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and arrogant, from the consciousness of his merit: he is either dissipated by the awe of company, and unable to recollect his reading, and arrange his arguments; or he is hot and dogmatical, quick in opposition, and tenacious in defence, disabled by his own violence, and confused by his haste to triumph.
The graces of writing and conversation arc of different kinds; and though he who excels in one might have been, with opportunities and application, equally successful in the other, yet as many please by extemporary talk, though utterly unacquainted with the more accurate method, and more labored beauties, which composition requires; so it is very possible that men, wholly accustomed to works of study, may be without that readiness of conception, and affluence of language, always necessary to colloquial entertainment. They may want address to watch the hints which conversation offers for the display of their particular attainments, or they may be so much unfurnished with matter on common subjects, that discourse not professedly literary, glides over them as heterogeneous bodies, without admitting their conceptions to mix in the circulation.
A transition from an author's book to his conversation, is too often like an entrance into a large city, after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendor, grandeur, and magnificence; but, when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.
No. 15. TUESDAY, MAY 8, 1750.
Et quando uberior vitiorum copia? Quando
What age so large a crop of vices bore?
When were the dice with more profusion thrown?
HERE is no grievance, public or private, of which, since I took upon me the office of a periodical monitor, I have received so many, or so earnest complaints, as of the predominance of play; of a fatal passion for cards and dice, which seems to have overturned, not only the ambition of excellence, but the desire of pleasure; to have extinguished the flames of the lover, as well as of the patriot; and threatens, in its further progress, to destroy all distinctions, both of rank and sex, to crush all emulation but that of fraud, to corrupt all those classes of our people whose ancestors have, by their virtue, their industry, or their parsimony, given them the power of living in extravagance, idleness, and vice, and to leave them without knowledge, but of the modish games, and without wishes, but for lucky hands.
I have found, by long experience, that there are few enterprises so hopeless as contests with the fashion, in which the opponents are not only made confident by their numbers, and strong by their union, but are hardened by contempt of their antagonist, whom they always look upon as a wretch of low notions, contracted views, mean conversation, and narrow fortune, who envies the elevations which he can
not reach, who would gladly imbitter the happiness which his inelegance or indigence deny him to partake, and who has no other end in his advice than to revenge his own mortification by hindering those whom their birth and taste have set above him, from the enjoyment of their superiority, and bringing them down to a level with himself.
Though I have never found myself much affected by this formidable censure, which I have incurred often enough to be acquainted with its full force, yet I shall, in some measure, obviate it on this occasion, by offering very little in my own name, either of argument or entreaty, since those who suffer by this general infatuation may be supposed best able to relate its effects.
There seems to be so little knowledge left in the world, and so little of that reflection practised by which knowledge is to be gained, that I am in doubt, whether I shall be understood, when I complain of want of opportunity for thinking; or whether a condemnation, which at present seems irreversible, to perpetual ignorance, will raise any compassion, either in you or your readers: yet I will venture to lay my state before you, because I believe it is natural to most minds, to take some pleasure in complaining of evils, of which they have no reason to be ashamed.
I am the daughter of a man of great fortune, whose diffidence of mankind, and, perhaps the pleasure of continual accumulation, incline him to reside upon his own estate, and to educate his children in his own house, where I was bred, if not with the most brilliant examples of virtue before my eyes, at least remote enough from any incitements to vice; and wanting
neither leisure nor books, nor the acquaintance of some persons of learning in the neighborhood, I endeavored to acquire such knowledge as might most recommend me to esteem, and thought myself able to support a conversation upon most of the subjects which my sex and condition made it proper for me to understand.
I had, besides my knowledge, as my mamma and my maid told me, a very fine face, and elegant shape, and with all these advantages had been seventeen months the reigning toast for twelve miles round, and never came to the monthly assembly, but I heard the old ladies that sat by wishing that it might end well, and their daughters criticising my air, my features, or my dress.
You know, Mr. Rambler, that ambition is natural to youth, and curiosity to understanding, and therefore will hear, without wonder, that I was desirous to extend my victories over those who might give more honor to the conqueror; and that I found in a country life a continual repetition of the same pleasures, which was not sufficient to fill up the mind for the present, or raise any expectations of the future; and I will confess to you, that I was impatient for a sight of the town, and filled my thoughts with the discoveries which I should make, the triumphs that I should obtain, and the praises that I should receive.
At last the time came. My aunt, whose husband has a seat in parliament, and a place at court, buried her only child, and sent for me to supply the loss, The hope that I should so far insinuate myself into their favor, as to obtain a considerable augmentation to my fortune, procured me every convenience for my departure, with great expedition; and I could not, amidst all my transports, forbear some indignation to
see with what readiness the natural guardians of my virtue sold me to a state, which they thought more hazardous than it really was, as soon as a new accession of fortune glittered in their eyes.
Three days I was upon the road, and on the fourth morning my heart danced at the sight of London. I was set down at my aunt's, and entered upon the scene of action. I expected now, from the age and experience of my aunt, some prudential lessons; but, after the first civilities and first tears were over, was told what pity it was to have kept so fine a girl so long in the country; for the people who did not begin young, seldom dealt their cards handsomely, or played them tolerably.
Young persons are commonly inclined to slight the remarks and counsels of their elders. I smiled, perhaps, with too much contempt, and was upon the point of telling her that my time had not been past in such trivial attainments. But I soon found that things are to be estimated, not by the importance of their effects, but the frequency of their use.
A few days after, my aunt gave me notice, that some company, which she had been six weeks in collecting, was to meet that evening, and she expected a finer assembly than had been seen all the winter. She expressed this in the jargon of a gamester, and, when I asked an explication of her terms of art, wondered where I had lived. I had already found my aunt so incapable of any rational conclusion, and so ignorant of every thing, whether great or little, that I had lost all regard to her opinion, and dressed myself with great expectations of an opportunity to display my charms among rivals, whose competition would not dishonor me. The company came in, and after the cursory compliments of: pation, alike