No. 525. Saturday, November 1, 1712. John Hughes.

[Greek: Hod' eís tò sôphron ep' aretàen t' ágôn érôs, Zaelôtos ánthrôpoisin]

It is my Custom to take [frequent] Opportunities of enquiring from time to time, what Success my Speculations meet with in the Town. I am glad to find in particular, that my Discourses on Marriage have been well received. A Friend of mine gives me to understand, from Doctors-Commons, that more Licences have been taken out there of late than usual. I am likewise informed of several pretty Fellows, who have resolved to commence Heads of Families by the first favourable Opportunity: One of them writes me word, that he is ready to enter into the Bonds of Matrimony, provided I will give it him under my Hand (as I now do) that a Man may shew his Face in good Company after he is married, and that he need not be ashamed to treat a Woman with Kindness, who puts herself into his Power for Life.

I have other Letters on this Subject, which say that I am attempting to make a Revolution in the World of Gallantry, and that the Consequence of it will be, that a great deal of the sprightliest Wit and Satyr of the last Age will be lost. That a bashful Fellow, upon changing his Condition, will be no longer puzzled how to stand the Raillery of his facetious Companions; that he need not own he married only to plunder an Heiress of her Fortune, nor pretend that he uses her ill, to avoid the [ridiculous [1]] Name of a fond Husband.

Indeed if I may speak my Opinion of great part of the Writings which once prevail'd among us under the Notion of Humour, they are such as would tempt one to think there had been an Association among the Wits of those times to rally Legitimacy out of our Island. A State of Wedlock was the common Mark for all the Adventurers in Farce and Comedy, as well as the Essayers in Lampoon and Satyr, to shoot at, and nothing was a more standing Jest in all Clubs of fashionable Mirth, and gay Conversation. It was determined among those airy Criticks, that the Appellation of a Sober Man should signify a Spiritless Fellow. And I am apt to think it was about the same Time, that Good-Nature, a Word so peculiarly elegant in our Language that some have affirmed it cannot well be expressed in any other, came first to be render'd suspicious, and in danger of being transferred from its original Sense to so distant an Idea as that of Folly.

I must confess it has been my Ambition, in the course of my Writings, to restore, as well as I was able, the proper Ideas of things. And as I have attempted this already on the Subject of Marriage, in several Papers, I shall here add some further Observations which occur to me on the same Head. Nothing seems to be thought, by our fine Gentlemen, so indispensable an Ornament in fashionable Life, as Love. A Knight Errant, says Don Quixot, without a Mistress, is like a Tree without Leaves; and a Man of Mode among us, who has not some Fair One to sigh for, might as well pretend to appear dressed, without his Periwig. We have Lovers in Prose innumerable. All our Pretenders to Rhyme are professed Inamorato's; and there is scarce a Poet, good or bad, to be heard of, who has not some real or supposed Sacharissa to improve his Vein.

If Love be any Refinement, Conjugal Love must be certainly so in a much higher Degree. There is no comparison between the frivolous Affectation of attracting the Eyes of Women with whom you are only captivated by Way of Amusement, and of whom perhaps you know nothing more than their Features, and a regular and uniform Endeavour to make your self valuable, both as a Friend and Lover, to one whom you have chosen to be the Companion of your Life. The first is the Spring of a thousand Fopperies, silly Artifices, Falshoods, and perhaps Barbarities; or at best arises no higher than to a kind of Dancing-School Breeding, to give the Person a more sparkling Air. The latter is the Parent of substantial Virtues and agreeable Qualities, and cultivates the Mind while it improves the Behaviour. The Passion of Love to a Mistress, even where it is most sincere, resembles too much the Flame of a Fever; that to a Wife is like the Vital Heat.

I have often thought, if the Letters written by Men of Goodnature to their Wives, were to be compared with those written by Men of Gallantry to their Mistresses, the former, notwithstanding any Inequality of Style, would appear to have the Advantage. Friendship, Tenderness and Constancy, drest in a Simplicity of Expression, recommend themselves by a more native Elegance, than passionate Raptures, extravagant Encomiums, and slavish Adoration. If we were admitted to search the Cabinet of the beautiful Narcissa, among Heaps of Epistles from several Admirers, which are there preserv'd with equal Care, how few should we find but would make any one Sick in the Reading, except her who is flattered by them? But in how different a Style must the wise Benevolus, who converses with that good Sense and good Humour among all his Friends, write to a Wife who is the worthy Object of his utmost Affection? Benevolus, both in Publick and Private, on all Occasions of Life, appears to have every good Quality and desirable Ornament. Abroad he is reverenced and esteemed; at home beloved and happy. The Satisfaction he enjoys there, settles into an habitual Complacency, which shines in his Countenance, enlivens his Wit, and seasons his Conversation: Even those of his Acquaintance, who have never seen him in his Retirement, are Sharers in the Happiness of it; and it is very much owing to his being the best and best beloved of Husbands, that he is the most stedfast of Friends, and the most agreeable of Companions.

There is a sensible Pleasure in contemplating such beautiful Instances of Domestick Life. The Happiness of the Conjugal State appears heighten'd to the highest degree it is capable of, when we see two Persons of accomplished Minds, not only united in the same Interests and Affections, but in their Taste of the same Improvements, Pleasures and Diversions. Pliny, one of the finest Gentlemen, and politest Writers of the Age in which he lived, has left us, in his Letter to Hispulla, his Wife's Aunt, one of the most agreeable Family-Pieces of this Kind I have ever met with. I shall end this Discourse with a Translation of it; and I believe the Reader will be of my opinion, that Conjugal Love is drawn in it with a Delicacy which makes it appear to be, as I have represented it, an Ornament as well as a Virtue.


'As I remember the great Affection which was between you and your excellent Brother, and know you love his Daughter as your own, so as not only to express the Tenderness of the best of Aunts, but even to supply that of the best of Fathers; I am sure it will be a pleasure to you to hear that she proves worthy of her Father, worthy of you, and of your Ancestors. Her Ingenuity is admirable; her Frugality extraordinary. She loves me, the surest Pledge of her Virtue; and adds to this a wonderful Disposition to Learning, which she has acquir'd from her Affection to me. She reads my Writings, studies them, and even gets them by heart. You'd smile to see the Concern she is in when I have a Cause to plead, and the Joy she shews when it is over. She finds means to have the first News brought her of the Success I meet with in Court, how I am heard, and what Decree is made. If I recite any thing in publick, she cannot refrain from placing her self privately in some Corner to hear, where with the utmost delight she feasts upon my Applauses. Sometimes she sings my Verses, and accompanies them with the Lute, without any Master, except Love, the best of Instructors. From these Instances I take the most certain Omens of our perpetual and encreasing Happiness; since our Affection is not founded on my Youth and Person, which must gradually decay, but she is in love with the immortal Part of me, my Glory and Reputation. Nor indeed could less be expected from one who had the Happiness to receive her Education from you, who in your House was accustomed to every thing that was virtuous and decent, and even began to love me by your Recommendation. For, as you had always the greatest Respect for my Mother, you were pleased from my Infancy to form me, to commend me, and kindly to presage I should be one day what my Wife fancies I am. Accept therefore our united Thanks; mine, that you have bestowed her on me, and hers, that you have given me to her, as a mutual Grant of Joy and Felicity.'

[Footnote 1: [scandalous]]

[Footnote 2: Bk iv. ep. 19.]

Translation of motto:
'That love alone, which virtue's laws control,
Deserves reception in the human soul.'