ePub 版

thodoxical manner. What a withering look she would cast upon the presumptuous supplicant! And yet, is it his fault? Must he burn everlastingly and not marry? Pooh! it is all nonsense, mere squeamishness, anti-nuptial mannerism! An offer is an offer, howsoever made; and if it be really a good one, why should it be rejected because it comes a little out of the common course? For my part I maintain, a proposal, like a challenge, to be always a serious and per se bona fide thing, let it be made or sent in any way soever, provided it have been post paid, if by letter; if vivû voce, provided a witness or short-hand writer have been present; only two days in the year being dies non-St. Valentine's, in the first case of serving the process; April-fool's-day in the second. And like a challenge, I think one hour cannot be honourably wasted in replying to it. On or off should be the word; and for her own sake the lady should remember that

'Tis best to be off with the old love,
Before you're on with the new.

Whether it be old or new, it is my intention never to undergo the bondage of a courtship two days long.-I should hate the witch who could allow me to burn away such a length of time unpitied,—but love the little saint or vestal who would trim the holy lamp or blaze, and herself adore and moderate the flames she kindled.-There have been times when a natural intelligence supplied the place of formal words and letters; when a man had not to wade through periods and paragraphs, to extract a simple assent-paper and parchment were not always the materials of which Cupid formed his arrows and his wings; nor were vowels and consonants always employed as small shot by him. We have read of a Haidée who could neither spell nor write, nor understand the language her lover spoke: and yet he declared his passion and she understood it; and in the sight of heaven, it was a contract, though a British jury might not have assessed damages for a breach of promise. But with us matter-of-fact people, it is the tongue or hand that take all the diplomacy of the heart upon them; and miserable envoys they prove. We hear of nothing but prolonged treaties, crooked policy, and base infractions, through their ministry. But, n'importe, there must still be some unmachiavelized daughters of Eve, who will dispense with the formalities of a regular congress of parents, aunts, and brothers. If not, God help me! I must die a bachelor: for I swear, a single rebuff or demur would give me a surfeit for ever-for as I never mean to run such a hazard without ample encouragement having been given me, a refusal would imply treachery and guile.

How can any but an absolute slave in heart persist in teazing a lady to compliance who has once said him nay? Does the fool imagine she can be better inclined towards him for persevering? Impossible! If she have him after one denial, the coquette! depend upon it, it is either through spite or self-interest, or because no one else will have her. It is all very plausible to say, she but refused, to try him: if she refused at all, she could have had no penchant towards him, and in honesty should have told him so-but to try him! paltry jockeyism! that is the way of dealing for a horse, not a husband. How would

she like to be tried herself? It is that very trial that I object to; for of all trials in life, it is the most trying, to be kept dangling in suspense at a lady's apron-string, merely because she cannot make up her mind to snatch you out of the fire. It is cruel torture to you, though sport to her. Instead of trial, it is prolonged execution; and I am quite convinced that such trifling destroys as many good; heaven-formed marriages, as any other antimatrimonial cause whatever. Many a female has led apes in hell, for sporting with a lover's feelings in this way-Aye! just for trying him a little too long: in the mean time some kinder creature lets him off for half the torment; and who can blame him for choosing the least of two evils? upon my word, not I. Hence we may explain in some measure the scorn, which the world pays to old maids.-Some of your over-liberal gentry have questioned the justice of visiting with contempt a race of beings, whom all concur in thinking sufficiently unhappy. Why then, it has been argued, add insult to misfortune? This is, indeed, putting the case very strongly; but besides the obvious fallacy of begging the question, it is by no means clear, that insult is the proper term for a requital of scornful behaviour. I make out my proposition this way: I assume that the whole sex is so lovely that none of them escape having at least one offer made to them. Now all systematists, to arrive at a general deduction, are allowed to calculate by average, and thus to balance one little anomaly by another; adjusting this theoretic scale to the quantity sought-always keeping it in mind, that every lady is a most unexceptionable partner at the time she is first proposed forthe number of unexceptionables will be equal to the number of unmarried ladies under a certain age in any country. Quis negat?Now, the number of proposers must be contained in the gross number of unwedded gentlemen of all ages in the same country: this is evidently a greater number than the former; the question is, in what proportion greater. By the best tables of population, the males are born in the proportion of four to three females: suppose one half of the males married men; the remaining half, the bachelors, will be exactly double the number of unmarried females; including old maids, and widows, who have small chance left, even though the prizes in this lottery are so numerous. The more marriages there are, the greater will be the ratio, which the single men bear to the marriageable females: this is the inevitable result of births, and infers the necessity of wars and shipwrecks, to lop off the redundant bachelors. Now putting aside the number of confirmed old celebitaries, woman-haters, fortune-hunters, half-pay officers, snuff-takers, and gaiter-wearers, whom no woman can be blamed for refusing, I think we may assume, that the number of agreeable and acceptable proposers is at least equivalent to that of the unexceptionables of the other sex. If this average be fairly drawn, and I confess I can see no loop-hole in it, more than in a thousand averages struck every day by your deep thinking people; I say, if it be fairly drawn, every lady receives at least one offer in its fit season from an agreeable man-I say nothing about his being a suitable match; for all that is quite capricious and matter of taste; what would not suit at eighteen, would be quite acceptable at twenty-eight. Now an offer is seldom made, without

some little spice of provocation, as a fire seldom bursts into a blaze without some little stirring with the poker-true-my amanuensis suggests very shrewdly, or blowing with the bellows. Well then, morally speaking, every lady who receives a proposal has, by poking or blowing, or fanning, kindled the flame with which her suitor burns, and should therefore be bound to extinguish it by marriage, in the most expeditious manner possible, especially if her own premises are on fire, of which she must be the best judge. Now those who have entered into an insurance policy, or are too hard-hearted to give timely succour, cannot complain upon being ever after pointed at and despised by those, who have been scorched, baked, broiled, and wilfully ignited by them. This is putting the case in its mildest form: it is supposing them merely accessary to the combustion of one poor gentleman, whereas they are precisely the persons, who are guilty of this kind of arson the greatest number of times. Miss Asbestos, for instance, has been in her day one of the most incorrigible incendiaries, if you credit her own account, that ever fired a human heart: she boasts that whereever she appeared in her blaze of diamonds, she scorched the wings of a dozen fashionable moths that fluttered round her-the bravest guardsmen could not stand her fire: one of them who approached too courageously was actually charred alive, and continued so black, that he was obliged to sell out, and go into orders, quite broken-hearted-she blew up several adventurers who carried all their ammunition in their pockets-she melted the heart of a great iron-founder of Worcestershire, which was thought as difficult to fuse as his own metal; however, she wasted so much time in assaying the proportion of base to noble metal in his compound, that he actually ran off, in that liquefied state, into the lap of Miss Alloy, with whom he was most happily and chemically united, and by whom he was restored, before the end of the honey-moon, to his usual temperature. Miss Asbestos lost much caloric by this precipitation; a few more such combustions, along with some frosty winters, dissipated so much of her electricity, that she scarce retained power enough to inflame an half-pay ensign, let her poke and blow away never so much. All that she can as yet boast of, is, that she herself has remained unconsumed in the midst of the smouldering piles she kindled. It is evident she has not another spark left, consequently cannot command another burnt-offering.— True it is, she has several coal mines in Glamorganshire, and some noble forests of wood, along with a considerable quantity of bankpaper here and there, which might, if all collected together, furnish fuel enough for a hecatomb, let alone the sacrifice of some needy victim. It is supposed therefore, that in the end, some cinder-hearted miser will devote himself to those artificial flames, and endure hell upon earth for the sake of the Asbestos property; but, my life for it, the amianthas cloth in which the Romans wrapt their dead, did not more surely preserve the ashes unmixed with surrounding matter, than the arms of his bride, Miss Asbestos, will keep him, who is enclosed in them, from the enjoyment of every thing about him. Let me ask, who can rationally pity her case, brought upon herself by dawdling and trifling with men on fire? And is not every old maid who has treated our sex in the same obdurate manner, (and how many of them

can disclaim it) justly liable to be repaid by us with coldness and frosty looks ever after? It is a mere reaction. I never see an elderly gentlewoman, but I compute, by her own aridity, the number of hearts that she has parched up, and left as dry as tinder; when, by timely acceptation, they might between them have furnished heat and blood enough for half a dozen embryo lovers. I take it, as a conclusive fact, that those caustic creatures termed old bachelors are nought but the scoria of young wooers, who have been smelted in the furnace of unsuccessful courtship: for it is a fact set at rest for ever by the testimony of historians and naturalists, that every perfect man, at least once in his life, kindles and glows at the shrine of some earthly divinity, at whose option it is, either to clap an extinguisher upon him, or to ignite him lawfully at the altar with the torch of Hymen.

This is so incomparably the greatest impediment to marriages, that I reckon all the others as merely consequential to it; I mean the difficulty of persuading the lady to make up her mind on the subject. This will be found really at the bottom of all breaks-off, breaches of promise, &c. And besides, it is unknown what numbers of bashful men are deterred from proposing by the dread of being refused; or, if accepted, of being tantalized throughout the fiery ordeal of a long courtship. As for prudential motives, deference to parents, we should attribute no more to them, than is exactly their due. As for the first, it is a great pity that people cannot know what is prudent until it is too late. I have known many a prudent act repented of, in marriage affairs particularly; and have long suspected that prudent is not the proper word to express matches made up for convenience; but the only word that can well be substituted is so rude, that we must retain the epithet in common use. If a lady, however, is determined to be prudent in a matrimonial alliance, it is rather hard it should be at the expense of a score of gentlemen whom she allures too close to rays, only to send them down headlong, like Icarus, with molten wings. If she be under the control of relatives in that delicate matter, she has no business whatever to set fire to any body but those whom her relatives point out; not even to shoot a glance at any one.. She should be allowed no free-agency; but remain like the cold flint in their hands, to strike fire only when they choose. It is playing a very double part, to raise a conflagration in a poor fellow's bosom, and when he begs her to put it out, to refer him to papa and mama. Papas and mamas usually make a great deal of smoke by damping down the coals, and sometimes put the fire out altogether with cold water; but that does not at all absolve miss for having lighted it, when she felt incapable of acting for herself on the occasion. I contend, therefore, that it is the prudence, or coquetry, or artifice, or indecision of the young lady, that most frequently frustrates the projects of Hymen; and for a remedy, I have recurred to a plan for correcting the mischiefs arising from those defects. It is the old manoeuvre of advertising; and whatever nice minds may urge against it, I think it has become necessary by the spirit of speculation and match-making abroad. It is but right, that since marriage has become a branch of trade, it should be conducted like other com

mercial affairs, by the dealer setting forth what he has to sell, and the buyer what he wants to buy; and leaving it to those whom it may concern to inquire after the goods. It is evident that none will apply but those seriously inclined to drive a bargain; and there will be no unnecessary sighing and dying, sonnetting and serenading, in the


As a warning to future adventurers, I will relate the first accidents that occurred to me on entering into this line of business; and that they may be spared from similar mishaps, it is my intention, without any quackery, to set up a Connubial Agency Office, for which my subsequent experience has fully qualified me.

Having been seven months in London, without forming any liaison, I came to the conclusion that I was losing time, and sinking in value every day of my life. Being precluded by circumstances from entering extensively into society, or spending much time in exploring or winning a lady's affections; and feeling nevertheless the great impelling motive, the besoin d'aimer, I resolved to shorten preliminaries, by stating my qualifications in the newspapers, and challenging the notice of female philogamists. Accordingly I inserted the following advertisement, taking care to underrate all my good qualities, in order to obviate disappointment after marriage.

MATRIMONY.-A middle-aged gentleman, [I was but thirty,] of agreeable person, [I was five feet ten,] and elegant manners, [I had learned to walts,] with a respectable income, [it was 2001. per annum, Jamaica currency,] and large expectations, [the good will of an unmarried aunt,] desires to enter into a matrimonial correspondence with a lady of conformable age, income, manners, and disposition. Address, A. B. 1, Little Hoax Street.

I watched the day of insertion, and to leave no chance of success neglected, bought the New Times, and went the entire round of my limited acquaintance. At each house I pulled out that rare, and by no means vulgar paper, and cursorily pointed out the paragraph. This I did, charitably to promote the circulation of the journal, and to forward my own affair at the same time. In the evening too, I dropped in at my aunt's, the lady alluded to in the notice, at whose house I was privileged occasionally to sip tea without a formal invitation. Every thing happened here according to my wishes. I found a petticoat party assembled, and the conversation turning upon plumcake; from this to wedding, the transition was but slight; and once there, my advertisement was easily dragged in, in a parenthesis, drawn by an à propos; as, " à propos to weddings, have you seen the invitation to the unmarried ladies, in that very scarce and genteel paper the New Times?" Not one of them seemed sensible of the existence of this most undefiled vehicle of news; so I produced it as a novelty from my pocket. Some laughed at the advertisement, and thought it a humbug; others said, if the address was real, the man must be a simpleton to fancy that he could get a good wife in that way; others affirmed, that no woman of any virtue or delicacy would present herself, and that he would probably get united to some abandoned creature, who would have the effrontery to accept such a public offer. Upon my conscience, I felt inclined to think so too, for there were some women of experience among them. Above the rest, my

« 上一頁繼續 »