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Much of your happiness, as well as your. position and estimation in society, dear Augusta, will depend on the associations you form, and the friendships you cultivate. In the houses of the ladies I have named, you will find men of merit and high attainments, and women of unpretending talents, undoubted sense, and unsuspected purity.
They do not, it is true, give names to caps or bonnets; they are not patronesses of Almack's, nor frequenters of the Zoological Gardens on the Sabbath-day; and, to sum up all, they are not leaders of fashion,-a distinction never sought by the wise, and only valued by the foolish. The Duchess of Fitzwalter being many years your senior, and having a knowledge of life, rarely acquired except at the expense of some of those fine qualities peculiar to youth, all of which she has preserved, - her society and experience will be highly advantageous to you,
in enabling you to form a just estimate of those
It will be even more beneficial
to you than that of a person of more advanced years, whose sombre view of the world is often no less erroneous than is the bright one of youth: for youth resembles a Claude Lorraine glass, which imparts to all objects its own beautiful tint; but age too often resembles a magnifying lens of an ungracious hue, which only renders every defect more conspicuous, and more forbidding. I would have you view the world through neither medium ; but-through the clear mirror presented to you by the experience of this excellent woman a mirror undimmed by prejudice, and unsullied by ill-nature.
There is an evil against which I would guard you, dear Augusta, because it is one fraught with danger, but into which, from inexperience of the world, too many young married women fall : I allude to the habit of receiving male visitors of a morning; a habit which engenders a degree of familiarity that, however innocent, I hold to be incompatible with the dignity of a matron.
The woman who permits her boudoir or drawing-room to be made the daily lounge of men, soon loses that consideration, even among them, which every honourable woman ought to inspire. Her salon becomes the focus of gossiping ; scandal creeps in ; party politics are soon intruded ; the sanctity and privacy of home are violated; and the modest reserve, which is one of the most beautiful distinctions of the female character, is replaced by a freedom of manner as unbecoming as it is reprehensible. But I have not yet enumerated all the evils of this habit, so generally adopted at present; I have only stated the bad effect likely to accrue to the woman's manners who permits it. Let me now draw your attention to the injury it is almost certain to inflict on her reputation.
The cabriolet or saddle-horses of a man of
fashion, seen repeatedly at the door of a lady, are sure to elicit disagreeable animadversions from those, perhaps, totally unacquainted with her. These observations are related to others, generally with added comments, and not unfrequently with misrepresentations; reports get into circulation, and scandal becomes busy with her fame, which is too often sullied before an evil thought has entered her mind.
When once such reports have been promulgated, all her actions are misinterpreted; every appearance of gaiety or levity is tortured into a proof of guilt; and the most innocent woman, whose conduct is thus prejudged from the semblance of impropriety which her own imprudence has furnished, could hardly fail to be ultimately condemned.
Is not this a heavy penalty to pay for the pleasure, if pleasure it may be called, of enduring the tediousness of a few idle men some twice or thrice a-week, during those hours which they know not how otherwise to occupy? They are aware of the evil consequences such visits will entail on her who permits them, for they daily hear the scandalous comments that similar conduct excites; but n'importe : as long as they are bantered on their supposed good fortuneat their clubs, or paragraphed in the newspapers, they are satisfied, though it is at the expense of the reputation of an innocent woman.
Lord Delaward has initiated me into all the mysteries of society, which had seemed unfathomable to my own previous inexperience. He is my Mentor, who points out the dangers of which only a skilful pilot can steer clear ; and I furnish you, my dear Augusta, with a few extracts from my newly-acquired knowledge.