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No. 154. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7.
Omnia transformant sese in miracula rerum. VIRG.
I QUESTION not but the following letter will be entertaining to those who were present at the late masquerade, as it will recall into their minds several merry particulars that passed in it, and, at the same time, be very acceptable to those who were at a distance from it, as they may form from hence some idea of this fashionable amusement.
To Nestor Ironside, Esq.
Per viam Leonis.
I could scarce ever go into good company, but the discourse was on the ambassador, the politeness of his entertainments, the goodness of his Burgundy and Champaign, the gaiety of his masquerades, with the odd fantastical dresses which were made use of in those midnight solemnities. The noise these diversions made at last raised my curiosity, and for once I resolved to be present at them, being at the same time provoked to it by a lady I then made my addresses to, one of a sprightly humour, and a great admirer of such novelties. In order to it, I hurried my habit, and got it ready a week before the time, for I grew impatient to be initiated in these new mysteries. Every morning I drest myself in it, and acted before the looking-glass, so that I am vain enough to think I was as perfect in my part as most who had oftener frequented these diversions. You must understand, I personated a devil, and that for several weighty reasons. First, because appearing as one of that fraternity, I expected to meet with particular civilities from the more polite and better bred part of the company. Besides, as from their usual reception they are called familiars, I fancied I should, in this character, be allowed the greatest liberties, and soonest be led into the secrets of the masquerade. To recommend and distinguish me from the vulgar, I drew a very long tail after me. But to speak the truth, what persuaded me most to this disguise was, because I heard an intriguing lady say, in a large company of females, who
unanimously assented to it, that she loved to converse with such, for that generally they were very clever fellows who made choice of that shape. At length, when the long wished for evening came, which was to open to us such vast scenes of pleasure, I repaired to the place appointed about ten at night, where I found nature turned top-side turvy; women changed into men, and men into women, children in leadingstrings seven foot high, courtiers transformed into clowns, ladies of the night into saints, people of the first quality into beasts or birds, gods or goddesses; I fancied I had all Ovid's Metamorphoses before me. Among these were several monsters to which I did not know how to give a name;
Than fables yet have feigned, or fear conceived,
"In the middle of the first room I met with one dressed in a shroud. This put me in mind of the old custom of serving up a death's head at a feast. I was a little angry at the dress, and asked the gentleman whether he thought a dead man was fit company for such an assembly; but he told me, that he was one who loved his money, and that he considered this dress would serve him another time. This walking corse was followed by a gigantic woman with a highcrowned hat, that stood up like a steeple over the heads of the whole assembly. I then chanced to tread upon the foot of a female Quaker, to all outward appearance; but was surprised to hear her cry out, 'D- -n you, you son of a ————————‚' upon which I immediately rebuked her, when all of a sudden, resuming her character, 'Verily, (says she,) I was to blame, but thou hast bruised me sorely.' A few moments after this adventure, I had like to have been knocked down1 by a shepherdess, for having run my elbow a little inadvertently into one of her sides. She swore like a trooper, and threatened me with a very masculine voice; but I was timely taken off by a Presbyterian parson, who told me in a very soft tone, that he believed I was a pretty fellow, and that he would meet me in Spring Garden to-morrow night. The next object I saw was a chimney-sweeper, made up of black crape and velvet, (with a huge diamond in his mouth,) making love to
1 I had like to have been knocked down.] The past time had, in had like, fixes the time of being knocked down to the present. It should, then, be-"I had like to be knocked down."
a butterfly. On a sudden I found myself among a flock of bats, owls, and lawyers: but what took up my attention most was, one dressed in white feathers that represented a He would fain have found out a Leda among the fair sex, and, indeed, was the most unlucky bird in the company. I was then engaged in discourse with a running footman, but as I treated him like what he appeared to be, a Turkish emperor whispered me in the ear, desiring me to use him civilly, for that it was his master. I was here interrupted by the famous large figure of a woman, hung with little looking-glasses. She had a great many that followed her as she passed by me, but I would not have her value herself upon that account, since it was plain they did not follow so much to look upon her as to see themselves. The next I observed was a nun making an assignation with a heathen god, for I heard them mention the Little Piazza in Covent Garden. I was by this time exceeding hot, and thirsty, so that I made the best of my way to the place where wine was dealt about in great quantities. I had no sooner presented myself before the table, but a magician, seeing me, made a circle over my head with his wand, and seemed to do me homage. I was at a loss to account for his behaviour; until I recollected who I was this, however, drew the eyes of the servants upon me, and immediately procured me a glass of excellent Champaign. The magician said I was a spirit of an adust and dry constitution; and desired that I might have another refreshing glass, adding withal, that it ought to be a brimmer. I took it in my hand, and drank it off to the magician. This so enlivened me, that I led him by the hand into the next room, where we danced a rigadoon together. I was here a little offended at a jackanapes of a Scaramouch, that cried out, Avaunt Satan!' and gave me a little tap on my left shoulder, with the end of his lath sword. As I was considering how I ought to resent this affront, a well-shaped person that stood at my left-hand, in the figure of a bellman, cried out with a suitable voice, 'Past twelve o'clock.' This put me in mind of bed-time: accordingly I made my way towards the door, but was intercepted by an Indian king, a tall, slender youth, dressed up in a most beautiful partycoloured plumage. He regarded my dress very attentively; and after having turned me about once or twice, asked me whom I had been tempting; I could not tell what was the
matter with me, but my heart leaped as soon as he touched me, and was still in greater disorder upon my hearing his voice. In short, I found, after a little discourse with him, that his Indian Majesty was my dear Leonora, who knowing the disguise I had put on, would not let me pass by her unobserved. Her awkward manliness made me guess at her sex, and her own confession quickly let me know the rest. This masquerade did more for me than a twelvemonth's courtship; for it inspired her with such tender sentiments that I married her the next morning.
"How happy I shall be in a wife taken out of a masquerade, I cannot yet tell; but I have reason to hope the best, Leonora having assured me it was the first and shall be the last time of her appearing at such an entertainment.
"And now, sir, having given you the history of this strange evening, which looks rather like a dream than a reality, it is my request to you, that you will oblige the world with a dissertation on masquerades in general, that we may know how far they are useful to the public, and consequently how far they ought to be encouraged. I have heard of two or three very odd accidents that have happened upon this occasion, as in particular, of a lawyer's being now big-bellied, who was present at the first of these entertainments; not to mention (what is still more strange) an old man with a long beard, who was got with child by a milk-maid; but in cases of this nature, where there is such a confusion of sex, age, and quality, men are apt to report rather what might have happened, than what really came to pass. Without giving credit therefore to any of these rumours, I shall only renew my petition to you, that you will tell us your opinion at large of these matters, and am,
I HAVE often wondered that learning is not thought a proper ingredient in the education of a woman of quality or
fortune. Since they have the same improvable minds as the male part of the species, why should they not be cultivated by the same methods? why should reason be left to itself in one of the sexes, and be disciplined with so much care in the other.
There are some reasons why learning seems more adapted to the female world than to the male. As, in the first place, because they have more spare time upon their hands, and lead a more sedentary life. Their employments are of a domestic nature, and not like those of the other sex, which are often inconsistent with study and contemplation. The excellent lady, the Lady Lizard, in the space of one summer, furnished a gallery with chairs and couches of her own and her daughters' working; and at the same time heard all Dr. Tillotson's Sermons twice over. It is always the custom for one of the young ladies to read, while the others are at work; so that the learning of the family is not at all prejudicial to its manufactures. I was mightily pleased, the other day, to find them all busy in preserving several fruits of the season, with the Sparkler in the midst of them, reading over The Plurality of Worlds. It was very entertaining to me to see them dividing their speculations between jellies and stars, and making a sudden transition from the sun to an apricot, or from the Copernican system to the figure of a cheesecake.
A second reason why women should apply themselves to useful knowledge rather than men, is, because they have the natural gift of speech in greater perfection. Since they have so excellent a talent, such a copia verborum, or plenty of words, it is pity they should not put it to some use. If the female tongue will be in motion, why should it not be set to go right? Could they discourse about the spots in the sun, it might divert them from publishing the faults of their neighbours: could they talk of the different aspects and conjunctions of the planets, they need not be at the pains to comment upon oglings and clandestine marriages. In short, were they furnished with matters of fact, out of arts and sciences, it would now and then be of great ease to their invention.
There is another reason why those especially who are women of quality should apply themselves to letters; namely, because their husbands are generally strangers to them.