« AnteriorContinua »
year to three hundred thousand pounds; in ten years to more than a sixth part of our circulating coin.
I am afraid that those who are best acquainted with the state of our prisons will confess that my conjecture is too near the truth, when I suppose that the corrosion of resentment, the heaviness of sorrow, the corruption of confined air, the want of exercise, and sometimes of fool, the contagion of diseases, from which there is no retreat, and the se. verity of tyrants, against whom there can be no resistance, and all the complicated horrours of a prison, put an end every year to the life of one in four of those that are shut up from the common coinforts of human life.
Thus perish yearly five thousand men, overborn with soirow, consumed by famine, or putrified by filth; many of them in the most vigourous and useful part of life ; for the thoughtless and imprudent are commonly young, and the active and busy are seldom old.
According to the rule generally received, which supposes that one in thirty dies yearly, the race of man may be said to be renewed at the end of thirty years. Who would have believed till now, that of every English generation, an hundred and fifty thousand perish in our gaols! that in every century, a nation eminent for science, studious of commerce, ambitious of empire, should willingly lose, in noisome dungcons, five hundred thousand of its inhabitants ; a number greater than has ever been destroyed in the same time by the pestilence and sword!
A very late occurrence may show us the value of the number which we thus condemn to be useless; in the re-establishment of the trained bands, twenty thousand are considered as a force sufficient against all exigences. While therefore, we detain twenty thousand in prison, we shut up in darkness and uselessness two-thirds of an army which ourselves judge equal to the defence of our country.
The monastic institutions have been often blamedd, as tending to retard the increase of mankind. And perhaps retirement ought rarely to be permitted, except to those who e employment is consistent with abstraction, and who, though solitary, will not be idle; to those whom infirmity makes useless to the commonwealth, or to those who have paid their due proportion to society, and who, having liver for others, may be honourably dismissed to live for themselves. But whatever be the evil or the folly of these retreats, those have no right to censure them whose prisons contain greater pumbers than the monasteries of other countries. It is curly, less foolish and less criminal to permit inaction than compel
it; to comply with doubtful opinions of happiness, than condemn to certain and apparent misery; to indulge the extravagances of erroneous piety, than to multiply and enforce temptations to wickedness.
The misery of gaols is not half their evil : they are filled with every corruption which poverty and wickedness can generate between them ; with all the shameless and profligate enormities that can be produced by the impudence of ignominy, the rage of want, and the malignity of despair. In a prison the awe of the public eye is lost, and the power of the law is spent; there are few fears, there are no blushes. The lewd inflame the lewd, the audacious harden the audacious. Every one fortifies himself as he can against his own sensibility, endeavours to practise on others the arts which are practised on himself; and gains the kindness of his associates by similitude of manners.
Thus some sink amidst their misery, and others survive only to propagate villany. It may be hoped, that our lawgivers will at length take away from us this power of starving and depraving one another: but, if there be any reason why this inveterate evil should not be removed in our age, which true policy has enlightened beyond any former time, let those, whose writings form the opinions and the practices of their contemporaries, endeavour to transfer the reproach of such imprisonment from the debtor to the creditor, till universal infamy shall pursue the wretch whose wantonness of power, or revenge of disappointment, condemns another to torture and to ruin; till he shall be hunted through the world as an enemy to man, and find in riches no shelter from contempt.
Surely he, whose debtor has perished in prison, although he may acquit himself of deliberate murder, must at least have his mind clouded with discontent, when he considers how much another bas suffered from him ; when he thinks on the wife bewailing her husband, or the children begging the bread which their father would have earned. If there are any made so obdurate by avarice or cruelty, as to revolve these consequences without dread or pity, I must leave them to be awakened by some other power, for I write only to human beings.
No. 39. SATURDAY, January 13, 1759.
TO THE IDLER.
SIR-As none look more diligently about them than those who have nothing to do, or who do nothing, I suppose it has not escaped your observation, that the bracelet, or ornament of great antiquity, has been for some years revived among the English ladies.
The genius of our nation is said, I know not for what reason, to appear rather in improvement than invention. The bracelet was known in the earliest ages; but it was formerly only a hoop of gold, or a cluster of jewels, and showed nothing but the wealth or vanity of the wearer, till our ladies. by carrying pictures on their wrists, made their ornaments. works of fancy and exercises of judgment.
This addition of art to luxury is one of the innumerable proofs that might be given of the late increase of female erudition ; and I have often congratulated myself that my life has happened at a time when those, on whom so much of human felicity depends, have learned to think as well as speak, and wlien respect takes possession of the ear, while love is entering at the eye.
I have observed, that, even by the suffrages of their own sex, those ladies are accounted wisest who do not yet disdain to be taught; and therefore I shall offer a few hints for the completion of the bracelet, without any dread of the fate of Orpheus.
To the ladies who wear the pictures of their husbands or children, or any other relations, I can offer nothing more decent or more proper. It is reasonable to believe that she intends at least to perform her duty, who carries a perpetual excitement to recollection and caution, whose own ornaments must upbraid her with every failure, and who, by an open violation of her engagements, must for ever forfeit her bracelet.
Yet I know not whether it is the interest of the husband to solicit very earnestly a place on the bracelet. If his image be not in the heart, it is of small avail to hang it on the hand. A husband encircled with diamonds and rubies may gain some esteem, but will never excite love. He that thinks himself most secure of his wife, should be fearful of persecuting her continually with his presence. The joy of life is variety:
the tenderest love requires to be rekindled by intervals of absence; and Fidelity herself will be wearied with transferring her eye only from the same man to the same picture.
In many countries the condition of every woman is known by her dress. Marriage is rewarded with some honourable distinction which celibacy is forbidden to usurp. Some such information a bracelet might afford. The ladies might enroll themselves in distinct classes, and carry in open view the emblems of their order. The bracelet of the authoress may exhibit the muses in a grove of laurel ; the housewife may show Penelope with her web; the votress of a single life may carry Ursula with her troop of virgins; the gamester may have fortune with her wheel; and those women that “ have no character at all” may display a field of white enamel, as imploring help to fill up the vacuity.
There is a set of ladies who have outlived most animal pleasures, and, having nothing rational to put in their place, solace with cards the loss of what time has taken away, and the want of what wisdom, having never been courted has never given. For these I know not how to provide a proper decoration. They cannot be numbered among the gamesters, for though they are always at play, they play for nothing, and never rise to the dignity of hazard or the reputation of skill. They neither love nor are loved, and cannot be supposed to contemplate any human image with delight. Yet though they despair to please, they always wish to be fine, and therefore cannot be without a bracelet. To this sisterhood I can recommend nothing more likely to please them than the king of clubs, a personage very comely and majestic, who will never meet their eyes without reviving the thought of some past or future party, and who may be displayed in the act of dealing with grace and propriety.
But the bracelet which might be most easily introduced into general use is a small convex mirror, in which the lady may see herself whenever she shall lift her hand, This will be a perpetual source of delight. Other ornaments are of use only in public, but this will furnish gratifications to solitude. This will show a face that must always please; she who is followed by admirers will carry about her a perpetual justification of the public voice; and she who passes without notice may appeal from prejudice to her own eyes.
But I know not why the privilege of the bracelet should be confined to women; it was in former ages worn by heroes in battle; and as modern soldiers are always distinguished by splendour of dress, I should rejoice to see the bracelet added to the cockade.
In hope of this ornamental innovation, I have spent some thoughts upon military bracelets. There is no passion more heroic than love; and therefore I should be glad to see the sons of England marching in the field, every man with the picture of a woman of honour bound upon bis band. But since in the army, as every where else, there will always be men who love nobody but themselves, or whom no woman of honour will permit to love her, there is a necessity of some other distinctions and devices.
I bave read of a prince who, having lost a town, ordered the name of it to be every morning shouted in his ear till it should be recovered. For the same purpose I think the prospect of Minorca might be probably worn on the hands of some of our generals : others might delight their countrymen, and dignify themselves with a view of Rochfort as it appeared to them at sea : and those that shall return from the conquest of America, may exhibit the warehouse of Frontenac, with an inscription denoting, that it was taken in less than three years by less than twenty thousand men.
I am, Sir, &c.
No. 40. SATURDAY, January 20, 1759.
The practice of appending to the narratives of public transactions more minute and domestic intelligence, and filling the newspapers with advertisements, has grown up by slow degrees to its present state.
Genius is shown only by invention. The man who first took advantage of the general curiosity that was excited by a siege or battle, to betray the readers of news into the knowledge of the shop where the best puffs and powder were to be sold, was undoubtedly a man of great sagacity, and profound skill in the nature of man. But when he had once shown the way, it was easy to follow him : and every man now knows a ready method of informing the public of all that he desires to buy or sell, whether his wares be material or intellectual ; whether he makes clothes, or teaches the mathematics ; whether he be a tutor that wants a pupil, or a pupil that wants a tutor.
Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and