« 上一頁繼續 »
public life. They took up their residence in the capital, and he introduced her to what is called the best company. Of his own society, however, she soon enjoyed but little. His attachment to her began visibly to lessen ; and, by degrees, she lost entirely the attentions that outlived it. Sullen and silent when they were alone, and neglectful and contemptuous when they had company, he treated her as one whom it would have degraded him to love or to respect, and whom it was scarce worth while to bate or to despise. She was considered as merely a part of his establishment; and it seemed to be her duty to do the honours of the table, as it was that of his butler to attend to the sideboard, or of his groom to take care of the horses. Like them, too, she was to be subservient to his vanity, by the splendour of her appearance. She was to show in company and public places that beauty of which he was the proprietor; and she was to carry the trappings with which he had adorned it, to be envied by the poor, and admired by the opulent.
While Elvira retained her affection for her husband, she would sometimes remonstrate against this. His answers, which were made at first with an air of indifference, at length became peevish. With an excellent understanding
she was yet young, giddy, and fond of amusement. She began, at last, to enjoy the part wwhich Arlington had assigned to her; and entered heartily into that series of dissipation, through which, for some time, she had passed without satisfaction, and, sometimes, not without self-reproach. Her son, who had been such an attraction, and such a tie to her at home, Arlington took from her, to place him in the family of a former tutor of his own, who now kept a French academy; and Elvira never had a second child. Her society was made up of the gay and thoughtless ; women who, like her, had no duty to perform, nor one laudable exertion to make; but who were to lose all thought in the bustle of idleness, and all honest attachment in the forms of the world. For a considerable time, however, a sense of recti. tude, which she had imbibed in her infancy, occasionally embittered the pleasures of Elvira, and made her ashamed of the part she had adopted. Whenever Arlington had leisure to perceive this, it only served him as a subject of ridicule. He took some trouble to represent the restraints of religion, or of nice morality, as the mere effects of fanaticism; and when Elvira appeared surprised and shocked at the principles he avowed, he would make some sarcastic observation on her former situation, and intimate, that, but for him, she would have been still the awkward ignorant creature he had found her.
And yet the unprincipled Arlington expected that the wife, whom, in fact, he was himself corrupting, should be virtuous ; that she should guard that honour which was his, while every other principle of rectitude in her was to be extinguished. For a long time it was so. The horror which Elvira conceived at thut degree of turpitude was not to be overcome, even amidst the levity, to call it no worse, of manners, which she saw continually around her, and in which, as far as it was a mark of fashion, her husband seemed to wish her to participate. Elvira, still in the possession of youth and beauty, did not escape solicitations; but she repelled thein with a degree of resentment, which she often heard the very man, whose honour it guarded, treat as affectation in any woman who should pretend to it. He would frequently repeat from the letters of Lord Chesterfield, that a declaration of love to a woman was always to be ventured, because, even though it were rejected, she would receive it as a compliment to her attractions. Elvira had soon opportunities of knowing, that her husband was as loose in his practice as in his principles. His infidelities, indeed, he was not at much pains to conceal; and, while his wife continued to upbraid him, was almost at as little pains to excuse.
In such circumstances, is it to be wondered at, that the virtue of Elvira was not proof against the attacks to which it was exposed ? With a husband unequal in
years, lost to ber affection, as she was cast from his, and treating her as one from whom no love or duty was to be expected ; a husband whose principles were corrupt, whose conversation was loose, whose infi. delity gave a sort of justice to hers; encircled, at the same time, by young men, whose persons were attractive, whose manners were engaging, whose obsequious assiduities were contrasted by her husband's neglect, and whose adoration and respect were opposed to his rudeness and contempt.
Was it wonderful that, thus situated, exposed to temptation, and unguarded by principle, she should forget tirst the restraints of prudence, and then the obligations of virtue ?
Elvira and Arlington are separated for ever. The former now regards it as a kind interposition of Providence, that detection soon followed her first deviation from virtue, before she had lost the feelings of shame and contrition, before she had wandered to an irrecoverable distance from duty, from principle, from religion. She has taken refuge in the house of an excellent clergyman and his wife, whose pious counsels have led her to the only sources of consolation for misery and remorse like hers. They have taught her, amidst the obloquy of the world, amidst the humiliation of repentance, still, in some degree, to respect herself. They have taught her to cultivate hor mind, to improve its powers, to regulate its principles. They have led her to juster sentiments and to a juster value of this life, and to a sincere and humble hope of a better.
Arlington, on the other hand, finds a continual source of infelicity, in reflecting on the fatal consequences of libertine principles and a libertine conduct; nor can be receive the least consolation in loading, with unavailing reproach, the character of the woman whose person he bought, whose affections he despised, whose innocence he corrupted, and of whose ruin he alone was the cause.
ESSAY ON MARRIAGE. An ingenious commentator has observed, that the woman was made of a rib, taken out of the side of a man-not out of his head, to rule him; not out of his feet, to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side, to be his equal-under his arm, to be protected--near his heart, to be beloved.' MARRIAGE was first by Providence design’d, To be the hope and comfort of mankind; He, on the ordinance his sanction prestHe, the first priest, the first form'd marriage blest: Vainly for man the Eden flow'rets shed Their balmy fragrance o'er his lonely bed. Vainly for him the waters flowed alongHe heard no music in the young bird's song; For none, save bim, the cheering sunbeams sbone. Then God saw 'twas not good to be alone''Twas then he form’d, his paradise to share, A creature like to him, but soft and fair, Deck'd by her Maker's hand with every gracem An angel's spirit, with an angel's face; Then all which, undivided, failed to charm, Shared by another, yielded sweetest balm. Oh! urge pot, then, 'tis right to be alone, God says not so the God whose truth we ownFor like an exile, man in Eden ror'd, Till woman came so fit to be belov'd Came in her native grace and beauty drest, And although Heaven's last gift, she was the best. Marriage was form'd in heaven-'tis heaven on earth When it is founded on esteem and worth. Oh! what were man, if woman ne'er had smil'd ? A lonely wretch-his Eden, but a wild : When sorrow points at him her scorpion dart, When anguish fills bis poor distracted heart, When misery seems to blast his spriog of lifeOh! tben, his friend and comfort is his wife. Does fortune frown-are enemies unkind Say, is he scorned and hated by mankind ? When every heart is closed, to him unblest, His bome of comfort is her faithful breast :
Thence he may smile upon the world's alarms;