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whether or no these our British schools of politics may furnish out as able envoys and secretaries as an academy that is set apart for that purpose, will deserve our serious consideration, especially if we remember that our country is more famous for producing men of integrity than statesmen; and that on the contrary, French truth and British policy make a conspicuous figure in Mothing, as the Earl of Rochester has very well observed in his admirable poem upon that barren subject.
No. CCCVI. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20.
...............Quae forma, ut se tibi semper
MR. spect AtoR, * I WRITE this to communicate to you a misfortune which frequently happens, and therefore deserves a consolatory discourse on the subject. I was within this half year in the possession of as much beauty and as many lovers as any young lady in England. But my admirers have left me, and I cannot complain of their behaviour. I have within that time had the small-pox; and this face, which, according to many amorous epistles which I have by me, was the seat of all that is beautiful in woman, is now disfigured with scars. It goes to the very soul of me to speak what I really think of my face, and though I think I did not over-rate my beauty while I had it, it has extremely advanced in its value with me, now it is lost. There is one circumstance which makes my case very particular; the ugliest fellow that ever pretended to me, was and is most in my favour, and he treats me at present the most unreasonably. If you could make him return an obligation which he owes me, in liking a person that is not amiable;.....but there is, I fear, no possibility of making passion move by the rules of reason and gratitude. But say what you can to one who has survived herself, and knows not how to act in a new being. My lovers are at the feet of my rivals, my rivals are every day bewailing me, and I cannot enjoy what I am, by reason of the distracting reflection upon what I was. Consider the woman I was did not die of old age, but I was taken off in the prime of youth, and according to the course of nature may have forty years after-life to come. I have nothing of myself left, which I like, but that ‘ I am, SIR, * Your most humble servant, * PARTHEN ISS.A.”
When Lewis of France had lost the battle of Ramillies, the addresses to him at that time were full of his fortitude, and they turned his misfortune to his glory ; in that, during his prosperity, he could never have manifested his heroic constancy under distresses, and so the world had lost the most eminent part of his character. Parthenissa's condition gives her the same opportunity ; and to resign conquests is a task as difficult in a beauty as in a hero. In the very entrance upon this work she must burn all her loveletters; or since she is so candid as not to call her lovers who followed her no longer unfaithful, it would be a very good beginning of a new life from that of beauty, to send them back to those who writ them, with this honest inscription, “Articles of a marriagetreaty broken off by the small-pox.” I have known but one instance where a matter of this kind went on after a like misfortune, where the lady, who was a woman of spirit, writ this billet to her lover.
* SIR, * IF you flattered me before I had this terrible * malady, pray come and see me now ; but if you “sincerely liked me, stay away; for I am not the * same * CoRINNA.”
The lover thought there was something so sprightly in her behaviour, that he answered:
* MADAM, * I AM not obliged, since you are not the same “woman, to let you know whether I flattered you or ‘ not ; but I assure you I do not, when I tell you I * now like you above all your sex, and hope you will “bear what may befal me, when we are both one, as ‘well as you do, what happens to yourself now you ‘ are single; therefore I am ready to take such a ‘spirit for my companion as soon as you please. “AMILCAR.'
If Parthenissa can now possess her own mind, and think as little of her beauty as she ought to have done when she had it, there will be no great diminution of her charms; and if she was formerly affected too much with them, an easy behaviour will more than make up for the loss of them. Take the whole sex together, and you find those who have the strongest possession of men's hearts are not eminent for their beauty: and you see it often happen, that those who engage men to the greatest violence, are such as those who are strangers to them would take to be remarkably defective for that end. The fondest lover I know, said to me one day in a crowd of women at
an entertainment of music, you have often heard me talk of my beloved; that woman there, continued he, smiling when he had fixed my eye, is her very picture. The lady he showed me was by much the least remarkable for beauty of any in the whole assembly: but having my curiosity extremely raised, I could not keep my eyes off her. Her eyes at last met mine, and with a sudden surprise she looked round her to see who near her was remarkably handsome that I was gazing at. This little act explained the secret; she did not understand herself for the object of love, and therefore she was so. The lover is a very honest plain man : and what charmed him was a person that goes along with him in the cares and joys of life, not taken up with herself, but sincerely attentive with a ready and cheerful mind to accompany him in either. I can tell Parthenissa for her comfort, that the beauties, generally speaking, are the most impertinent and disagreeable of women. An apparent desire of admiration, a reflection upon their own merit, and a precise behaviour in their general conduct, are almost inseparable accidents in beauties. All you obtain of them is granted to importunity and solicitation for what did not deserve so much of your time, and you recover from the possession of it, as out of a dream. You are ashamed of the vagaries of fancy which so strangely misled you, and your admiration of a beauty, merely as such, is inconsistent with a tolerable reflection upon yourself: the cheerful, goodhumoured creatures into whose heads it never entered that they could make any man unhappy, are the persons formed for making men happy. There is Miss Liddy can dance a jig, raise paste, write a good hand, keep an account, give a reasonable answer, and do as she is bid : while her eldest sister, Madam Martha, is out of humour, has the spleen, learns by reports of people of higher quality new ways of being uneasy and displeased. And this happens for no other reason in the world, but that poor Liddy knows she has no such thing as a certain negli“gence that is so becoming,” that there is I know not what in her air ; and that if she talks like a fool, there is no one will say, “Well, I know not what it “ is, but everything pleases me when she speaks it.”
Ask any of the husbands of your great beauties, and they will tell you that they hate their wives nine hours of every day they pass together. There is such a particularity for ever affected by them, that they are incumbered with their charms in all they say or do. They pray at public devotions as they are beauties. They converse on ordinary occasions as they are beauties. Ask Belinda what it is o'clock, and she is at a stand whether so great a beauty should answer you. In a word, I think, instead of offering to administer consolation to Parthenissa, I should congratulate her metamorphosis; and however she thinks she was not the least insolent in the prosperity of her charms, she was enough so to find she may make herself a much more agreeable creature in her present adversity. The endeavour to please is highly promoted by a consciousness that the approbation of the person you would be agreeable to is a favour you do not deserve ; for in this case assurance of success is the most certain way to disappointment. Good-nature will always supply the absence of beauty, but beauty cannot long supply the absence of good-nature. P. S.
February 18. * MADAM,
“I HAVE yours of this day, wherein you twice ‘bid me not to disoblige you, but you must explain “yourself farther before I shall know what to do. ‘Your most obedient servant, T - “THE SPECTA Toa.”