No. 449. Tuesday, August 5, 1712. Steele

--Tibi scriptus, Matrona, libellus--'

When I reflect upon my Labours for the Publick, I cannot but observe, that Part of the Species, of which I profess my self a Friend and Guardian, is sometimes treated with Severity; that is, there are in my Writings many Descriptions given of ill Persons, and not yet any direct Encomium made of those who are good. When I was convinced of this Error, I could not but immediately call to Mind several of the Fair Sex of my Acquaintance, whose Characters deserve to be transmitted to Posterity in Writings which will long outlive mine. But I do not think that a Reason why I should not give them their Place in my Diurnal as long as it will last. For the Service therefore of my Female Readers, I shall single out some Characters of Maids, Wives and Widows, which deserve the Imitation of the Sex. She who shall lead this small illustrious Number of Heroines shall be the amiable Fidelia.

Before I enter upon the particular Parts of her Character, it is necessary to Preface, that she is the only Child of a decrepid Father, whose Life is bound up in hers. This Gentleman has used Fidelia from her Cradle with all the Tenderness imaginable, and has view'd her growing Perfections with the Partiality of a Parent, that soon thought her accomplished above the Children of all other Men, but never thought she was come to the utmost Improvement of which she her self was capable. This Fondness has had very happy Effects upon his own Happiness, for she reads, she dances, she sings, uses her Spinet and Lute to the utmost Perfection: And the Lady's Use of all these Excellencies, is to divert the old Man in his easie Chair, when he is out of the Pangs of a Chronical Distemper. Fidelia is now in the twenty third Year of her Age; but the Application of many Lovers, her vigorous time of Life, her quick Sense of all that is truly gallant and elegant in the Enjoyment of a plentiful Fortune, are not able to draw her from the Side of her good old Father. Certain it is, that there is no kind of Affection so pure and angelick as that of a Father to a Daughter. He beholds her both with, and without Regard to her Sex. In Love to our Wives there is Desire, to our Sons there is Ambition; but in that to our Daughters, there is something which there are no Words to express. Her Life is designed wholly Domestick, and she is so ready a Friend and Companion, that every thing that passes about a Man, is accompanied with the Idea of her Presence. Her Sex also is naturally so much exposed to Hazard, both as to Fortune and Innocence, that there is, perhaps, a new Cause of Fondness arising from that Consideration also. None but Fathers can have a true Sense of these sort of Pleasures and Sensations; but my Familiarity with the Father of Fidelia, makes me let drop the Words which I have heard him speak, and observe upon his Tenderness towards her.

Fidelia on her Part, as I was going to say, as accomplished as she is, with all her Beauty, Wit, Air, and Mien, employs her whole Time in Care and Attendance upon her Father. How have I been charmed to see one of the most beauteous Women the Age has produced on her Knees helping on an old Man's Slipper! Her filial Regard to him is what she makes her Diversion, her Business, and her Glory. When she was asked by a Friend of her deceased Mother to admit of the Courtship of her Son, she answer'd, That she had a great Respect and Gratitude to her for the Overture in Behalf of one so near to her, but that during her Father's Life, she would admit into her Heart no Value for any thing that should interfere with her Endeavour to make his Remains of Life as happy and easie as could be expected in his Circumstances. The Lady admonished her of the Prime of Life with a Smile; which Fidelia answered with a Frankness that always attends unfeigned Virtue. It is true, Madam, there is to be sure very great Satisfactions to be expected in the Commerce of a Man of Honour, whom one tenderly loves; but I find so much Satisfaction in the Reflection, how much I mitigate a good Man's Pains, whose Welfare depends upon my Assiduity about him, that I wittingly exclude the loose Gratifications of Passion for the solid Reflections of Duty. I know not whether any Man's Wife would be allow'd, and (what I still more fear) I know not whether I, a Wife, should be willing to be as officious as I am at present about my Parent. The happy Father has her Declaration that she will not marry during his Life, and the Pleasure of seeing that Resolution not uneasie to her. Were one to paint filial Affection in its utmost Beauty, he could not have a more lively Idea of it than in beholding Fidelia serving her Father at his Hours of Rising, Meals, and Rest.

When the general Crowd of Female Youth are consulting their Glasses, preparing for Balls, Assemblies, or Plays; for a young Lady, who could be regarded among the foremost in those Places, either for her Person, Wit, Fortune, or Conversation, and yet contemn all these Entertainments, to sweeten the heavy Hours of a decrepid Parent, is a Resignation truly heroick. Fidelia performs the Duty of a Nurse with all the Beauty of a Bride; nor does she neglect her Person, because of her Attendance on him, when he is too ill to receive Company, to whom she may make an Appearance.

Fidelia, who gives him up her Youth, does not think it any great Sacrifice to add to it the Spoiling of her Dress. Her Care and Exactness in her Habit, convince her Father of the Alacrity of her Mind; and she has of all Women the best Foundation for affecting the Praise of a seeming Negligence. What adds to the Entertainment of the good old Man is, that Fidelia, where Merit and Fortune cannot be overlook'd by Epistolary Lovers, reads over the Accounts of her Conquests, plays on her Spinet the gayest Airs, (and while she is doing so, you would think her formed only for Gallantry) to intimate to him the Pleasures she despises for his Sake.

Those who think themselves the Patterns of good Breeding and Gallantry, would be astonished to hear that in those Intervals when the old Gentleman is at Ease, and can bear Company, there are at his House in the most regular Order, Assemblies of People of the highest Merit; where there is Conversation without Mention of the Faults of the Absent, Benevolence between Men and Women without Passion, and the highest Subjects of Morality treated of as natural and accidental Discourse; All which is owing to the Genius of Fidelia, who at once makes her Father's Way to another World easie, and her self capable of being an Honour to his Name in this.


'I was the other Day at the Bear-Garden, in hopes to have seen your short Face; but not being so fortunate, I must tell you by way of Letter, That there is a Mystery among the Gladiators which has escaped your Spectatorial Penetration. For being in a Box at an Ale-house, near that renowned Seat of Honour above-mentioned, I over-heard two Masters of the Science agreeing to quarrel on the next Opportunity. This was to happen in the Company of a Set of the Fraternity of Basket-Hilts, who were to meet that Evening. When this was settled, one asked the other, Will you give Cuts or receive? the other answered, Receive. It was replied, Are you a passionate Man? No, provided you cut no more nor no deeper than we agree. I thought it my Duty to acquaint you with this, that the People may not pay their Money for Fighting, and be cheated.

Your Humble Servant,

Scabbard Rusty.


Translation of motto:
MART. iii. 68.
'A book the chastest matron may peruse.'