« PreviousContinue »
to understand the rules of politeness. · Now, sir, I have told you as much as I know of it, though I have admired and aimed at it all my life.
your time, faded your beauty, and destroyed your health, for the laudable purposes of contradicting your husband, and being this something and this nothing called the bon ton.
Mrs. Modish. What would you
have had me do?
MERCURY. I will follow your mode of instructing. I will tell you what I would not have had you do. I would not have had
sacrifice your time, your reason, and your duties, to fashion and folly. I would not have had you neglect the happiness of your husband, and the education of your children.
Mrs. Modish. As to the education of my daughters, I spared no expence; they had a dancingmaster, musick-master, and drawing-master; and a French governess to teach them behaviour and the French language. i
MERCURY... ::21: So their religion, sentiments, and manners, were to be learnt from a dancing-master, musick-master, and a chambermaid! Perhaps such instructors might prepare them to catch the bon ton. Your daughters must have been so educated as to fit them to be wives without conjugal affection, and mothers without maternal care. I am sorry for the sort of life they are commencing, and for that which you have just concluded. Minos is a sour gentleman, without the least smattering of the bon ton, and I am in a fright for you. The best thing I can advise you
is to do in this world, as you did in the other, keep happiness in your view, but never take the road that leads to it. Remain on this side Styx ; wander about without end' or aim; look into the Elysian Fields, but never attempt to enter into them, lest. Minos should push you into Tartarus : for the neglect of duties may bring on a sentence not much less severe, than the commission of crimes.
CHARON. HERE is a fellow who is very unwilling to land in our territories. He says he is rich, has a great deal of business in the other world, and must needs return to it: He is so troublesome and obstreperous I know not what to do with him. Take him under your care therefore, good Plutarch ; you will easily awe him into order and decency by the superiority an Author has over a Bookseller.
BOOKSELLER. Am I got into a world so absolutely the reverse of that I left, that here Authors domineer over Booksellers? Dear Charon, let
go back, and I will pay any price for my passage." But, if I must stay, leaveme not with any of those who are styled Classical Authors. As to you, Plutarch, I have a particular animosity against you, for having al
most occasioned my ruin. When I first set up shop, understanding but little of business, I unadvisedly bought an edition of your Lives ; a pack of old Greeks and Romans, which cost me a great sum of money. I could never get off above twenty sets of them. I sold a few to the Universities, and some to Eaton and Westminster; for it is reckoned a pretty book for boys and under-graduates; but, unless a man has the luck to light on a pedant, he shall not sell' a set of them in twenty years.
PLUTARCH. From the merit of the subjects, I had hoped another reception for my works. I will own indeed, that I am not always perfectly accurate in every circumstance, nor do I give so exact and circumstantial a detail of the actions of my heroes, as may be expected from a biographer who has confined himself to one or two characters. A zeal to preserve the memory of great men, and to extend the influence of such noble examples, made me undertake more than I could accomplish in the first degree of perfection : but surely the characters of my illustrious
men are not so imperfectly sketched, that they will not stand forth to all ages as patterns of virtue, and incitements to glory. My reflections are allowed to be deep and sagacious; and what can be more useful to a reader, than a wise man's judgment on a great man's conduct? In my writings you will find no rash censures, no undeserved encomiums, no mean compliance with popular opinions, no vain ostentation of critical skill, nor any affected finesse. In my parallels, which used to be admired as pieces of excellent judgment, I compare with perfect impartiality one great man with another, and each with the rule of justice. If indeed latterages have produced greater men and better writers, my heroes and my works ought to give place to them. As the world has now the advantage of much better rules of morality, than the unassisted reason of poor pagans could form, I do not wonder, that those vices, which appeared to us as mere blemishes in great characters, should seem most horrid deformities in the
purer eyes of the present age: a delicacy I do not blame, bụt admire and commend. And I must cen