« PoprzedniaDalej »
of all relations, and from whence all other friendship and commerce do principally arise. The general intent of both sexes is to dispose of themselves happily and honourably in this state; and as all the good qualities we have are exerted to make our way into it, so the best appearance, with regard to their minds, their persons, and their fortunes, at the first entrance into it, is a due to each other in the married pair, as well as a compliment to the rest of the world. It was an instruction of a wise lawgiver, that unmarried women should wear such loose habits, which, in the flowing of their garb, should incite their beholders to a desire of their persons ; and that the ordinary motions of their bodies might display the figure and shape of their limbs in such a manner, as at once to preserve the strictest decency, and raise the warmest inclinations.
This was the economy of the legislature for the increase of people, and at the same time for the preservation of the genial bed. She, who was the admiration of all who beheld her while unmarried, was to bid adieu to the pleasure of shining in the eyes of many, as soon as she took upon her the wedded condition. However, there was a festival of life allowed the new-married, a sort of intermediate state between celibacy and matrimony, which continued certain days. During that time, entertainments, equipages, and other circumstances of rejoicing, were encouraged ; and they were permitted to exceed the common mode of living, that the bride and bridegroom might learn from such freedom of conversation to run into a general conduct to each other, made out of their past and future state, so to temper the cares of the man and the wife with the gaieties of the lover and the mistress.
In those wise ages the dignity of life was kept up, and on the celebration of such solemnities there were no impertinent whispers, and senseless interpretations put upon the unaffected cheerfulness or accidental seriousness of the bride; but men turned their thoughts upon the general reflections, on what issue might probably be expected from such a couple in the succeeding course of their life, and felicitated them accordingly upon such prospects.
I must confess, I cannot from any ancient manuscripts, sculptureś, or medals, deduce the rise of our celebrated custom of throwing the stocking; but have a faint memory of an account a friend gave me of an original picture in the palace of Aldobrandini in Rome. This seems to shew a sense of this affair very different from what is usual among us. It is a Grecian wedding; and the figures represented are a person offering sacrifice, a beautiful damsel dancing, and another playing on the harp. The bride is placed on her bed, the bridegroom sits at the feet of it, with an aspect which intimates, his thoughts were not only entertained with the joys with which he was surrounded; but also with a noble gratitude, and divine pleasure in the offering, which was then made to the gods to invoke their influence on his new condition. There appears in the face of the woman a mixture of fear, hope, and modesty ; in the bridegroom a well-governed rapture. As you see in great spirits grief, which discovers itself the more by forbearing tears and complaints, you may observe also the highest joy is too big for utterance; the tongue being of all the organs the least capable of expressing such a circumstance. The nuptial torch, the bower, the marriage song, are all particulars which we meet with in the allusions of the ancient writers; and in every one of them something is to be observed, which denotes their industry to aggrandize and adorn this occasion above all others.
With us, all order and decency in this point is perverted, by the insipid mirth of certain animals we usually call “wags? These are a species of all men the most insupportable. One cannot without some reflection say, whether their flat mirth provokes us more to pity or to scorn; but if one considers with how great affectation they utter their frigid conceits, conimiseration inmediately changes itself into contempt.
A wag is the last order even of pretenders to wit and good humour. He has generally his mind prepared to receive some occasion of merriment, but is of himself too empty to draw any out of his own set of thoughts; and therefore laughs at the next thing he meets, not because it is ridiculous, but because he is under a necessity of laughing. A wag is one that never in its life saw a beautiful object ; but sees what it does see in the most low and most inconsiderable light it can be placed. There is a certain ability necessary to behold what is amiable and worthy of our approbation, which little minds want, and attempt to hide by a general disregard to every thing they behold above what they are able to relish. Hence it is, that a wag in an assembly is ever guessing how well such a lady slept last night, and how much such a young fellow is pleased with himself. The wag's gaiety consists in a certain professed illbreeding, as if it were an excuse for committing a fault, that a man knows he does so. Though all public places are full of persons of this order ; yet, because I will not allow impertinence and affectation
See N° 79,
to get the better of native innocence and simplicity of manners, I have, in spite of such little disturbers of public entertainments, persuaded my brother Tranquillus, and his wife my sister Jenny, in favour of Mr. Wilks, to be at the play to-morrow evening.
They, as they have so much good sense as to act naturally, without regard to the observation of others, will not, I hope, be discomposed, if any of the fry of wags should take upon them to make themselves merry upon the occasion of their coming, as they intend, in their wedding-clothes. My brother is a plain, worthy, and honest man ; and as it is natural for men of that turn to be mightily taken with sprightly and airy women, my sister has a vivacity which may perhaps give hopes to impertinents, but will be esteemed the effect of innocence among wise men. They design to sit with me in the box, which the house have been so complaisant as to offer me whenever I think fit to come thither in my public character.
I do not in the least doubt, but the true figure of conjugal affection will appear in their looks and gestures. My sister does not affect to be gorgeous in her dress ; and thinks the happiness of a wife is more visible in a cheerful look than gay apparel. It is a hard task to speak of persons so nearly re: lated to one with decency; but I may say, all who shall be at the play will allow him to have the mien of a worthy English gentleman ; her, that of a notable and deserving wife 3.
2 See N° 120, and 122.
N° 185. THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 1710.
Notitiam primosque gradus vicinia fecit ;
OVID. de Pyr. et Thisb. Met. iv. 59.
From my own Apartment, June 14. As soon as I was up this morning, my man gave me the following letter; which, since it leads to a sub
may prove of common use to the world, I shall take notice of with as much expedition as my fair petitioner could desire.
MR. BICKERSTAFF, • SINCE you have so often declared yourself a patron of the distressed, I must acquaint you that I am daughter to a country gentleman of good sense, and may expect three or four thousand pounds for my fortune. I love and am beloved by Philander, a young gentleman who has an estate of five hundred pounds per annum, and is our next neighbour in the country every summer. My father, though he has been a long time acquainted with it, constantly refuses to comply with our mutual inclinations : but, what most of all torments me is, that, if ever I speak in commendation of my lover, he is much louder in his