« PoprzedniaDalej »
form to no less than two persons, and will wait on any gentleman and lady privately at their own houses.
*We have no connexion with the Fleet-parsons, or other pretenders. Beware of counterfeits. Ego sum solus.
I may perhaps take a future opportunity of enlarging on this very important subject, the Marriage-Bill; but shall at present oblige the ladies by celebrating an order of females lately sprung up among them, usually distinguished by the denomination of Demi-reps; a word not to be found in any of our dictionaries.
This order, which seems daily increasing upon us, was first instituted by some ladies eminent for their public spirit, with a view of raising their half of the species to a level with the other in the unbounded licence of their enjoyments. By this artifice the most open violation of modesty takes the name of innocent freedom and gaiety; and as long as the last failing remains a secret, the lady's honour is spotless and untainted. In a word, a Demi-rep is a lady, whom every body thinks, what nobody chuses to call her.
It is absolutely necessary, that every lady of this order should be married. Custom has given a certain charm to wedlock, which changes the colour of our actions, and renders that behaviour not improper, which, in a state of celibacy, would be accounted indecent and scandalous. As to the promises made in marriage" to love, honour, and obey," custom has made them also merely ceremonial, and in fact as little binding as the wedding-ring, which may be put on or pulled off at pleasure.
Religious and political writers have both for different reasons endeavoured to encourage frequent marriages but this order, if it maintains its ground, will more certainly promote them. How inviting must such a state appear to a woman of spirit! An Eng
lish wife, with all the indiscretions of a girl, may assume more than the privileges of a woman; may trifle publickly with the beaus and smarts, introduce them to her toilette, and fix it as a certain rule in all her conversation and behaviour, that when once marriage has (in Lucy's phrase)" made an honest woman of her," she is entitled to all the licence of a courtesan.
I have lately seen, with a good deal of compassion, a few forward maiden ladies investing themselves with the dignities, and encroaching on the privileges of this order. It may not be improper to caution them to recede in time. As their claim to these liberties is unwarranted by custom, they will not retain that ambiguous reputation enjoyed by the Demi-reps, whose whole system of conduct is founded on the basis of matrimony. Every lady, therefore, inclined to indulge herself in all those little innocent freedoms, should confine herself within the pale of matrimony, to elude censure; as insolvent debtors avoid a jail by lodging within the verge of the court.
A Demi-rep then must necessarily be married: nor is it easy for a lady to maintain so critical a character, unless she is a woman of fashion. Titles and estates bear down all weak censures, and silence scandal and detraction. That good-breeding too, so inviolably preserved among persons of condition, is of infinite service. This produces that delightful insipidity so remarkable in persons of quality, whose conversation flows with an even tenor, undisturbed by sentiment, and unruffled by passion: insomuch that husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, and in short the whole circle of kindred and acquaintance,can entertain the most thorough contempt and even hatred for each other, without transgressing the minutest article of good-breeding and civility. But those females, who want the advantages of birth and fortune, must be content to wrap themselves up in their integrity; for
the lower sort are so notoriously deficient in the requisites of politeness, that they would not fail to throw out the most cruel and bitter invectives against the pretty delinquents.
The great world will, I doubt not, return me thanks for thus keeping the canaille at a distance, and securing to them a quiet possession of their employments. And here I cannot but observe, how respectable an order the Demi-reps compose, of which the lovely sisterhood must all be married, and almost all right honourable.
For this order, among many other embellishments of modern life, we are indebted to the French. Such flippant gaiety is more agreeable to the genius of that nation. There is a native bashfulness inherent in my country-women, which is not so easy to surmount: but our modern fine ladies, who take as much pains to polish their minds as to adorn their persons, have got over this obstacle with incredible facility. They have so skilfully grafted the French genius for intrigue upon British beauty and liberty, that their conduct appears perfectly original: though we must do the French the justice to allow, that when a lady of this airy disposition visits Paris, she returns most wonderfully improved. Upon the whole, France appears the properest school to instruct the ladies in the theory of their conduct; but England, and more especially London, the most commodious place to put it in practice. In this town, indeed, a lady, studious of improvement, may in a very short time become a considerable proficient, by frequenting the several academies kept constantly open for her profit and instruction. The card tables and masquerades in particular have trained up some ladies to a surprising eminence, without the least assistance from a foreign education.
It is observed, that the difference between the several species in the scale of beings is but just suffi
cient to preserve their distinction; the highest of one order approaching so near to the lowest of the other, that the gradation is hard to be determined; as the colours of the rainbow, through an infinite variety of shades, die away into each other imperceptibly. The Demi-reps hold this intermediate station, in the characters of females, between the modest women and the women of pleasure; to both which they are in some measure connected, as they stand upon the utmost verge of reputation, and totter on the brink of infamy. It were therefore to be wished, that these ladies wore some symbol of their order, or were distinguished by some peculiar mode of dress. The Romans assigned different habits to persons of different ages and stations; and I hope that when the bustle of the ensuing elections is over, the new parliament will take this matter into consideration, and oblige the several classes of females to distinguish themselves by some external marks and badges of their principles.
Till some act of this nature shall take place, I shall propose a method, by which every lady may exactly learn in what class she may be reckoned. The world must know then, that my very good friend Mr. Ayscough has at length with infinite pains and study constructed a thermometer; upon which he has delineated, after the manner that the degrees of heat and cold are marked on the common sort, the whole scale of female characters, from the most inviolable modesty to the most abandoned impudence. It is of a commodious size to wear as a watch: the liquor within the tube is a chemical mixture, which being acted on by the circulation of the blood and animal spirits, will rise and fall according to the desires and affections of the wearer. He will very shortly publish a large assortment of them, to be sold at his shop on Ludgate-Hill: and I flatter myself there are many women in England, who will be glad to purchase