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N° 91. THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 1711.
In furias ignemque ruunt : amor omnibus idem.
VIRG. Georg. iii. 244.
Though the subject I am now going upon would be much more properly the foundation of a comedy, I cannot forbear inserting the circumstances which pleased me in the account a young lady gave me of the loves of a family in town, which shall be nameless; or rather, for the better sound and elevation of the history, instead of Mr. and Mrs. Such-a-one, I shall call them by feigned names. Without further preface, you are to know, that within the liberties of the city of Westminster lives the lady Honoria, a widow about the age of forty, of a healthy constitution, gay temper, and elegant person. She dresses a little too much like a girl, affects a childish fondness in the tone of her voice, sometimes a pretty sullenness in the leaning of her head, and now and then a downcast of her eyes on her fan. Neither her imagination nor her health would ever give her to know that she is turned of twenty; but that in the midst of these pretty softnesses, and airs of delicacy and attraction, she has a tall daughter within a fortnight of fifteen, who impertinently comes into the room, and towers so much towards woman, that her mother is always checked by her presence, and every charm of Honoria droops at the entrance of Flavia. The agreeable Flavia would be what she is not, as well as her mother Honoria : but all their
beholders are more partial to an affectation of what a person is growing up to, than of what has been already enjoyed, and is gone for ever. It is therefore allowed to Flavia to look forward, but not to Honoria to look back. Flavia is no way dependent on her mother with relation to her fortune, for which reason they live almost upon an equality in conversation; and as Honoria has given Flavia to understand, that it is ill-bred to be always calling mother, Flavia is as well pleased never to be called child. It happens by this means, that these ladies are generally rivals in all places where they appear; and the words mother and daughter never pass between them but out of spite. Flavia one night at a play observing Honoria draw the eyes of several in the pit, called to a lady who sat by her, and bid her ask her mother to lend her her snuff-box for one momeut. Another time, when a lover of Honoria was on his knees beseeching the favour to kiss her hand, Flavia rushing into the room, kneeled down by him and ashed her blessing. Several of these contradictory acts of duty have raised between them such a coldness, that they generally converse when they are in mixed company by way of talking at one another, and not to one another. Honoria is ever complaining of a certain sufficiency in the young women of this age, who assume to themselves an authority of carrying all things before them, as if they were possessors of the esteem of mankind, and all who were but a year before them in the world were neglected pr deceased. Flavia, upon such a provocation, is sure to observe, that there are people who can resign nothing, and know not how to give up what they know they cannot hold; that they are those who will not allow youth their follies, not because they are themselves past them, but because they love to
continue in them. These beauties rival each other on all occasions, not that they have always had the same lovers, but each has kept up a vanity to show the other the charms of her lover. Dick Crastin and Tom Tulip, among many others, have of late been pretenders in this family: Dick to Honoria, Tom to Flavia. Dick is the only surviving beau of the last age, and Tom almost the only one that keeps up that order of men in this.
I wish I could repeat the little circumstances of a conversation of the four lovers with the spirit in which the young lady I had an account from, represented it at a visit where I had the honour to be present; but it seems Dick Crastin, the admirer of Honoria, and Tom Tulip, the pretender to Flavia, were purposely admitted together by the ladies, that each might shew the other that her lover had the superiority in the accomplishments of that sort of creature whom the sillier part of women call a fine gentleman. As this age has a much more gross taste in courtship, as well as in every thing else, than the last had, these gentlemen are instances of it in their different manner of application. Tulip is ever making allusions to the vigour of his person, the sinewy force of his make; while Crastin professes a wary observation of the turns of his mistress's mind. Tulip gives himself the air of a restless ravisher, Crastin practises that of a skilful lover. Poetry is the inseparable property of every man in love; and as men of wit write verse on those occasions, the rest of the world repeat the verses of others. These servants of the ladies were used to imitate their manner of conversation, and allude to one another, rather than interchange discourse in what they said when they met. Tulip the other day seized his mistress's hand, and repeated out of Ovid's Art of
"Tis I can in soft battles pass the night,
Fresh as the day, and active as the light. Upon hearing this, Crastin, with an air of deference, played with Honoria's fan, and repeated,
Sedley has that prevailing gentle heart,
When Crastin had uttered these verses with a tenderness which at once spoke passion and respect, Honoria cast a triumphant glance at Flavia, as exulting in the elegance of Crastin's courtship, and upbraiding her with the homeliness of Tulip's.
Tulip understood the reproach, and in return began to applaud the wisdom of old amorous gentlemen, who turned their mistress's imagination as far as possible from what they had long themselves forgot, and ended his discourse with a sly commendation of the doctrine of Platonic love; at the same time he ran over, with a laughing eye, Crastin's thin legs, meagre looks, and spare body. The old gentleman immediately left the room with some disorder, and the conversation fell upon untimely passion, after-love, and unseasonable youth. Tulip sung, danced, moved before the glass, led his mistress half a minuet, hummed
. Celia the fair, in the bloom of fifteen! when there came a servant with a letter to him, which was as follows:
• These verses on Sir Charles Sedley are from Lord Rochester's Imitation of Horace, 1 Sat. x.
I UNDERSTAND very well what you meant by your mention of Platonic love. I shall be glad to meet you immediately in Hyde-park, or behind Montague-house, or attend you to Barn-elms, or any other fashionable place that's fit for a gentleman to die in, that you shall appoint for,
Tulip's colour changed at the reading of this epistle; for which reason his mistress snatched it to read the contents. While she was doing so, Tulip went away; and the ladies now agreeing in a common calamity, bewailed together the danger of their lovers. They immediately undressed to go out, and look hackneys to prevent mischief: bu after alarming all parts of the town, Crastin was found by his widow in his pumps at Hydepark, which appointment Tulip never kept, but made his escape into the country. Flavia tears her hair for his inglorious safety, curses and despises her charmer, and is fallen in love with Crastin : which is the first part of the history of the rival mother.