No. 503. Tuesday, October 7, 1712. Steele.

Deleo omnes dehinc ex animo Mulieres.'


'You have often mention'd with great Vehemence and Indignation the Misbehaviour of People at Church; but I am at present to talk to you on that Subject, and complain to you of one, whom at the same time I know not what to accuse of, except it be looking too well there, and diverting the Eyes of the Congregation to that one Object. However I have this to say, that she might have stay'd at her own Parish, and not come to perplex those who are otherwise intent upon their Duty.

'Last Sunday was Seven-night I went into a Church not far from London-Bridge; but I wish I had been contented to go to my own Parish, I am sure it had been better for me: I say, I went to Church thither, and got into a Pew very near the Pulpit. I had hardly been accommodated with a Seat, before there entered into the Isle a young Lady in the very Bloom of Youth and Beauty, and dressed in the most elegant manner imaginable. Her Form was such, that it engaged the Eyes of the whole Congregation in an Instant, and mine among the rest. Tho' we were all thus fixed upon her, she was not in the least out of Countenance, or under the least Disorder, tho' unattended by any one, and not seeming to know particularly where to place her self. However, she had not in the least a confident Aspect, but moved on with the most graceful Modesty, every one making Way till she came to a Seat just over-against that in which I was placed. The Deputy of the Ward sat in that Pew, and she stood opposite to him; and at a Glance into the Seat, tho' she did not appear the least acquainted with the Gentleman, was let in, with a Confusion that spoke much Admiration at the Novelty of the Thing. The Service immediately began, and she compos'd her self for it with an Air of so much Goodness and Sweetness, that the Confession which she uttered so as to be heard where I sat, appeared an Act of Humiliation more than she had Occasion for. The Truth is, her Beauty had something so innocent, and yet so sublime, that we all gazed upon her like a Phantom. None of the Pictures which we behold of the best Italian Painters, have any thing like the Spirit which appeared in her Countenance, at the different Sentiments expressed in the several Parts of Divine Service: That Gratitude and Joy at a Thanksgiving, that Lowliness and Sorrow at the Prayers for the Sick and Distressed, that Triumph at the Passages which gave Instances of divine Mercy, which appeared respectively in her Aspect, will be in my Memory to my last Hour. I protest to you, Sir, she suspended the Devotion of every one around her; and the Ease she did every thing with, soon dispersed the churlish Dislike and Hesitation in approving what is excellent, too frequent amongst us, to a general Attention and Entertainment in observing her Behaviour. All the while that we were gazing at her, she took Notice of no Object about her, but had an Art of seeming awkwardly attentive, whatever else her Eyes were accidentally thrown upon. One Thing indeed was particular, she stood the whole Service, and never kneeled or sat; I do not question but that was to shew her self with the greater Advantage, and set forth to better Grace her Hands and Arms, lifted up with the most ardent Devotion, and her Bosom, the fairest Observation; while she, you must think, knew nothing of the Concern she gave others, any other than as an Example of Devotion, that threw her self out, without regard to Dress or Garment, all Contrition, and loose of all Worldly Regards, in Ecstasy of Devotion. Well, now the Organ was to play a Voluntary, and she was so skilful in Musick, and so touched with it, that she kept time not only with some Motion of her Head, but also with a different Air in her Countenance. When the Musick was strong and bold, she look'd exalted, but serious; when lively and airy, she was smiling and gracious; when the Notes were more soft and languishing, she was kind and full of Pity. When she had now made it visible to the whole Congregation, by her Motion and Ear, that she could dance, and she wanted now only to inform us that she could sing too, when the Psalm was given out, her Voice was distinguished above all the rest, or rather People did not exert their own in order to hear her. Never was any heard so sweet and so strong. The Organist observed it, and he thought fit to play to her only, and she swelled every Note; when she found she had thrown us all out, and had the last Verse to herself in such a manner as the whole Congregation was intent upon her, in the same manner as we see in the Cathedrals, they are on the Person who sings alone the Anthem. Well, it came at last to the Sermon, and our young Lady would not lose her Part in that neither; for she fixed her Eye upon the Preacher, and as he said any thing she approved, with one of Charles Mathers's fine Tablets she set down the Sentence, at once shewing her fine Hand, the Gold-Pen, her Readiness in Writing, and her Judgment in chusing what to write. To sum up what I intend by this long and particular Account, I mean to appeal to you, whether it is reasonable that such a Creature as this shall come from a jaunty Part of the Town, and give herself such violent Airs, to the disturbance of an innocent and inoffensive Congregation, with her Sublimities. The Fact, I assure you, was as I have related; but I had like to have forgot another very considerable Particular. As soon as Church was done, she immediately stepp'd out of her Pew, and fell into the finest pitty-pat Air, forsooth, wonderfully out of Countenance, tossing her Head up and down as she swam along the Body of the Church. I, with several others of the Inhabitants, follow'd her out, and saw her hold up her Fan to an Hackney-Coach at a Distance, who immediately came up to her, and she whipp'd into it with great Nimbleness, pull'd the Door with a bowing Mein, as if she had been used to a better Glass. She said aloud, You know where to go, and drove off. By this time the best of the Congregation was at the Church-Door, and I could hear some say, A very fine Lady; others, I'll warrant ye, she's no better than she should be; and one very wise old Lady said, She ought to have been taken up. Mr. SPECTATOR, I think this Matter lies wholly before you: for the Offence does not come under any Law, tho' it is apparent this Creature came among us only to give herself Airs, and enjoy her full Swing in being admir'd. I desire you would print this, that she may be confin'd to her own Parish; for I can assure you there is no attending any thing else in a Place where she is a Novelty. She has been talked of among us ever since under the Name of the Phantom: But I would advise her to come no more; for there is so strong a Party made by the Women against her, that she must expect they will not be excell'd a second time in so outrageous a manner, without doing her some Insult. Young Women, who assume after this rate, and affect exposing themselves to view in Congregations at t'other end of the Town, are not so mischievous, because they are rivall'd by more of the same Ambition, who will not let the rest of the Company be particular: But in the Name of the whole Congregation where I was, I desire you to keep these agreeable Disturbances out of the City, where Sobriety of Manners is still preserv'd, and all glaring and ostentatious Behaviour, even in things laudable, discountenanced. I wish you may never see the Phantom, and am,'


Your most humble Servant,

Ralph Wonder.


Translation of motto:
TER. Eun. Act ii. Sc. 3.
'From henceforward I blot out of my thoughts all memory of womankind.'