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259 Lette s on Love and Friend hip-Plagius
preziching Tillotson's Sermons .........
271. Conclusion, Design of the wo k, and
Acknowledgement of Assistance ......
N° 210. SATURDAY, AUGUST 12, 1710.
Sheer-lane, August 10. I DID myself the honour this day to make a visit to a lady of quality, who is one of those that are ever railing at the vices of the age; but mean only one vice, because it is the only vice they are not guilty of. She went so far as to fall foul on a young woman who has had imputations; but whether they were just or not, no one knows but herself. However that is, she is in her present behaviour modest, humble, pious, and discreet. I thought it became me to bring this censorious lady to reason, and let her see she was a much more vitious woman than the person she spoke of.
“Madam,” said I, “ you are very severe to this poor young woman, for a trespass which I believe Heaven has forgiven her, and for which, you see, she is for ever out of countenance.” “ Nay, Mr. Bickerstaff,” she interrupted, “ if you at this time of day contradict people of virtue, and stand up for ill women” No, no, Madam,” said I, “ not so fast; she is reclaimed, and I fear you never will
be. Nay, nay, Madam, do not be in a passion; but let me tell you what you are. You are indeed as good as your neighbours; but that is being very bad. You are a woman at the head of a family, and lead a perfect town-lady's life. You go on your own way, and consult nothing but your glass. What imperfections indeed you see there, you immediately mend as fast as you can. You may do the same by the faults I tell you of; for they are much more in your power to correct.
“ You are to know then, that your visiting ladies, that carry your virtue from house to house with so much prattle in each other's applause, and triumph over other people's faults, I grant you, have but the speculation of vice in your own conversations; but promote the practice of it in all others you have to do with.
“ As for yon, Madam, your time passes away in dressing, eating, sleeping, and praying. When you rise in a morning, I grant you an hour spent very well; but you come out to dress in so froward an humour, that the poor girl, who attends you, curses her very being in that she is your servant, for the peevish things you say to her. When this poor creature is put into a way, that good or evil are regarded but as they relieve her from the hours she has and must pass with you; the next you have to do with is your coachman and footmen. They convey your ladyship to church. While you are praying there, they are cursing, swearing, and drinking in an ale-house. During the time also which your ladyship sets apart for Heaven, you are to know, that your cook is sweating and fretting in preparation for your dinner. Soon after your meal you make visits, and the whole world that belongs to you speaks all the ill of you which you are repeating of others. You see, Madam, whatever way you go, all about you are in a very broad one. The morality of these people it is your proper business to enquire into; and until you reform them you had best let your equals alone; otherwise, if I allow you are not vitious, you must allow me you are not virtuous." . I took my leave, and received at my coming home the following letter:
“ MR. BICKERSTAFF, “I have lived a pure and undefiled virgin these twenty-seven years; and I assure you, it is with great grief and sorrow of heart I tell you, that I become weary and impatient of the derision of the gigglers of our sex; who call me old maid, and tell me, I shall lead apes. If you are truly a patron of the distressed, and an adept in astrology, you will advise whether I shall, or ought to be prevailed upon by the impertinences of my own sex, to give way to the importunities of yours. I assure you, I am surrounded with both, though at present a forlorn.
I am, &c. I must defer my answer to this lady out of a point of chronology. She says, she has been twentyseven years a maid ; but I fear, according to a common error, she dates her virginity from her birth, which is a very erroneous method; for a woman of twenty is no more to be thought chaste so many years than a man of that age can be said to have been so long valiant. We must not allow people the favour of a virtue, until they have been under the temptation to the contrary. A woman is not a maid until her birth-day, as we call it, of her fifteenth year. My plaintiff is therefore desired to inform me, whether she is at present in her twentyeighth or forty-third year, and she shall be dispatched accordingly.