passage in a play, should the actor be a bad moral character.”
“ I should endeavour," returned Brownlow, “to think only of the author, and forget the actor.”
" But how, if the author himself was a profligate? Would that derogate from the beauty of the lan
“ Not from its beauty in the abstract," returned Brownlow, “ but from my pleasure in it, certainly, unless I could succeed in forgetting the writer."
“ What think you of Sterne or Rousseau ?” asked Sir Harry.
" As writers or men ?” asked Brownlow. “ As both conjoined,” replied Sir Harry.
" Much as I admire them as writers," said his opponent, “ if I think of their characters while reading, I answer distinctly and fairly, my pleasure is much diminished.”
“ What ! at the pathos which surrounds Uncle