No. 295. Thursday, February 7, 1712. Addison.

Prodiga non sentit pereuntem fæmina censum: At velut exhaustâ redivivus pullulet arcâ Nummus, et è pleno semper tollatur acervo, Non unquam reputat quanti sibi gandia constent.


I am turned of my great Climacteric, and am naturally a Man of a meek Temper. About a dozen Years ago I was married, for my Sins, to a young Woman of a good Family, and of an high Spirit; but could not bring her to close with me, before I had entered into a Treaty with her longer than that of the Grand Alliance. Among other Articles, it was therein stipulated, that she should have £400 a Year for Pin-money, which I obliged my self to pay Quarterly into the hands of one who had acted as her Plenipotentiary in that Affair. I have ever since religiously observed my part in this solemn Agreement. Now, Sir, so it is, that the Lady has had several Children since I married her; to which, if I should credit our malicious Neighbours, her Pin-money has not a little contributed. The Education of these my Children, who, contrary to my Expectation, are born to me every Year, streightens me so much, that I have begged their Mother to free me from the Obligation of the above-mentioned Pin-money, that it may go towards making a Provision for her Family. This Proposal makes her noble Blood swell in her Veins, insomuch that finding me a little tardy in her last Quarters Payment, she threatens me every Day to arrest me; and proceeds so far as to tell me, that if I do not do her Justice, I shall die in a Jayl. To this she adds, when her Passion will let her argue calmly, that she has several Play-Debts on her Hand, which must be discharged very suddenly, and that she cannot lose her Money as becomes a Woman of her Fashion, if she makes me any Abatements in this Article. I hope, Sir, you will take an Occasion from hence to give your Opinion upon a Subject which you have not yet touched, and inform us if there are any Precedents for this Usage among our Ancestors; or whether you find any mention of Pin-money in Grotius, Puffendorf, or any other of the Civilians.

I am ever the humblest of your Admirers, Josiah Fribble, Esq.

As there is no Man living who is a more professed Advocate for the Fair Sex than my self, so there is none that would be more unwilling to invade any of their ancient Rights and Privileges; but as the Doctrine of Pin-money is of a very late Date, unknown to our Great Grandmothers, and not yet received by many of our Modern Ladies, I think it is for the Interest of both Sexes to keep it from spreading.

Mr. Fribble may not, perhaps, be much mistaken where he intimates, that the supplying a Man's Wife with Pin-money, is furnishing her with Arms against himself, and in a manner becoming accessary to his own Dishonour. We may indeed, generally observe, that in proportion as a Woman is more or less Beautiful, and her Husband advanced in Years, she stands in need of a greater or less number of Pins, and upon a Treaty of Marriage, rises or falls in her Demands accordingly. It must likewise be owned, that high Quality in a Mistress does very much inflame this Article in the Marriage Reckoning.

But where the Age and Circumstances of both Parties are pretty much upon a level, I cannot but think the insisting upon Pin-money is very extraordinary; and yet we find several Matches broken off upon this very Head. What would a Foreigner, or one who is a Stranger to this Practice, think of a Lover that forsakes his Mistress, because he is not willing to keep her in Pins; but what would he think of the Mistress, should he be informed that she asks five or six hundred Pounds a Year for this use? Should a Man unacquainted with our Customs be told the Sums which are allowed in Great Britain, under the Title of Pin-money, what a prodigious Consumption of Pins would he think there was in this Island? A Pin a Day, says our frugal Proverb, is a Groat a Year, so that according to this Calculation, my Friend Fribbles Wife must every Year make use of Eight Millions six hundred and forty thousand new Pins.

I am not ignorant that our British Ladies allege they comprehend under this general Term several other Conveniencies of Life; I could therefore wish, for the Honour of my Countrywomen, that they had rather called it Needle-Money, which might have implied something of Good-housewifry, and not have given the malicious World occasion to think, that Dress and Trifles have always the uppermost Place in a Woman's Thoughts.

I know several of my fair Reasoners urge, in defence of this Practice, that it is but a necessary Provision they make for themselves, in case their Husband proves a Churl or a Miser; so that they consider this Allowance as a kind of Alimony, which they may lay their Claim to, without actually separating from their Husbands. But with Submission, I think a Woman who will give up her self to a Man in Marriage, where there is the least Room for such an Apprehension, and trust her Person to one whom she will not rely on for the common Necessaries of Life, may very properly be accused (in the Phrase of an homely Proverb) of being Penny wise and Pound foolish.

It is observed of over-cautious Generals, that they never engage in a Battel without securing a Retreat, in case the Event should not answer their Expectations; on the other hand, the greatest Conquerors have burnt their Ships, or broke down the Bridges behind them, as being determined either to succeed or die in the Engagement. In the same manner I should very much suspect a Woman who takes such Precautions for her Retreat, and contrives Methods how she may live happily, without the Affection of one to whom she joins herself for Life. Separate Purses between Man and Wife are, in my Opinion, as unnatural as separate Beds. A Marriage cannot be happy, where the Pleasures, Inclinations, and Interests of both Parties are not the same. There is no greater Incitement to Love in the Mind of Man, than the Sense of a Persons depending upon him for her Ease and Happiness; as a Woman uses all her Endeavours to please the Person whom she looks upon as her Honour, her Comfort, and her Support.

For this Reason I am not very much surprized at the Behaviour of a rough Country Squire, who, being not a little shocked at the Proceeding of a young Widow that would not recede from her Demands of Pin-money, was so enraged at her mercenary Temper, that he told her in great Wrath, As much as she thought him her Slave, he would shew all the World he did not care a Pin for her. Upon which he flew out of the Room, and never saw her more.

Socrates, in Plato's Altibiades, says, he was informed by one, who had travelled through Persia, that as he passed over a great Tract of Lands, and enquired what the Name of the Place was, they told him it was the Queens Girdle; to which he adds, that another wide Field which lay by it, was called the Queens Veil; and that in the same Manner there was a large Portion of Ground set aside for every part of Her Majesty's Dress. These Lands might not be improperly called the Queen of Persia's Pin-money.

I remember my Friend Sir ROGER, who I dare say never read this Passage in Plato, told me some time since, that upon his courting the Perverse Widow (of whom I have given an Account in former Papers) he had disposed of an hundred Acres in a Diamond-Ring, which he would have presented her with, had she thought fit to accept it; and that upon her Wedding-Day she should have carried on her Head fifty of the tallest Oaks upon his Estate. He further informed me that he would have given her a Cole-pit to keep her in clean Linnen, that he would have allowed her the Profits of a Windmill for her Fans, and have presented her once in three Years with the Sheering of his Sheep [for her [1]] Under-Petticoats. To which the Knight always adds, that though he did not care for fine Cloaths himself, there should not have been a Woman in the Country better dressed than my Lady Coverley. Sir ROGER perhaps, may in this, as well as in many other of his Devices, appear something odd and singular, but if the Humour of Pin-money prevails, I think it would be very proper for every Gentleman of an Estate to mark out so many Acres of it under the Title of The Pins.


[Footnote 1: [to keep her in]]

Translation of motto:
JUV. Sat. vi. 361.
'But womankind, that never knows a mean,
Down to the dregs their sinking fortunes drain:
Hourly they give, and spend, and waste, and wear,
And think no pleasure can be bought too dear.'