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most minute circumstances, pass with so slight a censure. If a man should take a resolution to pay only sums above a hundred pounds, and yet contract with different people debts of five and ten, how long can we suppose Ire will keep his credit? This man will as long support his good name in business, as he will in conversation, who without difficulty makes assignations which he is in different whether he keeps or not.
I am the more severe upon this vice, because I have been so unfortunate as to be a very great criminal myself. Sir Andrew Freeport, and all other my friends who are scrupulous to promises of the meanest consideration ima. ginable, from a habit of virtue that way, have often upbraided me with it. I take shame upon myself for this crime, and more particularly for the greatest I ever committed of the sort, that when as agreeable a company of gentlemen and ladies as ever were got together, and I forsooth, Mr. Spectator, to be of the party with women of merit, like a booby as I was, mistook the time of meeting, and came the night following. I wish every fool who is negligent in this kind may have as great a loss as I had in this; for the same company will never meet more, but are dispersed into various parts of the world, and I am left under the compunction that I deserve, in so many different places to be called a trifler,
This fault is sometimes to be accounted for, when desirable people are fearful of appearing precise and reserved by denials; but they will find the apprehension of that imputation will betray them into a childish impotence of mind, and make them promise all who are so kind to ask it of them. This leads such soft creatures into the misfortune of seeming to return overtures of good-will with ingratitude. The first steps in the breach of a man's integrity are much more important than men are aware of. The man who scruples not breaking his word in little things, would not suffer in his own conscience so great pain for failures of consequence, as he'who thinks every little offence against truth and justice a disparagement. We should not make any thing we ourselves disapprove habitual to us, if we would be sure of our integrity.
I remember a falsehood of the trivial sort, though not in relation to assignations, that exposed a man to a very
uneasy adventure. Will Trap and Jack Stint weré chamber-fellows in the Inner-Temple about twenty-five years ago. They one night sat in the pit together at a comedy, where they both observed and liked the same young woman in the boxes. Their kindness for her entered both hearts deeper than they imagined. Stint had a good faculty at writing letters of love, and made his address privately that way; while Trap proceeded in the ordinary course, by money and her waiting maid. The lady gave them both encouragement, receiving Trap into the utmost favour, and answering at the same time Stint's letters, and giving him appointments at third places. Trap began to suspect the epistolary correspondence of his friend, and discovered also that Stint opened all his letters which came to their common lodgings, in order to form his own assig, nations. After much anxiety and restlessness, Trap came to a resolution, which he thought would break off their commerce with one another without any hazardous explanation. He therefore writ a letter in a feigned hand to Mr. Trap at his chambers in the Temple. Stint, accoring to custom, seized and opened it, and was not a little surprised to find the inside directed to himself, when with great perturbation of spirit he read as follows:
“MR. STINT, “ You have gained a slight satisfaction at the expense of doing a very heinous crime. At the price of a faithful friend you have obtained an inconstant mistress. I rejoice in this expedient I have thought of to break my mind to you, and tell you you are a base fellow, by a means which does not expose you to the affront except you deserve it. I know, Sir, as criminal as you are, you have still shame enough to avenge yourself against the hardiness of any one that should publicly tell you of it. I, therefore, who have received so many secret hurts from you, shall take satisfaction with safety to myself. I call you base, and you must bear it, or acknowledge it; I triumph over you that you cannot come at me; nor do I think it dishonourable to come in armour to assault him, who was in ambuscade when he wounded me.
“ What need more be said to convince you of being guilty of the basest practice imaginable, than that it is
such as has made you liable to be treated after this manner,
while you yourself cannot in your own conscience but allow the justice of the upbraidings of
“Your injured friend, T.
“ Ralph Trap.”
N° 449. TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1712.
-Tibi scriptus, matrona, libellus.—MART. iii. 68.
cannot but observe, that part of the species, of which I profess myself a friend and guardian, is sometimes treated with severity; that is, there are in my writings many descriptions given of ill persons, and not yet any direct encomium made on those who are good. When I was convinced of this error, I could not but immediately call to mind several of the fair sex of my acquaintance, whose characters deserve to be transmitted to posterity in writings which will long outlive mine. But I do not think that a reason why I should not give them their place in my diurnal as long as it will last. For the service therefore of my female readers, 1 shall single out some characters of maids, wives, and widows, which deserve the imi. tation of the sex. She who shall lead this small illustrious number of heroines shall be the amiable Fidelia.
Before I enter upon the particular parts of her character, it is necessary to preface, that she is the only child of a decrepit father, whose life is bound up in hers. This gentleman has used Fidelia from her cradle with all the tenderness imaginable, and has viewed her growing perfections with the partiality of a parent, that soon thought her accomplished above the children of all other men, but never thought she was come to the utmost improvement of which she herself was capable. This fondness has had very happy effects upon his own happiness; for she reads, she dances, she sings, uses her spinet and lute to the utmost perfection; and the lady's use of all these excellences is to divert the old man in his easy chair, when he is out of the pangs of a chronical distemper. Fidelia is
now in the twenty-third year of her age; but the application of many lovers, her vigorous time of life, her quick sense of all that is truly gallant and elegant in the enjoyment of a plentiful fortune, are not able to draw her from the side of her good old father. Certain it is, that there is no kind of affection so pure and angelic as that of a father to a daughter. He beholds her both with and without regard to her sex. In love to our wives there is desire, to our sons there is ambition ; but in that to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express. Her life is designed wholly domestic, and she is so ready a friend and companion, that every thing that passes about a man is accompanied with the idea of her presence. Her sex also is naturally so much exposed to hazard, both as to fortune and innocence, that there is perhaps a new cause of fondness arising from that consideration also. None but fathers can have a true sense of these sort of pleasures and sensations; but my familiarity with the father of Fidelia makes me let drop the words which I have heard him speak, and observe upon his tenderness towards her.
Fidelia, on her part, as I was going to say, as accomplished as she is, with all her beauty, wit, air, and mien, employs her whole time in care and attendance upon her father. How have I been charmed to see one of the most beauteous women the age has produced, on her knees, helping on an old man's slipper Her filial regard to him is what she makes her diversion, her business, and her glory. When she was asked by a friend of her deceased mother, to admit of the courtship of her son, she answered, that she had a great respect and gratitude to her for the overture in behalf of one so near to her, but that during her father's life she would admit into her heart no value for any thing that should interfere with her endeavour to make his remains of life as happy and easy as could be expected in his circumstances. The lady admonished her of the prime of life with a smile; which Fidelia answered with a frankness that always attends unfeigoed virtue: “ It is true, Madam, there are to be sure very great satisfactions to be expected in the commerce of a man of honour, whom one tenderly loves; but I find so much satisfaction in the reflection how much I mitigate a good man's pains, whose welfare depends upon my assiduity about
him, that I willingly exclude the loose gratifications of passion for the solid reflections of duty. I know not whether any man's wife would be allowed, and (what I still more fear) I know not whether I, a wife, should be willing to be as officious as I am at present about my parent. The happy father has her declaration that she will not marry during his life, and the pleasure of seeing that resolution not uneasy to her. Were one to paint filial affection in its utmost beauty, he could not have a more lively idea of it than in beholding Fidelia serving her father at his hours of rising, meals, and rest.
When the general crowd of female youth are consulting their glasses, preparing for balls, assemblies, or plays; for a young lady who could be regarded among the foremost in those places, either for her person, wit, fortune, or conversation, and yet contemn all these entertainments, to sweeten the heavy hours of a decrepit parent, is a resignation truly heroic. Fidelia performs the duty of a purse with all the beauty of a bride; nor does she neglect her person, because of her attendance on him, when he is too ill to receive company, to whom she may make an appearance.
Fidelia, who gives him up her youth, does not think it any great sacrifice to add to it the spoiling of her dress. Her care and exactness in her habit convince her father of the alacrity of her mind; and she has of all women the best foundation for affecting the praise of a seeming negligence. What adds to the entertainment of the good old man is, that Fidelia, where merit and fortune cannot be overlooked by epistolary lovers, reads over the accounts of her conquests, plays on her spinet the gayest airs (and, while she is doing so, you would think her formed only for gallantry) to intimate to him the pleasures she despises for his sake.
: Those who think themselves the patterns of goodbreeding and gallantry would be astonished to hear that, in those intervals when the old gentleman is at ease, and can bear company, there are at his house, in the most regular order, assemblies of people of the highest merit; where there is conversation without mention of the faults of the absent, benevolence between men and women without passion, and the highest subjects of morality treated