No. 154. Monday, August 27, 1711. Steele.

Nemo repente fuit turpissimus ...'


'You are frequent in the mention of Matters which concern the feminine World, and take upon you to be very severe against Men upon all those Occasions: But all this while I am afraid you have been very little conversant with Women, or you would know the generality of them are not so angry as you imagine at the general Vices [among [1]] us. I am apt to believe (begging your Pardon) that you are still what I my self was once, a queer modest Fellow; and therefore, for your Information, shall give you a short Account of my self, and the Reasons why I was forced to wench, drink, play, and do every thing which are necessary to the Character of a Man of Wit and Pleasure, to be well with the Ladies.

You are to know then that I was bred a Gentleman, and had the finishing Part of my Education under a Man of great Probity, Wit, and Learning, in one of our Universities. I will not deny but this made my Behaviour and Mein bear in it a Figure of Thought rather than Action; and a Man of a quite contrary Character, who never thought in his Life, rallied me one Day upon it, and said, He believed I was still a Virgin. There was a young Lady of Virtue present, and I was not displeased to favour the Insinuation; but it had a quite contrary Effect from what I expected. I was ever after treated with great Coldness both by that Lady and all the rest of my Acquaintance. In a very little time I never came into a Room but I could hear a Whisper, Here comes the Maid: A Girl of Humour would on some [Occasion [2]] say, Why, how do you know more than any of us? An Expression of that kind was generally followed by a loud Laugh: In a word, for no other Fault in the World than that they really thought me as innocent as themselves, I became of no Consequence among them, and was received always upon the Foot of a Jest. This made so strong an Impression upon me, that I resolved to be as agreeable as the best of the Men who laugh'd at me; but I observed it was Nonsense for me to be Impudent at first among those who knew me: My Character for Modesty was so notorious wherever I had hitherto appeared, that I resolved to shew my new Face in new Quarters of the World. My first Step I chose with Judgment; for I went to Astrop, [3] and came down among a Crowd of Academicks, at one Dash, the impudentest Fellow they had ever seen in their Lives. Flushed with this Success, I made Love and was happy. Upon this Conquest I thought it would be unlike a Gentleman to stay longer with my Mistress, and crossed the Country to Bury: I could give you a very good Account of my self at that Place also. At these two ended my first Summer of Gallantry. The Winter following, you would wonder at it, but I relapsed into Modesty upon coming among People of Figure in London, yet not so much but that the Ladies who had formerly laughed at me, said, Bless us! how wonderfully that Gentleman is improved? Some Familiarities about the Play-houses towards the End of the ensuing Winter, made me conceive new Hopes of Adventures; and instead of returning the next Summer to Astrop or Bury, [4] I thought my self qualified to go to Epsom, and followed a young Woman, whose Relations were jealous of my Place in her Favour, to Scarborough. I carried my Point, and in my third Year aspired to go to Tunbridge, and in the Autumn of the same Year made my Appearance at Bath. I was now got into the Way of Talk proper for Ladies, and was run into a vast Acquaintance among them, which I always improved to the best Advantage. In all this Course of Time, and some Years following, I found a sober modest Man was always looked upon by both Sexes as a precise unfashioned Fellow of no Life or Spirit. It was ordinary for a Man who had been drunk in good Company, or passed a Night with a Wench, to speak of it next Day before Women for whom he had the greatest Respect. He was reproved, perhaps, with a Blow of the Fan, or an Oh Fie, but the angry Lady still preserved an apparent Approbation in her Countenance: He was called a strange wicked Fellow, a sad Wretch; he shrugs his Shoulders, swears, receives another Blow, swears again he did not know he swore, and all was well. You might often see Men game in the Presence of Women, and throw at once for more than they were worth, to recommend themselves as Men of Spirit. I found by long Experience that the loosest Principles and most abandoned Behaviour, carried all before them in Pretensions to Women of Fortune. The Encouragement given to People of this Stamp, made me soon throw off the remaining Impressions of a sober Education. In the above-mentioned Places, as well as in Town, I always kept Company with those who lived most at large; and in due Process of Time I was a pretty Rake among the Men, and a very pretty Fellow among the Women. I must confess, I had some melancholy Hours upon the Account of the Narrowness of my Fortune, but my Conscience at the same time gave me the Comfort that I had qualified my self for marrying a Fortune.

When I had lived in this manner for some time, and became thus accomplished, I was now in the twenty seventh Year of my Age, and about the Forty seventh of my Constitution, my Health and Estate wasting very fast; when I happened to fall into the Company of a very pretty young Lady in her own Disposal. I entertained the Company, as we Men of Gallantry generally do, with the many Haps and Disasters, Watchings under Windows, Escapes from jealous Husbands, and several other Perils. The young Thing was wonderfully charmed with one that knew the World so well, and talked so fine; with Desdemona, all her Lover said affected her; it was strange,'twas wondrous strange. In a word, I saw the Impression I had made upon her, and with a very little Application the pretty Thing has married me. There is so much Charm in her Innocence and Beauty, that I do now as much detest the Course I have been in for many Years, as I ever did before I entred into it.

What I intend, Mr. SPECTATOR, by writing all this to you, is that you would, before you go any further with your Panegyricks on the Fair Sex, give them some Lectures upon their silly Approbations. It is that I am weary of Vice, and that it was not my natural Way, that I am now so far recovered as not to bring this believing dear Creature to Contempt and Poverty for her Generosity to me. At the same time tell the Youth of good Education of our Sex, that they take too little Care of improving themselves in little things: A good Air at entring into a Room, a proper Audacity in expressing himself with Gaiety and Gracefulness, would make a young Gentleman of Virtue and Sense capable of discountenancing the shallow impudent Rogues that shine among the Women.

Mr. SPECTATOR, I don't doubt but you are a very sagacious Person, but you are so great with Tully of late, that I fear you will contemn these Things as Matters of no Consequence: But believe me, Sir, they are of the highest Importance to Human Life; and if you can do any thing towards opening fair Eyes, you will lay an Obligation upon all your Contemporaries who are Fathers, Husbands, or Brothers to Females.

Your most affectionate humble Servant, Simon Honeycomb.


[Footnote 1: amongst]

[Footnote 2: Occasions]

[Footnote 3: A small Spa, in Northamptonshire, upon the Oxford border. From Astrop to Bath the scale of fashion rises.]

[Footnote 4: Bury Fair and Epsom Wells gave titles to two of Shadwell's Comedies.]

Translation of motto:
JUV. Sat. ii. 83.
'No man e'er reach'd the heights of vice at first.'