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observed, that the whiling time, and gathering together, and waiting a little before dinner, is the most awkwardly passed away of any part in the four-andtwenty hours. If they did think at all, they would reflect upon their guilt, in lengthening such a suspension of agreeable life. The constant offending this way, has in a degree an effect upon the honesty of his mind who is guilty of it, as common swearing is a kind of habitual perjury. It makes the soul unattentive to what an oath is, even while it utters it at the lips. Phocion beholding a wordy orator, while he was making a magnificent speech to the people, full of vain promises; • Methinks, said he, ' I am now fixing my eyes upon a cypress-tree; it has all the pomp and beauty imaginable in its branches, leaves, and height, but, alas! it bears no fruit.'
Though the expectation which is raised by impertinent promises is thus barren, their confidence, even after failures, is so great, that they subsist by still promising on. I have heretofore discoursed of the insignificant liar, the boaster, and the castle-builder', and treated them as no ill designing men (though they are to be placed among the frivolously false ones), but persons who fall into that way purely to recommend themselves by their vivacities; but indeed I cannot let heedless promisers, though in the most minute circumstances, pass with so slight a censure. If a man should take a resolution to pay only sums above an hundred pounds, and yet contract with different people debts of five and ten, how long can we suppose he will keep his credit? This man will as long support his good name in business, as he will in
1 See N° 136, and 167.
conversation, who without difficulty makes assignations which he is indifferent whether he keeps or not.
I am the more severe upon this vice, because I have been so unfortunate to be a very great criminal myself. Sir Andrew Freeport, and all my other friends who are scrupulous to promises of the meanest consideration imaginable, from an habit of virtue that way, have often upbraided me with it. I take shame upon myself for this crime, and more particularly for the greatest I ever committed of the sort, that when as agreeable a company of gentlemen and ladies as ever were got together, and I forsooth, Mr. Spectator, to be of the party with women of merit, like a booby as I was, mistook the time of meeting, and came the night following. I wish every fool, who is negligent in this kind, may have as great a loss as I had in this; for the same company will never meet more, but are dispersed into various parts of the world, and I ain left under the compunction that I deserve, in so many different places to be called a trifler.
This fault is sometimes to be accounted for, when desirable people are fearful of appearing precise and reserved by denials; but they will find the apprehension of that imputation will betray them into a childish impotence of mind, and make them promise all who are so kind to ask it of them. This leads such soft creatures into the misfortune of seeming to return overtures of good-will with ingratitude. The first steps in the breach of a man's integrity are much more important than men are aware of. The man who scruples not breaking his word in little things, would not suffer in his own conscience so great pain for failures of consequence, as he who thinks every little offence against truth and justice a disparage
ment. We should not make any thing we ourselves disapprove habitual to us, if we would be sure of our integrity,
I remember a falsehood of the trivial sort, though not in relation to assignations, that exposed a man to a very uneasy adventure. Will Trap and Jack Stint were chamber-fellows in the Inner Temple about twentyfive years ago. They one night sat in the pit together at a comedy, where they both observed and liked the same young woman in the boxes. Their kindness for her entered both hearts deeper than they imagined. Stint had a good faculty in writing letters of love, and made his address privately that way;
while Trap proceeded in the ordinary course, by money and her waiting-maid. The lady gave them both encouragement, receiving Trap into the utmost favour, and answering at the same time Stint's letters, and giving him appointments at third places. Trap began to suspect the epistolary correspondence of his friend, and discovered also that Stint opened all his letters which came to their common lodgings, in order to form his own assignations. After much anxiety and restlessness, Trap came to a resolution, which he thought would break off their commerce with one another without any hazardous explanation... He therefore writ a letter in a feigned hand to Mr. Trap, at his chambers in the Temple. Stint, according to custom, seized and opened it, and was not a little surprised to find the inside directed to himself, when, with great perturbation of spirit, he read as follows:
MR. STINT, • You have gained a slight satisfaction at the expence of doing a very heinous crime. At the price of a faithful friend you have obtained an inconstant VOL. VI.
mistress. I rejoice in this expedient I have thought of to break my mind to you, and tell you, you are a base fellow, by a means which does not expose you to the affront except you deserve it. I know, Sir, as criminal as you are, you have still shame enough to avenge yourself against the hardiness of any one that should publicly tell you of it. I therefore, who have received so many secret hurts from you, shall take satisfaction with safety to myself. I call you base, and you must bear it, or acknowledge it; I triumph over you that you cannot come at me; nor do I think it dishonourable to come in armour to assault him, who was in ambuscade when he wounded me.
• What need more be said to convince you of being guilty of the basest practice imaginable, than that it is such as has made you liable to be treated after this manner, while you yourself cannot in your own conscience but allow the justice of the upbraidings of
Your injured friend,
N° 449. TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1712.
-Tibi scriptus, matrona libellus.
A book the chastest matron may peruse.
WHEN I reflect upon my labours for the public, I cannot but observe, that part of the species, of which I profess myself a friend and guardian, is sometimes treated with severity ; that is, there are in my writ
ings many descriptions given of ill persons, and not any direct encomium made of those who are good. When I was convinced of this error, I could not but immediately call to mind several of the fair sex of my acquaintance, whose characters deserve to be transmitted to posterity in writings which will long outlive mine. But I do not think that a reason why I should not give them their place in my diurnal as long as it will last. For the service therefore of my female readers, I shall single out some characters of maids, wives, and widows, which deserve the imitation of the sex. She who shall lead this small illustrious number of heroines shall be the amiable Fidelia.
Before I enter upon the particular parts of her character, it is necessary to preface, that she is the only child of a decrepid father, whose life is bound up in hers. This gentleman has used Fidelia from her cradle with all the tenderness imaginable, and has viewed her growing perfections with the partiality of a parent, that soon thought her accomplished above the children of all other men, but never thought she was come to the utmost improvement of which she herself was capable. This fondness has had very happy effects upon his own happiness ; for she reads, she dances, she sings, uses her spinet and lute to the utmost perfection: and the lady's use of all these excellencies is, to divert the old man in his easy chair, when he is out of the pangs of a chronical distemper. Fidelia is now in the twenty-third year of her age ; but the application of many lovers, her vigorous time of life, her quick sense of all that is truly gallant and elegant in the enjoyment of a plentiful fortune, are not able to draw her from the side of her good old father. Certain it is, that there is no kind