No. 254. Friday, December 21, 1711. Steele.

[Greek: Semnòs érôs aretaes, ho dè kyprídos áchos ophéllei.]

When I consider the false Impressions which are received by the Generality of the World, I am troubled at none more than a certain Levity of Thought, which many young Women of Quality have entertained, to the Hazard of their Characters, and the certain Misfortune of their Lives. The first of the following Letters may best represent the Faults I would now point at, and the Answer to it the Temper of Mind in a contrary Character.

My dear Harriot,

If thou art she, but oh how fallen, how changed, what an Apostate! how lost to all that's gay and agreeable! To be married I find is to be buried alive; I cant conceive it more dismal to be shut up in a Vault to converse with the Shades of my Ancestors, than to be carried down to an old Manor-House in the Country, and confined to the Conversation of a sober Husband and an awkward Chamber-maid. For Variety I suppose you may entertain yourself with Madam in her Grogram Gown, the Spouse of your Parish Vicar, who has by this time I am sure well furnished you with Receipts for making Salves and Possets, distilling Cordial Waters, making Syrups, and applying Poultices.

Blest Solitude! I wish thee Joy, my Dear, of thy loved Retirement, which indeed you would perswade me is very agreeable, and different enough from what I have here described: But, Child, I am afraid thy Brains are a little disordered with Romances and Novels: After six Months Marriage to hear thee talk of Love, and paint the Country Scenes so softly, is a little extravagant; one would think you lived the Lives of Sylvan Deities, or roved among the Walks of Paradise, like the first happy Pair. But prythee leave these Whimsies, and come to Town in order to live and talk like other Mortals. However, as I am extremely interested in your Reputation, I would willingly give you a little good Advice at your first Appearance under the Character of a married Woman: Tis a little Insolence in me perhaps, to advise a Matron; but I am so afraid you'll make so silly a Figure as a fond Wife, that I cannot help warning you not to appear in any publick Places with your Husband, and never to saunter about St. James's Park together: If you presume to enter the Ring at Hide-Park together, you are ruined for ever; nor must you take the least notice of one another at the Play-house or Opera, unless you would be laughed at for a very loving Couple most happily paired in the Yoke of Wedlock. I would recommend the Example of an Acquaintance of ours to your Imitation; she is the most negligent and fashionable Wife in the World; she is hardly ever seen in the same Place with her Husband, and if they happen to meet, you would think them perfect Strangers: She never was heard to name him in his Absence, and takes care he shall never be the Subject of any Discourse that she has a Share in. I hope you' propose this Lady as a Pattern, tho I am very much afraid you'll be so silly to think Portia, &c. Sabine and Roman Wives much brighter Examples. I wish it may never come into your Head to imitate those antiquated Creatures so far, as to come into Publick in the Habit as well as Air of a Roman Matron. You make already the Entertainment at Mrs. Modish's Tea-Table; she says, she always thought you a discreet Person, and qualified to manage a Family with admirable Prudence: she dies to see what demure and serious Airs Wedlock has given you, but she says she shall never forgive your Choice of so gallant a Man as Bellamour to transform him to a meer sober Husband; twas unpardonable: You see, my Dear, we all envy your Happiness, and no Person more than Your humble Servant, Lydia.

Be not in pain, good Madam, for my Appearance in Town; I shall frequent no publick Places, or make any Visits where the Character of a modest Wife is ridiculous. As for your wild Raillery on Matrimony, tis all Hypocrisy; you, and all the handsome young Women of our Acquaintance, shew yourselves to no other Purpose than to gain a Conquest over some Man of Worth, in order to bestow your Charms and Fortune on him. There's no Indecency in the Confession, the Design is modest and honourable, and all your Affectation cant disguise it.

I am married, and have no other Concern but to please the Man I Love; he's the End of every Care I have; if I dress, tis for him; if I read a Poem or a Play, tis to qualify myself for a Conversation agreeable to his Taste: He's almost the End of my Devotions; half my Prayers are for his Happiness. I love to talk of him, and never hear him named but with Pleasure and Emotion. I am your Friend, and wish your Happiness, but am sorry to see by the Air of your Letter that there are a Set of Women who are got into the Common-Place Raillery of every Thing that is sober, decent, and proper: Matrimony and the Clergy are the Topicks of People of little Wit and no Understanding. I own to you, I have learned of the Vicars Wife all you tax me with: She is a discreet, ingenious, pleasant, pious Woman; I wish she had the handling of you and Mrs. Modish; you would find, if you were too free with her, she would soon make you as charming as ever you were, she would make you blush as much as if you had never been fine Ladies. The Vicar, Madam, is so kind as to visit my Husband, and his agreeable Conversation has brought him to enjoy many sober happy Hours when even I am shut out, and my dear Master is entertained only with his own Thoughts. These Things, dear Madam, will be lasting Satisfactions, when the fine Ladies, and the Coxcombs by whom they form themselves, are irreparably ridiculous, ridiculous in old Age. I am, Madam, your most humble Servant, Mary Home.

Dear Mr. SPECTATOR, You have no Goodness in the World, and are not in earnest in any thing you say that is serious, if you do not send me a plain Answer to this: I happened some Days past to be at the Play, where during the Time of Performance, I could not keep my Eyes off from a beautiful young Creature who sat just before me, and who I have been since informed has no Fortune. It would utterly ruin my Reputation for Discretion to marry such a one, and by what I can learn she has a Character of great Modesty, so that there is nothing to be thought on any other Way. My Mind has ever since been so wholly bent on her, that I am much in danger of doing something very extravagant without your speedy Advice to,

SIR, Your most humble Servant.

I am sorry I cannot answer this impatient Gentleman, but by another Question.

Dear Correspondent, Would you marry to please other People, or your self?


Translation of motto:
Frag. Vet. Poet.
'Virtuous love is honourable, but lust increaseth sorrow.'