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as if the one was precisely the only human being in the world in whose eyes the other did not feel it necessary to appear agreeable.
Now if these young and, perhaps, really amiable persons could struggle against the imperious tyranny of Fashion, and contrive to pass a little time together, so as to get acquainted with each other; and if each would live in the lively and conscientious exercise of those talents and attractions which they sometimes know how to produce on occasions not quite so justifiable; they would, I am persuaded, often find out each other to be very agreeable people. And both of them, delighted and delighting, receiving and bestowing happiness, would no longer be driven to the necessity of perpetually escaping from home as from the only scene which offers no possible materials for pleasure. The steady and growing attachment, improved by unbounded confidence and mutual interchange of sentiments; judgment ripening, and experience strengthening that esteem which taste and inclination first inspired; each party studying to promote the eternal as well as temporal happiness of the other; each correcting the errors, improving the principles, and confirming the faith of the beloved object: this would enrich the feeling heart with gratifications which the insolvent world has not to bestow; such a heart would compare its interesting domestic scenes with the vapid pleasures of public resort, till it would fly to its own home, not from necessity, but taste; not from custom, but choice; not from duty, but delight.
It may seem a contradiction to have asserted, that beings of all ages, tempers, and talents, should with such unremitting industry follow up any way of life, if they did not find some enjoyment in it; yet I appeal to the bosoms of these incessant hunters in the chase of pleasure, whether they are really happy. No:— in the full tide and torrent of diversion, in the full blaze of gaiety and splendour,
The heart, distrusting, asks if this be joy?
But there is an anxious restlessness excited by the pursuit, which, if not interesting, is bustling. There is the dread, and partly the discredit, of being suspected of having one hour unmortgaged, not only to successive but to contending engagements; this it is, and not the pleasure of the engagement itself, which is the object. There is an agitation in the arrangements which imposes itself on the vacant heart for happiness. There is a tumult kept up in the spirits which is a busy though treacherous substitute for comfort. The multiplicity of solicitations soothes vanity. The very regret that they cannot be all accepted has its charms; for dignity is flattered because refusal implies importance, and pre-engagement intimates celebrity. Then there is the joy of being invited when others are neglected; the triumph of showing our less modish friend that we are going where she cannot come; and the feigned regret at being obliged to go, assumed before her who is half wild at being obliged to stay away. There is the
secret art of exciting envy in the very act of bespeaking compassion; and of challenging respect by representing their engagements as duties, oppressive, indeed, but indispensable. These are some of the supplemental shifts for happiness with which vanity contrives to feed her hungry followers, too eager to be nice. *
In the succession of open houses, in which pleasure is to be started and pursued on any given night, the actual place is never taken into the account of enjoyment; the scene of which is always supposed to lie in any place where her votaries happen not to be. Pleasure has no present tense ; but in the house which her pursuers have just quitted, and in the house to which they are just hastening, a stranger might conclude the slippery goddess had really fixed her throne, and that her worshippers considered the existing scene, which they seem compelled to suffer, but from which they are eager to escape, as really detaining them from some positive joy to which they are flying in the next crowd ; till, if he met them there, he would find the component parts of each precisely the
He would hear the same stated phrases interrupted, not answered, by the same stated re
* The precaution which is taken against the possibility of being unengaged by the long interval between the invitation and the period of its accomplishment, reminds us of what historians remark of the citizens of ancient Crotona, who used to send their invitations a year before the time, that the guests might prepare both their dress and their appetite for the visit.
plies, the unfinished sentence 6 driven adverse to the winds,” by pressing multitudes; the same warm regret mutually exchanged by two friends (who had been expressly denied to each other all the winter) that they had not met before; the same soft and smiling sorrow at being torn away from each other now; the same avowed anxiety to renew the meeting, with, perhaps, the same secret resolution to avoid it. He would hear described, with the same pathetic earnestness, the difficulties of getting into this house, and the dangers of getting out of the last ! the perilous retreat of former nights, effected amidst the shock of chariots, and the clang of contending coachmen! - a retreat, indeed, effected with a skill and peril little inferior to that of the Ten Thousand, and detailed with far juster triumph; for that which happened only once in a life to the Grecian hero occurs to these British heroines every night. There is one point of resemblance, indeed, between them, in which the comparison fails; for the commander, with a mauvaise honte at which a true female veteran would blush, is remarkable for never naming himself.
With “mysterious reverence” I forbear to descant on those serious and interesting rites, for the more august and solemn celebration of which, Fashion nightly convenes these splendid myriads to her more sumptuous temples. Rites ! which, when engaged in with due devotion, absorb the whole soul, and call every passion into exercise, except, indeed, those of love, and peace, and kindness, and gentleness. Inspiring rites ! which stimulate fear,
rouse hope, kindle zeal, quicken dulness, sharpen discernment, exercise memory, inflame curiosity ! Rites ! in short, in the due performance of which, all the energies and attentions, all the powers and abilities, all the abstraction and exertion, all the diligence and devotedness, all the sacrifice of time, all the contempt of ease, all the neglect of sleep, all the oblivion of care, all the risks of fortune (half of which, if directed to their true objects, would change the very face of the world); all these are concentrated to one point; – a point in which the wise and the weak, the learned and the ignorant, the fair and the frightful, the sprightly and the dull, the rich and the poor, the patrician and plebeian, meet in one common and uniform equality; an equality as religiously respected in these solemnities, in which all distinctions are levelled at a blow, and of which the very spirit is therefore democratical, as it is combated in all other instances.
Behold four Kings in majesty rever'd,
* Rape of the Lock.