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The ladies also did not escape censure for their love of finery.
"A matron of my acquaintance, complaining of her daughter's vanity, was observing that she had all of a sudden held up her head higher than ordinary, and taken an air that showed a secret satisfaction in herself, mixed with a scorn of others. 'I did not know,' says my friend,
what to make of the carriage of this fantastical girl, until I was informed by her elder sister, that she had a pair of striped garters on.'"
Again :“Many a lady has fetched a sigh at the loss of a wig, and been ruined by the tapping of a snuff box. It is impossible to describe all the execution that was done by the shoulder knot, while that fashion prevailed, or to reckon up all the maidens that have fallen a sacrifice to a pair of fringed gloves. A sincere heart has not made half so many conquests as an open waistcoat: and I should be glad to see an able head make so good a figure in a woman's company as a pair of red heels. A Grecian hero, when he was asked whether he could play upon the lute, thought he had made a very good reply when he had answered No, but I can make a great city of a little one.' Notwithstanding his boasted wisdom, I appeal to the heart of any Toast in town whether she would not think the lutenist preferable to the statesman.”
The general tone of “The Tatler,” is that of a fashionable London paper, and it often notices the difference of thought in town and country. This distinction is much less now than in his day, before the time of railways, and when the country gentlemen, instead of having houses in London, betook themselves for the gay season to their county towns.
"I was this evening representing a complaint sent me out of the country by Emilia. She says, her neighbours there have so little sense of what a refined lady of the town is, that she who was a celebrated wit in London, is in that dull part of the world in so little esteem that they call her in
tbeir base style a tongue-pad. Old Truepenny bid me advise her to keep her wit until she comes to town again, and admonish ber that both wit and breeding are local; for a fine court lady is as awkward among country wives, as one of them would appear in a drawing-room.”
Again :“I must beg pardon of my readers that, for this time I bave, I fear, huddled up my discourse, having been very busy in helping an old friend out of town. He has a very good estate and is a man of wit; but he has been three years absent from town, and cannot bear a jest; for which I bave with some pains convinced him that he can no more live here than if he were a downright bankrupt. He was so fond of dear London that he began to fret, only inwardly; but being unable to laugh and be laughed at, I took a place in the Northern coach for him and his family; and hope he has got to-night safe from all sneerers in his own parlour.
“ To know what a Toast is in the country gives as much perplexity as she herself does in town; and indeed the learned differ very much upon the original of this word, and the acceptation of it among the moderns; however, it is agreed to have a cheerful and joyous import. A toast in a cold morning, heightened by nutmeg, and sweetened with sugar, bas for many ages been given to our rural dispensers of justice before they entered upon causes, and has been of great politic use to take off the severity of their sentences; but has indeed been remarkable for one ill effect, that it inclines those wbo use it immoderately to speak Latin; to the admiration ratber than information of an audience. This application of a toast makes it very obvious that the word may, without a metaphor, be understood as an apt name for a thing which raises us in the most sovereign degree; but many of the Wits of the last age will assert that the word in its present sense was known among them in their youth, and had its rise from an accident in the town of Bath in the reign of King Charles the Second. It happeued that on a public day, a celebrated beauty of those times was in the Cross Bath, and one of the crowd of her admirers took a glass of water in which the fair one stood, and drank her health to the company. There was in the place a gay fellow half fuddled, who swore that though he liked not the liquor, he would take the toast. He was opposed in his resolution, yet this whim gave foundation to the present honor which
is due to the lady we mention in our liquors, who has ever since been called a Toast."*
Courtships, and the hopes and fears of Shepherds and Shepherdesses, form many tender and classic episodes throughout this periodical
“ Though Cynthio has wit, good sense, fortune, and his very being depends upon her, the termagant for whom he sighs is in love with a fellow who stares in the glass all the time he is with her, and lets her plainly see she may possibly be bis rival, but never his mistress. Yet Cynthio, the same unhappy man whom I mentioned in my first narrative, pleases himself with a vain imagination that, with the language of his eyes he shall conquer her, though her eyes are intent upon one who looks from her; which is ordinary with the sex. It is certainly a mistake in the ancients to draw the little gentleman Love as a blind boy, for his real character is a little thief that squints; for ask Mrs. Meddle, wbo is a confidant or spy upon all the passions in the town, and she will tell you that the whole is a game of cross purposes. The lover is generally pursning one who is in pursuit of another, and running from one ibat desires to meet him. Nay, the nature of this passion is so justly represented in a squinting little thief (who is always in a double action) that do but observe Clarissa next time you see her, and you will find when her eyes have made the soft tour round the company, they rake no stay on bim they say she is to marry, but rest two seconds of a minute on Wildair, who neither looks nor thinks of her, or any woman else. However, Cynthio had a bow from her the other day, upon which he is very much come to himself; and I heard him send his man of an errand yesterday without any manner of hesitation; a quarter of an hour after which he reckoned twenty, remembered he was to sup with a friend, and went exactly to his appointment."
All the love-making in “The Tatler" is of a very correct description. - Marriage is nowhere despised or ridiculed, though suggestions are
* This seems taken from a Spanish story.
made for composing the troubles which sometimes accompany it:
“A young gentlemian of great estate fell desperately in love with a great beauty of very high quality, but as illnatured as long flattery and an habitual self-will could make her. However, my young spark ventures upon her like a man of quality, without being acquainted with her, or having ever saluted her, until it was a crime to kiss any woman else. Beauty is a thing which palls with possession, and the charms of this lady soon wanted the support of good humour and complacency of manners; upon this, my spark flies to the bottle for relief from satiety; she disdains him for being tired of tbat for which all men envied him; and he never came home but it was, 'Was there no sot that would stay longer?? . Would any man living but you ?' 'Did I leave all the world for this usage ?' to which he, 'Madam, split me, you're very impertinent!' In a word, this match was wedlock in its most terrible appearances. She, at last weary of railing to no purpose, applies to a good uncle, who gives her a bottle be pretended he had bought of Mr. Partridge, the conjurer. This,' said he, 'I gave ten guineas for. The virtue of the enchanted liquor (said he that sold it) is such, that if the woman you marry proves a scold (which it seems, my dear niece is your misfortune, as it was your good mother's before you) let her hold three spoonfuls of it in her mouth for a full half hour after you come home.'”
But Steele says that his principal object was “ to stem the torrent of prejudice and vice.” He did not limit himself to making amusement out of the affectation of the day; he often directed his humour to higher ends. He deprecated inconstancy, observing that a gentleman who presumed to pay attention to a lady, should bring with him a character from the one he had lately left. He must be especially commended for having been one of the first to advocate consideration for the lower animals,
and to condemn swearing and duelling. The latter, as he said, owed its continuance to the force of custom, and he supposes that if a duellist " wrote the truth of his heart," he would express himself to his lady-love in the following manner :-
“Madam,-1 have so tender a regard for you and your interests that I will knock any man on the head that I observe to be of my mind, and to like you. Mr. Truman, the other day, looked at you in so languishing a manner that I am resolved to run him through to-morrow morn. ing. This, I think, he deserves for his guilt in adoring you, than which I cannot have a greater reason for murdering him, except it be that you also approve him. Whoever says he dies for you, I will make his words good, for I will kill him,
“I am, Madam, “Your most obedient humble servant." Among other offensive habits, “ The Tatler” discountenances the custom of taking snuff, then common among ladies.
“I have been these three years persuading Sagissa* to leave it off; but she talks so much, and is so learned, that she is above contradiction. However, an accident brought that about, which all my eloquence could never accomplish. She had a very pretty fellow in her closet, who ran thither to avoid some company that came to visit her; she made an excuse to go to him for some implement they were talking of. Her eager gallant snatched a kiss; but being unused to snuff, some grains from off her upper lip made him sneeze aloud, which alarmed her visitors, and has made a discovery.”
[It is impossible to say what effect this ridicule produced upon the snuff-taking public, but the custom gradually declined. A hundred
* Supposed to be Mrs. Manley, against whom Steele had a grudge.