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

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

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.


'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, assuming, 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 Space 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 assumed 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 Constitution, 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 sturdy Tempers who are not Slaves to Affection, owe that Exemption to their being enthralled by Ambition, Avarice, or some meaner Passion. 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, Panopáa. A careful edition of Harrington's 'Oceana' and other of his works, edited by John Toland, had been produced in 1700.]

Translation of motto:
LUCR. iv. 1155.
'A little, pretty, witty, charming she!'