« PreviousContinue »
these reflections, to remember, that, even while my Maria lived, the esteem which I sincerely felt for her virtues, the affection which I really bore her, and the sense I had of her tenderness, wrung my heart at times with the deepest remorse, and prompted me to atone for my injustice, by the warmest expressions of kindness and regard. Many a time, sir, in those tranquil moments, when no wayward inclination or peevish humour overpowered my better feelings, have I firmly resolved, that my future conduct should make ample reparation for the offences of the past. Nor were these resolutions altogether fruitless; for while under the influence of this salutary conviction of my errors, I have so far amended them as to feel for a time a genuine relish for calm and domestic happiness. But how short this dawning of amendment! A new temptation presented itself, and my weak resolution yielded to the force of returning passion. With my former errors I resumed the despicable pride of justifying them, and every deviation from duty was aggravated by harshness and ill-humour.
Ever offending, and ever purposing to atone for my offences, I have now irretrievably lost the opportunity, That best of women is now no more. I have received her latest breath, and heard her last supplication, which was a prayer to Heaven to pour its blessings on the most unworthy of men !
Here let me end this letter.- No words can express the feelings which these reflections convey to the breast of
No. 8. SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 1785.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE LOUNGER.
Edinburgh, March 2. I am greatly pleased, Mr. Lounger, with your account of yourself, and your innocent and useful manner of sliding through the bustle of life. I sincerely wish that many of my
friends and visitors would 'follow your example, and learn to be idle without disturbing those who are obliged, from their situation, to be busy. I suffer daily so much from the intrusion of a set of female Loungers (forgive me for using your title), that it has prompted me to address myself to you, in hopes that you will, in some of your future essays, teach my unfortunately idle friends how to employ their tedious forenoons, without obliging me to be as idle as themselves. But to make you, sir, fully sensible how much I suffer from ladies who cannot kill time at home, I must inform you, that I am the wife of a gentleman whose fortune has been made by a steady application to a branch of business that obliges both him and me to be extremely attentive to those who employ him. A family of seven children makes it necessary for him still to continue in business. Our sons are attending such branches of education as will fit them for the different employments they have chosen. Our three daughters I am attempting to educate under my own eye, as the present boarding schools and governesses are much too expensive for people of our moderate fortune. I find so much pleasure in superintending every part of
my daughters' education, that not an hour of the day is unemployed, or can hang heavy on my hands: but alas, sir, how cruelly teasing is it, when I am set down to hear my youngest girl read, with Eliza and Mary at their work seated by me, to be broke in upon by Miss Flounce, who comes to tell me how charmingly she has improved upon Lady Chenille's new trimming, and assures me her bottle-green satin was the sweetest and most admired dress at last assembly. Then, without observing that she interrupts me by her stay, she proceeds to give me an account of all the different dresses that she took hints from, to convince me how much her superior taste had improved upon that of her companions. When I am just expecting the conclusion of her uninteresting narration, her cousin, Miss Feathers, swims into the room, assures us she is happy to find us together, that she may tell us how Mrs. Panache had almost fainted away on seeing her new Figaro hat, with a plume of feathers in a much higher taste than her own. This introduces a smart dispute between the ladies, whether plain or Figaro feathers are the most elegant and becoming. They at last agree to refer their dispute to Miss Tastey, and leave me in haste to obtain her decision.
I gladly resume my pleasing task, but find that Eliza has misplaced the colours in shading a violet, and Mary broke her needle, by attending too much to the ladies' conversation. I have perhaps got matters adjusted, and little Anne has read half a page, when in totters Mrs. Qualm. This lady, though always sick, is still able to come abroad every day, and wearies her acquaintance with the detail of her numberless complaints. A whole hour is lost to me by this new intrusion; and thus a forenoon is spent without improvement either to my daughters or myself: and I am sorry to say, few days pass in which I have not cause to regret that there is no pleasure to be found for idlers at home. Were I a woman of quality, or perfectly independent, I might rid myself of these intruders, by being not at home; but in my situation I dare not shut my doors, lest I should give offence to people who are able to hurt
husband's business. In this distressed situation, I hope Mr. Lounger will forgive me in offering a hint to him, which, if he would dress out in his sensible persuasive manner, I think I should soon be freed from the fatigue of entertaining lounging ladies, and they would be much more suitably amused than in my working parlour. My hint, sir, is, that you would recommend a forenoon's conversation, or place of meeting, for ladies and gentlemen who must be in any company rather than their own. There, I think, if you would have the goodness to preside, and direct them how to amuse each other till the time of dressing for dinner, you would confer a high obligation on them, and a still greater on those who, like me, suffer now from the heavy burden of their insipid company. You, my good sir, who have lounged about to such good purpose as to be able to improve others, will, I hope, take your weaker brothers and sisters under your direction; and if you will make Dunn's rooms à lounging hall instead of a chapel, I think I may venture to assure you it will be better attended in one character than in the other; and if your
lectures can make the forenoons pass easily, and without the trouble of thinking to those idlers, by drawing them together under your direction, and freeing the more employed part of the world from their unwelcome intrusion, you will greatly oblige many of your readers, particularly your admirer,
There is such an air of goodness in Mrs. Careful's letter, and I consider her morning's employment as of so very important a kind, that I would do much to afford her relief; but really that branch of our family of which she complains is so numerous, and so difficult to deal with, that I am afraid the attempts of any individual for their better regulation or disposal would be fruitless. With regard to our sex, some benevolent young gentlemen have already tried several projects similar to that suggested by Mrs. Careful, but apparently without success. They set a-foot a cock-pit to give play to our minds, and in the frost a drag-hunt to give exercise to our bodies : but the only effect those pastimes produced was to furnish additional subjects for the idle to talk of, and to plague the busy with hearing them.
The set of people of whom my correspondent complains are a sort of vagrants, or sturdy beggars, whom like others of the tribe, idleness sets afloat, to the disquiet of the industrious part of the community, on whom it should be a matter of public police not to suffer to molest our houses. A short clause in the new bill for the improvement of Edinburgh might provide a work-house for those fashionable mumpers, who so importunately solicit a share of our time and attention, and whom unluckily, as Mrs. Careful observes, those doors only can shut out whose owners would suffer least from their getting in. None but people of a certain rank can always prevent those unwelcome visitors from bestowing (as Dogberry in the play says) all their tediousness upon their honours.'
Such an institution as I hint at would be of great use both to the community and to the objects of it, who might be assembled in the different wards, as in