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towards an apology; and he argues in the following
The state of matrimony is necessary to the support, order, and comfort of society. But it is a state, that subjects the women to a great variety of solicitude and pain. Nothing could carry them through it with any tolerable satisfaction or spirit, but very strong almost unconquerable attachments. To produce these, is it not fit they should be peculiarly sensible to the attention and regards of men ? Upon the same ground, does it not seem agreeable to the purposes of Providence that the securing of this attention, and these regards, should be a principal aim? But can such an aim be pursued without frequent competition ? And will not that too readily occasion jealousy, envy, and all the unamiable effects of mutual rivalship?
mean, without the restraints of superior worth and sentiment. But can these be ordinarily expected from the prevailing turn of female education, or from the little pains that women, as well as other human beings, commonly take to control themselves, and to act nobly? In this last respect, the sexes appear pretty much on the same footing: in others, it is manifest, that the nature and situation of the men are very different. Their constitution of mind, no less than the body, is for the most part hardy and rough. By means of both, by the demands of life, and by the impulse of passion, they are engaged in a vast diversity of pursuits, from which
your sex are precluded by decorum, by softness, and by fear. This diversity of daily pursuits, joined with the multiplicity of female objects that freer modes of living present to their imagination, and the power they have of unlimited choice whenever they are disposed to make it ; (a power
which Nature probably, and Custom certainly, have denied to the others ;) all this put together must in the case of our sex be productive of very
dif. ferent effects.
Do I mean by this reasoning to justify in yours the indulgence of those little, and, I must needs say,
many instances, base passions towards one another, with which they have been so generally charged. God forbid. I only mean to represent such passions in the first approach, and while not entertained, as less criminal then the men are apt to state them; and to prove, that, in their attachments to each other, the latter have not always that merit above the poor women, which they are apt to claim. In the mean time it will be your business, by emulating them where they appear good-natured and disinterested, to disprove their imputation, and to show a temper open to friendship, as well as to Love.
To talk much of the latter is natural for both; to talk much of the former, is considered as way of doing themselves honour. Friendship, they well know, is that dignified form, which in speculation at least every heart must reverence. But in friendship, as in religion, which in many respects it resembles, speculation is often substituted in the place of practice. People fancy themselves possessed of the thing, and hope that others will fancy so too, because they are fond of the name, and have learnt to talk about it with plausibility. Such talk indeed imposes, till experience gives it the lie.
To say the truth, there seems in either sex but little of what a fond imagination, unacquainted with the falsehood of the world, and warmed by affections which its selfishness has not yet chilled, would reckon VOL. I.
Friendship. In theory the standard is raised too high ; yet, methinks, I would not have it set much lower. I would not, on any account, have the honest sensibilities of ingenuous nature checked by the over-cautious documents of political prudence. No advantage, obtained by such frigidity, can compensate the want of those warm effusions of the heart into the bosom of a friend, which are doubtless among the most exquisite pleasures ; at the same time that it must be owned they often, by the inevitable lot of humanity, make way for the bitterest pains which the breast can experience. Happy beyond the common condition of her sex is she, who has found a Friend indeed; open-hearted yet discreet, generously fervent yet steady, thoroughly virtuous but not severe, wise and cheerful at the same time! Can such a friend be loved too much, or cherished too tenderly? If to excellence, as well as happiness, there be any one way more compendious than another, next to friendship with the great Almighty, it is this.
But when a mixture of minds so beautiful and so blessed takes place, it is generally, if not always, the result of early prepossession, casual intercourse, secret sympathy, inexplicable attraction, or else a combination of such causes as are not to be brought together by management or design. This noble plant may be cultivated; but it must grow spontaneously. I can only therefore wish to each of you, beloved, the felicity of finding such a friend and, having found her, the wisdom to use her well.
For the more general commerce of social life, a few advices may not be improper. That, like the ordinary duties of religion, may be directed with tolerable advantage by human precepts. The harmonies of holy friendship, like the sublimer contempla.
tions of the Divinity, must depend more immediately on that hand, which can alone attune the finer movements, and exalt the best conceptions of the soul. Let us go on then,
In the second place, to what we may term the common tenor of your Company; which, for the sake of our subject, we must suppose
left in some measure to your own choice. That it ought to be such as shall not corrupt your good manners, is a principle already established. It will be likewise understood, that, in the society you choose to frequent, you will seek for that style of virtue which is most adapted to the turn of your own minds. But this last propensity should not, I apprehend, be indulged too far. I will explain myself.
The more intimate reciprocations of a close friendship are now, as you know, out of the ques. tion. That at your time of life you ticularly fond of sprightly conversation, where all is enlivened and joyful, and where Wisdom when allowed to enter puts on her gayest garb, is perfectly natural. To advise you against it were as weak, as it would be unfriendly. Such sprightliness and freedom, when supported by sense, and chastened by decency, have, always, I frankly acknowledge, appeared to me delightful. Dulness and insipidity, moroseness and rigour, are dead weights on every kind of social intercourse ; nor will I conceal it from you that I wish, as much as any of you can do, to make my escape from them on all occasions. But tell me, my lively friends ; when the heart overflows with gaiety, is there no danger of its bursting the proper bounds ? Is not extreme vivacity a near borderer on folly ?. To prevent its breaking loose, and throwing itself into very se
should be par
among such as
rious inconveniences, into a very hurtful conduct, will surely require the check of self-command. But how is that to be attained ? By associating only with the fanciful, the vivacious, or the witty? Is hazard to be shunned by rushing into the field of battle? Or, to represent things at the best, is familiarity with Wisdom to be contracted most readily, where Wisdom appears most seldom ? Would ye form habits of sobriety, a spirit of sedateness, no way inconsistent with innocent mirth, you must frequently resort to the company of the sober and the sedate. But will not these be chiefly found
are farther advanced in years than yourselves ? Should not you be ambitious of
profiting by their experience and knowledge ? And will not a respect for superior age, when possessed of superior discretion, often prove a seasonable Kestraint on the wildness of more youthful sallies ? « He that walketh with wise men shall be wise," said the wisest of mortals. Is not the maxim equally applicable to women?
Will you give me leave on this occasion to mention, what is much to the honour of our sex, that all the most sensible and worthy of yours have ever professed a particular relish for the conversation of men of sense and worth ? Such
I presume, are attached to the society of such women beyond every thing else in the world. And when circumstances favour, this mutual tendency cannot fail to be a rich source of mutual improvement.
Was not such reciprocal aid a great part of Nature's intention in that mental and moral difference of sex, which she has marked by characters no less distinguishable than those that diversify their outward forms?