« AnteriorContinuar »
never declare to us the different reception you
The figures which the ancient mythologists and poets put upon Love and Lust in their writings are very instructive.
Love is a beauteous blind child, adorned with a quiver and a bow, which he plays with, and shoots around him, without design or direction; to intimate to us, that the person beloved has no intention to give us the anxieties we meet with, but that the beauties of a worthy object are like the charms of a lovely infant; they cannot but attract your concern and fondness, though the child so regarded is as insensible of the value you put upon it, as it is that it deserves your benevolence. On the other side, the sages figured Lust in the form of a satyr; of shape, part human, part bestial; to signify that the followers of it prostitute the reason of a man to pursue the appetites of a beast. This satyr is made to haunt the paths and coverts of the wood-nymphs and shepherdesses, to lurk on the banks of rivulets, and watch the purling streams, as the resorts of retired virgins; to show, that lawless desire tends chiefly to prey upon innocence, and has something so unnatural in it, that it hates its own make, and shuns the object it loved, as soon as it has made it like itself. Love, therefore, is a child that complains and bewails its inability to help itself
, and weeps for assistance, without an immediate reflection or knowledge of the food it wants : Lust, a watchful thief, which seizes its prey, and lays snares for its own relief; and its principal object being innocence, it never robs, but it murders at the same time.
From this idea of a Cupid and a Satyr, we may settle our notion of these different desires, and accordingly rank their followers. Aspasia must,
therefore, be allowed to be the first of the beauteous order of Love, whose unaffected freedom, and conscious innocence, give her the attendance of the Graces in all her actions. That awful distance which we bear towards her in all our thoughts of her, and that cheerful familiarity with which we approach her, are certain instances of her being the truest object of love of any of her sex.
In this accomplished lady, love is the constant effect, because it is never the design. Yet, though her mien carries much more invitation than command, to behold her is an immediate check to loose behaviour; and to love her is a liberal education ; for, it being the nature of all love to create an imitation of the beloved person in the lover, a regard for Aspasia naturally produces decency of manners, and good conduct of life, in her admirers. If, therefore, the giggling Leucippe could but see her train of fops assembled, and Aspasia move by them, she would be mortified at the veneration with which she is beheld, even by Leucippe's own unthinking equipage, whose passions have long taken leave of their understandings.
As charity is esteemed a conjunction of the good qualities necessary to a virtuous man, so love is the happy composition of all the accomplishments that make a fine gentleman. The motive of a man's life is seen in all his actions ; and such as have the beauteous boy for their inspirer have a simplicity of behaviour, and a certain evenness of desire, which burns like the lamp of life in their bosoms; while they who are instigated by the satyr are ever tortured by jealousies of the object of their wishes ; often desire what they scorn, and as often consciously and knowingly embrace where they are mutually indifferent.
Florio, the generous husband, and Limberham, the kind keeper, are noted examples of the different effects which these desires produce in the mind. Amanda, who is the wife of Florio, lives in the continual enjoyment of new instances of her husband's friendship, and sees it the end of all his ambition to make her life one series of pleasure and satisfaction; and Amanda's relish of the goods of life is all that makes them pleasing to Florio: they behave themselves to each other, when present, with a certain apparent benevolence, which transports above rapture; and they think of each other in absence with a confidence unknown to the highest friendship: their satisfactions are doubled, their sorrows lessened, by participation.
On the other hand, Corinna,* who is the mistress of Limberham, lives in constant torment: her equipage is an old woman, who was what Corinna is now; an antiquated footman, who was pimp to Limberham's father; and a chambermaid, who is Limberham's wench by fits, out of a principle of politics, to make her jealous and watchful of Corinna. Under this guard, and in this conversation, Corinna lives in state: the furniture of her habitation, and her own gorgeous dress, make her the envy of all the strolling ladies in the town; but Corinna knows she herself is but part of Limberham's household stuff, and is as capable of being disposed of elsewhere, as any other movable. But while her keeper is persuaded by his spies, that no enemy has been within his doors since his last visit, no Persian prince was ever so magnificently bountiful: a kind look or falling tear is worth a piece of
* The persons here alluded to under the names of Corinna and Limberham, were Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, junior, and Henry Cromwell, Esquire. VOL. II.
brocade, a sigh is a jewel, and a smile is a cupboard of plate. All this is shared between Corinna and her guard in his absence. With this great economy and industry does the unhappy Limberham purchase the constant tortures of jealousy, the favour of spending his estate, and the opportunity of enriching one by whom he knows he is hated and despised. These are the ordinary and common evils which attend keepers; and Corinna is a wench but of common size of wickedness, were you to know what passes under the roof where the fair Messalina reigns with her humble adorer.
Messalina is the professed mistress of mankind ; she has left the bed of her husband, and her beauteous offspring, to give a-loose to want of shame and fulness of desire. Wretched Nocturnus, her feeble keeper! How the poor creature fribbles in his gait, and skuttles from place to place, to despatch his necessary affairs in painful daylight, that he may return to the constant twilight preserved in that scene of wantonness, Messalina's bed-chamber! How does he, while he is absent from thence, consider in his imagination the breadth of his porter's shoulders, the spruce night-cap of his valet, the ready attendance of his butler! any of all whom he knows she admits, and professes to approve of. This, alas! is the gallantry, this the freedom of our fine gentlemen ; for this they preserve their liberty, and keep clear of that bugbear, marriage. But he does not understand either vice or virtue, who will not allow, that life without the rules of morality is a wayward, uneasy being, with snatches only of pleasure; but under the regulation of virtue, a reasonable and uniform habit of enjoyment. I have seen in a play of old Haywood's a speech at the end of an act, which touched this point with much spirit.
He makes the married man in the play, upon some endearing occasion, look at his spouse with an air of fondness, and fall into the following reflection on his condition :
Oh marriage! happiest, easiest, safest state;