Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

N. B. All false buyers at auctions, being employed only to hide others, are from this day forward to be known in Mr. Bickerstaff's writings by the word Screens.

No. 172. TUESDAY, MAY 16, 1710.

Quid quisque vitet, nunquam homini satis
Cautum est in horas.-

HOR. OD. ii. 13. 13.
No man can tell the dangers of each hour,
Nor is prepared to meet them

FROM MY OWN APARTMENT, MAY 15. WHEN a man is in a serious mood, and ponders upon

his

own make, with a retrospect to the actions of his life and the many fatal miscarriages in it, which he owes to ungoverned passions, he is then apt to say to himself, that experience has guarded him against such errors for the future: but nature often recurs in spite of his best resolutions ; and it is to the very end of our days a struggle between our reason and our temper, which shall have the empire over us. However, this is very

much to be helped by circumspection, and a constant alarm against the first onsets of passion. As this is, in general

, a necessary care to make a man's life easy and agreeable to himself; so it is more particularly the duty of such as are engaged in friendship, and more near commerce with others. Those who have their joys, have also their griefs in proportion ; and

none can extremely exalt or depress friends, but friends. The harsh things, which come from the rest of the world, are received and repulsed with that spirit, which every honest man bears for his own vindication ; but unkindness, in words or actions, among friends, affects us at the first instant in the inmost recesses of our souls. Indifferent people, if I may so say, can wound us only in heterogeneous parts, maim us in our legs or arms; but the friend can make no pass but at the heart itself. On the other side, the most impotent assistance, the mere well-wishes of a friend, gives a man constancy and courage against the most prevailing force of his enemies. It is here only a man enjoys and suffers to the quick. For this reason, the most gentle behaviour is absolutely necessary to maintain friendship in any degree above the common level of acquaintance. But there is a relation of life much more near than the most strict and sacred friendship, that is to say, marriage. This union is of too close and delicate a nature to be easily conceived by those who do not know that condition by experience. Here a man should, if possible, soften his passions; if not for his own ease, in compliance to a creature formed with a mind of a quite different make from his own. do not mean it an injury to women, when I

say there is a sort of sex in souls. I am tender of offending them, and know it is hard not to do it on this subject; but I must go on to say, that the soul of a man, and that of a woman, are made very unlike, according to the employments for which they are designed. The ladies will please to observe,

I say, our minds have different, not superior, qualities to theirs. The virtues have respectively a masculine and feminine cast. What we call in men wisdom, is in women prudence. It is a par

I am sure, I

tiality to call one greater than the other. A prudent woman is in the same class of honour as a wise man, and the scandals in the way of both are equally dangerous. But to make this state any thing but a burden, and not hang a weight upon our very beings, it is proper each of the couple should frequently remember that there are many things which grow out of their very natures that arc pardonable, nay becoming, when considered as such, but without that reflection must give the quickest pain and vexation. To manage well a great family, is as worthy an instance of capacity, as to execute a great employment: and for the generality, as women perform the considerable parts of their duties, as well as men do theirs ; so in their common behaviour, those of ordinary genius are not more trivial than the common rate of men ; and, in

my opinion, the playing of a fan is every whit as good an entertainment as the beating a snuffbox.

But, however, I have rambled in this libertine manner of writing by way of Essay, I now sit down with an intention to represent to my readers, how pernicious, how sudden, and how fatal, surprises of passion are to the mind of man; and that in the 'more intimate commerces of life they are most liable to rise, even in our most sedate and indolent hours. Occurrences of this kind have had very terrible effects; and when one reflects upon them, we cannot but tremble to consider, what we are capable of being wrought up to, against all the ties of nature, love, honour, reason, and religion, though the man who breaks through them all had, an hour before he did so, a lively and virtuous sense of their dictates. When unhappy catastrophes make up part of the history of princes and persons who act in high spheres, or are represented in the moving language and well-wrought scenes of tragedians, they do not fail of striking us with terror; but then they affect us only in a transient manner, and pass through our imaginations as incidents in which our fortunes are too humble to be concerned, or which writers form for the ostentation of their own force; or, at most, as things fit rather to exercise the powers of our minds, than to create new habits in them. Instead of such high passages,

I was thinking it would be of great use, if any body could hit it, to lay before the world such adventures as befall persons not exalted above the common level. This, methought, would better prevail upon the ordinary race of men ; who are so prepossessed with outward appearances, that they mistake fortune for nature, and believe nothing can relate to them, that does not happen to such as live and look like themselves.

The unhappy end of a gentleman, whose story an acquaintance of mine was just now telling me, would be very proper for this end, if it could be related with all the circumstances as I heard it this evening; for it touched me so much, that I cannot forbear entering upon it.

* Mr. Eustace, a young gentleman of a good estate near Dublin, in Ireland, married a lady of youth, beauty and modesty, and lived with her, in general, with much ease and tranquillity ; but was in his secret temper impatient of rebuke. She was apt to fall into little sallies of passion ; yet as suddenly recalled by her own reflection on her fault, and the consideration of her husband's temper. It happened, as he, his wife, and her sister, were at supper together about two months ago, that in the midst of a careless and familiar conversation, the sisters fell into a little warmth and contradiction. He, who was one of that sort of men who are never unconcerned at what passes before them, fell into an outrageous passion on the side of the sister. The person about whom they disputed was so near, that they were under no restraint from running into vain repetitions of past heats : on which occasion all the aggravations of anger and distaste boiled up, and were repeated with the bit, terness of exasperated lovers. The wife, observing her husband extremely moved, began to turn it off, and rally him for interposing between two people, who from their infancy had been angry and pleased with each other every half hour. But it descended deeper into his thoughts, and they broke up with a sullen silence. The wife immediately retired to her chamber, whither her husband soon after followed. When they were in bed, he soon dissembled a sleep; and she, pleased that his thoughts were composed, fell into a real one. Their apartment was very

distant from the rest of their family, in a lonely country-house. He now saw his opportunity, and with a dagger he had brought to bed with him, stabbed his wife in the side. She awaked in the highest terror; but immediately imagined it was a blow designed for her husband' by ruffians, began to grasp him, and strove to wake and arouse him to defend himself. He still pretended himself sleeping, and gave her a second wound.

She now drew open the curtains, and by the help of moonlight, saw his hand lifted up to stab her. The horror disarmed her from further struggling; and he, enraged anew at being discovered, fixed his poniard in her bosom. As soon as he believed he had dispatched her, he attempted to escape out of the window: but she, still alive, called to him not to hurt himself; for she might live. He was so stung with the insupportable reflection upon her goodness, and his own villainy, that he

« AnteriorContinua »