Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

lower end of the lane the word was given, that there was a great funeral coming by. The next moment came forward in a very hasty, instead of a solemn manner, a long train of lights, when at last a footman, in very high youth and health, with all his force ran through the whole art of beating the door of the house next to me, and ended his rattle with the true finishing rap. This did not only bring one to the door at which he knocked, but to that of every one in the lane in an instant. Among the rest, my country-maid took the alarm, and immediately running to me, told me, there was a fine, fine lady, who had three men with burial torches making way before her, carried by two men upon poles, with looking-glasses on each side of her, and one glass also before, she herself appearing the prettiest that ever was. The girl was going on in her story, when the lady was come to my door in her chair, having mistaken the house. As soon as she entered I saw she was Mr. Isaac's scholar, by her speaking air, and the becoming stop she made when she began her apology. "You will be surprised, Sir,' said she, that I take this liberty, who am utterly a stranger to you; besides that it may be thought an indecorum that I visit a man. She made here a pretty hesitation, and held her fan to her face. Then, as if recovering her resolution, she proceeded

But I think you have said, that men of your age are of no sex; therefore, I may be as free with you as one of my own. The lady did me the honour to consult me on some particular matters, which I am not at liberty to report. But, before she took her leave, she produced a long list of names, which she looked upon, to know whither she was to go next. I must confess, I could hardly forbear discovering to her, immediately, that I secretly laughed at the fantastical regularity she observed in throwing

away

her time; but I seemed to indulge her in it, out of a curiosity to hear her own sense of her way of life. “Mr. Bickerstaff,' said she, you cannot imagine how much you are obliged to me, in staying thus long with you, having so many visits to make; and, indeed, if I had not hopes that a third part of those I am going to will be abroad, I should be unable to dispatch them this evening.'- Madam,' said I, are you in all this haste and perplexity, and only going to such as you have not a mind to see?

— Yes, Sir,' said she, “ I have several now with whom I keep a constant correspondence, and return visit for visit punctually every week, and yet we have not seen each other since last November was twelvemonth.

She went on with a very good air, and fixing her eyes on her list, told me, she was obliged to ride about three miles and a half before she arrived at her own house. I asked, after what manner this list was taken, whether the persons writ their names to her, and desired thạt favour, or how she knew she was not cheated in her muster-roll? The method we take,' says she, “is, that the porter, or servant who comes to the door, writes down all the names who come to see us, and all such are entitled to a return of their visit.'- But,' said I, ' Madam, I presume those who are searching for each other, and know one another by messages, may be understood as candidates only for each other's favour; and that after so many how-do-ye-does, you proceed to visit or not, as you like the run of each other's reputation or fortune.'—' You understand it right,' said she; and we become friends, as soon as we are convinced that our dislike to each other may be of any consequence: for, to tell you truly,' said she, for it is in vain to hide any thing from a man of your penetration, general visits are not made out of goodwill, but for fear of ill-will. Punctuality in this case is often a suspicious circumstance: and there is nothing so common as to have a lady say, “I hope she has' heard nothing of what I said of her, that she grows so great with me!" But indeed my porter is so dull and negligent, that I fear he has not put down half the people I owe visits to.'—- Madam,' said 1, methinks it would be very proper

if

your gentleman-usher or groom of the chamber were always to keep an account, by way of debtor and creditor. I know a city lady who uses that method, which I think very laudable; for though you may possibly at the court end of the town receive at the door, and light up better than within Temple-bar, yet I must do that justice to my friends the ladies within the walls, to own that they are much more exact in their correspondence. The lady I was going to mention as an example has always the second apprentice out of the counting-house for her own use on her visiting-day, and he sets down very methodically all the visits which are made her. I remember very well, that on the first of January last, when she made up her account for the year 1708, it stood thus : • Mrs. COURTWOOD- Per Contra-Creditor.

Debtor. To seventeen hun

By eleven hundred and four 1704 dred and nine 1109 visits received,

paid, Due to balance, 595

1704 * This gentlewoman is a woman of great economy, and was not afraid to go to the bottom of her affairs; and, therefore, ordered her apprentice to give her credit for my Lady Easy's impertinent visits upon wrong days, and deduct only twelve per cent. He

had orders also to subtract one and a half from the whole of such as she had denied herself to before she kept a day; and after taking those proper articles of credit on her side, she was in arrear but five hundred. She ordered her husband to buy in a couple of fresh coach-horses; and with no other loss than the death of two footmen, and a churchyard cough brought upon her coachman, she was clear in the world on the tenth of February last, and keeps so before-hand, that she pays every body their own, and yet makes daily new acquaintances.'

I know not whether this agreeable visitant was fired with the example of the lady I told her of, but she immediately vanished out of my sight, it being, it seems, as necessary a point of good-breeding, to go off as if you stole something out of the house, as it is to enter as if you came to fire it. I do not know one thing that contributes so much to the lessening the esteem men of sense have to the fair sex, as this article of visits. A young lady cannot be married, but all impertinents in town must be beating the tattoo from one quarter of the town to the other, to shew they know what passes. If a man of honour should once in an age marry a woman of merit for her intrinsic value, the envious things are all in motion in an instant, to make it known to the sisterhood as an indiscretion, and published to the town how many pounds he might have had to have been troubled with one of them. After they are tired with that, the next thing is, to make their compliments to the married couple and their relations. They are equally busy at a funeral, and the death of a person of quality is always attended with the murder of several sets of coach-horses and chairmen. In both cases, the visitants are wholly unaf fected, either with joy or sorrow.

For which reason, their congratulations and condolences are equally,

words of course; and one would be thought wonderfully ill-bred, that should build upon such expressions as encouragements to expect from them any instance of friendship.

Thus are the true causes of living, and the solid pleasures of life, lost in show, imposture, and im. pertinence. As for my part, I think most of the misfortunes in families arise from the trifling way the women have in spending their time, and gratifying only their

eyes
and
ears,

instead of their reason and understanding.

A fine young woman, bred under a visiting mother, knows all that is possible for her to be acquainted with by report, and sees the virtuous and the vicious used so indifferently, that the fears she is born with are abated, and desires indulged, in proportion to her love of that light and trifling conversation. I know I talk like an old man; but I must go on to say, that I think the general reception of mixed company, and the pretty fellows that are admitted at those assemblies, give a young woman so false an idea of life, that she is generally bred up with a scorn of that sort of merit in a man, which only can make her happy in marriage; and the wretch to whose lot she falls, very often receives in his arms a coquette, with the refuse of a heart long before given away to a coxcomb.

*** Having received from the society of Upholders sundry complaints of the obstinate and refractory behaviour of several dead persons, who have beed guilty of very great outrages and disorders, and by that means elapsed the proper time of their interment; and having on the other hand received many appeals from the aforesaid dead persons, wherein they desire to be heard before such their

« ПредишнаНапред »