« PreviousContinue »
The traveller, if he chance to stray,
Tho' distant ev'ry hand to guide,
MOORE. Let not the female think her case hard; it must be 80, or the world would be involved in vice, wretchedness, and misery. How much does the happiness of the world depend on female virtue !
The hours of virtuous courtship are most delightful. A first Love creates astonishing revolutions in the manner of thinking, and in the whole nature, of man. A person who never was in Love can form no idea of the bliss which the conversation of lovers affords; while those that have trafficked too long with their heart, lose all susceptibility for the sensations which this passion ought to excite. Having been, or fancied himself, in love with different females, he may not
indeed find it difficult to express his sentiments, if a propitious opportunity presents itself; and he generally falls into the toils of some finished coquette, who knows well enough what system of tactics to pursue. She pretends at first not to believe that he is serious, apprehends that the gentleman is going to divert himself at her expense, that the reading of novels has turned his brains; or, if he urge his suit with more importunity, and she thinks it time for her to be gradually convinced that he is in earnest, she beseeches him in the first instance to spare her weakness, and not to betray her into a confession which would make her blush; then the enraptured lover offers to press the sweet charmer to his heart, and protests he is the happiest creature in the world, but the offended fair one solemnly assures him that she will never permit such liberties to be taken with her, very gravely reminding him that the laws of probity and honour require that he should spare her weakness; thus she dispenses her favours with the most frugal economy, to enjoy the pretty romance as long as possible; and, if nothing will serve to protract the closing scene any longer, a quarrel is called to her assistance, to put off the happy moment at which the last favour is to be granted.
Persons of this class, however, feel no real affection during their amorous dalliance; they laugh at the farce when left to themselves, can calculate with the greatest accuracy how far they shall have advanced in a day or two, and enjoy a sound and undisturbed sleep, notwithstanding the apparent cruelty of their charmer.
The case is different with two young and innocent individuals, who, being warmed for the first time by the genial fire of virtuous Love, wish to communicate their blissful and guiltless sensations, yet cannot take courage to declare by words, what has been so powerfully expressed in the silent language of the eyes. The young man gazes tenderly on the object of his Love; whilst she blushes at the notice she is pleased to have excited. Her looks betray an uneasy and Aurried mind when he converses too long, or in
too much apparent freedom, with another female. She is uneasy and indignant; whilst, from the same feeling, he scarcely can restrain his anger, if, with a smiling countenance, she whisper something to a stranger. His every action upbraids the thoughtless maid; the reproach is felt; immediate satisfaction is given; the offensive conversation is suddenly terminated; the reconciled lover thanks the atoning fair one by a tender smile; and the clouds which enveloped his brow are instantly dispelled by cheerfulness. Assignations are made by the eyes for a following day; the lovers mutually beg pardon, exculpate their conduct, warn each other against the intrusion of observers, acknowledge their reciprocal rights—and nevertheless have not yet declared by a single word what they feel for each other. Both parties however are anxious for an occasion of coming to an explanation; the long-sought opportunity offers at last, presents itself repeatedly, and both suffer it to escape unimproved, or at most only betray their sentiments by a tender pressure of the hand; when a still more favourable occasion again offers itself, but still they protract a declaration. They are thoughtful, doubt whether their love be mutual, and tremblingly procrastinate the development of each other's secret, though perhaps, notorious to the whole town, and not improbably a subject of domestic scandal. When at length the timid confession breaks from the quivering lips, and is returned with stammering and half-stifled words, attended by a convulsive pressure of the hand that thrills the inmost fibres of the heart, and electrifies, as it were, the whole frame; then do they begin first to live entirely for each other: they care little for the world ; they are blind to the observations and deaf to the whispers of relations, sufficiently happy in the enjoyment of each other's society. Neither the frowns of
misfortune, nor the attacks of sickness, poverty, or oppression, are expected to interrupt the flowery path of Love : all is peace, and even the comforts of life are held in comparative indifference. Delusive as such moments are, yet can it be possible to enjoy a sweeter or a
happier dream! Is there one amongst all the fantastic joys of life, so natural, so harmless as this? Can any other sensation render such unspeakable delight! How unfortunate it is, that this blissful state of enchantment cannot last for ever, and that we are awakened, but too frequently and too terribly, to the sterner realities of life!
Some persons have asserted that the fair sex do not love half so faithfully and fervently as man does ; but I think we may presume to maintain, without injury to either sex, that men cannot pretend, with any colour of truth, to surpass women in fidelity and fulness of Love. The history of every age affords numerous instances of women, who, scorning all difficulties and dangers, were attached with the most surprising and unshaken firmness to their lovers. I know of no greater felicity than that which flows from such a cordial and unconquerable Love. Thoughtless minds are to be met with, as well amongst men as amongst women; the whole human race are subject to the desire of change. New impressions, produced by a superior degree of amiable qualities, no matter whether they be real or imaginary, can supplant the liveliest sentiments; but doubtless, instances of infidelity are much more numerous amongst men than amongst women.
In those years in which fancy is but too apt to outstrip the understanding, many a thoughtless youth lays the foundation of his future misery by a rash promise of marriage. He recollects not, in the trance of Love, how serious and important such a step is, that it is, in fact, the most difficult, dangerous, and indissoluble of all obligations. He unites himself for life with a being who, under the delusion of passion, appeared to him gifted with qualities, of which experience and sober reason entirely divest her. Too late he perceives that he has rendered himself unspeakably miserable by foolishly trusting to appearances; little considering, that such a union, if it adds to the pleasures, not a little increases, at the same time, the wants, cares, and labours of life. If forced to struggle with
the world, his wife, how dearly soever beloved, is but a source of anxiety to him, since he feels, with accumulated force, the blows of adverse fortune. If, perchance, he should repent of his rashness before the indissoluble knot be tied, he is then tortured by the dictates of a polluted conscience, and the scarcely less cutting reproaches of his injured mistress. But experience daily evinces the inefficiency of advice and counsel, in the frenzied moments of mental intoxication.
If love and intimacy have attached a man to an amiable female, and, by some unforeseen event, the connection be dissolved, no vexation, no pique, no injury, however deep, should tempt him to act ungenerously towards her: the bosom that has once been induced to confide its secrets to his keeping, should never be tortured by an exposure of its fondness. There is not an epithet sufficiently indelible for conduct so base and so unmanly. Yet individuals are to be found, who, from feelings of revenge, or to shield themselves from consequences attaching to impropriety of behaviour, will expose the letters of a woman to the scandalizing ordeal of a busy world, or the impertinent curiosity of a court of justice. No reprobation will have the power of touching such a man's feelings, for he must have been sunk indeed beneath every honourable sensation ere he could have descended to such a pitiful action. How many, in fact, who, in other respects, are not very amiable, owe the attachment of accomplished women to their approved discretion and delicacy!
Nothing is more adapted to give the last polish to the education of a young man, than conversation with virtuous and accomplished women.
Their society serves to smooth the edges of character, and to mellow the temper. In short, the man who has never associated with females of the better class, is not only deprived of many of life's purest pleasures, but will also have little chance of success in his worldly career.
In the business of courtship, if bent on obtaining