Volume I Part 118

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_Mr_. SPECTATOR,

'I am a young Gentleman of a competent Fortune, and a sufficient Taste of Learning, to spend five or six Hours every Day very agreeably among my Books. That I might have nothing to divert me from my Studies, and to avoid the Noises of Coaches and Chair-men, I have taken Lodgings in a very narrow Street, not far from _Whitehall_; but it is my Misfortune to be so posted, that my Lodgings are directly opposite to those of a _Jezebel_. You are to know, Sir, that a _Jezebel_ (so call'd by the Neighbourhood from displaying her pernicious Charms at her Window) appears constantly dress'd at her Sash, and has a thousand little Tricks and Fooleries to attract the Eyes of all the idle young Fellows in the Neighbourhood. I have seen more than six Persons at once from their several Windows observing the _Jezebel_ I am now complaining of. I at first looked on her my self with the highest Contempt, could divert my self with her Airs for half an Hour, and afterwards take up my _Plutarch_ with great Tranquillity of Mind; but was a little vexed to find that in less than a Month she had considerably stoln upon my Time, so that I resolved to look at her no more. But the _Jezebel_, who, as I suppose, might think it a Diminution to her Honour, to have the Number of her Gazers lessen'd, resolved not to part with me so, and began to play so many new Tricks at her Window, that it was impossible for me to forbear observing her.

I verily believe she put her self to the Expence of a new Wax Baby on purpose to plague me; she us'd to dandle and play with this Figure as impertinently as if it had been a real Child: sometimes she would let fall a Glove or a Pin Cushion in the Street, and shut or open her Cas.e.m.e.nt three or four times in a Minute. When I had almost wean'd my self from this, she came in her Shift-Sleeves, and dress'd at the Window. I had no Way left but to let down my Curtains, which I submitted to, though it considerably darkned my Room, and was pleased to think that I had at last got the better of her; but was surpriz'd the next Morning to hear her talking out of her Window quite cross the Street, with another Woman that lodges over me: I am since informed, that she made her a Visit, and got acquainted with her within three Hours after the Fall of my Window Curtains.

Sir, I am plagued every Moment in the Day one way or other in my own Chambers; and the _Jezebel_ has the Satisfaction to know, that, tho' I am not looking at her, I am list'ning to her impertinent Dialogues that pa.s.s over my Head. I would immediately change my Lodgings, but that I think it might look like a plain Confession that I am conquer'd; and besides this, I am told that most Quarters of the Town are infested with these Creatures. If they are so, I am sure 'tis such an Abuse, as a Lover of Learning and Silence ought to take notice of.

_I am, SIR,_ _Yours, &c._'

I am afraid, by some Lines in this Letter, that my young Student is touched with a Distemper which he hardly seems to dream of and is too far gone in it to receive Advice. However, I shall animadvert in due time on the Abuse which he mentions, having my self observed a Nest of _Jezebels_ near the _Temple_, who make it their Diversion to draw up the Eyes of young Templars, that at the same time they may see them stumble in an unlucky Gutter which runs under the Window.

_Mr_. SPECTATOR,

'I have lately read the Conclusion of your forty-seventh Speculation upon _b.u.t.ts_ with great Pleasure, and have ever since been thoroughly perswaded that one of those Gentlemen is extreamly necessary to enliven Conversation. I had an Entertainment last Week upon the Water for a Lady to whom I make my Addresses, with several of our Friends of both s.e.xes. To divert the Company in general, and to shew my Mistress in particular my Genius for Raillery, I took one of the most celebrated _b.u.t.ts_ in Town along with me. It is with the utmost Shame and Confusion that I must acquaint you with the Sequel of my Adventure: As soon as we were got into the Boat, I played a Sentence or two at my _b.u.t.t_ which I thought very smart, when my ill Genius, who I verily believe inspir'd him purely for my Destruction, suggested to him such a Reply, as got all the Laughter on his Side. I was clashed at so unexpected a Turn; which the _b.u.t.t_ perceiving, resolved not to let me recover my self, and pursuing his Victory, rallied and tossed me in a most unmerciful and barbarous manner 'till we came to _Chelsea_. I had some small Success while we were eating Cheese-Cakes; but coming Home, he renewed his Attacks with his former good Fortune, and equal Diversion to the whole Company. In short, Sir, I must ingenuously own that I was never so handled in all my Life; and to compleat my Misfortune, I am since told that the _b.u.t.t_, flushed with his late Victory, has made a Visit or two to the dear Object of my Wishes, so that I am at once in danger of losing all my Pretensions to Wit, and my Mistress [into [1]] the Bargain. This, Sir, is a true Account of my present Troubles, which you are the more obliged to a.s.sist me in, as you were your self in a great measure the Cause of them, by recommending to us an Instrument, and not instructing us at the same time how to play upon it.

I have been thinking whether it might not be highly convenient, that all _b.u.t.ts_ should wear an Inscription affixed to some Part of their Bodies, shewing on which Side they are to be come at, and that if any of them are Persons of unequal Tempers, there should be some Method taken to inform the World at what Time it is safe to attack them, and when you had best to let them alone. But, submitting these Matters to your more serious Consideration,

_I am, SIR,_ _Yours, &c._'

I have, indeed, seen and heard of several young Gentlemen under the same Misfortune with my present Correspondent. The best Rule I can lay down for them to avoid the like Calamities for the future, is thoroughly to consider not only _Whether their Companions are weak_, but _Whether themselves are Wits_.

The following Letter comes to me from _Exeter_, and being credibly informed that what it contains is Matter of Fact, I shall give it my Reader as it was sent me.

_Mr_. SPECTATOR,

_Exeter, Sept_. 7.

'You were pleased in a late Speculation to take notice of the Inconvenience we lie under in the Country, in not being able to keep Pace with the Fashion: But there is another Misfortune which we are subject to, and is no less grievous than the former, which has. .h.i.therto escaped your Observation. I mean, the having Things palmed upon us for _London_ Fashions, which were never once heard of there.

A Lady of this Place had some time since a Box of the newest Ribbons sent down by the Coach: Whether it was her own malicious Invention, or the Wantonness of a _London_ Milliner, I am not able to inform you; but, among the rest, there was one Cherry-coloured Ribbon, consisting of about half a Dozen Yards, made up in the Figure of a small Head-Dress. The foresaid Lady had the a.s.surance to affirm, amidst a Circle of Female Inquisitors, who were present at the opening of the Box, that this was the newest Fashion worn at Court. Accordingly the next _Sunday_ we had several Females, who came to Church with their Heads dress'd wholly in Ribbons, and looked like so many Victims ready to be Sacrificed. This is still a reigning Mode among us. At the same time we have a Set of Gentlemen who take the Liberty to appear in all Publick Places without any b.u.t.tons to their Coats, which they supply with several little Silver Hasps, tho' our freshest Advices from _London_ make no mention of any such Fashion; and we are something shy of affording Matter to the b.u.t.ton-Makers for a second Pet.i.tion. [2]

What I would humbly propose to the Publick is, that there may be a Society erected in _London_, to consist of the most skilful Persons of both s.e.xes, for the _Inspection of Modes and Fashions_; and that hereafter no Person or Persons shall presume to appear singularly habited in any Part of the Country, without a Testimonial from the foresaid Society, that their Dress is answerable to the Mode at _London_. By this means, Sir, we shall know a little whereabout we are.

If you could bring this Matter to bear, you would very much oblige great Numbers of your Country Friends, and among the rest,

_Your very Humble Servant_, Jack Modish.

X.

[Footnote 1: in]

[Footnote 2: In 1609 the b.u.t.ton-Makers sent a pet.i.tion to Parliament, which produced the Act of the 8th year of Anne (1709), framed because

'the maintenance and subsistence of many thousands of men, women and children depends upon the making of silk, mohair, gimp, and thread b.u.t.tons, and b.u.t.ton-holes with the needle,' and these have been ruined by 'a late unforeseen practice of making and binding b.u.t.ton-holes with cloth, serge,' &c.]

No. 176. Friday, September 21, 1711. Steele.

'Parvula, pumilio, [Greek: charit_on mia], lota merum Sal.'

Luc.

There are in the following Letter Matters, which I, a Batchelor, cannot be supposed to be acquainted with; therefore shall not pretend to explain upon it till further Consideration, but leave the Author of the Epistle to express his Condition his own Way.

_Mr_. SPECTATOR.

'I do not deny but you appear in many of your Papers to understand Human Life pretty well; but there are very many Things which you cannot possibly have a true Notion of, in a single Life; these are such as respect the married State; otherwise I cannot account for your having overlooked a very good Sort of People, which are commonly called in Scorn the _Henpeckt_. You are to understand that I am one of those innocent Mortals who suffer Derision under that Word for being governed by the best of Wives. It would be worth your Consideration to enter into the Nature of Affection it self, and tell us, according to your Philosophy, why it is that our Dears shall do what they will with us, shall be froward, ill-natured, a.s.suming, sometimes whine, at others rail, then swoon away, then come to Life, have the Use of Speech to the greatest Fluency imaginable, and then sink away again, and all because they fear we do not love them enough: that is, the poor things love us so heartily, that they cannot think it possible we should be able to love them in so great a Degree, which makes them take on so. I say, Sir, a true good-natured Man, whom Rakes and Libertines call _Hen-peckt_, shall fall into all these different Moods with his dear Life, and at the same time see they are wholly put on; and yet not be hard-hearted enough to tell the dear good Creature that she is an Hypocrite. This sort of good Man is very frequent in the populous and wealthy City of _London_, and is the true _Hen-peckt_ Man; the kind Creature cannot break through his Kindnesses so far as to come to an Explanation with the tender Soul, and therefore goes on to comfort her when nothing ails her, to appease her when she is not angry, and to give her his Cash when he knows she does not want it; rather than be uneasy for a whole Month, which is computed by hard-hearted Men the s.p.a.ce of Time which a froward Woman takes to come to her self, if you have Courage to stand out.

There are indeed several other Species of the _Hen-peckt_, and in my Opinion they are certainly the best Subjects the Queen has; and for that Reason I take it to be your Duty to keep us above Contempt.

I do not know whether I make my self understood in the Representation of an Hen-peckt Life, but I shall take leave to give you an Account of my self, and my own Spouse. You are to know that I am reckoned no Fool, have on several Occasions been tried whether I will take ill Usage, and yet the Event has been to my Advantage; and yet there is not such a Slave in _Turkey_ as I am to my Dear. She has a good Share of Wit, and is what you call a very pretty agreeable Woman. I perfectly doat on her, and my Affection to her gives me all the Anxieties imaginable but that of Jealousy. My being thus confident of her, I take, as much as I can judge of my Heart, to be the Reason, that whatever she does, tho' it be never so much against my Inclination, there is still left something in her Manner that is amiable. She will sometimes look at me with an a.s.sumed Grandeur, and pretend to resent that I have not had Respect enough for her Opinion in such an Instance in Company. I cannot but smile at the pretty Anger she is in, and then she pretends she is used like a Child. In a Word, our great Debate is, which has the Superiority in point of Understanding. She is eternally forming an Argument of Debate; to which I very indolently answer, Thou art mighty pretty. To this she answers, All the World but you think I have as much Sense as your self. I repeat to her, Indeed you are pretty. Upon this there is no Patience; she will throw down any thing about her, stamp and pull off her Head-Cloaths. Fie, my Dear, say I; how can a Woman of your Sense fall into such an intemperate Rage? This is an Argument which never fails. Indeed, my Dear, says she, you make me mad sometimes, so you do, with the silly Way you have of treating me like a pretty Idiot.

Well, what have I got by putting her into good Humour? Nothing, but that I must convince her of my good Opinion by my Practice; and then I am to give her Possession of my little Ready Money, and, for a Day and half following, dislike all she dislikes, and extol every thing she approves. I am so exquisitely fond of this Darling, that I seldom see any of my Friends, am uneasy in all Companies till I see her again; and when I come home she is in the Dumps, because she says she is sure I came so soon only because I think her handsome. I dare not upon this Occasion laugh; but tho' I am one of the warmest Churchmen in the Kingdom, I am forced to rail at the Times, because she is a violent Whig. Upon this we talk Politicks so long, that she is convinc'd I kiss her for her Wisdom. It is a common Practice with me to ask her some Question concerning the Const.i.tution, which she answers me in general out of _Harington's Oceana_ [1]: Then I commend her strange Memory, and her Arm is immediately lock'd in mine. While I keep her in this Temper she plays before me, sometimes dancing in the Midst of the Room, sometimes striking an Air at her Spinnet, varying her Posture and her Charms in such a Manner that I am in continual Pleasure: She will play the Fool if I allow her to be wise; but if she suspects I like her for [her] Trifling, she immediately grows grave.

These are the Toils in which I am taken, and I carry off my Servitude as well as most Men; but my Application to you is in Behalf of the _Hen-peckt_ in general, and I desire a Dissertation from you in Defence of us. You have, as I am informed, very good Authorities in our Favour, and hope you will not omit the mention of the Renowned _Socrates_, and his Philosophick Resignation to his Wife _Xantippe_.

This would be a very good Office to the World in general, for the _Hen-peckt_ are powerful in their Quality and Numbers, not only in Cities but in Courts; in the latter they are ever the most obsequious, in the former the most wealthy of all Men. When you have considered Wedlock throughly, you ought to enter into the Suburbs of Matrimony, and give us an Account of the Thraldom of kind Keepers and irresolute Lovers; the Keepers who cannot quit their Fair Ones tho' they see their approaching Ruin; the Lovers who dare not marry, tho' they know they never shall be happy without the Mistresses whom they cannot purchase on other Terms.

What will be a great Embellishment to your Discourse, will be, that you may find Instances of the Haughty, the Proud, the Frolick, the Stubborn, who are each of them in secret downright Slaves to their Wives or Mistresses. I must beg of you in the last Place to dwell upon this, That the Wise and Valiant in all Ages have been _Hen-peckt_: and that the st.u.r.dy Tempers who are not Slaves to Affection, owe that Exemption to their being enthralled by Ambition, Avarice, or some meaner Pa.s.sion. I have ten thousand thousand Things more to say, but my Wife sees me Writing, and will, according to Custom, be consulted, if I do not seal this immediately.

_Yours_, T. Nathaniel Henroost.'

[Footnote 1: The 'Oceana' is an ideal of an English Commonwealth, written by James Harrington, after the execution of Charles I. It was published in 1656, having for a time been stopped at press by Cromwell's government. After the Restoration, Harrington was sent to the Tower by Charles II. on a false accusation of conspiracy. Removed to Plymouth, he there lost his health and some part of his reason, which he did not regain before his death, in 1677, at the age of 66. His book argues that Empire follows the balance of property, which, since Henry VII.'s time, had been daily falling into the scale of the Commons from that of the King and Lords. In the 'Oceana' other theories of government are discussed before Harrington elaborates his own, and English history appears under disguise of names, William the Conqueror being called Turbo; King John, Adoxus; Richard II., Dicotome; Henry VII., Panurgus; Henry VIII., Coraunus; Queen Elizabeth, Parthenia; James I., Morpheus; and Oliver Cromwell, Olphaus Megaletor. Scotland is Marpesia, and Ireland, Panopaea. A careful edition of Harrington's 'Oceana' and other of his works, edited by John Toland, had been produced in 1700.]

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