Page images

your town are divided into two opposite parties, and that a spirit of faction universally prevails. Amidst those zealots by whom I am surrounded, I find myself in an awkward and unpleasant situation. I am a plain man, and though I love my king and country, and have as high a veneration for the British constitution as any man in the island, I have ever been an enemy to faction, and have always thought that men in a private station, like me, were not called upon, and indeed not entitled to take a violent concern in affairs of state, or the government of the nation. With these principles, I find that I am not acceptable to either party. My red waistcoat, which, now that I have got it, I am unwilling to throw aside, gives me at first ready access to the Pittites: but when they find that I cannot enter into all their ideas, they consider me either as an enemy in disguise, or, what is perhaps still worse in their estimation, as a lukewarm friend. On the other hand, the Foxites, who, from


dress, consider me as attached to the opposite faction, seem to be displeased with me for not taking part against them with sufficient keenness and spirit; they talk of me as a trimmer, and plainly insinuate, that my only object is to keep well with both parties, and avoid giving offence to either.

In this hard situation, I have resolved to apply to you for advice. In my own name, then, and in the name of all those who, like myself, have nothing to hope and nothing to fear from either of the contending parties, be so good as point out what conduct one ought to pursue, who, though interested in the general welfare of his country, feels no inclination to connect himself with either of the parties who are now struggling for the government of it. I am, sir, yours, &c.


I am the better qualified to advise my correspondent Neuter, from having experienced the same distress myself. About a year ago, when the contest between the opposite parties was at its greatest height, I was a good deal puzzled how to act. A friend to whom I communicated my distress advised me to get both a red and a buff waistcoat, and to wear them alternately. But it occurred to me, that wearing the distinguished badge of both parties might have the appearance of something deceitful, and might expose me to a worse appellation than that of trimmer. After due deliberation, therefore, I equipped myself in a suit of black, which I resolved to wear till the present dissensions should subside. I have adhered rigidly to this resolution, except that sometimes when I wish to make a smarter figure than common, I enliven my dress by putting on a brown or a grey frock over my black waistcost. Partly by this prudent caution, and partly by my known indolence of character, I have continued to steer tolerably well between the contending factions, without giving offence even to the zealots of either.

In Britain we enjoy the most perfect system of freedom that ever existed in any society. But from the very nature of our government, we must necessarily be exposed to the violence of faction ; and when the spirit of party runs high, when the fever is at the height, it naturally breaks out into external appearances, always ridiculous, and sometimes whimsical to the last degree.

The little extravagancies of which I complain are not confined to those who may be considered as belonging in some measure to the party whose livery



they wear. We daily see men possessing no political influence, and equally incapable of supporting administration as of aiding opposition, engaging keenly in party; and, like the fabled fly upon the wheel, fondly imagining that the machine of government is accelerated or retarded by them. Even the lowest and most insignificant of mankind take upon them to enlist under the banners of a Pitt or a Fox, and to assume the badges of that party to which they wish to attach themselves, and by which they hope to be drawn from their own natural insignificance.

Were this folly confined to the men, I should regret it less. But unhappily a spirit of party prevails with equal if not greater violence among the ladies. My illustrious predecessor, the Spectator, justly observes, that ‘ party-rage is a male vice, made up of many angry and cruel passions, that are altogether repugnant to the softness, the modesty, and those other endearing qualities which are natural to the fair sex. After recording the party-patches by which the ladies of those days marked their political principles, Mr. Addison expresses himself in these words: • This account of party-patches will, I am afraid, appear improbable to those who live at a distance from the fashionable world; but as it is a distinction of a very singular nature, and what, perhaps, may never meet with a parallel, I think I should not have discharged the office of a faithful Spectator, had not I recorded it.'

Every one who attends to the progress and change of manners, must be struck with this

passage. The enormity of which Mr. Addison here complains, and which he seems to suppose would hardly be believed by those who had not seen it, consisted in this, that at the Opera and Playhouse, a Whig beauty wore her patches on one side of her forehead, while a

Tory toast patched upon the other. Had the fair of the present times distinguished their political principles in the same inoffensive manner, had they gone no farther than wearing those tails and muffs mentioned by my correspondent, I, who am ever averse to find fault with their conduct, might have been disposed to wink at the absurdity of placing the tail of a fox on the head of a fine woman; and it is with pleasure I remark, that the ladies of Edinburgh have contented themselves with such little eccentricities of appearance, and never indulged in those excesses which prevailed in other parts of the island, particularly in the capital. There, I am sorry to say, our female politicians have gone much farther, and have exerted themselves in support of their party, in a manner much more decided and more vigorous. We have seen the first and fairest of our British dames' marching under the banners of the “ Man of the People,' or of · Pitt and Constitution,' exposing their charms to the view and to the insults of a lewd rabble, mingling in scenes in which nothing but necessity and a sense of duty could engage any man of delicacy and taste to bear a part. If Mr. Addison thought that the party-patches of his fair contemporaries might appear improbable, what would he have said had he lived to see what we have seen? To check the little improprieties of his day, he employed his delicate satire, his fine and elegant raillery: but had he witnessed the enormities of which I complain, he perhaps might have thought that the keen caustic of à Juvenal would not have been too severe.

Perhaps it may be thought that I have said more than was necessary, upon a temporary ebullition of party-zeal, which it is to be hoped has now subsided, But I own I am always sensibly hurt with any thing which affects the purity and delicacy of the sex.


[ocr errors]

Besides, the contagion of such an example spreads far and wide: it is not confined to one place, or to the present time; it taints the manners of the rising generation, who, by seeing and hearing of such enormities, may become familiarized with them, may in their time be led to imitate their mothers, and, if possible, to indulge in still greater excesses. Indeed, if our ladies go on improving as politicians, and as tools of a party, I shall not be surprised, if, in a few years, duels, which seem now to be going out of fashion among the men, should become fashionable among the We may then read in the



paragraphs as the following:

Yesterday a duel was fought in Hyde Park, between the Countess of

and Lady

The Countess received a shot in her left curl, and Lady

escaped a dangerous wound by means of a large black bushy muff, in which the ball of her antagonist happily lodged. The seconds then interposed, and the combatants were parted without further mischief. We are told the quarrel between these celebrated beauties was occasioned by some high words which passed between them on the hustings in Covent Garden, where the Countess appeared in support of Sir H. W. the ministerial candidate, and Lady

in support of Mr. J. R. the popular candidate.' "We hear Lady

has, at the earnest desire of her husband, and of all the friends of that ancient family, declined to fight Mrs. till after she is brought to bed; so that the duel cannot take place for some months. The quarrel took its rise from something that dropped from Mrs. -- in pressing into the gallery of the House of Commons, to hear the debate on Mr. --'s motion for regulating trade and navigation.'

As, however, I would not wish to part with my

« PreviousContinue »