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No. 102 (from The Spectator) Post by :HealthandWealth Category :Essays Author :Joseph Addison Date :August 2011 Read :1464

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No. 102 (from The Spectator)

No. 102.
Wednesday, June 27, 1711.

'... Lusus animo debent aliquando dari,
Ad cogitandum melior ut redeat sibi.'


I do not know whether to call the following Letter a Satyr upon Coquets, or a Representation of their several fantastical Accomplishments, or what other Title to give it; but as it is I shall communicate it to the Publick. It will sufficiently explain its own Intentions, so that I shall give it my Reader at Length, without either Preface or Postscript.


'Women are armed with Fans as Men with Swords, and sometimes do more Execution with them. To the end therefore that Ladies may be entire Mistresses of the Weapon which they bear, I have erected an Academy for the training up of young Women in the _Exercise of the Fan_, according to the most fashionable Airs and Motions that are now practis'd at Court. The Ladies who _carry_ Fans under me are drawn up twice a-day in my great Hall, where they are instructed in the Use of their Arms, and _exercised_ by the following Words of Command,

Handle your Fans,
Unfurl your fans.
Discharge your Fans,
Ground your Fans,
Recover your Fans,
Flutter your Fans.

By the right Observation of these few plain Words of Command, a Woman of a tolerable Genius, (who (1)) will apply herself diligently to her Exercise for the Space of but one half Year, shall be able to give her Fan all the Graces that can possibly enter into that little modish Machine.

But to the end that my Readers may form to themselves a right Notion of this _Exercise_, I beg leave to explain it to them in all its Parts. When my Female Regiment is drawn up in Array, with every one her Weapon in her Hand, upon my giving the Word to _handle their Fans_, each of them shakes her Fan at me with a Smile, then gives her Right-hand Woman a Tap upon the Shoulder, then presses her Lips with the Extremity of her Fan, then lets her Arms fall in an easy Motion, and stands in a Readiness to receive the next Word of Command. All this is done with a close Fan, and is generally learned in the first Week.

The next Motion is that of _unfurling the Fan_, in which (are (2)) comprehended several little Flirts and Vibrations, as also gradual and deliberate Openings, with many voluntary Fallings asunder in the Fan itself, that are seldom learned under a Month's Practice. This Part of the _Exercise_ pleases the Spectators more than any other, as it discovers on a sudden an infinite Number of _Cupids_, (Garlands,) Altars, Birds, Beasts, Rainbows, and the like agreeable Figures, that display themselves to View, whilst every one in the Regiment holds a Picture in her Hand.

Upon my giving the Word to _discharge their Fans_, they give one general Crack that may be heard at a considerable distance when the Wind sits fair. This is one of the most difficult Parts of the _Exercise_; but I have several Ladies with me, who at their first Entrance could not give a Pop loud enough to be heard at the further end of a Room, who can now _discharge a Fan_ in such a manner, that it shall make a Report like a Pocket-Pistol. I have likewise taken care (in order to hinder young Women from letting off their Fans in wrong Places or unsuitable Occasions) to shew upon what Subject the Crack of a Fan may come in properly: I have likewise invented a Fan, with which a Girl of Sixteen, by the help of a little Wind which is inclosed about one of the largest Sticks, can make as loud a Crack as a Woman of Fifty with an ordinary Fan.

When the Fans are thus _discharged_, the Word of Command in course is to _ground their Fans_. This teaches a Lady to quit her Fan gracefully when she throws it aside in order to take up a Pack of Cards, adjust a Curl of Hair, replace a falling Pin, or apply her self to any other Matter of Importance. This Part of the _Exercise_, as it only consists in tossing a Fan with an Air upon a long Table (which stands by for that Purpose) may be learned in two Days Time as well as in a Twelvemonth.

When my Female Regiment is thus disarmed, I generally let them walk about the Room for some Time; when on a sudden (like Ladies that look upon their Watches after a long Visit) they all of them hasten to their Arms, catch them up in a Hurry, and place themselves in their proper Stations upon my calling out _Recover your Fans_. This Part of the _Exercise_ is not difficult, provided a Woman applies her Thoughts to it.

The _Fluttering of the Fan_ is the last, and indeed the Master-piece of the whole _Exercise_; but if a Lady does not mis-spend her Time, she may make herself Mistress of it in three Months. I generally lay aside the Dog-days and the hot Time of the Summer for the teaching this Part of the _Exercise_; for as soon as ever I pronounce _Flutter your Fans_, the Place is fill'd with so many Zephyrs and gentle Breezes as are very refreshing in that Season of the Year, tho' they might be dangerous to Ladies of a tender Constitution in any other.

There is an infinite Variety of Motions to be made use of in the _Flutter of a Fan_. There is the angry Flutter, the modest Flutter, the timorous Flutter, the confused Flutter, the merry Flutter, and the amorous Flutter. Not to be tedious, there is scarce any Emotion in the Mind (which (3)) does not produce a suitable Agitation in the Fan; insomuch, that if I only see the Fan of a disciplin'd Lady, I know very well whether she laughs, frowns, or blushes. I have seen a Fan so very angry, that it would have been dangerous for the absent Lover (who (3)) provoked it to have come within the Wind of it; and at other times so very languishing, that I have been glad for the Lady's sake the Lover was at a sufficient Distance from it. I need not add, that a Fan is either a Prude or Coquet according to the Nature of the Person (who (3)) bears it. To conclude my Letter, I must acquaint you that I have from my own Observations compiled a little Treatise for the use of my Scholars, entitled _The Passions of the Fan_; which I will communicate to you, if you think it may be of use to the Publick. I shall have a general Review on _Thursday_ next; to which you shall be very welcome if you will honour it with your Presence. _I am_, &c.

P. S. I teach young Gentlemen the whole Art of Gallanting a Fan.'

N. B. I have several little plain Fans made for this Use, to avoid Expence.'


(Footnote 1: that)

(Footnote 2: is)

(Footnotes 3: that)

(The end)
Joseph Addison's essay: No. 102 (from The Spectator)

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