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Si quando deprimat
Te mæror anxius.
Quæ vel patrem queat
The sense of this elegant description is as follows: "May you meet with a wife who is not always stupidly silent, nor always prattling nonsense! May she be learned, if possible, or at least capable of being made so! A woman thus accomplished will be always drawing sentences and maxims of virtue out of the best authors of antiquity. She will be herself in all changes of fortune, neither blown up in prosperity, nor broken with adversity. You will find in her an even, cheerful, good-humoured friend, and an agreeable companion for life. She will infuse knowledge into your children with their milk, and from their infancy train them up to wisdom. Whatever company you are engaged in, you will long to be at home, and retire with delight from the society of men, into the bosom of one who is so dear, so knowing, and so amiable. If she touches her lute, or sings to it any of her own compositions, her voice will soothe you in your solitudes, and sound more sweetly in your ear than that of the nightingale. You will waste with pleasure whole days and nights in her conversation, and be ever finding out new beauties in her discourse. She will keep your mind in perpetual serenity, restrain its mirth from being dissolute, and prevent its melancholy from being painful.
"Such was, doubtless, the wife of Orpheus; for who would have undergone what he did to have recovered a foolish bride? Such was the daughter of Ovid, who was his rival in poetry. Such was Tullia, as she is celebrated by the most learned and the most fond of fathers. And such was the mother of the two Gracchi, who is no less famous for having been their instructor than their parent.”
No. 165. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19.
Decipit exemplar, vitiis imitabile
It is a melancholy thing to see a coxcomb at the head of a family. He scatters infection through the whole house. His wife and children have always their eyes upon him; if they have more sense than himself, they are out of countenance for him; if less, they submit their understandings to him, and make daily improvements in folly and impertinence. I have been very often secretly concerned, when I have seen a circle of pretty children cramped in their natural parts, and prattling even below themselves, while they are talking after a couple of silly parents. The dulness of a father often extinguishes a genius in the son, or gives such a wrong cast to his mind, as it is hard for him ever to wear off. In short, where the head of a family is weak, you hear the repetitions of his insipid pleasantries, shallow conceits, and topical points of mirth, in every member of it. His table, his fire-side, his parties of diversion, are all of them so many standing scenes of folly.
This is one reason why I would the more recommend the improvements of the mind to my female readers, that a family may have a double chance for it, and if it meets with weakness in one of the heads, may have it made up in the other. It is indeed an unhappy circumstance in a family, where the wife has more knowledge than the husband; but it is better it should be so, than that there should be no knowledge in the whole house. It is highly expedient that at least one of the persons, who sits at the helm of affairs, should give an example of good sense to those who are under them in these little domestic governments.
If folly is of ill consequence in the head of a family, vice is much more so, as it is of a more pernicious and of a more contagious nature. When the master is a profligate, the rake runs through the house. You hear the sons talking loosely and swearing after their father, and see the daughters either familiarized to his discourse, or every moment blushing for
The very footman will be a fine gentleman in his master's
1 Who sits.] Better who sit.
way. He improves by his table-talk, and repeats in the kitchen what he learns in the parlour. Invest him with the same title and ornaments, and you would scarce know him, from his lord. He practises the same oaths, the same ribaldry, the same way of joking.
It is therefore of very great concern to a family that the ruler of it should be wise and virtuous. The first of these qualifications does not, indeed, lie within his power; but though a man cannot abstain from being weak, he may from being vicious. It is in his power to give a good example of modesty, of temperance, of frugality, of religion, and of all other virtues, which, though the greatest ornaments of human nature, may be put in practice by men of the most ordinary capacities.
As wisdom and virtue are the proper qualifications in the master of a house, if he is not accomplished in both of them, it is much better that he should be deficient in the former than in the latter, since the consequences of vice are of an infinitely more dangerous nature than those of folly.
When I read the histories that are left us of Pythagoras, I cannot but take notice of the extraordinary influence which that great philosopher, who was an illustrious pattern of virtue and wisdom, had on his private family. This excellent man, after having perfected himself in the learning of his own country, travelled into all the known parts of the world, on purpose to converse with the most learned men of every place; by which means he gleaned up all the knowledge of the age, and is still admired by the greatest men of the present times as a prodigy of science. His wife, Theano, wrote several books; and after his death, taught his philosophy in his public school, which was frequented by numberless disciples of different countries. There are several excellent sayings recorded of her. I shall only mention one, because it does honour to her virtue, as well as to her wisdom. Being asked by some of her sex, in how long a time a woman might be allowed to pray to the gods, after having conversed with a man? "If it were her husband, (says she,) the next day; if a stranger, never." Pythagoras had by his wife two sons and three daughters. His two sons, Telauges and Mnesarchus, were both eminent philosophers, and were joined with their mother in the government of the Pythagorean school. Arignote was one of his daughters, whose writings were extant,
and very much admired in the age of Porphyrius. Damo was another of his daughters, in whose hands Pythagoras left his works, with a prohibition to communicate them to strangers, which she observed to the hazard of her life; and though she was offered a great sum for them, rather chose to live in poverty, than not obey the commands of her beloved father. Myia was the third of the daughters, whose works and history were very famous, even in Lucian's time. She was so signally virtuous, that for her unblemished behaviour in her virginity she was chosen to lead up the chorus of maids in a national solemnity; and for her exemplary conduct in marriage was placed at the head of all the matrons, in the like public ceremony. The memory of this learned woman was so precious among her countrymen, that her house was after her death converted into a temple, and the street she lived in, called by the name of the Museum. Nor must I omit, whilst I am mentioning this great philosopher under his character as a master of a family, that two of his servants so improved themselves under him, that they were instituted into his sect, and make an eminent figure in the list of Pythagoreans. The names of these two servants were Astræus and Zamolxes. This single example sufficiently shows us both the influence and the merit of one who discharges as he ought the office of a good master of a family; which, if it were well observed in every house, would quickly put an end to that universal depravation of manners, by which the present age is so much distinguished; and which is1 more easy to lament than to reform.
No. 166. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21.
-Aliquisque malo fuit usus in illo. Ov. MET.
CHARITY is a virtue of the heart, and not of the hands, says an old writer. Gifts and alms are the expressions, not the essence, of this virtue. A man may bestow great sums on the poor and indigent, without being charitable, and may be charitable when he is not able to bestow anything. 1 Which is.] It, is understood before is, and should have been expressed.
Charity is therefore a habit of good will, or benevolence, in the soul, which disposes us to the love, assistance, and relief of mankind, especially of those who stand in need of it. The poor man who has this excellent frame of mind, is no less entitled to the reward of this virtue, than the man who founds a college. For my own part, I am charitable to an extravagance this way. I never saw an indigent person in my life without reaching out to him some of this imaginary relief. I cannot but sympathize with every one I meet that is in affliction; and if my abilities were equal to my wishes, there should be neither pain nor poverty in the world.
To give my reader a right notion of myself in this particular, I shall present him with the secret history of one of the most remarkable parts of my life.
I was once engaged in search of the philosopher's stone. It is frequently observed of men who have been busied in this pursuit, that though they have failed in their principal design, they have, however, made such discoveries in their way to it, as have sufficiently recompensed their inquiries. In the same manner, though I cannot boast of my success in that affair, I do not repent of my engaging in it, because it produced in my mind such an habitual exercise of charity, as made it much better than perhaps it would have been, had I never been lost in so pleasing a delusion.
As I did not question but I should soon have a new Indies in my possession, I was perpetually taken up in considering how to turn it to the benefit of mankind. In order to it I employed a whole day in walking about this great city, to find out proper places for the erection of hospitals. I had likewise entertained that project, which had since succeeded in another place, of building churches at the court end of the town, with this only difference, that instead of fifty, I intended to have built a hundred, and to have seen them all finished in less than one year.
I had with great pains and application got together a list of all the French Protestants; and by the best accounts I could come at, had calculated the value of all those estates and effects which every one of them had left in his own country for the sake of his religion, being fully determined to make it up to him, and return some of them the double of what they had lost.
As I was one day in my laboratory, my operator, who was