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to preserve the amity between them, called in Bacchus to the aid of my profession of the theatre. So that, while some people of quality are bespeaking plays of me to be acted upon such a day, and others, hogsheads for their houses against such a time; I am wholly employed in the agreeable service of wit and wine. Sir, I have sent you Sir Roger de Coverley's letter to me, which pray comply with in favour of the Bumper tavern. Be kind, for you know a player's utmost pride is the approbation of the Spectator.
"I am your admirer, though unknown,
"RICHARD ESTCOURT." 'TO MR. ESTCOURT, • AT HIS HOUSE IN COVENT-GARDEN. 'OLD COMICAL ONE,
'The hogsheads of neat port came safe, and have gotten thee good reputation in these parts; and I am glad to hear, that a fellow who has been laying out his money ever since he was born, for the mere pleasure of wine, has bethought himself of joining profit and pleasure together. Our sexton, poor man! having received strength from thy wine since his fit of the gout, is hugely taken with it: he says it is given by nature for the use of families, that no steward's table can be without it; that it strengthens digestion, excludes surfeits, fevers and physic; which green wines of any kind can't do. Pray get a pure snug room, and I hope next term to help fill your bumper with our people of the club; but you must have no bells stirring when the Spectator comes; I forbore ringing to dinner while he was down with me in the country. Thank you for the little hams and Portugal onions; pray keep some always by you. You know my supper is only good Cheshire cheese, best mustard, a golden pippin, attended with a pipe of John Sly's best. Sir Harry has stolen all vour songs, and tells the story of the 5th of November to perfection.
'Yours to serve you,
'ROGER DE COVERLEY. 'Coverley, December the 18th, 1711.
'We have lost old John since you were here.'
No. 265. THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 1711-12.
Dixerit e midtis aliquis, Quid virus in angues
OVID, Ars Ax. iii. 7.
But some exclaim: What frenzy rules your mind?
One of the Fathers, if I am rightly informed, has defined a woman to be $So* piXoxoVpov, 'an animal that delights in finery.' I have already treated of the sex in two or three papers conformably to this definition; and have in particular observed, that in all ages they have been more careful than the men to adorn that part of the head which we generally call the outside.
This observation is so very notorious, that when, in ordinary discourse, we say a man has a fine head, a long head, or a good head, we express ourselves metaphorically, and speak in relation to his understanding; whereas when we say of a woman, she has a fine, a long, or a good, head, we speak only in relation to her commode.
It is observed among birds, that nature has lavished all her ornaments upon the male, who very often appears in a most beautiful head-dress: whether it be a crest, a comb, a tuft of feathers, or a natural little plume, erected like a kind of pinnacle on the very top of the head. As nature on the contrary has poured out her charms in the greatest abundance upon the female part of our species; so they are very assiduous in bestowing upon themselves the finest garnitures of art. The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colours that appear in the garments of a British lady, when she is dressed either for a ball or a birth-day.
But to return to our female heads. The ladies have been for some time in a kind of moulting season, with regard to that part of their dress, having cast great quantities of riband, lace, and cambrick, and, in some measure, reduced that part of the human figure, to the beautiful globular form which is natural to it. We have, for a great while, expected what kind of ornament would be substituted, in the place of those antiquated commodes. But our female projectors were, all the last summer, so taken up with the improvement of their petticoats, that they had not time to attend to any thing else; but, having at length sufficiently adorned their lower parts, they now begin to turn their thoughts upon the other extremity, as well remembering the old kitchen proverb, 'that if you light the fire at both ends, the middle will shift for itself.'
I am engaged in this speculation by a sight which I lately met with at the opera. As I was standing in the hinder part of a box, I took notice of a little cluster of women sitting together in the prettiest coloured hoods that I ever saw. One of them was blue, another yellow, and another philomot; the fourth was of a pink colour, and the fifth of a pale green. I looked with as much pleasure upon this Bttle party-coloured assembly, as upon a bed of tulips, and did not know at first whether it might not be an embassy of Indian queens; but upon my going about into the pit, and taking them in front, I was immediately undeceived, and saw so much beauty in every face that I found them all to be English. Such eyes and lips, cheeks and foreheads, could be the growth of no other country. The complexion of their faces hindered me from observing any further the colour of their hoods, though I could easily perceive, by that unspeakable satisfaction which appeared in their looks, that their own thoughts were wholly taken up on those pretty ornaments they wore upon their heads.
I am informed that this fashion spreads daily, insomuch that the whig and tory ladies begin already to hang out different colours, and to show their principles in their head-dress. Nay, if I may believe aiy friend Will Honeycomb, there is a certain old coquette of his acquaintance, who intends to appear very suddenly in a rainbow-hood, like the Iris in Dryden's Virgil, not questioning but that among such a variety of colours she shall have a charm for every heart.
My friend Will, who very much values himself upon his great insights into gallantry, tells me, that he can already guess at the humour a hidy is in by her hood, as the courtiers of Morocco know the disposition of their present emperor by the colour of the dress which he puts on. When Melesinda wraps her head in flame colour, her heart is set upon execution: when she covers it with purple, I would not, says he, advise her lover to approach her; but if she appears in white, it is peace, and he may hand her out of her box with safety.
Will informs me likewise, that these hoods may be used as signals. Why else, says he, does Cornelia always put on a black hood when her husband is gone into the country.
Such are my friend Honeycomb's dreams of gallantry. For my own part, I impute this diversity of colours in the hoods to the diversity of complexion in the faces of my pretty countrywomen. Ovid, in his Art of Love, has given some precepts as to this particular, though I find they are different from those which prevail among the moderns. He recommends a red 6triped silk to the pale complexion; white to the brown, and dark to the fair. On the contrary, my friend Will, who pretends to be a greater master in this art than Ovid, tells me, that the palest features look the most agreeable in white sarsenet; that a face which is overflushed appears to advantage in the deepest scarlet: and that the darkest complexion is not a little alleviated by a black hood. In short, he is for losing the colour of the face in that of the hood, as a fire burns dimly, and a candle goes half out, in the light of the sun. 'This,' says he, 'your Ovid himself has hinted, where he treats of these matters, when he tells us that the blue water nymphs are dressed in sky-coloured garments; and that Aurora, who always appears in the light of the rising sun, is robed in saffron.'
Whether these his observations are justly grounded I cannot tell; but I have often known him, as we have stood together behind the ladies, praise or dispraise the complexion of a face which he never saw, from observing the colour of her hood, and [he] has been very seldom out in these his guesses.