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Among the duties appertaining to the female sex in the middle period of life, those which are peculiar to the wife and to the mother hold the principal rank, and form the larger proportion. They have already been discussed at sufficient length. It may not, however, be unprofitable to subjoin some farther remarks, partly referring to the conduct of married women during that period, and partly to the fituation of individuals, who have remained single.
So engaging are the attractions, fo impressive is the force of beauty, that women, distinguished by personal charms, are not
permitted long to continue unconscious of being the objects of general attention. Admired and flattered, pursued with assiduities, singled out from their associates at every scene of public resort, they perceive themselves universally treated with marked and peculiar preference. To those in whom harmony of form and brilliancy of complexion are not conspicuous, youth itself, graced with unaffected fimplicity, or at least rendered interesting by sprightliness and animation, is capable of ensuring no inconsiderable portion of regard. As youth and beauty wear away, the homage which had been paid to them is gradually withdrawn. They who had heretofore been treated as the idols of public ard private circles, and had forgotten to anticipate the termination of their empire, are suddenly awakened from their dream, and constrained to rest satisfied with the common notice shewn to their station, and the respect which they may have acquired by their virtues. To descend from eminence
is painful; and to many minds not the less painful, when the eminence itself had no real value, and the foundation, on which it rested, no durable solidity. She who is mortified by the loss or diminution of those superficial observances which her personal attractions had sometimes induced admiration to render; and had more frequently drawn from curiosity, or vanity, or politeness, while she blindly gave admiration credit for the whole; has not known or has disregarded the only qualities and endowments, which secure genuine esteem, and attractions worthy of being prized. Yet, scarcely any spectacle is more common in the haunts of polite life, than to behold a woman in the wane of beauty courting with unremitting perseverance the honours which she can no longer command; exercising her ingenuity in laying traps for compliment and encomium ; fhutting her eyes against those alterations in countenance and figure which are visible to every other person on the flightest glance; supplying
by numberless artifices, and expedients perpetually changing, the odious depredations of time; swelling with envious indignation at the sight of her juniors enjoying in their day the notice once paid to herself; unwilling to permit her daughters to accompany her into public, left their native bloom should expose by contrast the purchased complexion of their mother, or
, their very ftature betray that she can no longer be young ; and disgracing herself, and disgusting even those who deem it civility to flatter and deceive her, by affecting the flippancy of manners, for which youth itself would have been a most inadequate apology.
Among ladies, who have fully arrived at the period of age,
of which we now fpeak, there are to be found many who, in consequence of having been early taught by a rational and religious education to fix their minds on proper objects, have escaped even from their first introduction into the world
the dazzling influence of those allurements, which fascinate the greater part of their sex; or have learned from reflection and experience in the progress of a changeful life to rate them according to their proper
value. Of those, however, to whom the one or the other of these descriptions is applicable, there are some, who in their conversation and intercourse with young persons of their own fex contribute to establish others in the errors which they have themselves been happy enough to avoid. Impelled by the desire of rendering themselves agreeable to their youthful associates ; a desire commendable in itself, but reprehensible when in practice it becomes the evident cause of indiscretion; they endeavour to suit their discourse to the taste of their hearers by confining it to the subjects of dress, personal appearance, public amusements, and other similar topics; and by expatiating upon them in a manner from which their sentiments respecting them might reasonably be inferred to be very different from
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