No. 354. Wednesday, April 16, 1712. Steele.

--Cum magnis virtutibus affers Grande supercilium--


You have in some of your Discourses describ'd most sorts of Women in their distinct and proper Classes, as the Ape, the Coquet, and many others; but I think you have never yet said anything of a Devotée. A Devotée is one of those who disparage Religion by their indiscreet and unseasonable introduction of the Mention of Virtue on all Occasion[s]: She professes she is what nobody ought to doubt she is; and betrays the Labour she is put to, to be what she ought to be with Chearfulness and Alacrity. She lives in the World, and denies her self none of the Diversions of it, with a constant Declaration how insipid all things in it are to her. She is never her self but at Church; there she displays her Virtue, and is so fervent in her Devotions, that I have frequently seen her Pray her self out of Breath. While other young Ladies in the House are dancing, or playing at Questions and Commands, she reads aloud in her Closet. She says all Love is ridiculous, except it be Celestial; but she speaks of the Passion of one Mortal to another with too much Bitterness, for one that had no Jealousy mixed with her Contempt of it. If at any time she sees a Man warm in his Addresses to his Mistress, she will lift up her Eyes to Heaven, and cry, What Nonsense is that Fool talking? Will the Bell never ring for Prayers? We have an eminent Lady of this Stamp in our Country, who pretends to Amusements very much above the rest of her Sex. She never carries a white Shock-dog with Bells under her Arm, nor a Squirrel or Dormouse in her Pocket, but always an abridg'd Piece of Morality to steal out when she is sure of being observ'd. When she went to the famous Ass-Race (which I must confess was but an odd Diversion to be encouraged by People of Rank and Figure) it was not, like other Ladies, to hear those poor Animals bray, nor to see Fellows run naked, or to hear Country Squires in bob Wigs and white Girdles make love at the side of a Coach, and cry, Madam, this is dainty Weather. Thus she described the Diversion; for she went only to pray heartily that no body might be hurt in the Crowd, and to see if the poor Fellows Face, which was distorted with grinning, might any way be brought to it self again. She never chats over her Tea, but covers her Face, and is supposed in an Ejaculation before she taste[s] a Sup. This ostentatious Behaviour is such an Offence to true Sanctity, that it disparages it, and makes Virtue not only unamiable, but also ridiculous. The Sacred Writings are full of Reflections which abhor this kind of Conduct; and a Devotée is so far from promoting Goodness, that she deters others by her Example. Folly and Vanity in one of these Ladies, is like Vice in a Clergyman; it does not only debase him, but makes the inconsiderate Part of the World think the worse of Religion.

I am, SIR,

Your Humble Servant,



Xenophon, in his short Account of the Spartan Commonwealth, [1] speaking of the Behavior of their young Men in the Streets, says, There was so much Modesty in their Looks, that you might as soon have turned the eyes of a Marble Statue upon you as theirs; and that in all their Behaviour they were more modest than a Bride when put to bed upon her Wedding-Night: This Virtue, which is always join'd to Magnanimity, had such an influence upon their Courage, that in Battel an Enemy could not look them in the Face, and they durst not but Die for their Country.

Whenever I walk into the Streets of London and Westminster, the Countenances of all the young Fellows that pass by me, make me wish my self in Sparta; I meet with such blustering Airs, big Looks, and bold Fronts, that to a superficial Observer would bespeak a Courage above those Grecians. I am arrived to that Perfection in Speculation, that I understand the Language of the Eyes, which would be a great misfortune to me, had I not corrected the Testiness of old Age by Philosophy. There is scarce a Man in a red Coat who does not tell me, with a full Stare, he's a bold Man: I see several swear inwardly at me, without any Offence of mine, but the Oddness of my Person: I meet Contempt in every Street, express'd in different Manners, by the scornful Look, the elevated Eye-brow, and the swelling Nostrils of the Proud and Prosperous. The Prentice speaks his Disrespect by an extended Finger, and the Porter by stealing out his Tongue. If a Country Gentleman appears a little curious in observing the Edifices, Signs, Clocks, Coaches, and Dials, it is not to be imagined how the Polite Rabble of this Town, who are acquainted with these Objects, ridicule his Rusticity. I have known a Fellow with a Burden on his Head steal a Hand down from his Load, and slily twirle the Cock of a Squires Hat behind him; while the Offended Person is swearing, or out of Countenance, all the Wagg-Wits in the High-way are grinning in applause of the ingenious Rogue that gave him the Tip, and the Folly of him who had not Eyes all round his Head to prevent receiving it. These things arise from a general Affectation of Smartness, Wit, and Courage. Wycherly somewhere [2] rallies the Pretensions this Way, by making a Fellow say, Red Breeches are a certain Sign of Valour; and Otway makes a Man, to boast his Agility, trip up a Beggar on Crutches [3]. From such Hints I beg a Speculation on this Subject; in the mean time I shall do all in the Power of a weak old Fellow in my own Defence: for as Diogenes, being in quest of an honest Man, sought for him when it was broad Day-light with a Lanthorn and Candle, so I intend for the future to walk the Streets with a dark Lanthorn, which has a convex Chrystal in it; and if any Man stares at me, I give fair Warning that Ill direct the Light full into his Eyes. Thus despairing to find Men Modest, I hope by this Means to evade their Impudence, I am, SIR, Your most humble Servant, Sophrosunius.


[Footnote 1: The Polity of Lacedæmon and the Polity of Athens were two of Xenophons short treatises. In the Polity of Lacedæmon the Spartan code of law and social discipline is, as Mr. Mure says in his Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece,

indiscriminately held up to admiration as superior in all respects to all others. Some of its more offensive features, such as the Cryptia, child murder, and more glaring atrocities of the Helot system, are suppressed; while the legalized thieving, adultery, and other unnatural practices, are placed in the most favourable or least odious light.]

[Footnote 2: In the Plain Dealer, Act II. sc. I.

Novel (a pert railing coxcomb). These sea captains make nothing of dressing. But let me tell you, sir, a man by his dress, as much as by anything, shows his wit and judgment; nay, and his courage too.

Freeman. How, his courage, Mr. Novel?

Novel. Why, for example, by red breeches, tucked-up hair, or peruke, a greasy broad belt, and now-a-days a short sword.]

[Footnote 3: In his Friendship in Fashion, Act III. sc. i

Malagene. I tell you what I did tother Day: Faith't is as good a Jest as ever you heard.

Valentine. Pray, sir, do.

Mal. Why, walking alone, a lame Fellow follow'd me and ask'd my Charity (which by the way was a pretty Proposition to me). Being in one of my witty, merry Fits, I ask'd him how long he had been in that Condition? The poor Fellow shook his Head, and told me he was born so. But how dye think I served him?

Val. Nay, the Devil knows.

Mal. I show'd my Parts, I think; for I tripp'd up both his Wooden Legs, and walk'd off gravely about my Business.

Truman. And this you say is your way of Wit?

Mal. Ay, altogether, this and Mimickry. I'm a very good Mimick; I can act Punchinello, Scaramoucho, Harlequin, Prince Prettyman, or anything. I can act the rumbling of a Wheel-barrow.

Val. The rumbling of a Wheelbarrow!

Mal. Ay, the rumbling of a Wheelbarrow, so I say. Nay, more than that, I can act a Sow and Pigs, Sausages a broiling, a Shoulder of Mutton a roasting: I can act a Fly in a Honey-pot.

Trum. That indeed must be the effect of very curious Observation.

Mal. No, hang it, I never make it my Business to observe anything, that is Mechanick.]

Translation of motto:
JUV. Sat. vi. 168.
'Their signal virtues hardly can be borne,
Dash'd as they are with supercilious scorn.'