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wardly impatient when it flags; and more impatient when it meets with interruption. And if a man of grave aspect and more wakeful reflection presumes to step within the circle, they assail the unwelcome intruder with a volley of brilliant raillery and sparkling repartee, which bears down knowledge and learning before it; and convulse the delighted auditors with peals of laughter, while he labours in his heavy accoutrements after his light-armed antagonist, and receives at every turn a shower of arrows, which he can neither parry nor withstand.
From the remarks which have been made on the frivolousness of language and sentiment which often appears agreeable to women; and even to women who are qualified both to communicate and to enjoy the highest pleasures of conversation which can flow from cultivated minds ; let it not be inferred, that the mixed discourse either of female society, or of young persons of the two sexes, is to resemble the discussions of a board of philosophers; and that ease and gaiety, and laughter and wit, are to be profcribed as inveterate enemies of fobriety and good sense. Let eafe exempt from affectàtion, gaiety prompted by innocence, laughter the effusion of ingenuous delight, and wit unstained with any tincture of malevolence, enliven the hours of social converse. But let it not be thought that their enlivening influence is unreasonably curtailed, if good sense be empowered at all times to superintend their proceedings; and if fobriety be authorised sometimes to interpose topics, which may exercise and improve the faculties of the understanding.
At the close of these remarks on female conversation, it may
be allowable to fubjoin a few words on a kindred subject, epistolary, correspondence. Letters which pass between men commonly relate, in a greater or a less degree, to actual business. Even young men, on whom the cares of
life are not yet devolved in their full weight, will frequently be led to enlarge to their absent friends on topics not only of an interesting nature, but also of a serious cast: on the studies which they are respectively pursuing; on the advantages and disadvantages of the profession to which the one or the other is deftined; on the circumstances which appear likely to forward or to impede the success of each in the world. The seriousness of the subject, therefore, has a tendency, though a tendency which, I admit, is not always successful, to guard the writer from an affected and artificial style. Young women, whose minds are comparatively unoccupied by such concerns, are sometimes found to want in their correspondence, à counterpoise, if not to the desire of shining, yet to the quickness of imagination, and occasionally, to the quickness of feeling, natural to their sex. Hence they are exposed to peculiar danger, a danger aggravated by the nature of some of the fashionable topics which will proceed from engrossing conversation to employ the pen, of learning to clothe their thoughts in ftudied phrases ; and even of losing simplicity both of thought and expression in florid, refined, and sentimental parade. Frequently, too, the desire of shining intermingles itself, and involves them in additional temptations. They are ambitious to be distinguished for writing, as the phrase is, good letters. Not that a lady ought not to write a good letter. But a lady, who makes it her study to write a good letter, commonly produces a composition to which a very different epithet ought to be applied. Those letters only are good, which contain the natural effusions of the heart, expressed in unaffected language. Tinsel and glitter, and laboured phrases, dismiss the friend and introduce the authoress. From the use of strained and hyperbolical language, it is but a step to advance to that which is insincere. But though that step be not taken, all that is pleasing in letterwriting is already loft. And a far heavier loss is to be dreaded, the loss of simplicity of manners and character in other points. For when a woman is habitually betrayed into an artificial mode of proceeding by vanity, by the desire of pleasing, by erroneous judgement, or by any other cause; can it be improbable that the same cause should extend its influence to other parts of her conduct, and be productive of similar effects ? In justice to the female sex, however, it ought to be added, that when women of improved understandings write with simplicity, and employ their pens
in a more rational way than retailing the shapes of head-dresses and gowns, and encouraging each other in vanity, their letters are in some respects particularly pleasing. Being unencumbered with grave disquisitions, they poffefs a peculiar ease; and shew with singular clearness the delicate features and shades, which distinguish the mind of the writer.