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To make the sun a bauble without use,
Grows drowsy as the clicking of a clock. CowPBR. Whilst upon the subject of levity, a failing too lamentably visible in the deportment of the fashionable classes of the present day, females especially, we are tempted to introduce the following affecting narrative, as it appeared in a celebrated publication some years ago
“A decent timidity and modest reserve have been always considered as auxiliaries to beauty; but an air of dissolute boldness is now affected by all who would be thought graceful or polite : chastity, which in times of greater simplicity used to be discovered in every gesture and every look, is now retired to the breast, and is found only by those who intend its destruction; as a general, when the town is surrendered, retreats to the citadel, which is always less capable of defence when the out-works are possessed by the enemy. There is now little apparent difference between the virgin and the prostitute: if they are not otherwise known, they may share the box and the drawing-room without distinction. The same fashion which takes away the veil of modesty, will necessarily conceal lewdness: and honour and shame will lose their influence, because they will no longer distinguish virtue from vice. General custom, perhaps, may be thought an effectual security
against general censure; but it will not always lull the suspicions of jealousy; nor can it familiarize any beauty without destroying its influence, or diminish the prerogatives of a husband without weakening his attachment to his wife. The excess of every mode may be declined without remarkable singularity; and the ladies, who should even dare to be singular in the present defection of taste, would proportionably increase their power and secure their happiness. I know that in the vanity and the presumption of youth, it is common to allege the consciousness of innocence, as a reason for the contempt of censure ; and a license, not only for every freedom, but for every favour except the last. This confidence can, perhaps, only be repressed by a sense of danger : and as the persons whom I wish to warn are most impatient of declamation, and most susceptible of pity, I will address them in a story: and I hope the events will not only illustrate, but impress the precept which they contain.
“ Flavilla, just as she had entered her fourteenth year, was left an orphan to the care of her mother, in such circumstances as disappointed all the hopes which her education bad encouraged. Her father, who lived in great elegance upon the salary of a place at court, died suddenly, without having made any provision for his family, except an annuity of one hundred pounds, which he had purchased for his wife with part of her marriage portion; nor was he possessed of any property, except the furniture of a large house in one of the new squares, an equipage, a few jewels, and some plate. The greater part of the furniture and the equipage were sold to. pay his debts; the jewels, which were not of great value, and some useful pieces of the plate, were reserved; and Flavilla removed with her mother into lodgings. But notwithstanding this change in her circumstances, they did not immediately lose their rank. They were still visited by a numerous and polite acquaintance: and though some gratified their pride by assuming the appearance of pity, and rather insulted than alleviated their distress, by the whine of condolence, and a minute comparison of what they had lost with what they possessed; yet from others they were continually receiving presents, which still enabled them to live with a genteel frugality; they were still considered as people of fashion, and treated by those of a lower class with distant respect.
" Flavilla thus continued to move in a sphere to which she had no claim; she was perpetually surrounded with elegance and splendour, which the caprice of others, like the rod of an enchanter, could dissipate in a moment, and leave her to regret the loss of enjoyments, which she could neither hope to obtain nor cease to desire. Of this, however, Flavilla had no dread. She was remarkably tall for her age, and was
celebrated not only for her beauty but her wit: these qualifications she considered, not only as securing whatever she enjoyed by the favour of others, but as a pledge of possessing them in her own right by an advantageous marriage. Thus the vision that danced before her, derived stability from the very vanity which it flattered : and she had as little apprehension of distress, as diffidence of her own power to please.
“ There was a fashionable levity in her carriage and discourse, which her mother, who knew the danger of her situation, laboured to restrain, sometimes with anger, and sometimes with tears, but always without success. Flavilla was ever ready to answer, that she neither did nor said any thing of which she had reason to be ashamed; and therefore did not know why she should be restrained, except in mere courtesy to Envy, whom it was an honour to provoke, or to Slander, whom it was a disgrace to fear. In proportion as Flavilla was more flattered and caressed, the influence of her mother became less : and though she always treated her with respect, from a point of good breeding, yet she secretly despised her maxims, and applauded her own conduct. Flavilla at eighteen was a celebrated toast; and among other gay visitants who frequented her tea-table, was Clodio, a young baronet, who had just taken possession of his title and estate. There were many particulars in Clodio's behaviour, which encouraged Flavilla to hope that she should obtain him for a husband; but she suffered his assiduities with such apparent pleasure, and his familiarities with so little reserve, that he soon ventured to disclose his intention, and make her what he thought a very genteel proposal of another kind; but whatever were the artifices with which it was introduced, or the terms in which it was made, Flavilla rejected it with the utmost indignation and disdain. Clodio, who, notwithstanding his youth, had long known, and often practised the arts of seduction, gave way to the storm, threw himself at her feet, imputed his offence to the frenzy of his passion, flattered her pride by the most abject submission of extravagant praise, entreated her pardon, aggravated his crime, but made no mention of atonement by marriage. This particular, which Flavilla did not fail to remark, ought to have determined her to admit him no more: but her vanity and her ambition were still predominant, she still hoped to succeed in her project, Clodio's offence was lacitly forgiven, his visits were permitted, his familiarities were again suffered, and his hopes revived. He had long entertained an opinion that she loved him, in which, however, it is probable, that his own vanity and her indiscretion concurred to deceive bim; but this opinion, though it implied the strongest obligation to treat her with generosity and tenderness, only determined him again to attempt her ruin, as it encouraged him with a probability of success. Having, therefore, resolved to obtain her as a mistress, or at once to give ber up, he thought he had little more to do, than to convince her that he had taken such a resolution, justify it by some plausible sophistry, and give her some time to deliberate upon a final determination. With this view, he went a short journey into the country; having put a letter into her hand at parting, in which he acquainted her, that he had often reflected, with inexpressible regret, upon her resentment of his conduct in a late instance; but that the delicacy and the ardour of his affection were insuperable obstacles to his marriage; that where there was no liberty, there could be no happiness; that he should become indifferent to the endearments of love, when they could no longer be distinguished from the officiousness of duty; that while they were happy in the possession of each other, it would be absurd to suppose they would part; and that if this happiness should cease, it would not only insure but aggravate their misery to be inseparably united : that this event was less probable, in proportion as their cohabitation was voluntary; but that he would make such provision for her upon the contingency, as a wife would expect upon his death. He conjured her not to determine under the influence of prejudice and custom, but according to the laws of reason and nature. After mature deliberation,' said he, remember that the whole value of my life depends upon your will. I do not request an explicit consent, with whatever transport I might behold the lovely confusion which it might produce. I shall attend you in a few days, with the anxiety, though not with the guilt, of a criminal who waits for the decision of his judge. If my visit is admitted, we will never part; if it is rejected, I can see you no more.'
"" Flavilla had too much understanding, as well as virtue, to deliberate a moment upon this proposal. She gave immediate orders that Clodio should be admitted no more. But his letter was a temptation to gratify her vanity, which she could not resist : she shewed it first to her mother and then to the whole circle of her female acquaintance, with all the exultation of a hero who exposes a vanquished enemy at the wheels of his chariot in a triumph; she considered it as an indisputable evidence of her virtue, as a reproof of all who bad dared to censure the levity of her conduct, and a license to continue it without apology or restraint. It happened that Flavilla, soon after this accident, was seen in one of the boxes at the playhouse by Mercator, a young gentleman who had just returned from his first voyage as captain of a large ship in the Levant trade, which had been purchased for him by his father, whose fortune enabled him to make a genteel provision for five sons, of whom Mercator was the youngest, and who
expected to share his estate, which was personal, in equal proportions at his death. Mercator was captivated with her beauty, but discouraged by the splendour of her appearance, and the rank of her company. He was urged rather by curiosity than hope, to inquire who she was; and he soon gained such a knowledge of her circumstances, as relieved him from despair. As he knew not how to get admission to her company, and had no design upon her virtue, he wrote in the first ardour of his passion to her mother; giving a faithful account of his fortune and dependence, and entreating that he might be permitted to visit Flavilla as a candidate for her affection. The old lady, after having made some inquiries, by which the account that Mercator had given her was confirmed, sent him an invitation, and received his first visit alone. She told him, that as Flavilla had no fortune, and as a considerable part of his own was dependent upon his father's will, it would be extremely imprudent to endanger the disappointment of his expectations, by a marriage which would make it more necessary that they should be fulfilled ; that he ought therefore to obtain his father's consent, before any other step was taken, lest he should be embarrassed by engagements which young persons almost insensibly contract, whose complacency in each other is continually gaining strength by frequent visits and conversation. To this counsel, so salutary and perplexing, Mercator was hesitating what to reply, when Flavilla came in, an accident which he was now only solicitous to improve. Flavilla was not displeased either with his person or his address; the frankness and gaiety of her disposition soon made him forget that he was a stranger : a conversation commenced, during wbich they became yet more pleased with each other; and having thus surmounted the difficulty of a first visit, he thought no more of the old lady, as he believed her auspices were not necessary to his success.
“His visits were often repeated, and he became every hour more impatient of delay: he pressed his suit with that contagious ardour, which is caught at every glance, and produces the consent which it solicits. At the same time, indeed, a thought of his father would intervene; but being determined to gratify his wishes at all events, he concluded, with a sagacity almost universal on thesę occasions, that of two evils, to marry without his consent, was less than to marry against it; and one evening, after the lovers had spent the afternoon by themselves, they went out in a kind of frolic, which Mercator had proposed in the vehemence of his passion, and to which Plavilla had consented in the giddiness of her indiscretion, and were married at May Fair.
- In the first interval of recollection after this precipitate step, Mercator considered, that he ought to be the first who 18.