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No. 320 (from The Spectator) Post by :Simon_Grabowski Category :Essays Author :Richard Steele Date :September 2011 Read :2882

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No. 320 (from The Spectator)

No. 320
Friday, March 7, 1712. Steele.

(--non pronuba Juno,
Non Hymenaeus adest, non illi Gratia lecto,
Eumenides stravere torum.

Ovid. (1))


Mr. SPECTATOR,

You have given many Hints in your Papers to the Disadvantage of Persons of your own Sex, who lay Plots upon Women. Among other hard Words you have published the Term Male-Coquets, and been very severe upon such as give themselves the Liberty of a little Dalliance of Heart, and playing fast and loose, between Love and Indifference, till perhaps an easie young Girl is reduced to Sighs, Dreams and Tears; and languishes away her Life for a careless Coxcomb, who looks astonished, and wonders at such an Effect from what in him was all but common Civility. Thus you have treated the Men who are irresolute in Marriage; but if you design to be impartial, pray be so honest as to print the Information I now give you, of a certain Set of Women who never Coquet for the Matter, but with an high Hand marry whom they please to whom they please. As for my Part, I should not have concerned my self with them, but that I understand I am pitched upon by them, to be married, against my Will, to one I never saw in my Life. It has been my Misfortune, Sir, very innocently, to rejoice in a plentiful Fortune, of which I am Master, to bespeak a fine Chariot, to give Direction for two or three handsome Snuff-Boxes, and as many Suits of fine Cloaths; but before any of these were ready, I heard Reports of my being to be married to two or three different young Women. Upon my taking Notice of it to a young Gentleman who is often in my Company he told me smiling, I was in the Inquisition. You may believe I was not a little startled at what he meant, and more so when he asked me if I had bespoke any thing of late that was fine. I told him several; upon which he produced a Description of my Person from the Tradesmen whom I had employed, and told me that they had certainly informed against me. Mr. SPECTATOR, Whatever the World may think of me, I am more Coxcomb than Fool, and I grew very inquisitive upon this Head, not a little pleased with the Novelty. My Friend told me there were a certain Set of Women of Fashion whereof the Number of Six made a Committee, who sat thrice a Week, under the Title of the Inquisition on Maids and Batchelors. It seems, whenever there comes such an unthinking gay Thing as my self to Town, he must want all Manner of Necessaries, or be put into the Inquisition by the first Tradesman he employs. They have constant Intelligence with Cane-Shops, Perfumers, Toymen, Coach-makers, and China-houses. From these several Places, these Undertakers for Marriages have as constant and regular Correspondence, as the Funeral-men have with Vintners and Apothecaries. All Batchelors are under their immediate Inspection, and my Friend produced to me a Report given into their Board, wherein an old Unkle of mine, who came to Town with me, and my self, were inserted, and we stood thus; the Unkle smoaky, rotten, poor; the Nephew raw, but no Fool, sound at present, very rich. My Information did not end here, but my Friends Advices are so good, that he could shew me a Copy of the Letter sent to the young Lady who is to have me which I enclose to you.


Madam,

This is to let you know, that you are to be Married to a Beau that comes out on Thursday Six in the Evening. Be at the Park. You cannot but know a Virgin Fop; they have a Mind to look saucy, but are out of Countenance. The Board has denied him to several good Families. I wish you Joy.

Corinna.


What makes my Correspondents Case the more deplorable, is, that as I find by the Report from my Censor of Marriages, the Friend he speaks of is employed by the Inquisition to take him in, as the Phrase is. After all that is told him, he has Information only of one Woman that is laid for him, and that the wrong one; for the Lady-Commissioners have devoted him to another than the Person against whom they have employed their Agent his Friend to alarm him. The Plot is laid so well about this young Gentleman, that he has no Friend to retire to, no Place to appear in, or Part of the Kingdom to fly into, but he must fall into the Notice, and be subject to the Power of the Inquisition. They have their Emissaries and Substitutes in all Parts of this united Kingdom. The first Step they usually take, is to find from a Correspondence, by their Messengers and Whisperers with some Domestick of the Batchelor (who is to be hunted into the Toils they have laid for him) what are his Manners, his Familiarities, his good Qualities or Vices; not as the Good in him is a Recommendation, or the ill a Diminution, but as they affect or contribute to the main Enquiry, What Estate he has in him? When this Point is well reported to the Board, they can take in a wild roaring Fox-hunter, as easily as a soft, gentle young Fop of the Town. The Way is to make all Places uneasie to him, but the Scenes in which they have allotted him to act. His Brother Huntsmen, Bottle Companions, his Fraternity of Fops, shall be brought into the Conspiracy against him. Then this Matter is not laid in so bare-faced a Manner before him, as to have it intimated Mrs. Such-a-one would make him a very proper Wife; but by the Force of their Correspondence they shall make it (as Mr. Waller said of the Marriage of the Dwarfs) as impracticable to have any Woman besides her they design him, as it would have been in Adam to have refused Eve. The Man named by the Commission for Mrs. Such-a-one, shall neither be in Fashion, nor dare ever to appear in Company, should he attempt to evade their Determination.

The Female Sex wholly govern domestick Life; and by this Means, when they think fit, they can sow Dissentions between the dearest Friends, nay make Father and Son irreconcilable Enemies, in spite of all the Ties of Gratitude on one Part, and the Duty of Protection to be paid on the other. The Ladies of the Inquisition understand this perfectly well; and where Love is not a Motive to a Man's chusing one whom they allot, they can, with very much Art, insinuate Stories to the Disadvantage of his Honesty or Courage, till the Creature is too much dispirited to bear up against a general ill Reception, which he every where meets with, and in due time falls into their appointed Wedlock for Shelter. I have a long Letter bearing Date the fourth Instant, which gives me a large Account of the Policies of this Court; and find there is now before them a very refractory Person who has escaped all their Machinations for two Years last past: But they have prevented two successive Matches which were of his own Inclination, the one, by a Report that his Mistress was to be married, and the very Day appointed, Wedding-Clothes bought, and all things ready for her being given to another; the second time, by insinuating to all his Mistresss Friends and Acquaintance, that he had been false to several other Women, and the like. The poor Man is now reduced to profess he designs to lead a single Life; but the Inquisition gives out to all his Acquaintance, that nothing is intended but the Gentleman's own Welfare and Happiness. When this is urged, he talks still more humbly, and protests he aims only at a Life without Pain or Reproach; Pleasure, Honour or Riches, are things for which he has no taste. But notwithstanding all this and what else he may defend himself with, as that the Lady is too old or too young, of a suitable Humour, or the quite contrary, and that it is impossible they can ever do other than wrangle from June to January, Every Body tells him all this is Spleen, and he must have a Wife; while all the Members of the Inquisition are unanimous in a certain Woman for him, and they think they all together are better able to judge, than he or any other private Person whatsoever.


Temple, March 3, 1711.

Sir,

Your Speculation this Day on the Subject of Idleness, has employed me, ever since I read it, in sorrowful Reflections on my having loitered away the Term (or rather the Vacation) of ten Years in this Place, and unhappily suffered a good Chamber and Study to lie idle as long. My Books (except those I have taken to sleep upon) have been totally neglected, and my Lord Coke and other venerable Authors were never so slighted in their Lives. I spent most of the Day at a Neighbouring Coffee-House, where we have what I may call a lazy Club. We generally come in Night-Gowns, with our Stockings about our Heels, and sometimes but one on. Our Salutation at Entrance is a Yawn and a Stretch, and then without more Ceremony we take our Place at the Lolling Table; where our Discourse is, what I fear you would not read out, therefore shall not insert. But I assure you, Sir, I heartily lament this Loss of Time, and am now resolved (if possible, with double Diligence) to retrieve it, being effectually awakened by the Arguments of Mr. Slack out of the Senseless Stupidity that has so long possessed me. And to demonstrate that Penitence accompanies my Confession, and Constancy my Resolutions, I have locked my Door for a Year, and desire you would let my Companions know I am not within. I am with great Respect,

SIR, Your most obedient Servant,
N. B.

T.


(Footnote 1:

Hae sunt qui tenui sudant in Cyclade.

Hor.)


(The end)
Richard Steele's essay: No. 320 (from The Spectator)

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