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Weakness or Delicacy; all so nice,
In Men, we various Ruling Passions find;
In sev'ral Men, we sev'ral Passions find;
the same date in France) to have been the peaceable part of King Charles the First's reign; and from what we read of those times, as well as from the accounts 1 have formerly met with from some who lived in that court, the methods then used for raising and cultivating conversation were altogether different from ours; several ladies, whom we find celebrated by the poets of that age, had assemblies at their houses, where persons of the best understanding, and of both sexes, met to pass the evenings in discoursing upon whatever agreeable subjects were occasionally started; and although we are apt to ridicule the sublime platonic notions they had, or personated, in love and friendship, I conceive their refinements were grounded upon reason, and that a little grain of the romance is no ill ingredient to preserve and exalt the dignity of human nature, without which it is apt to degenerate into every thing that is sordid, vicious, and low. If there were no other use in the conversation of ladies, it is sufficient that it would lay a restraint upon those odious topics of immodesty and indecencies into which the rudeness of our northern genius is so apt to fall.”
Ver. 203. Bred to disguise, in Public 'tis you hide ;] There is something apparently exceptionable in the turn of this assertion, which makes their disguising in public the natural effect of their being bred to disguise : but if we consider that female education is the art of teaching, not to be but to appear, we shall have no reason to find fault with the exactness of the expression. W.
Ver. 207. The former part having shewn, that the particular Characters of Women are more various than those of Men, it is nevertheless observed, that the general Characteristic of the sex, as to the ruling Passion, is more uniform. P.
Ver. 208. In Women, two] I cannot think our Author would
Those, only fix'd, they first or last obey,
That, Nature gives; and where the lesson taught
Men, some to Bus'ness, some to Pleasure take; But ev'ry Woman is at heart a Rake:
216 Men, some to Quiet, some to public Strife; But ev'ry Lady would be Queen for Life.
Yet mark the fate of a whole sex of Queens ! Pow'r all their end, but Beauty all the means : 220 In Youth they conquer, with so wild a rage, As leaves them scarce a subject in their Age:
NOTES. suffer by a minute comparison of this Epistle with the most shining and applauded morsels of the tenth satire of Boileau, which undoubtedly are his portraits of the affected female Pedant, ver. 439. The Gamester, ver. 215. His Jealous Lady, ver. 378. The Haughty Lady of Family, ver. 470. And above all, what Boileau himself valued most, the Devout Lady and her Director, ver. 558. Boileau was severely attacked for this epistle by Perrault; but was powerfully defended by the great Arnauld, a rigid moralist, and also by La Bruyere.
Ver. 211. This is occasioned partly by their Nature, partly by their Education, and in some degree by Necessity. P.
Ver. 216. But ev'ry Woman is at heart a Rake :] This line has given offence: but in behalf of the Poet we may observé, that what he says amounts only to this, “ Some men take to business, some to pleasure; but every woman would willingly make pleasure her business ;" which being the proper periphrasis of a Rake, he uses that word, but of course includes in it no more of the Rake's ill qualities than is implied in this definition, of one who makes pleasure her business. W.
Ver. 219. What are the Aims and the Fate of this sex.-I. As to power. P.
For foreign glory, foreign joy, they roam ;
Pleasures the sex, as children Birds, pursue,
Ver. 229. Worn out in public,] Copied from Young, Satire 5. written eight years before this Epistle appeared;
“Worn in the public eye, give cheap delight
To throngs, and tarnish to the sated sight.” Ver. 231.- II. As to Pleasure. P.
Ver. 234. To covet flying,] It is impossible not to recollect the witty simile of Young, Sat. 5.
“ Pleasures are few, and fewer we enjoy ;
See how the World, its Veterans rewards!
NOTES. Ver. 244. A Youth of Frolics,] The antithesis, so remarkably strong in these lines, was a very favourite figure with our Poet: he has indeed used it but in too many parts of his Works; nay, even in his translation of the Iliad, where it ought not to have been admitted, and which Dryden has but rarely used in his Virgil. Our Author seldom writes many words together without an antithesis. It must be allowed sometimes, to add strength to a sentiment by an opposition of images: but, too frequently repeated, it becomes tiresome and disgusting. Rhyme has almost a natural tendency to betray a writer into it: but the purest authors have despised it, as an ornament pert and puerile, and epigrammatic. Seneca, Pliny, Tacitus, and later authors, abound in it. Quintilian has sometimes used it with much success, as when he speaks of style; “magna, non nimia; sublimis, non abrupta; severa, non tristis; læta, non luxuriosa; plena, non tumida.” And sometimes Tully; as, “vicit pudorem libido, timorem audacia, rationem amentia.” But these writers fall into this mode of speaking but seldom, and do not make it their constant and general manner. Those moderns, who have not acquired a true taste for the simplicity of the best ancients, have generally run into a frequent use of point, opposition, and contrast. They who begin to study painting, are struck at first with the pieces of the most vivid colouring; they are almost ashamed to own that they do not relish and feel the modest and reserved beauties of Raphael. The exact proportion of St. Peter's at Rome occasions it not to appear so great as it really is. It is the same in writing; but by degrees we find that Lucan, Martial, Juvenal, Q. Curtius, and Florus, and others of that stamp, who abound in figures that contribute to the false florid, in luxuriant metaphors, in pointed conceits, in lively antitheses, unexpectedly darting forth, are contemptible for the very causes which once excited our admiration. It is then we relish Terence, Cæsar, and Xenophon.
Ah! Friend! to dazzle let the Vain design; 249 To raise the Thought, and touch the Heart, be thine! That Charm shall grow, while what fatigues the Ring, Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing; So when the Sun's broad beam has tir'd the sight, All mild ascends the Moon's more sober light, Serene in Virgin Modesty she shines, And unobsery'd the glaring Orb declines.
Oh! blest with Temper, whose unclouded ray Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day; She, who can love a Sister's charms, or hear Sighs for a Daughter with unwounded ear; 260 She, who ne'er answers till her Husband cools, Or, if she rules him, never shews she rules ; Charms by accepting, by submitting sways, Yet has her humour most, when she obeys; Let Fops or Fortune fly which way they will; 265 Disdains all loss of Tickets, or Codille ; Spleen, Vapours, or Small-pox, above them all, And Mistress of herself, though China fall.
Ver. 253. So when the Sun's] There are not perhaps, in the whole compass of the English language, four lines more exquisitely finished; not a syllable can be altered for the better; every word seems to be the only proper one that could have been used. So pure and pellucid is the style,
“Ut pura nocturno renidet
Luna mari!” Ver. 268. though China fall.] Addison has touched this subject with his usual exquisite humour, in the Lover, No. 10. p. 291 of his Works, 4to. quoting Epictetus to comfort a lady that labours under this heavy calamity.