« AnteriorContinuar »
and painted herself for our reception. Her hair appeared in a very nice disorder, as the night-gown, which was thrown upon her shoulders, was ruffled with great care. For my part, I am so shocked with every thing which looks immodest in the fair sex, that I could not forbear taking off my eye from her when she moved in her bed, and was in the greatest confusion imaginable every time she stirred a leg or an arm. As the coquettes who introduced this custom grew old, they left it off by degrees, well knowing that a woman of threescore may kick and tumble her heart out without making any impressions.
Sempronia is at present the most professed admirer of the French nation, but is so modest as to admit her visitants no farther than her toilet. It is a very odd sight that beautiful creature makes, when she is talking politics, with her tresses flowing about her shoulders, and examining that face in the glass which does such execution upon all the male standers-by. How prettily does she divide lier discourse between her woman and her visitants! What sprightly transitions does she make from an opera or a sermon to an ivory comb or a pin-cushion ! How have I been pleased to see her interrupted in an account of her travels by a message to her footman, and holding her tongue in the midst of a moral reflection by applying the tip of it to a patch !
There is nothing which exposes a woman to greater dangers than that gaiety and airiness of temper which are natural to most of the sex. It should be therefore the concern of every wise and virtuous woman to keep this sprightliness from degeneratipg into levity. On the contrary, the whole discourse and behaviour of the French is to make the sex more fantastical, or, as they are pleased to term it, more awakened, than is consistent either with virtue or discretion. To speak loud in public assemblies, to let every one hear you talk of things that should only be mentioned in private or in whisper, are looked upon as parts of a refined education. At the same time a blush is unfashionable, and silence more ill-bred than any thing that can be spoken.
In short, discretion and modesty, which in all other ages and countries have been regarded as the greatest ornaments of the fair sex, are regarded as the ingredients of narrow conversation and family behaviour.
Some years ago I was at the tragedy of Macbeth, and unfortunately placed myself under a woman of quality that is since dead, who, as I found by the noise she made, was newly returned from France. A little before the rising of the curtain, she broke out into a loud soliloquy, “ When will the dear witches enter ?" and immediately upon their first appearance, asked a lady that sat three boxes from her, on her right hand, if those witches were not charming creatures. A little after, as Betterton was in one of the finest speeches of the play, she shook her fan at another lady, who sat as far on the left hand, and told her, with a whisper that might be heard all over the pit, “We must not expect to see Balloon to-night." Not long after, calling out to a young baronet by his name, who sat three seats before me, she asked him whether Macbeth's wife was still alive, and, before he could give an answer, fell atalking of the ghost of Banquo. She had by this time formed a little audience to herself, and fixed the attention of all about her. But as I had a mind to hear the play, I got out of the sphere of her impertinence, and planted myself in one of the remotest corners of the pit.
This pretty childishness of behaviour is one of the most refined parts of coquetry, and is not to be attained in perfection by ladies that do not travel for their improvement. A natural and unconstrained behaviour has something in it so agreeable, that it is no wonder to see people endeavouring after it. But, at the same time, it is so very hard to hit, when it is not born with us, that people often make themselves ridiculous in attempting it.
A very ingenious French author tells us, that the ladies of the court of France in his time thought it illbreeding, and a kind of female pedantry, to pronounce a hard word right, for which reason they took frequent occasion to use hard words, that they might show a politeness in murdering them. He further adds, that à lady of some quality at court, having accidentally made use of a hard word in a proper place, and pronounced it right, the whole assembly was out of countenance for her.
I must, however, be so just to own, that there are many ladies who have travelled several thousands of miles without being the worse for it, and have brought home with them all the modesty, discretion, and good sense, that they went abroad with; as, on the contrary, there are great numbers of travelled ladies who have lived all their days within the smoke of London. I have known a woman that never was out of the parish of St James's, betray as many foreign fopperies in her carriage, as she could have gleaned up in half the countries of Europe.
A REMARKABLE CLUB. Having already given my reader an account of several extraordinary clubs, both ancient and modern, I did not design to have troubled him with any more narratives of this nature; but I have lately received information of a club, which I can call neither ancient nor modern, that I dare say will be no less surprising to my reader than it was to myself; for which reason I shall communicate it to the public, as one of the greatest curiosities in its kind.
A friend of mine complaining of a tradesman who is related to him, after having represented him as a very idle worthless fellow, who neglected his family, and spent most of his time over a bottle, told me, to conclude his character, that he was a member of the Everlasting Club. So very odd a title raised my curiosity to inquire into the nature of a club that had such a sounding name; upon which my friend gave me the following account:
The Everlasting Club consists of a hundred members, who divide the whole twenty-four hours among them, in such a manner that the club sits day and night from one end of the year to another; no party presuming to rise till they are relieved by those who are in course to succeed them. By this means a member of the Everlasting Club never wants company; for though he is not upon duty himself, he is sure to find some who are ; so that if he be disposed to take a whet, a nooning, an evening's draught, or a bottle after midnight, he goes to the club, and finds a knot of friends to his mind.
It is a maxim in this club, That the steward never dies ; for as they succeed one another by way of rotation, no man is to quit the great elbow-chair which stands at the upper end of the table, till his successor is in readiness to fill it: insomuch, that there has not been a sede vacante in the memory of man.
This club was instituted towards the end, or, as some of them say, about the middle, of the civil wars, and continued without interruption till the time of the great fire , which burned them out, and dispersed them for several weeks. The steward, at that time, maintained his post till he had like to have been blown up with a neighbouring house, which was demolished in order to stop the fire; and would not leave the chair at last, till he had emptied all the bottles upon the table, and received repeated directions from the club to withdraw himself. This steward is frequently talked of in the club, and looked upon by every member of it as a greater man than the famous captain mentioned in my Lord Clarendon, who was burned in his ship because he would not quit it without orders. It is said, that towards the close of 1700, being the great year of jubilee, the club had it under consideration whether they should break up or continue their session; but, after many speeches and debates, it was at length agreed to sit out the other century. This resolution passed in a general club, nemine contradicente.
Having given this short account of the institution and continuation of the Everlasting Club, I should here endeavour to say something of the manners and characters of its several members, which I shall do accoring to the best lights I have received in this matter.
It appears by their books in general, that, since their first institution, they have smoked fifty tons of tobacco, drunk 30,000 butts of ale, 1000 hogsheads of red port, 200 barrels of brandy, and a kilderkin of small beer. There has been likewise a great consumption of cards. It is also said that they observe the law in Ben Jonson's Club, which orders the fire to be always kept in, focus perennis esto, as well for the convenience of lighting their pipes, as to cure the dampness of the club-room. They have an old woman in the nature of a vestal, whose business it is to cherish and perpetuate the fire, which burns from generation to generation, and has seen the glass-house fires in and out above a hundred times.
The Everlasting Club treats all other clubs with an eye of contempt, and talks even of the Kit Cat and October as a couple of upstarts. Their ordinary discourse, as much as I have been able to learn of it, turns altogether upon such adventures as have passed in their own assembly; of members who have taken the glass in their turns for a week together, without stirring out of the club; of others who have smoked a hundred pipes at a sitting; of others who have not missed their morning's draught for twenty years together. Sometimes they speak in raptures of a run of ale in King Charles's reign, and sometimes reflect with astonishment upon games at whist, which have been miraculously recovered by members of the society, when in all human probability the case was desperate.
They delight in several old catches, which they sing at all hours to encourage one another to moisten their clay, and grow immortal by drinking ; with many other edifying exhortations of the like nature.
There are four general clubs held in a year, at which times they fill up vacancies, appoint waiters, confirm the old fire-maker, or elect a new one, settle contributions for coals, pipes, tobacco, and other necessaries.
The senior member has outlived the whole club twice over, and has been drunk with the grandfathers of some of the present sitting members.