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sion to the squalling of children, and rocking of cradles, though the sot can sit a whole day at Wills, amidst the eternal quarrel of the no-wits, and the endless disputes of the no-politicians. A third is apprehensive of the thing called curtain-lectures, as the nauseous fellows love to talk; and yet suffer themselves to be tamely rid by common, ungrateful Hackney-prostitutes. A fourth bas a great respect to his own dear person, and thinks that a wife will drain him to mere skin and bones, who for all that so manages himself as to have occasion to visit Dr. * Wall twice a quarter. Lastly, the graver sort exclaim at the caudles, the pins, the midwives, the nurses, and other concomitants of wedlock; they pretend the taxes run high, and that a spouse is an expensive animal ; little considering that they throw away more upon their dearly beloved vanities than would maintain a wife and half a dozen children.
These are the common topicks against matrimony; and yet, to behold the vanity of these pretences, they immediately disappear and vanish, as soon as a good fortune comes in their way. Shew the sparks but a rich heiress, or an old griping alderman's daugh. ter, and they soon forget curtain-lectures and cuckoldom, consumptions and skeletons, pins and caudles, impertinence and confinement, with the rest of their terrible objections. Then you hear not a syllable of liberty; but, oh! what a blessed, what a comfortable thing is a wife ! nay, a widow, though past fifty, and as ugly as one of the witches in Macbeth, if she has but store of money, shall go down as glibly with them as the new oaths for preferment at court, without the least wry face or remorse of conscience; and the vain coxcombs think themselves as happy, as if they had got both the Indies for their possession.
But though the laity, not to mince matters, have almost universally degenerated in this wicked age; yet we bless Heaven, that our sex has still found the benefit of the clergy, and that the churchmen have been our surest and best friends all along. Had not these pious gentlemen taken pity of our condition, how many superannuated chambermaids had lain neglected, how many languishing farmers' daughters gone the way of all flesh without propagating their kind? Whatever prevarications they have made in other parts of the Bible, we have, to our unspeakable comfort, found that they have kept constant to the text, Increase and multiply; and indeed it was but reasonable, that these people, who are every moment trumping their Jure Divino upon the world, should by their own example support and countenance that sort of life, which is as much Jure Divino as the priesthood.
We never questioned, notwithstanding the unwearied attempts of our adversaries to render marriage contemptible, both in their writings and conversation, but that nature, mere nature, without any endeavours of our own, would have reduced the men long since tú a true sense of their duty, had it not been for the two following impediments. The first is wine, which we that are maids have as
• A Pock-Dnctor.
much reason to complain of as those that are married. It is a burning shame, and it highly concerns the wisdom of the nation to prevent it, that the young fellows of the town should so scandalously abandon themselves to the bottle. They ply their glasses too warmly to think of any thing else; and, if the liquor happens to inspire them with any kind inclinations, the next street furnishes them with store of conveniences to relieve their appetite. And this leads us to the second block in our way, which is the intolerable multitude of mistresses, who, to the great prejudice of the publick, divert the course of those streams, which would otherwise run in the regular channel of matrimony. As long as these contraband commodities are encouraged or connived at, it cannot be expected that virtuous women should bear a good market-price, or that marriage should flourish.
It would look like affectation or vanity in those of our sex, whom the malicious world supposes to be conversant in nothing else but books of receipts and romances, to acquaint so experienced and learned a body as yours is, how highly marriage was reverenced, and how industriously cultivated by the wisest governments in the world. The examples of Athens and Sparta are too notorious to be long insisted upon. Those were glorious places for us, poor women, to live in; a man there could neither be church-warden or constable, nay, nor be concerned in the meanest, most scoundrel parish offices, unless he was married. An old musty batchelor was pointed at like a monster; they looked upon such a one to be disaffected to the state, and therefore as constantly indicled him every quarter-sessions for letting his talent lie unemployed, as now we do Jacobites, and false retailers of news. The same policy was observed at Rome, where the Jus Trium Liberorum, the privilege of those that had got three children, was one of the greatest favours the emperor could bestow upon a subject, and was courted with as vigorous an application as a knighthood is now-a-days. By this means that victorious city arrived to the empire of the world ; and we, if we would beat the French into better manners, must follow the same conduct : but it grieves our hearts to consider, that in a christian, and much more in a protestant country, we are forced to stir up the charity of well-disposed persons by citing pagan examples.
We therefore humbly petition you, that, for the increase of their majesties liege people, in whom the power and strength of a nation consists, and for the utter discouragement of celibacy, and all its wicked works, you would be pleased to enact,
First, That all men, of what quality and degree soever, should be obliged to marry as soon as they are one and twenty; and that those persons, who decline so doing, shall, for their liberty, as they are pleased to miscall it, pay yearly to the state, which we leave to your discretion to make as great or as little as you shall think fit, one moiety whereof shall go to the king, towards the payment of his army in Flanders, and the rest be distributed amongst poor housekeepers, that have not sufficient to maintain their wives and respectire families, by such married officers as you shall nominate and appoint.
Secondly, That no excuse shall be admitted, but only that of natural frigidity or impotence; which, that it may not be pretended when there is no just occasion for it, and likewise that impotent persons may not, to the disappointment of their spouses, enter into the boly state of matrimony, there shall be erected, in every county in England, a court of judicature, composed of half a score experienced matrons or midwives, who, by a writ of De maritali supellectile inspiciendâ, may summon, or cause to be summoned, all such people as pretend the above-mentioned excuse, or are justly suspected thereof.
Thirdly, Since it is found by experience, that the generality of young men are such idolaters of the bottle, and that wine is the most powerful rival which the ladies have reason to be jealous of, that no person whatsoever shall be privileged to enter a tavern who is not married, under pain of having his wig and gilt snuff-box confiscated Toties quoties.
Fourthly, That every poet, or pretender to be a poet, or any one that has hired a poet to write any play, satyr, lampoon, or song, to the derogation of the matrimonial state, shall be obliged to marry before Lady-day next ensuing, and to make a solemn recantation of all, and every wicked thing by him uttered in any play, satyr, song, or lampoon, to the derogation of the matrimonial state; that all such disaffected papers shall be called in, and publickly burnt by the hands of twelve city clergymen's wives, on next St. Valentine's day.
Lastly, That to prevent tlie grievous multitudes of, and frequent resoris to misses and harlots, every person of quality pretending to keep a miss, after the commencing of this act, shall be enjoined, in order to his farther punishment, to keep a regiment of foot for his majesty's service upon the Rhine; or, in case he chuses to disband her, to dispose of her in marriage to his footman and groom, and allow them wherewith to set up a coffee-house. And, as for the inferior harlots, all justices of peace and constables shall execute the laws against them.
Having thus, most noble patriots, laid open our grievances before you, we doubt not but you will take effectual care to redress them. Could you condescend so low, as to debate about making the rivers Wye and Lug navigable; and will you not endeavour, as much as in you lies, to unite the male-streams with the female ? Could you think it worth the while to take care of the propagation of woods, the draining of the fens, and the converting of pastures into arable land; and will you not much more encourage the pagation of mankind, the draining of the superfluous humours of ihe body politick, and provide, that so many longing young ladies shall not lie unploughed, unharrowed, and uncultivated ? Besides, there was never a fitter occasion for such a bill, than what offers it. self at present: the mighty numbers of men that our wars carry off in Flanders, with the little or no increase at home to balance the
loss; and, what ought to be no small argument with you, the few unmarried sparks that tarry behind, are of late grown so imperious and proud in their demands, that nothing will go down with them now but an heiress. Here are an infinite number of advocates to incline you to be kind to our cause: wit and youth, beauty and good-nature, besides the publick advantage, and the protestant religion plead for us; but, what cannot fail to move even hearts of marble, this very petition is subscribed by ten thousand green-sickness maidens.
That single consideration, we know, will prevail with you to espouse our quarrel, to restore matrimony to its primitive splendor; and, lastly, to destroy celibacy as effectually as you have done popery. Which will oblige your petitioners,
As, in duty hound, ever to pray, &c. This petition is subscribed by threescore thousand bands, and never a cracked maidenhead or widow ainongst them.
PETITION OF THE WIDOWS,
Quarto, containing Four Pages.
you, and what reception it found yourselves know best. It is true we wondered to find an army of maids, from whom the world usually expects modesty and silence, so emboldened on the sudden as to petition for husbands, and that in the face of the world. Widows indeed, who lie under no such restrictions, are allowed in all countries to speak for themselves; and it is but reasonable we should, for few besides will submit to the trouble. It is our privilege to be obstreperous, when we are not heard; and there is one of our predecessors upon record in the New Testament, who by virtue of her everlasting clack, forced an old musty gentleman of the long robe at last to grant her request.
Now heaven be praised, we are not unacquainted with mankind, which the maids, we suppose, will not pretend to; and therefore may appeal to them without infringing the rules of decency: we have seen them in their best and weakest intervals. We know what weapons they carry about them, and how often they can discharge in an engagement. We have in our times had very severe conflicts with them, and sometimes they were uppermost, and then they fell on like thunder and lightning ; but for all that your petitioners obliged them soon to quit the field, and leave part of their ammuni.
tion behind them. Give us leave, good gentlemen, to talk of these our combates; for we always fought upon the square, and therefore have no reason to be ashamed of a recital. As we hinted to you before, we have been concerned in several fierce engagements, and the men played their sharps against us, when we could only produce flats on our side ; and, besides, they drew their heavy cannon upon us, while we were forced to lie by and receive their shot. After all, though we were so disadvantageously set upon, and the blood-shed, that happened on these occasions, was always on our part; yet when the fortune of the battle began to change, and declare herself in favour of us, we never treated them otherwise than christians; we never nailed up their cannon when we had it in our possession, so to render it unserviceable for the future, but gave them time to recover breath again, and furnish themselves with a new train of artillery. Is not this a generous and honourable way of treating an enemy? In short, the devil take that word short, for your petitioners mortally hate it; but in fine, we have been intimate with the men, and the men have been no less intimate with us; but what is the chief errand that sent us here, we have every woman of us buried her respective man,
Not that we value ourselves upon that score, for God forbid we should; but widows will speak the truth, let the consequence be what it will, and should you make ten thousand acts, to oblige us to hold our tongues, it would signify just nothing, we should break them all in a moment, and that with as much alacrity as the vintners in town daily break the adultery act. Well then we have all of us buried her respective man, which we mention not, heaven knows our hearts, out of ostentation, but with due grief and sorrow. We know a man's value too well, not to regret the loss of so serviceable a creature. We had all of us good husbands, at least we will say so now they are gone ; and though perhaps we had some reason to complain of them when they were alive, yet we forgive them all their faults and infirmities, for that single good-natured act of dying, and leaving us once more to ourselves.
The foolish people of Athens, after they had lost a good king, would have no more of the kind, forsooth, lest a bad one should succeed bim. But your petitioners are not such a scrupulous sort of people : we, that have had good husbands, are encouraged to try once more, out of hopes of meeting the same success; and we, that have had bad ones, are not for all that deterred from matrimony, but hope to mend our hands in a second bargain. After all, should we be deceived in our expectations, the first may afford to undergo a little penance, since they were so happy before ; and the latter, being accustomed of old to bear burdens, are therefore the better enabled to support themselves under them:
The body of your petitioners, for after so much preface it is high time to come to business, consists of four several classes ; viz. the old widows, the young or middle-aged widows, the rich widows, and the poor widows, and each of them presents you with a different petition.