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No 155. TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, 1711.
He nuga seria ducunt
HOR. Ars Poet. v.451.
These things which now seem frivolous and slight,
I HAVE more than once taken notice of an indecent licence taken in discourse, wherein the conversation on one part is involuntary, and the effect of some necessary circumstance. This happens in travelling together in the same hired coach, sitting near each other in any public assembly, or the like. ! have, upon making observations of this sort, received innumerable messages from that part of the fair sex whose lot in life it is to be of any trade or public way of life. They are all, to a woman, urgent with me to lay before the world the unhappy circumstances they are under, from the unreasonable liberty which is taken in their presence, to talk on what subject it is thought fit by every coxcomb who wants understanding or breeding. One or two of these complaints I shall set down.
• I KEEP a coffee-house, and am one of those whom you
have thought fit to mention as an Idol some time ago. I suffered a good deal of raillery upon that occasion ; but shall heartily forgive you, who are the cause of it, if you will do me justice in another point. What I ask of you, is, to acquaint my customers (who are otherwise very good ones)
that I am unavoidably hasped in my bar, and cannot
I am, SIR,
This representation is so just, that it is hard to speak of it without an indignation which perhaps would appear too elevated to such as can be guilty
of this inhuman treatment, where they see they affront a modest, plain, and ingenuous behaviour. This correspondent is not the only sufferer in this kind, for I have long letters both from the Royal and NewExchange on the same subject. They tell me that a young fop cannot buy a pair of gloves, but he is at the same time straining for some ingenious ribaldry to say to the young woman who helps them on. It is no small addition to the calamity, that the rogues buy as hard as the plainest and modestest customers they have ; besides which, they loll upon their counters half an hour longer than they need, to drive away other customers, who are to share their impertinencies with the milliner, or go to another shop. Letters from Change-alley are full of the same evil; and the girls tell me, except I can chase some eminent merchants from their shops they shall in a short time fail. It is very unaccountable, that men can have little deference to all mankind who pass by them, as to bear being seen toying by twos and threes at a time, with no other purpose but to appear gay enough to keep up a light conversation or common-place jests, to the injury of her whose credit is certainly hurt by it, though their own may be strong enough to bear it. When we come to have exact accounts of these .conversations, it is not to be doubted but that their discourses will raise the usual style of buying and selling. Instead of the plain downright lying, and asking and bidding so unequally to what they will really give and take, we may hope to have from these fine folks an exchange of compliments. There must certainly be a great deal of pleasant difference between the commerce of lovers, and that of all other dealers, who are, in a kind, adversaries. A sealed bond, or a bank-note, would be a pretty gallantry to convey unseen into the hands of one whom a director is charmed VOL. VIII.
otherwise the city-loiterers are still more unreasonable than those at the other end of the town. At the New-Exchange they are eloquent for want of cash, but in the city they ought with cash to supply their want of eloquence.
If one might be serious on this prevailing folly, one might observe, that it is a melancholy thing, when the world is mercenary even to the buying and selling our very persons; that young women, though they have never so great attractions from nature, are never the nearer being happily disposed of in marriage; I say, it is very hard under this necessity, it shall not be possible for them to go into a way of trade for their maintenance, but their very excellencies and personal perfections shall be a disadvantage to them, and subject them to be treated as if they stood there to sell their persons to prostitution. There cannot be a more melancholy circumstance to one who has made any observation in the world, than one of those erring creatures exposed to bankruptcy. When that happens, none of those toying fools will do any more than any other man they meet, to preserve her from infamy, insult, and distemper. A woman is naturally more helpless than the other sex ; and a man of honour and sense should have this in his view in all manner of commerce with her. Were this well weighed, inconsideration, ribaldry, and nonsense, would not be more natural to entertain women with, thán men; and it would be as much impertinence to go into a shop of one of these young women without buying, as into that of any other trader. I shall end this speculation with a letter I have received from a pretty milliner in the city.
• I HAVE read your account of beauties, and was not a little surprised to find no character of myself in it. I do assure you I have little else to do but to give audience, as I am such. Here are merchants of no small consideration, who call in as certainly as they go to 'Change, to say something of my roguish eye.
And here is one who makes me once or twice a week tumble over all my goods, and then owns it was only a gallantry to see me act with these pretty hands; then lays out three-pence in a little ribband for his wristbands, and thinks he is a man of great vivacity. There is an ugly thing not far off me, whose shop is frequented only by people of business, that is all day long as busy as possible. Must I that am a beauty be treated with for nothing but my beauty, Be pleased to assiga rates to my kind glances, or make all pay who come to see me, or I shall be undone by
admirers for want of customers. Albacinda, Eu. dosia, and all the rest would be used just as we are, if they were in our condition ; therefore pray consider the distress of us the lower order of beauties, and I shall be
Your obliged humble servant.' T.