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again. What can be a greater sign that they themselves are sensible they have stripped too far, than their pretending to call a bit of linen which will hardly cover a silver groat, their modesty-piece? It is observed, that this modestypiece still sinks lower and lower, and who knows where it will fix at last ?
"You must know, sir, I am a Turkey merchant, and lived several years in a country where the women show nothing but their eyes. Upon my return to England, I was almost out of countenance to see my pretty countrywomen laying open their charms with so much liberality, though at that time many of them were concealed under the modest shade of the tucker. I soon after married a very fine woman, who always goes in the extremity of the fashion. I was pleased to think, as every married man must, that I should make daily discoveries in the dear creature, which were unknown to the rest of the world. But since this new airy fashion is come up, every one's eye is as familiar with her as mine, for I can positively affirm, that her neck is grown eight inches within these three years. And what makes me tremble when I think of it, that pretty foot and ancle are now exposed to the sight of the whole world, which made my very heart dance within me when I first found myself their proprietor. As in all appearance the curtain is still rising, I find a parcel of rascally young fellows in the neighbourhood are in hopes to be presented with some new scene every day.
"In short, sir, the tables are now quite turned upon me. Instead of being acquainted with her person more than other men, I have now the least share of it. When she is at home, she is continually muffled up, and concealed in mobs, morning gowns, and handkerchiefs; but strips every afternoon to appear in public. For aught I can find, when she has thrown aside half her clothes, she begins to think herself half dressed. Now, sir, if I may presume to say so, you have been in the wrong, to think of reforming this fashion by showing the immodesty of it. If you expect to make female proselytes, you must convince them, that, if they would get husbands, they must not show all before marriage. I am sure, had my wife been dressed before I married her as she is at present, she would have satisfied a good half of my curiosity. Many a man has been hindered from laying out his money on a show, by seeing the principal figures of it hung out before the
door. I have often observed a curious passenger so attentive to these objects which he could see for nothing, that he took no notice of the master of the show, who was continually crying out, 'Pray, gentlemen, walk in.'
"I have told you, at the beginning of this letter, how Mahomet's she-disciples are obliged to cover themselves; you have lately informed us, from the foreign newspapers, of the regulations which the pope is now making among the Roman ladies in this particular; and I hope our British dames, notwithstanding they have the finest skins in the world, will be content to show no more of them than what belongs to the face and to the neck, properly speaking. Their being fair is no excuse for their being naked.
"You know, sir, that in the beginning of the last century, there was a sect of men among us who called themselves Adamites, and appeared in public without clothes. heresy may spring up in the other sex, if you do not put a timely stop to it, there being so many in all public places, who show so great an inclination to be Evites.
'I am, sir," &c.
No. 135. SATURDAY, AUGUST 15.
-meâ Virtute me involvo
A GOOD Conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves a constant ease and serenity within us, and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can possibly befall us. I know nothing so hard for a generous mind to get over as calumny and reproach, and cannot find any method of quieting the soul under them, besides this single one, of our being conscious to ourselves that we do not deserve them.
I have been always mightily pleased with that passage in Don Quixote, where the fantastical knight is represented as loading a gentleman of good sense with praises and eulogiums. Upon which the gentleman makes this reflection to himself: "How grateful is praise to human nature! I cannot forbear being secretly pleased with the commendations I receive, though I am sensible it is a madman bestows them
on me. In the same manner, though we are often sure that the censures which are passed upon us, are uttered by those who know nothing of us, and have neither means nor abilities to form a right judgment of us, we cannot forbear being grieved at what they say.
In order to heal this infirmity, which is so natural to the best and wisest of men, I have taken a particular pleasure in observing the conduct of the old philosophers, how they bore themselves up against the malice and detraction of their enemies.
"The way to silence calumny," says Bias, "is to be always exercised in such things as are praiseworthy." Socrates, after having received sentence, told his friends that he had always accustomed himself to regard truth and not censure, and he was not troubled at his condemnation, because he knew himself free from guilt. It was in the same spirit that he heard the accusations of his two great adversaries, who had uttered against him the most virulent reproaches. "Anytus and Melitus," says he, "may procure sentence against me, but they cannot hurt me." This divine philosopher was so well fortified in his own innocence, that he neglected all impotence of evil tongues which were engaged in his destruction. This was properly the support of a good conscience, that contradicted the reports which had been raised against him, and cleared him to himself.
Others of the philosophers rather chose to retort the injury by a smart reply, than thus to disarm it with respect to themselves. They show that it stung them, though, at the same time, they had the address to make their aggressors suffer with them. Of this kind was Aristotle's reply to one who pursued him with long and bitter invectives. "66 You, says he, "who are used to suffer reproaches, utter them with delight; I, who have not been used to utter them, take no pleasure in hearing them." Diogenes was still more severe on one who spoke ill of him: "Nobody will believe you when you speak ill of me, any more than they would believe me should I speak well of you."
In these, and many other instances I could produce, the bitterness of the answer sufficiently testifies the uneasiness of the mind the person was under who made it. I would rather advise my reader, if he has not, in this case, the secret consolation that he deserves no such reproaches as are cast
upon him, to follow the advice of Epictetus. "If any one speaks ill of thee, consider whether he has truth on his side; and if so, reform thyself, that his censures may not affect thee.' When Anaximander was told that the very boys laughed at his singing: "Ay," says he, "then I must learn to sing better." But of all the sayings of philosophers which I have gathered together for my own use on this occasion, there are none which carry in them more candour and good sense than the two following ones of Plato. Being told that he had many enemies who spoke ill of him, "It is no matter," said he, 'I will live so that none shall believe them." Hearing at another time, that an intimate friend of his had spoken detractingly of him; "I am sure he would not do. it," says he, "if he had not some reason for it." This is the surest, as well as the noblest way, of drawing the sting out of a reproach, and the true method of preparing a man for that great and only relief against the pains of calumny, “a good conscience."
I designed, in this essay, to show that there is no happiness wanting to him who is possessed of this excellent frame of mind, and that no person can be miserable who is in the enjoyment of it; but I find this subject so well treated in one of Dr. South's sermons, that I shall fill this Saturday's paper with a passage of it, which cannot but make the man's heart burn within him, who reads it with due attention.
That admirable author, having shown the virtue of a good conscience in supporting a man under the greatest trials and difficulties of life, concludes with representing its force and efficacy in the hour of death.
"The third and last instance, in which, above all others, this confidence towards God does most eminently show and exert itself, is at the time of death. Which surely gives the grand opportunity of trying both the strength and worth of
Dr. South was a divine of great eminence in the last age. With sense and learning, he had the common infirmity of ingenious men, to value his wit above either. The affectation of saying lively things, and the too natural occasion, which the times threw in his way, of saying many severe ones, have so clouded his reputation, that most men now see him only in the light of a petulant, indiscreet writer, who reasoned from prejudice, and railed out of vanity or ill nature. The truth, however, seems to be, that he was a generous man, as well as fine genius, and that his faults, both as a man and a writer, (which, indeed, are glaring enough,) sprung out of these characters ill directed and uncontrolled.
every principle. When a man shall be just about to quit the stage of this world, to put off his mortality, and to deliver up his last accounts to God; at which sad time his memory shall serve him for little else but to terrify him with a frightful review of his past life and his former extravagancies, stripped of all their pleasure, but retaining their guilt. What is it then that can promise him a fair passage into the other world, or a comfortable appearance before his dreadful Judge when he is there? not all the friends and interests, all the riches and honours, under heaven, can speak so much as a word for him, or one word of comfort to him in that condition; they may possibly reproach, but they cannot relieve him.
No; at this disconsolate time, when the busy tempter shall be more than usually apt to vex and trouble him, and the pains of a dying body to hinder and discompose him, and the "settlement of worldly affairs to disturb and confound him; and in a word, all things conspire to make his sick bed grievous and uneasy; nothing can then stand up against all these ruins, and speak life in the midst of death, but a clear conscience.
"And the testimony of that shall make the comforts of heaven descend upon his weary head, like a refreshing dew, or a shower upon a parched ground. It shall give him some lively earnests and secret anticipations of his approaching joy. It shall bid his soul go out of the body undauntedly, and lift up its head with confidence before saints and angels. Surely the comfort which it conveys at this season, is something bigger than the capacities of mortality, mighty and unspeakable, and not to be understood till it comes to be felt.
"And now, who would not quit all the pleasures, and trash, and trifles, which are apt to captivate the heart of man, and pursue the greatest rigours of piety, and austerities of a good life, to purchase to himself such a conscience, as at the hour of death, when all the friendship in the world shall bid him adieu, and the whole creation turn its back upon him, shall dismiss the soul, and close his eyes with that blessed sentence, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!'”