It is a lamentable thing that every Man is full of Complaints, and constantly uttering Sentences against the Fickleness of Fortune, when People generally bring upon themselves all the Calamities they fall into, and are constantly heaping up Matter for their own Sorrow and Disappointment. That which produces the greatest Part of the [Delusions ] of Mankind, is a false Hope which People indulge with so sanguine a Flattery to themselves, that their Hearts are bent upon fantastical Advantages which they had no Reason to believe should ever have arrived to them. By this unjust Measure of calculating their Happiness, they often mourn with real Affliction for imaginary Losses. When I am talking of this unhappy way of accounting for our selves, I cannot but reflect upon a particular Set of People, who, in their own Favour, resolve every thing that is possible into what is probable, and then reckon on that Probability as on what must certainly happen. WILL. HONEYCOMB, upon my observing his looking on a Lady with some particular Attention, gave me an Account of the great Distresses which had laid waste that her very fine Face, and had given an Air of Melancholy to a very agreeable Person, That Lady, and a couple of Sisters of hers, were, said WILL., fourteen Years ago, the greatest Fortunes about Town; but without having any Loss by bad Tenants, by bad Securities, or any Damage by Sea or Land, are reduced to very narrow Circumstances. They were at that time the most inaccessible haughty Beauties in Town; and their Pretensions to take upon them at that unmerciful rate, was rais'd upon the following Scheme, according to which all their Lovers were answered.
Our Father is a youngish Man, but then our Mother is somewhat older, and not likely to have any Children: His Estate, being £800 per Annum, at 20 Years Purchase, is worth £16,000. Our Uncle who is above 50, has £400 per Annum, which at the foresaid Rate, is £8000. There's a Widow Aunt, who has £10,000 at her own Disposal left by her Husband, and an old Maiden Aunt who has £6000. Then our Fathers Mother has £900 per Annum, which is worth £18,000 and £1000 each of us has of her own, which cant be taken from us. These summ'd up together stand thus.
Fathers 800- 16,000 This equally divided between Uncles 400- 8000 us three amounts to £20,000 Aunts 10,000 each; and Allowance being 6000- 16,000 given for Enlargement upon Grandmother 900- 18,000 common Fame, we may lawfully Own 1000 each- 3000 pass for £30,000 Fortunes. Total- 61,000
In Prospect of this, and the Knowledge of her own personal Merit, every one was contemptible in their Eyes, and they refus'd those Offers which had been frequently made em. But mark the End: The Mother dies, the Father is married again, and has a Son, on him was entail'd the Fathers, Uncles, and Grand-mothers Estate. This cut off £43,000. The Maiden Aunt married a tall Irishman, and with her went the £6000. The Widow died, and left but enough to pay her Debts and bury her; so that there remained for these three Girls but their own £1000. They had [by] this time passed their Prime, and got on the wrong side of Thirty; and must pass the Remainder of their Days, upbraiding Mankind that they mind nothing but Money, and bewailing that Virtue, Sense and Modesty are had at present in no manner of Estimation.
I mention this Case of Ladies before any other, because it is the most irreparable: For tho Youth is the Time less capable of Reflection, it is in that Sex the only Season in which they can advance their Fortunes. But if we turn our Thoughts to the Men, we see such Crowds of Unhappy from no other Reason, but an ill-grounded Hope, that it is hard to say which they rather deserve, our Pity or Contempt. It is not unpleasant to see a Fellow after grown old in Attendance, and after having passed half a Life in Servitude, call himself the unhappiest of all Men, and pretend to be disappointed because a Courtier broke his Word. He that promises himself any thing but what may naturally arise from his own Property or Labour, and goes beyond the Desire of possessing above two Parts in three even of that, lays up for himself an encreasing Heap of Afflictions and Disappointments. There are but two Means in the World of gaining by other Men, and these are by being either agreeable or considerable. The Generality of Mankind do all things for their own sakes; and when you hope any thing from Persons above you, if you cannot say, I can be thus agreeable or thus serviceable, it is ridiculous to pretend to the Dignity of being unfortunate when they leave you; you were injudicious, in hoping for any other than to be neglected, for such as can come within these Descriptions of being capable to please or serve your Patron, when his Humour or Interests call for their Capacity either way.
It would not methinks be an useless Comparison between the Condition of a Man who shuns all the Pleasures of Life, and of one who makes it his Business to pursue them. Hope in the Recluse makes his Austerities comfortable, while the luxurious Man gains nothing but Uneasiness from his Enjoyments. What is the Difference in the Happiness of him who is macerated by Abstinence, and his who is surfeited with Excess? He who resigns the World, has no Temptation to Envy, Hatred, Malice, Anger, but is in constant Possession of a serene Mind; he who follows the Pleasures of it, which are in their very Nature disappointing, is in constant Search of Care, Solicitude, Remorse, and Confusion.
January the 14th, 1712.
I am a young Woman and have my Fortune to make; for which Reason I come constantly to Church to hear Divine Service, and make Conquests: But one great Hindrance in this my Design, is, that our Clerk, who was once a Gardener, has this Christmas so over-deckt the Church with Greens, that he has quite spoilt my Prospect, insomuch that I have scarce seen the young Baronet I dress at these three Weeks, though we have both been very constant at our Devotions, and don't sit above three Pews off. The Church, as it is now equipt, looks more like a Green-house than a Place of Worship: The middle Isle is a very pretty shady Walk, and the Pews look like so many Arbours of each Side of it. The Pulpit itself has such Clusters of Ivy, Holly, and Rosemary about it, that a light Fellow in our Pew took occasion to say, that the Congregation heard the Word out of a Bush, like Moses. Sir Anthony Loves Pew in particular is so well hedged, that all my Batteries have no Effect. I am obliged to shoot at random among the Boughs, without taking any manner of Aim. Mr. SPECTATOR, unless you'll give Orders for removing these Greens, I shall grow a very awkward Creature at Church, and soon have little else to do there but to say my Prayers. I am in haste,
Dear SIR, Your most Obedient Servant, Jenny Simper.
[Footnote 1: Et nulli rei nisi Poenitentiæ natus. ]
[Footnote 2: Pollutions]Translation of motto: