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Among the rest, I observed one which I think they call «Hunt the Squirrel, in which while the woman flies the man pursues her; but as soon as she turns, he runs away, and she is obliged to follow.
The moral of this dance does, I think, very aptly recommend modesty and discretion to the female sex.
But as the best institutions are liable to corruption, so, sir, I must acquaint you that very great abuses are crept into this entertainment. I was amazed to see my girl handed by, and handing, young fellows with so much familiarity; and I could not have thought it had been in the child. They very often made use of a most impudent and lascivious step called “Setting,” which I know not how to describe to you but by telling you that it is the very reverse of « Back to Back.” At last an impudent young dog bid the fiddlers play a dance called “Moll Pately,” and after having made two or three capers, ran to his partner, locked his arms in hers, and whisked her round cleverly above ground in such a manner that I, who sat upon one of the lowest benches, saw further above her shoe than I can think fit to acquaint you with. I could no longer endure these enormities; wherefore, just as my girl was going to be made a whirligig, I ran in, seized on the child, and carried her home.
Sir, I am not yet old enough to be a fool. I suppose this diversion might be at first invented to keep up a good understanding between young men and women, and so far I am not against it; but I shall never allow of these things. I know not what you will say to this case at present, but am sure had you been with me you would have seen matter of great speculation.
I am, yours, etc.
I must confess I am afraid that my correspondent had too much reason to be a little out of humor at the treatment of his daughter, but I conclude that he would have been much more so had he seen one of those kissing dances, in which Will Honeycomb assures me they are obliged to dwell almost a minute on the fair one's lips, or they will be too quick for the music, and dance quite out of time.
I am not able, however, to give my final sentence against this diversion; and am of Mr. Cowley's opinion, that so much of dancing, at least, as belongs to the behavior and an handsome carriage of the body, is extremely useful, if not absolutely necessary.
We generally form such ideas of people at first sight as we are hardly ever persuaded to lay aside afterwards: for this reason a man would wish to have nothing disagreeable or uncomely
in his approaches, and to be able to enter a room with a good grace.
I might add that a moderate knowledge in the little rules of good breeding gives a man some assurance, and makes him easy in all companies. For want of this, I have seen a professor of a liberal science at a loss to salute a lady; and a most excellent mathematician not able to determine whether he should stand or sit while my lord drank to him.
It is the proper business of a dancing master to regulate these matters; though I take it to be a just observation that unless you add something of your own to what these fine gen. tlemen teach you, and which they are wholly ignorant of them. selves, you will much sooner get the character of an affected fop than of a well-bred man.
As for country dancing, it must indeed be confessed that the great familiarities between the two sexes on this occasion may sometimes produce very dangerous consequences; and I have often thought that few ladies' hearts are so obdurate as not to be melted by the charms of music, the force of motion, and an handsome young fellow who is continually playing before their eyes, and convincing them that he has the perfect use of all his limbs.
But as this kind of dance is the particular invention of our own country, and as every one is more or less a proficient in it, I would not discountenance it; but rather suppose it may be practiced innocently by others as well as myself, who am often partner to my landlady's eldest daughter.
From the Spectator.
MODESTY AND ASSURANCE
Fallit enim vitium specie virtutis et umbră.
. . Sat. XIV. 109.
Vice oft is hid in Virtue's fair disguise,
And in her borrow'd form escapes inquiring eyes. M R. Locke, in his treatise of « Human Understanding,” has MI spent two chapters upon the abuse of words. The first
and most palpable abuse of words, he says, is when they are used without clear and distinct ideas; the second, when we are so unconstant and unsteady in the application of them, that we sometimes use them to signify one idea, sometimes another. He adds, that the result of our contemplations and reasonings, while we have no precise ideas fixed to our words, must needs be very confused and absurd. To avoid this inconvenience, more especially in moral discourses where the same word should be constantly used in the same sense, he earnestly recommends the use of definitions. «A definition,” says he, “is the only way whereby the precise meaning of moral words can be known.” He therefore accuses those of great negligence who discourse of moral things with the least obscurity in the terms they make use of; since, upon the 'fore-mentioned ground, he does not scruple to say that he thinks “morality is capable of demonstration as well as the mathematics.”
I know no two words that have been more abused by the different and wrong interpretations which are put upon them than these two, modesty and assurance. To say such a one is a modest man, sometimes indeed passes for a good character; but at present is very often used to signify a sheepish, awkward fellow, who has neither good breeding, politeness, nor any knowl. edge of the world.
Again, a man of assurance, though at first it only denoted a person of a free and open carriage, is now very usually applied to a profligate wretch, who can break through all the rules of decency and morality without a blush.
I shall endeavor, therefore, in this essay to restore these words to their true meaning, to prevent the idea of modesty from being confounded with that of sheepishness, and to hinder impudence from passing for assurance.
If I were put to define modesty I would call it the reflection of an ingenious mind, either when a man has committed an action for which he censures himself, or fancies that he is exposed to the censure of others.”
For this reason a man truly modest is as much so when he is alone as in company, and as subject to a blush in his closet as when the eyes of multitudes are upon him.
I do not remember to have met with any instance of modesty with which I am so well pleased as that celebrated one of the young prince whose father being a tributary king to the Romans, had several complaints laid against him before the senate, as a tyrant and oppressor of his subjects. The prince went to Rome to defend his father; but coming into the senate and hearing a multitude of crimes proved upon him, was so oppressed when it came to his turn to speak that he was unable to utter a word. The story tells us, that the Fathers were more moved at this instance of modesty and ingenuity than they could have been by the most pathetic oration, and, in short, pardoned the guilty father for this early promise of virtue in the son.
I take “assurance to be the faculty of possessing a man's self, or of saying and doing indifferent things without any uneasiness or emotion in the mind.” That which generally gives a man assurance is a moderate knowledge of the world, but, above all, a mind fixed and determined in itself to do nothing against the rules of honor and decency. An open and assured behavior is the natural consequence of such a resolution. A man thus armed, if his words or actions are at any time misrepresented, retires within himself, and, from a consciousness of his own integrity, assumes force enough to despise the little censures of ignorance and malice.
Every one ought to cherish and encourage in himself the modesty and assurance I have here mentioned
A man without assurance is liable to be made uneasy by the folly or ill-nature of every one he converses with. A man without modesty is lost to all sense of honor and virtue.
It is more than probable that the prince above mentioned possessed both these qualifications in a very eminent degree. Without assurance, he would never have undertaken to speak before the most august assembly in the world; without modesty, he would have pleaded the cause he had taken upon him though it had appeared ever so scandalous.
From what has been said, it is plain that modesty and assurance are both amiable, and may very well meet in the same person. When they are thus mixed and blended together, they compose what we endeavor to express when we say, "a modest assurance ); by which we understand the just mean between bashfulness and impudence.
I shall conclude with observing that as the same man may be both modest and assured, so it is also possible for the same to be both impudent and bashful.
We have frequent instances of this odd kind of mixture in people of depraved minds and mean education, who, though they are not able to meet a man's eyes, or pronounce a sentence without confusion, can voluntarily commit the greatest villainies or most indecent actions.
Such a person seems to have made a resolution to do ill even in spite of himself, and in defiance of all those checks and restraints his temper and complexion seem to have laid in his way.
Upon the whole I would endeavor to establish this maxim, that the practice of virtue is the most proper method to give a man a becoming assurance in his words and actions. Guilt always seeks to shelter itself in one of the extremes, and is sometimes attended with both.
Complete. From the Spectator.