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most remarkable characters, of the reigning modes and amusements of the season, with a few commonplace compliments, remarks, and matters of fact, but especially some passages of private history, told by way of secret to all the world, is quite sufficient, by the help of a little vivacity which Nature will supply, to accomplish you for every purpose of modern society. -Alas, how poor is all this ! How unworthy the principal attention of beings made “ but a little lower than the angels,” and professing to believe in the communion of saints !
But are there not many general companies, in which it were impossible to spend a long evening with any tolerable ease, or propriety, but by borrowing assistance from the card-table ? I grant it, as things are now; and, when you are so situated, your complying with the occasion may be both allowable and proper, provided the stakes are but triling, your tempers not ruffled, and what you win or lose is agreed to be given away in charity. By this means perhaps you may“ make to your“ selves friends of the mammon of unrighteous
But tell me, I beseech you, where is the necessity of being very often in general companies ? Are these the scenes of true enjoyment? What, where the heart cannot be unfolded ; where the understanding has little or no play; where all is reserve, ceremony, show ; where the smile of complaisance : is frequently put on to deceive, and even the warmest professions of regard are sometimes made the * cloak of maliciousness !”
There is not, methinks, any thing more contemptible, or more to be pitied, than that turn of mind, which finding no entertainment in itself, none at home, none in books, none in rational con
versation, nor in the intercourses of real friendship, nor in ingenious works of any kind, is continually seeking to stifle reflexion in a tumult of pleasures, and to divert weariness in a crowd. But can
it be supposed, that even in more private meetings people should be always able to pass the time without cards? You ought to speak more plainly, and say, to Kill the time; for that is commonly the case. By the most favourable reckoning, the greatest part of those hours that are devoted to play is lost. That which was begun for amusement is lengthened out to fatigue. No one improving or generous idea is circulated: no one happy or solacing recollection is secured. The whole is to be set down as a large portion of the span of life cut off without advantage, and without satisfaction, as far as virtue or reason is concerned.
What then shall we do when together?' Do! Why, converse, or hold your tongues, as good sense and unaffected 'nature prompt to either. Do! Why, work, read, sing, dance, laugh, and look grave by turns, as occasion serves; any thing in the world that is innocent, rather than eternal play. For persons in all the gaiety of health, and sprightliness of youth ; persons not relaxed by infirmity, or exhausted by business ; persons with numberless sources of delight laid open to them, and every natural relish "lively and strong for them to be at a loss how to spend a single evening without cards, what a degradation of the human mind!
Willing to corroborate an argument which to me appears of such importance, I will avail myself of the words of a writer now living, who is not less respectable for the force than for the mo
rality of his pen. Complaining of the fatal passion for play, he mentions, amongst other mischiefs to which it leads, its tendency “ to destroy all 66 distinctions both of rank and sex; to crush all “ emulation, but that of fraud ; to confound the “ world in a chaos of folly ; to withhold youth “ from its natural pleasures, deprive wit of its “ influence, and beauty of its charms; to “ tinguish the flame of the lover, as well as of the “patriot; to sink life into a tedious uniformity, and “ to allow it no other hopes or fears but those of rob“ bing and being robbed.” He adds, in the same animated style, “ That if those of your sex who “have minds capable of nobler sentiments, will “ unite in vindication of their pleasures and their “prerogatives, they may fix a time at which cards u shall cease to be in fashion, or be left only to " those who have neither beauty to be loved, nor
spirit to be feared; neither knowledge to teach, “nor modesty to learn; and who, having passed < their youth in vice, are justly condemned to “spend their age in folly.”
But I proceed to a more agreeable task, that of recommending, in the next place, those ingenious works mentioned a little while ago.
As to needle-work in particular, we find it spoken of in scripture with commendation. Its beauty and advantages are universally apparent. It was practised by ladies formerly, and ladies of the first rank, much more than it is at present. They indeed had much more leisure than most of their posterity. They were simple enough I suppose, to be in love with home, and to seek their happiness in their duty. Of that duty they considered diligence as a part; nor does it appear to have in the least cramped their imaginations. Of
their skill in this way we have seen very laudable monuments. They only wanted instruction in the principles of the Fine Arts, to give their performances a juster taste. At any rate, their time would by such means pass away more pleasantly. They would be under little temptation of wandering abroad : consequently they would escape infinite
and inconveniences. Then, too, private conversation would be cultivated on a much more rational footing: and many a pleasing discussion would arise on the subject of their various productions. Their fancies, called forth by a thousand prettinesses, and kept up by the spirit of elegant emulation, would of course be polished and exalted. This, I believe, will be found true, that those females of the present age, who have resolution enough to copy so antiquated an example, seldom fail to prove the most entertaining companions.
I once knew a lady, noble by her birth, but more noble by her virtues, who never sat idle in company, unless when compelled to it by the punctilio of ceremony, which she took care should happen as rarely as possible. Being a perfect mistress of her needle, and having an excellent taste in that, as in many other things, her manner, whether at home or abroad with her friends, (for friends she had, though a woman of fashion, and bred at court,) was to be constantly engaged in working something useful, or something beautiful ; at the same time that she assisted in supporting the conversation, with an attention and capacity which I have never seen exceeded. For the sake of variety and improvement, when in her own house, some one of the company would often read aloud, while she and her female visitants were thus employed. I must add,
that during an intimate acquaintance of several years, I do not remember to have seen her once driven to the polite necessity of either winning or losing money at play, and making her guests defray the expense of the entertainment.
Permit me, before I dismiss this article, to offer a hint or two, that may not be unworthy your observation. Instead of that minute and laborious kind of work, which is often practised by young ladies, I should think that slighter and freer patterns would for the most part be greatly preferable. The sight would be in no danger of being strained, much less time would be required to finish them; and, when finished, they would produce a much better effect. They would give, beyond comparison, more scope to the imagination ; they would exhibit an ease, a gracefulness, and a flow that ought to enter, as much as possible, into all works of taste ; and as they would admit a far greater multiplicity of ornament, so likewise the purpose of utility would be promoted in a far higher degree.
The business of shading with a needle is now, comparatively, seldom thought of but at school, where it is frequently taught in a paltry, and always in a defective manner, though certainly deserving of particular attention. The disposition, harmony, and melting of colours in this way, afford one of the finest exercises to female genius, and one of the most amusing that can be imagined ; besides that such productions are the most permanent..
But the truth is, nothing complete or distinguished in those attempts can be expected while the proper foundation is so generaliy omitted to be laid ; I mean Drawing, which is