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REMARKS ON PROPENSITY TO IMI
On Dress. At the age when young women are introduced into general society, the character, even of those who have been the best instructed, is in a considerable degree unfixed. The full force of temptation, as yet known only by report, is now to be learned from hazardous experience. Right principles, approved in theory, are to be reduced from speculation into practice. Modes of conduct, wisely chosen and well begun, are to be confirmed by the influence of habit. New scenes are to be witnessed; new opinions to be heard ; new examples to be observed; new dangers to be encountered.
The result of a very few years at this season of life, in almost every case, powerfully affects, and in many cases unequivocally decides, the tenor of its future course. Unfortunate are those individuals who, at this critical period, being destitute of the counsel of judicious friends, or too giddy to give it a patient hearing, or too opinionated to receive it with kindness, advance unaided to the trial ; and are left blindly to imbibe the maxims, and imitate the proceedings, of the thoughtless multitude around them.
A propensity to imitation is natural to the human mind, and is attended with various effects highly favourable to human happiness. To childhood it is a perpetual fource of knowledge, gained without labour and without reluctance. In riper years it continues to instruct. It produces such a degree of conformity between the manners and conduct of different individuals, as maintains the harmony of society, notwithstanding the clashing pursuits and preten
rarely seem in the common intercourse of life to turn their abilities to the advantage either of themselves or of their friends; others, gifted with equal talents, are tempted to misapply them by the consciousness of pofsessing them. Vain of their powers and of their dexterity in the use of them, they cannot resist the impulse which they feel to lead a pert and coxcombical young man, whenever he falls in their way, to expose himself. The prattle which they despise, they encourage; because it amusesthem by rendering the speaker ridiculous. They lead him on, unsuspicious of their design, and secretly pluming himself, on the notice which he attracts, and on his own happy talents of rendering himself agreeable, and delighted the most when he is most the object of derision, from one step of folly to another. By degrees they contract an habitual relish for the style of conversation, which enables them at once to display their own wit, and to gratify their passion for mirth, and their taste for the ludicrous. They become in
wardly impatient when it flags; and more impatient when it meets with interruption. And if a man of grave aspect and more wakeful reflection presumes to step within the circle, they assail the unwelcome intruder with a volley of brilliant raillery and sparkling repartee, which bears down knowledge and learning before it; and convulse the delighted auditors with peals of laughter, while he labours in his heavy accoutrements after his light-armed antagonist, and receives at every turn a shower of arrows, which he can neither parry nor withstand.
From the remarks which have been made on the frivolousness of language and sentiment which often appears agreeable to women; and even to women who are qualified both to communicate and to enjoy the highest pleasures of conversation which can flow from cultivated minds ; let it not be inferred, that the mixed discourse either of female society, or of young persons of the two sexes, is to resemble the discussions of a board of philosophers; and that ease and gaiety, and laughter and wit, are to be profcribed as inveterate enemies of sobriety and good sense. Let ease exempt from affectation, gaiety prompted by innocence, laughter the effusion of ingenuous delight, and wit unstained with any tincture of malevolence, enliven the hours of social converse. But let it not be thought that their enlivening influence is unreasonably curtailed, if good sense be empowered at all times to superintend their proceedings; and if sobriety be authorised sometimes to interpose topics, which may exercise and improve the faculties of the understanding.