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power, and please ourselves with fancying that we saffer by neglect, unkindness, or any evil which ad. mits a remedy, rather than by the decays of nature, which cannot be prevented or repaired. We there. fore revenge onr pains upon those on whom we resolve to charge them; and too often drive mankind away at the time we have the greatest need of ten. derness and assistance.
But though peevishness may sometimes claim our compassion, as the consequence or concomitant of misery, it is very often found, where nothing can justify or excuse its admission. It is frequently one of the attendants on the prosperous, and is employed by insolence in exacting homage, or by tyranny in harassing subjection. It is the oflspring of idle. Dess or pride; of idleness anxious for trifles; or pride unwilling to endure the least obstruction of ber wishes. Those who have long lived in litude indeed naturally contract this unsocial quality, becouse, having long had only themselves to please, they do not readily depart from their own inclinations; their singularities therefore are only blamable, when they have imprudently or morosely withdrawn themselves from the world; but there are others, who have, without any necessity, nursed up this habit in their minds, by making implicit submissiveness the condition of their favour, and suffering none to approach them, but those who never speak but to applaud, or move but to obey.
Ile that gives himself up to his own fancy, and converses with none but such as he hires to lull him on the down of absolute authority, to sooth hin with obsequiousness, and regale him with flattery, soon grows too slothful for the labour of contest, too tender for the asperity of contradiction, and too delicate for the coarseness of truth; a little opr position offerds, a little restraint enrages, and a little difficulty perplexes him; having been accustomed to see every thing give way to his humour, he soon forgets his own littleness, and expects to find the world rolling at his beck, and all mankind em. ployed to accommodate and delight him.
Tetrica had a large fortune bequeathed to her by an aunt, which made her very early independent, and placed her in a state of superiority to all about her. Having no superfluity of understanding, she was soon intoxicated by the flatteries of her maid, who infórmed her that ladies, such as she, had nothing to do but take pleasure their own way; that she wanted nothing from others, and had therefore no reason to value their opinion; that money was every thing; and that they who thought themselves ill-treated, should look for better usage among their equals.
Warm with these generous sentiments, Tetrica came forth into the world, in which she endeavoured to force respect by haughtiness of mien and vehemence of language; but having neither birth, beau. ty, nor wit, in any uncommon degree, she suffered such mortifications from those who thought them. selves at liberty to return her insults, as reduced her turbulence to cooler malignity, and taught her to practise her arts of vexation only where she might hope to tyrannize without resistance. tinued from her twentieth to her fifty-fifth year to torment all her inferiors with so much diligence, that she has formed a principle of disapprobation, and finds in every place something to grate her mind, and disturb her quiet.
If she takes the air, she is offended with the heat or cold, the glare of the sun, or the gloom of the clouds; if she makes a visit, the room in which she
is to be received, is too light, or too dark, or fur. nished with something which she cannot see with. out aversion. Her tea is never of the right sort;. the figures on the China give her disgust. Where there are children, she hates the gabble of brats; where there are none, she cannot bear a place without some cheerfulness and rattle. If many servants are kept in a house, she never fails to tell how lord Lavish was ruined by a numerous retinue ; if few, she relates the story of a miser that made his com. pany wait on themselves. She quarrelled with one family, because she had an unpleasant view from their windows; with another, because the squirrel Jeaped within two yards of her; and with a third, because she could not bear the noise of the parrot.
Of milliners and mantua-makers she is the proverbial torment. She com pels them to alter their work, then to unmake it, and contrive it after another fashion; then changes her mind, and likes it better as it was at first; then will have a small improvement. Thus she proceeds till no profit can recompense the vexation; they at last leave the clothes at her house, and refuse to serve her. Her maid, the only being that can endure her tyranny, professes to take her own course, and hear her mistress talk. Such is the consequence of peevishness; it can be borne only when it is despised.
It sometimes happens that too close an atten. tion to minute exactness, or a too rigorous habit of examining every thing by the standard of perfection, vitiates the temper, rather than improves the understanding, and teaches the mind to discern faults with unhappy penetration. It is incident likewise to men of vigorous imagination to please themselves too much with futurities, and to fret ber cause those expectations are disappointed, which should never have been formed. Knowledge and genius are often enemies to quiet, by suggesting ideas of excellence, which men and the performances of men cannot attain. But let no man rashly determine, that his unwillingness to be pleased is a proof of understanding, unless his superiority appears from less doubtful evidence; for though peevishness may sometimes justly boast its descent from learning or from wit, is much oftener of base extraction, the child of vanity, and nursling of ignore ance,
N°75. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1750.
Diligitur nemo, nisi cui Fortuna secunda est,
Quæ, simul intonuit, proxima quæque fugat.
TO THE RAMBLER,
SIR, The diligence with which you endeavour to cultivate the knowledge of nature, manners, and life, will perhaps incline you to pay some regard to the observations of one who has been taught to know mankind by unwelcome information, and whose opinions are the result, not of solitary conjectures, but of practice and experience.
Anna Williams, of whom an account is given in the Life ef Dr. Johnson, prefixed to this edition, c.
I was born to a large fortune, and bred to the knowledge of those arts which are supposed to accomplish the mind, and adorn the person of a woman. To these attainments, which custom and edu. cation almost forced upon me, I added some voluntary acquisitions by the use of books, and the conTersation of that species of men whom the ladies generally mention with terrour and aversion under the name of scholars, but whom I have found a ha mless and inoifensive order of beings, not so much wiser than ourselves, but that they may receive as well as communicate knowledge, and more inclined to degrade their own character by coward. ly submission, than to overbear or oppress us with their learning or their wit.
From these men, however, if they are by kind treatment encouraged to talk, something may be gained, which, embellished with elegancy, and sof. tened by modesty, will always add dignity and va. Jue to female conversation; and from my acquaintance with the bookish part of the world I derived many principles of judgment and maxims of pru. dence, by which I was enabled to draw upon myself the general regard in every place of concourse or pleasure. My opinion was the great rule of appro. bation, my remarks were remembered by those who desired the second degree of fame, my mien was studied, my dress was imitated, my letters were handed from one family to another, and read by those who copied them as sent to themselves; my visits were solicited as honours, and multitudes boasted of an intimacy with Melissa, who had only seen me by accident, and whose familiarity had never proceeded beyond the exchange of a compliment, or return of a courtesy...
I shall make no scruple of confessing that I was